TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads
Good morning everyone and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog, newly returned from the Independence Day holiday. We're going to do our best to hit it and quit it today, since many of you are like me, and vastly more interested in the World Cup final at 2:30 today between Spain and the Netherlands. Quite a matchup! Tulips versus siestas! Tapas versus the commitment to War Crimes tribunals. No matter who wins, the vuvuzelas lose.
So, let's try to have an enjoyable time, and make the most out of being up on a Sunday morning. As always, feel free to leave a comment here. Or send an email, if you like. And if you've a yen for intermittent, often nonsensical outbursts of sense-memory and targetless vitriol, follow me, on the Twitter.
As always, the liveblog will appear as soon as I watch the teevee and type about it. Need to pass the time? Enjoy this explanation of how the media works from Conor Friedersdorf:
Today we'll have David Axelrod, dishin' on Dem prospects, immigration shouting from some immigration shouters, and panel time with George Will, Ruth Marcus, Reihan Salam, and Ron Brownstein.
But first, David Axelrod is here, to talk about the politics, specifically, the way independent voters are down on Obama. (I sort of think independents are way into bold leadership and innovation and when the leader's health care plan and financial reforms and anti=cyclical economic policies aren't as bold or as innovative as they were promised, it gets depressing for them!) But Axelrod says "there are all kinds of numbers out there," and they can be arranged on graphics to display all sorts of things! But really, he predicted that the numbers would drop, because of the economy, so this is ALL GOING TO PLAN.
He's pretty sure that the GOP's prevailing economic theory will be a liability in the fall.
Tapper asks if Axelrod overestimated the White House's ability to sell government as a solution to problems. Don't think Axelrod really answered the question. He says, things are tough all over, people are unhappy, they are trying to do their best to make the right decisions.
Tapper brings up "spending fatigue on Capitol Hill." Capitol Hill, by the way, is the only place where this fatigue exists. Here's what's going on in the rest of America:
On Saturday, the group known as America Speaks (funded by Wall Street mogul Peter G. Peterson and two other foundations) brought together several thousand people in meetings in 60 cities. They gave participants misleading background information about the federal deficit and economic options to achieve fiscal "balance" and future prosperity.
Peterson cannot be pleased with the participants' mainly progressive policy choices, which will be presented on June 30 to the Deficit Commission that Peterson encouraged President Obama to create.
According to America Speaks' own press release, when a scientifically selected group of participants picked up their electronic voting devices, they overwhelmingly supported proposals to
* Raise tax rates on corporate income and those earning more than $1 million.
* Reduce military spending by 10 to 15 percent,
* Create a carbon tax and a securities-transaction tax.
Axelrod says that the desire to spend is weak, but that there are "some things we could accomplish": like tax breaks for small business, extension of unemployment insurance, and "many other things." Like expanding exports! Someone buy the stuff that third world laborers are making on our behalf! (And also this one factory that makes batteries! Who else needs a social media platform? WE CAN BUILD ONE FOR YOU, BOTSWANA!)
Axelrod says that the fact that the economy is better now than it was when they took over doesn't mean that it's good.
Meanwhile, the CEO of Verizon is going to criticize Obama? Okay, STFU CEO of Verizon! If it weren't for BP, you guys and Comcast would be battling it out for the title, Worst Company In America. That's like 50 Cent's record getting critiqued by the dude who shot Fitty nine times, or however many times he got shot, I didn't memorize.
Axelrod is saying "Katie bar the doors," so let me check and see if he's talking about college football! No. He's still talking about the financial disaster, that almost sent all the money to money heaven. They stabilized the economy! AREN'T YOU GLAD TO STILL HAVE AN "ECONOMY" TO SELL YOUR CRAP, VERIZON? What would Verizon have to offer a world where we are eating squirrel meat, and bartering services to that we do not get shot by roving gangs? "Oh, I'd really love to hear about your long distance plan, but I'm afraid I have to run off to the thunderdome to have a scythe-fight with three other guys over a box of boullion cubes that maybe I can feed my family with, for a week."
Oil spill! BP is going to do some cap replacement. Is the President worried it's not going to work? Axelrod says that the President is well-informed and confident this will work.
What about Don Berwick, and the death panels he will bring to America, to cull the olds? Is he "setting the stage" making this recess appointment. Axelrod says that the GOP has made holding up nominees an art form. Tapper allows that this is true, but Berwick hasn't had a hearing of any kind. I think what Axelrod really wants to say is that, knowing that a hearing would only be a venue for staging a delay, other than staging an actual HEARING, the administration just cut to the end of the story, and did the recess appointment that would have been inevitable.
Axelrod's subtext on Berwick is basically this: it was always going to be a shitshow, because it's healthcare, so let's have the shitshow now, quickly, and get on with our lives.
There's a Blago testimony question that really requires someone with more intimate awareness of what's been going on in that trial than I have to explain, because with seconds left in the segment, Tapper went to the question without a lot of exposition. Check out Jake on Twitter (@jaketapper), because the ABC crew will probably have that interview available by embeddable video really soon.
Arizona immigration law! Luis Gutierrez against Brian Bilbray will shout out each other. Is the crime problem in Mexico significant enough to warrant securing the border in advance of Comprehensive Immigration Reform? Gutierrez attests to a crime problem across the border -- totally true, Juarez has gone from being one of the most dangerous places on earth, to being ZOMGZ WHY IS EVERYONE GETTING SHOT IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!!!!!!!
Nevertheless, Gutierrez wants the security to be done in a "comprehensive and bilateral manner," and a separation from the victims of crime from the criminals themselves.
Tapper throws some heat at Governor Jan Brewer by saying straight up that her claims of rampant criminality among border-crossers is "not the truth." Bilbray has apparenly not attested in a similar fashion as Brewer, but his explanation seems to be that as you get closer to the problem, you earn the right to distort the problem, hysterically (which he briefly tries to do with the "Phoenix is the kidnapping capital of the world, before Jake swats it down).
Bilbray says that the problem is that companies are hiring illegal immigrants, and that is the induction that needs to be shut down. Gutierrez seems to agree in part (he nods his head), but says that Bilbray is leaving out the fact that many of the illegal immigrants in that position didn't sneal across the border -- they came to the United States legally, and overstayed their welcome. I recognize that I play a big part of that -- people just want to be near me. I understand people! But it's like I told the family of Swiss people who were encamped outside the door to my apartment: "YOU GUYS HAVE SERIOUSLY GOT TO GET THE HELL UP OUT OF THIS HALLWAY BEFORE I CALL THE POLICE!"
Gutierrez basically wants a comprehensive bill, that includes a lot of what Bilbray wants, but I gather the GOP just wants border security. Bilbray wants to do it in steps: pass Heath Shuler's bill, then pass Sylvestre Reyes' bill.
But from there, it all hangs up. Tapper wants to know from Bilbray what's supposed to happen to the illegal immigrants already in the country. Bilbray thinks that anything that makes their ability to legally immigrate to the U.S. with the ability of people who have been waiting their turn legally would necessarily be a net-negative and an induction to continue to flout the law. But I think Tapper was after an answer to a pragmatic question, not a philosophical one. How does the U.S. create and pay for a mechanism by which 12 million people are expelled from the country, in this economy?
Gutierrez allows that Arizona's actions are understandable, given the lack of authority that the Federal government was exerting on the problem. But he thinks that the Obama administration has taken the reins adequately, now. He returns to the pragmatic side of the question Tapper asks, "Bilbray thinks that this is Fantasy Island, that 12 million people are just going to disappear like a mirage." I'm not sure that ever happened on Fantasy Island...I think that was on Hello, Larry!
Finally, though, some shouting! Hey, this problem will never be solved!
Panel time! What's going on with Obama, campaigning? He seems to be critical of the other party! But Will says it's not going to work because Obama is terrible and the stimulus package was snake oil and there are no jobs, ever, anymore, ever again. Brownstein says that the "decline in the esteem of Democrats hasn't been met" by a renewed esteem for the GOP, but the inevitability of the off-year election is that it is a referendum on the White House.
Is this a wave coming? Salam says that it is, but it's a "gimme," adding "Republicans aren't performing nearly as well as they ought to be." Younger voters and African-Americans, who have been hit hardest by the recession aren't turning to the GOP, and the suburban white voters aren't drifting in the GOP's direction either, meaning the bottom line is a short-term gain without much prospect for sustainability. (Matt Dowd's sat in this panel and said the same thing; Salam's got a really good feel for middle-class voter demographics.)
Brownstein cosigns Salam, adding that the Dow is going to be a factor in what the suburbs choose to do.
Will says that any recovery that we seem to be in is not saleable at the polls, because job creation is the big L-shaped specter in the recovery trajectory. Marcus adds that even if growth gets robust, it'll be a long time before that health spreads through the entire host body.
Salam points out that one of Obama's biggest problems outside of his core constituency is that he keeps talking about the things he could do to make things better, but it comes coupled with this grim reality that his desires will be hung up in Congress. People outside the already-dedicated want to nevertheless see Obama "making the actual case" for these measures. Let's go back to what's souring the independent voters: hey, they helped get a guy who wanted to be bold into the White House, he'll never ever have a bigger majority in the Congress to work with (maybe no President ever will!), it sucks that it's not good enough, but you still need to go out and press and press and press and keep persuading people that you've got some fight.
Will says that the Obama-Netanyahu meeting largely accomplished nothing, and that the "peace process is the biggest impediment to peace." Marcus seems to think that the kumbayah moment was nevertheless great, because it shows that the U.S.-Israel relationship is "too big to fail." Great! Apparently, without "pageantry," we'll never achieve substance. Salam notes that confusion over the Palestinian negotiating partner is a large impediment. You can't even have the pageantry, without that.
Now they are talking about the new Sarah Palin video. Marcus says, "Same old vapid platitidunous stuff." (Is there such a thing as a political ad that's not vapid or stuffed with platitudes, though?) Salam says it was an "outstanding ad," and that non-issue issue ads of the same sort worked for Obama. I'll spilt the difference and say it's a high-production value ad that manages to say a version of "nothing" that's at least a soft, fluffy nothing instead of a nothing that feels like a pillowcase full of tacks and poisonous spiders.
LeBron James! Will says you should feel sorry for Cleveland, because Cleveland is sorry. Brownstein says he's gone from "phenom to mercenary," Salam agrees, lamenting that the actions of his handlers stole away from the simple fact that LeBron essentially wanted to just play with some friends and win some games. Marcus hates the self-involved nature of "The Decision."
What's important to me is that the Wizards are looking like they will be terrible next year.
MEET THE PRESS
Robert Gibbs joins David Gregory in the TRONDOME to talk about politics, but first, some oil spill news. Gibbs says that the sealing cap will help contain the oil, and that they are going to try something called THE HELIX, which is an idea that they got from Doctor Who when the Pandorica opened. (It involves pushing mud around, probably, but still: HELIX!)
So, politics is happening, and Obama wants voters to understand that the choice will be between "the policies that got us into the mess" and the policies that are de-messing. But people are ANGRY, and what do you do when you are angry? You go on one last bender of drinking and self-immolation! So, good luck with that, everyone! Meanwhile, Obama will be travelling to Michigan, to find someone in Michigan that has a job. (Making batteries for electric cars!) AMERICA HAS A CHOICE TO BE BATTERY MAKERS OR CLUB EACH OTHER TO DEATH IN A POST-ECONOMIC WORLD.
Gibbs says that "he is not here to unfurl a mission accomplished banner." Although that would be, like, two jobs, right? At any rate, things are getting better, and it will take time to fix, but frustrations remain, and the White House kind of understands this, maybe.
When does the Obama administration have to own the economy. Gibbs says that the responsibility for fixing the economy is theirs, but we can't allow the GOP to run the car into a ditch, because that's a powerful metaphor that they got from the second season of MAD MEN.
If John Boehner took over the House, he would be talking about the financial collapse as if it were an ant. CAN AMERICA AFFORD A METAPHOR GAP? What if that ant grabs the wheel of that car and pilots it into a ditch, where the nuclear bombs are? MAMA GRIZZLIES COULD GET KILLED! SUM OF ALL METAPHORICAL FEARS!
Is the President falling short, or were expectations set too high? Gibbs says well, look at Afghanistan! That place is jacked up! Like the economy, but it takes a lot of time and makes people frustrated.
Will the Bush tax cuts be allowed to expire? Gibbs says that the middle class will not have a tax increase imposed on them. But Gregory really wants to make sure that the rich get there taxes cut, and Gibbs won't attest to this.
Why hasn't more been done about reforming Freddie and Fannie? Gibbs says that they are trying to keep people in their houses that belong in their houses, and that Geithner is working on Freddie/Fannie reform, but it has to come after the current FinReg proposals. Gregory thinks that everything needs to be done at the same time, Gibbs disagrees. Next week, Gregory will be back to talking about how Obama's trying to do too much at the same time.
Sad about the sexy Russian spy swap? We'll miss you, sexy Russian spies! We got back four spies, and that looks bad unless you consider the exchange rate involved. Anyway, Gregory and Axelrod were talking about this, but I was too busy thinking about the sexy Russian spies to hear what they were saying. Sure it was great!
Meanwhizzle, foreign policy. "Is it harder to move away from Bush foreign policy than you thought?" Gibbs says, "No, because you are grossly oversimplifying it." Gibbs cites improved foreign relations and a strong showing in the non-proliferation field. He goes on to point up how Obama managed to employ a new strategy on Iran, earning new allies and stronger sanctions.
Gibbs says that as far as 2010 goes, there are enough vulnerable seats in the House to cause a flip to the GOP. Interestingly, while Gibbs outlines some baseline strategies that can be employed against GOP insurgents, he seems to be placing the responsibility for success squarely in the hands of the candidates. I think that you'll see Obama doing some stumping, but it may mostly be in a vaccuum. My read is that they don't want to get too tagged with the lack of success that Dems may face, considering that they won't get any credit for anyone's success. In that no-win situation, I'd expect the White House to be largely hands-off, but I'm prepared to be surprised.
Gibbs basically says that Democratic candidates should think about the opportunities that Boehner and Joe Barton afford them, in pointing up differences in governing philosophies.
And then they talk about LeBron James. Suffice it to say, LeBron would probably beat Obama in a game of basketball. So there you go.
Panel Time! With David Brooks, Rachel Maddow, Ed Gillespie, and Harold Ford, seated around the Dadaist quadrangle-wrangle table.
Brooks says that the "are we better off" question is the prevailing question and that people are more concerned with long term debts than short term maladies. Not sure where he's come up with that! Last time I checked, Americans wanted the government to spend more money to create jobs and add economic stimulus, and an expansion of government regulation on major financial institutions. (The bad news is that they still want health care reform at least partially repealed.)
Maddow points out that the Democrats have "their work cut out for them" in this economic conditions, so they're basic choice is to make things a choice, between bad and the sort of "worse," exemplified by Sharron Angle's craziness. Gillespie thinks that tactic won't necessarily work. Harold Ford thinks that Obama needs to be proactive and not focus on the past, but send a positive message. Of course, for Ford, you send a positive message when you cut entitlement benefits and permit the rich to stop paying taxes and make life better for Wall Street investors.
Maddow points out that it's basically awfully pretty for the GOP to run as the party of fiscal discipline, but you really have to be careful and meticulous in your approach to making that case. Brooks thinks that if the administration can't make the current situation into a "liberal moment," liberalism will never have a moment. Gregory says that this assumes that the conservatives are having a moment themselves. I'd say to Brooks, "Well, it might have been a liberal moment if the responses had been authentically liberal ones."
Maddow and Ford are fighting over the payroll tax, but my cat just hairballed on the floor by my feet. Thanks cat!
Anyway, yelling, yelling. Gregory asks, what do you do now? I say you spend money in an anti-cyclical fashion and impose regulation on the financial industry and extend unemployment insurance and encourage better state-level planning and management and maybe kidnap Ben Bernanke's loved ones until such time as he evinces even a scintilla of concern over the unemployment problem. Brooks agrees with some of that -- not the "Let's Extort Ben Bernanke, with Violence" plan, unfortunately -- but he says that the legislative culture is sick. LET'S KIDNAP EVERYONE!
Gillespie says that the Bush administration had the longest period of consecutive job creation, month-to-month, in history. But that was job creation that was routinely under the mark of where it should have been, a vulnerability that became a wound when the economy collapsed. Sorry, Ed!
Peggy Noonan smoked some peyote and wrote a column and not the panel has to deal with it.
Ford really, really wants someone to maybe, someday, make a concession to the business community, who never ever get what they want! Don't put Wall Street in the position where they might one day have to hire a lobbyist or two, to try to influence legislation!
In Harold Ford's world, Wall Street is Tommy Wiseau's Johnny and Obama is Lisa and we are all in "The Room," and Wall Street is yelling "You are lying! I never hit you! You are tearing me apart, Lisa!"
Maddow and Brooks lament the lack of a Plan B in Afghanistan: what if the Afghans never get themselves in the position to take over. (One of the things Adam Serwer really highlighted with me about a year ago is the tremendous disadvantage that the Afghans have in the area of literacy -- especially compared to Iraq. It's hard to have an Afghan police force when the available recruits cannot read or write, and the ones that can don't want to get killed by insurgents.)
Okay, well, I'm not done with the shouting, but I sort of want to ease my way out of this Sunday, so we're going with...
THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
And I know that many of you are happy to see this show back in the rotation, occasionally. It's certainly fun and breezy to liveblog! But I have to balance this against the fact that my wife totally hates this show! Watch! She doesn't know I'm about to put it on. She's probably going to groan audibly and run off to some other room of the house.
Sure enough: "Oh man! You're going to watch this show, last? ARRRGGGH. I am going to have to leave the room! You did this on purpose, to torture me!"
So that's why we don't do this every week. Though if any of you want me to say, liveblog episodes of BALLYKISSANGEL, that would make my wife happy!
For whatever reason, we're going to highlight a four month old issue of education reform and teacher's unions. I'm not sure what the issue is, because if you want to talk about White House relationships with labor, there are more pressing and contentious examples.
No Pat Buchanan, though! Instead, Chris Stirelwalt, who says teachers are stuck between a union that hurts teachers and litigious parents who want their children treated like princes and princesses. That's so stupid! Who does he think protects the teachers from idiot parents and their idiot lawyers and their spoiled children? It's not underfunded county school systems, that's for sure! It's teachers' unions.
Eleanor Clift says that the United States makes an effort to teach everyone, including the kinds of students that traditionally fall behind. "Teachers are getting the brunt of the blame," she says, and it isn't fair. Crowley likes "Race To The Top" because she believes it is an example of "free-market principles." It's pretty that she thinks that! I'm going to let her persist in that belief, but as someone who did a lot of contract work with educational grant programs, I can tell you that Race To The Top is in keeping with a long tradition of Department of Education policy and practice. It's absolutely an example of government solutions.
Clarence Page says that the dark side of charter schools is that while it's easy to start one, it's hard close one that is failing. There is a lot of claptrap going on in the charter schools in your neighborhood, people!
No one seems to understand that in order to get better teachers in schools, you have to pay them competitively. And no one wants to do that!
Stirewalt complains that the failing schools are the ones sucking up all the tax dollars, and cites District of Columbia Schools as an example. He must be talking about federal funding, and not total funding. Arlington County, where I live, has four very good high schools because Arlingtonians want to have four very good high schools. There's no magic thing we're doing with less money. I suspect we're funding our schools to the hilt. But a poorer school may be drawing more Federal funding because their state, and especially local sources, are bone dry.
Certainly you cannot compare DC to anyone else. There's obviously no state government! And there's a higher concentration of Federal dollars because the federal government has a larger interest in DC than they do anywhere else in the world -- as well as the means to enforce that interest.
Clift notes that DC has turned around under Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee, and she's right! But unfortunately, Fenty is facing a tough election, and Rhee says she'll leave DC is Fenty isn't re-elected. This is why you cannot pin your hopes on the idiosyncrasies of some interesting political figures. The policies that underpin your educational systems goals have to be sound or the gains you make could all blow away in the next election cycle.
Anyway! Yelling! Unions are terrible, says Crowley! Page says overgeneralizations are even dumber! And more yelling!
Now, a topic with more currency: the oil spill. But it's a pretty ornate issue: Is it okay for the IRS to tax income that comes in the form of a BP claim payout, given the fact that the MMS approved the pipeline that exploded and caused the problem in the first place? ONLY THIS SHOW WILL TAKE ON THIS OBSCURE, PAROCHIAL ISSUE, AND OFFER ITS MOST STENTORIAN VOICE OVERS!
Clift says that the plans that BP gave to the MMS was filled with nonsense, and when "fraud is committed" a contract is invalid. But is anyone making that argument?
"No one is making that argument," says Crowley, who thinks that taxes are terrible, but that these claim payments are not part of a settlement. Stirewalt basically says that if people are getting money to replace a wage, it should be subject to the same taxation as wages. Clift says that these monies do not represent a "tax-free windfall." McLaughlin tries to compare it to hurricane relief money, but the panelists seem to think that's addled.
So we move on! To Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies," and wow we're going to try to dive into the "feminism" of the issue. Scary.
"Is it feminist to try to decouple economic rights from reproductive rights," asks McLaughlin. I'm pretty sure you are supposed to finish your drink! Clift says that there's plenty of birth control options, that women have gained a lot of autonomy, and that abortion is "safe, legal and rare." Crowley says that Nikki Haley and Sharron Angle epitomize the goals of first-wave feminists. Page and Stirewalk smartly stay out of the discussion, and we go to commercial.
Here are your predictions! Stirewalt says that Bill Clinton will "accidentally say something critical about Obama's economic policies" -- I'm guessing while officiating at Huma Abedin's wedding! Clift says that teachers are applying in droves to the DC school system. (Not a prediction.) Crowley says Obama will not close GITMO. Page says that we won't pull out from Iraq on time, either. McLaughlin says that Arizona's immigration law will be mimicked by seven other states. I would short Page and McLaughlin, and go long on Crowley, in this instance.
Okay, well, that was like Hell's version of the Aspen Ideas Festival! I am going to get myself prepared for a few more hours of vuvuzelas (assuming the National Symphony Orchestra isn't planning on using them this season). I hope everyone has a great week. Stay hydrated and air conditioned!