TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads
Good morning everyone and happy move-the-clocks-back-an-hour-so-I-can-sleep day! My name is Jason, and this will be your quickly typed liveblog of the political chat shows I have on TiVo. You know it was just a few hours after the Sunday shows ended last week that the entire political world went absolutely crazy with speculation and rumination and very-deep-thought-having over Herman Cain and the ladies who had accused him of sexual harassment, which helped everyone in the race because suddenly no one wanted to talk to them about their problems, but even Rick Perry making love with his hands to a bottle of syrup. Over in our weekly round-up, we came up with a graph that basically explains the entire week:
So, I am actually looking forward, a teensy bit, to today, because maybe someone will find something else to talk about. (Probably not, though.)
Anyway! You should as always feel free to chat it up with one another in the comments, or drop me a line, if you like. You can also follow me on Twitter if you like random microblogged thoughts. If not, don't do it! Real easy.
The liveblog takes time to write. If there is a delay, why not read Conor Friedersdorf's piece, "Stop Forcing Journalists to Conceal Their Views From the Public," which is part three in the story about that Occupy Wall Street sign that got a lady fired for having independent thought processes. Or, since someone has to have something smart to say about Herman Cain this week, here's Good's Cord Jefferson's piece about why people should stop propagating this one "hot new meme making its way around the internet": namely, calling Cain an "Uncle Tom."
And, as a reminder, there will be no liveblog next week, which is too bad because I'm sure next week is going to be the week that these Sunday shows become actually enjoyable to watch!
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
Ron Paul is here, and we can all agree that the kindly old libertarian wizard from Middle Earth probably never sexually harassed anyone, so it's nice to see him today. Later, Representatives Heath "Incomplete" Shuler and Mike "Simpson" Simpson will be here to talk about how they want to sexually harass the budget. Then a panel will sexually harass one another, for our enjoyment/terror.
Ron Paul is Mr. 12%. He was on a hot streak of getting 12% in just about every poll I saw. It was uncanny! He's got 12% in both the polls Chris Wallace cites today! It's nuts. (Plus he apparently won the Iowa Straw Poll yesterday, which is different from the Iowa Straw Poll they had in August. Iowa, I guess, has a straw poll every few months. "Clem? Should I haul that old radiator to the dump?" "Don't reckon I know, Enid! Best gather up the family for another straw poll!" And that's how the manufacture of methamphetamine began. True story!
But how will Paul expand his support? Paul says he just needs to stick to his message, which he says grows more pertinent every day, with debts and government spending. He wants a trillion dollars cut from the government in his first year as President. Which you can see Congress doing, right?
Oh, okay, Chris Wallace clarifies, it was the Illinois Straw Poll that Paul won, not the Iowa one. I stand by my story of how meth was invented, though!
Wallace points out that the "bridge too far" between conservatives and Pail is his "perceived isolationism." Paul says that he understands that, but it's a false charge: he sees "isolationism" as a term that refers to trade -- and what Paul wants to do is end the militarism and shut down garrisons around the world, all of which contribute to our indebtedness. Paul is also against drone strikes. "It makes things worse...if you have one bad guy and you go after him...sometimes you miss, sometimes there's collateral damage, and every time we do that...this is why the people of Pakistan can't stand our guts." He goes on to say that every innocent person killed in this fashion probably "creates ten new people who hate our guts." Ron Paul has been worried about how our guts are perceived!
Ron Paul could give a crap about Herman Cain's sexual peccadilloes. "His allegations about supporting the federal reserve...those are legitimate." Paul says, "I don't like those distractions...there must have been a hundred stories about that."
But don't Cain's problems help Paul? Paul says that a lot of the ways in which the GOP race has remained in flux is helpful to him. "I think when people get to know what Herman stands for, that he's not for any cuts, and he's for adding this national sales tax -- yes, that helps me a lot."
Paul wants to cut one trillion dollars from the budget, balance it in three years, and restrict spending to 15.5% of GDP. The AEI says that will send the country back into a recession, but Paul disputes that. "Maybe we can create an environment where people can be investing again and building automobiles again." Automobiles? Sweetie, you need to dream a little bigger.
Hey, Ron Paul would cut 23% of the NIH budget and 38% of the CDC's budget, because he hasn't seen the movie CONTAGION, which I hear makes audiences want to spend tax money like crazy on sexxy epidemiologists.
Paul says that we need to be weaned off of the NIH and CDC because they are not "properly authorized functions" of the government. The R&D money, he says, is too often spent for political reasons than market-driven reasons. (I think that he doesn't realize that the government does a lot of the unsexy research and development that markets won't do, and that the grot work done by government scientists allows market-driven research and development to have a significant leg up on end product development, which is where all the sexy money is.
Would Ron Paul do anything to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? Paul says that his foreign policy would be to treat the country differently, and stop panicking at every bit of news that comes out of the region. He would not put sanctions on Iran, and "maybe offering friendship" would help. Paul says that Iran's threat has been "blown out of proportion," and that people just want to go to war with Iran, which he thinks would undermine our security and Israel's.
Will Paul run as a third party candidate? Paul says that he won't guarantee that he'll support the GOP nominee if that nominee won't stop the expansion of war, curb the Federal Reserve, deregulate business, and make substantial cuts to the budget. "It would defy everything I believe in" to support just anybody, he says, and a violation of the trust he's stoked among his ardent supporters. But he has no plan to run as a third party candidate, saying it makes no sense to do that. Wallace asks why. Paul says, "Because I don't want to do it."
Wallace: "I like that! I just don't want to do it!"
Ha! Okay. No one should say that Ron Paul is leaving a door open to run as an independent candidate!
Now here we have Heath Shuler and Mike Simpson to talk about their magical bipartisan ideas they had to cut spending and solve a problem that no one in America particularly wants them to solve, at least not until they've done something about the massive unemployment crisis happening in America.
But this is where we're at! There's a Super Committee, you see, and there's a Group of 100 that wants the Super Committee to "GO BIG" and become a Super Duper Committee. Why doesn't the Group of 100 just corner the Super Committee in the hallway and whale on them until they agree to "GO BIG?" For the same reason that no one on the Group of 100 doesn't just write up a budget cutting bill and sign their own damn name to it -- they are wusses. And it figures they'd be led by wuss quarterback Heath Shuler. So let's get into this exercise I like to call, "Somebody Else Has To Do Something About The Budget, Not Me Though, I Like Being Re-Elected!"
The Group of 100 sent the Super Committee a letter. And in that letter, they used the word "revenues," and that word is, among Republicans, like saying the word "tittyfart" in the middle of Mass. So is Mike Simpson serious? About the revenues? NOT REALLY -- he wants to lower tax rates and eliminate loopholes, it's just that he wouldn't make the loophole elimination revenue neutral. And I'll admit, that's good to hear. Like I've said before, revenue neutral tax reform is maybe the dumbest thing in the whole world. It is, as I've said before, like "cake-neutral baking." Hearing people talk, approvingly, of revenue-neutral baking, is like literally hearing the sound of humanity getting more stupid. You start wondering when you're going to start seeing the people in your neighborhood become quadrupeds, because, GAH, ANY DAY NOW, RIGHT?
What about the Dread Pirate Grover Norquist, who hates revenues, and his Orange Marmelade Ensmeared Sidekick John Boehner, who can't get votes for "revenues?" Simpson says that he signed the Norquist pledge, but he didn't think at the time that it was a "marriage agreement." OH BUT IT WAS. Grover Norquist expects you to remain gay married to hating taxes forever, or else you get a finger cut off like that smoking cessation program in that Steven King movie Cat's Eye.
Would Heath Shuler support a 3 to 1 spending cuts to revenues deal. Duh, of course. He, in particular, believes that ordinary Americans fetishize such a thing, because in his imagination, ordinary America is "the Washington Post editorial board."
Does everyone hate President Obama talking about restoring millionaire's tax rates to Clinton era levels? Shuler says that everyone should have more faith in the way the Group of 100 is interacting with the Super Committee. He'd rather, in fact, have the President oppose the Super Committee, because if he supports it, the GOP will freak out and go against it. (Shuler sees this as Obama's problem, and not some general sign of sociopathy among his fellows in the "91% of America Can't Hates You Like Feline AIDS" body of government.
Simpson says that it's not good enough for the Super Committee to simply perform its mandate and cut what it's tasked with cutting. They need to cut four times as much! If they don't, it's a failure. They've kicked the can down the road! But, no, there won't be a "Mike Simpson Cuts Four Trillion From The Budget Because He Hates Kicking The Can Down The Road Act of 2011," probably, because that would take political courage.
"The whole world is watching us," says Simpson. Yeah, in "disbelief" maybe! Remember, we were the country that almost destroyed the global economy because some nimrods wanted to make some sort of political psychodrama out of the debt ceiling!
"I know this sounds ridiculous," he says, "but we need to set aside our elections." It does sound ridiculous, Mike. Because you'd have to be daft to imagine you're actually risking your seat, here!
How many Republicans does Simpson think will go along with a plan to raise revenue? Simpson won't give a number. I have to imagine that in the end, he won't go along with it either. There will always be some dealbreaker.
Shuler says that the reason for the letter was to send a message to the Super Committee that says, "We have your back." "We can't wait to tell our unhappy constituents that our hands were tied by arcane procedures when we did away with the programs they like," is how that translates.
Panel time! Time to rescue this show from not having much discussion of Herman Cain's sexy lady problems. And who better to talk about our SEXX LAWWS than Paul Gigot, Bill Kristol, Juan Williams and Evan Bayh. (Well, Bayh, at the very least, can lend some perspective, considering he knows how it feels to be a whore.)
Gigot looks like he's desperately trying to keep from sharting himself.
So, what's up with the continued love for Herman Cain? Gigot says that the average GOP base voter doesn't like the media and just assumes that this is a big false witch hunt. That said, he doesn't understand why Cain didn't prepare for this eventuality. (HERE'S A HINT, PAUL: Herman Cain never intended himself to be a serious Presidential candidate, so of course he didn't care about making these disclosures.)
Bayh: "If I were a Republican strategist..." Ha! You kind of were/are! Anyway, Bayh makes the astoundingly prescient point that Republicans don't seem to like Romney, you know, NEWSFLASH.
Bill Kristol doesn't think that Cain's travails are much like Clarence Thomas' and that Cain is not and never was going to be the nominee. "The air was slowly going to go out of the Herman Cain bubble, regardless of these sexual harassment charges."
Williams decries those who have slandered Herman Cain for being a Tea Party token, which is admirable and a good criticism to levy. That's why I cited Cord Jefferson's piece above! But Williams goes on to say that "what worries me is that now, this is a way to drag him down." Huh? Okay, look, what happens as a result of these sexual harassment allegations has nothing to do with Cain being derided as a Tea Party token. These things happened in 1999, long before the man ran for President. And what's really dragging Cain down is the strange way he's responded to the disclosure. But this is something that happened a long time ago that Cain knew was part of his past. It represents a sunk cost that he'd have needed to surmount anyway -- not some new high-tech way of "getting" him.
Wallace says that he's observed the GOP base showing a willingness to cut Cain a lot of slack. Gigot says Cain is the guy for everyone who has "a repository of stuff they don't like about politics." That said, he doesn't think Cain's done a good job preparing to run for President.
Is Israel really considering a pre-emptive attack on Iran? Kristol says that he initially discounted it, but is now taking it seriously because Shimon Peres is saying they're thinking about it and he's not a warmonger. Kristol, of course, believes that it's the United States' responsibility to act, and not Israel's. Williams thinks that Israel should do it, and the U.S. will back them up. Gigot figures that all the chit-chat is intended to suss out whether or we'd seriously join Israel in a fight with Iran.
Then he goes on to criticize the response to that zany terror plot on the Saudi diplomat that involved some Iranian dude and Mexican cartels. "The administration says there would be consequences, and what were the consequences? We pulled entirely out of Iraq, which helps Iran." Someone please staple the Status Of Forces Agreement to Paul Gigot's face! We were bound by that agreement, Paul! The actions taken under that agreement live in an entirely different world than the one in which the conversation you are having is being held.
That is some high-grade pundit misleading for you!
Bayh says that it's important to determine whether or not Iran is a normal, but belligerent nation-state or a "suicidal theocracy," and that determination should guide our policy. Wallace though, asks, Bayh if he could weigh in as a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Bayh says that he favors the notion that Iran is NOT a "suicidal theocracy," but can Israel take that risk?! What happened to assessments shaping our foreign policy decisions? Is the Bayh Doctrine, "Those Dudes Probably Won't Kill Everyone, But EFF IT, If You Need To Wipe Them Off The Planet I Guess That's What We're Gonna Do, High-Ho Silver!" No, it's "Uhh, Maybe We Should Use a Little Force." Have a teensy little war.
In Afghanistan, Kristol says that if we can keep 68,000 troops there through the end of 2013, everything will be perfect from now on!
Kristol also says that Ryan Crocker deserves a "lavish retirement package" for all the work he's done in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is weird, because both operations look like big gaping cock-ups to me! (Like I said weeks ago, go read Peter Van Buren's We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People!)
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
Everyone should probably tune in to coverage of the NYC Marathon right now. I am instead going to watch Jim Cramer, Kathleen Parker, Gloria Borger and our own Howard Fineman talk about Mitt Romney and Herman Cain with a Chris Matthews that sounds like he's getting strep throat or something.
Matthews, citing the recent Nate Silver analysis, notes that Obama's re-election hopes, if he draws Romney as an opponent (SPOILER ALERT: He will) hang mainly on the performance of the economy. Normally I say, well, duh, but this is a good faith effort to advance some very important structural fundamentals into the political discussion, so I'll go with it. Silver reckons that if there's no GDP growth in 2012, Obama has a 17% chance of beating Romney. If there's 4% GDP growth in 2012, Obama has a 60% chance of winning against Romney. Anyone out there think we'll have 4% GDP growth next year? If so: how?
Jim Cramer says that he thinks growth has plateaued already, which makes me slightly more optimistic, because he's so often wrong. Parker says that all "Obama can do to get his base motivated again is declare war on the privileged." "But it has to be delicate!" says Borger. VERY DELICATE CLASS WARFARE. It can't be "full-frontal class warfare," she says. Obama should definitely not get "OCCUPY WALL STREET" tattooed on his wang, and make that his opening statement in next fall's Presidential debates. "I'd like to welcome y'all to the debate tonight by whipping this out and declaring FULL FRONTAL CLASS WARFARE! See that Mitt? Wanna heft that for weight?"
Fineman says that Obama is going to have to run as an Obama the voters don't know. Gone is the Obama with "the big stimulus packages." OKAY, I CAN'T BE THE ONLY PERSON PICKING UP ON THESE DICK JOKES. (And I'm not: Jim Cramer is making his, "I am thinking about penises" face.) On substance, Howard points out that Steve Beshear is winning his race in Kentucky by supporting business and directing the populist rage at the GOP. There's a connection to be made there -- Obama's been awfully good to business, at least in every material way possible. They are, after all, enjoying record profits! But what Obama has done that Beshear has not is that he's occasionally said mildly unkind things about Wall Street and what not, and remember, CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE...very hypersensitive people who can't take criticism and have all sorts of feelings about it, apparently.
Also, I bet Obama would love to draw the GOP 2012 equivalent of Beshear's opponent, who seems to be just terrible.
Does the average person admire Mitt Romney for his Bain Capital daze? Cramer says that attitudes have shifted and the answer these days is no and then he has some sort of spasm and all I can make out are the words "Occupy Wall Street" and "high-fives." He does say that Romney needs to stop using the term "rationalize the workforce" as a stand in for "firing a bunch of people."
Parker says, "Romney, fundamentally is a technocrat." And also possibly a robot that wants to impress Isaac Asimov and take him to prom on Jupiter.
Matthews: "But it's not credible or authentic for Obama to say he doesn't like successful people."
Borger: "He can't say that! He cannot say that!"
That basically means that he is allowed to criticize Wall Street though! Let's remember that the financial industry is primarily composed of insolvent banks that destroyed the economy and needed to leach the lifeblood out of ordinary American citizens to survive. No success stories there! Just titanic, embarrassing failures!
Chris Matthews' friends believe that the "turnaround CEO" beats the "populist" in 2012. But it sounds to me that what Borger, who agrees with this, just believes that economic fundamentals dictate voter behavior. Which is correct! But it doesn't mean that people are going to be thinking of Romney as a "turnaround CEO" and Obama as a "populist." It means, simply, that everyone's doing a lot worse in 2012, and there's so few ways to register your anger, and voting is one, and it sucks to be the incumbent President, baby, but that's life.
Fineman says that Obama can be pragmatically populist and run as a no-nonsense job creator and not attack successful people -- instead, he attacks the political system. (Again: if you punch someone from Citibank in the face today, it cannot be argued that you punched a "successful person." I'll remind you that it's still illegal to punch stultifying failures in the face, however.)
Cramer says that he doesn't think America wants a "big rich guy running this country." That's too bad, because Romney is a big rich guy who wants to run the country by taking the job away from Barack Obama who is the big rich guy who currently runs the country.
Parker thinks that voters will flock to the candidate who is the most optimistic and positive. (There won't be one.) Borger says -- and this is a real thing she said, on the teevee -- "I think it's going to be Republicans...[pausing to think]...will be voting...[pausing to think]...against Barack Obama." OH, YOU THINK? Jesus, Gloria! Be careful on that dizzyingly high limb you've climbed out on!
Howard says, "I think Nate Silver is brilliant..." and I'm just going to assume he finished that sentence by saying, "But for my money, you really can't beat the Huffington Post's own Mark Blumenthal!"
Now we've hit the part of the show where Chris Matthews rolls his favorite old clips from Saturday Night Live.
"Darrell Hammond..." says Matthews, kicking to commercial. Here's a more current clip to enjoy:
The field of not-Romneys has withered, says Matthews. Howard notes that the harshness of the camera has done most of the dirty work, chasing Romney's opponents from the field, and the debates have been a big part of the invisible primary. I'd add that Romney has been smart to stay out of the glare of the spotlight. Those instincts have proven to be very smart. I'd also point out that television has become a double-edged sword this year. Michele Bachmann needs to go on teevee regularly to get her message out in a cost-effective manner. It saves her money. But it also highlights her every flaw. Perry was probably at the cusp of a good decision to get out of those debates and just spend his money on retail politics. But peer pressure won out, and now he's going to back on that stage, undermining his efforts. It's a brutal cycle!
Fineman: "It's without the texting, like on Dancing With The Stars, but sort of the same concept." Actually, there's probably a lot of texting. But there's no paso dobles!
Can Newt win, asks Matthews? Borger says he's done well at the debates. Fineman just says no. He also points out that there will be, like, a kabillion debates between now and January 3rd.
Things that Chris Matthews does not know include: we're going to be the largest exporter of energy in the world in four or five years (Cramer), in the next several weeks it will be "interesting to watch what people like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee do" (Parker...if you say so!), Newt Gingrich will have a boomlet because of Cain's problems (Borger...along with every pundit everywhere, I mean, COULD THIS POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING MATTHEWS DIDN'T KNOW?), and university presidents are very worried about teaching hospitals, because the absence of a Super Committee deal could cause the decimation of that kind of research and training (Fineman).
Chris Matthews wants to know if the attitude that America is just one of many great countries instead of the Greatest In The Whole World "pessimism or realism?" Cramer says that China has money, and people admire money. (Uhm...people who admire China's money should try living in China, because I bet that totally resets what you admire in life.) Parker says it's pessimism and realism. She stole the hack answer! Gloria Borger says it's pessimism AND China! Whoa-ho! And Fineman notes that the youngs in America are capable of using the internet to learn about the world, and also TRAVEL to other parts of the world, and they return with a more realistic idea of what's going on.
OKAY! Let's watch Meet the Press!
MEET THE PRESS
Okay, now we're finally going to get into Herman Cain's violations of our Sexx Lawws.
And then we'll get to talking about the economy and how it affects...President Obama! MEET THE PRESS is America's leading news source for all the scuttlebutt about how a massive economic downturn only affected this one dude. Oh, and they booked Bill Richardson to talk about it? Awesome. Trenchant. Current. Cutting edge. As in: "I would like something with a cutting edge and electric current to dig an awesome trench in my brain, so I don't have to watch that!"
Plus Jon Huntsman is here! It's the sum of all relevancies!
And a panel discussion on Herman Cain's sexxy sexx problems with the sexxiest panel in seXXXland: Chris Matthews, Maggie Haberman, Kim Strassel, and Alex Castellanos.
Cain's favorable rating have fallen NINE -- that is, I repeat, NINE...NINE -- points in the week since everyone found out about some stuff that he was alleged to have done in the '90's. So Cain wants to get back on message. So much so that he's now telling reporters that HE IS GOING BACK ON MESSAGE. Which is not something that you are supposed to do! You don't say what you are going to do, Herman, you just do it. (Though maybe that's what got you in all this trouble in the first place, huh?)
Haley Barbour and Bill Richardson will explain all of this to us! How does Cain get back on message? Barbour says it's hard when everyone wants to talk about it. "When it's bad news, get it out fast...bad news isn't like fine wine, it doesn't get better with age." Good point: I was thinking about how Herman Cain's sex problems are like Beaujolais Nouveau.
He does not think it's "fatal," but people need to "know what the facts are." The sexxy, sexxy facts.
Does Richardson think it's fatal? "I don't have all the facts in this case," he says. The sexxy facts. But the extreme right wing of the Republican party has gone crazy on women, criminalizing things like IVF and birth control, so "what we're seeing is a huge assault on women's rights in the Republican party" and this "makes it hard for GOP nominees to be a centrist."
Barbour says that his discomfort with some of those laws stemmed from the fact that ectopic pregnancies happen and the life of the mother is at risk in those situations, but he still believes that life begins at conception and is comfortable with the root "ideas" of the laws if not the wording.
Barbour says that "there is a smell of Clarence Thomas" in the persecutions of Cain, though, as Gregory points out, there are key distinctions: one, the sexual harassment allegations are settled matters and two, it's not the accusers driving the issue out into the open.
Gregory changes the subject to Cain's minor China gaffe. I'm going to predict that Dave Gregory isn't smart enough to have read of be aware of Daniel Bice's scoop on the shady way Cain's campaign has been funded, and as a result, the most substantive news story about Cain won't get any airtime on this show, where people "meet" the "press." We'll see, though!
Instead, we're going to talk about that time Gregory totally nailed Cain for saying things about an electrified border fence, which he said he was joking about. Richardson takes a long pause, and then says it's "totally irresponsible" position to joke about immigration, and maybe voters in the West will punish the GOP. He also says that Obama was more foreign policy successes than the rest of the GOP field, and that it's crazy that Herman Cain doesn't know that China has nukes. This would all be relevant if Cain was going to end up the nominee, but he probably won't.
Well, Gregory would love to continue this mostly aimless conversation between two partisan hacks lobbing partisan hack loogies at the teevee, but now he must call a halt to it, because he has a very important interview with Jon Huntsman, who has CONSISTENTLY earned between zero and one percent in the polls. So he's kind of a big deal.
"I have to ask you about Herman Cain," says Gregory. Ha! No you don't! That's the amazing thing about being the host of a journalism show! You can decide for yourself what is important to ask! You don't have to come in with preconceived ideas about what is necessary or not necessary. You can make a judgment that there are things that people NEED to know, that trump the things you THINK people WANT to know. So you don't actually have to ask Jon Huntsman about Herman Cain. In fact, he probably would prefer you ask him about ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD. Butter tarts! V8 engines! The new Maroon 5 album.
Anyway, I don't have to liveblog Huntsman's answer to this question! Though I already sort of did. I also will not liveblog the TWO FOLLOWUP QUESTION ON THIS SUBJECT THAT GREGORY ASKED HUNTSMAN.
Now David Gregory is asking Huntsman a FOURTH question on Herman Cain, but it's at least about the whole China thing. Huntsman says there needs to be a "baseline of foreign policy knowledge" and in terms of the economy and global security, "we have to figure out a way to make a relationship" between the U.S. and China "work...and it would be nice to have a President who has a headstart on that."
Now Gregory will ask Huntsman about Mitt Romney. Huntsman says that "there is an issue on the flip-flops with regard to trust" and it's a problem whether you are "running for the White House or the Waffle House." Actually, I want my Waffle House managers to be gifted in the art of flipping and flopping, along with scattering, smothering, and covering! That's okay with me.
I'd love to hear Huntsman argue in favor of Huntsman, but so far Gregory's questions are all about other Presidential candidates, so Huntsman has to argue against other people.
Now Gregory is going to ask about Mormonism. I guess Gregory came into this knowing that Jon Huntsman was a 1) Mormon who had 2) been to China and who is 3) a totally different person than Herman Cain.
The question: "Do you think there will be a Mormon President, and when?" Pro-tip for David Gregory: when you can predict the answer a subject will give to a question, DO NOT ASK IT. What does he think Huntsman is going to say? "No, it's not going to happen. I don't know why I'm deluding myself!"
Huntsman, predictably says that of course there will be a Mormon president and it may happen soon and it's a "nonsense issue" to bring up when everyone is out of work. And yep, that's how that goes. I suppose it would have been very newsy if Huntsman had responded to that question by answering, "Hmmm. Now that you bring it up David, I want everyone to know that I am officially now a worshipper of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of the Aztecs. I will offer him my body this weekend at the Temple at Xochicalco. My daughters will be live-tweeting that, so tune in!"
Huntsman doesn't think the GOP should "run away from mainstream science." So, you know, more new ground broken in the Huntsman campaign! He goes on to say that everyone on the debate stage with him was in favor of default in the debt ceiling debate. First, I don't think that's true, I believe Rick Santorum said that was nuts. Second, Huntsman VERY MUCH DID stand on that stage and raised his hand in objection to a debt ceiling deal that featured $10 in cuts to every $1 raised in revenue because -- like an extremist! -- he was against even that much revenue.
All David Gregory wants Huntsman to do is say that Mitt Romney would not beat Obama. Though he would support him! So, these are some important facts we've learned about Huntsman.
Now David Gregory wants to ask Huntsman about Sarah Palin! Who isn't a figure in the 2012 election at all! But Huntsman introduced her at the Republican Convention in 2008. Huntsman said he was asked to do so because he was one of the few people that "actually knew her." But this is all beside the point! WHY IS THERE A NEWS SHOW ASKING JON HUNTSMAN ABOUT SARAH PALIN IN 2008?
Now Gregory is relating some jokes THE ONION wrote about Huntsman's campaign to Huntsman. Here's the question: "Sometimes satire has a ring of truth to it...are you a moderate?" You know, it would be just nuts to examine Huntsman's career and his voting record and make your own conclusions. Better to ask him yourself, based upon the "ring of truth" suggested by a fake newspaper blurb.
Huntsman says that as governor he explored the issue of mandates in health care reform, but ultimately went with another program that didn't feature mandates, and again, this is something that's long been known about Huntsman, certainly by the people who watch this show.
Huntsman confidently declares that we will not be bailing out banks anymore, but I don't know, the new Basel III financial regulatory standards seem to suggest otherwise!
I don't think David Gregory understands some of the things he's saying. Here he is, trying to get Huntsman to answer a question, "If you had been the deciding vote, would you have voted against TARP?"
JON HUNTSMAN: You can't go back and relive those days. You can say that we've learned a lot of lessons --
DAVID GREGORY: No, but you can --
HUNTSMAN: -- from those days.
DAVID GREGORY: Governor, this is important, and I've asked other candidates this. It's easy now to look back and say, "Oh, I wouldn't have supported that." If you were the deciding vote under those circumstances, when you have major figures saying, "We could risk the entire U.S. economy if we don't bail out the banks," you would have said, "Wrong thing to do, I'm going to vote against it"?
That's the thing! IT IS EASY for someone to say, "I would have done things differently if I'd been in charge way back then." If you BELIEVE THAT, David, then why are posing just such a question?
Huntsman says that "life begins at fertilization" goes too far, and he still supports abortion rights in the case of rape and incest. That's basically as "moderate" as you get from Huntsman, and by the way, it's NOT A MODERATE POSITION. It's just that the Overton Window has moved considerably into bonkersauce territory as of late.
Huntsman still thinks he can win New Hampshire, which is adorable. He does acknowledge that if he doesn't win New Hampshire, "that's it."
Now David Gregory is showing Jon Huntsman his daughters' video, spoofing the Mark Block smoking video. This is all very of-the-moment.
Okay, panel time! What about all this Herman Cain stuff? It's crazy, right? Look at the dumb, non-serious candidate stumble! Maggie Haberman says that the Cain campaign is mailing the code of journalistic ethics to people at Politico, which is hilarious. He's also mulling suing Politico, and really, that's so smart -- sue a bunch of people with unlimited newsgathering and news publishing bandwidth, in a way that ensures every sordid detail of your life gets disclosed. Cain is a genius.
Strassel: "Cain seems to be prolonging this, and making it worse." Yes. It's been like news-cycle Cialis.
GREGORY: "I mean, I think there's like an alternative universe thing that they're doing here, which is to say, "Hey, not only are we not going to talk about the substance of this, not only are my answers going to be all over the place in the course of a week, but what this is really about is the press. What it's really about is official Washington. I'm an outsider."
Ha, yes. That is real "alternate universe stuff," provided you just joined out universe today.
Castellanos thinks that the anti-media campaign is smart and could immunize Cain and allow him to win the Iowa caucus and maybe go on to become the President. Which is the last thing Herman Cain actually wants to happen!
Chris Matthews: "I think doubled-down is the right phrase." Actually, talk to a blackjack player, Chris, because it's almost NEVER the right phrase when any of you guys use it in a political context.
The chyron on the screen reads, "The Herman Cain Controversy." I hope that sepia filters are still around when Ken Burns does his twelve part documentary on this.
Maggie Haberman is pretty sure that Mitt Romney is doing a better job not talking about Herman Cain's sexual harassment allegations than Cain is doing talking about them.
CASTELLANOS: "Mitt Romney's about to get two months of brutal television. You know, some of Mitt Romney's flexibility and uncertainty's built into his stock price, but America's never seen $20 million worth of flip-flop ads. If he collapses, any of these Republican candidates could end up as the nominee because then you're going to be picking from a basket of fruit in which none of them are really ripe."
Brutal television and fruitbaskets. Yep, that sounds like what every week of my life, studying political coverage, is like.
Now we've reached the part of the show in which the massive unemployment crisis in America leads David Gregory to ruminate on the book Chris Matthews just wrote about Jack Kennedy. YES. THAT IS LITERALLY WHERE THE DISCUSSION IS GOING.
"Who is Barack Obama's Bobby Kennedy?" Matthews asks. Right. I mean, why hasn't the Council of Economic Advisers figured this out yet?
"Look at the new Bill Clinton book," Gregory advises. I'm not sure if he's saying, "Oh, hello my fellow Beltway toffs, have you read the new Bill Clinton book?" or, "Attention desperately poor people, this new Clinton book holds the answer to you being able to feed yourself as everything goes to shit," but I have my guesses.
Finally we get to the part of this show where David Gregory remembers some things he did a few minutes ago, and today he remembers that a few minutes ago, he was interviewing Jon Huntsman about Mitt Romney. Strassel observes that Mitt Romney is often tagged as a flip-flopper. This is all amazing analysis. A lot of risk-taking. No one's just out there saying plainly obvious things, no no!
OK, that's another week in the life of someone who watches these shows and writes a blog post about them. I'll be back November 20th. I hope all of you have a lovely fortnight!
[More liveblog is on the way, promise!]