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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

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Good morning, everybody and welcome back to your Sunday Morning Liveblog of chat-show based political balloon juice. My name is Jason. Did everyone enjoy that Sunday Morning debate last week? Really settled some issues for everyone, I think. Definitely worth conceiving and staging. These debates are not at all becoming a pointless blur. "So, let me get that straight, tax cuts for some, tiny American flags for the rest? Okay, have we gotten to the point where everyone tells Ron Paul he's dangerous for not wanting to bomb Iran immediately? No? Okay, I'm just going to hum to myself for, like, half an hour."

Here's a schedule of the coming political death cycle for January. I'm pretty sure the point of it all is to make us feel bad. That's why these Sunday shows are so important, in that it allows us to build up a reservoir of antibodies. Anyway, as usual, you should feel free to hang out in the comments, or send me emails, or follow me on Twitter. Away we go!

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

"Can anyone stop Mitt Romney?" asks Chris Wallace. So, today is going to be a day dedicated to finding out. Plus, a shoutfest over the private equity industry between someone from the Club for Growth and a guy who helped distribute that "King Of Bain" documentary. Later, maybe the id and the superego will try to murder one another.

But first, can we talk about Rick Santorum. In the least surprising thing to happen ever, a mysterious cabal of social conservatives met in Texas, slaughtered some farm animals, waded through their entrails in the blood-orgy of panicked decision making, and have decided that they will bring their full might behind Rick Santorum, as he fights off Mitt Romney. This probably would have been more useful many months ago!

So, Santorum is here now, to talk about it. The "practical effect" it will have on his campaign, he says, is that this group has anointed him as "the consistent conservative" who will fight debt and sharia law and Newt Gingrich. He'll benefit from a "network of grassroots leaders." Will he also benefit from getting money? Santorum isn't sure. Just that he's getting support, in the form of endorsements, support, maybe some money.

But shouldn't other people -- like Perry and Gingrich -- get out of the race, now? Santorum says "we've got to get down to a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney" but that he's "not going to tell anyone to get out of the race." Why not? You can at least start making fun of Gingrich and Perry, right? He says that once he gets this down to a two person race, he'll prevail.

Also, Romney's record is a "scarlet letter," because it had a baby with Arthur Dimmesdale. (It's name was "Obamacare.")

Santorum says that he's attracting all manner of conservatives. All of whom hate Mitt Romney. He also says that he's a truer conservative than Newt Gingrich because he was the guy that conservative organizations came to for leadership, and on the other hand, they all hated Gingrich.

But he voted against the National Right To Work law and for the Davis-Bacon Act, so is he some sort of union loving hippie? Santorum says essentially, "something, something, Pennsylvania" and that as President he'd support those things he didn't back then, and be against the stuff he was for. He needed to represent Pennsylvania as its Senator, as President, though, Pennsylvania can go suck it. Wallace points out that Mitt Romney has made similar excuses and explanations, and Santorum says oh, yes, but he was the GOVERNOR you see, I was a SENATOR. "I would have changed those laws within a state, but not have the Federal government change them." He just said, though, that he'd sign these laws as President -- he understands that the Presidency is part of the "Federal Government," right?

Wallace asks about his tax plan, which cuts corporate taxes to 17% except for manufacturing, which he'd cut to zero. National Review doesn't like it, but Santorum says that they're criticism is outrageous, and the high rates of taxation "are making our manufacturing base uncompetitive with the rest of the world." He says that if you ask the big lobbying group that represents manufacturers, they surprisingly support their tax rate being lowered to zero.

But isn't this "picking winners and losers?" (For instance, Santorum would triple the tax credit for having children.) Wallace points out that many conservatives hate his plan, because it basically makes the liberal argument that taxes can be deployed to achieve outcomes. Santorum, strangely, argues that if you "look at Europe" you'll see that their governments aren't doing enough to support people who have children. Huh? That's a big area for the government to intervene.

He goes on to talk about children as "a natural resource" and "human capital" and "wealth creators" and it all sort harkens back to when we were an agrarian society, and it's sort of creepy, hearing about children as if they were chattel.

How does Santorum feel about all the attacks on Bain Capital and Super PACs? Santorum says that he hopes that his super PAC will listen to him when he asks them to not do things that aren't true. He complains that a Romney ad has been slagging him with falsehoods in South Carolina. Clever, clever, turning this on Mitt. Wallace asks what can be done if the super PAC ignores the person it's nominally working for? Santorum says that if Mitt Romney can't persuade his super PAC to do something, how can he work as President. Clever, clever. That was a good bit of off-the-cuff improvisation, and he knows it.

Okay, time now for the segment on Bain Capital. If you've not read my recap of this awesomely over-the-top thing, "King Of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came To Town," please check it out. It is bonkers.

Here to yell at each other is Gingrich surrogate Rick "Billowing Tweets McGee" Tyler and Chris "Count Chocula" Chocola, from the Club For Growth. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT.

Why won't Tyler do what Gingrich has asked, which is to take down the ad? Because the whole point of having a super PAC is to lie and smear and make what are commonly considered to be "dick moves." Tweets McGee says that he is well within his rights to leave the ad up, that only Romney can answer the questions raised by the movie, and that if he can, they'll adjust the movie. But as it stand, Romney is a lying liar, and Tweets McGee stands by the movie. Tweets and Wallace talk about Glenn Kessler's factchecking as if Kessler loved the the mini-film. He did not! He said it was full of lies.

Tweets also says that some of the "hyperbole" that is complained about "isn't in the ad." Wallace says, "But, it's in the film you're running." "Yes," says Tweets. Is that how we are snaking this? The big 30 minute thing is filled with deception but the 30 and 60 second cutdowns they air on teevee aren't, so the whole enterprise is above board?

Well, Count Chocula doesn't agree with that, he says the ad is "disgusting" and "economically ignorant." He says that it reminds him of "Michael Moore and President Obama" and is about "looting rich guys." Capitalism, he says, "has done more for the soul of the human race than any other system." TOTALLY. Remember when Simon of Cyrene helped capitalism carry its cross to Golgotha? It's because Simon said, "now there's a system that will die for man's sins, and I just shorted sinfulness today."

Anyway, the Count says that the King of Bain thing has been discredited, the candidate who it nominally supports has disavowed it, the people in the movie have complained that the end product isn't accurate or fair, and that "there's no good reason to continue with it."

Where's the evidence that Bain was "looting" companies? Tweets McGee says that Bain made money shorting a pension fund, for instance. And then he says that he has no problem with "vulture capitalists," and that "vultures are good." BUT-BUT-YOU MADE A MOVIE...WHAT? Tyler says that the point it, Romney was not "a high-flying eagle of job creation," and that if he ran on the platform that he made great ROI, he'd have no dispute. He says that his only beef is that Romney presents himself as a job creator. (The mini-movie, goes way farther than this. It DEFINITELY criticizes Romney for vulture capitalism. It explicitly contends that it's immoral to be in the business that Bain is in, full stop.)

Count Chocula says that his experience with private equity firms was more positive than the way it's depicted in the "King Of Bain" movie, and that while "the real record of Mitt Romney" has many things that concern him, the Bain capital stuff isn't among them. He maintains that the movie presents a distorted view.

Wallace cites the UniMac section of the movie, which is being called a distortion. Glenn Kessler has a more detailed version of what Wallace summarizes:

In the film, three former employees of UniMac, which makes commercial washing machines, appear to suggest that quality went down under Bain Capital’s management and that a plant in Marianna, Fla., was closed because of Romney’s actions.

But the chronology is all jumbled. Bain Capital bought the business from Raytheon in 1998, and Romney left Bain a year later to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2005, Bain sold UniMac (also called Alliance Laundry) to a Canadian entity known as Teachers’ Private Capital. The factory was moved from Marianna to Ripon, Wisc., in 2006, after Bain’s involvement ended — a fact made clear on the Web site of a laundry repair business co-owned by the people featured in the film.

In fact, Mike Baxley, who was interviewed for the film, said that he and his partner had “absolutely no idea” that the interviews were for a film about Romney and Bain. He said they thought they were being interviewed for a documentary about the factory closing.

“They said they wanted to know what it was like when the factory closed down,” he said, and he, his partner and his partner’s wife agreed to interviews after “they flashed a little money at us.” (Baxley, a Republican who said he had not yet thought much about the nomination contest, declined to reveal the amount.)

After watching “King of Bain” at The Fact Checker’s request, he said: “We were pretty shocked. Our quotes were seriously taken out of context. There is a real lack of facts.”

Indeed, Baxley, Tommy Jones and Tammy Jones barely mention Romney and Bain as they talk about their angst about the factory closing; the narrator of the film inserts suggestions that Romney was responsible.

The film suggests that UniMac is out of business, but Baxley noted that UniMac is still going strong at its new headquarters in Wisconsin. He said that the same upper management team ran the company during the course of the various investments by outside partners such as Bain, and that Bain appeared to have little involvement in UniMac’s management.

Tweets McGee says he has documentation that has Romney at Bain until 2001. Wallace points out that's not the point, that UniMac wasn't sold off until 2005. He also says that the people he talked to object to the way their statements were used. Then Wallace and Tweets argue over the timeline and what happened, and over Gingrich's own career in private equity. Tweets continues to say that he doesn't have a problem with private equity, he has a problem with Romney's record -- inclusive of all political issues and positions -- and that Newt's past is irrelevant. But the movie doesn't have anything at all to say about Romney's "record." It has to do with his time at Bain Capital, and that Bain Capital was an awful money-sucking lamprey of evil.

Wallace just goes on to straight wreck Tweets McGee, who comes off like a used car salesman. Count Chocula says that the King of Bain is "simply fiction." Wallace says that Newt himself turned down an offer to come on the show today.

Okay, panel time with Brit Hume and Kirsten Powers and Bill Kristol and Juan Williams.

Hume says that this weekend's mega-endorsement of Santorum from social conservatives can't hurt Santorum's chances, though endorsements by themselves aren't things that necessarily move the needle. Santorum needs his fellow Not Romneys to drop out -- "Gingrich and Perry in particular." Powers says there's no guarantee that voters will listen to these social conservative leaders, and that they should have gotten involved in this much earlier. She goes on to note that the economy remains the key issue with voters, not social issues.

Kristol says he has no idea what will happen. Anything may happen. He thinks that Romney won't "close out the race" if he keeps getting a mere "35% of the vote."

Williams says that it's a big deal for Santorum to have this endorsement, because it restores some of his energy. That said, Williams thinks that Santorum would have been better off skipping New Hampshire and going right to South Carolina.

Hume says that there is some polling evidence that suggests that Gingrich may have hurt himself with the "King of Bain" ad, which is hilarious, because the only reason Gingrich ran it was because he thought he needed to batter Romney for all the damage Romney's super PAC did to him. (Powers, nevertheless, feels that Romney hasn't done a good job beating back the attack, and that the issue remains a potent weapon against Romney in the general election.)

Meanwhile, some Marines desecrated some bodies in Afghanistan, and it's put troops in danger and diplomatic resolutions to the war at risk. Naturally, Kristol thinks that the Marines erred and should be punished, but that all the reaction from officials like Hillary Clinton is "over the top" and "sanctimonious" and he doesn't understand why there's a need to "opine" on the matter. (Here's a hint: it's because the video has put their "work" at risk?) Kristol says that it would have been nice for Panetta or Clinton to have "said something nice" about all the other soldiers who didn't piss on dead people for fun. (It's because that line of reasoning is known as "a dodge" and that it sets a standard for criticism that Kristol himself would be hard pressed to follow.)

That said, okay, let's talk about how awesome most of our soldiers are, who are more likely to demonstrate tremendous character, as opposed to tremendous failings, like the awesome crew of Iraq War vets who responded to a hate crime being perpetrated against an Iraqi restauranteur in Lowell, New Hampshire by bringing their families to the restaurant to stage an "Eat In" in support of the owners. There! That's our small victory against cynicism.

Anyway, the Taliban called the actions "despicable." I will NOTE THE IRONY. Williams says that well, we should adhere to our own standards, and not pretend that the Taliban set the standard. Hume points out that we kill people with drones, all the time, and is that "despicable?" Williams says oh well that's war, whatchoogonnado? So, okay, kill a mofeaux from space, but don't piss on the corpse.

But what of the strain this places on peace talks? Well, Kristol thinks that peace talks are a bad idea and that we should totally stay in Afghanistan and it's crazy to want to leave, seeing that we're so successful. It's the sort of success that does not at all lead to the sort of psychic frustrations that cause a man to piss on a corpse!

What are the chances we can stop the Iranian nuclear program without an all out military attack? Hume says, "stop is a big word." But we can delay and obstruct them, and that's "a good thing."

FACE THE NATION

Face the Nation is getting to end of its days as a half-hour show, but today, it's still having to pack a lot of topic into a very short period of time. Santorum and Gingrich are on today, as well as Jim DeMint and Jodi Kantor. Let the breakneck begin!

First, we have Gingrich, in Charleston, South Carolina, home of Poogan's Porch, the best low-country yum-yums available when you're there.

Schieffer notes that Romney "dumped a load" on Gingrich (not confortable with the poo-play this early on a Sunday, but okay) in Iowa and now, in having his vengeance -- HIS SWEET SWEET VENEANCE -- critics say Gingrich is "doing Barack Obama's work for him." Gingrich says that no one complained when Romney was being a big old jerk, and now they're complaining and it's not fair, because he's a "good conservative" who can "draw a sharp contrast with Obama" and Romney can't, because he's terrible.

He goes on to say that "from the standpoint of the conservative movement" a guy who raised taxes and was "for gun control" and for Planned Parenthood wasn't fit to wear the mantle of Reagan and Goldwater, whereas he will "arouse" the conservative movement, with endless lectures and Lincoln-Douglas debates. He'll totally help Romney, if it comes to it, but he'll need a LOT of help, is his point. Because Romney is a Massachusetts moderate, and Gingrich is a guy who didn't even get on his home state's ballot.

"I think it's very hard to differentiate RomneyCare from ObamaCare," says Gingrich. Four years ago, the WHOLE POINT OF ROMNEY was that he created RomneyCare. Conservatives loved it, and didn't call it "moderate."

Schieffer recalls that time that Gingrich called Romney a liar, and comes back with a question that comes from having thought about that moment a lot since then: when he called Romney a liar, was it referring to what Romney said about him, or was is referring to Romney's entire record. Gingrich says it's the total record, and that he doesn't equivocate. When you look at his record, he says, it's simply more liberal than the average South Carolinian would be comfortable with -- which isn't really the basis of an accusation of lying. Gingrich goes on to cite various Glenn Kessler "four Pinocchio" ratings...but this "King of Bain" ad that Gingrich has launched has ALSO gotten lots of Pinocchios.

Aren't you glad about the not-at-all cartoonish way we talk about lying in politics?

What about that ad, by the way? Will they comply with Gingrich's wishes to take the ad down. Gingrich says that it's a "public conversation" because it's illegal to coordinate with the super PAC and HE COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE COORDINATED with his super PAC, run by his pals! Gingrich says he is setting a standard -- of pretending to be outraged about the ad -- that Romney hasn't met.

In case you haven't guessed, I take the extreme position that anyone who says they are not coordinating with their super PAC is a liar. I am comfortable taking this extreme position because it also happens to be the correct position. You literally have to be a STONE IDIOT to believe it's not going on. Don't be a stone idiot, is my recommendation.

Is Gingrich only helping the Obama re-elect team? Gingrich launches into a reverie about the NFL and the playoffs and says that the Superbowl contenders will be seasoned and tough, and he supports the Packers, because of all of Aaron Rodgers' advertisements filled with lies! He says that it's his way of "raising the questions" in advance of "the Obama onslaught," only to "collapse." Scheiffer asks, "So you are referring to Romney?" And Gingrich says, essentially, yes.

Now we move on to Rick Santorum. Santorum agrees with Newt that Romney does not allow for a "stark contrast" with Obama, and Romney's ties to ObamaCare are disqualifying. He goes on to say, "To have the two of them up against each other...would be a case of malpractice on the part of primary voters." Yeah, well, none of you Not-Romneys have been worth a damn in making a case against Romney and keeping voters convinced of it, but this is definitely the fault of the voters. It's their malpractice.

So, would Romney be the worst candidate that the GOP could put forward? Santorum doesn't go that far (probably because he hates Ron Paul even more!), but he says that Romney is terrible, compared to him. Romney's record makes it hard for others to support him, and it makes it harder to govern with a conservative mandate.

Santorum rages against the "establishment" being "comfortable with a little bit of change" and anointing an "electable" candidate early, when they could be getting behind someone who wants a lot of change, like, say himself. America, he says, does not need a candidate who will make the establishment comfortable and that he will be the guy who will make them uncomfortable. He will totally creep them out. He'll follow the conservative establishment to the grocery store and stare at them. And when he passes the conservative establishment in the halls, he'll mutter, "You know what you did."

Schieffer asks why he'd be better than Ron Paul and Newt. Santorum says that he agrees with Ron Paul on fiscal matters, but hates that he is "part of the Dennis Kucinich wing" on national security. As for Gingrich, he says that he's a better leader, for conservatives, than Gingrich. There was a coup against Gingrich, he reminds us. (There was also an election in Pennsylvania, drumming Santorum out of office, but never mind, I guess!)

All of the sudden, interview over, and now Senator Jim DeMint is here, to talk about stuff.

As for Romney ending up the nominee, DeMint says he'd be fine with Mitt, and that Republicans will unite behind Romney if he's the nominee. Schieffer cites this part of this recent Matt Bai article:

I met Karen Martin, a few days before New Year’s, at a cafe in Greenville, the hub of conservative politics in South Carolina. A 54-year-old refugee from the North Shore of Massachusetts, Martin is the lead organizer of the nearby Spartanburg Tea Party. Another Tea Party leader described her to me as a grown-up, and in fact, Martin turned out to be the kind of activist — ideology notwithstanding — who makes you feel hopeful about the new age of political uprising. She recounted how she burst into tears at the moment she realized, watching the news in 2008, that children growing up today wouldn’t have the economic opportunities that she did. She talked about how the Tea Party would need to mature and become more politically sophisticated in the years ahead. “I think the movement is just too young and too emotional,” she said.

Then our conversation turned to Mitt Romney, and Martin’s sunny countenance darkened. “I don’t know a single Tea Party person,” she said, slowly drawing out her words, “who does not despise Mitt Romney to the very core of their being.” I searched her face for levity or compassion, but found neither.

DeMint says that there's no one who can speak for the Tea Party. But that's not really what this lady is saying. She's a witness to the discontent of people speaking for themselves. But I'll let it go, because it can't be "proven" one way or the other.

DeMint says he has no plan of offering an endorsement prior to the South Carolina primary, and is more conserned with the Senate.

Schieffer asks how Congress can work without compromise (a chapter of his book is titled "No Compromise with Democrats). He just doesn't want to, basically! Asked why conservatives can't even agree on a candidate, he says it's not unusual -- but that the nominee will have to put together a "platform to unite us."

Now, Jodi Kantor is here to talk about her book, The Obamas. Schieffer says he's surprised at the reaction from the White House, because to his mind, Michelle Obama is depicted very positively. Kantor says that it surprises her as well, after all, it's a book about adaptation and adjustment and success and failure, and I don't imagine that the White House is objecting to the "success" part! Kantor says that Michelle is protrayed as a "strong woman" whose "inital landing in Washington" was "quite difficult," and that it wasn't an attempt to portray her as "angry." "She came to Washington with low expectations and exceeded them."

She goes on to say that the small circle of advisors that forms the administration's core are "not as united" as they've been made out to be, and it raises the question as to whether Obama has demonstrated the requisite management skills as president, and whether or not they can get it together to win a re-election campaign.

Schieffer says that he thinks it's weird that people share their feelings on Facebook and Twitter but didn't expect the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring these communications. "Well, of course they have," says Schieffer, "and of course, they went too far." Interesting idea, though. Schieffer suggests that now, the monitors will be reined in. Not sure they will! Anyway, it's all weird to Schieffer, but it's probably true nonetheless that in some way, our social media habits probably make us beggars to our own demise. I WILL TWEET SOME MORE FEELINGS ABOUT THIS, OBVIOUSLY.

THIS WEEK, WITH WHOEVER THEY NOW HAVE DOING THIS SHOW, WHATEVER

Apparently, Stephen Colbert has gotten top billing over Rick Perry, which is pretty hilarious. Colbert latest venture into super PAC criticism was really superlative, by the way. Joined by Trevor Potter and Jon Stewart for a ceremonial passing of the control of the super PAC, Colbert created some terrific satire. The way Stewart and Colbert giddily laugh and the leniency of the super PAC regulations is just wonderful. And this all spun out of a poll that had Colbert ahead of Jon Huntsman! What they created from that little news tidbit -- which is funny enough on its own, is just terrific, high-level, bend-the-joke comedy.

Now, I guess we'll find out if Stephanopoulos is able to yank out the seriousness behind the satire, or if he's just going to point and laugh. (In fairness, this is what you risk, with satire.)

Hey, are we not at the Newseum anymore? I guess not.

Good news for Perry, he actually gets top-billing. Or, is this actually like Rick Perry opening for Colbert? And here's a better question: why is Rick Perry still running. And will I accidentally type "Steve Perry" and fail to correct it?

GSteph asks Perry if South Carolina is his "Alamo," referring to the popular car rental company. He says that he "doesn't think so." He goes on to say that he talks to people about jobs, and being a consistent conservative, and that his retail politics are "awesome." GSteph points out, however, that Perry did not win the endorsement of this weekend's confab of social conservatives. Perry responds by saying, "That's what they said about Ronald Reagan." Totally true! Can't count the number of times I heard, "Pffft. If Ronald Reagan is so great, why doesn't he have the support of social conservatives who will meet in Texas many years after his death?" Well, there are no easy answers to that question! (Of course, with Perry, there are no easy answers to the question, "What comes after two?")

Perry says his message, this week, is "jobs" and "experience" and "jobs" and "Texas" and "low taxes" and "military history" and "commander in chief (of a few troops in Texas)."

Perry, like Gingrich, has been slammed for piling on Romney with the Bain Capital attacks. Perry says that it's not new to call someone a venture capitalist and that some random guy from Team Romney said something similar about Meg Whitman (presumably not recently, as Whitman is a Romney backer). "If it is a fatal flaw, then we need to talk about it now," says Perry, who reminds everyone that he is the job creator, and Romney is not. (He cites support from Sarah Palin, who would like Romney to answer the job creation question with a straight answer.)

Argh. Somehow Arsenal managed to lose to Swansea today. This fact is probably of no interest to any of you.

Anyway, back to Perry. What does he plan to do if he doesn't finish first or second in South Carolina? He says he doesn't have one, but his plan is to win the state. (SPOILER ALERT: He won't.)

And that's it! Perry gets three or four minutes, and it's on to Colbert, who I guess has a more realistic chance of winning the Palmetto State, because South Carolina is uniquely prone to improv comedy. (Lots of people don't know this, but the whole Fort Sumter thing was actually just a Second City sketch that went horribly wrong.)

Colbert points out that at the moment, he does not have a "presidential campaign." Rather, he has an "exploratory committee" that is assessing the "hunger" in South Carolina for his run. But, as Stephanopoulos (and I am already sick of having to type that name again) points out, Colbert has an uphill battle:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in the South Carolina Republican Party. Here's what Matt Moore had to say about it. There's no blank space on voting machines to write-in a candidate. Stephen Colbert has about as much a chance of being elected president in South Carolina as he does of being elected pope. Zero.

COLBERT: First of all, I'm a Roman Catholic and I teach Sunday school. So I'd say, I have a pretty good shot of being pope. A better shot than Matt Moore does, down in South Carolina.

GSteph points out that he cannot be Pope, if he's married. George! The first rule of improv is that you never say no to the premise.

Now they are talking about whether or not Colbert might run as a third party. Colbert says that he is exploring the hunger. He's also willing, as someone who's holding five percent of the vote in South Carolina, to throw that weight behind another candidate, if they're willing to come to him and "kiss his ring." Which they are free to do this week.

Finally we get to discussion of the Super PAC. The Colbert super PAC has an ad in which Romney is depicted as a serial killer. Colbert, naturally, says that he's never seen the ad:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mitt Romney, a serial killer? "Mitt the Ripper"?

COLBERT: That's powerful stuff. That's powerful stuff.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Doesn't that cross the line?

COLBERT: I had nothing to do with that ad. I have no control over that ad. If anything in that ad is inaccurate, if he did not say "corporations are people," and if he did not make his money cutting up...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're calling him a serial killer.

COLBERT: ... corporate -- I am not calling anybody a serial killer. I can't tell Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow what to do. It's not my super PAC, George. It's the super PAC of, and I hope I'm pronouncing this correctly, Jon "Stew-air"? I believe it's a soft "T."

But, listen, if that's not accurate, I hope they take it down. I don't know if Mitt Romney is a serial killer. That's a question he's going to have to answer. But I know one thing, that sounds like it's superstar actor Jon Lithgow voicing that. And he played a serial killer on "Dexter." Two points make a line.

Stephanopoulous does not say, "I think you are bullshitting me and that you are coordinating with this super PAC and that you're actually perfectly happy with this outrageous ad airing and that you are being a complete liar and phony." Which is exactly the thing he will not say to the other, for-real candidates, when they attempt this nonsense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But who are you looking at for vice president?

COLBERT: Well, I -- George, I certainly -- I'm looking at myself right now. You know, I read The New York Times last week that there are three Stephen Colberts, one of those two other guys might be a good vice presidential candidate. If I'm running, and I'm not...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have to be born in two different states, according to the Constitution.

COLBERT: Really? Well, I was born in Washington, D.C., which isn't a state at all. So I think I've got it covered all around.

Washington DC would like to thank Steven Colbert for getting the District's representationless state aired as a part of this discussion.

"Do you get your questions from anywhere but Facebook?" asks Colbert. (Only the good ones!)

He bends the question back around to super PACs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you believe in super PACs. You believe they're full expression of the First Amendment?

COLBERT: Without a doubt, do you not, George? Do you not believe that some -- are you saying...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm asking the questions today, Mr. Colbert.

COLBERT: Well, you answer one of my questions, I'll answer one of yours. Do you believe that corporations are people?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not going to weigh in on that. We're going to have a long campaign here. But I want to know what you think about that.

COLBERT: Really? Corporations are people. You won't weigh in on whether some people are people. That seems kind of racist, George.

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I am going to move on because one of your top supporters...

COLBERT: Really, I bet you will.

Now, for some reason, we're litigating the battle between Jon Stewart and Roger Ailes. And he bends even this back to the ridiculous anti-logic of super PACs:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But listen to this, what Roger Ailes, the chairman of FOX News, said about him. He said that Stewart "hates conservative views, he hates conservative thoughts, he hates conservative verbiage, he hates conservatives, he's crazy. If it wasn't polarized he couldn't make a living. He makes a living by attacking conservatives and stirring up a liberal base against it." It's not going to help you all that much in South Carolina to have someone who, according to Roger Ailes, hates conservatives supporting you.

COLBERT: No, Roger is a friend. We hit the steam room together a lot. And I usually do his back. I agree with Roger. I mean, that's why I'm disavowing anything that Jon Stewart does that is not accurate. I believe that Jon Stewart is a loose cannon. I believe that he's a liberal. I believe that he has it in for conservatives. And that's why I think if any of these ads are inaccurate, if any of these ads cause trouble, that's Jon Stewart actually trying to undermine my exploratory committee, because, again, I don't have a super PAC anymore. That's Jon Stewart's super PAC.

Colbert insists that his mock campaign is not a mock campaign, and the interesting thing is -- he's sort of right. He's using the same rules that everyone else is using, doing exactly what the other candidates have done, save for the fact that he's being honest about the absurdities of the process. One real problem he has, however, is taking the joke from the controlled environment of his show to a setting like This Week, where you have a host who doesn't know whether to be an interviewer or a comedy partner and is splitting the difference.

Nevertheless, the lesson is obvious: super PACs should be considered mechanisms that engender and spread dishonesty.

Panel time, with Cokie Roberts, George Will, Paul Krugman, Peggy Noonan, and Jonathan Karl, whose weird animated summary of the week in politics we are happy is gloriously absent.

Will says that at this point, it's looking like the "whole contest will be over by the thirty-first day of this month." He says this because the Not Romney vote is getting split and will continue to be split, but I'd rather ask this question: George, come on. "The thirty-first day of this month?" You understand, don't you, that normal human beings say things like "the end of January." Must we infuse everything with gauzy, poetic filigrees?

What am I talking about, in a minute Peggy Noonan is going to start talking and she'll make George Will look like the Sol LeWitt of pundit rhetoric.

Karl says that while Rick Santorum won all that support of secret social conservatives, it wasn't a slam dunk, and it isn't clear that it's helping in South Carolina. He notes that lots of absentee ballots have been submitted, and that only the Romney campaign is running an absentee outreach program. (Actually, I'd be surprised if Paul's campaign isn't up on that -- that's the sort of detail those guys don't miss.)

Noonan says that all the hype about social conservatives taking down Romney is the "dog that didn't bark" in this campaign, which is 100% true. Roberts points out that any discomfort South Carolinians have with Romney's Mormonism may well be set off by their discomfort with Santorum's Catholicism.

And Krugman notes that in races like this, the party typically comes home to the economic conservative, not the social conservative.

Do the Bain attacks immunize Romney or infect him. Will says that on balance it will immunize Romney. "It's much better to have this argument now than it is in October," he says. Krugman disagrees: "It only immunizes him if it goes away," and notes that there's always something more to learn about Bain. Noonan says, "There's no inoculating Romney against the Bain attacks."

NOONAN: Romney has been coming forward, identifying himself as a businessman, a job creator, a man who knows how to turn around an economy, and that's a good place to be and Republicans love that person. However, there's a strong populist streak in the Republican Party, and there's a sense that they don't like these Wall Street sharpies who, in the 1990s and in the '00s, were rapacious, greedy and bad guys. There's a difference between I'm a businessman and oh, my gosh, I was secretly a bad guy. That's the potential harm.

Karl notes that the Bain attacks, so far, has been clumsy. (True! Which means non-clumsy attacks are still possible.) He's mystified that more obvious attacks on his record as governor of Massachusetts have been slow in coming.

Roberts says that typically, the business types don't get votes because their lack of political ability is so glaring. I'm not sure that will apply in Romney's case, though. Doesn't he have some "political ability?" We're not talking about Meg Whitman, who was hopelessly inept.

Will and Noonan are having a dialectic today, between historian and speechwriter. And it involves Joseph Schumpeter!

WILL: The fact is, capitalism, in some of its aspects, is a lot like surgery, it's necessary. But you don't want to look at it up close because it's unpleasant. And I think the American people understand this. George, the part of our society that has seen the most creative destruction is the intensive industry of agriculture. A hundred years ago, 30 percent of the American people were working in agriculture. Today it's less than 2 percent. I don't think the Americans are upset by that.

[...]

NOONAN: One of the great phrases that has been used in defense of venture capitalism and Bain Capital is Schumpeter's "creative destruction." Whenever I hear Republicans say that, I want to say, you know what, America has been looking for five years at a lot of destruction, creative and non-creative. They're not going to like that defense. They're going to like a defense that says, guess what, I can create jobs, I have a plan. We can move this thing forward. We can save our country. Treatises on the essential nature of capitalism, I think, won't do it for Mr. Romney.

And then Krugman adds:

KRUGMAN: Yes. If we just talk substance about that instead of the campaign for a moment, the fact of the matter is that creative destruction is a great thing when the economy is near full employment and when the issue is clearing away the deadwood and getting new companies, we can make that case. But that's not the world we're living in right now. We're living in a world that is kind of in a low-key version of the Great Depression, an economy with 13 million people out of work, with 4 million people out of work for more than a year. What you really need, substantively, is you need something that is about creating demand, about expanding employment. We don't want ruthlessness. We don't want -- you know, and particular, we don't want to be slashing government spending while the economy is still deeply depressed.

Fun paneling! And then Roberts says that the Presidential campaign will be about two different views of the fundamental role of government, and I'm like, OKAY WE'RE BACK TO 'DUH' TERRITORY.

Karl says that Romney is not connecting with "lower income...working class" Republicans. He isn't? Didn't he win two primary contests already?

Now we're going to talk about Jodi Kantor's book, because it's shiny and filled with gossip.

Is the White House over-reacting to the book? Roberts says "probably," and she notes that "staffs and candidate's wives" have historically "butted heads" because they have different agendas, and that this all started with Martha Washington.

Will says this is basically crap. "Mrs. Obama is a woman, and she's black, and if she doesn't get angry once in a while, she's not human." The rest of the panel is quick to point out that the book is not a big deal. "Let it go," says Noonan.

Ha, here is a dumb thing that just happened:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meanwhile, the talk about a former first lady continues. We get a question on Twitter on this, it came from Jennifer Moore. "I'm wondering if any of your panelists think there is any chance we may see Hillary step in as V.P.?" Now, George, I'm going to start with you on this. And what I can't figure out is why this conversation continues.

The reason the "conversation continues," George, is that YOU READ A STUPID QUESTION ON TWITTER and thought, "HEY, I WILL TALK ABOUT THIS, ON THE TEEVEE."

Now they are talking about Tim Tebow, for some reason. I think he's a guy with a good attitude about life who probably needs to learn how to actually throw a football if he wants to continue quarterbacking.

George WIll says that he's astonished how little money there is in politics. I'm sort of gobsmacked by this!

We move, post-commercial, to a nice little segment on statements taken out of context and the long tradition in politics of bending words and warping reality in this unfair way.

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It's a cute segment. The only thing i'll add is that this is the stuff people the media to be reliable referees of, and by referee, I mean, someone who doles out actual penalties, inflicts a cost, makes it HURT to spin a story like that. And that's why people reacted so negatively to New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane, when he asked readers to explain to him whether or not they wanted the Times to, you know, try to report actual facts in their newspaper.

Okay, well, that brings another one of these liveblog thingies to an end. I'm very glad to be here with you all today, instead of watching a hastily thrown together Sunday morning debate. Everyone please have a nice week!

[Liveblog returns next Sunday! While you're waiting, check out Maria Bustillos' piece, "The Evil Economics of Judging Teachers," and Thomas Lake's "Did This Man Really Cut Michael Jordan?"]