MEDIA
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Hello. My name is Jason and welcome to your liveblog of this weeks' Sunday Morning blather latherings. Our emanations today? The likely key topic of discussion will be the recent decision of the Obama administration to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- hereafter to be referred to by his media-ready short-hand handle, KSM -- in New York City, in one of our fine courts. This decision overjoys me! At last, the terrorism discussion is being passed into the hands of some citizens who may prove to be adults!

Of course, today, you should expect no end of mau-mauing of this decision, from people who've screwed on their oh-so-serious faces and who speak with the distinct dialect of one who hails from a region where people routinely get the issues of the day all wrong. They'll talk about KSM as if he were some hypnotic criminal mastermind, sure to win converts from the city that's been triumphantly nodding their heads for the past few months to Jay Z's "Empire State Of Mind." And they'll say that a trial brings security risks, as if terrorist madmen have quashed their beef with us, for just existing. Mostly, you'll hear about how a trial in open court opens up the possibility we might lose the case, as if the only justice worth having is the kind they dole out in Iran.

They'll be so super serious about it, too! So much so, that next week, when they're all talking about Sarah Palin (a lady from Alaska who's apparently had it SUPER-HARD, and that someone really should give a fair shake to, maybe), you're going to wonder to yourself, "Self? Was last weeks outpouring of serious concern just a lot of grandstanding from vapid jerks who just wanted to vampirically politicize the issue? The answer will be yes.

For a long time, now, I've been itching for this nation to have the opportunity to place our raison d'etre in an open hearing alongside the nihilism of terrorism just to expose the latter's hollowness and remind the world that the American argument contains multitudes and is truly worthy of emulation. I was trying to categorize and codify the way in which having this trial is a virtue for our nation last night, when I came across this, from Spencer Ackerman, which puts the matter precisely the way I was going to, anyway:

What's an actual insult to the victims of 9/11 is the idea that America is not strong enough to withstand the blatherings of a mass murderer. For me, the prospect of KSM grandstanding at his trial falls into I-wish-a-motherfucker-would territory. I want to hear how KSM builds a case against America, because everyone will hear how laughably conspiratorial and clownish it is. Think of what a cathartic moment it will be when America sees the face of the man considered to be UBL's most efficient henchman and he delivers a pitiful harangue to a bank of cameras. No one will be emboldened to do anything but laugh. The only downside will be his inevitable discussion of how CIA operatives tortured him.

My hope for the KSM trial is that it does more than all this. It should forever shatter the pernicious myth that al-Qaeda is composed of supermen -- supermen against whom America has no choice but to alter its character and most precious laws in order to confront. I suspect we'll have an Eichmann-in-Jerusalem moment -- and sorry for the unfortunate Nazi/al-Qaeda analogy; al-Qaeda are not the Nazis; but I couldn't really think of any other parallel -- except instead of the banality of evil, we'll see the lunacy and vanity and self-absorption of it. That's because al-Qaeda's weltanshauung depends on a myth that holds America to be implacably determined to snuff out the glory of Islam. In reality, most Americans couldn't give a fuck about Islam and only started to know the first thing about it because of 9/11. But that America -- an America bearing no resemblance to the actual America -- will be what KSM seeks to counter-indict. It's farcical, and farcical in ways that can only benefit the real America.

Yeah, what he said. Anyway, you know the drill, feel free to send an email or leave a comment or join me on Twitter. And now, for this:

Fox News Sunday

Rudy Giuliani, who became some sort of terror expert after bumbling around lower Manhattan in a daze on September 11, 2001, is on today, to tell us all about how we're going to die as a result of our justice system. Rudy seems to think that it's unusual for criminals to be tried in the district where their crimes are committed, and that it's a tacit admission on the Obama administration's that the war on terror is over. What message is sending more troops to Afghanistan going to send? WHO KNOWS.

Rudy doesn't agree with Mayor Bloomberg either, except for the part about NYC being great and the police being awesome. Why can't these guys be tried in military tribunals, like other terrorists. The better question is why can't those terrorists be tried in open court, like KSM. The answer is the bad news side of this equation: KSM and his cohorts are not being tried in a tribunal because it's extremely likely they'll lose the case anyway. In the other terror cases, we apparently need to stack the deck to get convictions. Rudy basically thinks that having held trials before was a terrible mistake and that everything would have been fine if we hadn't done so, 9/11 wouldn't have happened? I guess?

Chris Wallace reminds Rudy of some things he said, years ago, some of which Amanda Terkel compiled:

In fact, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani praised the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers:

-- "'It should show that our legal system is the most mature legal system in the history of the world,' he [Giuliani] said, 'that it works well, that that is the place to seek vindication if you feel your rights have been violated.'" [The New York Times, 3/5/94]

-- "[M]any who were bruised by the traumatic event were certain that no verdict by a jury or punishment by a judge will exorcise the pain and terror that remain. ... Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani declared that the verdict 'demonstrates that New Yorkers won't meet violence with violence, but with a far greater weapon -- the law.'" [The New York Times, 3/5/94]

-- "I think it shows you put terrorism on one side, you put our legal system on the other, and our legal system comes out ahead," said Giuliani. [CBS Evening News, 3/5/94]

Even in the weeks after Sept. 11, Giuliani "framed the attacks in the language of crime, describing the hijackers as 'insane murderers' and calling for restoration of the 'rule of law.'"

What's happened since then? Well, Giuliani's become a weasel-faced git, for one thing, and a demagoguery-by-request fountain of blither for the GOP. But seriously, y'all? Terrorists done came to these shores and de-swaggered him, but good. No wonder he spent the whole 2008 campaign hiding in Florida. So, now, instead of his past principles, we get this coward-marm slurping out of his mouth.

"This choice is a better choice for the terrorists...we were wrong in 1993." Giuliani is prattling with a distinct whine of desperation, and even Chris Wallace is jumping at the taste of blood. "This seems to be an over concern with the rights of terrorists!" Yes! SO CONCERNED THAT THEY'LL SHOVE THEM IN FRONT OF NEW YORK JURY AND ASK: "Okay, please tell the court why they all should die, and why, exactly?"

Giuliani goes on to call the Nidal Hasan shootings a "terrorist attack" because of Hasan's business cards, which read "Son of Allah." WHAT A CONSIDERATE TERRORIST.

Anyway, Jack Reed is here to restore calm. Wallace asks him if this decision is just an attempt on the Obama administration to stick it to the Bush administration. Reed says, no, if anything, it follows upon the Bush administration's decision to try Moussavi in civilian court. Reed says, "What was a statesmans-like decision on the part of the Bush administration can't be a political decision from the Obama administration."

Reed counters Giuliani's contention that we are "granting KSM's wish" to be tried in NYC by pointing out that a military tribunal will reinforce the image that KSM has attempted to carve out for himself as a "holy warrior" -- the preference being to try him as a common thug. Reed doesn't think Giuliani's contention is correct. "When the foreman of that jury stands up and delivers the verdict, not empowered by religious fanaticism but by the Constitution, [KSM] will know he's lost, and I can't think of a better group of people to judge the guilt or innocence than the people who saw the Towers fall."

What's the upside to having it in New York? Reed says, "This is an opportunity to show we're better than they are." Reed points out that the risks that critics have brought up did not come into play in Alexandria, during the Moussavi trial.

Chris Blakely writes:

After watching his performance on FOX News Sunday this morning, one would be hard pressed to believe that Rudy Guiliani first rose to prominence as a federal prosecutor. For a man with an extensive legal background, Rudy is sure quick to trade the "rule of law" for personal aggrandizement. Let the campaign for governor of New York state begin!

Oh, right. It's an election year, isn't it?

Mitch McConnell is here now. Will he try to block the trials? He can't. Can he stop the administration from putting terrorists in a prison in Illinois? McConnell says it will be a huge issue in the Senate election, and he'll try to block funding for it. Best we continue to pretend that these dime-a-dozen detainees have MAGICAL TERROR POWERS. Keep them in AZKABAN!

He'll try to stop or delay or ruin health care reform, too. He's under the impression that the "American people" don't want it passed, when what the America people want is something like the House bill passed, as quickly as possible please! But most health care reform supporters don't come from the "good" parts of America, I guess.

McConnell does go to lengths to explain how legislation works, to Chris Wallace, who doesn't seem to understand that the "Stupak Amendment" is in the House bill, and McConnell sits in this body called "the Senate" and they have their own bill.

Anyway, more lies about the government "taking over one-sixth of the economy."

And then, Afghanistan. McConnell will be happy to support a LOLSURGEOMGZ, so why won't Obama make with the LOLSURGING? Is it because General Stanley McChrystal said, "OH HAI WE NEED A WHOLE NEW STRATEGY HERE, AND YEAH, MAYBE MORE TROOPS, BUT A NEW STRATEGY IS MUCH MORE IMPORTANT, PLEASE GET IT RIGHT AND THEN WE'LL RESOURCE IT" but all the members of the GOP and the media didn't hear any of that stuff about a new strategy and instead started squawking "SURGESURGESURGE" like a passel of idiot seagulls?

McConnell seems to think the National Senatorial Campaign Committee "does not make endorsements." And that Sarah Palin doesn't need his advice. Does anyone? Anyway. Panel time. With Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney!

Also Mara Liasson and Juan Williams are there.

Bill Kristol says that the decision to send KSM to NYC is crazy. And he seems to be not clued in to the fact that the Attorney General acts independently of the White House...but then why would he know that! Basically, WHAT IF KSM GETS OFF AND OPENS A BODEGA ON YOUR BLOCK. IT COULD HAPPEN.

Liasson points out that 100% of terror suspects that have been tried in New York have been convicted, and will showcase our awesome justice system.

What worries Liz Cheney the most? OH LET ME WHINE FOR A MINUTE, CHRIS WALLACE, ABOUT THE DITHERINGS! WHERE IS THE LOL SURGE. Know what worries Liz Cheney the most? Her father's incompetence being exposed. Anyway, there's this insanity: She says KSM asked to be executed for Allah months ago, and that we should have accomodated him. YES! LET'S BE SURE TO ACCORD KSM PRECISELY THE MYSTIC MARTYR STATUS HE CRAVES. Good idea, Liz.

Anyway: FEARMONGERING. The defendants will "mock" people, and "preach jihad" and find out what happened to JFK and the Roswell aliens. Liz Cheney is Paranoia In A Red Pantsuit.

Now she and Bill Kristol are fighting over who can demagogue this matter the hardest. The saddest thing is that they get to pretend that these concerns are sincere. Anyway, that was absurd. Coming up after the break, let's promote Sarah Palin's book! See how quickly we shed all that faux concern?

The topic of Palin reminds by the way that Bill Kristol is wrong about everything and everyone. Today, Kristol says "she had to address her problems with the McCain campaign." By the way, if you are interested in the "agenda" she lays out in the book, it's in the last Chapter, which I've read, and it's bleak, deterministic hooey about man being "fallen" and not perfectable, so public policy intended to ameliorate social problems are complete bunk, in her opinion, and the government exists solely as some dire father figure. If you are poor, you should know your place, accept your burdens gladly and take solace in the wonder and beauty of God's creation, which is better than, say, affordable health care. IT IS SOME GRIM AND HOPELESS SHIT, PEOPLE.

OH FOR REAL, WE ARE MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF OBAMA BOWING TO SOMEONE OUT OF POLITENESS? American presidents vomit in Japanese people's shoes, I guess. Anyway, Obama truly pissed away our cultural hegemony this weekend!

I was saying the other day that the guy who delivers Chinese food to me is a sweet old man who always bows, like, FIVE TIMES while I am signing the check. And believe me, like Bill Kristol likes, I always shout, "THAT'S RIGHT! YOU TAKE IT, OLD MAN! AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM LIVES HERE, IN THIS WALK UP!"

But I always tip twenty percent, so I guess it's a wash!

THIS WEEK

More Giuliani awaits me, because I am just insanely unlucky. At least in that limited, "What does my job require me to watch on teevee, sort of luck."

Hillary Clinton is in Singapore today, where they've lit her better than most guests on THIS WEEK. HRC backs up the administration by capturing the ongoing discussion over Afghanistan as a judicious approach. "I understand that there will be people who are...unconvinced, but I think the majority of Americans will understand that the President went the extra mile."

But what's up with this Karl Eikenberry fellow, who's NOSURGING when everyone else is all LOLSURGING? HRC won't comment on "confidential advice to the President," but "we agree that our goal here is to defeat al Qaeda...we understand that the Afghans need help." But, she says, the highest priority is serving the interests of America. She says that now that the Afghan election "is over," the administration is looking for greater government involvement and competence from Karzai down to the local level.

But what concrete steps must Karzai take to earn our trust? HRC says there needs to be accountable ministries, mechanisms to fight corruption and crime, and results that match the "blood and treasure" that we invest. But the top priority is to keep Afghanistan from becoming a "safe haven" for terrorists.

Also: off-ramps? Driveways? Turnpikes? In Afghanistan, can we at last, build parkways on which we can park. Driveways on which we can drive? Traffic circles, that confuse evildoers?

Meanwhile, what about that Rudy Giuliani fellow? With the missing testicles? Who's afraid of trials? HRC says, "My goal is to make [these defendants] pay the ultimate price...I'm not going to second guess the attorney general."

How does she feel about the fact that Sarah Palin said some nice things about her? GS asks if she's "fishing for a coffee date." HRC says, "I've never met her." Neither have your Sunday morning interlocutors. As for whether the media treated Palin poorly, she says, "I'll save that for my book, if I write another one."

Also, the rumor of HRC running for governor of New York is "dead," she says. That's right! It's an election year.

Okay, Rudy of the Non-Existent Swag is back on my teevee. He's coy about running for office as well. He's not leaning for or against running, but he will "focus on it," very "soon."

Anyhoozles, GS goes through the same questions that Rudy's already been asked: there are better alternatives to a civilian trial in NYC that don't make Rudy wet his pants with fear, trying KSM in NYC isn't AOK because it creates an SRO audience for his BS -- which is MAGICAL and can TRANSFORM MEN'S MINDS with thoughts of jihad. KSM will no doubt use his silver tongued nihilism to turn Derek Jeter into an Islamofascist!

"I'm troubled by the symbolism," Rudy says, apparently thinking that being "afraid of symbolism" is a great place to mount a run for the governor's office.

"The administration has been very slow to come to a conclusion that Major Hasan is a terrorist," Rudy says. That's probably because "conclusions" only come out when "ongoing investigations" come to them. But, let's just let it be known that Rudy has bought in fully to the most melodramatic read of the Fort Hood massacre.

GREAT. So, my blog engine ate my liveblogging of the THIS WEEK panel. So now I get to go back and watch it again. FIE ON THE INTERNETS. This is the worst.

Anyway, to recap. The panel has George Will, David Brooks, David Corn, Gwen Ifill, and Bob Woodward.

KSM Trials: Will says that the trial in NYC is "not a bad choice" and that law enforcement techniques are being used all the time to fight terror, and should be respected. Corn says that we've won convictions in terror trials and it's important to show the world in an open way that we can do this. Brooks thinks that the trial is an "international reality show" and a propganda tool for terrorists. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT TRIALS HAVE BEEN USED EFFECTIVELY TO PREACH THE BENEFITS OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.

They waterboarded the bejeezus out of KSM, too, remember? Which is why Liz Cheney wants KSM tried in a star chamber, for the glory of the motherland and the hopes that her father's incompetent wretchedness never comes to light.

KSM is a narcissistic personality who likes to make a big show of himself in longwinded missives, says David Brooks, a narcissistic personality who likes to make a big show of himself in longwinded missives.

WOOT! George Will namechecks the Rosenbergs! I think we're supposed to down our Sazeracs now!

Afghanistan: have you heard? Bob Woodward is writing a book about Afghanistan and it will be the most important book about Presidents and Afghanistan and meetings and placesettings and sweaters and details ever written, so buy a million copies! GOING NOT ROGUE AT ALL, I think it's called.

George Will reminds us that Afghanistan is EXPENSIVE, like the biggest Hype Williams music video of all time, with jet skis and lamay streamers and fish eye lenses, except you can die a million different ways, and also OPIUM IS EVERYWHERE? So, there's that.

Will is skeptical that we can "provide for the needs of Afghanistan" through the Karzai government given that those needs include "electricity" and "potable water" and massive illiteracy, which you need to do things like, HAVE A AFGHAN POLICE FORCE. David Brooks is all: NO CAN MAKE MINIMALIST WAR! TURN WAR SWITCH TO "ALL" AND GO GO GO!

"What does Joe Villager think?" Brooks asks. "Is he going to get a set of vases, at the Pottery Barn?" Will you please buy Joe Villager's opium? Or at least promise to fight fewer of your massive global geo-political conflicts in his backyard? ALSO: I MEAN IT I HAVE A SPECIAL ON OPIUM. David Corn points out that the problem with pledging an "open ended commitment" to a war that you want an exit strategy for is what they call a contradiction.

Where does it end? Will says we LOLSURGE to 20K. Brooks says we send the 30K. Woodward says that the president doesn't know yet, and is hoping to get "good answers." Corn says that the tensions between McChrystal and Eikenberry create a situation where the political response is typically an attempt to split the difference.

Will thinks that the Afghanistan decision is "tangled up in health care," and the hope that he can get shot of that debate before making a commitment to the escalation.

David Brooks, on Palin: "She's a joke...I can't take her seriously." And a Palin presidential nomination "will never happen." Ifill says that Palin is "a shiny flashing thing." WHICH MAKES HER THE MOST PRECIOUS MEDIA COMMODITY IN THE WORLD. David Corn says that "the more serious she is taken" by various serious Republicans, the more people will think of Republicans as a joke.

Will says, "Some people think that in Palin, the GOP has found their William Jennings Bryan...why you'd want someone who lost three times is beyond me." Ifill says, "Don't underestimate her."

Corn says, "The question is, does America want a rogue President?" PALIN IS AN ALUMINUM BALLOON, ROCKETING ACROSS THE SKY. DOES SHE HAVE A CHILD ON BOARD WITH HER? DOES SHE?!

Meet The Press

Hopefully, I'll have no more internet problems, because GAH. The thought of rewinding this show causes my TiVo literal pain.

Boy, today, I am really feeling the full force of our media's creativity. It is not like watching the same tired discussion again and again and again. At least we get Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton, and Newt Gingrich on hand to add some variety. AS IS THEIR WONT.

Meanwhile, HRC is a Singpore Slinger of foreign policy knowledge. Gregory asks her about the whole TRIAL OF KSM IN MANHATTAN. Have you heard about this story?! It's wild! Everyone's rending their garments! And, like before, blah blah, I was a Senator from New York...pay the ultimate price...not going to second guess Eric Holder...it doesn't expose NYC to more terrorism...the city can handle it...law enforcement there is capable.

When will GITMO be closed? HRC says that closing it is a commitment, but the timing depends on a host of issues. When will Obama LOLSURGE and relieve the tension in David Gregory's pants? Sometime real soon, once the matter has been judiciously studied. But Ambassador Eikenberry, he's not a fan of the LOLSURGE? Why? What's up with that? HRC isn't going to discuss anybody's confidential advice, but there are a lot of views on "how best to work with the Afghan government," but that above all, the U.S. is focused on national interests, ending terror, and there will be "specific asks" that will be made of the Afghan government. As for Karzia, he has "his strengths and his weaknesses." For example, STRENGTH: he's a snappy dresser. Really rocks that hat of his. Get's all angular, with his capes and stuff. WEAKNESS: is endlessly corrupt and ineffectual, and people want to assassinate him, always.

GREGORY: Define the exit strategy, if that's the President's view.

CLINTON: I'm not going to define the president's view and I'm not going to define an exit strategy from a mission that he hasn't even announced to the American public.

NO SCOOPLETTES!

HRC slags the Bush administration, "I don't think I can overstate how damaged our country was in the eyes of people around the world when President Obama took office." I'm guessing she means "when Obama took office" as a marker of time and not as an issue of causality for the "damage," but who knows? Maybe she's being underminery!

U.S. relations with China are "positive" and "comprehensive" and involve "Tim Geithner," for some reason. Anyway, the big takeaway is that the Bush administration is THE SUCK, and who knows? Maybe that will help a Democrat get elected, or something!

Hillary praises Chine for joining the P5 + 1 group against North Korea, proving once again that you should keep your friends close, your enemies closer and define your frenemies using terms that sound like quadratic equations.

"I'm out of politics, David! I'm out of politics!" Hillary Clinton pre-empts, believing that she's about to be asked if she's running for president 10,000,000 times. But he just wants to ask if she'll have coffee with Sarah Palin, she says, sure, but she's not going to be all: "OMGZ, SARAH PALIN IS TURRIBULL FOR THE GOPZ!"

And now for a "special discussion on the state of public education." SOUNDS LIKE RATINGS GOLD, Y'ALL! Getting freaky with one another are Secretary of the Educationals, Arne Duncan, rapidly thinning race-meister Al Sharpton, and Catholic indulgence-purchaser Newt Gingrich. All are oiled up, and ready to get their education on. The safe word is "voucher."

There are thirty-seven minutes left in this show, and so the segment begins with a MONTAGE! Strange bedfellows marching across this land, visiting schools, where children chant spelling words, and sing socialist songs to Obama. And platitudes! OH THE PLATITUDES. They will be spoken, and cameras will capture their platitudinousness. That killed about...GAH, TWO MINUTES.

Anyway, here is this exciting panel, which maybe you are missing. Duncan stakes out a terrifyingly risky position: "We have to do dramatically better." OH THIS SHIZZ IS REAL, YO.

So, there's a lot of money that schools could have but they have to show some super awesome results in order to get the money. Gingrich says he supports this plan, "It's the number one civil right of the 21st century" and he's gald about the White House's leadership on the issue. And he likes him some charter schools. Duncan says, "Good charter schools are part of the answer, bad charter schools are part of the problem." Medium charter schools are redolent with probswers.

Sharpton says he was struck by the persistence of the achievement gap and the perception that we were, as a nation, regressing educationally in a time when technology is advancing.

Gingrich likens his alliance with the effort as part of politics being the art of the possible. Sharpton adds that "kids don't care who's a Republican and who is a Democrat."

But nuts and bolts, maybe? Systems of accountability? How can we hold teachers accountable? My wife weighs in, "There is an epidemic of bad parenting in this country that far outweighs what's going on with teachers. Teachers are only with children about ten percent of their lives. When your kid won't say 'please' and 'thank you' -- and you know what? THEY DON'T AND IT'S APPALLING -- that's the parents fault. Sorry to be so mean, but it's the truth."

Duncan says, "Well, we need to stop having these old fights." So the DOE will only invest money where performance is happening. Uhm...what sort of performance? If the government is funding all the successes, doesn't that just compound the failures? My wife says, "This sounds like a great method to never fund an inner city school ever again. There's high performing schools and high need schools and its the needy schools that need attention."

Also? If you need to get the best teachers, you need to pay them some serious coin. And you need to pay the teachers who teach in Anacostia MORE money than the ones in Arlington. Especially if you impose an end to tenure and burrowing. But I don't hear too much policy talk on how to fix this, other than Duncan suggesting that it's a problem, to which a policy solution should be applied.

Gingrich brings up what an awesome political gamble they're all making. OK, WE GET IT, NEWT, YOU ARE AT BOTTOM, SELF-SERVING. YOU THINK YOU ARE GREAT.

I think that Duncan's plan isn't to necessarily pay the most innovative people the best possible salaries to teach in the worst possible places, but rather to entice retiring Baby Boomers to go back to work because of a call to service. WE SHALL HARNESS THE POWER OF BABY BOOMERS SELF-REGARD AND PIOUSNESS. Actually, that sort of fits in the "so crazy it might just work."

OH BY THE WAY: Parents? They "need to take responsibility," Duncan says. Glad we got to it. I wish that most parents were parenting above a third-grade level.

Oh, hey! MORNING JOE will be brewing lattes or something at a school in New Orleans, so, woo.

And, once again, Meet The Press devotes a quarter hour of their show to a reminder that it was a much better show before we were all born.

Okay. Well, that's all of that, then. A programming note: maybe no liveblog over the Thanksgiving weekend. I'm still working out my holiday itinerary and whatnot, and there remains a chance that I will be on the New Jersey Turnpike during that time. Next week however, we will return, to talk about that time Sarah Palin strung a litany of Facebook status updates into a book and sold it in stores. Again, that last chapter: a pitlessly bleak and cynical worldview, my gosh. Anyway, have a good week!