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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

First Posted: 05/22/11 09:48 AM ET Updated: 07/22/11 06:12 AM ET

Five Box

Good morning and welcome to everyone! Thanks for coming to your Sunday morning liveblog on a day that had to have been packed with some disappointment. My name is Jason, and yes, I, too, am disappointed that the world did not end and the rapture did not whisk me off to a -- well, to any place the Meet The Press is NOT.

The upside of any world ending event is that if you didn't achieve all your goals in life, no big deal, because it's not like you were going to have much of a chance anyway. I mean, the world ended, tough break. Similarly, you don't have to keep doing the things you hate doing, like watching David Gregory eye-bang Tweetdeck. But it didn't come to pass, did it? I mean, you are all still there, right, or am I left to produce this hastily typed reaction to nonsense that reads as if 10,000 toddlers puked on the internet at the same time for all eternity, alone?

Don't answer that! At least give me some hope! Anyway, make ready for your Sunday morning liveblog. As always, you are encouraged to leave a comment, or send me an email, or follow me on Twitter.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

So the exciting news today is that Mitch Daniels is not going to be running for president in 2012. There, there, David Brooks, we know. This one goes out to you, buddy.

The good news is that Herman Cain, pizza dude and heart of the South Carolina GOP is here to tell us about his path to the White House. He will free us from debt, and legislation that "has been forced down our throats." Yes, as always, the legitimate procedure by which bills are made into law is best likened to prison sodomy. He will also stimulate aggregate demand and reverse the economy with a mixture of hoodoo and drilling holes in the ground.

He doesn't want to make a deal on the debt ceiling. He seemed to want to actually just pay the Chinese off, a la Pat Toomey. Now he just thinks that we should pay the interest on the debt, make no cuts to military spending, pay out Social Security and Medicare, and then, "look at everything else." And that's where you "start" cutting. Ahh, this guy already sounds like a Washington drone!

He calls this the "Cain plan," and it's basically called, "the plan that everyone in the Beltway has when they want to get elected and you need old people to vote for you."

Cain says that the market will respond negatively to avoiding a debt ceiling disaster. Congress, you see, "allowed themselves to get in a rock and a hard place." Now we have to literally go back in time to avert disaster, I guess! That's the only way the "Cain plan" will work. Okay, I get it, Cain's plan is the thing he would have liked to have done had everyone else done something different, many years ago.

Wallace is having trouble parsing all of Cain's tense changes, and I can hardly blame him. "But is the Cain plan right, now?" Cain says, "The Cain plan can't work now." WHAT? "It cannot work now, simply because they waited too long...that's not leadership."

Wow. That was awesome. Herman Cain has a plan that will fix everything, except it won't work, because "they" waited too long to implement it. (I guess "they" should have known years ago that there was an awesome plan, just sitting there, waiting to be put on a pizza.)

Anyway, he wants to have a national sales tax of 23% on everything, which will replace the federal income tax and payroll tax. Wallace says that the Bush advisory panel on tax reform looked at that and determined that 23% was too low a rate, and that it would raise taxes on middle class income earners. Cain says "they were dead wrong." So, why, exactly? Cain says that they "changed some assumptions in the bill." What assumptions? Oh, you are supposed to talk to the fans of this plan, and they will tell you its awesome.

Cain says that Obama threw Israel under the bus, where hopefully they were cushioned by the billions of dollars I sent them, you know? What would Cain offer the Palestinians? "Nothing." Cain says he's not convinced the Palestinians are interested in peace, or that they have a geniune offer. To Cain, the Palestinians have always "pushed for more and more and more." Hmmm. I think the rap on the Palestinians is that they keep terrorizing Israel, and the rap on Israel is that they're the ones who keep snatching up all the farmable land in the area. The Cain plan, in essence, is to sit back and let the relationship fester.

What about the "right of return?" Oh, Herman Cain doesn't know what the frack you're talking about, Chris Wallace! Wallace asks and Cain stares at him and robotically repeats "The right of return" twice until Wallace says, "The Palestinian right of return." "That's something that should be negotiated," Cain says. He says that twice. Cain says that Palestinians should be allowed to return, but "not under Palestinian conditions."

What about Cain's plan for Afghanistan? He will "make the right approach to make the right decision," but he won't be able to start working on it until he wins the election and can get intelligence. Which is all well and good, but you should be able to answer the broad question, "Do you prefer a counter-insurgent approach or a counter-terrorism approach."

Wow. Herman Cain has $13 cash on hand? He says he will open a new PAC on July 15. He won't tell Chris how much money is in the account for that new PAC because he "doesn't want the competition to know." "But we do need more." So there you have it. Vote Herman Cain! He has a plan to fix everything that will no longer work because "they" already screwed things up too badly!

Here's Senator Mitch McConnell. What does he think about the whole Israel thing? "Everyone knows that the '67 lines are not tenable and that the Palestinians aren't going to be the right to return and Jerusalem won't be divided," so Obama made a mistake. It's not a good time to push for a peace agreement, because of the Arab Spring.
So, sorry, anyone who wants the peace process to move forward.

McConnell doesn't support "complete disengagement from Pakistan," because it's "mixed bag," and not everything in that bag is horrible! Besides, there are nuclear weapons in that bag, so, what are you going to do.

Is McConnell going to do anything about the War Powers Act and the 60 days that have passed since we went to war with Libya? McConnell says, basically, HO HUM, I DUNNO, I DON'T THINK SO...War Powers Act, you say? Yeah that sounds like something we would abdicate our responsibilities on pretty quickly.

And yet, in McConnell's words, the Libya intervention is "confusing" and the White House should "clear it up." But he won't do anything to stop the war! The "confusion" is probably a great issue to run on in 2012!

There will be, a billion budget plans in the Senate, so much fun! But the real action is in the Biden talks. McConnell loves him some Paul Ryan vouchers. The President, he says, would "ration care" to grandma. The Ryan plan, we remind you, turns "Medicare" into a Golden Ticket that soon becomes a Silver Ticket that soon becomes a Bronze Ticket that soon becomes a Tin Ticket that soon becomes a Paper Ticket that soon become an Italian Lira circa 1943, until your doctor is telling grandma, "You know, you can get a lot more health care from me if you give me the wallet you're carrying the Ryan Voucher around in and just throw the Ryan Voucher on the ground."

This is a concept that even Chris Wallace grasps. McConnell responds by using talking points, and avoiding coming out in support of it, because it's rather unpopular. "Something will pass, someday." At least he didn't call it "right-wing social engineering," like Gingrich did last week, in the 2012 campaign's biggest Kinsley gaffe so far.

McConnell: "We look a lot like Greece!" How long has he been a leader in the Senate? Because, uhm.

Anyway, Wallace tries gamely, but doesn't get McConnell to discuss what ground the GOP would give for a bipartisan deficit bill, because McConnell has no plans to give any ground.

Panel time, with Paul Gigot and Liz Cheney and Juan Williams and Evan Bayh! Bayh makes history today as the first invertebrate life form to appear on the Fox News Sunday.

So, who was right on Israel and who was wrong? I'm guessing that Williams will back Obama and the rest will back Bibi, with the possibility that Liz Cheney might pause to leave the room to have it off with herself at the sight of it all. Gigot doesn't even know why the White House went so far as to even have a "policy" on the matter. Bayh says...well, there's a long preamble that sounds like Fred Armisen's Nicholas Fain character, and then he says it was so terrible unfortunate that Israel "had to shoot" some Palestinians who were coming across that border.

Liz Cheney hilariously calls the 1967 borders "indefensible," which is hilarious:

Having illegally build Israeli towns and suburbs on occupied land, the Israeli government naturally prefers not to give the land up. But how can the borders be indefensible? How does Netanyahu think Israel managed to win the war that gave them control over the West Bank? The defensible borders issue certainly sounds more sympathetic than the "we want to keep as much land as possible" issue, but unlike desire to grab land it doesn't make any kind of sense.

I think it would be healthier to just state things frankly. Netanyahu wants the settlements that exist to expand, he wants new settlements started, and he doesn't want to give up the settlements that he has. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the Obama administration keeps answering the wrong question. They keep telling us what they want the Israeli government to do. And what they want it to do, basically, is have different preferences. But the question for Obama isn't what Israeli policy should be, it's what should American policy be.

Right now, American policy is to be a subordinate to somebody, forever.

Williams says that he saw a different speech that everyone, and he liked that speech. Williams is also the only person on the planet who was actively appalled by Bibi lecturing Obama in the Oval Office. The rest of the panel: big fans of that, apparently.

Why aren't we intervening in Syria, like we are in Libya? Bayh says yes, Assad and syria, they are terrible! So why don't we intervene? "Because the circumstances are totally different," Bayh says, because Syria's military is much tougher and Europe won't have our backs. So, if you are a protester getting bludgeoned the truncheons of a corrupt regime, please make sure that taking them out would be easy for us, before youa ask us to intervene on moral grounds in your conflict.

Also, Evan, how are we doing at removing Gadhafi so far?

Time for 2012 things! Mitch Daniels is staying home! Does that mean someone new will get in? Gigot says he is surprised that Daniels isn't running, and while it will help Romney and Pawlenty in the sort term, it "opens things up for" Chris Christie and Paul Ryan. Yeah, uhm, I don't think either one of those dudes is going to run. Paul Ryan especially, is having no problem advancing the things he wants to do from his easy to win re-election seat in the House, where he is among the big fishes. It really would make no good sense, politically, for him to put himself at risk in a harder race or put his whole governing philosophy on trial like that.

Gigot also thinks that Jeb Bush might get into the race, too. Again, I think the field is set. Maybe Palin gets in. But that's basically it! (Isn't Jon Huntsman as good at being what the GOP elite pundits like?)

Bayh thinks that a protracted battle in the GOP ranks will be good for Obama because it will afford him time to focus on independent voters. Cheney cites the high unemployment rate and the fact that Obama will have to run on his record as a knock against the president. She also says "the real action is on the Hill right now," and I think she's right about that.

What about Huntsman? Williams says that he doesn't have the credentials to appeal to Tea party types or social conservatives. At the same time, he says that with Daniels out of the race, all that Citizens United scrilla doesn't yet have a home, so someone could reap the benefit of a lot of corporate hype-money that could gloss over many a fault.

No one seems all that excited at the prospects of a Romney nomination, however. Cheney attributes his chances entirely to the stuff she doesn't like about Obama. Gigot thinks that his fumbling on CommonwealthCare really obscures what kind of President he'll be.

FACE THE NATION

Hey, woo! Newt Gingrich is going to give Sunday morning chit-chat another try after last week's disaster. For a run-down on everything that happened from the moment he walked off the MEET THE PRESS set to today, please click here.

Schieffer gives good intro: "Newt Gingrich is with us live, after a week in which he announces for President, and his own party...goes nuts." Ha!

Mitch Daniels is out, what does ol' Newt think about that? Gingrich says that Mitch is a swell governor and has done terrific things and has a great future. But why isn't he running? Newt doesn't know. WHy would Newt know? I don't know. How should I know? People just ask the first question that pops into their head to whatever dude is sitting there.

So, about last week's "withering criticism" of Ryan, that brought a whirlwind of criticism back in Newt's direction. Gingrich says:

"If you go back and replay what David Gregory asked...if you listen to his words, he doesn't say 'Well how do you feel about Paul Ryan?' He doesn't even say 'Well, how do you feel about Ryan's budget?' I would have voted for Ryan's budget. He said, 'Should Republicans pass an unpopular plan?' And I made the mistake of accepting his premise. I wasn't referring to Ryan, I was referring to a general principle."

Here's what happened:

DAVID GREGORY: What about entitlements? The Medicare trust fund and stories that have come out of the weekend is now going to be depleted by 2024, five years earlier than predicted. Do you think that Republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change Medicare? Turn it into a voucher program where you give seniors some--

NEWT GINGRICH:
No.

DAVID GREGORY:
--premium support so that they can go out and buy private insurance?

NEWT GINGRICH:
I don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors.

But there're specific things you can do. At the Center for Health Transformation, which I helped found, we published a book called Stop Paying the Crooks. And we thought that was a clear enough, simple enough idea, even for Washington. We -- between Medicare and Medicaid we pay between $70 and $120 billion a year to crooks. And IBM has agreed to help solve it. American Express has agreed to help solve it. Visa's agreed to help solve it. You can't get anybody in this town to look at it. That's almost a trillion dollars over a decade. So there're things you can do to improve Medicare--

DAVID GREGORY:
But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting which is--

NEWT GINGRICH:
I think that--

DAVID GREGORY:
--completely changing--

NEWT GINGRICH:
--I think--

DAVID GREGORY:
--Medicare?

NEWT GINGRICH:
I think that that is too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options. Not one where you suddenly impose upon you -- I don't want to -- I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change. And I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me ask you about the issue of taxes.

Gingrich says, well, Gregory never brought up Paul Ryan. But he did. He specifically mentions the "voucherize Medicare" plan. Then Gingrich says he made the mistake of accepting Gregory's premise. Sure, Gingrich may have "made the mistake" of answering a question about Paul Ryan's plan with a response that mentioned Paul Ryan's plan. But a minute ago, we were told that Gregory never brought this up! Now Gingrich is saying he erred by accepting Gregory's premise. This is the premise he never laid out, Newt?

(Last week, Gingrich was arguing the opposite: that Gregory was the one who brought up Ryan, but Newt didn't actually catch the premise of the question, and was just answering more generally, and never meant the Ryan plan to be considered "right-wing social engineering." He's arguing the opposite today, and I guess you can't blame him, since Plan A didn't work!

Gingrich accuses the Democrats of running "Mediscare" campaigns every time they point out that the GOP wants to eliminate Medicare. I've always found it odd that the GOP is as passionate about defending against the charges that they want to get rid of Medicare as they are about getting rid of Medicare. Just pick one and go with it!

Basically, Gingrich says that the GOP needs more time to trick people into thinking that the Ryan plan will leave them with something through which they can purchase healthcare, when the central part of the plan is: "The Government will no longer pay for this."

Gingrich did say, however, "I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options." Schieffer says, "Well, there you go, you were talking about Paul Ryan." What other plan do you need to spur a voluntary migration in front of implementing, after all? Gingrich says, that Ryan agrees with him, and that his plan can be modified. Gingrich says that he and Ryan are "on the same side," but Gingrich's side is that people should have some time to decide what else can be done with Medicare, and Ryan's side is: we've decided what should be done and what should be done is that the government should gradually be left off the hook for paying for this, until it's no longer paying for this, and that way, "Medicare" eventually becomes another name for "KMAG YO-YO."

"Obama is on the opposite side of the conversation," says Gingrich. But Newt's not on the "side" of a health care discussion anymore. Gingrich's official health care position is now: "I need the votes of the people who like Paul Ryan's plan. But I also need the votes of the people who don't like Paul Ryan's plan (Medicare recipients). So, just give me the votes, all of them. Give them to me."

Schieffer points out that he still sounds like he now believes the Ryan plan is now not "too big a jump." Gingrich says it's a big plan, it will get modified, and everyone will like it, when it's no longer what it currently is, which is "right-wing social engineering," but we won't call it that anymore.

Gingrich now says that the GOP needs to show courage. For what it's worth though, Paul Ryan sort of is! Gingrich is the guy who wants to water it down and make it palatable for everyone.

Schieffer asks about his support for the individual mandate, and Gingrich says no, but he'll concede that he once did, and he mentions that the Heritage Foundation once did, too, but the weathervane on top of the Heritage Foundation spun with the turn of the tide of conventional wisdom, and so that period in everyone's life is over. (And yet, I'm guessing that he'll probably still knock around Mitt Romney for RomneyCare.)

Schieffer asks about his donors, who quit on him after Meet The Press. Gingrich says that he doesn't know about any donors who quit or any fundraiser that was cancelled. Well, they did and one was. Maybe he needs to meet more regularly with his campaign staff, and find out what is going on in his own organization? Anyway, he was in Iowa, and everyone loved him! The rooms weren't big enough to contain Gingrich's love! And trust him, Gingrich really enjoyed his time in Iowa.

Schieffer says that he can't name a single Republican that came to Newt's defense. Gingrich says that Mara Liasson was in Iowa and came to two overflow meetings. So, Liasson is a member of the Republican party elite now?

The air must be dry out there or something, because Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell have had a rough go of it, throat-wise this morning.

What about the whole Tiffany's bill, and all the jewels she bought. Gingrich just says that he owes very little to people, and he had a "revolving fund." "Who buys a half-million dollars worth of jewelry on credit?" Gingrich says, whatever, it's paid for, standard purchase, la la. Schieffer: "It's very odd to me that someone would run up a half-million dollar bill at a jewelry store." Schieffer doesn't understand that to make matching patent leather bean bag chairs that are stuffed with rubies and emeralds and blood diamonds instead of beans, it costs money! But that is what Newt and Callista prefer to lounge upon, as they watch "How I Met Your Mother."

"Go talk to Tiffany's," says man of the people Newton Gingrich.

"What did you buy?" asks Schieffer, whose personal tastes run more in the direction of cowboy boots. Gingrich won't say. Those many, many jewels are part of his private life! He pays Tiffany's on time, with no interest. Paid them HALF A MILLION DOLLARS. Just was like, "Damn, yeah, I can drop a half mil at Tiffanys, no sweat!"

Obviously, I hope it comes out that Callista is waaaaay into grills.

More with Gingrich. The president's speech on the Middle East was a disaster and terrible and we should basically pressure Israel to do nothing but take taxpayer dollars as long as Hamas exists. Schieffer is a bit agog, and asks how it's dangerous to promote peace. Gingrich says that you can't be calling for peace as long as Hamas exists. (As long as Hamas exists, though, won't there be a need for a countervailing viewpoint that insists that peace is a better path for Palestinians than continuing to support terrorism and random shelling of Israel?)

Gingrich wants "all aid to Hamas" cut off. And since the U.S. doesn't actually provide aid to Hamas, I gather that he means, "Palestinians of any variety should not get food."

Gingrich says that it's bad that Obama said Assad needs to go, because it hasn't worked out in Libya, and is thus a pronouncement without an effect. That's true, but I'm confused about what Gingrich would do different. He just said there was no moral equivalency between a terrorist state and a democracy. But now he's off criticizing Pakistan and saying that we need a "fundamental change to our approach" in the Middle East. But Syria is a terrorist state, so what would Gingrich actually do? Who knows. Schieffer quips, "You've hardly been a model of consistency," and goes on to cite Gingrich's opinions on Libyan intervention, which have been all over the shop.

(In truth, they have been consistent: When Obama was not participating in enforcing a no fly zone over Libya, Gingrich said Obama was wrong to not do so. Then, when he did so, Gingrich said that Obama was wrong to have done what he was previously wrong to have not done. That's a sort of consistency, right?)

Schieffer attempts to relitigate the fact that on March 8, Newt said "put a no fly zone in this evening" and then two weeks later, once it was in place, said he would "not have intervened' and not used American or European resources. Gingrich says that he favored "our allies in the region" to conduct covert ops. Who those allies in the region capable of carrying out covert ops, if not us or the Europeans, is a mystery. And then basically he was for a no fly zone up until he saw how ineffective he was, and then he realized he'd better start pointing out how ineffective it was.

He also says Schieffer was right when Schieffer essentially accused him of just being reflexively against whatever Obama was for.

I'm really not sure Schieffer has enjoyed this conversation at all.

Gingrich says that he's the man to answer the big challenges of the moment, and will use the patented techniques of the 1990s to solve them.

I am proud of Gingrich today, for not forcing me to point out that unemployment didn't drop below 4% on his watch. Today, he gets that right.

Schieffer closes out the show by apologizing for missing out on so many important news stories because he was down with pneumonia. It's okay, Bob! It's pneumonia! And you're a cancer survivor, so everyone is rooting for you and just wants you to be well. Schieffer gives generous shouts-out to the folks who covered his duties while he was laid up.

MEET THE PRESS

We return now to the scene of Newt's crime to talk to the person Newt done did wrong, Paul Ryan. Also we'll have Chris Van Hollen, talking about Democrat stuff. Remember when Democrats used to come on Sunday shows and talk about Democrat stuff? Today we get Evan Bayh and Chris van Hollen, hooray!

Then there will be a panel, and probably that new segment where David Gregory stares at a giant tweetdeck and faps himself into a brutal and uncertain future.

David Gregory has taken some time and now understands that Gingrich said something controversial that he and the panel from last week didn't even notice. Happily, he has a different panel this week, so we'll say if they do any better. Oh, and I guess that Van Hollen will just be on this panel. So great!

In case you hadn't heard, Mitch Daniels is not running.

Paul Ryan is wearing his orangest tie today! He looks like he's at a morning alumni mixer before a UVa. football game, but with enough self respect to not wear a hideous orange blazer. (They do that, down there.)

Oh, he's talking. Gregory is asking him if he is going to run for president. Ryan is saying no. Pretty much no. A firm no. Unmistakably no. No, nope. nada, ixnay on the iteway ousehay unray. Gregory says, "So you're leaving the door open ajar." Ryan shakes his head and is speechless. NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 2012. DOOR: NOT AJAR. JAR: NOT ADORE.

So, what's up between you and Newt Gingrich? You guys cool with each other? We'll find out after Meet The Press offers a blockbuster report on themselves, and what happened on their show. It was a mystery to them, but they did a lot of blockbuster reporting. (Mostly, they read the piece I wrote on the whole matter, basically.)

Okay! We're back! How did Ryan respond? Ryan says that Gingrich was wrong and deeply inaccurate about what he said. Ryan also says that Newt's retracted his remarks, but, funny thing! That's actually not true!

The question that he has not answered is: Do you still believe the Ryan plan is "radical" or "right-wing social engineering"?

In a conversation with bloggers Tuesday, for instance, Gingrich persisted in calling the plan radical: "Part of what I'm worried about is compelling people to go through a radical change that has not been tested."

In another conversation Tuesday, this time with radio host William Bennett, Gingrich listed a long series of caveats before saying he could support the Ryan plan: "To the degree we are in the middle of a national conversation and the plan is open to change and our goal is to move forward to modify and improve the plan, as opposed to sell it or pass it, I am for it."

Yet, at another point, he emphasized to Bennett that he was not for the plan: "I am for the process of improving it. I did not say I was for the plan as it currently exists. I think that is an important distinction."

For her part, Susteren tried to press Gingrich for some kind of explanation: "What don't you agree with within the Ryan bill?"

But she did not really get an answer.

"The country has to look at it. The country has to ask questions about it," Gingrich replied, before diverting into gobbledygook about the need for choices and saving $70 to $120 billion from fraud and abuse. (Gingrich often uses these figures but they are vastly overstated, as Factcheck.org has pointed out.)

The closest Gingrich came to saying he was wrong was this statement: "Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood and because I have said publicly, those words were inaccurate and unfortunate." But as far as we can tell, he did not provide an "accurate" description of what he thinks about the Ryan plan.

I think, of course, that Gingrich's statement is more of a Kinsley gaffe -- the accidental telling of a truth -- than anything else. And the way all parties would typically respond to that would be to say that everything was cool and that retractions were made and let's just get past it and on with our lives. And that's essentially what Ryan is doing here today. Newt said something wrong, but we're going to pretend he recanted and forge ahead.

Ryan points out again that his reform will keep the Medicare benefits intact for people over 55, because the GOP wants their vote. Future seniors will receive less and less benefits until they get no benefit at all, and the government is no longer paying for it.

But was it demagoguery on Newt's part? Ryan says yes, that was demagoguery, but he's taken it back. Remember, as Gingrich says, anyone who uses, in the future, what he said on last Sunday's MEET THE PRESS, is a liar.

Ryan continues to take up the line that we need to address the "drivers of our debt" -- which is true -- and that if we don't, Medicare won't exist in any form, anyway. Of course, if his plan is followed, what's the result? Medicare won't exist in any form, anyway. And honestly, this is straight from the GOP platform -- they've long been in favor of Medicare not existing in any form, anyway. And Ryan very specifically ONLY promises a future Medicare benefit to people over 55. You just sort of wish he'd be honest and say, "If you're 54 years old, you won't receive this same benefit. If you're 44, you're going to discover in two decades that what your father got was astoundingly different. If you're 24, you'll get a 'Medicare nostalgia pak" that might be redeemable for a couple of postage stamps, to send your loved ones a letter marking the exact location of the woods within which you plan to crawl off and die."

I guess that doesn't make for a pretty good commercial, hence the obfuscation. But that's literally what the Ryan plan is. A promise to pay in exchange for votes now, and then a promise to not pay anyone anymore after that.

Now admittedly, if lots of poor people would start dying off en masse, it would save Paul Ryan's donors a lot of money down the line. Can't argue with that.

How much damage has Newt done to RyanCare? It would seem not much!

Ohh, David Gregory is doing some "pushing back" and it's adorable:

DAVID GREGORY: Yeah, but wait a second. But that really is a dodge. You are the chairman of the committee, yes. You're serious about entitlement reform, yes. You're also a politician. You say you want to do it on your terms. Law does not become law without building political consensus. And you don't have that. And now you had a major figure in the Republican Party say, "This was right wing social engineering." So I'm wondering how much you do feel undercut in actually getting this passed, which, I assume, is your goal.

REP. PAUL RYAN:
First of all, if people are describing this accurately in polls, it's far more popular than the poll you've referenced. Second of all, leaders are elected to lead. I don't consult polls to tell me what my principles are or what our policies should be. Leaders change the polls.

And we are leading in the House. We are not seeing this kind of leadership from the president of the United States. The Senate Democrats haven't even proposed or passed a budget for 753 days. And we have a budget crisis. So yes, we are going to lead, and we are going to try and move these polls and change these polls, because that's what the country wants.

I just did 19 town hall meetings, David, in the district that I work for that went for Obama, Dukakis, Clinton and Gore. People are hungry for solutions. And I really, fundamentally believe that the people are way ahead of the political class.

And I think they're going to reward the leader who steps up to the plate and actually fixes these problems, no matter how much demagoguery, no matter how much distortion, no matter how much political parties try to scare seniors in the next election. I just don't they're going to buy it this year. And they're hungry for leaders to fix this problem before it gets out of our control.

Gregory asks: "Then why don't you see more Republicans who want to be the country's leader standing up and saying, "I am for the Ryan Plan full stop, including Medicare reforms?" Ryan explains that as long as you promise people over 55 Medicare in return for their votes, tell the rest of the people that you will subsidize them, but never let on that the function of your subsidy as x approaches infinity heads inevitably to zero, that's essentially fine with Ryan.

Ryan is fine with people offering solutions, as long as it's not a Democrat.

Will Ryan negotiate with people? Sure, he says, eventually. But: "We're the only ones who've put out a plan to fix this problem. We have nothing, nothing, from the President or from the Senate Democrats that come anywhere close to averting a debt crisis and fixing our problem." (Actually, the Affordable Care Act does this.)

As far as the debt ceiling goes, Ryan thinks there will be a deal between now and August, and does not seem to be a default denier. Just a hostage taker.

David Gregory apologizes for a satellite delay that didn't appear to impact the interview in any way, for some reason.

Now it's just a sprint to endure a half-hour plus panel discussion between Chris Van Hollen, Mike Murphy, Andrea Mitchell, Eugene Robinson, and Andrew Ross Sorkin. It's not too late, world! You can still end! I won't try and stop you!

PANEL AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Starring:
David Gregory, his eyes were watching Twitter
Andrew Ross Sorkin, summarizer of downfalls
Eugene Robinson, so reasonable!
Mike Murphy, liked Meg Whitman, for some reason
Chris Van Hollen, the Van Hollenest of all Chrises
Andrea Mitchell, believe me, will find a way to take it with her

_____________________________

GREGORY: OMGZ! The Medicare is so mediscary! Politicians might die! I mean, actual people might die, but politicians may lose their seat, and that's worse than death!

VAN HOLLEN: The GOP is doubling down! They're rolling dem bones! Their spinning the wheel! But Gingrich is right to say that they are radical. EVeryone listen to Newt Gingrich! Hear that? Okay, quickly, stop listening to Newt Gingrich.

GREGORY: But OMGZ they might NEGOTIATE! Is it still possible to have a bipartisan seance? What if we dug up David Broder's bones?

VAN HOLLEN: The president "has a plan on the table." Also, there are some crudites. We will add some charcuterie, if asked politely. but what have the Republicans brought to the table? Not a centerpiece. Not a nice dessert. Not a selection of coffees or teas. They have subsidies for the big oil companies.

GREGORY: But would you guys actually do anything yourselves to reform Medicare, or aren't you just winding us up yourselves?

VAN HOLLEN: We've done some stuff. Didn't we? I mean, we could do more. But must we? Yes. But no! But okay! "Under the Medicaid program, the taxpayer gets a much better deal in terms of the price for the purchase of drugs. We've said, for folks who are on Medicare and Medicaid, dual eligible, take the lower price, save the taxpayer some money. So there's a lot you can do."

GREGORY: OMGZ! NO MITCH DANIELS! THERE'S A STRATEGIC MITCH DANIELS GAP!

TIM PAWLENTY: Hey, guys, you know, I'm an awful lot like --

[no one pays attention to Tim Pawlenty]

MIKE MURPHY: He was really exciting to a lot of people!

ME: Maybe the campaign pushing Cheri Daniels oppo was the most excited!

MURPHY: I think people should be more excited about who is running for President! But okay, maybe Chris Christie should jump in, just in case. Or maybe we should nominate Herman Cain.

GREGORY: OMGZ, I AM STILL SO TOTALLY SURE PAUL RYAN MIGHT RUN!t."

ANDREA MITCHELL: Oh! Uhm. Okay, I guess.

GREGORY: I mean, he did say that "anybody running in 2012 basically has to be either with him or against him." Also, Paul Ryan now equals the center! Can we agree on that! Paul Ryan is the dead middle of America, equal parts liberal and conservative. I HAVE DECIDED THIS.

MITCHELL: Sure, okay.

GREGORY: OKAY, YAY. EUGENE ROBINSON, I HAVE A CORK BOARD. LOOK AT IT! THERE ARE NAMES ON IT.

EUGENE ROBINSON: "Uh-huh."

GREGORY: LOOK AT IT! LOOOOOK AT IT! NAMES! SUCH PRETTY NAMES!

ROBINSON: "Well, it's very confused. Mitt Romney, everything that's happened in the last few weeks has been very good for Mitt Romney."

GREGORY: ROMNEY! YEAH! OKAY!

ROBINSON: Romney is the default option. If he were a coffee pot, he would automatically turn off so that the house didn't burn down. That's great. Also, Chris Christie is probably not going to run.

GREGORY: Wow!

ROBINSON: Maybe, you know 2016..

GREGORY: OMGZ, ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, SAY SOME WALL STREET THINGS, QUICKLY!

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Wall Street likes the fact that while the Ryan plan may be completely stupid, he's behind it, like a leader. He's strong. He's suggesting something. You know, just fill the void with something, even if it's stupid. Yeah! Ryan! But actually they're giving all their money to Romney. But it's really halfhearted, y'all.

MIKE MURPHY: "Yeah, the Senate is the hedge on the presidential race."

SORKIN: You said "hedge!"

MURPHY: And now, an oration on Paul Ryan.

[clears throat]

MURPHY: "There is a feeling in the country, and it's right, I believe, at least a perception, that a lot of people in Congress, you know, they're on the federal payroll, and they spend a lot of their time in new reign (?) to get reelected. Paul Ryan, whether you like the plan or you don't like the plan, is about the bravest guy in Washington, because he's taking on the entitlement monster, which is a huge threat. Whether Republican or Democrat, everybody agrees this spending thing is out of control.

And so Ryan's got a plan that involves a lot of political pain, whether it's fair or not, it's incredibly brave. What I'd like to see is some grown up politics for a change. So instead of the Democrats just doing the Medi-scare, let's have an equally adult, somewhat scary, plan from the left, so voters can have a real comparison. Because they're grownups. Pick the harder choice, rather than the hard choice--"

[FIGHT CLUB BREAKS OUT BETWEEN MURPHY AND CHRIS VAN HOLLEN FOR LIKE, TEN MINUTES]

MURPHY: Medicare is--

VAN HOLLEN: REVENUES! COBURN! NONE OF THE REST OF YOU ARE SERIOUS!

MURPHY: Okay, maybe so.

VAN HOLLEN: Oil subsidies!

MURPHY: POLLS! SIMPSON BOWLES!

VAN HOLLEN: I like Simpson Bowles!
There's a lot of good in Simpson Bowles. And I mean what the Simpson Boles did was they took a balanced approach.

MURPHY: Why are we fighting?

VAN HOLLEN: Your budget isn't balanced.

MURPHY: But, but--

GREGORY: OOH CAN I SAY SOMETHING?

VAN HOLLEN:
Simpson and Bowles said that the Republican plan was not balanced. They liked the president's plan!

(OVERTALK)

GREGORY: OMGZ SHUT UP I WANT TO PLAY THIS AD THAT I SAW ON THE TEEVEE. Ha, it's about Newt Gingrich being an idiot! And Mitt Romney being a flip-flopper.

MITCHELL: I think that the various politicians in the 2012 race may try to demonize each other, nobody knows for sure.

DAVID GREGORY: Yeah.

MITCHELL: But yes, only Paul Ryan has the courage. We said that when his plan came out! OMG THAT TOOK COURAGE! To take the things you've been saying, and make a YouTube video? COURAGE. Anytime you package your policies in a neat little bow for the media, you should be called gutsy. Don't make us actually do some reporting. Have the courage to know that when you speak, we will scribble your words down and repeat them! (That said, of course no one has shown courage on taxes.)

SORKIN: Oh, but that Paul Ryan! The way he suggested that he would come to the middle, and even compromise with Democrats, so long as the Democrats agree with his plan, is so LEADERY! So covered in COURAGESAUCE! He CAME TO THE TABLE, and LO, he put something ON THAT TABLE. Like Winston Churchill! Who put, "Huh, maybe we'll fight the Nazis" on the table.

GREGORY: Gene Robinson wants to say something!

ROBINSON: Uhm, first, the GOP is never going to make a compromise that involves raising taxes. Stop fooling yourselves. The Dems, however, will probably knuckle under and make cuts, the question is how badly will they knuckle under? How long can they lick boot? Second, people don't like the Medicare voucher program. "If nobody wants to follow, it's not leadership."

PANEL: LOUD NOISES.(OVERTALK)

MURPHY: VOODOO! TAXES ARE HOT. SO HOT! And the Dems can't handle it either.

VAN HOLLEN: We're the ones who suggested we go back to Clinton-era levels.

MURPHY: BLAGH!

VAN HOLLEN: YAAAGH!

MITCHELL: GLAGGH!

VAN HOLLEN: The bottom line is that we're prepared to make cuts, and the GOP isn't prepared to offer tax increases. The give is all one-sided.

GREGORY: I want to ask one substantive question.

ME: Why start now?

GREGORY: Will spending caps survive the debt ceiling fight?

VAN HOLLEN: "No. What the President's proposed is a cap on the deficit and debt. We say, again, it's the question of balance. We think we want to reduce the deficit. That involves spending cuts. It involves the revenue piece. By saying spending, what you're saying is you want to whack Medicare and Medicaid only. You only want to deal with the spending side. Again, the bipartisan groups that have looked at this, every one of them have said any credible plan requires both."

END OF ACT IGREGORY: OMGZ, IS NEWT GINGRICH TOAST?

MURPHY: HE IS THE MOST POWERFUL INTELLECTUAL FORCE KNOWN TO MAN. His brain beams power the celestium! But yeah, he had a bad week. And he was never one of those political candidates who gets, you know, NOMINATED for things. But such POWER! Also, the Belgian Navy!

GREGORY: OMGZ GENE ROBINSON, IT SAYS HERE YOU ARE A NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST?!

ROBINSON: Yes, and I wrote about how the Ryan plan isn't all that popular.

GREGORY: That's so neat! And Andrea Mitchell, is it true that Gingrich continues to talk about stuff?

MITCHELL: Yes. Rather badly, in fact. And the Medicare fight is playing out in this New York special election.

MURPHY: It's two Republicans splitting the GOP vote against one Democrat, so what?

VAN HOLLEN: One of them used to be a Democrat though!

ME: Yes. The crazy one. You may not want to take credit for that guy.

GREGORY: OMGZ, the gas prices!

SORKIN: It's ultimately going to be about the math. It's going to be about what happens to the oil prices. And it's going to be about what happens to employment. And I truly believe that we're going to vote with our wallet when it actually comes down to it.

ME: Wow! A discussion of actual election fundamentals have unexpectedly broken out here!

MURPHY: Unemployment is going to be key, and the president remains vulnerable.

ROBINSON: I would argue that the Democrats have at least "developed a message" about jobs.

ME: If only they had, you know, developed some jobs!

SORKIN: Democrat politicians be like: "JOBS." But Republican politicians! They be like: "DEFICITS!"

GREGORY: OMGZ, Jon Huntsman, y'all!

MITCHELL: He has a long and hard road ahead of him, with his long past of being perfectly reasonable. That won't fly with the GOP base.

GREGORY: Are Democrats afraid of him?

VAN HOLLEN: No. We wish Donald Trump was back, though. PLEASE, GOP VOTERS, MATCH US UP AGAINST A COMICALLY BEATABLE CANDIDATE!

GREGORY: So, aren't you worried about the unemployment rate? Because OMGZ.

VAN HOLLEN: We're going to have such a good story about jobs, though! There will be a dragon, and several explosions!

GREGORY: Mike Murphy, you straight up wrote some stuff about Iowa.

MURPHY: Yep.

GREGORY: That's awesome.

MURPHY: Right.

GREGORY: Iowa! Man, beat that with a stick!

MURPHY: You get 40,000 Iowans to support you, it's like being on a rocketsled. ZOOOOOM!

GREGORY: VROOOOM!

MURPHY: RRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrroooooOOOOMMMM!

GREGORY: WHHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

MURPHY: IOWA! We are talking about Iowa, in May of 2011!

GREGORY: OMGZ, MITT ROMNEY. HE DID FALL DOWN AND DIE THIS WEEK!

MITCHELL: Romney could win the war of attrition.
If Romney can deal with the health care issue, and he hasn't yet, then Romney does become the last man standing, and Mitch Daniels being out of it, Huckabee being out, of course opens up that whole space for a family values social conservative, which is why Michele Bachmann looks so good for Iowa right now. But Romney then could be the alternative if Huntsman proves what a lot of candidates have proved in the past, that if you're new to politics, it's not that easy to become a national candidate with all the exposure and intensity of that stage.

ROBINSON: I have a super important point to make. At some point, the GOP will have a candidate for president. Also, it's going to get dark out, when the sun goes down. Everyone should prepare themselves for this. And tomorrow, it won't be Sunday anymore. It'll be Monday. Interesting stuff, this "obviousness."

GREGORY: OMGZ. HERMAN CAIN MAYBE?

MURPHY: He won't be nominated. Unless: he does get nominated!

GREGORY: Yeah.

MURPHY: I am good friends with Romney. He is like Walter Mondale, a little.

ME: I'm sure your friend will thank you for that.

GREGORY: OMG! Everyone shut up and look! That's my interview with Paul Ryan! And that's Tweetdeck! LOOK AT TWITTER!

MURPHY: Yeah, neat.

GREGORY: THERE IS SO MANY TWEETS ON THIS TWEETDECK! Also, AIPAC is happening.

MITCHELL: And Bibi is beefing with Obama! "People even who work for Netanyahu, some Israel officials, told him later that he went too far." There will be "blowback."

VAN HOLLEN: "I think that this will blow over pretty quickly."

MURPHY: I am going to vastly overestimate the extent to which American Jews will flip on Democrats for not worshipping Netanyahu.

GREGORY: We're going to have to leave it there.

And so shall we! Congratulations on making it through the end of the world, everyone! Also: my condolences. Have a great week though!

[Liveblog returns next week. In the meantime, if you missed the mind-bending insanity that is the EuroVision Song Competition last weekend, here are the highlights. Give your brain and your sense of taste and decorum a breather.

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