TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads
Happy Labor Day to everyone out there who's still being compensated for some sort of labor! And for all of those of you who aren't -- and I understand there are some more of you -- happy Sunday. It's SUNDAY. It's good to be reminded of that! I've been unemployed for an extended period of time myself, and the days do tend to blur. Also, at some point you'll spend a week doing nothing but watching reruns of JUDGING AMY and drinking ranch dressing straight from the bottle. Just go with it! As Kanye says, "It's a process."
Anyway, so here's your latest Sunday Morning Liveblog in these oxymoronic times of jobless recovery. My name is Jason. I'll be typing away. At some point this liveblog won't be "live" anymore and we'll deal with it, it will be okay. As always, you can send an email, participate in the comments below, or follow me on Twitter -- it will be so worth it, believe me!
OK, so today we are going to check in first with the good folks at...
THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR
Speaking of unemploued people: Tony Blair! Or as he's also known, Tony Bley-ah. What's he been up to, lately? Cold writing books, that's what! And so, today he will take some of his book-writing and make some word-talking, and Christiane Amanpour will do some question-making. And we'll grow, we'll all grow, together.
Thomas Friedman is on, today! One hopes he will be receiving the beating he deserves! But probably not.
This Week is apparently in some partnership dealie with the BBC and can now be watched in England, lucky England! Meanwhile, I'd much rather be watching NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS on Sunday Mornings. Could we maybe have an exchange program, or something?
Anyway, Tony Blair, he was the Prime Minister of England, and got all warbloggy with George W. Bush, and it didn't really work well for anyone, except for maybe Michael Sheen, who played Blair fifteen times in the movies. I can't wait for Michael Sheen to confront both David Frost and Tony Blair in the Chamber of Confusion. ONLY ONE MAY LEAVE.
Does Blair regret anything, about the wars? He regrets the loss of life, okay? That was pretty terrible. But he's sticking to his guns -- especially the guns that killed all those people! -- like the cause for war in Iraq and the existential threat of Iraq. He says it's important to "hold 9/11 in our mind" because the people who committed that attack would have killed "300,000 if they wanted to." All true! Which is why you fight them, and not a bunch of Iraqis.
Blair says that most of us haven't gotten it into our heads that this is a "generations-long struggle," which is too bad, because that sound like the struggle al Qaeda wants! The better to bleed us dry, of wealth. Though we're doing a good job of that on our own, too!
Wouldn't it have been better to have not diverted the attention from Afghanistan, Amanpour asks. Blair says that there would have been no containing Saddam. We had to send "such a strong signal" after 9/11. Apparently, a ground war in Afghanistan wasn't strong enough.
Blair says that if it were up to him, he'd confront Iran with diplomacy and sanctions, and that if that failed, he wouldn't take a military option off the table. (This doesn't necessarily mean he'd start bombing, I guess? Who knows what "on the table" is?)
Asked if Dick Cheney really wanted to have wars in Syria and Iran and Belgium and Burkina Faso and the A&P in Cheyenne that wouldn't cash his out of state check and what not, Blair says that Cheney never literally produced some hit list or say it in meetings, but, yes, "Dick was absolutely hard line on that." On Bush, Blair says that it's "easy to mock" his "simplicity" -- and it really, really is! -- but that his simple view of the world led to decisiveness. He says Bill Clinton was the "smartest politician he ever came across" and says he got through the Lewinsky scandal on his "extraordinary strength of character," which is a strange and ironic way of looking at it?
Also, Blair says Clinton is "extraordinary curious about people." (Especially their vaginas!)
Ha, so this is sort of like NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS!
In England, by the way, they do this thing called "Prime Minister's Questions," which are awesome and meanspirited and vicious and it makes the Prime Minister hurt, deep inside, and we really, really need this in the United States, badly.
The death of Princess Diana was an epochal event for people! Did you realize this? Well, that's what Amanpour and Blair are talking about now, for some reason.
Okay, so panel time with George Will and Paul Krugman and Mary Jordan and Tom Friedman. I really hope that during the Iraq War, enough Iraqis felt like they had been told to "suck on this," as per Friedman's instructions.
What is Obama going to have to say in Cleveland, at his speech? Will says he'll have to say that the "economy is getting better, fast," but that is, obviously, "not plausible." Krugman says this is a "nightmare that some of us saw coming" -- the stimulus wasn't "commensurate with the crisis," and that now there's no faith in those Keynesian tactics -- so there's no help coming anytime soon.
Jordan notes that the Obama administration really should not have oversold their position. That makes good sense: I'd have been out there in 2008 telling the American people that the Senate Democrats had watered down the stimulus so badly that it wasn't going to work. Instead, we got Christina Romer -- of the recently parachuted out of town Romers! -- on teevee telling people that the sky was filled with marshmallows and the horizon was a line of chocolate frosting, in a way that you could tell, strained the definition of "spin."
Krugman: "This looks like 1938." OH GREAT, YAY, IS IT ALMOST OVER? If we "don't fall into the trap" and take out eye off the need to boost demand.
Will says that the country feels "deceived" by Obama, that they didn't get what they voted for. Will probably means that he's not being "center-right" enough, but on the general point, Will is right: voters, most notably your indies, stalwart in their resistance to getting hidebound in their ideological leanings, are not getting any of the intangibles out of this presidency -- boldness, attentiveness -- and the base isn't seeing the policies they thought they were voting for being implemented.
Republicans, naturally, see what they've been told to see, "creeping socialism." Which is what they'd be told and would believe even if Obama had abolished Medicare and bombed Iran into splinters.
Jordan says that businesses aren't hiring because of their special emo feelings about the world, and Krugman smacks that down immediately. Then he smacks around the White House for drifting hither and yon in their tone (which seems to bolster Jordan's original point).
So, what it the GOP economic plan? Friedman basically says that the GOP doesn't have one, except for tax cuts, which is their remedy for good economic times. Krugman says that they are deeply unserious. Will says that they'd disagree, and that there's Paul Ryan! "He's a serious man with a serious plan." Once again, this is not the case. Ryan's plan, as far as taxes go, is to "raise them" unless you are "staggeringly wealthy."
His plan for the budget deficit is also unserious. Per Matt Yglesias:
The CBO score that people are relying on to reach that conclusion doesn't actually estimate how much revenue Ryan would raise, instead it just takes Ryan's word for it that his ideas would raise 19 percent of GDP. That's because the CBO doesn't score tax issues, that's done by the Joint Committee on Taxation. But if you look at what Ryan's ideas would actually do, the truth is rather different:
Paul Ryan is a great example of how a stupid person can reach the commanding heights of politics so long as he has the best haircut in the room. (And he does, by far!)
Anyway, back to this round table! The generic ballot says "doom for Democrats!" Nate Silver says that the generic looks like an outlier, but all the non-outliers also tell him that "doom for Democrats" is coming all the same, so everybody might as well panic, if that's their flavor. Friedman thinks that it was a mistake to pass health care reform, the signature bill that Obama promised during the campaign, and that the Dems would be faring better if the economy was still terrible but they also had made no effort at all to pass health care reform.
Friedman isn't sure what to think about the renewed Mideast peace process, but we should "let it breathe." He is going to "pop popcorn and hope for the best."
As far as the end of the Iraq War, Will cautions that Iraq still has a long haul in front of them before they are a stable nation, and that we are not done there next. (He also says that while changes are coming in Iran, are they happening fast enough for Israel? Because they might have to bomb all those changes!)
Jordan says what is rarely said: how do we fight a war in Iran? We have soldiers stationed everywhere and fighting a war in Afghanistan, and everyone's been on long deployments and are "war-weary." So where does the will to attack Iran come from, exactly? (A: Green Lantern's ring, and the festering mind of out-of-touch politicians!)
Okay, let's have more people blathering at each other!
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
Today, Chris welcomes Howard Fineman and Norah O'Donnell and Michael Duffy and Cynthia Tucker to jabber about elections and stuff. So, what's the hap? Well, last year, the President got called a liar by some milquetoast from South Carolina on a night he wanted the "bickering" to be over. And then other things happened: like people went crazy when Captain Crotchfire, the Underwear Terrorist wasn't tortured to reveal any other crotch based attacks on our nation. And some right-wing hackasauruses lied about Shirley Sherrod, and the White House believed those lies. And the economy didn't get better, either, no matter how many dumbassed sideshows our media threw at it. So Chris Matthews is all out of ideas.
Also, in giving a litany of woe over the past year, how do you not mention Deepwater Horizon? Jesus.
Anyway, Michael Duffy says that Obama didn't listen to people like Jack Welch and other CEOs who wanted Obama to fix the economy and not do any other thing as President, like solve problems related to the economy. We're really going to pass through this period of our lives with people like Mike Duffy being too stupid to understand the way health care costs were heading in this country? I guess so! Anyway, I guess this is the beginning of the Rise of the Counterfactual, in which we have people say, "Obama would have been a lot better off if he had broken most of his legislative promises. Had he done so, by magic, the intransigent political opposition he faced in his economy-fixing measures would have -- I don't know -- gotten lost on the way to the Senate!
"Is this something that everyone in the cognoscenti agrees," asks Matthews? Fineman says yes, but also seems to think that the American people "agree" and that the uptick in the unemployment rate is evidence of that agreement, and that this "underscores Mike's point." All of which proves that the cognoscenti, of which Fineman is a member, 1) do not understand what "causation" is, because they think that the passage of health care reform led to an uptick in unemployment numbers, 2) do not understand what or who "the American people" are, because they literally think that joblessness is indicative of an opinion being expressed, and that 3) all of this underscores what Mike Duffy was saying, who wasn't saying anything of the kind, or, indeed, on his own, "making sense."
So, news flash, Beltway insiders don't really pay much attention to what they say, let alone what's really happening in the world, and that is the way it goes. They are set adrift on memory bliss. And it really, really crosses a line when one is forced to drop a P.M. Dawn reference into a liveblog.
I don't think I'm going to pause this show again, or any show again. So, here we go: bumpy ride.
Fineman sees the health care vote as "Obama going for history." He definitely should have told the millions of uninsured, set to crawl off into the woods to die alone, that he's sorry, but he doesn't want to be too egotistical!
Cynthia Tucker is now talking about the failure of "messaging" and the inability of the White House to "construct a narrative." Whenever someone in the media falls back on the "failure of messaging" criticism, it's a clear sign that they've all but given up on trying to understand the world.
Fineman says that Obama never had dinner with McConnell and Boehner! WHAT AN IDIOT! Imagine how many people would have jobs is the three of them had gotten together to fry up some chicken nuggets and lay out dipping sauces!
Cynthia Tucker: "We haven't talked about the elephant in the room." The massive unemployment crisis? "Race."
Any chance of breaking the GOP stampede? The panelists say, "Uhh, they might slow it a little." Fineman says "Two months is a lifetime in politics." I say, there's no way of stopping the stampede, but it's not that big a bother -- the GOP has no ideas and Obama has a veto. To put it in counter-insurgent terms: the GOP has got "clear" down, but they don't have a lot of hope at the moment of pulling off "hold" and "build."
The Democrat's post-election circular firing squad, however, is going to be hilarious fun!
OH NOES, CHRIS MATTHEWS IS ALREADY TALKING ABOUT 2012!
Here's who Tweety calls "secular": Pawlenty, Romney, Barbour. And, non-secular, I guess? Palin and Huckabee. Of course, the nominee is going to be Romney, unless he kills a man with his bare hands or can get tainted by scandal. Huckabee is very poor. Barbour is the second coming of the Jim Gilmore campaign. Tim Pawlenty is the third coming of the Jim Gilmore campaign. Sarah Palin will run if it makes her money and there's a guarantee she won't actually win.
Fineman praises Palin for being good at Twitter and Facebook, and that gives her an advantage. Hey, reporters! That's only an advantage if you keep treating it as important. And consider this: no one -- and by "no one" I mean "not a single person on this earth" even knows whether it's Palin who is writing those tweets and Facebook updates. Think about that. There's no evidence that any of that side her political identity is authentic. It could all be ghostwritten! She doesn't want to talk to the media, because the media might ask her "questions" to which she does not have the "answers." I think maybe the media should get some pride, and stop acting as if the means by which she eludes all of you is a fascinating innovation.
Things Chris Matthews didn't know include the fact that Rand Paul is going to be the Tea Party Ambassador to Mitch McConnell, which will surely please McConnell to no end. Women are going to be swept out of the Senate. Tucker says John Boehner -- DUH -- doesn't like independent ethics investigations, and Duffy says that shadowy outside groups are bankrolling the GOP's election year. (Like they do for all parties, in all election years, forever.)
The big question? Will Obama join the GOP majority, or fight? Fineman says join, O'Donnell says fight, Tucker and Duffy say he should fight them, but won't.
Hooray! A happy ending for the rich people!
MEET THE PRESS
Today's MEET THE PRESS was going to originally be a debate between Charlie Crist, Kendrick Meek, and Marco Rubio, but Rubio's father has been sick lately, and apparently his health took a turn this week, and so Rubio is opting to stay nearby for the time being. I wish Marco Rubio and his family the best, and will keep his father in my thoughts.
So, MEET THE PRESS has reached for their rolodex of "newsmakers" and drawn Senator Lindsay Graham -- best known for having nothing at all to do on Sundays, ever, so...why not call me, please...somebody?...have me on their show?
Goody. Also, David Plouffe! Hooray. He seems totally relevant! And the panel! Charlie Cook, Erin Burnett, E.J. Dionne, and Rich Lowry! This is about as Bubblicious as panels get, anywhere!
Some days, I just wish I could post the Meet The Press transcript and then start drinking rye whiskey! But sadly, not everyday can be like the day you took the SAT.
So, here we go. Lindsay "Jowly Dave Foley" Graham in the house. Talking terrible economy blues. This R&D tax cut will be the silver bullet, mayhap? Mayhap, no? I'm leaning no.
What does Jowly Dave think? He wants to extend that R&D tax cut, too! And he wants to extend all the Bush tax cuts, too! Balloon the deficit and give the top two percent more monies! Wheee! He says that the GOP should be talking about replacing the health care bill with an empty box. And yadda yadda, JDF says that Obama "ran as a centrist and governed from the left," when in reality, he did precisely the opposite. (Am I missing the single payer health care system I should be enrolled in?)
Is there room for compromise on tax cuts? JDF says that maybe the "death tax," a tax that affects a few dozen super-rich Americans, is something they can compromise on. (And guys like Evan Bayh have been compromising on that all along.)
Is there "irrational exuberance" among the GOP? JDF says, "if we voted tomorrow, we would do very well." I don't think that GOP is being irrationally exuberant about their chances in the election, at all. Will people absolve Republicans for being oppositional on everything? Graham either truly believes this, or he's lying, but he claims there were "bipartisan options," on all sorts of policies.
I just noticed that the Chyron underneath Graham reads "Clemson." Obviously, that doesn't really benefit him too much.
Graham: "We can have a spending freeze in non-defense areas!" So, we can have a bunch of pro-cyclical economic policies that exacerbate the downturn and cost us years of growth (unless you are a military contractor). Great! This is why the difficult task ahead for the White House will be to tell America how many lives were saved with the veto.
Jowly Dave is also very proud of the war in Iraq which compounded all of our extant foreign policy problems. Here's how out of touch he is: "Iran's greatest nightmare is a nation on its border that practices democracy." Maybe so! But what they have on their border is a nation that's now uniquely amenable to Iran's regional objectives. Believe me, Iran isn't sweating Iraq at all!
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think it's wrong for the President to say we're gonna withdraw next summer no matter what. I do believe with surge forces, some areas of Afghanistan are gonna be able to transition safely, but the President's insistence that we're gonna withdraw without, no matter what the conditions are is hurting our efforts in Afghanistan.
DAVID GREGORY: But that's not accurate. He has said it's gonna be conditions based.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Now, here's what he said. We're gonna withdraw no matter what, how quickly we withdraw will be conditions based. That's different than saying we're gonna evaluate next summer and make the best decision.
No it's not, dumbass, and besides, you need to maybe pay attention to General David Petraeus when he's testifying in front of you:
PETRAEUS: I specifically agreed with the messages of greater commitment and greater urgency that the President expressed in his address at West Point in December, when he announced the new policy. As you'll recall, the greater commitment was explained in terms of the additional 30,000 U.S. forces, the tripling of the number of U.S. civilians, and the funding for an additional 100,000 Afghan security force members. The greater urgency was highlighted by the President's announcing the intent to begin a process in July 2011, of transitioning tasks to Afghan forces and officials, and beginning what the President termed a responsible drawdown of the U.S. surge forces, with the pace of both the transition of tasks and the drawdown of to be based on conditions of the ground.
But remember, this is MEET THE PRESS, where "wrong" is just "another interesting point of view."
Now David Plouffe is here, to fire wildly fire a fusillade of talking points back in the other direction!
Is Obama accountable for the economy? Plouffe says sure! But he also says it would have been worse under the GOP and we're not on the right path. He points out that the extant plan of the GOP is to return to that wrong path.
It won't feel nice in 2010, but over the long term, the Democrats will come to be happy that over the past two years, they actually tried to DO things. Right now, one can say, oh, the Democrats are people who want affordable health care and Keynesian stimulus and tax rates akin to the Clinton years. That's a marked improvement over "The Democrats are the other people, the people who aren't these dicks." The GOP will have an opportunity to put down a claim so that they aren't known as "The other people, the people who aren't these dicks" themselves. There's a tremendous prize out there for the first party that establishes themselves as something other than "the default option."
Plouffe thinks that the Dems can do "better than people think." He doesn't think that the GOP will take the Senate, and he believes that the special House elections have revealed trends that will benefit the Dems in November. "Elections are choices." Yes, true, but we're a way away from voters truly grokking what choice they have. The big shifts in employment haven't happened! It's just so hard to listen to these utterly conventional political discussions, so out of touch with these unconventional times.
David Gregory is obviously too stupid to understand how disingenuous Mark Zandi is being with his suddent support for extending the Bush tax cuts on a temporary basis. Here's the cure to that stupidity!
Is there going to be a primary challenge in 2012? Plouffe says no. And that includes Hillary Clinton. Honestly, I cannot BELIEVE that we are talking about this kind of thing, today! LOOK AT THESE UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS! I guess it's time to ask whether some nutbanger nonsense of the Secretary of State running against her own administration!
Plouffe is probably right about this:
DAVID PLOUFFE: I think, I think right now, and this is the problem for them, long-term. I do think that Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, they are the leaders of the party. And you see whenever, I was struck by, Senator Coburn from Oklahoma, I think it was at a town hall meeting. And said, "I don't agree with anything the Democrats are doing. And I don't agree with Speaker Pelosi. But she's a nice person." And got attacked for that. There, there is an intolerance in that party and an extremism that I think is where the real energy is. And so, I think as you see in '11 and '12, at that presidential primary, those are the people that are gonna come out to vote. So, I think that's where the real energy is and I think particularly in, in elections, where more people vote in presidential elections, where you have a lot more younger people, minorities, independent voters, who skew a little bit more moderate, that's gonna be a big problem. So, we'll just have to wait and see. Let's get this through this election first and then we'll be right on to the next one.
I'd point out that while Coburn got attacked, he's in no danger of losing his seat. So let's not hang too much on that anecdote. But otherwise, this is exactly how you get your party to the precipice of a huge moment of "clearing" without the rest of the "hold" and "build" equation.
Actually, you know who the real, blooming "it-getter" on the GOP side is? It's not any of the Bush-tax-cutter relics, nor is it the looming Tea Party frothers. It's this guy, Rick Snyder, who's running this "one tough nerd" campaign for the Michigan statehouse. This guy has got some game, and he's the only guy out there that seems to be neither running a "back the future" campaign or one stuffed with Teabag anger.
Of course, I'm at a big remove from the race itself. Which is why, one of these Sunday shows should go book him, because what he is doing looks unique for 2010, and I for one would like to hear more about him.
Panel time! Will there be super tax cuts for the wealthy and Wall Street and corporations? Erin Burnett says, YES PLEASE MORE, THE GRABBING HANDS GRAB ALL THEY CAN. "It's accurate to say the economy is growing, but how do you spin it?"
Dionne says that the Dems could "claw back" enough House seats to keep the majority, and possibly achieve that by opening up a big fight over tax cuts. Rich Lowry doesn't agree, saying that the Dems should extend all the tax cuts, because it's a bad economy (and of course, extend them in a good economy, too).
He says that if the Dems do that, it will be a huge sign of how "the worm has turned politically." But that's not true! It will be a huge sign that the worm has not turned at all -- when the tax cuts were envisioned, there were two parties that wanted to concentrate wealth into the hands of rich people at the behest of their representatives -- the lobbyists and influence peddlers who have the ear of every lawmaker -- and if they are renewed, there will STILL be two parties that want to concentrate wealth into the hands of rich people at the behest of their representatives -- the lobbyists and influence peddlers who have the ear of every lawmaker.
The "worm will turn" when a party emerges that says, "Hey, maybe the middles class should NOT BE GETTING MURDERED EVERY DAY. (And also, we should have paved roads and bridges that don't collapse all the time.)"
Now here's a prolonged discussion of the horse race, in which David Gregory demonstrates that he knows what the "states" are, and that there are "races" in some states that he's heard people talking about. Charlie Cook confirms that this is true. At this point, I should be liveblogging my grey matter turning into drool. ALL THE OLD SHOWSTOPPERS. POPULIST ANGER. RUNNING AGAINST THE WHITE HOUSE. TEA PARTY VERSUS THE ESTABLISHMENT. And we'll be talking about this stuff every day for the next two months. Dionne says that Obama's big problem is one of messaging, Lowry says the stimulus was a failure, Burnett disagrees...ZZZZZZZZZZZ.
At some point, all political chat shows become an exercise in watching people prematurely ejaculate and then act like they should be proud of it.
I think the bottom line is this: it's really too bad for Democrats that there's an election scheduled for November 2010! That really, really, is too bad for them!
Oh, wow, is that all there is? GREAT. I am parachuting for some lunch. Have a really nice week, everyone!