TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

05/29/2011 10:16 am ET | Updated Jul 29, 2011

Hello everybody and happy Memorial Day Weekend to all of you. My name is Jason, and as a special treat to myself this holiday I decided to have an extra hour of sleep and not watch Fox News Sunday, which was the venue for John McCain's 348,927th Sunday morning appearance anyway.

By now, we know how those McCain appearances go: "I hate earmarks! And love war! Let's fight the Russians in Georgia! And I support things passionately right up until I learn those things are part of the Democratic Party platform, and then I hate those things! Why doesn't anyone tell me that these are the positions of other people who I don't like? We need a better system of communication up here on Capitol Hill! What's this? An earmark for a better Capitol Hill-based system of communication? I HATE THIS! Throw grenades at it! YAAAGGGHHH. Why are lights so shiny these day? Is it just me, or do the lights really seem shiny? OH THANK GOD A PLATE OF CURED MEATS MMMMMGGHHHHMMGGGHHHHHHGGHHMMMMM..."

So, I'm saying no to all of that. But I'm glad you're here! Sit back and enjoy and read along or skip to the comments and hang out with your fellow Sunday Morning Chat Show Avoidance Club. Send me emails if you like. And, of course, you may follow me on the Twitter.


Excitement abounds today, as Amanpour mines America's two deepest veins of charisma -- Tim Pawlenty and Mitch Daniels, for president stuff. It's nice that someone booked TPaw for the Sunday of what was supposed to be his big week, and that there was even some teevee cameras and editing decks not devoted to Sarah Palin's "Bus Ride O' Griftin'" tour to put Pawlenty on the air today.

ABC News reports, by the way, that no one can find Palin or her bus this morning. "Is this Palin in surprise mode?" they ask. I think that it's maybe Palin in "surrounded by incompentents and neophytes after I burned so many well-liked GOP consultants in my books" mode, actually!

In the coming weeks, we'll get announcement things from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. But Tim Pawlenty! Notice him! What will he do to get people to recognize him? "If you're a serious candidate for President," he says, "That will happen over time." Let's hope so, anyway! Because people right now really recognize that Herman Cain fellow.

Anyway, Pawlenty is in favor of Paul Ryan's plan? He says that his own plan for entitlements will be different from Ryan's but that Ryan's is preferable to Obama's because Obama's is "doing nothing." Actually, the White House has ongoing talks led by Joe Biden, which could, in the end, COME to nothing, but it's not, at the moment, "doing nothing." That's a lot of commas, I know. I'll point out that in the White House's official statement congratulating the Democratic party victor of the NY-26 special election, they opted to not mention the Medicare issue -- perhaps a sign that they haven't taken Medicare cuts off the table yet themselves.

Pawlenty, naturally, would not risk the votes of any old people by changing their entitlements. He would instead put that burden on young people. Later in this show, by the way, there will be a segment on new graduates entering the job market, and maybe it will be mentioned that the current unemployment crisis will keep their long-term earning power down significantly from where it ordinarily should be. But Pawlenty's going to eliminate supplemental benefits that they would otherwise enjoy later in life, so my graduation speech this year is: "Good luck you guys! I'll be dead sooner than you and I'll try to leave you some food!"

"Any doofus can go to Washington and maintain the status quo," says Pawlenty. "Any chimp can play human for a day and use his opposable thumbs to iron his uniform. And run for office on election day, and fancy himself a real decision maker, then deploy more troops than salt in a shaker. But it's a jungle when war is made. And you'll panic and throw your own shit at the enemy. The camera pulls back to reveal your true identity: Look, it's a sheep in wolf's clothing, a smoking gun holding ape."

Sorry, that second part was just some Rilo Kiley lyrics I thought were appropriate.

We need to take significant action and it will take bold leaders, says Pawlenty, distinguishing this election from all those other elections where people are just like, "Whatever, no big deal, let's have just anybody be President."

Pawlenty doesn't want to raise the debt ceiling, because he's a big fan of systemic shocks to the global economy, I guess? Amanpour asks about this, and Pawlenty says that some "significant people challenge that premise," like this guy who wears a tin can on his head and drools into his lap. Pawlenty also doesn't think any cuts in defense are necessary, and even if inefficiencies or waste or fraud or abuse are found, the money saved should be given back to the Defense Department, because that will teach them to allow waste, fraud, and abuse.

It's okay, because suddenly, we're talking about how TPaw goes to fish-fries, and constituents who aren't interesting in "white papers," and is using the word "meatpacking" over and over again. He saw meatpacking, in real time, at a real young age, and he's walked in their shoes, and apparently, what meatpackers can use is less Medicare.


Now, we'll talk to Mitch Daniels, who was the only man who save the life of David Brooks. Daniels has a big bandage on his forehead. He's always getting jacked up before coming on the teevee. (Secretly, he is in a fight club.)

Daniels says that he loves his family more than his country, and why is that weird? You cannot make sweet love to a country, so deal with it. Mitch Daniels is the Ayelet Waldman of American civics!

Could Daniels have beaten Obama? He says, yeah, sure. Probably. Now no one can know. But Indianans seem to like him, and he seems to go out of his way to be nice to people. And he used to run President Bush's budgets, and apparently fancies himself to be a budget samurai, and he has a samurai sword, and he's known as "The Blade." Ha, ha, because:

SNICKETY-SNICK, goes the budget samurai, right?

Does Daniels support the Ryan Plan? He says that he hopes the Ryan Plan becomes the litmus test of the 2012 election. So, suck it, Newt Gingrich! Daniels seems to be coming out for means-testing Social Security, but it's a step too far to suggest that the system favors upper-income people. But hey, let's accept that premise, and remove all the income caps on Social Security contributions, and make the system permanently solvent AND less tilted toward rich people. OMG SOMEONE BUY ME A SAMURAI SWORD BECAUSE NOW I AM A BUDGET MARTIAL ARTIST.

Panel time, now, with George Will, Donna Brazile, Ed Gillespie, and Jonathan Karl.

Is Palin going to run? Will doesn't know, but says she is a genius of manipulation, and a candidate for whom there cannot possibly be an undecided voter. "Should this person be given nuclear weapons?" Will asks, adding, "The question answers itself."

But: Will says that maybe Palin gets in because Bachmann gets in and the two of them "take up the same political space" (they are ladies?) and that would hurt Pawlenty (for some reason in which "evangelicals" are involved) and therefore help Romney (because, huh? what?) and WOW: if you could distill Will's speculation into a powder and freebase it, you would stay zooted for a solid day on pure Presidential speculation.

Karl says that this is probably a publicity stunt because there's no groundwork, no donor base, no campaign staff, no organization of any kind.

Gillespie says that the media hates Palin but they love to cover her. That's half right! The media loves her and loves to cover her.

Daniels says Tim Pawlenty is the person to beat and Will agrees. Gillespie seems vague about it, and seems pretty hopeful that there will be some late entrants. Will follows on by saying that if there's a late entrant, it will be Governor Rick Perry, because Perry can raise money. Karl points out that Texans aren't too enthusiastic about a Perry run (but come on, if he became the nominee, he would certainly carry Texas).

Karl says Romney is the "no flip-flop" version of Mitt Romney? Uhm. Auto-bailout? RomneyCare? Brazile has to bring Karl up to speed.

Gillespie likes everyone! Romney is as good as Pawlenty is as good as Huntsman is as good as Santorum.

Will and Brazile differ on the role that Medicare played in the NY26 race, which was complicated by the fact that a weird old Democrat dude ran on the Tea Party line and then spent three million dollars that he probably could have bought hot-wings with instead.

The panel will be yelling at each other about Medicare in the Green Room, if you want to check that out! Seriously! Ed Gillespie will also be giving Jonathan Karl a hot oil massage! Do you feel enticed, yet? Or do you just feel molested, with mental images. Okay, I'll stop. Sorry about that.

College graduates: can they be saved, in the economy? Or should we turn them into mulch, for the good of mankind. Today, we talk to a kid from LSU, a kid from Berkeley, a kid from Howard, and a kid from harvard. They are going to have the world mansplained to them by some dude for founded an internet start-up I've never heard of, and...oh, for frack's sake...MORT ZUCKERMAN. "Kids! Are you rich, ideologically pliable, and own a much of newspapers that will print your point of view about everything without fail? No! TO THE GUILLOTINES WITH THE LOT OF YOU, THEN!"

Anyway, Berkeley says that she wants a job that will allow her to use her skills, whatever they are! She has no job prospects and is anxious. Harvard says that she's going to postpone her job search and go to grad school. LSU has two offers, but they're not in fields he wants to pursue. SHUT UP JOBBIE AND TAKE THE JOBS OR ELSE GIVE THEM TO OTHER PEOPLE, NO ONE LIKES A SHOW OFF. Howard guy got through Howard debt-free, and is thus the smartest of them all! (Except he's now going into debt to attend graduate school. OH NOES! Don't do that Howard guy!)

If I find out Howard guy is going to J-School I am going to stop liveblogging and leave and go into the city and find him and STOP HIM.

Zuckerman says that this is a terrible period for the economy. Thanks genius. If he was hiring, he'd be looking for "some evidence of determination." Great. Bring a gun to your interview with Mort Zuckerman. The start-up guy says he looks for job applicants to have passion. Passion for products. Passion for his products, in particular.

Did you know that the major you choose matters? Yes. Don't be a philosophy major, because no one is hiring philosophers! Berkeley majored in "interdisciplinary studies," which was, in retrospect, a dumb idea. Major in "running a hedge fund" or "being a mercenary in an endless foreign war, for Blackwater" if you want to not die penniless in the street.

Zuckerman says that print is dead. Start-up guy says that they are going bonkers, hiring people in Silicon Valley, and THIS IS TOTALLY NOT A BUBBLE THIS TIME. FOR REALS YOU GUYS.

I'm firing the Harvard person for saying "thinking outside the box." You understand that thinking outside the box is now the most inside the box thing you can do? Time to think inside the box. Get inside the box. Preferably inside a box where there is already money. Like treasure! MAJOR IN PIRACY.

Start-up guy says that you should "get experience" and "be the best person you can be" and "add value." That comes straight off of his set of CEO-speak flash cards.

OK, I think that these four graduates are now the four least-helped job applicants in America.


Okay, so today Chris Matthews will talk about President stuff -- Romney and Huntsman and Pawlenty are the "good" GOP candidates, Palin and Bachmann will fight over "cake," and on a side note, is the military now in love with Obama -- like, post-OBL CANOODLING KIND OF LOVE? The panel will include Joe Klein and Gloria Borger and Elisabeth Bumiller and Andrew Sullivan.

Wow, okay, so Romney is "the manager" who can "restart the economy" by adding his Romney-sauce. Huntsman is the nice guy who wants everyone to be nice. And Pawlenty is the meatpackingest meatpacker packin' that meat out in the Meatlands, tinnin' up cans of ham and ropes of the jerkin'est jerky this side of Jerk City.

Panel away, panel! Klein says that he wonders if those three are still running for the GOP, which has gone Tea Partyward since 2008 -- and back then, Romney was all about health care mandates and TPaw was the cappingest trader and the tradingest capper in Minnesota.

Sullivan says that he can imagine Palin being President, if there's a set of unforeseen circumstances -- like everyone going crazy or getting killed or a complete economic collapse.

Bumiller says a bunch of stuff we already know about Huntsman, and adds that he had lunch with George H.W. Bush this week. It was the most significant lunch in human history. Tim Pawlenty packed meat for it. Sullivan says that Huntsman is the Republican Obama. Well, he's a shoo-in to win Tea Party support now!

Matthews wants to know why people hate Romney. Klein says that he has never ever inspired anyone and everyone in the GOp establishment think he's a phony. Bumiller reminds us that he straps dogs to the roof of his car, because he's insane. Klein says that Romney was once reasonable and smart, but has "fallen off." The roof of his car. Like a dog.

So, Pawlenty! The panel says he is a turtle. A meatpackin' turtle who isn't like Romney. But Matthews recently polled his twelve-best friends and they all like Huntsman, because Matthews twelve best friends are mild mannered center-left pundits who all think like Aaron Sorkin, so of course they love Huntsman.

Sullivan is still beating the "PALIN IS SERIOUSLY RUNNING YOU GUYS, DRUM." "Washington has misread and underestimated her," Sullivan says. Klein says she has political skills. Borger says she's too negative for the American people to embrace, but Sullivan says that when you watch "Sarah Palin's Alaska," you'll see that it's plenty optimistic. Or, as the video below demonstrates, it is at least AWESOME AWESOME DANG WOW AWESOME AWESOME!

Serious question: was "SARAH PALIN'S ALASKA" a show about Sarah Palin finding out about Alaska for the first time?

So, is there now a new relationship between Obama and the military. I don't know. Isn't it enough that he is their boss, and they seem to be able to carry out his missions? Isn't today a good time to reflect upon what it's like to be able to order men to kill and die for you? Whatever. Chris Matthews wants to imagine that killing bin Laden has led to everyone sending each other teddybear valentines.

The discussion, therefore, is very confusing! And not very interesting. Did you know that the military wasn't excited about going into Libya? You were right, they weren't. But they would like to not get pulled out of Afghanistan? Klein says that "in a month, the situation in Libya will be like the oil spill, irrelevant and forgotten." (Because the media will have stopped covering it, probably!)

BORED. So, here are your things that Chris Matthews doesn't know. Klein says that Ahmadinejad will be removed from power soon, in a coup d'etat. Borger says that the Biden group has taken up the issue of Medicare. Bumiller says that Robert Gates says that the people who predict where American military involvement will happen have always been wrong. (Maybe we should cut the budget for these people!) Sullivan says that Netanyahu's "war against Obama" has succeeded in driving American lawmakers to Bibi, but has pushed European leaders further toward the Palestinian side of the conflict.

The question that matters most to Matthews this week is about whether or not the DoJ should have gone after Jon Edwards for campaign malfeasances committed while he was banging his weird videographer. Klein says we should leave Edwards alone, and instead indict Wall Street bankers. Borger says, uhm, nothing. Bumiller says she doesn't know enough about the case. Sullivan agrees we should clap bankers in irons for destroying the economy.


Meet The Press has noticed that Medicare has become something of an issue! Seems like ordinary Americans like it. But why talk to those guys, when you can book Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, who will obviously say some surprising things that we could not have possibly anticipated!

We start with Mitch McConnell. What does he think about that NY26 race and the role Medicare played in it? Not much. He thinks that the fact that there are elections to come doesn't make a difference. He is a-scurred about TEH DEFICITZ and is glad that the White House is working on it and he doesn't want to be like Greece, OMGZ! And Gregory agrees, OH YEAH THE DEBT, SO SCARY. (Not as scary, to anyone outside of Washington, as joblessness is.)

Now they are arguing over the Ryan Plan. Does McConnell love it? Or does he just like it? McConnell won't say. He won't negotiate on teevee, because they are happening with Joe Biden, at Joe Biden's secret deficit battlin' club.

Gregory is basically trying to manufacture the same sort of headline-grabbing moment as Newt's "right-wing social engineering line," but McConnell isn't biting. Has Gregory never seen Mitch McConnell on the teevee before? He typically avoids saying controversial things through a patented strategy of saying, "Hey, you know what, I think I won't answer that question." (The significant undercurrent here, however, is that he seems to take those Biden sessions seriously -- he offers a "Ronald Reagan-Tip O'Neill" comparison.)

Are Republicans still against raising taxes? Oooh. I'm going to guess the answer is yes. "We think we have this problem because we spend too much, and not because we tax too little."

Gregory asks, aren't you guys just as guilty of not working to build bipartisan consensus? McConnell says, "We don't have this problem because we tax too little."

McConnell is "unenthusiastic about Elizabeth Warren" and the whole idea of the Consumer protection agency. Instead, he is enthusiastic about ordinary Americans continuing to get caught up in the tricks and traps of mortgage and credit card agreements, and losing their livelihoods and their homes. Have you read "This Loan Is An Example Of What Went Wrong In America," yet? That's the stuff that McConnell is enthusiastic about, I guess!

Now it's Chuck's turn. What does he think about Medicare being the new third rail in American politics? Schumer that you can't try to end it, but that's what the GOP wants to do, and the only way there will be agreement is for the Ryan Plan to be "off the table."

But, as Gregory points out, it sort of is! It got voted down, and McConnell just gave a positive review to the Biden deficit talks. Schumer says that McConnell needs to publicly distance himself from the Ryan plan to earn his respect, for starters, and he says that Democrats got attacked for suggesting that Medicare be reformed without getting voucherized into non-existence.

Gregory isn't impressed with the typical lines about "waste, fraud, and abuse," and Schumer offers up prescription drug price negotiations and the end to the "cost-plus" system of care disbursement.

GREGORY: "The political temptation here is for Democrats to simply use this as a tactic to do what they did in New York, in the upstate race, and to prevail by saying essentially, 'Republicans want to take away health care.'"

Well, I trust you can see how easy it is to be "tempted," as this essentially describes the GOP's historical position on Medicare with 100% accuracy. I mean, that's not that controversial! My advice to anyone who wants to make it in the Republican party is "make sure you let people know you want to end Medicare, and try to come up with at least one good idea on how to frame killing it as preserving it." (I think the GOP actually asks that at job interviews.)

I gather, by Gregory's questioning, that the media is having a hard time understanding that the concept of "doing something about the deficit" and "doing what Paul Ryan wants to be done about the deficit" are two mutually exclusive ideas.

Schumer: "There's a choice here; there are three choices. One is to do nothing. One is to preserve the benefits, but change the delivery systems and not let some of the providers, like the drug companies, get away with so much. And one is to end Medicare as we know it. Democrats are in the second one, Republicans are in the third one. Until Mitch McConnell abandons the third one, we are not going to get a budget deficit agreement. It's that simple."

Actually, I rather like this whole "do nothing plan!" It generates positive outcomes and it plays to the strengths of today's lawmakers -- those strengths being: "anything that is not related to attempting to make policies."

Bold prediction from Schumer: "I've studied elections for a while. And if either party moves too far to the extreme, they lose. Republicans are rapidly moving in that direction, to an extreme direction, by ending Medicare as we know it, by saying in their budget they'd cut things like cancer research and aid to help middle-class kids get to school, by even opposing something like a Lautenberg amendment which says if you buy a gun you should be checked on a terrorist watch list to see that you're not a terrorist. And if they continue this way, not only will we keep the Senate, but we're very likely to pick up the House. That's what's going to happen, and that's legitimate."

Okay, well, good luck with that. You probably need to bring unemployment way down, first, before you start guaranteeing outcomes of elections.

Gregory asks about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Schumer doesn't think another intifada on the way. He thinks that the onus for supporting a two-state solution is all on the Palestinians.

SCHUMER: So the problem here is not Israel, in my opinion. Obviously, I want them to sit down and talk and come to a compromise, no question about that. But the problem has been the intransigence of the other side. And the whole world has to recognize that before we're going to get any peace.

GREGORY: All right, we're going to leave it there.

Ha, I remember when I was a kid thinking, "Oh, you know, in twenty years time, I'm sure all of these grown-ups will have this problem solved." Just goes to show how stupid I can be, sometimes, when I stop listening to my cynicism!

Oh, great! Panel time with Ruth Marcus and Alex Castellanos and Harold Ford and David Brooks. Let us commence with what I like to call, "The worst half-hour of my week."

Will Sarah Palin get into the race? Castellanos says no, because there is already a LADY in the race, (maybe), named Michele Bachmann, and OMG AN ELECTION WITH TWO LADIES? WHAT IS THIS, STAR TREK?

David Brooks thinks Palin is totally declasse. And Marcus basically does too. Castellanos says, "she is not a serious candidate." And yet, the panel will just go on talking about her unseriousness, for many more minutes.

Harold Ford: "If you look at the growth of the stock market, [Obama] has something to sell" in terms of his economic policies.

Shorter Ford: "Hey, nation of unemployed people! Why don't you shut the hell up and start APPRECIATING ALL THAT BARACK OBAMA HAS DONE FOR THE STOCK MARKET! YOU INGRATEFUL ASSHOLES!"

David Brooks and Ruth Marcus mock high-speed rail investments, because obviously it doesn't put anyone to work! And it will obviously not generate any economic development! And won't those trains just move a bunch of poor people around?

Ruth Marcus brings her historic dimwittitude to the discussion of Medicare:

GREGORY: So, Ruth Marcus, what wins here, bold leadership on Medicare and the argument that the Democrats won't do something courageous or the Democrats who say, hey, those guys want to take away my medicare?

MARCUS: I regret to inform you that I think it's the latter.

Oh, my, how regretful, that it should be accurately pointed out that one side has HISTORICALLY OPPOSED THE EXISTENCE OF THIS PROGRAM, and maybe get votes from people because of that! It would be better if everyone BOLDLY agreed to eliminate the program.

BROOKS: "I was up on Wall Street this week. I know more about political risk than they do."

If we blasted that statement into space, it would immediately create a supermassive black hole.

David Gregory has come up with a question of the year: "Harold, what about the issue of timidity?"

Ha! Asking Harold Ford about the issue of timidity is like asking Harold Ford about the issue of Harold Ford. (Ford goes on to say that he agrees with Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, Mitch McConnell, and Chuck Schumer, because he is so courageous!)

This is some classic David Gregory: "The downside for Democrats is that this becomes, not just a proxy, the deficit fight becomes the fight for the economy, and Republicans have struggled in terms of that throughline, making it about jobs, this fight about the deficit."

Yes, they have, because the fight over the deficit and the fight to end unemployment are two different things entirely! So, yeah, it's been really hard for Republicans to connect their extreme disinterest in solving the unemployment crisis with their obsession over the deficit. Happily for them, the media insists that such a "throughline" is possible, and so the hapless Democrats have been led to accepting that they really need to be in a battle over entitlements when millions of Americans don't even have jobs.

Ruth Marcus agrees with Harold Ford that Obama did a lot to save the economy (remember, Harold Ford's metric was the stock market!), but WOW, FOR SOME REASON, VOTERS DON'T BELIEVE THAT? It's almost as if they or someone they loved was out of work and so their entire sense of their own future had been decimated or something! Funny how that happened that way. So it will be "a challenge for Democrats," as Marcus says, to point out that they made an effort to do something about it. (Hopefully, a "national mews media" might spring up all of the sudden and point out the obvious fact that much of their efforts were stymied by the fact that they were met by a lot of pointless obstruction.)

I really can't improve on this summary.

The Village consensus is that Medicare must be cut and that Democrats are using the same old "scare tactics" by telling their constituents that such cuts will affect their lives. (None of the people in that roundtable need to worry about such things themselves, of course. They are all wealthy celebrities who will be just fine.)

Meanwhile, Wall Street doesn't understand what's really happening and doesn't realize that Armageddon is around the corner and will KILL US ALL IN OUR BEDS --- TAKE YOUR MONEY AND RUN! (Presumably, Brooks is "advising" all of his rich friends to buy gold now, just like Glenn Beck.)

These people are demented. Medicare must be slashed and anybody who doesn't agree is a coward and a fool. But we are supposed to believe that the Corporate Parties of America are prepared to bring down the global economy out of a surfeit of fiscal rectitude and the corporate and financial elites who own them are too silly to understand it (unlike the very, very savvy Mr Brooks) and are completely without resources to stop it. This is considered to be a serious position.

I'm not going to watch David Gregory have himself off while watching Tweetdeck this week, for the troops.

Okay, well, that's it for this liveblog. I wish everyone out there a wonderful holiday weekend and a great week.

"The first time I heard there was trouble in the Middle East, I thought they were talking about Pittsburgh."

--Gil Scott-Heron, April 1, 1949 - May 27, 2011

[The Sunday liveblog returns next week. As you wait, some good reads from this week include my colleague Arthur Delaney's latest dispatch from the land of the long-term unemployed, Melinda Taub's "I Regret to Inform You That My Wedding to Captain Von Trapp Has Been Canceled," and you HAVE TO HAVE TO MUST read Dan Kois' piece about Joplin on Fake Rapture Day.]