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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

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Hello and good morning and welcome once again for another edition of your Sunday morning political talk show and fast typing thingy. My name is Jason, and like many of you are saying today, "Hooray, no government shutdown! Ha, ha, suck it Belgium." I was actually rooting for a government shutdown for a few minutes until it was pointed out to me that these terrible Sunday shows would still air, even in the event there was no actual government. Now that I think about it, of course, that was a stupid thing for me to have thought might happen. The only thing that shuts down these shows is, "occasional tennis."

They sure dragged that out, though, didn't they? Went right down to the wire, before they sort of revealed their kind of "meh" ending. Sort of like the final season of Battlestar Galactica. We'll probably not know for a long time precisely how much of that mess was pure kabuki. I suspect a lot of it was. Obama got to be the guy who "saved Planned Parenthood" and Boehner got to move the Democrats around on how much they were willing to cut. The deal was probably inked on Monday and they probably spent Friday night dining on komodo dragon filets from Jamie Dimon's private preserve as they watched their side bet -- which Congressperson's idiot staff would leak the deal on the internet first -- play itself out. (Congratulations to the staff of Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns!)

Okay, well, let's get some coffee and get this started, so that we may soon end it and go on with our lives. As always, you are welcome to leave comments or send me an email. You may also follow me on Twitter, if that's your jam.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

Okay, well, it appears that we're going to get some heaping dose of David Plouffe and some blammering on and on about the budget. Hope you are doing okay, everyone worried about Libya and Egypt and whatnot!

So, Plouffe is live on Fox News Sunday, which I guess makes up for that time the White House didn't send Clinton and Gates around their way, and stuck me with whatever human dregs they could pull out of their green room? I mean, Wallace makes a semi-big deal of this, so: leg lifted, hydrant covered in brine, you know?

Plouffe says that the White House will be taking a balanced and comprehensive approach to deficit reduction that is scalpel-not-machete and not Paul Ryanish shifts of risk onto the backs of the olds and the poors. But what about entitlement reform? Plouffe says, uhm...well, the Affordable Care Act helps with Medicare and Medicaid, and in the White House's opinion, Social Security is not a chief driver of debt -- but, you know, if we're tinkering under the entitlement hood, maybe we could soup that up, too, we're just saying.

Will Obama raise taxes? Plouffe basically says that they'll rescind the Bush tax cuts. Wallace is skeptical it will pass. I am too! But you know, I'm sure the White House will draw a line in the sand this time. Oh, I'm sorry: does "I'm sure the White House will draw a line in the sand this time" infringe on a copyright? My bad.

So, ha: these cuts that have been agreed to lower the amount of federal dollars going to infratstructure and R&D, makes it harder to get an abortion in DC, and adds a whole bunch of audits -- did the White House give up the gun? Plouffe says that they were always eager to cut spending, but there were "lines they wouldn't cross." (Heh.) Anyway, they're still spending on infrastructure and R&D on the level that the president wants, so ha ha, jokes on...someone?

"Compromise is not a dirty word," says Plouffe, adding, "There's a slim majority who do not want compromise, but most Americans do." This is very true. Can you guess who the slim minority is? I'll give you three guesses, and hint-hint: the answer is not "Democratic or Independent voters."

Plouffe suggests that compromise is still possible and still moving forward from the lame duck session.

Robert Reich, however, not happy about the way Obama "paid the ransom" for the GOP's hostage-taking. Plouffe won't rise to that bait, and continues saying "compromise-win the future-machete-hugs-teddy bears." Wallace sort of laughingly reminds everyone that Plouffe was the Obama campaign mastermind. Wallace asks if this is all about "positioning the President as above the fray." Plouffe says that this isn't a campaign thing, it's an everyday thing, and Obama has been asking for people to be grown up since day one.

Plouffe says that there's stuff in the deal that Obama wouldn't have agreed to ordinarily, but in the course of negotiations, you have to give a little, and he insists that the White House didn't surrender on anything important.

So, reset the countdown clock and set sails for the debt ceiling debate? Plouffe says that the debt limit is not the place to play a game of high-stakes brinksmanship. But, as Wallace points out, Obama himself once opposed raising the debt limit on the grounds that "America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership" and that we "deserve better." How will Plouffe battle the platitudes of the past? "He believes that vote was a mistake." Oh. Okay, that was pretty straightforward actually. I mean, who knows if that's actually true or not, but at least I didn't get some bowl of position-hedge-everything-is-conditional soup.

"America will demand we come together come together buy a coke compromise baby we were born this way blah blah blah," concludes Plouffe.

And now, here's Eric Cantor. He naturally says that the Democrats aren't serious about cutting spending. This is what Eric Cantor would have said if the Democrats had cut twice as much spending as they did. Still, Cantor says that he "has to believe" that the White House is "starting to get it." "It" being that poor people should carry our debt burden into the radioactive waters of Japan, to drown it like unloved kittens.

Cantor suggests that the government needs to learn how to manage their money the way a household manages a credit card, and that when you hit the maximum, you need to learn what you did to get there. And of course, the answer there is: that family followed every single economic encouragement the marketplace had been sending them about going into huge debt forever. I'm pretty sure that Eric Cantor talked to lobbyists, this week, seeking to try to bring back the good old days of everyone being tremendously overextended, debt-wise.

So why did the House GOP cave on the policy riders? Cantor backs up and says that the GOP believes strongly that taxpayer dollars should not fund abortions. Interesting fact: none currently do. But whatever! You could also just punish the organizations who raise money to provide legal medical procedures from other sources by keeping them from providing health care on STD's and the like. Eric Cantor will not rest until we are all redolent of crotch-shame.

But, as to the caving, the GOP will get a vote in the Senate, "where the American people will see where their Senators stand" on an issue that you couldn't possible NOT KNOW where they stand in the first place. Cantor objects to the notion that the GOP has come to town with the intention of passing laws that "kill women," and he has a point, because the GOP largely sees women as chattel, and anyone who owns a herd of brood-mares knows that it's never a good idea to actually kill them. Just keep them in stables!

Wallace points out that defunding Planned Parenthood will have negative impact on women's health. Cantor says, "it's all about the fungibility of money." Ha: okay, Eric Cantor. What are you going to do about the fact that our tax dollars have, in various forms over the past two years, been sent off to large banks in wheelbarrows, and put to the use of hiring lobbyists to return to Washington, DC and seek limits on regulatory reform? Eric Cantor should be familiar with this, because Wall Street interests contributed nearly half a million to his campaign structure last year. "Oh, but that money was spent to keep the economy from collapsing!" It's all about the fungibility, I thought!

I'm afraid we are going to have to have it one way, or the other.

Cantor points out that the Ryan Plan will "protect today's seniors," which will also "protect today's GOP votes." The rest of us will just continue to fund programs we won't partake in. And yet, this plan is "courageous."

Wallace actually understands that the Ryan medicate voucher program is basically a con -- everyone gets some "Ryan bucks" to pay for a ride on the pony, only as the pony gets more expensive to ride, the "Ryan bucks" don't keep up with the cost, so pretty soon, those live-saving ponyrides are putting you in debt. BUT SHUT UP, SICK PERSON, YOU GOT A PONY AND SOME RYAN BUCKS! This is all stuff that has been pointed out was coming from Ryan FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS, so I'm a little surprised that the White House has little to offer in terms of reality-based pushback.

Cantor answers the question by, not answering the question. Some people, he says, can afford to not use the safety net. So, what, means testing? No, the states will have a race to the bottom on how to spend block grants. "We can actually get to a better result," Cantor says, not pointing out that the better result is obtained by screwing people. And then, he says, the government can learn "to do more with less, like the American people" are learning how to do. They'll do this by increasing the squeeze on ordinary people, and, I guess, learning to appreciate their own government provided health care? This is all a pretty weird explanation.

Anyway, panel time with Hume and Liasson and Kristol and Williams.

Hume says that all of the budget wrangling has been "an interesting series of events." Everyone has plans! SO exciting! It's the future you always imagined for yourself, except no flying cars and no cure for cancer, and all of the personal sex bots look like welded together Soviet-era dry-cleaner parts.

Liasson points out that Obama probably won with independent voters because he "found common ground" and "brought people together." And yes, she scare quotes those phrases with her vocal inflection.

Kristol says that "the debate is being conducted on Republican terms." The bad news there, of course, is that when that starts happening, the deficit starts increasing like crazy!

By the way, here's how awesomely easy it would be to halve the deficit without even doing anything.

Were the policy riders a plus or a minus for the GOP? Hume says they were a plus, somehow, because of independent voters, for some reason that's never explained. Hume is basically totally happy that women and their relative health was used as the hostage to get a few billion more in cuts.

Liasson points out that Boehner managed the Tea Party caucus well and got them the victory they wanted. I know that there were a few hot tweets on Friday night about Boehner getting "primaried" by the Tea Party, but you should understand that is going to be a complete non-starter. They're not going to get Boehner out of the House. Boehner can breathe easy. Juan Williams seems to think otherwise, that the Tea Party is an albatross around the GOPs neck. Hume, is all pissy and says, "Juan, th-th-th-that's completely wrong." (Fox, you'll recall, actually treats Williams worse than NPR ever did, but they pay him more, so degrade away.)

At any rate, the Tea Party may at some point manifest albatrossness, but it won't be over this minor budget deal, where they basically got what they wanted.

Bill Kristol really goes out on a limb and suggests that there will be fundamental differences between the two parties on display in 2012. Juan Williams says Paul Ryan is brave for finding a new way to say the same things the GOP has said forever.

Williams is now fighting with Wallace over whether "Wall Street guys" made out "like scoundrels," and it's pretty hilarious, if you think that limp, sad things are hilarious.

Liasson says that the reason Ryan got praise is because that is the reward you get when you have a new shiny thing for the media to look at. "OMGZ THAT IS SO SHINY, HOW BRAVE OF YOU TO DELIGHT MY RETINAS, SO." Future Paul Ryans will have to top this my actually submitting their ideas with a liquid ecstacy chaser. "THIS IS SO BRAVE, THE WAY YOU SUGGEST WE JUST DROWN POOR PEOPLE IN BEEF BOUILLON, FOR FREEDOM. I JUST WANT TO HUG YOU."

THIS WEEK, WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR

Here's David Plouffe again. He's obviously live, so i don't know what Chris Wallace was talking about. Anyway, he says that the president has always said that it's important to cut spending, and that "compromise is not a dirty word." Amanpour asks, "So, why the victory lap," over a bunch of cuts that he wouldn't have made in the first place? Plouffe says, well...nothing much on that, actually. But, he says again, for the ABC audience, that a big fiscal plan is coming this week.

Amanpour asks, well, are these cuts "draconian" or are they "historic." Plouffe says, well, some of the cuts were draconian, but not as draconian as they could have been, so in that way, it ended up being "historic." Balladeers are no doubt already prepping their gorgeous chansons d'historique over that time we cut LIHEAP funding.

"Sometimes, here in Washington, when people say you're not showing leadership, it means you're not leading a political fight," says Plouffe. "We won't make it if Democrats and Republicans don't work together for the American people." This will be such an excellent 2012 campaign message!

Amanpour reads us some primo Anthony Weiner tweets, asking Plouffe is the Democrats are going to have a plan of their own. Plouffe says that just because you make cuts doesn't mean you are "defaulting to the Republican orthodoxy." He said, "balanced approach" again, so drink.

Now we are talking about Donald Trump and birtherism, for some reason? Plouffe says that "there's zero chance that Donald Trump would be hired" by Americans to be President, so he hopes to see Trump "continue to rise" in the GOP primary polls.

So, that's David Plouffe. See you again in a little bit! But first, Mike Pence and Chris Van Hollen will yell at each other.

Pence says that after all of the piss and moan blues he's been singing about government shutdowns, he thinks now that Boehner "fought the good fight" and "got a good deal," but he probably won't in the end, support the deal. What? So, that's a pretty mean thing to do to John Boehner, right? Pence says, "I can't bring myself to be critical of John Boehner," who got "two on oned all night." DAMN. Those negotiations were a lot hotter than I previously imagined!

Van Hollen says that no one will know till the end of the day what the cuts really are, so he can't say that he'll support the deal either. Great! Sounds terrific. Van Hollen says that Pence's party wanted to shut the government down, Pence says the opposite. And neither guy will commit to voting for the measure! This is amazing.

"They'll probably put the cuts on the internet, where everyone can see them," says Van Hollen. Just make sure that Mike Johanns gets a copy of them, and everything will be fine! Mike Johanns is the Wikileaks of Congressional negotiations!

Pence says the Democrats wanted to shut down the government all because they don't think that women are chattel. Pence says that Planned Parenthood focuses mainly on abortion. Pence needs someone to read the internet to him. Though perhaps, Pence, like Jon Kyl, does not intend any of the things he says to be "factual."

Pence won't support raising the debt ceiling. Van Hollen says that would be playing a dangerous game. These are all exciting developments in our lives.

Van Hollen does not like the Paul Ryan plan. Pence does. Is there any actual reporting on this show, on the Ryan Plan? No.

Okay, panel time is George Will, Chrystia Freeland, Ron Brownstein, and Donna Brazile. Amanpour congratulates Brazile for being named the interim head of the DNC as we wait for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to assume that office, but actual congratulations are due to Freeland, who was named the new editor of Thomson Reuters Digital, which is a well-deserved recognition and promotion.

Will says that Boehner scored a victory in the sense that the White House moved against Harry Reid's contention that the proposed cuts were draconian, and that the "entire conversation in Washington is in the conservative vocabulary." Brownstein agrees, and points out that the Democrats have conceded the argument that "austerity is acceptable in a time of unemployment." Previously, on "As The Democrats Cave, Repeatedly," the Democrats conceded the argument that job creation requires massive tax cuts for rich people. Anyone who can find actual Democratic economic principals being backed by actual Democrats should email their local unicorn hunter.

Brazile says that while the Dems "are fighting on conservative terms," the party should still celebrate the continued existence of Head Start and Pell Grants. Freeland goes counterintuitive, and says that "the Planned Parenthood stuff was an obvious gift to the Democrats" in that it exposed the GOP was really very concerned about social issues and that they don't really care about the deficit.

Freeland goes on to say that the argument the Democrats should be making is that in the current economy, "we should actually be talking about government spending," and that cuts should come later, once recovery is assured. She goes on to point out that if you look at what's happening elsewhere, these sorts of pro-cyclical economic moves are causing economies abroad to shrink.

All VERY GOOD POINTS, but let's talk about abortion BLEAH. Guess what, George Will hates Planned Parenthood and choice and thinks the Democrats have made a mistake in supporting these things, except that these are things that the Democratic party base actually likes, and are we going to get back to Freeland's stuff on economic policy? No? Well, that was a good try, Chrystia.

Now the roundtable will discuss the Ryan plan. Will thinks it is awesome, and that the GOP is "bound with hoops of steel" to the plan. Will, astoundingly suggests that Ryan's Medicare ripoff is "essentially" what was proposed by the Simpson-Bowles panel, which is true as long as your definition of "essentially" is "anything other than." From Ezra Klein:

"Alice Rivlin and I designed these Medicare and Medicaid reforms," Paul Ryan said on "Morning Joe" yesterday. "Alice Rivlin was Clinton's OMB director... she's a proud Democrat at the Brookings institution. These entitlement reforms are based off of those models that she and I worked on together." But Rivlin -- who is all that Ryan says she is, in addition to a former vice chair of the Federal Reserve -- is not supporting the reforms as written in Ryan's budget. I spoke with her this morning to ask why. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Ezra Klein: What struck me when I dug into the details of Ryan's budget is that he changed the target Ryan-Rivlin had set for Medicare from GDP+1% to the rate of inflation. That seems pretty hard to achieve.

Alice Rivlin: That's a reason for me saying very strongly that I don't support the version of Medicare premium support in the Ryan plan. It's both because the growth rate is much, much too low, and because it doesn't preserve fee-for-service Medicare as the default option.

EK: It also doesn't do much to actually make the delivery of health-care cheaper. I think that when people look at health-care reform from a budgetary perspective, they tend to rely on blunt financial tools, like simply giving people less insurance. But that just shifts costs to the people and their families. To make costs slow across the system, you need to make it cheaper to treat sick people.

AR: I entirely agree with that. And there's a great deal in the Affordable Care Act in terms of research, pilot programs, alternative payment structures, alternative delivery systems, research on the effectiveness of treatments, that is needed. That's why we need to keep the Affordable Care Act and strengthen the parts that hopefully give us more cost-effective care in the future. If you just control the federal spending without changing the delivery system, you just get cost shifting.

EK: Speaking of the Affordable Care Act, you've said before that the theory behind the exchanges in Ryan-Rivlin and the theory behind the exchanges in the Affordable Care Act are identical. That would mean Republicans who believe in Ryan's model should be more optimistic about the Affordable Care Act. But Ryan has said the two of you simply disagree on how to build the exchanges. Can you explain to me the disagreement you have that would make Ryan-Rivlin different from the ACA?

AR: No. I can't. I think he's sort of backed himself into an intellectual corner here.

EK: When you would talk to him, did he seem to recognize that?

AR: Yes.

I'm waiting for anyone on the panel to actually note that recipients under the Ryan plan actually get screwed over time. Waiting. Waiting. Brazile sounds like she might...but...no. PUNDIT FAIL.

"America has to grapple with Medicare and Medicaid," points out Freeland. The Ryan plan grapples with it by, uhm, eliminating it, under guise of supporting it, with vouchers that regress to the value of the paper they are printed on, which now equals brave.

What, there's going to be a segment on Robert Redford? The only segment of Redfordiana that's relevant to today's discussion is the cliff scene from Sundance. I'm moving on.

MEET THE PRESS

Paul Ryan, it should be said, is not a stupid person, and that's demonstrated by the fact that he's shrewdly agreed to appear on the one Sunday show that's largely incapable of mounting a challenge to his contentions. Not that anyone else has showered themselves in glory today, but if I'm Ryan and I have to give someone an exclusive interview, I'm thinking, "I need someone who won't be smart enough to understand that my plan is to entirely phase out Medicare and Medicaid and spread that debt around to citizens, who won't recall that I've demonized my opponents for "supposedly raiding Medicare," who might mention the CBO's criticism but won't push on it too aggressively and will allow me to just give a soundbyte answer, who won't mention the fact that I'm increasing middle class taxes and giving away government largesse to Wall Street banks, who probably won't even mention the fact that my plan originally featured unemployment projections that the "we'll stand behind anything insane" Heritage Foundation ended up not being able to stand behind -- not that their revision made much sense -- but that reminds me, it would also be great to find someone who won't acknowledge that the Heritage Foundation was also the source of some high-grade crack-induced nonsense projections of how effective the Bush tax cuts would be at spurring job growth."

The inevitable conclusion: David Gregory and the "is the new furniture to your liking" gang at Meet The Press.

But, hey, let's not "prejudge!" By which I mean, "let's not allow the many, many times I've witnessed basic incompetence on this show lead me to think that this is a trend that will inevitably manifest itself once again, in this setting." (Basically, I am hoping to be wrong!)

But first, we have to get through another round of Plouffery. And you know what? I'm sorry, but the Movable Type software just burped and ate the entire liveblogging of David Plouffe. I'm not going to go back and watch it again. Suffice it to say that we are COMING TOGETHER. That's Plouffe's response to everything. Can the Democrats live with the cuts: "WE ARE COMING TOGETHER." What about the future fight over the debt ceiling, "COMING TOGETHER." Can that really be said after this week? Who bears responsibility for the near shutdown? What will happen if shutdown looms again? Plouffe: "WE ARE TOTALLY COMING TOGETHER. WE MOUNTED ONE ANOTHER THIS WEEK AND THRUSTED AND PULLED AND SOME HAIR GOT PULLED AND LOOKED FOR AWHILE THAT HARRY REID WASN'T GOING TO SHARE HIS AMYL NITRATES BUT IT ALL WORKED OUT AND WE CAME TOGETHER. #lightscigarette #winsfuture"

Basically, you'll want to carry a blacklight and luminol mister into any room previously occupied by lawmakers. (I MEAN, ARE YOU NOT DOING THIS ALREADY?)

Okay, so, onto Paul Ryan. How much responsibility should the GOP take for "the spectacle." "Are you embarrassed?" Ryan is not embarrassed, in case you were wondering. He was on the winning team. What about the debt ceiling? Ryan says that fiscal reforms have to come along with a debt ceiling increase. Specific reforms, though? "I don't want to get into our negotiations," says Ryan, who says that they will probably "go up to a deadline" but that the debt ceiling is not a "debt ceiling deadline."

Gregory asks Ryan if his plan is going to be awesome or if it will be as Mark McKinnon offered as a choice, "political suicide." "Oh, yeah, it will be political suicide," says Ryan. HA, JUST KIDDING Y'ALL! He of course thinks his plan is awesome. Thanks to David Gregory for perfectly framing that question.

OOOH. We're going to talk about "some of the details!" So far, it's just Gregory reading Ryan's plan aloud. Then he reads aloud Bowles-Simpson critique that says Ryan leaves defense spending out of the equation and soaks the poor. Ryan says, well, you know, before they get to the part where I'm shafting poor people, they say that the proposal is "honest, serious, and credible." None of those adjectives of course, exempt it from the substantive criticism they go on to offer. I mean, I could take an honest, serious, and credible crap on your bedsheets today, if you wanted.

"Our goal is to repair and sustain the safety net." Point of fact: no. The value of the voucherized health care on offer in this plan is specifically pegged to not rise to the level of planned cost, so the "safety net" actually frays and eventually disappears.

Gregory does ask if "taxes at some point need to be raised." A good question! 'Twould be better if Gregory actually understood that Ryan is proposing to raise taxes already, just on the people who can afford them the least! This has been part of the "roadmap" for a long time, and for just as long a time, we've been able to marvel at the fact that it fails to raise revenues, even as 90% of taxpayers end up paying more.

Ryan says that you shouldn't raise taxes in an economic downturn. When the economy is doing better, he will say that taxes can't be raised then, either.

Gregory might actually gently take on the whole Medicare ripoff aspect of this plan! Let's see what happens? Ryan initially responds with soundbytes and platitudes, as I expected: "Medicaid is broken. Throwing money at a broken system doesn't work." (Unless it's "Afghanistan.") Governors want the freedom to spend money as they see fit, Ryan says. And he repeals the affordable care act, so add that to the deficit, because that's what brave and serious deficit hawks do. "We want to give seniors the power and the tools," Ryan says. This is where Gregory should be pointing out that by "power" and "tools" he means "coupons that diminish in value and eventually expire."

Instead he says, "But didn't you guys lose the battle when this was about social security?" Ryan says, "That's a non-sequitur." Ha, Ryan is right about that! Gregory basically asks him to accept his non-sequitur for the time being. Brave stuff. Ryan says it's two different things. And that Medicare is not going away, except in that it will not be particularly valuable or good anymore, and it won't change for current recipients, because he needs the votes of those people. No worries, though! Future generations will, under the Ryan plan, be able to line their birdcages with something that's still called "Medicare."

Gregory, okay, points out that people want more compromise. But the GOP's base is the one segment that doesn't.

David Gregory is now asking Ryan if the 2012 candidates support his plan, because no one at NBC reads the goddamn news before they put on a "news show."

And that's where we "leave it," so, as always, I know what's going to happen on this show before it even happens.

Panel time, with Chuck Todd and Helene Cooper and Tim Shriver and, because I haven't suffered enough, Jim Cramer. Okay, David Gregory, pass the conch around for the next half hour and we can all go home.

Does everyone hate lawmakers after the debate of this week? Basically yes. "It did seem silly, at the end," says Todd, forgiving the "beginning" and the "middle," but being essentially correct. And contra David Plouffe, there is still "distrust," so all that "coming together" will still be a product of anger-banging, mostly.

Helene Cooper points out that the week was very confusing and for long periods of time, no one knew what was up. As opposed to now!

Shriver says that the President comes across as something of a mediator, but that all of the ins and outs of this debate "are lost on most Americans."

Cramer says the "employment front is rapidly getting better," which is probably the worst news of the day, seeing as it's coming from this guy.

Todd points out that if it weren't for the Planned Parenthood debacle, the Democrats wouldn't have offered a single policy argument in the entire deficit debate. "It shows you where the GOP think independent voters are," says Todd. (Independent voters, by large margins, support the two parties compromising.)

Now we've gotten to the part where David Gregory reads part of an article to the panel, without providing them with s'mores, which always seems pretty chintzy to me.

Cramer thinks the Obama can do some stuff and solve some problems and be okay for re-election, unless he doesn't, and in that case he won't.

Cooper says that some people made some phone calls to other people during the debate this week, and Obama "did the political calculus" and decided he should "be presidential," which is great, seeing as he's the president.

The panel death march continues, post commercial, with 2012 speculation and whimsy. Todd says the White House is excited to stage a battle over the Ryan plan, at least in terms of campaigning. (They will probably do a lot of capitulating on actual politics.) Then there is a map of "toss-up states." Gregory wants to know what Obama has to do to hold onto those states. Gregory doesn't answer that question. Instead he points out that if the Republicans do well in the toss up states, they will do well in the election. But what if Obama does well in those states? Then he will do well! But what if those states are attacked by sea monsters, and their populations are drowned and eaten by giant lampreys? Bad news for Poseidon, who will largely be seen to have a "messaging problem."

Tom Brokaw interviewed a Saudi royal about Libya and you probably wish that was airing in this show's place.

Helene Cooper says that "how the middle east shapes up" could "play a big role in the election." We're really getting all the triple-A rated insight today.

Okay, I am shutting this down for another week. Here's a special present in recognition that we've survived this time in our lives. To all of you, have a nice week!

[The liveblog returns next Sunday! In the meanwhile, Michael Grunwald at Time has probably written this week's key piece of media criticism, so please go read the whole thing.]