01/02/2011 09:27 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Ow, wow, people: Happy New Year and welcome to this, your first Sunday Morning Liveblog of 2011, and thus, THE FUTURE. Yes, today we have a new innovation here: it will be the first round of Sunday Morning political chat shows that I watch in HD television. WoooooOOOOOOOooooo! I know! Soon I will come face to face with every pore on the faces of such men as Mike Pence and Dick Durbin, and will finally come to know the carnal energy they exude over the voters of such states as Indiana. And Illinois! Plus, I will finally enjoy David Gregory's antics on the set of TRON: BATTLING DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN IN LIGHTCYCLES.

Later, I will ruminate upon the fact that all this moden teevee technology is essentially going to the practice of staring at an almost 18th century exercise, like glass blowing, in that we live in this hugely complicated, interconnected world where the fibers that bind us to each other can almost be seen in real-time pulling and stretching against the forces of policy, and the best we can do for one another in terms of developing a televised forum in which we might understand our political existence are a bunch of shows where various hair-farmers stare at flickering lights and talk to the Village Shaman to see how it might shape the electoral fortunes of various other Village Shamans. "MOVE TO THE CENTER, BEFORE THE GREAT CROW GOD SWOOPS DOWN AND DEVOURS THE KIDNEYS OF OUR VIRGIN DAUGHTERS!"

Anyway, my name is Jason and you are welcome to participate in this primitive ritual with me for another year. Please feel free to sit back passively and let this all overwhelm you. Or, if you prefer to shape the ends of your own destiny, you may leave a comment, or send an email, or even follow me on Twitter, for some reason. Let's begin this new year with an important lesson:

"Nothing good ever comes from goin' down to the quarry." #firstlessonof2011less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®



Today: Darrel Issa and Fred Upton talk about their committees and Allen West and Mike Lee will talk about Tea Party Things. Plus a panel will blah blah at us for twenty minutes or so. Chris Wallace looks weird in HD -- like someone smeared him with a flesh-colored crayon. (But he has a stylish pocket square! Has he always had stylish pocket squares? Because I approve.)

Anyway, Issa and Upton. They wrote an article in the Washington Times last year in which they discussed all the oversight they were going to unleash and all the obstruction of the White House they were going to do. (Wallace seems to think this will be HARD because the GOP does not control the Senate. Has he missed the magic of Superminority status?)

Upton says that he will "help" Obama grow jobs and reduce government be identifying programs that need to be cut and bureaucracies that need to get junk shotted at oil spills. Issa says that there were 1,600 days of oversight in the 1980s. YEAH, LET'S BRING BACK THE 80s! This was all lovingly portrayed in the Darrel Issa/Zooey Deschanel rom-com, 1,600 DAYS OF OVERSIGHT. (Zooey played "oversight." It was weird.)

Upton says that he will bring up a repeal-health-care vote "early." Before the State of the Union address! "But you're not going to repeal it," Wallace snarks. "Just you wait," says Upton.

Actually, I'm beginning to see the whole "repeal health care" thing as a dead letter. But whatever! Let's see a failed veto override, in 2011!

Upton also seems to think that the Senate can put under pressure. I think that dealmaking with the Senate is going to put pressure on the Hosue, since the Senate can't pass anything that Harry Reid and between four and fourteen Democrats agree to, depending on what happens with filibuster reform. (And yes, I want filibuster reform.)

Fred Upton will fight the EPA's "job-killing" oversight, which will probably result in a lot of "people-killing" superfundery, all across the American hinterland. But I guess if more Americans die in tire fires and coal slurry floods, it could help us save Social Security. (ALSO, RELEASE THE TRASH MONSTERS.) Upton says we need "clean coal," but we don't need to regulate carbon.

Issa will investigate "regulatory impediments to job creation," does that mean he will be warblogging with the White House for the next half-century? Issa has a confusing metaphor about the Air Force and parachutes or something, and "competing against Brazil" and regulatory reform that removes "rocks from knapsacks" by tossing rocks at actual people in the form of ever-increasing backroom financial casino products, or something.

Issa, he also hates the Justice Department, because of that time two black dudes showed up in costume at a polling place. Issa isn't happy with Holder, or WikiLeaks. But he says that Congress will get a "whistleblower bill" done "right off the bat." (This means there will be a bill that puts whistleblowers to death, or something.) Issa says that the world is laughing at America as a "paper tiger," because of the WikiLeaks. (Also maybe because we keep spending billions of dollars not winning the War in Afghanistan, maybe?)

Issa says he hates paying the estate tax, and taxing the dead, because the ghosts of rich people are always waking him up at night, yelling about the lack of small businesses they would normally use as their "haints."

So, Tea Party outsiders will soon be taking their seats in Congress, and for about 70 seconds or a minute and a half, they will govern as independent voices for disaffected conservatives who hate what the Constitution has becomes and want to draw a Hitler mustache on it. Then, two minutes will have passed and those same Congresspersons will be fully integrated into the matrix of special interest money and lobbyist-serpents and they will be gigantic sell-outs like all the rest. But for a moment, here's Allen West and Mike Lee, presenting their relatively unsullied flesh before America.

Allen West says that "problems are big" but "not insurmountable" and "Constitution" and "limited government." Lee says "system is broken" because "too big and expensive" and "debt" and "border patrols" and "balance the budget." We are off to a torrid pace in today's game of Platitude Bingo.

West adds that he is really mad at Eric Cantor for all the days off he wants to give the House of Representatives, because he wants to "work hard," which is adorable. That will so totally change! Anyway, what about that lame duck session, where everyone worked so hard? Lee says that it was "disturbing" the way "trillions of dollars were added to the debt to lower taxes." Is he briefed on what "cut-go" is, yet? Or what the GOP is all about? You don't "pay for" tax cuts, Mike Lee! Anyway, he wants a "balanced budget amendment," which is like wanting a pony that poops gold doubloons.

Anyway, will Allen West personally destroy liberalism, with a machete? Pretty much yes, because we are "creating victims" and "taking over education" and making "incredible debt" that TOTALLY ONLY STARTED IN THE PAST SEVEN HUNDRED DAYS:


What about a government shutdown? PLEASE PLEASE? West says no, we will pass continuing resolutions, for days. But he won't "write a blank check" or otherwise make a check out to cash. "Will he raise the debt limit so that the country doesn't default on its obligations?" Wallace asks. "Well I don't think the country is going to default on its obligations," West says, not really answering the question, unless he thinks the global financial system is powered by niceness and understanding.

Mike Lee hired an energy lobbyist as his chief of staff, because that's how Washington works! Lee says that this guy you never heard of is actually a secret genius who shares with him a common vision of getting Mike Lee to sell out to the energy industry on many, many votes. Allen West wanted to have a crazy lady as his chief of staff, and he didn't learn anything from the experience. Nor did anyone else!

Anyway, it's a holiday, and this is who gets booked!

And now it's Panel Time, with Brit Hume and Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol and sitting in for Juan Williams and his tremendous insecurities is Michael Duffy from Time Magazine.

Health care reform: what's up with "end of life counseling?" Or "death panels," as the liars call it? Hume says that sometimes government do things and other times people think that it shouldn't be done and then they find a new way of doing it and also net neutrality is worked into this answer for some reason and I'm...not...sure...where that response came from or went. But it's been a long time since Hume has been on teevee, so maybe he needs to get his motor running or something.

Liasson steps in to refield the question for Wallace: "This is one of the great myths about Obamacare." She goes on to note that the Wall Street Journal editorial page recently sounded off on the matter, and they found a lot of virtue in "end of life" counseling. (But, yay, there will be "hearings" on this, apparently!)

Wallave points out that there's a lot a health care rationing going on, to which Kristol says there will be even more! And people at HHS will be telling people what to do! And it will be a sad disaster, in which people are given affordable healthcare.

Will the White House be able to govern through the mechanisms of the executive branch, Wallace wonders, as if Obama's predecessor didn't himself have a radical vision of executive power with which he largely agreed? Liasson points out that there are things the White House can do without the approval of the House. But the GOP is beginning to preemptively complain about making an "end run" around them. Nevertheless, Liasson surmises, everyone is really going to have to work together on fixing unemployment, instead of focusing on "tiny, trivial things."

Hume says a few more sentences that were all apparently sponsored by Ambien. Wallace again cuts him off.

We move on to the recess appointment of James Cole, who thinks that terrorists can be tried in civilian courts. Naturally, Kristol hates him, because terrorists should just languish in quasi-legal status forever as a lesson to people who hate us for how reasonable we are as a society!

Duffy, for some reasom, interrupts Kristol to just restate the facts about Cole that Wallace mentioned when he broached the topic. Then he tells us what we already know about recess appointments.

We're going to take a break, during which maybe they'll just turn Duffy loose to wander the streets and hopefully sober Hume up a little?

We return, and I think Chris Wallace is very disappointed in his panel, today. Hume is now talking about how he's not sure who will get blamed for the cock-ups of the next two years. He has a funny feeling that the GOP shouldn't be judged for anything that happens to anyone!

Bill Kristol says that the House will repeal Obamacare, which is really good news for Obamacare! Also, on March 4, there will be a huge fight over the debt, and maybe we'll shut down the government and/or kill the economy. We probably have until then to learn how to grow our own food, or something. Duffy thinks that Obama will "surprise people" at the State of the Union Address by doing...something? Jumping out of a cake?

And now Hume is just muttering, challenging Fox's boom operators to hover over him. I think he's talking about tax reform? And now Wallace and Liasson are both confused by what he's saying. Hume: "The areas where they agree on will be the areas they compromise." More tautologies in 2011, I guess?

Michael Duffy: "Obama is going to go in both directions at the same time." SO CONFUSED BUT THE SHOW IS OVER SO WHO CARES.


Harry Smith is here today in place of Bob Schieffer, who is probably still hosting some epic New Year's Day honktonk bash with his special Hoppin' John recipe and homebrewed moonshine. We'll get a dose of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Anthony Weiner, Michele Bachmann, and more Darrel Issa as a reward for tuning in today.

Michele Bachmann says that the tax cut deal that was passed in the lame duck would probably not be made in the new Congress. Of course, it was a lot of her colleagues that wanted that deal! Nevertheless, she does not think that the House GOP are a "house divided" on the issue.

Are Democrats irrelevant now? Anthony Weiner says that the Dems are prepared to work with the new majority, but they'll fight them on privatizing Social Security and/or cutting Medicare.

Wait, someone named Mike Kelly is here? Who is Mike Kelly? Oh, I see he's been cast by the media as "the new guy," in our ongoing sitcom about politics, "MANY GUYS AND FEW LADIES AND A PIZZA PLACE AND LOBBYISTS AND MONEY FOR EVERYONE IF YOU DON'T ROCK THE BOAT AND ALSO A PIZZA PLACE DID WE MENTION THE PIZZA PLACE, SERIOUSLY, JUST FOCUS ON THE PIZZA PLACE."

Anyway, Mike the Noob is all, "private sector jobs!" and "debt!" and "let's be bipartisan, but do good things for people!" Also, "don't raise the debt ceiling!"

Wasserman-Schultz is asked if what's coming is awesome bipartisan sexx-talk or a "recipe for gridlock." She says that the rhetoric of Mike Kelly, celebrated rookie, will have to translate into action, because right now, "there isn't any there, there." To DW-S's mind, the economy is turning around, and now we have to worry that the new House majority will "squander" it.

So, will everyone vote to raise the debt ceiling? Wasserman-Schultz says, "Hem. Also: haw." Weiner says that it's all the GOPs fault now, so go ask Mike Kelly? Mike Kelly won't raise the debt ceiling, because of platitudes. Michele Bachmann won't vote to raise the debt ceiling, and she has a petition. Will she let the government shut down, then?

Wasserman-Schultz wants to know if Mike Kelly, Virgin Congressman, will vote on giving up his vote on budget levels in favor of Paul Ryan's hairstyle unilaterally setting the rules for everyone. He won't answer, because all he's learned to do is clap his hands and balance a rubber ball on his nose. So now, Anthony Weiner is going to mansplain what being a Representative means. Michele Bachmann continues to prattle on about a world in which she votes against the debt ceiling and yet the government doesn't shut down, because she will lead an escape to Brigadoon, or something.

Bachmann says that the more America learns about Obamacare, the more that they don't like it, which, again, is actually no longer an operable statement. But, eff it, she'll try to repeal it anyway! "We want a free market approach to health care," in which the market gives people the freedom to crawl off into the woods to die of easily treated illnesses, because it is the 13th century again, in America.

Anthony Weiner continues to point out that the GOP votes a certain way, which Bachmann objects to, despite having voted that way herself. And now everyone is talking over each other. Weiner is talking about the "bill fairy?" And DW-S says that her constituents are already thanking her, for health care reform. Mike Kelly has some homespun wisdom about not taking government health care, because he lives "in the real world where people have to use their own money to pay for things." In the real world, by the way, Kelly's constituents paid for Wall Street to have lobbyists to defang financial regulatory reform.

And more yelling at each other! Anthony Weiner is sort of sick of Kelly pretending he is some sort of outsider to the practice of governing, and wants to know when he will drop his podunk act and start accepting the fact that he is part of the legislature. Never, probably!

And more yelling. Michele Bachmann just sort of intones over the top of everything, because she's miked better than everyone. Harry Smith says that if this segment was any indication, it will be an interesting year in Congress. Also, probably we are all doomed?

Here's Darrel Issa, to Face this Nation. Smith brings up the time he told Rush Limbaugh that Obama was one of the "most corrupt administrations" in history, and Issa immediately says, "But I walked that back!" And that is where we are today, in 2011: we are no longer responsible for our words, as long as we can point to a time where we "walked it back." You know, someone should really hit Darrel Issa across the face with a burlap sack of used heroin needles. I really believe that, enough to say publicly! BUT NOW I AM GOING TO WALK THAT BACK: Darrel Issa is awesome!

Anyway, Darrel Issa really hates that time that Joe Sestak may have been offered a job in return for not running for Congress, which is something that always happens in DC always, but he finally, like, just now, got really sick of seeing.

What is Issa's top priority? Jobs and the economy, he says. Also: restoring faith in government, which will be hard, considering that he works for a party that routinely suggests that America would be a better place if they set fire to the capitol. (Then they get more power there, and they WALK IT BACK.)

Will Darrel Issa personally battle the EPA, in a Thunderdome? Not exactly. But Darrel Issa thinks that the EPA and OSHA are preventing Obama from bringing back the FDR administration. Also, we're funding too many rocketships, with space money that we do not have.

What about entitlements, the "monkey on America's back," as Smith calls it, because it's a monkey that keeps old people from dying in poverty. Issa says that we need to make some tough choices, and that he'll be collecting Social Security himself in a couple years (and I don't know, maybe he doesn't actually need Social Security because he's crazy rich?)

"Medicare is more complicated," Issa points out, correctly, but I don't think he'll get it in line with the same, "go after waste, fraud and abuse" act we always hear touted. (Of course, I should be fair -- Issa will primarily be on the "waste, fraud, and abuse" watch, when he's not attacking the EPA with flaming jawbones of mastadons.

Harry Smith reminds us that Bob Schieffer is a TCU alum, so that's probably where he is today: at the Rose Bowl, whooping it up about their victory and undefeated season. He will return next week, to yell about how bad the BCS is.


Today on Meet The Press! We'll talk to...Lindsey Graham? Jesus. Let's all re-familiarize ourselves with Congress' most operatic whiner, Jowly Dave Foley:

"The order of business in the Senate is simpler than that of the House," according to the official Senate website's "legislative process" section. There follow 23 chapters and thousands of words on committee rules, the amendment process, legislative days versus calendar days, etc., etc. But the single most important rule in the Senate is do whatever Lindsey Graham says.

The South Carolina senator fancies himself the authority on when bills should be considered, how long the amendment process should last, how many days of debate they should receive, and when it is politically "safe" to finally vote on the damn things. (Usually later. No matter the bill, it will usually be safe to actually hold a vote later.)

His tantalizing promise: If you listen to him, your bill will magically become bipartisan! What always happens, though, is that someone screws up -- says the wrong thing to Roll Call, schedules a procedural vote on the wrong day, decides to actually hold a vote instead of waiting forever -- and then Lindsey Graham gets mad and promises that nothing will ever be accomplished in the Senate again.

Okay, there will also be a useless panel with David Brooks, E.J. Dionne, Katty Kay, Pat Toomey, and Stephen Carter.

HOLY CRAP. David Gregory is wearing a purple suit that makes him look like a shimmering Grimace. He is dressed like a Dick Tracy villain!

So, will Jowly Dave work with Obama? Sure, if he stops doing the things he was voted into office to do, and instead increase the amount of budget outlayed for platitudes about small government. And the health care reform must be repealed, for "certainty." See, very rich people are "uncertain" if they can create jobs if too many people can afford health care, or something.

Ha, this is a great Grahamian take on why the economy collapsed in 2008: "[Fannie and Freddie] pushed mortgages out to people who couldn't pay those mortgages, the mortgages became exotic security instruments sold all over the world, and the financial regulatory bill really left unattended Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

Hilarious! Actually, the GSE's didn't have the subprime exposure that a lot of major private lenders did, and by the way, those "exotic security instruments" didn't happen by magic, and hey, just to remind you, IT IS ACTUALLY THOSE EXOTIC SECURITY INSTRUMENTS (sold all over the world, somehow, no one knows how it happened, except legend speaks of an AIG!) that have been left unattended!

The situation, in terms of preventing another 2008, is so hopeless. You may as well sit back and wait for the sequel. Graham thinks that the "private sector" will only lend to people who can afford homes. There are wide tracts of homes that no one will ever, ever live in that actually exist and beg to differ.

Obamacare will apparently bankrupt South Carolina, which to me is a selling point of Obamacare.

Lindsay Graham is upset that he wasn't allowed to make amendments to bills that he wouldn't have added any amendments to anyway, because he just didn't like the bills, like DADT repeal and giving health care to 9/11 first responders. Like Pareene says, when you want to pass a bill, you have to do it exactly the way Graham says, or he will whine and bitch and moan on the teevee.

Graham hopes that the Tea Party provides energy, but not so much as they run someone against him in a primary. (They won't want to follow the Invisible Lindsey Graham Rules Of Passing Legislation, but he'll probably learn to keep his whines to himself on that regard.)

Graham says he won't vote to raise the debt ceiling until such time as the GOP is willing to do things they've never been willing to do, like raise the income caps on Social Security or introducing means-testing, and won't be doing anytime soon. Gregory is skeptical, but not so much that he wants to precipitate an on-air Lindsey Graham shame spiral.

Graham has historically criticized Obama for not being able to cut deals, and the deals he cut during the lame duck session were the moment he "changed" and became able to cut deals, which Graham characterizes as a good thing, while simultaneously asking me to forget that five minutes ago he was whining about how terrible the lame duck session was!

This is why it's impossible to negotiate with Lindsey Graham. He cantilevers so wildly between contradictory positions, and if you are not there, waiting to catch him as he hurls himself hither and yon -- like a trust exercise gone terribly wrong -- and he hits the ground, he will go all red in the face and start crying and you'll never hear the end of it, because like his perma-Prom Date John McCain, he is a world-record holding grudge-holder.

Graham wants us to stay in Afghanistan forever, well past 2014. He says that the 2011 watchwords for Afghanistan are "corruption and Pakistan." He's hopeful that Pakistan will attack al Qaeda safe havens and that the Karzai government grow less corrupt. Ha! He also wants permanent bases in Afghanistan..."if the Afghan people want them." Not that we'll be asking! "Air bases will give us an edge militarily, against the Taliban."

Graham thinks that he will endorse Mitt Romney. "Probably." That's pretty significant, because everyone close to John McCain basically despises Mitt Romney. But he is, as Graham alludes, "the most electable conservative."

Now we come to the most regrettable part of any Sunday, the Meet The Press panel, where they book five random people to pass the conch around to while the world burns.

Everyone is shimmering in HD! Katty Kay's suit coat is mesmerizing! Pat Toomey's Frankenstein forehead has crevasses so deep that Danny Boyle actually shot scenes for 127 Hours there.

Anyway, what does David Brooks think about the economy? He says that the White House will "make growth," and the GOP will "cut spending," and everyone is coming together in an orgy of Brooksian "correctness" that everything is looking up, for the ruling class, hooray.

Pat Toomey says that he can work with the president on trade and possibly tax policy -- especially tax policies that limit the taxes on rich people. But what about government regulating industries? That is all stuff that's going to have to stop: so more mining disasters and casino capitalism and cronytastic industry circle jerks in 2011, if Obama will just let Pat Toomey's forehead have its way!

E.J. Dionne suggests for the millionth time that now the GOP will finally have to get specific about what they are for, and stop being so contradictory in their policymaking.

Stephen Carter tells the panel that they aren't very good at talking about long term problems, and that people should maybe start thinking about them.

Katty Kay says that the Tea Party types are upset about the lame duck session, but that's not new -- the stuff they are upset about primarily is the stuff that most Americans want and those things easily got done in the lame duck session and that just serves as a reminder that the Tea Party is a tiny rump of the public that gets a lot of teevee time. They are like, the Dina Lohan of American politics.

Pat Toomey wants to take serious measures to fix the deficit, as long as they include to continuing to pretend that you don't need to pay for the tax cuts on the top one percent of income earners. David Brooks thinks that the GOP will be more willing to give ground on their locked-in-stone philosophies over tax increases, even though Pat Toomey is sitting right there, mansplaining how he will actually cling to every hidebound idea his party has. (Toomey also wants to be the 986th person in DC to get a handjob for criticizing earmarks.)

Kay points out that the big lesson she learned from the lame duck session is that the GOP has "an allergy" to raising revenues. David Gregory changes the subject before everyone is able to focus on the fact that Kay is almost always the only person on these panels that's not entirely clueless.

Dionne suggests that there is a role for the public sector to play in economic growth, and that maybe some sort of "balance" can be achieved, and that's pretty adorable.

Now they will talk about the 2012 elections and the politics thereof. David Gregory reads a Matt Bai article aloud on the teevee, which is an insult to the electricity used to broadcast images into our homes.

Toomey has this crazy idea that the GOP candidate will have to appeal to both the establishment and the tea party. This is really astounding political insight, here.

John Huntsman! People now think he will run for President in 2012, which is the sexy thing this week. I still think that he won't run until 2016. I'll go ahead and call that a "prediction," okay? Because it's not like there's any accountability for getting predictions wrong.

Katty Kay thinks that Facebook and Twitter will be a big factor in 2012. Probably not as big as the billions of dollars that corporations can spend on making commercials, though! (Okay, so not everything Katty Kay says belongs cross-stitched on a pillow.)

Stephen Carter says that the key to winning is "riding the anger" of "people in the center," as opposed to "riding the boredom" of "people who liveblog political shows on Sunday."

Oh, hey, there's only a few minutes left, so let's talk about Afghanistan! Here is a classic David Gregory "segue from the bullshit conversation we were having to a brief period where we maybe make glancing mention of something serious":

GREGORY: We have this huge debate about the role of government, but the debate is likely to get more robust about the role of government in Afghanistan, because of the enormous amount of money that the government is now paying...

"Now" paying? Like, did we put the first seven years of the war on layaway or something?

GREGORY: ...and that our troops are paying in, uhh...their own lives.

Yeah. Those troops. They sure are...uhhh...dying, or something. That's also somewhat...uhhhh...important.

But now Meet The Press is going to spend the last few minutes talking about the snow in New York City, and now Michael Bloomberg wasn't able to get centrism to plow it off the streets of Queens. (Katty Kay basically tells us what we already know -- that Cory Booker is awesome. (David Brooks, on the other hand, thinks that New Yorkers, having ALREADY PAID FOR A SNOW RESPONSE THAT MAKES SENSE, should "suck it up" and not get to the hospital for emergency care for a few days, how hard can it be?

And now they are making fun of Ed Rendell, and showing Washington Capitals highlights. This effing show.

Okay, well, this is how 2011 begins everyone. Have a great week, and let's meet up for, say, fifty more weeks or so of this terrible crap and then re-evaluate next Christmastime.