O, for an immune system of fire, I guess (?) that will help me to live through the next four hours of Sunday morning teevee without my throbbing sinuses exploding all over the room. Good morning and welcome to today's Sunday morning liveblog. My name is Jason. I am congested, a little bit! But I'm nevertheless eager, potentially, to hear about the news in Egypt, and what may be next. (Probably Sunday morning political talk shows are not the place for that, but we're going to step, marginally, outside our comfort zone to try to get some fortification on that, anyway.)
If I could, and I can, here's a shameless plug, for readers from Los Angeles, the city of "Angels." Do you like plays? And Presidential histories? And Barack Obama? And women? Hie thee to see "Stanley Ann: The Unlikely Story of Barack Obama's Mother," being performed at the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica. My friend Mike wrote it, and its not like that time I wrote fifteen minutes worth of jokes about Santa Claus and Julian Assange -- this is a very professionally workshopped and painstakingly researched play about the woman who raised a President of the United States. Presidential histories, are, of course, to be found in abundance. But rarely are they refracted through the life of an extraordinary woman at the beginning of such a history. The details are here, so check it out.
And thus, on with the liveblogging. As always, you should feel free to leave a comment, or send an email. And there's Twitter, where I have feelings. And remember, this liveblog can only go as fast as I can type it in response to the images on me teevee, so if you'd like something to read in the meanwhile, check out the second part of The Awl's Abe Sauer's investigation as to how your tax money is being spent in Haiti. (Here's part one of that, and here's an intriguing intermezzo.)
Okay, I'm going to shove Ricolas down my throat, and then let's commence.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
Oh, Fox News Sunday, your squalling guitar theme song is a bit loud on days like today! But, okay, today, Paul Ryan, and Haley Barbour, and Egypt, and panel. First, I'm guessing Egypt will be the opening act? Yes. Here's the dilly: everyone is promised an elected government, the maintenance of the peace treaty with Israel, and an end to demonstrations. (Left unsaid: Mubarak and his money will have to find some new place to live, if in fact he's able to have his money.) The Army has suspended the Constitution and dissolved the Parliament. (Those are things the demonstrators wanted.) And Tahrir Square is starting to return to its normal state -- though the new normal is "soldiers everywhere."
There's Egypt, in a nutshell. Let's go to the pointless American horserace politics!
Paul Ryan has feelings about the Obama budget plan. He says it's the same sort of budget that's already been offered, and he's not happy about any spending, or about tax increases, which, if you might recall, were actually very famously cut on everyone, including the wealthy, which added trillions to the budget deficit, which Paul Ryan pretends to want to cut. This is also great: Ryan hates the five year freeze, because he says it's on a "high-base" and that spending has been "blown out of the gates" in the past two years, which is an interesting definition of, "the past two years."
The deficit! What's in that thing, again?
"Investments" get scare quotes, so much for "changing the conversation." Anyway, here's a message to millions of unemployed people, from Paul Ryan: America is in a "debt crisis," not an unemployment crisis. (So you will have to be unemployed for a long while.)
Paul Ryan says he doesn't want to declare the budget "dead on arrival" until he sees it, and then goes on to essentially declare it dead on arrival.
Chris Wallace asks, but the Chamber of Commerce says that some spending would be a good thing, so what of that? Because, you know, is it "So long and thanks for all the campaign contributions?" Plus economists say that it's bonkers, too. But Ben Bernanke says it will help create jobs -- and that's coming from a guy who hasn't done diddly to help create jobs!
"I'm not concerned about how fast we make cuts," Ryan says, which makes sense, since he's already backed off on his promise to cut as much as he said he would. (Also, they tend to get really excited about cutting spending that no longer exists, and being "serious" about ending "the earmark process," by giving it another name.)
Let's get specific, Wallace says, and then shows cuts to the EPA, job training ("In the middle of a recession," says Wallace), border security, the NIH, and a programs that provides more police. Ryan says he is willing to defend the cuts, because all those things got tons of money last year. So they will cut the "unobligated balances" and that funding agencies of any kind, "mortgage our children's future." He is also excited about the debate in Congress, because they use different words, words that he understands.
Entitlement spending, though? Any pledges? Ryan says no. Just discretionary spending, folks! And then there will be time to talk about entitlements later. At the same time, if Obama doesn't include entitlements in his budget cuts this week, "that means he is abdicating leadership." It's no wonder Ryan is "excited about the new Congress!" In the new Congress, you are apparently allowed to ignore the things that you insist are looming problems WITHOUT it being "abdicating leadership."
Wallace says, "Uhm, y'all mofeaux are doing it too!" Ryan says that the President, "punted" those problems "to a fiscal commission." (Why did that happen? Because given the chance to create a fiscal commission of their own, SENATE REPUBLICANS, including several SENATE REPUBLICAN CO-SPONSORS, opted to NOT CREATE A DEBT COMMISSION. Had all of the co-sponsors voted for the comission they sponsored, it would exist in that form. They were the ones who "punted."
Ryan complains that Obama "didn't even embrace the fiscal commission" and it's findings. Wallace points out, that Ryan was on the fiscal commission, and that HE DIDN'T EMBRACE IT'S FINDINGS EITHER. LOOOOOONG PAUSE. "I proposed alternatives," he says. HE SHOULD PRESENT THOSE "ALTERNATIVES" AS A "BILL" IN THE "NEW CONGRESS" that he LOVES. (He won't.)
"Presidents are elected to lead, not to punt," says a Congressman who was apparently elected to do something else.
Just for fun, let's all recall the essential details of Paul Ryan's genius plans for America: Ryan's plan to reduce taxes is to raise them on nearly everybody. His plan to balance the budget is to not balance the budget. His plan to reduce long-term health care costs is to ration out vouchers that diminish in value over time, relative to rising costs. The difference between Paul Ryan and Billy Flynn is a lack of really great, showstopping musical numbers, which is too bad, because Ryan would cut a fine figure in an extended tap break.
What happens when the CR runs out? Ryan will probably do a short-term extension. (But yeah, they are serious about spending, even though they can't address spending in a serious matter.)
Here's Haley Barbour. I was saying elsewhere that the coolest thing that Haley Barbour could do is to announce his presidential candidacy on William Shatner's RAW NERVE, from that weird divan that Shatner uses to both stare at and encircle his guests. They should both where Star Fleet uniforms from the 1990s. It would be so awesome. I mean, if Haley Barbour went to Comicon, he's be MOBBED. I only trust Haley Barbour with managing our impending tribble crisis. KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!
"I'm a lobbyist," says Haley Barbour, who promises to lobby his ass off, for America. "Ronald Reagan was the ultimate lobbyist," he says.
This is sort of a burn: Wallace shows the CPAC straw poll results, which Ron Paul won, followed by Mitts-n-Boots, and then Barbour got one percent. Gary Johnson got five percent, because PEOPLE LOVE TO GET HIGH, even Republicans! And the Wonkette people all voted for Hosni Mubarak, so Barbour, I guess, has got him in his Iowa rearview. You know, pending getting his accounts in Switzerland unfrozen, Mubarak could be a major player in Iowa!
Anyway, how does Barbour feel about sucking at CPAC straw polls? And what does he offer? Barbour says that the straw poll was taken before he spoke, and his speech would have been a CPAC STRAW POLL GAME CHANGER TO THE MAX? (What did he say in his speech? He doesn't say, THAT'S HOW SHATTERINGLY MEMORABLE IT WAS.)
Okay, he actually says that in his speech, he talked about "cutting spending." That must have really set him apart from the rest of the CPAC field! (Did he also talk about being a lobbyist? That stuff just KILLS with a room full of Ron Pauls supporters!)
HALEY, YOU MUST EMBRACE THE SHATNER OR PERISH!
Wallace questions him on actual tax increases that happened under his watch, and Barbour's "this was actually everyone else's fault, and everyone was wrong, and you should ask the Cato Institute," just gives you some idea of the hyper-dynamic figure he is going to cut as a 2012 nominee.
Wallace wants to know more about this idea that people will start thinking of "lobbyist" as a good thing, given that everyone hates "Washington insiders." What about the fact that his firm represented interests in Kazakhstan and Eritrea (which have "terrible human rights records.") That's all stuff Barbour's firm did when Barbour didn't work there. He lobbied for Switzerland! Land of chocolate, and Swatches! And also Macedonia, because Bill Clinton wanted him to.
"I'm a lobbyist, a politician, and a lawyer," Barbour says, just digging a hole for himself.
How about the whole time he said that the civil rights movement wasn't that bad? "I was asked about my childhood, and my childhood was a very great childhood...I had a wonderful childhood, and that's the truth." (I think that not having an organized gang of terrorists terrorizing you for your color of your skin is a big ingredient of having a "great childhood," especially in the mid-20th century Deep South.)
Anyway, Haley Barbour! He looks like William Shatner. He is a lobbyist. And the Ku Klux Klan left him alone to have a great childhood. ELEVEN MONTHS UNTIL IOWA, VOTERS!
Panel time with Bill Kristol and Nina Easton and Liz Cheney and...golly, poor Juan Williams.
Kristol says that in Egypt the skeptics have been proven to be "too skeptical" and the naysayers have been "proven wrong." He seems pretty confident, in Egypt. And in the lack of blowback! "The normal pessimism is too pessimistic, and the normal cynicism is too cynical, and there's reason to be hopeful."
I was hopeful, until Bill "I Am Wrong About All My Predictions" Kristol got hopeful!
Liz Cheney is here, though, to worry us about DA MUZZIES! "The Muslim Brotherhood is a concerning organization," she says. Then she pivots and says that what's happened in Cairo has been "wonderful to watch" and that the Brotherhood hasn't been a part of it, because it's a youth movement that's accomplished this.
Can non-violence as a force for social change take root in the Middle East? Williams says that it's a compelling case, and that it competes directly against the al Qaeda model of "social change," which is now, "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" or in "your underwear." Can we shoot some "see what happens when you don't load your BVDs with C4" videos?
There's a weird moment where they set up a Dick Cheney clip and instead show a Joe Biden clip? Don't know what's going on?
Kristol says that it will be proven to be a mistake that the Obama administration didn't get heavily involved in Iran. Of course, they stayed hands-off to a fault in Egypt and it survived. The good thing about taking a light touch in these circumstances is that these movements don't get branded as "Made In America," which would lead to them being brutally suppressed with the tacit support of all the fence sitters. (A problem, I think, is that we've tended to vacillate, in the past, between two approaches -- a Republican and a Democratic one -- to foreign policy that were different, but both heavy-handed. And so we've got no appreciation for the light-touch way of doing things.
Nina Easton points out that in domestic budget fights, the House GOP is just one of three "players" and that they have to negotiate with the Senate and the White House. I remain one of the people that would like to see Obama get out of the legislative game altogether now, and give John Boehner and Harry Reid a lot of time to get to know one another. The more a bill becomes something Harry Reid can live with, the more you lose the votes of some of these new freshmen, and the more you need Reid's caucus to come on board to get something passed. I think the White House can quietly sign a lot of the stuff that comes from this arrangement. But they shouldn't weigh in and get hot and heavy with the Congress in the same way they did in the last two years.
Juan Williams makes the point that everyone is basically for deficit cuts until they find out that the stuff they liked got cut. Kristol says that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand: GOP representatives will get challenged for cutting police forces and the like.
Kristol does a little bit of honest brokering on the issue, actually, and Liz Cheney drops into campaign speak. Williams and Easton and Wallace sort of ally themselves with the realpolitik side of the argument -- where it's actually difficult to promote Paul Ryan's health care voucher scam at town halls.
FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
Ha, yes. We don't often liveblog the GPS, because it's not as rich in the foibles and excesses of Sunday shows and thus can't be often used effectively as a means of pointing out that these Sunday shows have foibles and excesses. But this week, I think I gotta have a little bit of actual substance, because as great as this Egypt afterglow is, it's not sufficient to light the path ahead.
Zakaria takes a moment up front to talk about the "Monday morning quarterbacking" that's come home from Egypt, and says that some of the criticism of the Obama administration is "genuinely unfair." Okay, what then: the Mubarak regime was a staunch ally, and a peacekeeper that did everything we asked of it, and yet there was also a "moral need" to support the Egyptian people. A true "balancing act," says Zakaria, who goes on to say, "Let's see what other Presidents did" in the same situation.
Reagan and Ferdinand Marcos? Reagan took three years to make up his mind what to do about Marcos suppression of democratic opposition. Clinton and Suharto? It took his administration a year and a half to change policies. On the other hand, Zakaria says, it took Obama a week to switch policies. "That may be an eternity for cable news," he says, "But it's fast by my clock." (I sort of think that events dictated much of that policy change in the unique way these events unfolded, but I'll let everyone chew on that.)
"Imagine is Washington had asked Mubarak to leave and he hadn't," Zakaria says, pointing out that there are limits to "Washington's power." (Also, imagine if we had asked for Mubarak to stay and the Egyptian people tossed him?) Overall, I gather that Zakaria gives what was done by the administration a thumbs up.
First up on the show is Egypt's Ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry.
First up, what sort of government is actually happening in Egypt right now? And how is the new government getting formed? Shoukry says, "It will depend on the duration, whether that new government will be formed after the parliamentary elections or it might be formed before the parliamentary elections." It's early to say anything else, and the day to day functions of government will be run by the current government.
Will the transition government be able to incorporate members of the opposition? Shoukry says that this will have to wait until the coming election, and that the current government will operate "to run the day-to-day affairs, to take care of the security void that has happened, and to also address the issues related to the economy."
Asked to respond to the events as an Egyptian citizen, Shoukry says that it's a "matter of pride for all Egyptians that -- the people have spoken in such an organized and peaceful manner, were able to present their aspirations and to effect change." He calls Egypt a "trend-setter" in the region. As far as fears of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over, Shoukry doesn't see any immediate cause for concern: "Egypt has been a secular country. It has a strong cultural background and will rely in forging ahead for the future on its experiences of the past. So I believe that all varying political ideologies will be represented within free and fair elections, and it will be up to the people to decide who serves their best interests."
What about maintaining the peace treaty with Israel? Here's Shoukry's take: "Egypt is a country of institutions, and has always made it a point to honor its legal commitments. This is a legal commitment that's undertaken, one which one would expect and rightfully so that it would be upheld." He says that the treaty has been of material benefit to Egypt and has helped create stability, and is essentially taking the position that the treaty's merits are obvious enough to the Egyptian people that they'd see no point in abrogating it. (He goes on to say, when asked about how Gaza blockading will continue, "Egypt has never blockaded Gaza," and that that was an "Israeli policy," and that Egypt has always operated at their border crossing within the legal confines of the agreements they've made.
Moving on, now to a representative of the opposition, Mohammed ElBaradei. He's "extremely happy" that Mubarak is gone, because that regime was a "nightmare." That said, he's also apprehensive because everyone's waiting to see what sort of "transitional road map" would be put forth by the military, and so far, the military has been keeping it close to the vest, and so the demonstrators basically have one foot in the streets and one foot out. "I understand that the army might need some time, but they need to lay out what they are up to. We need clearly a transitional period. We need heavy participation by the civilian with the army. It could not be just the army running the show," he says.
In terms of what the opposition wants, ElBaradei says the goal is "national unity' and a "peaceful revolution" and a "free election" within a year's time.
Panel time, with Richard Haass and Stephen Cook from the Council on Foreign Relations and CNN's Nic Robertson, live from that resort town that Mubarak fled to.
Robertson says that the military, for the time being, has the public's trust, born out of the way that the soldiers more or less facilitated the demonstrators to get their demonstration on. There are demands for a faster transition, but for the time being, the demonstrators see themselves as having a "close connection" to the people. Robertson points out that it's a conscript army, people see them as their brothers.
Cook, though, says this is an awkward moment for the military, who have been thrust to the forefront of the "rough and tumble world of Egyptial politics." Haass says that the stakes have gone up for military leadership -- they'll dictate the "pace of reform" and the type of reform. "Jubilation" could lead to fragmentation and frustration.
(House points out that the idea that Egypt could form itself around a "Turkish model" of reform is misplaced, because the European Union created enormous pressure to reform that ran contra to the designs of military leadership but was ultimately effective. Those pressures will, obviously, not be in play in Egypt.)
What sort of effect will this have on the rest of the Middle East? Haass is surprised that Jordan is showing "signs of disaffection" and that it should be closely watched. Most eyes, however, are on Egypt, and whether or not it comes out of this looking better, or if it's lapsed in a year's time to something that looks like post-Saddam Iraq.
Cook says that in Bahrain, the ruling elite are trying to "buy political acquiescence," while in Algeria, it's the return of the fist.
Haass says that the incident highlights the divide among U.S. foreign policy heads, in that you have one side concerned about the externalities that an Egypt produces, and can they be managed externally, while another group are more focused on the promotion of internal democratic institutions. He thinks that Egypt is a lesson in the limits to which we can "engineer the trajectory of another society," and that "we ought to have some humility about this."
Haass points out that what "Egyptian democracy" becomes may be frustrating, but says the gradual approach is the best one.
Robertson says that there is a perception on the streets that the White House didn't move fast enough to support them. Simultaneously, there's a perception among the ruling elite that Obama abandoned Mubarak prematurely. The watchwords for the road ahead, according to Robertson, is that the U.S. needs to be "cautious" and take up a role that remains "behind the scenes." I have to say that I think that's wise! And that's reflected in the fact that the Kristol-Easton-Cheney axis of FNS panels were all talking about it today as if they just came from getting high behind the Feve at Oberlin.
OH HAI! Jamie Dimon has some feelings about how mean everyone is, to bankers!
"What do you say to the average American taxpayer who says, guys, we bailed you out, now -- now give us, you know, do something in return?" Zakaria asks?
DIMON: Ask yourself the question, we would be better off if companies were losing more money and laying off more people? So we're better off with the companies doing well, not doing badly. And I think most companies try to take care of their workers, desperately, in every way, shape or form. And -- and so we had a decision to make in Europe. We have huge exposures in Europe, OK? So make believe you're my boss -- and this is the conversation I had with my board of directors, OK?
You talk about helping people or not helping people, we could have -- we could -- we could have dramatically pulled back that exposure, I mean very quickly, just pulled funds out of every country, all we want, hedge it, move out -- protect ourselves. That's not what our board said. Our board said, you know, let's be rational and careful, but we're in Europe for a long time. We serve a lot of European companies and we are -- we -- we left big exposures there.... -- we are lending aggressively to corporates, to middle market. Small business lending is up 30 percent. There is -- if you talk to most economists, there is a demand issue. A lot of people don't need the money so they're not -- because they're not building inventory, they're not building plants, they're not building -- you know, a lot of these people have tons of cash. They're not -- they don't need to call up their banks, because they've got plenty of money right now.
Banks have plenty of money, that they don't lend, because one day, they will have to account for the terrible assets on their balance sheets. (Of course if the worst happens, we'll probably just bail them out again, right? Isn't the Ethan Hawke movie "Daybreakers" one big metaphor, for, say, CitiBank?)
Were you more conservative with your money after Lehman exploded? Jamie Dimon says you caused the financial crisis. (I think that Lehman was like, the late act part of the financial crisis. Like, you know, that's sort of when the Ewoks were wrecking stuff, and not so much the part of the movie where we're getting jacked by the Sand People.)
DIMON: And so we -- we've lumped everyone together, like -- and I -- I think this is a terrible thing to do. I don't lump all media together. There's good and there's bad. There's irresponsible and ignorant and there's really smart media. Well, not all bankers are the same. And I just think this constant refrain, bankers, bankers, bankers is just -- it just doesn't -- it's really an unproductive and unfair way of treating people.
I just think people should stop doing that. I think it denigrates everything. Not all companies are the same. Not all CEOs are the same. Not all media is the same.
Can we just denigrate SOME bankers, then? I mean, really get crazy with it?
Here's a good point, raised by Zakaria: "JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America now represent 30 percent of all assets. You have about $2 trillion on deposit. It strikes me that the net effect of the -- of -- of what has happened is you're not too big to fail, you're way too big to fail." I don't think that it really occurs to many people just how BONKERS the above is. Dimon is like, "Yeah, 30% of everything, so what, other countries are more highly concentrated, and any way, I supported resolution authority, for the "big dumb banks." He says that JP Morgan can fail, just fine, without causing systemic risk to everyone else, which is really, just, okay...wow.
"I remind these people all the time that in a democracy, you have the right to petition your government," says Jamie Dimon of that time that the banking industry took TARP money to hire lobbyists, 'four lobbyists for every congressman," to defang Financial Regulatory Reform. Imagine what lobbyists you might hire, with billions of taxpayer dollars! You'd probably get all sorts of crazy laws to the floor of Congress!
Dimon figures that in five hundred years, we'll look back on the way we managed economies the same way we look back at ancient medicinal practices. So there you have it, J.P. Morgan is today's bloodletters, we'll see you in five hundred years!
No more bailouts, ever, for everyone? "States have a lot of wherewithal -- when you talk about these huge deficits, the deficit in California is equal to 1 percent of the GDP in California. So if they raised taxes 1 percent, they could pay that deficit." Wow. Jamie Dimon should really familiarize himself with California's rich tradition of never, ever having a budget deadlock, because they are so incredibly functional. Should that have come wrapped in sarcasm tags?
MEET THE PRESS
Can I just say, in response to that Kindle commercial, where the lady explains that the Kindle costs $139 and that she pays more for her sunglasses, so suck it iPad dude with a glare screen? First of all, I have a Kindle. I like the Kindle. If you ask me a question about it, I'm never going to treat you like you are a piece of dirt, okay? Also, are you spending $140 on sunglasses? Seriously, you need to have your head examined. I mean, isn't it faster to just set your money on fire?
Chris Blakely, friend of the liveblog, whatchoogot?
After watching the FOX News Sunday panel this morning and listening to the most vocal and visible Cheney, Liz, I see how deficits apparently do now matter.
Ten years ago when Liz's father was vice president and still had a pulse (presently his blood is circulated with a pump, hence no pulse), the Cheney family perspective on deficits was far different.
Back in 2002, Treasury Secretary O'Neill said he tried to warn Vice President Dick Cheney that growing budget deficits-expected to top $500 billion this fiscal year alone-posed a threat to the economy. Cheney cut him off. "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he said, according to excerpts. Cheney continued: "We won the midterms (congressional elections). This is our due." A month later, Cheney told the Treasury secretary he was fired.
Of course, this is not the first time we have seen a major about face from the former VP. Back in 1994 Dick Cheney told us that invading Baghdad and taking out Saddam in the first Gulf War was not worth American casualties. Of course, as VP in the George W. Bush administration, Cheney took a 180 on that view, even though his first position proved to be accurate: taking out Saddam did result in a large number of American casualties.
I especially recall being in college, and having the argument, "You understand that if we don't actually remove Saddam Hussein now, a lot more people, including a lot more American's are going to die." NO THAT'S CRAZY, said someone who probably went on to intern at the American Enterprise Institute.
Anyway, MEET THE PRESS. We have John Boehner, and Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed (STAND UP LITTLE FIVE POINTS), and panel time with David Brooks and Dee Dee Myers and Mark Halperin and, I don't know, a bucket of diazepam.
Richard Engel says that after some brief clashing, the military have gotten Tahrir Square back to normal-ish-esque-ness. It's a process! It looks pretty demonstrator heavy right now. Engel says that the military council will be running Egypt for the next six months, they have the temporary right to issue orders, the suspended Constitution will be reformed, a new election will be scheduled, and all extant treaties and obligations are still in force and will be fully applied.
Martin Indyk says that these are "exhilirating days" for the people in Egypt, but that circumstances are going to be different in other reform seeking countries. In Jordan, they're trying to get ahead of the curve. In Algeria, they're retrenching.
OH GOD, DAVID GREGORY IS PUTTING TWEETDECK BACK UP. "This conversation is in real time!" STUNNING DAVID. You should have seen last night's #snl tweets! We very nearly deposed Chris Brown, I bet.
SHINY SHINY COMPUTER THING, says David Gregory, wisely sensing a vacuum left by Rick Sanchez.
Indyk: "I don't think the military is going to let the Muslim Brotherhood take over...the question is how will this youthful movement" fill the gap.
Robin Wright talks about how this moves back into Iran, there's almost this element of competitiveness -- we started this sort of social revolution...yeah, but we actually deposed our dictator, what ya got now? And on and on. If there's no ceiling right not on the creativity and the patience of the reform-minded, things could get really interesting. I'm actually starting to wonder if the way the world looks at the end of 2011 isn't just going to flat out blow my mind.
John Boehner is here now. HOLD ON TO YOUR EMOTIONS, THE HONORABLE REPRESENTATIVE FROM DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL.
Boehner says we have a responsibility to listen to people who want freedom and democracy and that the White House handled the situation about as well as it could be handled. He thinks that the way Egypt's discontent developed into a street-level movement makes him optimistic about the nation forming a new and model democracy.
Boehner says that he's not disappointed in the way the developments in Tunisia and Egypt took our intelligence by surprise, but that it should lead to a re-assessment on our end.
Boehner says that the House will actually HIT their $100 billion spending cut target, contra everything we've heard. What about the NYT's stance that the cuts on offer are the "wrong cuts to the wrong program at the wrong time." Boehner says, "David! David! We're broke!" It's hard to know what side to take, when a refusal to engage a question honestly at least comes with an added demeaning edge, directed at David Gregory.
As far as "common ground" with the president, is there a "collision course" in terms of the investments Obama wants to make? Boehner suggests that there is, because there is no "investment" that Boehner wants to make, other than cut spending. I just don't understand why or how small businesses flourished while the GOP was jacking up the deficits so badly at the turn of the century.
Boehner says that "our job is to reduce spending, not to shut down the government." That doesn't exactly preclude the possibility of a shutdown. Just the possibility that Boehner will hold himself responsible for one.
We're still very very very far away from anyone taking a stand on entitlements by the way. Boehner is singing the same old refrain: We can't be the ones to just make decisions, as if we were put in power to do things! No, no. We must spend the next bunch of years helping the American people to get their heads around the problem. Hopefully, after a certain amount of time, they will "understand" the problem to be them, and the way they don't want to "die penniless," from "easily treated medical conditions." And then they will let us work our will, without throwing us out of office.
Boehner will "lay out an array" of "possible solutions" in order to "start a conversation." Which sounds like leadership to me. LET US LET YOU TALK ABOUT STUFF, WE'LL BE AT SOME FUNDRAISER.
Boehner says it's time to begin to transition mortgage activity to the private sector, which is pretty much the conventional wisdom around here these days.
More Boehner. Please don't ask him about smoking, please don't ask about smoking.
He asks about birtherism, and why he just won't call crazy people crazy. Like, say, the Frank Luntz focus group that incorrectly believed that Obama was a Muslim. Boehner says it's "not his job to tell the American people what to think." Gregory is at least willing to hammer away at this stuff.
The bottom line is that Boehner would raise a holy shit fit if this stuff got applied to him in a way that reached some sort of critical mass -- "Oh, you know, John Boehner says he didn't rape a flock of ducks in full view of everyone at a cockfight in Reno, and I take him at his word." The reason that sort of thing doesn't reach a critical mass is that the people who disagree with John Boehner's ideological leanings have a lot more invested in being fairminded than the people who disagree with Barack Obama's ideological leanings.
And wow, the transformation of the phrase, "I take him at his word," to something that's become so INTENSELY WEASELLY,.a dog-whistle for, "actually, crazy people, you have my permission to indulge in your paranoia, remember that come election time" -- well, it just astounds me. It's been a slow, unwinding perversion of language, and it's so dark and sinister that it gives me the full on CREEP now, to hear someone say, "I take him at his word." In a closet, a feast of foamy chancres just blossomed on our collective the portrait of Dorian Grey.
"Our job is to focus on spending," Boehner says.
Christopher Lee resigned, by the way, what did he tell Lee? He won't say. I take Boehner at his word that he's holding his members to a "high standard."
Boehner says that there is no front-runner in the GOP race for the nomination, but maybe Haley Barbour will talk to William Shatner and it will be a GAME CHANGE.
Boehner says that whoever runs against Obama will have to want to make a smaller government and love America, but not love America in a way that forces Boehner to say, "I take him at his word that he loves America," rather, one that makes Boehner declaim with certainty, "He loves America." And then you'll be like, well, that, unlike Obama's birthplace, is actually SUBJECTIVE, right, and then Boehner will shriek at you like Donald Sutherland at the end of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and that sound will haunt your dreams forever.
Now here's David Brooks and Dee Dee Myers and Mark Halperin and Kasim Reed and Bobby Schilling, who is a Republican from Illinois, I think? Yes. Illinois. AROUND THE CANTED TRAPEZOID WE GO.
Brooks says that Hillary Clinton didn't handle it well, in slowfooting a transition from Mubarak, and that the President, while totally dreamy at times, also had times where he didn't have a handle on his administration.
Mark Halperin says that there is a best case scenario for Egypt, and surprisingly, it does not involve John McCain crashing a plane into it. Schilling wants people to be nice to Israel.
Schilling -- it's maybe Shilling, I just don't care -- is happy with the way the House leadership has given freshman lawmakers a voice in cutting spending, even if from time to time, everyone needs to have a group hug. (Plenty of chances for a grope or two, and that means less time trolling Craigslist.)
Reed says that cities are well-positioned to make tougher decisions on spending much faster. "Whether I'm mayor or not at the end is another question." (You make tough decisions faster when you overall plan isn't to cling to your seat and amass personal wealth. Like Mubarak did. Heh heh.)
Myers says that there's not any changes to entitlement spending in the president's budget tomorrow. And as Brooks says, anyone who doesn't take it on is an enabler! Of course, he was referring to the GOP freshmen, knocking them as "big government conservatives" who'd cut from programs that do manifestly good things while avoiding the key issue. (I'm sure though, they'd say that they are begining a super-important process of explaining the tough choices to the American people, and "having conversations" and who knows? Maybe "putting everything on the table." I "take them at their word" they're serious about leadership.
Brooks praises Reed for being serious about these things. Shilling literally does the things I predicted in the above paragraph. "This is going to be done in phases...every American realizes that we have to go after these entitlements...everything's on the table...across the board."
SPELL OUT WHAT YOU MEAN, asks Gregory.
DAVID GREGORY:Spell out what you mean. Are you for raising the retirement age on Social Security?
REP. BOBBY SCHILLING: You know...I don't know if that's going to be part of it. I -- you know...
GREGORY: Means testing benefits?
SCHILLING: You...here's the thing is I mean -- I'm a small business owner that got into this because I was sick and tired of watching the direction the country was going. It wasn't going the right way. And I mean November the second, there was a mandate across this great nation saying, "We've had enough of this, what's going on." So, you know, do I know exactly where the cuts...? I know, as a small business owner, what I do is I troubleshoot in, I find the problem, I go in and I --
GREGORY: I know, but Congressman, this is the real problem. If you're a Tea Party guy, you come in here, and you say, "We gotta really reduce government," I mean we know what the issues are. We know what the choices are that have to be made. So on Social Security, you're either for raising the retirement base or cutting benefits, or some combination of raising taxes. So what are you prepared to do? And if you're not prepared to do something, then how can you really claim leadership when it comes to reducing the scope of government?
SCHILLING: You know, like I said, I think we need to have everything on the table. Whether it's raising -- no, I'm not going to say...I'm not going to commit to raising the age of Social Security. But here's the thing, is if we do nothing, we know it's broke. So...you know, we've gotta put everything on the table and make good decisions. You know...if we continue the path we're going, we're going bankrupt.
Gregory jokes about how everyone keeps talking about the need to have "an adult conversation," but that we could "have a juvenile conversation as long as you'll say what you're actually for." That's maybe David Gregory's finest moment on this show. It would have been finer if he had, rather than kicking it over to Halperin, he had looked at Reed, and said something like, "Now you, you actually did things and made decisions, how did you do that? Are you a Superman? Seriously, did you come from Krypton, in a space boat, to save us?"
Reed does get to explain how an investment works:
DAVID GREGORY: Mayor Reed, on the one hand, you've cut pensions in terms of when they vest. But you're also lobbying the federal government for more money for the Port of Savannah. And so, you know, how do you accomplish both?
MAYOR KASIM REED: Because I think that that's consistent with investing for the future. By deepening the port of Savannah, Georgia, we're going to create an economy, and have the port ready for the Panama Canal ships to come in 2014. It's consistent with the President's message on infrastructure investment and job creation.
(It's sort of sad that our discourse has gotten to the point where this sorts of explanations have been breakthroughs of lightning bolt enlightenment. ("Oh, wow, so that's how money and investing works!")
Halperin says that in 2012, Gingrich and Romney have "slots" and someone else has a "slot" and lots of other people are going to trying to "claw their way into" one of these "slots," and I don't know, it sounds like Craigslist is going to get a lot more exciting.
David Brooks jokes about Donald Trump and then names as many people who have been considered as GOP nominees as he can in thirty seconds. Mark Halperin says that Obama is a formidable incumbent with a lot of advatanges that might still lose the election in case he's not as formidable or as advantaged as Mark Halperin believes him to be.
David Brooks, "You know reporters are either thin-skinned or too demanding." Or? Either? Oh, crap, now he's crying. Sorry David, look, here is Tweetdeck, be soothed. Life is easy. #kayneshrug.
That's it. It's time for me to crawl black under my blankets and let my body peacefully expel what every Hosni Mubarak has gotten lodged in my sinuses. Have a great week! Stay creative and optimistic!
[Stuff will be here in this space soon, probably!]
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