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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

First Posted: 08/08/10 10:14 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:20 PM ET

Five Box

Good morning, one and all, to the next Sunday of the rest of our lives, and the political chat shows that dot its terrain. My name is Jason, and this is your Sunday morning liveblog. Last Sunday, I was away. Next Sunday, I will also be away. Sense a pattern? WELL STOP SENSING THAT PATTERN, because it will only persist for one more week. It is not something that you should observe in nature, start forming conclusions about, and then make large monetary bets against. This would be a bad idea. After next week, trust me, the alternating on and off will cease. I DON'T LIKE THAT ANYMORE THAN YOU DO, PROBABLY.

Anyway, last week, we missed the series premiere of This Week, With Christiane Amanpour and so we will be at a loss to comprehend the show's complicated "mythology" that was introduced last week. I am plenty glad to have missed Tom Shales review of the show. I gather he was upset that Amanpour extended her regrets over the dead in Afghanistan to people like Afghan civilians, and NATO coalition troops, as well as the American soldiers listed in the Pentagon's casualty reports. Well, like ABC subsequently reminded us, Amanpour is Catholic, and if you've ever attended a Catholic Mass, you'd know that Catholics take a pretty dim view of war all around, and are pretty ecumenical in their regret.

So, as I often have the occasion to say, "Eat a hot bag of glass, Tom Shales! And by the way, you are a sexist ass to boot!" (He is actually a bona fide sexist ass, this is on his business card.)

Anyway, you know the drill, you are invited to leave a comment, or send emails, or follow me, on the tweety-machine. Tra-la, off we go!

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

Today, on the Foxy news of Sunday, Ted Olson of Prop 8 case fame, and Mitch Daniels -- the latest new things in Republicans named Mitch, and panel time, with a panel.

But hey, here's Ted Olson, to talk about the legal case he fought on behalf of same-sex couples in California. As Chris Wallace points out, people may be surprised by Olson's advocacy for same-sex marriage, seeing as he's a conservative, but there's a whole conservative case for same-sex marriage to be had, and it's been pretty well articulated by, well...Ted Olson! (There's a liberal case for same-sex marriage as well, not that President Barack Obama seems to know what it is.)

Wallace begins with the issue of judicial activism, and whether it's right for one judge to overturn their will. Olson says, "We do not put the Bill of Rights to a vote...we ask judges to make sure that when we vote for something that deprives minorities of rights." Olson, citing fourteen cases in which the SCOTUS has upheld that marriage is a "fundamental right," rejects the argument that this is "judicial activism." "It's not judicial activism," Olson says, "When judges do what the Constitution requires them to do, and they follow the precedent of previous decisions of the Supreme Court."

Wallace presses on whether the decision made up a new law, but Olson's ready for that as well, noting that there's no law for inter-racial marriage, yet the Supreme Court upheld a fundamental right for inter-racial couples.

Let's face it, Olson is pretty well prepared to fend off these questions! "If seven million Californians voted to create seperate but equal schools, the Supreme Court will strike that down."

What about Elena Kagan, who said there is no federal Constitutional right to same-sex marriage? Olson says that Kagan is correct, but that's only because the SCOTUS hasn't caught a case like this. At some date in the future, it looks like they will.

Wallace keeps harping on judicial activism. Olson says that most people use the term to describe judicial decisions that they don't like. Har! Olson says the Prop 8 decision is "judicial responsibility," not "judicial activism."

Wallace asks if it's not better for this to be decided by the states. Olson asks, "Would you like Fox News' rights to free speech to be decided by the states?" Olson's pretty confident in the strength of his Fourteenth Amendment argument. This whole segment is like one long subtle valentine to the Fourteenth Amendment.

Olson goes on to say that he "applauds that things are changing," and hopes that this case will "open people's eyes to the damage done by discrimination based on sexual orientation."

Wallace talks of a "flood of same-sex marriages." OH NOES, I AM KNEE DEEP IN THE HAPPINESS OF GAY PEOPLE! Still preferable to being knee-deep in Deepwater Horizon oil, right?

Olson doesn't come right out and say that Anthony Kennedy's going to be the guy to make to enshrine this case, but he does go on to say that he and David Boies have made a pretty great case. His opponents, by contrast, did very little to make the case -- the vacuum, I think, created an opportunity for Judge Walker to fill. Olson says he's not taking anything for granted.

Wallace asks Olson why he got involved in the case, was it Rob Reiner's fault? Olson says that there were many people who urged him to take the case, but that, at bottom, he believes he is defending a conservative value. "It should be a liberal and a conservative value, it should be a fundamental American value."

It's really too bad that we couldn't have actually watched this trial take place.

Anyway, from time to time, Fox News Sunday gives a quarter of their show to finding America's Next Top Republican. This is probably where Sharron Angle has derived her whole media strategy! Anyway, today: Mitch Daniels! He may already be America's Top Mitch! But will he be president, very soon? Let's watch the infomercial!

Indianapolis has added private sector jobs lately, and says "Washington should do everything it can" to make jobs, except for stimulus of course! Daniels says it asks responsible states to subsidize irresponsible ones. (Remember those irresponsible states that wrecked the economy in 2008? Nuts to them, right?)

Daniels is against big government and high taxes, so he's got that going for him, as a Republican candidate. He can recite cant, which is good for any politician. I'm wondering where the charisma is going to come from? Maybe he'll wear a cape, or something? I worry that there might be an Evil Star Trek Mitch Daniels out there who has stolen all of this man's personality!

Don't raise taxes in a recession, Daniels says, the implication being that we can't raise taxes when we're NOT in a recession. He wants an "emergency program" that "opens a door" and "encourages investment." Does he not understand that the recipients of such encouragement want to just place a lot of strange bets on obscure financial products, and not build businesses?

Blah, now here's the part where Wallace admonishes the GOP for "losing their way" on spending, so is it time to cut all entitlement programs? "Arithmetically, there is no way we can pay for Social Security as we know it today," says Daniels, who at least leads his reform solution with "means testing." He goes on to say that there's a "Chinese menu" of options. HAR HAR INSERT JOKE ABOUT BEING HUNGRY AN HOUR AFTER YOUR DIM SUM.

Daniels has said that the GOP should temporarily have a "truce" on social issues. He says that in order to do the things that need to be done economically, there will have to be coalitions of people that are often opposed to one another on various social-issue grounds to do that. First thing they need to address: the grammar of that previous sentence! Blah, sorry about that! Liveblogging! Hard to diagram these sentences.

Is he running for President? I really am not sure, at all. But I am convinced that I do not care all that much! Hey, there's a guy named Mitch, from Indiana, who is sort of like most of the people named Mitch, from Indiana. Maybe they are all the same person? Maybe the guy you know as "Mitch from Indiana" is part of a sentient, jellyfish-like colony of other Mitches? Who knows? But they are against high taxes. I guess, if Mitch stings you, get a friend to pee on you. Keep calm and carry balm.

By the way, Robert Rubin is against more stimulus, which is probably the best argument for further stimulus yet.

Welcome to the panel penal colony with Bill Kristol, Jennifer "Give Me All Your" Loven, Liz Cheney, and Juan Williams.

Jobs! No one has one, anymore, right? Except for these panelists, which seems so unfair, given the looming teacher layoffs. Good news, though! Kristol predicts that the economy is "losing steam." This should immediately goose investor confidence. Loven says that Alan Greenspan says we are having a pause in the recovery that feels like a recession, that, I guess, feels like a terrible and ongoing unemployment crisis, I guess?

Anyway, Liz Cheney is sad-face because people keep blaming Bush for things that Bush did, like dumb ol' pointers-out-of-the-obvious. GET A JOB, you dumb obvious-pointers-outers! OH WAIT YOU CAN'T.

Anyway, Juan Williams is saying something about the rich driving the country into a ditch, and how Wall Street is doing great, but not injecting money into the economy. And where are the Republican ideas? (I think the main Republican idea, Juan, is that they should win elections -- it's also the major Democratic idea!)

Now we've reached the part of the show where Juan Williams and Liz Cheney end up in a hotel room, anger-banging one another. This, Kristol calls a halt to by yelling at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Kristol says that Obama should not raise taxes on anyone, but Loven says this is not going to happen -- Obama will continue to head in the direction of his campaign promise.

I think that Bill Kristol did not mean to be this honest, here. In responding to Loven, Kristol says that he thinks the GOP will block an extension of the tax cuts if they don't include the top income earners. Wallace asks, "Why would the Republicans block an extension of tax cuts to the middle class? They're going to be in the position of saying 'If we don't get it for the wealthy, we're not going to continue the tax cut to the middle class?'" Kristol dresses it up in dross. I think Wallace needs to understand that the middle class getting a tax cut under Bush was a happy accident. The whole point of the Bush tax cuts were to benefit the wealthy. OF COURSE THE GOP WILL BLOCK A TAX CUT EXTENSION ON THE MIDDLE CLASS. This is basic stuff, guys.

More paneling about politics! Is Liz Cheney upset about the constant criticism of the Bush administration? Yes, she is, very sad about this. No worries! Angry Juan Williams is here, and soon, the pair are lubricating their love-hate-hate-hate-love-desperate people relationship. Except Chris Wallace keeps horning in! THIRD WHEEL, DUDE! Be a bro and back off!

Wallace asks Kristol how big the GOP victory in the House will be? Kristol says it will be huge! Gargantuan! The Republican victory alone, will be able to defeat Mothra! But that's too bad, because Mothra will probably have a bunch of private-sector jobs, for America. Anyway, Kristol seems to think health care reform is getting less popular. He's totally wrong about that. But it's going to be hard to run on, all the same. As Loven says, the basic White House message is, "It could have been worse." It's hard to prove that, to voters! And maybe it shouldn't be easy to prove that.

Wallace asks Juan Williams if he was surprised by how "muted" the GOP response to the same-sex marriage ruling was. I think it would be more interesting to note how muted the Democratic response was! I mean, the LGBT community is supposed to be a key Democratic voting bloc! (It's almost as if they were a captive constituency, no?)

And that's this show. Moving on!

THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR:

Today, War in Iraq stuff, with Generals Ray Odierno and Peter Chiarelli. When I first looked at my TiVo guide, and saw the name Peter Chiarelli, I was like, "What? Is Christiane going to be interviewing that Food Network dude who has that show about how easy it is to entertain houseguests as long as you have your own private vineyard in your back yard?" But that's Michael Chiarello. That's good! Because that show is hilarious! "Entertaining is sure easy! Just own a huge estate with an awesome, camera ready kitchen!" This is why America's Next Top Arlen, Arlen Gargagliano should have her own show, where teaches America her recipe for Dark And Stormies. (THEY ARE DELICIOUS.)

Anyway, there will also be a panel, with John Harris, Gillian Tett, George Packer, and Michael Gerson, with his space-age spectacles. Hopefully George Packer will tell us all about how hilariously broken the U.S. Senate is, and we can light it on fire and build, perhaps, a field of gladiola on the ground where it once stood. And then, I don't know, sail back to Elizabethan England? We have so few options, at this point, to fix the awful, awful Senate.

Iraq! We're handing control over to the Iraqis! And coming home, mostly. And then Iran will fill the power vacuum we created, which I predicted would happen from jump street but which the neo-cons are only slowly catching on to and naturally, blaming the Obama administration for their mistake.

Are the Iraqi's ready to stand up? Odierno says yes, they have stepped up. They maybe aren't "dancing the Single Ladies video choreography yet," but whatever, let's "withdraw" -- probably to Helmand Province. Or maybe some of these troops will get to "come home" and have some "dwell time," who knows?

But there's been some violence, right? What's going on with all the violence? Odierno says, yes, there are "ups and downs," but these aren't the "dark days." "There's been a broad change in the security environment."

But the political processes aren't moving forward very fast, are they? "Does that worry you," asks Amanpour. Odierno speaks to the enhanced performance of the security forces, but doesn't have much to say on parliamentary organization or quality of governance. Sustaining the security forces requires, he says, economic and political development. He does believe that the "governmental entities" have made some progress in the past two years. "All the sides are talking and are working through the formation of the government."

But will it be formed by September 1? Odierno says that progress will be made, but withdrawal is not linked to any political process. Rather they are linked, he says, to the security capacity of the Iraqis. (Actually, they are linked to a Status of Forces Agreement, signed in 2008.)

Odierno says the Iraqis are "nationalistic in nature" and that this will repel any "undue malign influences" on the Iraqi government.

What gives Odierno the most concern? Odierno predicts that some entity will try to spur fear as the end of August approaches. Has the U.S. done enough to bring the Iraqi political parties together? Odierno says it's a fine line: they see their jobs as facilitators. That said, they may have to "facilitate harder." Man, this is rough facilitation!

This is maybe the job for someone like Thomas Ricks, but I wouldn't mind if this occasion of drawdown in Iraq led to an unpacking on whether the military as promoters of democratic government isn't one big "when pianos try to be guitars" moment, because hello? Long war in Afghanistan anyone?

Moving on to "the hidden wounds of war." Army suicides are way up, the numbers are devastating. Man, I tell you people, if you know someone you love who's been to war, don't wait to show up with comfort, any kind of comfort.

I can't really liveblog the intro piece to this much justice -- it's worth watching. David Rudd of the University of Utah notes that "ultimately we are all struggling with the reality that psychiatric casualties" are a significant after-effect of these wars.

That's where General Peter Chiarelli comes in. In his report on the matter, he contends that we are more of a danger to ourselves than we are to our enemies with these long deployments leading to drug and alcohol abuse, and scrapes with the law. "Deployment plays a role," in this, he says, and I can't stress this enough -- these have been long, long deployments our soldiers have undergone.

Chiarelli also notes that there has been a "worsening" breakdown in leadership -- suicides go unnoticed for weeks. Hey, suicides happen in the first place! Chiarelli suggests that when evidence mounts of potential trauma -- high-risk behavior being a key indicator -- deployments should be delayed so that good soldiers can get help. As to whether the military is, by natuire, an organization where high-risk behavior is the natural tendency, Chiarelli says that this is "absolutely not" the case.

"What our soldiers are seeing downrange everyday," Chiarelli says, "human beings shouldn't see, at times." He says that the result is often a "chemical injury" that occurs when a soldier sees something traumatizing.

How is the military set for experts to deal with this problem? Chiarelli says that they are looking for new ways to provide help -- like distance therapy, using the internet to get to soldiers who are deployed. I'm surprised this isn't already happening. Back when I was temping at UVa., I did a stint in the Neuroclinical Trials Center and they were working on projects that amounted to distance brain-injury diagnoses and treatments. But then, just because someone is doing something wizbang in Charlottesville doesn't mean that it's getting bought and paid for in a military appropriation. (Terrible obsolete fighter planes are though!)

They show a clip from Restrepo, of a soldier discussing the "high" of being shot at, Chiarelli says these are the soldiers that badly need help. Michael Chris Hedges, in his book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, describes how this effect is not limited to soldiers -- journalists and policymakers catch it too. "The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug," says Hedges. (Ha, sorry about that. Michael Hedges is a new age acoustic guitarist that a friend in high school used to listen to, for some reason.)

Chiarelli says that increasing dwell time and stateside rest is necessary to ameliorate this problem. Also important: breaking down the stigma attached to being psychologically traumatized, or even injured.

One of the things that aggravates me about the should-we-stay-or-should-we-go debate in Afghanistan is that there's no end to the number of pundits -- all of whom get to opine from the safe confines of a television studio or their offices -- who will tell you that pulling out of Afghanistan will lead to a terrible hit to our reputation. "Our enemies will think we're pussies, if we retreat and surrender!" There's almost no one willing to say, "Hey, actually, a long war can grind your military capacity down so far that it becomes hard to repair, and then, it won't matter what our reputation for tenacity is." The stuff Chiarelli should talk about should COMPEL the media to give the other side of the argument some real time and space.

Probably won't happen though! We're all about failure not being an option, as if constantly intoning that platitude actually wards off failure! It's like when you say "God bless you" after someone sneezes, to ward off the devil, except this is the real backbone of military strategy.

Anyway, panel time! And another discussion of the Fourteenth Amendment! Only this time, it's framed around "anchor babies," who may one day be allowed to get gay married to each other and create the Sum Of All Of Jeff Sessions' Fears.

But first, we're talking about Iraq? Okay, back to Iraq. How about the "surge?" Harris says Obama should have "lavished praise" on the Surge and Bush, and not the Iraqis who actually did the work of the Surge, insofar as there was Surge-ry? Packer brings up things like the Sunni Awakening and the Sadrist bloc going mainstream. Gillian Tett makes her Tett Offensive, reminding people that it actually cost a lot of money to gallivant around Iraq, creating power vacuums in Mesopotamia.

Okay, now jobs! Will anyone ever have one, again? What can be done? Tett says that the President is at a critical juncture, because growth has been paced by inventory rebuild and government jobs -- the question now is can the recovery get up and go? Can it STEP UP IN 3D? Probably not, because this is the season for saving a finite number of government jobs -- those of Representatives and Senators! I'm hoping that Packer will suggest we just furlough the entire Senate. Surely one of those dipper-beak birds can filibuster legislation!

Tett points out that for years, America had a low unemployment rate but no European style safety net and so it was always like, "Ha, ha, Europe! You Danes and Belgians and Swedes!" Except now we have European level unemployment and there's no recourse other than to burrow in the woods for grubs. I'm probably putting too fine a point on that!

John Harris basically says that the product his newspaper -- "John Harris' POLITICO Blog Of Campaign Press Releases And Political Hullabaloo" -- will be putting out in the next year will be totally useless to actual Americans: "I think the larger, sort of anemic state of the economy almost makes the traditional things that political reporters obsess about -- what's the message, what's the campaign strategy -- almost makes them all irrelevant." (Left unsaid: the things the political reporters obsess about are always irrelevant to anyone who is not a political reporter.)

Gillian Tett says that it could pave the way to a lot of finger-pointing and scapegoating and nasty politics. Yeah, that really would be something, if that happened, finally, in 2010, after years of everyone being so wonderfully civil to one another in politics!

Packer says that the the Republicans are pretty clear what they don't want but that the Democrats aren't matching it with a clear campaign of what they DO want, and this has left them exposed. I guess? Usually, when Democrats start talking about their governing philosophies it mostly bores people? Because they are bad at keeping things near ground-level? But really, advertise what you want all you like. Say you want cake and ice cream for everyone, and we still have U6 employment around 18%, which means no one in the world has a grasp on how they will plan their future. In many cases, the "future" meaning "next week" or maybe even "tomorrow."

Tett notes that periods of terrible economic duress make people go crazy! And so everyone wants to deport babies and fight the "ground zero mosque," which is actually the second ground zero mosque. No work and no play makes Jack a Tea Party Patriot.

Packer says that the Senate is "gelatinous" and "stagnant" and he spent time in the Senate and found that "everything happens there except deliberation." Gerson contends that the Senate is doing what it's supposed to do -- moderate big bills and not act on bills that lack consensus, but Packer responds by saying that underneath all the big bill, Senators just straight up act like childish assholes at all times.

But Mitch McConnell -- he's probably still America's Top Mitch -- disagrees. Harris says that McConnell, like his colleagues, is "sullen and snarling." Can we at least bomb the moon with a weaponized Ben Nelson?

Anyway, the Senate is awful!

Amanpour does her "In Memoriam" segment the way she wants to, so suck it, Tom Shales!

Here's that segment on the "hidden wounds of war." You may have to sit through a commercial for Rogaine, like I did. It's a great contrast between what's stressing out soldiers and what's stressing out the rest of America, right? OMG, I DON'T HAVE THE GOOD SENSE TO JUST SHAVE THE REST OF MY HAIR OFF, WITH DIGNITY? Meanwhile, soldiers kill themselves! What a world!


MEET THE PRESS

Today! Carol Browner! John Boehner! Expert on energy and Kid Lethargy, on the same stage! Plus, probably some panel. I seriously want one of these shows to move to the Hollywood Squares format of panelling.

So, here we go, with oil spill news! The leak is plugged, but "many questions remain." We'll see if one of those questions is "Why didn't we get an accurate fix on how much oil spilled into the Gulf?"

Okay, we do sort of ask that? Where did the oil go? Well, it's in the sand and in the marshes and a lot of it has probably been "dispersed" to the bottom of the sea. Browner begins by saying, "I think it's important to understand that this was the largest response to a disaster of this kind" ever. Great! Hooray! Is that something that all administration officials are programmed to say. Their mission, she says, was to keep oil out of the marshes and off the beaches. Well mission failed!

Browner says, though, that everything's fine and everyone's monitoring and "nobody's seen anything of concern." OH REALLY?

Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.


Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them "in almost all" of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. -- more than 300 miles of coastline -- said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

And now, a team of researchers from Tulane University using infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the blobs has detected the signature for Corexit, the dispersant BP used so widely in the Deepwater Horizon

UHM, CONCERN! CONCERN! CONCERN!

What is Browner here to do today? Recite the obvious? Hey, there was this big leak! "I think that if you asked people in the region, they'd agree that this was the biggest environmental disaster." OH WELL, IT'S GREAT THAT SOMEONE CONFIRMED THAT. Let's all agree that it was a big disaster, okay?

"You can't put this much oil out there and not be concerned, and we responded with concern." Browner says, in case you didn't notice the concern, or the oil.

She goes on to recite the Flow Rate Technical Group's estimate of 4.9 million barrels of oil, and says that figure was extrapolated from the pressure tests conducted when the "Top Hat" was put on the leak. But I thought the "Top Hat" failed? Or am I thinking of "Top Kill?"

"The government knows this answer for sure," Gregory asks. Browner says yes. I have doubts!

Browner says that BP will be held liable for economic losses, cleanup costs, and natural resource damanges. Browner says that the 80% of the damage dispensation that Gulf Coast states are demanding "makes a lot of sense."

On to the moratorium, will it be lifted early? Browner says that we have to "understand" what happened, "learn to contain" these problems, and "learn how to clean it up." I see that two of those conditions assume that another deepwater drill disaster will happen! So it makes me worried that the first condition, "understanding what happened," hasn't yet taken hold of anyone's brain!

"It was a massive undertaking," Browner says again, not realizing that for most of America, it's too early to play a Carol Browner Drinking Game.

Browner says she's deeply disappointed that a clean energy legislation has stalled. Sounds like something that requires a "massive undertaking" from the White House!

And now, here's John Boehner, and man, we joke all the time about his Snooki-like complexion, but wow, just look at him today. Wow. I think his blood-orange skin is even refracting light in unusual ways. I think that Boehner's face may spawn a Higgs-Boson Particle this morning. Anyway, guess what: he's against a deepwater drilling moratorium, because that's what lobbyists tell him he's against.

Why does Boehner want a moratorium on regulation, when all these terrible things are happening to the country because no one is paying attention to anything. Boehner says it's not about more regulation, it's about more enforcement. Darling, darling, to have MORE ENFORCEMENT you need to hire MORE ENFORCERS. Why don't you go checking up on the budget outlays for regulatory agencies. Why don't you ask the heads of agencies how many mines or oil wells or financial transactions they have the time to look at in detail each week. The inevitable conclusion will be that you have to ADD FEDERAL EMPLOYEES TO THESE AGENCIES TO GET WHAT YOU WANT. Of course, Boehner doesn't really want government enforcement, either. He just wants to starve enforcement options so that people sour on regulation.

What about tax cuts not paying for themselves? Boehner says, "The only way to get our economy going again and solve our budget problems is to get the economy moving." Uhm...

Boehner says that we can't raise taxes in a weak economy! Also, we cannot raise taxes in a good economy. Gregory asks again and again, "Are tax cuts paid for or not?!" Boehner keeps flipping through his flashcards. "Listen, what you're trying to do is get into this Washington game and their funny accounting over there," says Boehner, as if he was not from Washington or a familiar player of the "funny accounting game."

(I'm always amused, by the way, at people who say that raising taxes on small businesses will just prompt those business to pass on the expense to consumers. Sounds like those small businesses have got it all figured out, then! And yet I hear small businesses complaining, even though they obviously don't have any skin in the game, right? Gah!)

Anyway, now Boehner is saying that we need to have conversations and solutions that are "bipartisan," meaning stripped entirely of anything any liberal of independent voter in America might like.

Boehner continues to insist that the GOP will have "challenges" taking back the house. Cue every liberal blogger in America enthusing on how Boehner lacks confidence! Actually, Boehner is just a lazy guy who doesn't want to take the blame for his party's problems, and doesn't want to stick his neck out in the matter of electoral prognostications.

Of course, why is Boehner selling mugs that say, "Boehner for Speaker?" Remember, the RNC's whole fundraising plan revolves around fearmongering and the sale of tchotchkes.

Pelosi has failed to call for Rangel to step down, says Boehner, who also says it's for Rangel to decide whether he should step down.

And now we get to the birthright citizenship matter. Does Boehner support the efforts to have the 14th amendment amended? Boehner says that it's a problem and that we need to secure our borders and have a conversation, but he has no position other than it's "worth considering." And yet it's a "significant problem!" One day, maybe he'll have a "position."

And now, panel time with Mike Pence, Harold Ford, Andrea Mitchell and Todd Purdum. So the best of far-right and center-right politics, with a dash of Vanity Fair, and David Gregory's hair mixed in. I am gamely predicting that there might be some hyaena-like howling over the deficit!

What have Democrats done lately, that's good? Harold Ford praises them for preserving the auto industry and the stimulus package (not health care reform, though!), but says that most Americans will not feel the effects of these in time for the election. So what's to be done? "First, I'm a believer you have to extend some of the tax cuts." And by "some," Ford means, "the ones that matter most to the Wall Street people I fellate on a daily basis."

FORD: "The middle class tax cuts, probably the capital gains and dividend tax cuts. And you probably want to phase in the top rate increases for the wealthiest of Americans."

See, that's not "some" of the tax cuts. That's ALL of them, including the ones that add to the debt. But I bet in a minute, Ford will start caterwauling about the deficits!

FORD: "Two, provide more certainty around the regulatory structure. Broadband and power grids are going to be built out. These big companies with big, big chunks of cash need to know-- what the rules are going to be going forward. And three, I happen to think that the President ought to adopt some of the recommendations from his deficit reduction commission."

Those recommendations? DO NOT RAISE TAXES. ALLOW THE PENTAGON BUDGET TO BE BLOATED. CUT SOCIAL SECURITY.

Mike Pence basically agrees with Harold Ford, which should TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT HOW LIMITED THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IS. Wealthy elites like policies that favor the preservation of wealthy elitism, a philosophy that never fails to find a home for its elocution at MEET THE PRESS.

Pence says it's outrageous for Democrats to use the lame duck session to pass legislation. Only the GOP is allowed to do that.

Remember how much Boehner was tied up in knots over the issue of the Bush tax cuts not being paid for? Pence is a much better politician, because he just says, "I don't acknowledge that." Easy! Over and done! I feel like such a chump, all those times I've gone on teevee or written blog posts where I work to try to account for my position when I can just say, "I don't acknowledge that!" Nice work, if you can get it.

Pence and Ford might just start making out with each other, on the set of Tron, here. Todd Purdum looks pretty unhappy even being here. It's hard to tell though! Joy literally dies in this room.

Pence says that the GOP will not enact any tax increases that come out of the debt commission, and then in the next breath, complains that the Obama administration's policy is "my way or the highway." No one but me is smart enough to document this stupidity, of course! (Mitchell does attempt to raise the issue of the debt commission dying the Senate in the first place because Republicans abandoned it.)

Oh, no! Maybe foreplay between Ford and Pence has hit a snag, because he's complaining about GOP intransigence on energy policy and the like.

David Gregory does that thing when he reads someone their own article, and the author of the article predictably says that the article makes a lot of sense. In this case, it's Purdum's suggestion that government is dysfunctional. "I agree with my own position," Purdum basically says.

Can you see why so much of my Sunday is regularly ruined?

Now Ford and Pence are okay again: both think Charlie Rangel should have "his day in court." Ford is unsure whether Mayor Bloomberg went to Rangel's birthday party last night. Sorry we don't have that big scoop!

"I want to talk about Afghanistan," says David Gregory, in the 50th minute of his weekly news show! Andrea Mitchell reports that there is good reporting on Afghanistan being done by other NBC News reporters on other NBC news shows. "We'll have to leave it there," Gregory says.

And so shall I! Let's remember that I won't be here next week to liveblog these shows. Sorry about that! I promise that after next Sunday there will be a long and unbroken string of Sunday liveblogs. Until then, I wish everyone a happy and safe summer week!

[More liveblog is coming! Why not bake some delicious cookies for your friends while you are waiting!]

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