01/09/2011 10:17 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog. Our thoughts and prayers this morning are with the many people who were the victims of a mass homicide in Arizona yesterday, especially those that were killed, especially the SMALL CHILD THAT WAS KILLED, because, WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE. Similarly, we hope for the recovery of Representative Gabrielle Giffords -- the ostensible focus of this attack -- and hope that all of the rumored good news turns out to be the true news. Everyone should applaud the response thus far from the new people in charge of the House of Representatives, especially John Boehner and Eric Cantor, who have done all of the right things in response to this crisis, visited upon their House.

You know, there really is almost never bright and shining line of criminal culpability between a crime like this and something someone says in a speech or puts on a website. Obviously, if you are on the radio everyday, saying things like, "The Tutsis are cockroaches and should be attacked with machetes and killed by the thousands, immediately," it's a lot less murky than that time you used a gunsight-looking thing on a poster or talked about the tree of liberty needing the blood of patriots every once in a while.

There are also a lot of very crazy people in the world, who wouldn't really need a set of explicit instructions to carry out something crazy. And that a crazy person might gravitate toward one inspiration over another is almost a random event. It's unlikely that anyone would murder another person over my liveblog of "White Christmas," but it's possible.

Here's the thing: if someone came along and shot up a Starbucks and later said that they did it because of my liveblog of White Christmas, no one would really be pointing fingers at me. People would probably feel bad. And they'd say, "Well, that person is crazy, there's nothing you could have done." And, hell yes, I would fight any attempt to make me take criminal responsibility. But on some level, in some way, I would still have to take moral responsibility for what happened, because that's what you do if you acknowledge that there is a moral authority in the universe, judging you on the basis of how you behave in this world, forcing you to acknowledge that your actions have unintended effects on this universe.

In a world where many people literally believe that God is watching us, everytime we masturbate, and marking it against us, it's really a wonder that people do not behave better! I mean, if you literally believe that people will go to hell for masturbating, why would you take even the remotest chance that you might do something wrong?

So look! Are you running a political campaign and are having trouble conveying toughness or resoluteness or moxie or courage without talking about guns? Please, please, call me or email me. I will help you, regardless of your political belief, and I will do it for free. I have a thesaurus and I read a lot, and I assure you, there are alternatives that convey what you want to say that are just as awesome and inspiring as any you'd encounter.

Let me help you. I can help you! The next time you feel like you have to say, "Don't Retreat, Reload!" just contact me and I will help you figure out -- actually, wait: on that one, why couldn't you just stop at "Don't Retreat?" JUST STOP THERE, OKAY? JESUS. THAT'S A FREEBIE.

Anyway, my name is Jason, this is your liveblog. You can send emails, leave comments, and follow me on Twitter if you want to.


It seems pretty pointless to even watch these shows, where nothing important ever happens, but we'll start here because THIS WEEK actually took their show to Arizona to talk about this.

"Tragedy in Tucson." Do we really need to name these things? Anyway, we begin with Amanpour talking about what happened yesterday. I'm reminded how young some of these Congressional aides are -- they're just kids out of college, helping to work a rope line at a mall, and then something like this happens. One of these aides, according to a doctor at the scene, ended up with Giffords' wounded body in his arms.

We are reminded that Giffords' office has been vandalized, and her father considered "the whole tea party" to be an enemy, but the gunman wasn't a member of any political movement, and was disaffected to the point of being an outright loon. Also, Arizona is a bit of a hothouse right now, for rage and nonsense?

Also there is a second person who is maybe involved in this mass murder, that people are looking for right now.

All in all, there were twenty victims.

George Stephanopoulos says that there is "so much we don't know," and now, this hour long show will be filled with the not knowing.

Amanpour talks to someone named Tillman Fertitta, who is a close friend of Giffords, who tells us that she remains in critical condition and is a "fighter." He says that she was conscious before the surgery but is in an induced coma right now, for her own safety.

Gabrielle's husband is supposed to go up with the last shuttle mission. Anthony DeRosa directed me to the "Vows" column written about their marriage in the New York Times. The last line will probably make you cry, so be warned.

As for the investigation into Jared Lee Loughner, ABC News rounds him up as young and detached and angry, "the last person in the world you want to see with a gun."

"Why would a young man from suburbia want to slaughter so many?" ABC News asks. There are a lot of people who still seem to think that living in suburbia is some sort of paradisical dream. In truth, it can be a vacuum, in which it's very easy to lose oneself. You wouldn't think it possible to grow up to be a complete tabula rasa, until you've spent time in the burbs.

Anyway, lots of people named him as a pretty incoherent guy, and the police already had him on their radar. The sheriff of Pima County, by the way, has already very specifically called out the "vitriol that comes out of certain people's mouths...about tearing down the government," adding, "The anger, the hatred, the bigotry in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately, I think Arizona is becoming the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

The kid who held Giffords in his arms was a twenty-year old intern named Daniel Hernandez. He says that his first instinct was to try to help Giffords and the rest of the staff, because he had a "limited amount of training" in medical triage. He saw that Giffords' head was wounded, and "shut down all emotion" because most of those emotions were telling him, you know, RUN AWAY FROM THE GUNS. He says that the employees from the grocery store were a huge help to everyone who was wounded, including the Congresswoman, so how about everyone who can, give them your business.

Hernandez says that Giffords was responsive at the scene. He says that the wait for help "felt like an eternity, but that was because of the way events were unfolding." (Another person at the scene yesterday was less kind, saying that it took a disturbingly long time for ambulances to arrive, so we're all very thankful today for interns and grocery store workers.)

We are reminded that at a previous Giffords townhall meeting, someone left behind a gun, and that she's been outspoken about overheated political rhetoric. Giffords is a centrist Democrat, who's not always toed the party line, but she's always conducted herself with grace and kindness and affability. The ABC News package they've put together really bears this out! Maybe it's just the editing, but she really doesn't seem to have an unkind bone in her body.

We're now joined by Congressman Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). He says that "all of us want a more civil environment," and that on a lot of divisive issues, including Arizona, there is collaboration between the left and the right. What can be done to make the climate "more conducive to civil debate?" Flake says that people want to see the two parties working together more, and that they need to follow through on this. Going forward, when threats are made against Congresspersons, they will be taken more seriously. "What really hit home to all of us," Flake says, "Is that you are putting staff in danger, as well." (ALSO SMALL CHILDREN.)

Representative Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) had met with Giffords this week, and says that she was looking forward to working on energy issues. (Giffords has an interest in solar energy.) Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Mary.) urges people to reflect on "where the debate is today." "There is a place for a vigorous, spirited debate...but we need to do it in a way that is respectful of other people's views...and in that way, Gaby Giffords is a role model."

Amanpour wonders how the Congress is going to debate health care repeal. Van Hollen doesn't have anything certain to say about that (the vote has been postponed, at any rate), but imagines that people will have to dial back the rhetoric. (I guess now when anyone says "job killing," they'll have to add, "BUT NOT KILLING, LIKE WITH GUNS, YOU KNOW, ON TEN YEAR OLD CHILDREN."

(Also it's not accurate to say that health care reform kills jobs anyway, so...maybe people should just say the truth about how they feel, like, "We're concerned that any demonstration of government efficacy might prove that what we've based our political beliefs on -- that government is useless and should not be funded or supported -- will look very foolish, and I don't know, maybe in hindsight we should have adopted a position on things that wasn't so extreme," or even, "The thought of poor people receiving health care sickens me, I mean think about it, are poor people even human?" if that's how you feel about it!)

Oh, what? They are actually going to do the panel discussion? I wish they wouldn't do this, but okay. I am assuming that they will cut "the Sunday funnies" from this show. So, here's George Will and Dick Armey and Donna Brazile.

Will says that in the immediate time frame, people in Congress will look to one another and remember that they share a common cause and a common profession and the "temperature" will come down. Long term, it won't have any dramatic effect on the issues of the day. There will also be an examination of "the social environment" that gave rise to this killer, to which Will says that there are just a lot of people in the country and that some of them are unhinged and that is probably the bottom line, here. (Still, we should probably not push things! Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were killed by people with machetes in a matter of days after being goaded out of seeming normalcy by crazy people on the radio.)

By the way, Brian Beutler reports that these things we may have thought were gunsights were something else:

"We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply cross-hairs like you'd see on maps," said Rebecca Mansour on the Tammy Bruce radio show. Moreover, there was "nothing irresponsible" about the image, and to draw a line connecting Palin and Saturday's shooting is "obscene" and "appalling."

You can see the original image below. Mansour called the crosshairs "surveyor marks."

Ha. Yes, "surveyors marks." The whole country is familiar with those! VOTERS REALLY NEED TO TAKE A STAND AND "SURVEY" GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' DISTRICT.

Uhm, look. If you're familiar with Rebecca Mansour, you know her to be a very minor figure -- a pinhead fangirl who is rarely worth talking about and certainly isn't contributing in any way to anyone's intelligent or moral discourse. But this response from her is daffy. Surveyor's marks. Okay, you must think I'm a fool. Like I said before, there is no bright and shining line between the above image and anyone getting shot, okay? The gunman didn't seem to have the 2010 midterms, or these..."surveyor's marks" in mind. Okay? We can say that. But did someone feel a twinge of moral responsibility just the same? YES, THEY EFFING DID. They pulled this image down off of the campaign website. YOU KNOW, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THESE ARE OBVIOUSLY JUST SURVEYOR' S MARKS.

You know, Rebecca, you should go with that instinct, next time. Just say, "We of course never intended for anyone to get shot and we're pretty sure that we didn't inspire this shooting. But we learned a lesson today about how the lines can blur. And we personally felt a shudder in our conscience when this happened. Despite the fact that we are not responsible, this event triggered a depth charge, somewhere near our guilt center. We're not bad people, we didn't do anything wrong, but we can still find ways to be better, and we will try to be better, so that next time this happens, there won't be an image we have to remove from our website -- LIKE THIS TIME, because a teeny sense of responsibility actually finally surfaced and cut through the overwhelming pride we possess that typically compels us to never ever admit we made any mistake ever and FORCED us to take it down. And yes, YOU KNOW US, our pride came back and won the day, making it possible for me to introduce most of America to the concept of 'surveyors marks' -- YOU KNOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIVES. But for a second, when we took the image down, you saw a flash of it, that responsibility we're supposed to maybe feel, that we keep in an induced coma, because MEEEEEE, MEEEEEE, WAAAAANNNNT, MEEEEEEE."

Some people. Wow.


Is there any point to watching this show? Is there any point to me writing about this stuff today? No, hopefully you have turned off your computer and chosen to spend some time with people you love today, because life is short. But this silly Chris Matthews show was shot in Thursday, so it's a brief respite, I think, from all this bad news. WE RETREAT INTO THE WOMB OF NON-NEWS, PSEUDO-EVENTS, AND UNIMPORTANCE with Chris Matthews. At his Genius Bar, we have Chuck Todd and John Heilemann and Alex Wagner and Kelly O'Donnell. They will talk about Mitt Romney, or something. We'll watch this! And then we'll watch David Gregory grapple with reality in the NBC Hour of Facepalm.

Oy, Chris Matthews describes 2012 as the gathering of "twelve armies." That will probably have to change, too!

Anyway, Mitt Romney is a front-runner, because he won the silver medalist in the last GOP primary cycle. Heilemann says that he is the number one seed in the "establishment bracket" and has raised money and met people and knows how to run for president and lose the nomination already. Todd says that his core strength is "competence." You know, he's really adequate! Kelly O'Donnell says that he has "management" experience. I'm waiting to see if anyone says anything about Romney that's new or insightful. He's handsome! He likes flowers!

Matthews says that he thinks Romney likes a big field of candidates, obviously forgetting that debate at the Reagan Library and Aircraft hangar where the big field of candidates spent the entire time HANDING HIM HIS ASS, OVER AND OVER AGAIN. I bet he loved that!

What are Romney's negatives? Wagner says something about "Wheaties and Kix and Count Chocula and Fruit Loops" and wow, I don't understand her, at all, but now I want a balanced breakfast. Matthews goes on to confuse mucilage with Muesli.

Todd says that Romney is the 2012 version of 2004's John Kerry, in that he will carry hobbits around the forest, boring them. Palin is the Howard Dean, except she won't be going on the preside succesfully over the DNC. John Thune is the new John Edwards, because he is currently banging a videographer. This is what Chuck Todd believes, not me! Blame Chuck Todd for these metaphors!

Kelly O'Donnell makes passing mention of the fact that, uhm...well, HEALTHCARE...and Romney inventing the individual mandate that everyone hates. They also talk about the fact that Romney is a Mormon, which reminds me that we'll maybe have to endure Lawrence O'Donnell spitting up rage-boogers about that, as is his wont. Chuck Todd says that "you don't hear" about "evangelical anxiety" over Mormonism, and maybe it's played itself out.

Next week, I bet Matthews will not be talking about Sarah Palin "killing Thune and Huckabee" in a debate.

Chuck Todd, by the way, thinks we should watch John Thune, because he is new and handsome. O'Donnell thinks that Romney will nevertheless be a frontrunner in a wide field.

Michele Bachmann, is she running for President? Heilemann says "GOD I HOPE SO." Todd says it's probably just a smokescreen for a Senate run against Amy Klobuchar.

But will GOP voters pick a nutlog firebrand or a moderate manager type? Only Alex Wagner thinks that a firebrand will end up winning.

Anyway, Mitt Romney will clean up our oceans or porn, with Peggy Noonan.

What's going on with this healthcare repeal vote? O'Donnell says that it's a symbolic vote that allows them to call something "job-killing." Todd agrees that this is a great strategy! And that people will remember that the Senate is the problem! Don't blame the GOP! (Actually, people will probably be reminded that the more people talk about how JOB KILLING things are, the less they seem to actually try to do things to alleviate the massive unemployment problem.)

That segment was precisely as long as it was intelligent, and we're to the part where people tell Chris things that he doesn't know. John Heilemann says the Bill Daley's appointment means that the "White House now has a really strong economic voice." That's just great! You know, that was desirous two years ago...and I don't think the White House has even completed making their Fed appointments, and boy howdy, Bill Daley is just the sort of voice that middle America needs to hear from right now. But John Heilemann is impressed!

OH LORD. Wagner says that if the GOP keeps up with the debate over anchor babies, "there's a chance that Obama could carry Arizona." You know, I think maybe not?

O'Donnell says that they are letting people have iPads and Blackberries on the House floor. Did Chris Matthews not know that? It's been in the news for weeks. Chuck Todd reminds that Harry Reid is as important in the scheme of things as John Boehner. (Again, did Matthews not know this?)

Who will have the upper hand in DC this spring? Heilemann says Obama, Wagner says Obama, O'Donnell says Obama, Todd says Obama. REMEMBER, THIS IS THE SEASON OF THE COMEBACK NARRATIVE. LET NO MAN DISPUTE THE COMEBACK NARRATIVE. THE MEDIA HAS MUCH INVESTED IN THE COMEBACK NARRATIVE.



Okay, we'll see if NBC News has any new to say about this. They are going to panel discuss this with Raul Grijalva, Trent Franks, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Raul Labrador, and Emanuel Cleaver.

Lester Holts says that Giffords remains in critical condition, but everyone is optimistic. Jared Loughner is "in custody" but "is not being cooperative" with authorities. Five of the wounded are still in critical condition.

Apparently, Loughner was suspended from college because of some video he made, so you can probably expect some scrutiny there, in terms of "Who could have seen this coming, and OMG did nothing?!" And it's sometimes important to remember that people aren't oracles?

There's mention of the second "person of interest" that they are looking for, "leaving open the possibility" that he was involved in some direct or indirect way.

So, we are off and paneling. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is having a hard time keeping it together. She says that she was, at times, awake after surgery and recognized her husband and responded communicatively before being sedated again (we remind you that she is apparently in an induced coma). DW-S says that Giffords was one of the nicest and most positive members of Congress. Grijalva says that she was a leader in their community who saw politics as a "mechanism to get things done" and saw the "good in everyone."

The mother of the Giffords aide who died yesterday was the person who gave Grijalva his first job.

In case you didn't know, Giffords, by coincidence, read aloud the part of the Constitution about peaceful assembly. Franks, reflecting on that, flashes some anger toward the gunman, calling him a "deranged monster," and further affirming that Giffords was a delightful and positive person.

Cleaver worries that this will have an effect on members' ability to meet with their constituents. He's taken aback by all of this because, in "terms of volatility," Giffords was in the lowest percentile among members, and not a "hothead" at all.

As Gregory points out, this is a hell of a matter for Raul Labrador to be making his Meet The Press debut. He says that his wife has been "shaken by this." "I'm the only person on this panel that doesn't know her, and everyone says that she is wonderful." He points out that Giffords was only doing what "all of us are supposed to be doing."

It's worth pointing out, I think, that Labrador, during his campaign, was the subject of some particularly bizarre and incivil treatment himself.

Wasserman-Schultz says that this is a wake-up call for anyone treating their personal security "in a cavalier manner."

Grijalva further reflects on the death of Judge John Roll as "a huge loss to the community, and the loss of a leader."

Wow. Was the little girl -- who was born on 9/11/2001, by the way! -- really the president of her student council, to boot? That's what David Gregory says today, because he wants me to be even sadder.

Gregory reads Matt Bai's piece about what direction the discourse will turn now, and the way the political culture reinforces the "dark visions" of "political extremists." Cleaver says that it is a grave concern, and that he "fears for the future of our children." Labrador says that Both Sides Do It (TM) but that "your job as a leader" is to match vitriol with "rhetoric that is reasonable."

Franks says that it may be best to not give Loughner the sort of credit to say he was making an organized political statement. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz says that even still, the "shock jock" rhetoric -- could stand to be toned down.

We're coming back to the panel for another half-hour of this, that's likely to be everyone saying the same things over and over again. So here's a more direct idea from Jim Newell:

I will max out to any presidential candidate who promises to shut down the Internet for seven days after shootings.less than a minute ago via web


Cleaver says that Boehner did the right thing by postponing debate for a while, given what's happened, and he hopes that people "come back with a different attitude." He alludes to the bitterness of our politics, saying that it starts in campaigns. Labrador says that this isn't a moment to "stifle one side of a debate or another," but to govern responsibly, be careful of the words we use, and even do more to demonstrate that people are actually friends.

For once a good use of Meet The Press clips, Bill Clinton saying this:

What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or reduce our passion from the positions we hold -- but that the words we use really do matter, because there's this vast echo chamber and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike. And I am not trying to muzzle anybody. But... no law can replace personal responsibility. And the more power you have and the more influence you have, the more responsibility you have.

Look, I'm glad they're fighting over health care and everything else. Let them have at it. But I think all you have to do is read the paper everyday to see how many people there are who are deeply, deeply troubled.... By all means, keep fighting. By all means, keep arguing. But remember words have consequences as much as actions do. And what we advocate commensurate with our position and responsibility, we have to take responsibility for.

And here's Paul Helmke, from the Brady Campaign:

We also are deeply concerned about the heated political rhetoric that escalates debates and controversies, and sometimes makes it seem as if violence is an acceptable response to honest disagreements.

We, as Americans, can and should do more to restore civility to our political discourse. And we can and should do more to address the easy access to high-powered guns that make it too easy for dangerous and irresponsible people to disrupt and destroy the lives of innocent Americans, and political leaders who are simply trying to serve their communities and our country.

"Where does this debate move?" asks Gregory. Hopefully, we'll have the chance to ask Gabrielle Giffords to expound on this -- she was no gun control fanatic. (I'm not saying this is be glib or ironic! I literally do hope that Gabrielle Giffords recovers and gives us the chance to hear her perspective on this matter because I want her to fully recover and be able to talk about important things.)

Oh, wow, and now there's actually going to be an interview with Harry Reid. Okay, what the hell. This will be a good transition out of all these complicated emotions to a place where I can wash some dishes and watch some football and not feel like the world is a basket case.

Reid says that even though the health care reform bill they passed "was not perfect," the move to repeal the bill is just a stupid, futile gesture.

REID: They can't be serious. To increase the debt by more than a trillion dollars? They can't be serious to want people now that have preexisting disabilities no longer be able to get insurance. They can't be serious when people who are on Social Security now can get a free checkup -- wellness checks anytime they want and not have to pay for it.

On the economy:

REID: The economists are saying that the year 2011 is gonna be better than 2010. I hope so. The economy is far from being good. It's better. But it's far from being good. That's why I think we have to focus like a laser on creating jobs. What do we need to do? We have to make sure that we continue to help the manufacturing base. These job numbers that came out this week, they say that-- most of the jobs in the private sector created were in the manufacturing sector. That's good. We have to do something about our deteriorating infrastructure - roads, bridges, dams. For every billion dollars we spend, we create almost 50,000 jobs. So, we need to do that.

Gregory points out that in 2006, he and then-Senator Obama opposed the raising of the debt ceiling. And now, Tim Geithner says that not raising it would be "catastrophic." So where's Reid now? He says he agrees with John Boehner, that "we need to act as adults," and not "back out on the money they owe the rest of the world." He goes on to say that he cast a vote to raise the debt ceiling 99% of the time, and that he cannot remember why or if he cast a different vote in 2006. Regardless, he says, the debt ceiling got raised then, too.

Reid says he's happy that they read the Constitution out loud, and hope that it's reinforced the fact that the Constitution was borne out of compromise. He also says that he believes that the Tea Party was largely borne out of economic calamity and that when the economy improves, the Tea Party "shall disappear." Leaving us with the memory of that time the perpetrators of a financial calamity convinced a large section of those victimized by that financial calamity to take up pitchforks and point them in any direction other than the perpetrators of the financial calamity.

Reid insists that the "arithmetic on Social Security works," and that it's opponents are just anti-government. If it were me asking the questions, I'd say, "Okay, well, does the arithmetic on Medicare and Medicaid work?" But sadly, it's David Gregory asking the questions.

What's Reid's future role? He says, "My role is to set the agenda for what we do in the Senate. And do my very best to work with the President and the Republican House of Representatives, and of course, my friend, Mitch McConnell to move this country around."

Okay. That's it. Thanks for indulging me in this, another terribly inartful expression of complicated feelings on a tragedy, interspersed with some stupid campaign talk, which I was actually thankful for today. Have a good week, everyone. Think good thoughts for all the people and families affected by this awful tragedy, and hopefully all the news ahead will start trending in a positive direction.

Here: have some Ray Davies, on me.