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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

First Posted: 12/12/10 08:53 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:20 PM ET

Five Box

Good morning, one and all and welcome to the latest edition of your Sunday Morning Liveblog of the People Who Chat About Politics and The Guy Who Types About The Chatting. My name is Jason. First, some news: we return today to the old way of doing liveblogs -- no toggles or timestamps or whatnot. That doesn't necessarily mean this is a permanent switch back, but there were enough kinks in the process for regular readers to precipitate taking another look and seeing if they can be ironed out. So, fans of the old way of doing things, rejoice! This is like an episode of Cranford or something! The train station must not be built! What happened to the cow? That's Cranford, right? Or am I thinking of Little Dorrit?

Anyway, also I'd like to make a shameless plug for anyone who is going to be in DC next week! I wrote a play for this thing, you should come to it maybe!

Okay, well, as usual, you should feel free to send emails and leave comments. And, if the spirit moves you, you may follow me on Twitter. If it doesn't move you, you should do something different. It's okay! I'm not oxygen!

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

So today: tax cuts deal that so many people hate! And Paul Ryan and Chris Van Hollen are in the house. Also, Stephen Breyer is here, to talk about Supreme Court Things.

But first: YOU GET A TAX CUT! AND YOU GET A TAX CUT! Whatever, budget! We just want to get re-elected, right? But House Dems are sour on the measure. What gives, Chris Van Hollen? CVH says that it will come to the floor for a vote in "some form." He goes on to insist that the portrayal of House Dems as not aware of post-election political realities is a misinterpretation. That said, the estate tax change is a "choke point" that they don't like and which won't help the economy.

Will there be an up or down vote? CVH signals that there will be an "opportunity for the House to work its will" -- which means amendments. But he says he's confident that there will be no tax increase in January. He says that the GOP should be put to the test: will they risk taxes going up on everyone for the estate tax change?

Let's ask Paul Ryan, and his Cool Whip scoops of hairstyle about the rich people? Ryan says, "I don't want to get into who is the hostage taker here..." OH, RIGHT. He's going to flip the script back on Democrats. We're going to really love all the "hostage" rhetoric in DC in about five months. New way of talking about legislating! Soon to be played out! Anyway, Ryan says "the answer is no." The 1,000 or so families who are affected by the estate tax can feel relieved.

Wallace notes that Obama says the package will be great for growth and for jobs, and he's got Mark Zandi backing him up on that, and Mark Zandi is going to be the White House's best friend for a long time. Ryan says that he doesn't see the package as stimulus, because INCREASE AGGREGATE DEMAND? HA HA SO FOOLISH! The rich aren't rich enough to self-actualize the JOB JUICE that's sluicing around in the pancreases! Don't the Keynesians know anything about phrenology and JOB VOODOOD? SOMEONE RUB MORE DOLLAR BILLS ON DAN SNYDER! It will create jobs!

CVH hates the deal too, mainly because the politics are really, really bad for the Democrats. But honestly, they should have thought about that back in the period of July 2010-October 2010 when they could have advanced their own tax cut plan and ended the Bush tax cut extensions on the upper income earners when there was a chance to get it done or, at the very least, force their opponents to actually draw a line in the sand, THEN WE WOULD BE ON TO SOMETHING. But the Democrats really feel that they have a "winning argument," and that having a "winning argument" is much better than "actually doing something." THAT WINNING ARGUMENT WILL START WINNING ANY DAY NOW.

CVH says "we're not going to hold this up at the end of the day," but questions need to be asked about the estate tax. So, we'll have questions? CVH is saying that there is no bluff, here. Ryan immediately notes this, "I think Chris just made some news." Yes. If you're going to play chicken, you actually have to stand in the middle of the road for a spell, daring the collision.

What is the GOP going to do about the deficit? Ryan insists that the GOP has always been at war with Eurasia, where "Eurasia" is spending. He seems to think that the spending is a product of the past two years. As usual, Kid Hair-Genius is wrong.

CVH says that no one serious is going to mount a serious primary challenge to Obama in 2012. We maybe will have another few months of wonderful Mike Gravel YouTube clips, however.

OK, time to talk about Supreme Court stuff with Stephen Breyer. Breyer has a flexible take on the Constitution, as in "not a constructionist." He believes that the founders would have been terrified about airplanes -- just pants-poopingly terrified of the modern world -- and they would have cautioned, "HOLY CRAP Y'ALL! We totally thought that the worst possible thing that could happen to you is that troops could be quartered in your home, but LOOK AT THIS STUFF!" Most of you live in condos, anyway! For the love of our Deist sky-being that we hoped wouldn't hassle us too much, just apply the values of the Constitution to legal decisions."

But isn't Breyer acting like a policymaker, when he does things like that? No, he says that he is being a judge. He goes on to basically present Wallace with the challenge of wrestling with sand. Somehow we're going from riding the subway to shoot guns in Maryland, to an insistence that "James Madison did not think about the internet."

How can the Court maintain public confidence when the nation is divided, when the Court is going to decide on the Constitutionality of say, the individual mandate. Breyer says that "it's difficult to maintain public confidence over a long period of time," but their is history and precedent and values that underpin it all, and Justices should listen to those things and not "put their fingers into the political winds." Our "opinions are truthful because their represent the true opinions of the judge" which are reached in discussion with one another, at a "table across which a voice has never been made in anger."

What about that time President Obama expressed an opinion about a Supreme Court decision, like some kind of monster? Breyer says, "My job is to write opinions, it's the job of 370 million Americans to criticize thos opinions." He goes on to say that he'll definitely go back to the State Of The Union. Maybe Roberts and Alito are just extraordinarily thin-skinned? Wouldn't be rare in a city populated by people who cry for their mothers when they lose a water balloon fight.

Anyway, Breyer is just a happy guy who thinks he has a special job but doesn't want to lord that job over anyone else, and everyone is entitled to say what they like about those things. I like this guy way better than that bitter drip, David Souter, who hated living here and hated everyone and who has retired to live out the rest of his days in his New Hampshire Curmudgeon Hole.

Okay, time for a panel: today we have Chris Stirewalt and Juan Williams and Bill Kristol and Mara Liasson.

HOSTAGE TAKING TAX PLAN ANYONE? Kristol says the plan is going to be great for the economy, which pretty much dooms the economy for the next year. Sorry, America, but that's how Bill Kristol works. Kristol also points out that Jim DeMint doesn't hate this deal as much as he hates most things in life, which is saying something. But it's not saying, "Jim DeMint will vote for this," because he won't.

Liasson notes wryly that the first act of the Tea Party congress will be to add billions of dollars to the deficit. Chris Stirewalt's first act as a panelist is the roll his eyes back and twiddle his nipples, thinking about Charles Krauthammer.

Juan Williams says that "politically, the President was in the right posture," but in terms of policy, it's not like the American people need more tax cuts, especially the very rich.

Wallace wants to know why, if the GOP has all the leverage, why they made a deal? Kristol says that it's because the GOP really doesn't have all the leverage, and that deals have to be made. And now, he's straight up GASTING my FLABBER by suggesting that unemployment benefits must be extended because Americans are having a hard time finding jobs. But I thought they were lazy? Is Arthur Delaney astrally projecting himself into Bill Kristol's body, somehow?

Wallace describes Bill Clinton's appearance in the White House Press Room as "2 Presidents 1 Lectern." I wonder if he knows how problematic that description is?

Anyway, it was a pretty weird moment! As something that might be EFFECTIVE IN ADVANCING POLICY, it's worth trying. As something that might reinforce the idea that Obama shrinks from the spotlight and the fight, it's pretty bad "optics."

For what it's worth, my impression is that this White House just doesn't care about "optics" at all. But I'd add, Obama could stand to watch Clinton do what he does best -- take complicated economic policy and tell a story about it. As good a speaker Obama is, it's one genre of political oratory he hasn't yet mastered. Clinton, by contrast, is really great at it.

But it's important to recognize that as people like this panel fall all over themselves praising how awesome Clinton is, that it's a privilege afforded to ex-Presidents, who typically get treated by the media with deference.

Of course, Clinton's appearance will also give a rise to talk about "moving to the center" and "triangulation," and look, here's Stirewalt blabbering about all of that, and how that could cost him his base. Liasson says that between tax reform and deficit reduction, Obama has the chance to change the discussion and shape the politics himself. (And Williams rightly points out that even after this renewed "professional left" joustery, the "base" -- in terms of actual liberal voters -- remain pretty foursquare behind Obama.)

THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW

Today at the Apple Genius Bar of politics, we'll talk about Presidential dealmaking and maybe also the War we've been involved with for a decade and also the Top Ten Political Gaffes of 2010, because it's Christmas, the magic time of year that Jesus was born and gave us listicles. All this will be talked about by Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell and Michael Duffy and David Ignatius and Helene Cooper. YOU CAN FEEL THE EXCITEMENT, I AM SURE.

Michael Duffy noticed that Obama pointed his finger and got mad, and he's made deal for exciting stimulus. Will it help the economy, or anyone? Duffy: "It's the perfect time for this if you want to get re-elected!" WELL, THERE YOU HAVE IT.

Andrea Mitchell says the word triangulation, which is probably the phrase she most often calls out whilst in the throes of wrinkly, Randian coitus with Alan Greenspan. She's very excited! WHY CAN'T YOU JOBLESS POORS GET EXCITED ABOUT THE EXCITING POLITICS?

David Ignatius says that Obama "wants to be a bridge" and will have to "split his party" and "sketch a vision." Most people, of course, want to have bridges that don't "collapse" because of "crumbling infrastructure" and "kill motorists."

Michael Duffy is still excited about that time Obama "pointed his finger." That really charged Duffy up! He won't stop talking about it!

Mitchell seems to think that Pelosi has failed to "lead her very liberal caucus," which doesn't explain how the House was able to pass so much legislation last year and why they were all chanting against the compromise this week.

Ignatius seems to think that the Democrats will make a mistake if they become a "protest party," because it only is cool when the GOP yells like meemies and obstructs everything pointlessly and tells people, "YES, KEEP PAINTING HITLER MUSTACHES ON THE CAP AND TRADE BILL."

Ignatius says the review of the Afghanistan war is "going to be less of a big deal then we once thought." WELL THAT'S JUST GREAT. You know, when you spend billions of dollars and accomplish sod all in just about any other arena, IT BECOMES A BIG DEAL AFTER TEN YEARS. But not the War in Afghanistan. "Will the left complain?" asks Matthews. Ignatius: "Oh, they've been complaining for months!" Titter-titter, pooh-pooh, and someone's child is going to die today. Thank God that's just an abstraction in this "no big deal" ten year war, to which I wish we could ship everyone that David Ignatius loves.

And now the panel is talking about Larry King's retirement! This is called "finding the level of the room."

Believe it or not, that was the "substantive portion" of the show. Now I think it's going to be about listicles, from Time Magazine.

HERE IS A LIST OF THINGS THAT TIME MAGAZINE HAD SOME FEELINGS ABOUT IN 2010, A YEAR IN WHICH FEWER AND FEWER OF YOU BOUGHT TIME MAGAZINE:

1. That time Joe Biden whispered a swear word to Barack Obama.

Duffy: "That isn't really a gaffe, that thing we put at the top of our list of gaffes...uhm...BUY OUR AWESOME MAGAZINE."

2. That time Michael Steele said something stupid about the War in Afghanistan.

Of course, this very panel just let many, many stupid things about the war in Afghanistan slither out of their wordholes, but whatever: "HA HA AT THE FUNNY RNC CHAIR THAT NO ONE LIKES."

Everyone is now saying that Biden is awesome because he will be talking to people and slapping their backs and being enthusiastic.

3. That time Gibbs said that the Democratic base needed to be drug-tested.

Shorter Helene Cooper: "Gibbs should continue to insult his base, because low voter enthusiasm has proven to be such a winning strategy for the Democrats."

Everyone else: HA HA YES WHO CARES ABOUT WHETHER POLICY IS GOOD OR NOT.

Shorter Duffy: "The White House needs to maybe go to the Chamber of Commerce and get on their knees and really lick some taint. Just get up on in there, and make the plutocrats feel special again."

Oh, here are some things Chris Matthews doesn't know. Duffy says he doesn't know that 31 states have approved a balanced-budget amendment and it could actually happen in the next two years. Mitchell says some stupid insidery shit that she won't say on camera and it's making Matthews so MAD! (She'll tell him when the camera is off.) Cooper says that reporters are going to be going to be using the WikiLeaks as a treasure trove of information and context forever and ever. David Ignatius says, "Another bomb is going to go off in the Middle East..." WHAT? Yeah, it's a safe bet that another bomb is going to go off in the -- OH WAIT, you were being metaphorical, about Iranian involvement in the Rafiq Hariri assassination? Great. Thanks.

Do you want to know who this panel feels is the 2010 Person of the Year? Probably not! But what the hell. Ignatius says, "painfully," it's Julian Assange. Mitchell says it's "the Tea Party." Duffy says that he won't tell Matthews. Matthews says "Mitch McConnell," because he thinks pointless obstruction and being able to manifest a filibuster everyday is "brilliant" even though it "won't be good for the country."

Okay, that edition of the Chris Matthews Show should be taken out to the backyard and put down like a rabid dog. I'd say "like Old Yeller," except that people were actually sad about Old Yeller, because he was brave and self-sacrificing, and didn't deserve his fate, and also people loved him. SEE: MANY NOTABLE DIFFERENCES.

Sadly, it's only going to get worse, because now it's time for...

MEET THE PRESS

So, today, there is a tax cut deal, and hostages, and triangulation. So: Austan Goolsbee is here. Also, Michael Bloomberg is here to get fluffed days after it would have been a newsworthy thing to do. I'm guessing that David Gregory won't bring up the fact that his nominee for Chancellor of NYC Schools, Cathie Black, knows nothing about schools or public policy -- which is why he's being forced to nominate someone who DOES as her assistant -- because if he does, he'll be attacking the premise of the Cult Of Managerial Genius that Bloomberg serves as Kool-Aid bartender-in-chief to the world.

Probably it will be fifteen minutes of Gregory asking Bloomberg if he'll run for President, and then maybe begging him to? It will surely be obsequious!

HA. But Anthony Weiner and Harold Ford are on the panel today, so maybe this won't be a total bonerkillfest of political dribble.

First, let's talk about the tax cut deal, as always, in terms of who is up and who is down politically. (Practically speaking, it's poor people who are down, and also those folks who are looking for jobs fruitlessly, but they don't get representation in Congress or on the teevee.) (They are taking pre-orders for Dale Maharidge's new book, however, so that's good news.)

Gregory dutifully goes on and on at length to assure viewers that Goolsbee is a very important and well-connected insider, in case it was an issue.

Not surprisingly, Goolsbee likes the tax cut compromise that's on offer. But Gregory wants to talk about the rationale, and by rationale, he means that a guy who is always wrong about everything, Larry Summers, says that maybe there will be a double-dip recession with children dead in the streets, garnished with Armageddon salsa. Goolsbee says that maybe people are reading too much into what Summers is saying, but that certainly not passing the tax cut deal would be bad. "Everybody agrees on that," he says.

Gregory wants to know what the affect will be on jobs, a subject with which he has some abstract familiarity. "Because that's what matters, right, the unemployment rate coming down?" Goolsbee says that...uhm...there's been a cycle of dysfunction, legislatively...and now the President has cracked that log jam. Also, he uses the term "Obama Tax Cuts," which is maybe something he should have been saying all along. But Goolsbee isn't going to come out and say, yes this is the cure all.

I'll note however, that David Gregory just described the tax cuts in the original stimulus as "the least stimulative part of the package." That's probably the first time he's acknowledged that as fact. Who knows what might have happened years ago if the media had just been honest about that, instead of always saying, "But some people say these tax cuts are magical, and will cause angels to grow wings....really feathery ones!"

Gregory also finally notes that the tax cut extensions add to the deficit. Goolsbee says that the majority "of that money is preventing taxes from rising...I agree that is the downside...the President agrees they don't work, and we've been publicly stating that they don't work." As to the deficit-adding, he points out that Bowles-Simpson is about medium-run deficit reduction, and the tax cuts package is about short-run growth stimulus. "That's not a distinction Geithner made in August," Gregory insists. Goolsbee basically says that he's not sure David Gregory knows what he's talking about.

Goolsbee says that in 2012, we'll have two years of growth, at that point, the tax cuts on the rich will have to stand on their own merits, and they will not be successful, and that long-term solutions to the debt were not something he was sure is a real priority in a situation where there is no growth and no employment.

Gregory spent all last year being apoplectic that they would ever raise taxes on rich people. Now that they are lowering them, per his wishes, he's crazy about what this is going to do to the debt. This show just doesn't really have anything resembling an ethos.

Okay, here's Michael Bloomberg. How does he feel about the tax cut plan? He says that we should be encouraged, because the deal is covered in bipartisanship sauce, the cure for everything.

Gregory is still worked up about how the tax cuts he wanted are now going to add to the debt, which he only recently realized was going to happen. Bloomberg says that no one is really serious about tackling the long term debt, which is, I guess, a new problem. Bloomberg says that solving it will require some "shared sacrifice" -- probably among people who are not really wealthy, who are never asked to sacrifice. Poor elderly people need to give more!

Of the President's leadership, Bloomberg says that now, with this deal, Obama is "going for it," and trying to "get the possible" and that everyone is "invested in his success," and maybe he can just give more publishing executives some jobs.

Are leaders making the "tough choices," Gregory wants to know? Bloomberg says we are "not focusing on innovation." He goes on to name a number of "innovations" that stemmed from government expenditures on infrastructure. Will he reconcile this need to spend money on "innovation" with the need to "get serious about debt?" No. And Gregory doesn't press him on that issue. In fact, Bloomberg says, "You don't need big stimulus things." But I thought this tax cut deal was a big stimulus? Anyway, Bloomberg says we don't need to spend money, we just need magical "confidence" to save Tinkerbell and then Tinkerbell will magic-wand-wave up some high-speed rail I guess?

This is a very confused conversation!

Anyway, there's five or so more minutes about how we can generate success and jobs with this platitude-based growth strategy, and we're on to Bloomberg turning down the job of President for the first time. On the two party system, Bloomberg says, "Party politics has its placed, but it shouldn't get in the way of what doing what you as an elected official thinks is right," which, in Bloomberg's case, I guess means having mega-developers price all of the middle-class renters out of Manhattan.

Bloomberg turns down the presidency a second time.

Bloomberg turns down the presidency a third time.

Bloomberg turns down the presidency a fourth time. He says that maybe all of his friends who say he's awesome should stop doing that.

Bloomberg turns down the presidency a fifth time.

Gregory is down to his most oblique ways of asking the question now. Bloomberg keeps demurring, and saying vague things about leadership.

Now he thinks that people who "sweep the floors" and "make payroll" would make good Presidents. How many floors has Cathie Black swept? By the way, we won't be talking about that, as predicted. Instead we get a question about Cliff Lee and the Yankees. Maybe Cliff Lee will sweep a floor and become president, to pitch no hitters against China!

Panel time, with Paul Gigot and Savannah Guthrie and the aforementioned Harold Ford and Anthony Weiner.

Gregory: "We've talked about the substance, we've talked about the impact on the economy...I do want to talk about the politics of the tax cuts." That's so adorable! He actually thinks that he's talked about substance, and only NOW is going to talk about the politics! David Gregory is a precious angel!

That time Bill Clinton ended up in the White House Briefing Room? THAT WAS SOME GREAT BELTWAY THEATRE! Folk singers will tell, in music, of the day the press got to talk to Bill Clinton, I'm sure.

Guthrie says that it was amazing and improvised! The door to the briefing room was actually locked when they tried to get in! It was crazy! Oh, what a world we live in! And maybe now the "left" will love the tax cuts, because it may not end up being good policy, but BILL CLINTON SAID SOME THINGS IN THE WHITE HOUSE OMGZ!

Weiner points out that the Clinton administration fought the Gingrich Congress tooth and nail, and it's a contrast to what's happening now: the president is about to break a promise about extending tax cuts on millionaires. He says the House, "is going to change this."

Harold Ford says that even though he believes in doing the right thing when it's convenient and it doesn't make him feel bad, Weiner is wrong and it's time to really lick boot and cede all the arguments to the GOP, because of the election. You remember those time the GOP did that, right? They lost in 2006 and 2008 and they immediately said, "Let's go supine and do what the voters said in the election and we'll hopefully become popular again by magic, instead of advancing our own arguments, relentlessly."

Weiner says, "I am not a member of the tail-between-my-legs wing of the Democratic Party." Ha, burn, Harold Ford. Weiner says that the bottom line is that the middle class is getting crushed and the wealthy is doing great, even in the throes of a terrible economic downturn. "Three percent of the beneficiaries of this tax cuts plan are going to get 38% of the cash." He goes on to point out that the public supports the Anthony Weiner take on the matter, so it's weird that Democrats are walking around, acting like they have the weak hand.

Guthrie says, "I don't think the President has backed off from his argument" that the tax cuts on the wealthy need to be rolled back. Sure! He's just decided to not have the argument for two years, because it's the easy thing to do.

Ford, he is totally contradictory and confused, because he wants to simultaneously be FOR fighting for things AND be FOR capitulating in those fights if it means that people will like him more: "I think this President might have had a stronger hand had he just said, 'You know, we're going to raise taxes on everybody and I'm going to stand firm," but since he chose not to do that -- which I'm glad he did not -- I think it's the right thing to do, and I think that Anthony and others will come around."

Come around to what? Forgoing having a "strong hand" and "standing firm," and instead equivocating? How come Harold Ford never ever ever says the GOP should do this? Again, I point out, the party that won in the last election picked some values to represent and they stood firm and they won lots of seats in Congress.

Gigot thinks that maybe the two parties can come together and do something about tax reform in 2011. I guess this will come about by the Dems giving up their "strong hands," per Harold Ford's advice. You know, the vast majority of Americans want Don't Ask Don't Tell repealed...maybe it's failing because there are too many Democrats that are still trying to play that strong hand! As soon as they just cede ground to John McCain, that problem will be solved immediately, and I'm sure it will impress all those people who want to see it repealed. "Those legislators really made a tough choice, ignoring our wishes and doing things we don't like...I really respect them for it, A THOUSAND VOTES FOR THOSE GUYS."

What does Weiner think about the President, calling out his own base of supporters? He says that the "critique he gets from his base is different from the one he gets from Mitch McConnell" and that the former side is much more invested in his success than the latter, and they just want to see a competition of ideas and values that feature a champion who's willing to at least debate those ideas in public.

Ford says that the Election Day results means that the Democrats should stop fighting and promoting their ideals and just try to be the best lickers of taint they can be, so that on Election Day in 2012, the GOP can say, "We spent the past two years advancing our arguments and winning debates," and the Dems can say, "We are really good at managing this taint-licking operation, and taints have never been cleaner or shinier. You can eat off of them. Vote for us for more if you want, because if our mighty taint-licking army is reduced by too many people, the momentum we've generated in this massive plan to lick taint may flag, and what then? Will feet not get licked? Will boots not get licked? (...maybe one day you'll let us do a thing that we have traditionally espoused but it's really not that important to us if you're not going to like us...okay, we'll shut up now, and thank you for the tasty taints) VOTE DEMOCRAT 2012.

The rest of the conversation is about how awesome "pragmatism" is, even if it doesn't forestall massive economic collapses or end any expensive wars that have gone on forever, and Harold Ford continuing to sound his Clarion Call For Rolling Over with his Defeat Vuvuzela. Then, Gregory spends a minute or two pretending to have liked Elizabeth Edwards.

And that's it, saints be praised. Time to let all of you get back to your Sunday. Make it a festive one, please! Have a great week!

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