TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads
Good morning everyone and happy Memorial Day weekend and welcome to your Sunday Morning liveblog of British Petroleum PR and politicksery! But WAIT? What am I doing here? Aren't I supposed to be taking a well-earned weekend off, something everyone either says I "totally deserve" or else waxes sentimentally, "Good, because you are terrible and your liveblogs are terrible and I hate you, and them!"
Well, yes, I was. But a planned trip to New Jersey has to scrapped at the last minute, owing to some illness. So, as much as I'd like to tweak the Northern sensibilities of the good people Denville, NJ by attending their barbecues and sipping on some Red Blazers and gettin' my whole lean on, we decided it would be best for health and wellness to not spend any time on the New Jersey Turnpike, and instead chill at home.
And yeah, I could have just not liveblogged today all the same, but I felt duty bound to try, given the fact that me and my laptop and my TiVo were all together. (Besides, I'm just going to want to beg off doing this some weekend in the future, right? I am no monument to virtue!)
Anyway, I did decide to catch an extra hour of sleep this morning, so there's that, anyway. So, there you have it: unexpected liveblog! Feel free to comment the hell out of this thing, or send an email, and if you want a long string on unrelated thoughts on everything coupled with inside jokes you won't understand, BAM: TWITTER. Okay, let's get on with this.
Today we begin with General Colin Powell, who will be offering his Memorial Day insights. But first, here's BP's Bob Dudley to tell us terrible things about his terrible company's terrible oil spill. Top Kill is a failure! No one could assassinate the top. SO what's going to happen now?
"We failed to wrestle the beast to the ground," says Dudley. And now the plan is to drill a relief well -- the "DRINK YOU MILKSHAKE" plan -- which won't be done until AUGUST. Dudley says that they will do what everyone expects them to do, which is to "not stop" trying to stop the oil coming out.
But what about the cut corners? Jake Tapper cites concerns raised by the NYT, and the decision to use a "riskier option" on casings and seals. Dudley doesn't see it as "cutting corners." But why wasn't the well shut down after it was reported that there was a "loss of well control." Dudley says that's a matter for investigation. "But why not just stop operations?" Tapper asks. Dudley finds a way to not answer the question.
Tapper also went down to talk to Bobby Jindal about what he wanted for Louisiana and the basic thrust is more local oversight over more Federal resources. And he wants to build a huge sand berm, which isn't a bad idea. And BP should pay for it. There's no way to summarize this: it is just a giant clusterfuck of verious entities making various plans which put demands on various resources and requires various approvals and obtain various variations on the original plans which are variously communicated to various people and so no one really knows what's going on until say, the 180,000 feet of boom planned by Such-And-Such Parish gets whittled down to 90,000 feet by So-And-So agency and so some gets deployed and some sits on the dock and no one knows what the hell is going on.
Probably everyone should be in one big War Room. Tapper asks about Jindal's take on big government, and Jindal says, BLEAH LIMITED GOVERNMENT IS STILL GREAT. Is he getting everything he wants? He doesn't come out and say no, and says that everyone is showing the right "urgency." Will Louisiana ever be the same? Jindal says yes it will. Learn more, on the third season of HBO's hit show, Treme.
So, now here's General Colin Powell. Powell says that he's seen a lot of crises like this oil spill. And he's learned that the rule of thumb is that the Federal government has to move in and take over quickly with "decisive force." Powell says that while it's clear that the President was involved early, they did a poor job of putting that out there. So, that gap coincided with a problem that grew exponentially worse.
I sort of think that the White House's early response was great, but it really flagged over the past two weeks -- during a critical period where BP had too much control over the supply side of information, the people started placing greater and greater demands on the government's side of the response. And they were behind on the relevant statistics (BP did a good job at never being forthright with the side of the problem, and almost no one held their feet to the fire), and they didn't have better ideas on how to stop the leak.
The sad thing is, much of what the Feds could have dictated amounted to busy work and backdrop filling. But people need to see that, I guess. It's the only thing that disabuses people of the notion that you don't simply have magic powers that can stop oil spills. In the end, the White House managed to get past the "This looks like another Katrina" stage, but now, they need to address the fact that they're at the "This looks like the BP/Gulf Coast/Mother of all industrial disasters" stage.
Powell says it's time for a comprehensive, total attack on the problem, and suggests that just having bodies on the job will at least give people some hope. The cynic in me calls that a semi-permanent investment in stagecraft infrastructure -- but deep down I think Powell is right.
We move on to the Don't Ask Don't Tell matter. Powell has come about on the idea, which he once supported. "We've changed, the country has changed." Powell supports the decisions being made by Gates and Mullen and the rest that it's time to review the matter. "I think at the end of the day the law will change and DADT will go away, but don't underestimate the issues" that have lingered for seventeen years.
And Powell is of the personal belief that the DADT policy should go away, but it's important to hear from the troops first.
On to Afghanistan, where our allotment of troops will never be at the level of Iraq. Tapper points out that the mission seems to violate the Powell Doctrine: which couples decisive force with public support. Powell points out that his "doctrine" isn't part of any military field manual, but it's a basic way of bringing the right force structure to bear on a mission. Powell thinks that this mission -- which is not a classic warfare strategy but rather counterinsurgency -- is being resourced adequately. What takes it from "a draw" to a "win" -- according to Powell -- is increased Afghan involvement in police, security, government, and the like. Public buy in.
"It's ultimately going to be in the hands of the Afghans," Powell says.
Is Iraq ready for withdrawal? Powell reminds, "Ready or not, it's going to happen." He doesn't see the sectarian violence as hitting the levels of the bad years of the conflict.
"We cannot maintain this level of deployment, forever," cautions Powell.
On Iran, there's a "new regime of sanctions" arrayed against the Iranian regime, but Powell doesn't think that they are adequate, and figures that the Iranians have already operated around them. "We may eventually reach a point where we have to accept" Iran being nuclear capable but not nuclear weaponized. "Right now, it's a dangerous situation," says Powell.
Powell has been working with his wife on educational initiatives, especially combatting the drop-out rates, so he's started this program called Grad Nation, that's geared toward addressing the 2,000 schools with the highest drop-out rates and solving the problems in those schools and their communities. If you are interested in learning more about Grad Nation, click here.
Panel time, with George Will, Matthew Dowd, Clarence Page, and Joan Walsh -- who was once Jake's boss at Salon! I dream of an all-Salon/Salon Alumni panel of Jake, Joan, Mike Madden, Alex Pareene and Heather Havrilesky.
George Will says that Obama is "being unfairly blamed" for the BP crisis and it "serves him right," because Obama's been a big fan of central government and competence and now, guess what, concentrating experts in the government hasn't solved this problem.
Clarence Page's necktie, by the way, is so awesome. It's a blue tie, dotted with those things that we used to stick inside our 45s so that we could play them on our turntables. I forget what they are called? SPIN magazine used it as their symbol in the first decade or so of their existence. Anyone who knows the name of those things, email me, please. Anyway, this tie is really, really cool. Anyway, Page says that Obama's being asked to play the role of hands-on expert and behind-the-scenes manager.
Dowd says Katrina was a tipping point for the Bush administration because the public had started to lose faith in big aspects of his administration that summer -- notably Iraq -- and that Katrina just did him in. Dowd says it hasn't gotten to that level for Obama, but it's an object lesson of how the job comes with pomp and pain, and you've got to take them both. Now, Dowd says, it's about plugging a hole in the ocean. If he gets it done, it'll be fine. If he fails, the public will jump on him.
Walsh finds it ridiculous that so many liberals -- like my boss! -- require a "stand in" to be America's daddy, and what needs to be explored is the pattern of negligence on the part of BP. "I don't need a daddy," says Walsh.
Will says that it could be more compared to the Iran hostage crisis and Page agrees, so I guess the oil will wait to subside until Mitt Romney is installed as President.
Dowd says it's still not a great environment to criticize Obama, because he's still popular, and his popularity is on the upswing.
DADT: Walsh points out that the ongoing study is more about how to get rid of DADT, not "should" we get rid of it. But yes: it's a campaign promise and a nod to the base. Dowd's son Daniel, who serves in the military, basically finds the DADT policy incomprehensible. "The Republicans are so far out of step on this," Dowd says. Tapper points out that it's really the Republican officeholders -- and it's weird but that's exactly right! There really isn't a pro-DADT "base" anymore.
Page says that there is a culture, germane to the military, that needs to be treated delicately. Will cosigns that, but adds that we've reached a general point where "being gay is no more interesting as being left handed." So what's up with the GOP lawmakers, opposing this, asks Tapper? "They're not being very intelligent," Will says, to the laughter of everyone.
On to Joe Sestakiana! This we spent all day Friday waiting with bated breath to find out what was going on! Clinton wondered if Sestak might to open to staying in the house and taking some dumb committee position. Dowd says that it's not something that deserves prosecution but it does hurt the Obama brand because this sort of deal-making was supposed to be off the table.
Will says, "Politics is a transactional business...and there's nothing wrong with it." He basically feels like this is okay and thinks the GOP is stupid for attempting to "resuscitate the Frankenstein's monster of the independent counsel."
Dowd's totally right that the irony here was that the way it's all worked out is that the stronger Democrat is in the Pennsylvania Senate race.
My take on this is that in a moment of bluster, Joe Sestak over-inflated Clinton's spitball idea to "the White House offered me a job." That got Sestak stuck in a moment that he could not get out of, as long as we was running for office. Then, the White House got put in a bind: they could come totally clean, and in so coming clean inject themselves into that primary race (and demonstrating that Sestak was maybe exaggerating would have greatly benefitted Specter), or they could shut up and absorb the abuse themselves.
They chose option two, and in a way, I think they revealed one of this White House's weirder tendencies: they seem to hate the empty game of perception so much that they won't play it. It's a noble goal, but they haven't exactly succeeded in training the media to get more substantive.
Immigration. McCain wants EVEN MORE TROOPS TO GO TO THE BORDER, to be Georgians! Everyone basically says that it's all symbolic and useless and the best thing we can do is tell Mexico that we're in the middle of a crippling recession. Dowd thinks that the GOP is killing their chances with Latinos. Walsh says that the move allowed Obama to make McCain look old and crochety, and everyone laughs.
MEET THE PRESS
So guess, what? TOP KILL, still a failure. Maybe instead of the word "FAIL" the internet can just start typing "TOP KILL" over everything? Anyway, here's that Dudley fellow, who's been making the rounds this Sunday, getting out in front of that fake BP twitter account, to wrestle the beast known as David Gregory to the ground.
Ha, that line is going to be the BP line, too: WRESTLE THE BEAST TO THE GROUND. How do you RASSLE and oil plume? How do you hug a rainbow?
Gregory, fearless journalist, basically asks Dudley, "Tell us about how hard this is for you to pull off, and how crazy difficult it is." Dudley says that they have to depend on robots, so maybe blame the robots? We can all get behind a blaming the robots defense, right? But what if our military drones side with us?
Anyway, now they are giving diamond cut saws to the robots, to do a saw and seal operation, over the course of this coming week.
How much oil is spilling in the gulf on a daily basis? Dudley says "we honestly do not know." But the bad estimates were other people's problem! And now, hey, it might be between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day. THE ROBOTS WILL TELL US. HAIL THE ROBOTS.
Maybe this is all the beginning of the robot rebellion?
Obama is so angry, though, about being misled. And BP is "angry, too." Pardon, but what do you all have to be angry about? (ANSWER: The robots?) BUT DAVID GREGORY WANTS TO KNOW IF THE INDUSTRY MISLED THE GOVERNMENT, SIR. ANSWER HIS QUESTION!
Dudley says, "No we did not."
So we move on! Should Tony Heyward resign after all of this is over? Dudley says Heyward has done a great job, so, basically, no. "I think Tony's doing a fantastic job," says Dudley. WELL MAYBE WE CAN JUST PUT BRITISH PETROLEUM OUT OF BUSINESS, OR SOMETHING?
Now here's Carol Browner, who the Army of Glenn Beck Nutter-Pecksniffs know as a CZAR, of Energy Magicks. She says that the government is on the job! She says that scientists will remain on the scene "asking probing questions" and "giving strong advice," and then watching as robots with diamond cut saws for arms take over America.
How much oil is coming out? Browner says it's a hard question to answer. How about "A BUTTLOAD OF OIL" or "PROBABLY ALL THE OIL?" Scientists have varying estimates, and those are 12,000-19,000 barrels.
What is the scale of this environmental disaster? Browner says this is the biggest environmental disaster the country has ever faced. More oil spilled than in any other time in our history. Browner says the good news is that technology is better at mitigating the onshore environmental damage, and she runs down what's going on. I believe that operation is probably awesome and working balls-out, but the evidence is that the magnitude of the disaster is just so overwhelmingly huge that it outstrips out ability to contain it.
Browner says that they will hold BP accountable and that they will "make sure BP pays for all of the costs" for the cleanup.
Browner says the President's been "in control from the beginning," and that Thad Allen is the point person and the "cabinet is fully deployed," and they are waiting for the robots to weigh in and, what? The robots would like some laser-eyes? Okay, give them some laser eyes, please!
Browner says that Ken Salazar was up on the ethical problems with MMS from jump street, and that MMS is being dismantled, and everything is going to be fine, seriously, with the MMS. But whither the contingency plans that MMS is supposed to be working on. Browner says that we have to learn from the accident, and so they are shutting down deep water drilling in the Gulf until the government has answers.
Feedback on the whole "what is the name of those things we stuck in the middle of our 45s have come in: Lynn emails to say that they were called "adapters." Angie (from Politifact!!!!) says "adapters," as well, and adds that some called them "spiders." In case you are wondering what I'm talking about, by the way, it's these things.
Now there's Luis Gutierrez and JD Hayworth, talkin' about immigration. Gutierrez says that sending a handful of troops to the border is not a solution to a holistic approach to the problem. He adds that the border is really just a small part of the problem.
Hayworth wants to thank the troops on Memorial Day first, because that's what politicians do, but he doesn't think that these troops who will be "changing oil" and "working with computers" are going to accomplish much.
Hayworth says "comprehensive immigration reform" is a "poll tested phrase that just means amnesty." He goes on to praise "broken windows" policing, a poll tested phrase that just means, "beat up on the ghettos."
Gutierrez says that first thing you need for comprehensive reform is a "comprehensive approach." Uhhh. And then there's some stuff about licenses? And Harry Potter? I'm starting to lose interest in this. But it's basically: we can't deport all of these people because it's impossible. Rather, we should offer a "path to citizenship," that involves registering and fine-paying and other hurdles and hoops.
Is the Arizona law an invitation to racial profiling? Gregory says that the law advises against it. Hayworth says that cops in Phoenix would absolutely treat he and Gutierrez the same if both were pulled over for speeding. I don't agree with that! And by the way! HOW MANY WEEKS MUST WE GO THROUGH BEFORE SOMEONE NOTES THAT THEY ALTERED THE LAW TO ALLOW OFFICIALS TO USE CITY ORDINANCES AS THE BASIS FOR AN IMMIGRATION SWEEP. The question Gregory needs to ask of Hayworth is, "Do you think you and Luis Gutierrez could both safely put their car up on blocks on their front yard without the cops coming by?"
I would offer that if you are in the country illegally from Ireland, you can still get buck wild in Arizona. Go nuts!
Ha, basically this problem will never be solved, the end! Right? Basically, yes. If I could distract Arizona cops this Memorial Day by creeping around Phoenix in a tinted-out car blasting Cafe Tecuba, I would.
Okay, not it's time for some paneling with David Brooks and EJ Dionne. WOO INOFFENSIVE COMMENTARY IS COMING. The leak in the earth isn't plugged and it's frustrating because the government has some power but not all the power and it's terrible to be in that position -- of powerlessness -- and why weren't we more prepared for things that have never happened before? It's an existential question! But anyway: SEPTEMBER ELEVENTH: CHANGED EVERYTHING. But then if you don't expect much from government then you are okay, today -- you are walking around, spring in your step, and the oil spill sucks but the bluebird of government limitations is at least singing a sweet song in your ear as you bumble through your BOBO paradise. This isn't after all, Obama's Katrina -- maybe it's Obama's Katrina And The Waves in that this "Katrina" is LITERALLY on the WAVES, but only figuratively WALKING ON SUNSHINE because THAT CANNOT BE LITERALLY DONE (but one can literally drink "RED WINE AND WHISKEY" so maybe that's how this is OBAMA'S KATRINA AND THE WAVES?
Also: Joe Sestak? WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT OUR LIVES? It's a small-minded politics that's exasperating to everyone especially to the people who do it anyway and it's sad but typical and what are you going to do, just get cynical and eat some more ice cream. Specter, Sestak -- all these dudes who sound like monsters from episodes of the X-FILES, what are you going to do, everyone sucks and will continue sucking.
And the economy, it's bad, except in the ways it is good, except in the ways it is bad. And Obama deserves credit for the blame and blame for the credit and Tim Pawlenty thinks it's all a fake but there's a "WHOLE NOTHER" bunch of things to worry about like INFLATION. WE WILL LEAVE IT THERE.
And that's todays panel summed up in three run-on sentences that literally are just as good as what you could have seen on teevee.
BY THE WAY: No Meet The Press next Sunday because of the French Open! THANK YOU, CLAY COURT SPECIALISTS OF THE WORLD!
The MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
I am so filled with the Three-Day Weekend Piss (ingredients: Jim Beam and French Roast coffee) that I am just going to relieve myself all over this batty show from the seventies, beaming itself to Earth from the spaceship from SPACE: 1999. WOO LET'S GO!
Okay, so Clarence Page is back, along with Pat Buchanan and Monica Crowley and Eleanor Clift to be sharp minds and hard talkers and cheap furniture sitters. They will discuss oil spill, of course. And Obama! And BP.
McLaughlin wants to know if Obama waited until BP was showing progress before having a press conference -- this show is pre-taped, I believe, so hold off on your ironic admonishments. Buchanan says that the two things aren't related, but he's not shown sufficient "urgency" and "passion" and he's "been hurt very badly by this." Clift says "political cleanup is like oil cleanup -- the earlier the better." She relates this to the health care debate, where Obama steps in right before the situation gets irretrievable. Now, apparently, it's important that Obama gets emo with America.
Now they will talk about the MMS. I wonder if anyone is going to note that Obama didn't seem aware that the head of the MMS had been fired? Because that sure spun my head? YES. It's Monica Crowley who mentions this! She makes sure to yell about it, too. So, credit to Monica Crowley, on that matter.
OH MAN, James Carville yelling, Cajun style! Page says that Obama earned that nonsense for putting too much faith in British Petroleum's various oil-stemming tactics. So let's nationalize BP, if that's okay with Michele Bachmann!
Clift says that Obama should have named a "high commissioner" to the job, which Thad Allen ("the Coast Guard guy") has been doing already? What, should Allen have been given some better, more funky-ass epaulets? LOOK AT THAT SHOULDER BLING! YOU KNOW THAT DUDE IS IN CHARGE.
Monica Crowley moans, "You are looking at the destruction of one of the world's magnificent and most valuable estuaries." This marks the first time the Monica Crowley has ever come out on the side of an estuary!
And now Clift and Crowley are yelling at each other, so, if you had "TEN MINUTES IN" or "CLIFT AND CROWLEY" as part of your "HOW WILL MCLAUGHLIN GROUP GET TERRIBLY BOGGED DOWN IN YELLING FIRST" drinking game, take a sip!
What a weird question. "The oil well that blew up was named 'McCondo' [NO IDEA IF THAT IS SPELLED CORRECTLY. -Ed.]," McLaughlin says. "Will the name McCondo live forever as the name of the most accursed enviromental disaster?" Buchanan is basically like: NO, BECAUSE YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO HAS HEARD THIS WORD, "MCCONDO."
Anyway, Clift thinks the oil industry will be hated and Crowley thinks the Obama administration will be hated, and McLaughlin is basically, MCCONDO! AND NOW HE WILL YELL HIS SONG, "MCCONDOS IN THE NIGHT" over Pat Buchanan.
But what about sexy Sestak and his sexy Specter bribes! Isn't that the MCCONDO of politics, and won't it be much worse for America? HOW MANY ESTUARIES HAS SESTAK ALREADY DESTROYED WITH THE UNPAID COMMITTEE STUFF HE DIDN'T TAKE? Why has nobody been TOP KILLED, by robots with diamond saws? BRZZZZZZZZ! BRZZZZZZZ!
Buchanan says this whole story has been concocted! And if the job offered was Secretary of the Navy, then it's a crime. But how on earth would it have come to pass that Joe Sestak would have been offered the Secretary of the Navy position? That makes the least amount of sense! As Dave Weigel pointed out:
On March 27, 2009, the administration nominated Ray Mabus as secretary of the Navy. It wasn't until April 28 that Specter became a Democrat, and by Sestak's own recollection, he was literally being courted to run the day that news broke. On May 18, the Senate confirmed Mabus. And on May 29, Sestak entered the Senate race.
Honestly? It's possible that there was a lot more to this than what's been described between Rahm and Bill Clinton and Joe Sestak (though that story, coupled with Sestak's own demeanor, is actually what makes the most sense). But it is just SLOW-WITTED to keep talking about the Secretary of the Navy job as if it were in play as a possible home for Joe Sestak. BUT YES IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A CRIME, IF THAT WERE WHAT WAS HAPPENING, WHICH IT ISN'T, SO NO.
Now Clift and Buchanan are laughing about "nothing burgers," which must be something that old people find funny.
GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee want to appoint a special prosecutor, because who didn't enjoy surfing that red tide, from days of yore. Crowley is excited about the independent counsel, though. And, by the way, suck it Obama for ever promising to change politics-as-usual. WHERE IS THE CHANGE WE MADE HIM PROMISE TO GIVE US, which apparently included never getting involved in politics and ham-handedly choosing ARLEN SPECTER as the future king of Pennsylvania.
Now everyone is laughing about Watergate! Good lord, this show! It's like watching people watch the "Two Girls One Cup" video! Clarence Page apparently fell off a turnip truck, which Pat Buchanan drives around Washington? I would buy those turnips, I guess. But, more importantly, WHAT IS EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT? That was literally four minutes of five grown-ups NOT EVEN TRYING TO MAKE GOOD USE OF THE AIRWAVES THEY WERE GIVEN.
Is this show available in HD? And if so, the next question is: FOR GOD'S SAKE, MAN: WHY? WHYYYY!?!
Now they are making predictions. I think that when the McLaughlin Group makes predictions, it should culminate in a monthly Russian roulette competition where each correct prediction removes a round from the chamber. I WOULD LIVEBLOG THAT DYSTOPIAN NONSENSE, FOR SURE.
But okay. The question is: Will Rahm Emanuel be gone from this administration by Labor day? Buchanan says "even money," Clift says "no," Crowley says "after the midterms replaced by Valerie Jarrett," Page agrees with Crowley, and McLaughlin says, "BLAHHH, GONE!" Okay, he actually says "Gone" very calmly. But don't you want to pretend otherwise? And more importantly: WHAT JUST HAPPENED??
Oh, wow. I think that is it, actually. Well, okay. I'm glad we sort of came to the conclusion that we are just never going to solve any of our problems, unless we offer the oil slick a job in the Obama administration, or something?
Anyway, have a safe and happy Memorial Day. I am glad that I got to spend part of it liveblogging, actually. Remember that on the numerous occasions this summer when I am out of town, okay?