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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:25 PM ET

New New Talking Heads

Hello, good morning, and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog of your heroic political reporters waking up and taking a chat all over the airwaves. My name is Jason. You know what the new, new thing is this week? Excluding Fox News from your reindeer games. It's so the in thing here that I decided to give it a try, you know, so I could GET INTO THE WHITE HOUSE'S HEAD. Know what I found out? I get an extra hour of sleep. For me, excluding Fox is the equivalent of ending daylight savings time whenever I want. Which reminds me: don't you wish Obama would end daylight savings time?

Anyway, yes, I decided that this would be one of those rare weeks I RECLAIM MY BODY and sleep the extra hour and not watch Fox News Sunday and it's blaring guitars. I'm sure all of you are terribly sad about this. I can basically sum up the show for you: Uhm, let's see...HEY, AMERICA (sound of noodling electric guitars), there's a War in Afghanistan! But also, there's a War on Fox! And the latter is giving up such a big sad and an almost equally big mad that we aren't able to enjoy all the broken and burned foreign bodies of the former, which are being turned into pulp and fertilizer by this completely abstract entity that we refer to as "the troops." They die too, but we probably have lots of lives, like in Galaga. Okay, Panel Discussion Time, from four people who need opthorectoectomies!

BRIT HUME: MUHHH. BLEAT. GUH. SUHH.


MARA LIASSON: Allow me to regurgitate some conventional wisdom right from my mouth into yours America, like a pterodactyl feeding its young.

BILL KRISTOL: Why isn't this list of people bombed yet. And...smirk.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Could I try to make a point.

CHRIS WALLACE: Don't.

HUME: DON'T.

KRISTOL: DON't!

HUME: DON'T.

WALLACE: YOU SUCK.

HUME: DON'T.

WIILLIAMS: BUT, LOOK...

KRISTOL: DON'T! AND, SMIRK.

HUME: DON'T

WALLACE: DON'T

LIASSON: [vomits]

WALLACE: DON'T

HUME: YOU SUCK, ALWAYS, JUAN. ALWAYS.

KRISTOL: WE HATE YOU. DON'T

FIN.

Anyway, I needed a week off from that. You understand. In the meantime, we have the rest of Sunday. Please feel free to send an email, or leave a comment, and if you feel so inclined, click here to follow me on Twitter.

THIS WEEK

Oh, boy! EXPANDED POWERHOUSE PANEL will pound you into submission. But first, Mitch McConnell and Claire McCaskill yelling about stuff. So, Harry Reid thinks that he's going to break that filibuster? McConnell doesn't know, but he hates passing on a bill to grandchildren who might not get born because their grandpartents die of easily treatable wounds and illness. Anyway, DUH MITCH MCCONNELL HATES THE PUBLIC OPTION. He has old talking points, can pick at will from any number of CBO markups, and can wildly allege that "most Americans" don't like the public option without fear of anyone calling him out on it. Stephanopoulos, says, look at this poll, doesn't it suck for you? McConnell says, I have another poll that doesn't suck quite as much!

It's a searing exhange! OH, I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW MUCH I AM LEARNING ABOUT MY COUNTRY.

McConnell says "all the nervousness is on the Dermocratic side." If only they could be blithely confident about stuff, like pointless wars!

Claire McCaskill is "thinking about her hog farmers!" That's the most interesting revelation of any Senator on Sunday Morning teevee this year, without question.

McCaskill says that the vote she joined in with GOP to pay for a one year extension of Medicare payments should not be seen as a statement on where the Dems are on health care reform. There are so many other, confusing statements, I guess! Anyway, McCaskill says that the more people learn about the public option, the more they realize that it's not a massive government takeover of the healthcare industry.

But there's so little clarity, as far as what Congress wants to do! GSteph asks what the "public option" now means: McCaskill describes a bunch of "public options" that won't be effective -- the most effective being the "opt-out," but she runs down all the crappy versions, like the trigger B.S. that Olympia Snowe loves. "It's all about options!" she says. Mostly terrible ones!

Anyway, with that, it's time for POWERHOUSE PANEL with George Will and John Podesta and Laura Ingraham and Al Hunt and Cynthia Tucker.

Public option! What a comeback! How did that happen! George Will says it's come in part from winning some moderate Democrats to the fold and then presenting the matter with a "sense of inevitability." He is "still dubious" about it.

The holdouts in the Senate, GSteph says, are Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu, which makes sense, considering they've the intellectual gifts of sloth bears that have been dropped from a very great height. Dumb as boxes of rocks, those two.

Meanwhile, Olympia Snowe! What will she do? Vote for cloture? Bring her crazy Mainer skills? Is she aging backwards, like Benjamin Button? NOBODY KNOWS. But she provides cover for so many Senators, who'd otherwise have to use "convictions" and "take stands" when all they really want to do is take lobbyist money and get re-elected forever.

Laura Ingraham is talking, but not about anything I'm going to rewind to hear again.

Cynthia Tucker points out that the public option, really, is likely to sort of suck: "It's neither the panacea that liberals think it is, nor is it the big government takeover that conservatives believe it to be."

George Will thinks there will be "more twists," and bitches that the bill hasn't been put on the internet, yet, which they can do "in ten minutes." Will has checked this, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, Ken Feinberg is straight up emasculating bankers, by reducing their packages. Podesta isn't worried about people at banks GOIN' GALT, because they'd just be taking their terrible failures to Galt's Gulch with them, like always. George Will wants even more executive compensation cuts: he wants anyone who takes the taxpayer money to be busted down to the GS-15 level of pay. That's pretty awesome, I have to admit. COSIGNED. Laura Ingraham thinks it's stunning that Ken Feinberg did this all on his own, whatever that means. Hunt endorses Credit Suisse's decision to tie compensation to long-term performance. Tucker and GSteph reminds that lots of other banks have benefitted from bailouts. So, this is a topic that everyone can agree is serious matter, lots of concern to be had, lots of criticism to dole out, and yet refrain from floating the idea that the ideal solution is for Tea Baggers to kill the black President. It can be done!

Meanwhile, the White House WAR ON FOX. For my money, I think that the White House should probably go ahead and treat FOX like something other than a news organization. Here's why. That said: I don't know why, exactly, they've done more than just make some closed door decisions about it. This public sparring is not a wise idea tactically, at all, at least based upon what I'm perceiving. Maybe there's some long-term, three-dimensional chess thing going on that's all going to make sense in five years. The White House is pretty fortunate that Fox went out and proved their point for them, in the way they badly overblew this whole Treasury Department dust-up.

Anyway, I encourage everyone to measure what you hear about this matter against Christina Bellantoni's reporting on the matter. If someone comes along who's got this story more right, I'll let you know!

Anyway, Will says it's wrong for Obama or anyone to bitch about Fox. Podesta says it's okay. Ingraham indicts Charlie Gibson for not knowing about the ACORN story, which sort of seems like topical drift, but anyway.

Forget this panel, for a second. When you stare at Fox News, you see news. In the same way, when you stare at Auguste Rodin's The Thinker, you see bronze and marble. But Rodin's purpose is not to inform the public of the properties of bronze and marble, and Fox's purpose is not to disseminate news to people. They use a raw material to create a piece of art. In Fox's case, they create a multi-platform, multi-media presentation that's specifically designed to provide the conservative base with self-esteem. (And as I said before, the many liberals who "monitor" Fox and debunk their mistakes receive self-esteem in the same way. It's actually a pretty brilliant business model. Utterly warped and awful, but brilliant.)

Meanwhile, here's a fun fact about the Chamber of Commerce: they are utter, utter, wanton dicks to reporters. Just the least appealing human beings in the world. I think that the mini-series "V" which features a sly invasion of lizards dressed as humans is about the Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney thinks he is still in office, and the media still thinks he's an equal partner in the debate over military strategy. George Will, though, reborn as the media's key war critic, says that maybe some dithering was in order before we went into Iraq, and is in favor of "protracted, careful, deliberation." Podesta agrees, and insists that the deliberation that's ongoing is, in that fashion, exemplary. Ingraham is for quick decisions, even in the face of uncertainty, because the actual people involved in the war are just abstractions. Al Hunt is "not going to worry" about a little dithering. Ingraham is surprised that more Republicans aren't being more like Dick Cheney. I wish I could wear Ingraham's thought processes on this matter as a Halloween costume! It would terrify children into abject submission!

The entire panel agrees that a troop increase is coming. Will and Ingraham think to 40,000. The rest of the panel thinks less. GSteph thinks it will be 40,000, phased in gradually.

Now they are all talking about marijuana, but I'm guessing none of these guys are holding, so what's the point. Will thinks we're in the process of legalizing pot, Podesta says it's a "mixed bag" -- the government wants to fight drug cartels, not glaucoma patients. He says that when people find out how it can be taxed, who knows? Maybe your highways will be adopted by the sticky-icky. Will says that legalizing mary jane will kill the cartels.

George Will tells America that marijuana is getting better! Like, the highs are getting more awesome. THIS PANEL HAS TOTALLY VEERED IN AMAZING DIRECTION. Laura Ingraham wants pot brownies at the CVS! This is awesome. I hope Ryan Grim is watching this, because it's amazing. By the way: buy Ryan's fantastic book: This Is Your Country On Drugs. Makes a great Christmas gift!

THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW

Chris has Kathleen Parker and Dan Rather and Helene Cooper and Andrew Sullivan on today, to talk about stuff! First up, the White House war on CRAZY. HA! Chris Matthews says the word "WINGNUT BLOGS." Drink. Anyway, Rather says the Republicans have "masterful message discipline" but the message is a nutlog covered in bonkers-sauce. Is it smart to target them and fight back? Sullivan says that Obama is really just letting these sorts of enemies "destroy themselves" and that he's the "road runner" to the right's "Wiley E. Coyote," and that for the "first black President, he's really WASPy." None of which makes sense out of the decision to double down on Fox.

Helene Cooper points out that, pursuant to Obama's WASPiness, he was raised by white people. And, you know, even Jay Z is collaborating with Coldplay these days. Parker says that a lot of Republicans enjoy the food fight as spectators.

Chris asks Andrew if Fox News is really the new Gandhi. Andrew says, uhm...no.

Cooper floats the notion that the unreasonable faction of the conservative base helps the mainstream portion look centrist. Sullivan counters by pointing out that the more centrist McCain had to pick Palin as his vice-president, adding that the moderate portion of the GOP "has lost their nerve entirely."

Parker says that there's a risk for the White House by participating in a food fight with the far right, but that ultimately the far right is going to drive the middle of the country in the other direction. Sullivan points out that the Tea Baggers were on the vanguard of driving reasonable people back in the direction of the White House.

Is this fight going to last the entire Obama presidency? Parker says probably, Rather says definitely, Tucker says "Heck, yeah." Sullivan says "until it fails," and that Obama currently offers conservatives more than the GOP's "Southern populism."

So, have we decided that Mitt Romney is next in line? That sounds like it could be a fun campaign season. Or Palin? EVEN FUNNER. Yes, "funner." With Palin, you don't have to use proper grammar.

Anyway, Parker says that since he stepped down, Romney has become "the point man for the whole GOP." Sullivan says Romney "looks right," but that he has problems: the Mormon-appeal-to-evangelical question, and the fact that he will literally say anything, ANYTHING, to become president. Romney is sick and shot-through with pure, mountain-grown fraud. He is the conservative Bob Dobbs. Except he will murder the Messiah of slack.

Anyway, Palin wrote a book and maybe the book will win her lots of delegates.

Stuff Chris Matthews doesn't know! You'll note he never says, "OH SNAP! I ALREADY KNEW THAT!" Parker says Palin is supported nominally, and publicly, but behind closed doors everyone in the GOP is terrified that she'll win the nomination. Matthews asks, "What are the afraid of about her?" and I'm a little surprised Parker doesn't just say, "Surely this is not in the realm of stuff you do not know."

Rather says to look for "additional big banks to get into the same trouble" as UBS. Big name banks will be in the papers, for ruining the world, very soon. Cooper is back from Liberia, and the battle between the U.S. and China is playing out there over who will provide the country with electric power. Sullivan says that an emerging solution in Iran is one of "nuclear latency" -- Iran will demonstrate they have weapons capacity, and use it as a bargaining chip for mutual arms reduction in the region (read: Israel).

Chris asks who will be angrier if Obama's plan for Afghanistan is "down the middle." Parker says the hawks. Rather says everybody, the left and the hawks. Cooper says the left, and Sullivan says that the White House is going to kick it down the road, a little bit, and anger both sides.

Speaking of angering everybody, time for...

MEET THE PRESS

Okay. Here we go. My wife agrees with me that David Gregory really needs to just start using his normal speaking voice when he cuts his intros, instead of this weird, excitable, hysterical raving thing that he does. I'd just as soon get rid of the ridiculously pompous melodramatic trumper volutaries, too, but that seems to be what NBC likes to do. Ever hear the music for their Sunday Night Football show? It's just as ridiculous.

Meanwhile, John Cornyn and Chuck Schumer are here to put it all in perspective. Gregory asks Cornyn if this means we should shred the status of forces agreement and just stay there forever, with magical troops. Cornyn directs everyone to a Thomas Friedman column, which tells you all you need to know. Cornyn says we shouldn't declare victory in Iraq, but maybe declare IT'S SORT OF AWESOME.

Meanwhile, executive compensation! Gonna slash the pay of some abject failures that taxpayers helped. Schumer makes the case for the taxpayer, and says that Feinberg insists that the compensation reduction will end up not hurt the effectiveness of the companies. Gregory's reaction is to say, "He doesn't know that!" Okay, but what we DO KNOW IS THAT THESE BANKS NEARLY DESTROYED THE WORLD.

Gregory worries that the compensation caps will punish the very people who would lead us out of the crisis. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS STILL THE STATE OF PLAY, IN THE MEDIA. We need the BIGGEST GODDAMN LOSERS IN THE GAME to fix things! By that measure, the Washington Redskins should keep Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn around forever, and bring back Steve Spurrier to boot! AGH.

David Gregory is insistent though, that the men and women who rogered the economy until it bled NOT BE SHAMED IN ANY WAY. It would be so wrong! Gregory's garters might pop off, in a fit of patrician outrage!

Schumer explains that his version of the public option is a government set-up plan that eventually becomes it's own entity that provides competition and bring costs down, as opposed to a government run entity. Also: option, as defined, means "option."

Harry Reid is apparently a "wizard of counting votes!" A wizard! Everyone else is just a druid, or a cleric, at countaing votes! But Harry Reid graduated from Hogwarts with a degree in potions, and is just a straight-up Auror of Counting Votes.

Cornyn is A'SCURRED ABOUT TEH DEFICITZ! "Who do you blame for that, by the way," Gregory asks, slyly. The answer Cornyn blames Obama, who created the entire deficit, I guess. BUT SPEND ALL THAT MONEY ON TEN MORE YEARS IN AFGHANISTAN! Schumer basically takes a giant dump all over Cornyn.

What about Afghanistan, our super cheap war with no consequences at stake, so just send all the troops there immediately, LITERALLY PUSH THEM OUT A PLANE AND DROP THEM ON THE COUNTRY, TO SMASH PEOPLE WITH THEIR SPINES. Anyway, Schumer says Dick Cheney should STFU. Cornyn says that he doesn't understand why Obama wouldn't just send troops, LOLSURGEOMGZ. Gregory maybe hates Cornyn? Because for the first time ever, he is aggressively questioning a warmonger? "Did Bush/Cheney resource the Afghanistan War adequately?" Over and over, and naturally Cornyn can't answer. But definitely, Cornyn thinks that we should send "troops" because aren't they made in a factory, or something? Can anyone in the government discern the difference between a "soldier" and a "drone" anymore?

And now, Erin Burnett and Andrew Ross Sorkin are here, to jabber about the economy. What will curbing executive compensation achieve? Burnett says that executives will be paid more in stock than in cash. Sorkin says that executive compensation needs to be coupled with regulation to change the "ethos" of Wall Street. Gregory says, how do you do this when "this is a risk business." I think he doesn't realize how little risk there is when the banks are told they can cock up repeatedly and the taxpayers will come to the rescue. If Steve Wynn tells you that he'll cover your back whilst gambling at the Bellagio, will you be likely to make smart bets or insane ones? Honestly what would be the point of getting your risk backed by taxpayers if you weren't going to do stupid things in response. That's why there needs to be limitations and regulations and imposed discipline. If everyone wants to go back to facing their own naked failure, let it ride.

OMGZ teh DEFICITZ! Burnett dutifully reminds everyone that the word "stimulus" is toxic, and that you should think of "extensions of unemployment benefits" as stimulus. Should the priority be reducing debt, or job creation? Insanely, Burnett says, "I don't think anyone knows the answer to that question." MUST BE WARM AND COZY INSIDE THAT BUBBLE. Let me break it down for you. One in six Americans are un- or underemployed. That means this employment crisis hits everybody. If you aren't unemployed yourself, you likely have a family member or a loved one or a friend who is. And their debts -- the debts that actually matter, in this crisis...the ones that are impacting people at the pocketbook level -- are mounting. And if the employed people in their lives are assisting with that burden, it's straining those pocketbooks as well.

Nothing in this world makes people feel as powerless, as futureless, as not having a job. The only sort of person who could possibly say that paying down structural, emphemeral government debt in the middle of this crisis, when we all gaily signed up to run up those debts for nearly a decade before, take a priority over putting people back to work is insane. And even if you did, the very first thing you have to stop spending money on is a costly, global armed counterinsurgency. Can't keep funding a war, sorry.

And now it's a last panel, with Jane Mayer, Dan Senor, Tavis Smiley, and Joe Scarborough.

Did you know the PRESIDENT is SYSTEMATICALLY working to MARGINALIZE his opposition in the Republican Party? WHO HAS EVER DONE THIS IN POLITICS, EVER? THIS IS INSANE AND UNPRECEDENTED. I read about this in the POLITICO, and it doesn't make me feel like that organ is run by the most head-up-ass dimwits in America, at all!

Private meetings! Combative rhetoric! OH MY STARS AND GARTERS! The MARQUIS OF QUEENSBURY IS GONNA STRAIGHT UP GET THE VAPORS!

Anyway, Scarborough says this is all working for their base, while they bail on giving them actual policies that would be useful and practical. Gregory bitches that Obama hasn't "changed the tone" in Washington. You know, that's what David Gregory is all about! Changing the tone in Washington by asking dessicated pundit husks to help stand up for upper-class patricians facing terrible government deficits!

Smiley says the war on Fox is a distraction, and someone needs to "push Obama into being a great president." "If the American people hold him accountable, he'll become a great president." That's about the size of it! Le sigh! EVERYONE LEAVE SOME ANGRY BLOG COMMENTS AT THE WHITE HOUSE'S LIVEJOURNAL OR SOMETHING.

Scarborough points out that Richard Nixon never promised to be anything other than a rapacious dick, so give him a break if he wasn't perfect. Senor points out that all of this is really good for Fox's business. Maybe this is what the Axelrod-Ailes meeting that preceded this nonsense was all about. Of course, the extent to which the maintream media is upset by this? Senor says it's significant. I don't think that anyone really cares that much.

Meanwhile, health care, Scarborough says that Harry Reid has 57 votes for the opt-out, the White House wants the trigger. Reid, as you know, is the WIZARD OF COUNTING VOTES. Like crazy abacus from the future, that guy.

Tavis Smiley says that voters "believed in Obama's character," but does he have courage? Does he? Does he? Maybe? Don't you learn courage, from playing basketball? Senor seems to think that Obama 1) didn't take Republican ideas in the stimulus package, and had he done so, 2) Republicans would have voted for it, 3) and they would "own the stimulus as much" as the Democrats. Hate to break it to Dan and turnip truck he fell out of this morning, but the GOP 1) did insert a ton of tax cuts into the stimulus, 2) didn't vote for it anyway, and 3) do own it's flaws, as far as I'm concerned. Does anyone on MEET THE PRESS counter this plainspoken historical revisionism from Senor? Does anyone? Anyone? Anyone? No. Of course not. And that is why this show SERIOUSLY SUCKS OUT LOUD.

Scarborough says the White House wants the trigger. The bottom line on that is that if Obama seriously thinks he will really be the last President to take up the matter of health care, as explicitly stated he intended to be during his speech to Congress, then he is absolutely and totally effing kidding himself. TOTALLY KIDDING HIMSELF.

This panel is now taking up the matter of the War in Afghanistan, and it's really just unwatchable: all the misplaced seriousness, the glibness, the disregard for human cost (which is at least consistent with this show's take on Americans having health care) and the disregard for the cost in treasure (which is inconsistent with MEET THE PRESS' overarching message, which is that tax money should never be spent to help citizens)...it is literally painful to watch. It's the news equivalent of the double-ended dildo scene from REQUIEM FOR A DREAM.

Anyway, nothing of real value in the discussion, worth liveblogging. Gregory saves a minute to ask Joe Scarborough about the New York race, and really, I am just spent. Sorry. If you want to watch Andrew Ross Sorkin and Dan Senor talk about the books they hope you will buy on the internet, you can do this.

Okay. I think actually FOX NEWS SUNDAY helps set a tone for less frustration later in the day, by allowing me to have an purging of horrific pity and terrible fear by the end of Brit Hume's first huffy comment. I'm all agitated and unhappy now, probably because I didn't have FOX NEWS SUNDAY as a mental colonic, forcibly ripping by capacity for being appalled in half and forcing it from by brainpan in a giant wet fart of pure disbelief. So, I guess I'll be reupping for that again next week.

If anyone has an idea as to how I can take my feelings for MEET THE PRESS and fashion a Halloween costume from them, send me an email with the subject: WEAR YOUR PAIN AND SCARE CHILDREN WITH A METAPHORIC MEET THE PRESS COSTUME. Kay? Thanks! Have a great week, my dirties.

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