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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

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Good morning, one and all, and welcome to another edition of your Sunday Morning liveblog of the demented political chat shows. My name is Jason, and I think this tweet basically sums up this week.

Yes, this was the kind of week where you really got a feel the future of America -- Jamie Dimon will be regularly holding taxpayers to accounts for their failure to serve his interests as your public servant use emergency collagen injections to plump up their tongues so they do not lose their softness as they bathe Dimon's backside, while Sheldon Adelson skips around the room in a harlequin costume setting his own money on fire. That sounds about right to me.

Against that horoscope, watching these shows seems like an eminently tolerable thing to do. And last week, I was pleasantly surprised by the way they delved into the national security leak story when I thought it would be too much for them. I'm guessing that was an outlier, but we'll see. I live in hope. I also live inside the Beltway. So I know from hopelessness. (This week, MEET THE PRESS is airing what I am assuming is a MEET THE PRESS parody, because the guests include John McCain, Mark Halperin, and Harold Ford, Jr. We will not be watching that. That's a lot of human wreckage on one show.)

As usual, folks, you are welcome to join one another in the comments. You may also drop me a line if you like, or follow me on Twitter if that's your thing. Over at my Rebel Mouse page, I've taken some of my favorite stories of the week and marked them as "SUNDAY READS," so if you get bored of these shows or my liveblog and want to read something cool just so you can have a different sort of conversation this morning, please feel free.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

More on leaky leaks, with David Plouffe and Joe Lieberman and General Michael Hayden, plus paneling, is what's on store for today. By the way, your week of leaks continued this week, with a document from the White House's trade negotiations. It's pretty certain that this won't be discussed on any of these shows today, so be sure to read about it, if you haven't already.

We begin with David Plouffe, which is sort of not the person I'd have expected to represent the White House on this, but, okay. Did the President declassify any of the information that appeared in the "kill list" artice or the story on the cyberwar campaign against Iran? Plouffe says that President Obama has "zero tolerance" for the leaks and has committed to an investigation through the Justice Department, who has assigned two investigators to the matter (one of whom, Plouffe emphasizes is a Bush appointee), and we get the assurances that "no one in the White House provided this information." Wallace immediately interrupts and says, nope, sorry: "David Sanger said he did talk to top White House officials...he says it wasn't leaks, but he did talk to people in the White House." Plouffe says that there will be an investigation.

Wallace's question didn't get an answer though, and so he circles back to whether any of the information declassified the material. I think Plouffe gets in a teeny-tiny "no," at the beginning of his response, but his response is essentially an empty calorie filibuster. Wallace tries a third time, and finally Plouffe says, "Of course he didn't," as if Wallace could have surmised that from the outset without help.

Moving on. Wallace goes over the brief bullet points on what was leaked, and the named individuals in the articles, which include key White House officials. "The President really has no ideal who divulged these secrets?" Wallace asks. Plouffe says that all key White House advisors have done is discuss the broad strokes of the national security agenda with reporters, not classified information. Plouffe and Wallace go back and forth a little bit, and Plouffe suddenly veers into what amounts to an accusation that Republicans in Congress just want to have a bunch of ongoing investigations of the White House during an election year.

That is not where I would have taken this defense! Sure, there's some truth to that, but everyone's OBVIOUS interest in these matters stems from the appearance of these articles -- all of which, in an election year, did a lot to burnish the President's national security cred. The Iran cyberattack story helps Obama in numerous ways -- it shows that he's teaming with Israel and on the offensive against the Iranian regime. He might have otherwise had to spend the entire election season without a material defense to the charges that he's given that a low priority.

Plouffe says that there will be an investigation, and that will serve to eliminate the "distraction" of these leaks. He goes on to say that Congressional GOP have declared publicly that they won't be doing anything on the economy until after the election, lest the economy suddenly get healthy. Again, that's a good point, but it's a pretty obviously forced attempt at changing the subject.

Has Obama ordered his staff to come forward with information about who leaked this material? Plouffe says that there's an investigation. "Everyone is going to participate in the investigation." Wallace wants to know if Obama will be interrogated by the investigators, citing the precedent of the Valerie Plame investigation, which he says included "thorough interrogations of President Bush," but I seem to recall these interrogations were not under oath. Plouffe says, "I'm not going to get into that right now." He says, after a fashion, that Obama will cooperate fully with that investigation.

Meanwhile, why not an independent prosecutor? In the past, Obama has voiced support for such things. Plouffe says, blah blah investigation very serious two investigators one is a Bush appointee it's proceeding let's let it proceed blah blah.

Moving on to the new immigration policy change. Wallace points out that a year ago, Obama was telling the National Council of La Raza that he could not make a change to immigration policy without using Congress, but now, he's going to bypass Congress and begin halting the deportation of young undocumented immigrants and get them permits to work in the United States.

So, what's changed? Plouffe says that nothing has changed, including the fact that the underlying law is not fixed. As Plouffe explains, this is Obama using the leeway he is (presumably) entitled to under the concept of prosecutorial discretion -- the idea being that the Department of Homeland Security prioritizes the enforcement of certain undocumented immigrants over others, and those priorities are set by the White House. Plouffe says that all that's being offered here are two-year work permits. He notes that Romney has announced that he would veto the immigration reform that Obama has proposed -- a mix of immigration reform and DREAM act enaction.

Moving on to the economy, and the President's speech on the same this week. Is the President's total agenda going to be constant calls for his Jobs Act to be passed? Plouffe says that Obama will keep on trying to implement an agenda of infrastructure improvement, higher education, and tax fairness, while the GOP blocks it. Plouffe says that the President's plan is the "fair and balanced" one. Wallace quips, "I like that you're calling it that."

Plouffe reminds everyone that Romney's policies are reminiscent of the pre-crash White House policies and that he wasn't any great shakes as the Governor of Massachusetts (except for, presumably, that time Romney came up with the Affordable Care Act).

Moving on to messaging, and the various Democrats who either have suggestions about it, or the Democrats who are doomsaying bedwetters who anonymously tell reporters that everything is going to hell and that someone had better hire them. Wallace wants to know if they'll take the advice of Carville/Greenberg and start "talking about a new agenda," and stop talking about progress. Plouffe says that there's no daylight between what they are doing and what these Democrats are suggesting, but he ends up his soliloquy by talking about the progress that has been made.

Wallace says that the economic trajectory has not been terrific. Plouffe says it's better than before. He insists that this is the choice: a return to the pre-crash economy. Basically, we have the answer to this question -- it won't be a year of a "new agenda," it will be a "don't change horses" campaign that emphasizes the pre-crash conditions.

Will Plouffe leave the White House and return to Chicago to run the campaign? Plouffe says that the campaign is being ably run by Jim Messina and David Axelrod. He goes on to emphasize that Obama is raising money, and not through Super PACs, like Romney. Wallace says that Romney's raised more money than Obama even without Super PACs. Plouffe concedes that "Romney had a good month raising money," but insists that Obama is doing better on the "grassroots level."

Eventually, Wallace has to end the segment. "I have to let the panel talk." No you don't! We won't miss the panel. We don't actually ever have to have a panel!

Now here is Joe Lieberman and former CIA director General Michael Hayden, to talk about leaks leaks leaks.

Lieberman says that the leaks have caused "an enormous amount of damage" to our national security. He is especially upset about the Iranian cyberwarfare leak, because it exposed methodology and "could legitimize a cyberwarfare attack on us." He is also concerned that future collaborations with foreign intelligence agencies and agents will be had to come by, as helpful folks worry that assisting the United States could result in their death or imprisonment.

Hayden says that the leaks "do not need to be true to be harmful," and that true or false, it makes a response legitimate.

Hayden says that he did not confirm the leak, when he noted that the cyberwar attack "crossed the Rubicon" of a physical attack on foreign infrastructure during peacetime.

Lieberman says that he "does not have any thoughts" about who the leakers were, just that there needs to be an investigation. Leaks are "nothing new," he says, but these leaks were the worst in a while and there needs to be "accountability" for leakers. And he's not happy with the 1917 Espionage Act and all its wiggle room. He just wants leaking classified information to be a crime, period.

Hayden says that the sort of information that ended up in the article is definitely "closely held" information and the leaks pertained to "covert action," which is self-explanatory.

Were the leaks intended as a means of shining up the president during an election year? Hayden says that he's reluctant to pass judgement, and on the Sanger piece, he thinks it's clear that was the result of very good reporting, not the stenography of a campaign year PR campaign.

Lieberman says that Obama should order his staff to come forward if they have information. He says that the administration "should do whatever it can to eliminate any appearance that his White House had anything to do with this," including sitting down and talking to the investigators assigned to this matter. Finally, he says that a special counsel is needed, for the preservation of independence in the investigation. He adds that he "has no reason to distrust" either of the prosectors who have been appointed to the investigation by AG Eric Holder -- but the Democrat who was assigned is an Obama campaign contributor, so there will be a cloud of doubt over his conclusions, unfair or not.

"Frankly, I think the attorney general would do himself, and the President, a favor by appointing a special counsel," he says.

And now, it's panel time with Bill Kristol and Joe Trippi and Karl Rove and Juan Williams.

We begin with the immigration policy change that was announced this week. Kristol says that the change is "sensible policy" that should be the "law of the land." Obama is, he says, "pushing the edges of prosecutorial discretion" by doing it in this way, but in his opinion, it's "the right thing to do." Trippi agrees that the policy is "the right one," and that the deportations now get much more targeted and sensible as well.

Rove says that the Bush administration concluded that they could not take the statutory authority to do this, and isn't sure the Obama White House has or can make this case. (This has to be one of the two three things Rover and the Bush administration actually surmised that they could not legally do from the Executive Branch.)

"The DREAM Act is significantly different from this," Rove says. And that's true. It's actually pretty important to understand that while this change in policy impacts the sorts of people who'd be eligible for benefit under the DREAM Act, the decision itself is not a substitute for it, nor is it really fair to call it "DREAM Act lite." ("DREAM Act curious," we'll allow.)

Williams says that the obstacle to comprehensive immigration reform are GOP congresscritters and certain talk-show hosts, and that the big obstacle now remains the same -- GOP lawmakers who have "distorted the marketplace" on this issue.

Will the action win him Hispanic voters? Trippi says that he's already largely got that cohort won, this just solidifies it. He says that more importantly, you get a start to seeing the way Obama's policymaking gets articulated in the contest, and this is an issue in which he draws a contrast with Romney. Can Romney counter this move, perhaps peel back some Hispanic voters? Rove would rather talk about the Obama administration's failure to advance comprehensive immigration reform. (Of course, this is largely because he can't get things passed in Congress anymore.)

Regardless, Rove says that this issue gets "overridden by jobs and the economy" and that's true. Nevertheless, Wallace wants his question answered, so he turns to Kristol and asks of Romney goes all in for an embrace of Marco Rubio's version of the DREAM Act. Kristol says that it pressures Romney to both come behind Rubio's plan, and perhaps even name him to the V.P. slot. Kristol says that he'd have liked Rubio to have gone ahead with his bill, but "not every Republican was on board."

Kristol says that he disagrees with Rove, and that this is a "big problem for Romney."

Moving to the economy and this week's duelling speeches from Romney and Obama. Wallace wants to know if the two candidates are going to be able to simply keep having a philosophical debate about the economy for the rest of the election season. Rove says that won't be enough. At the moment, voters are looking at the "general arc of the argument" but will eventually want "more meat" in the argument.

Trippi says that the Obama campaign is starting to make an argument about what Romney is all about, and that what Romney stands for will remind voters of why "they went to Obama in the first place." Wallace notes that in 2010, the argument did not work. Trippi really doesn't have a great answer for that, other than to say that it's a choice now between a future with the Obama administration or "a guy from Bain Capitol."

Kristol agrees up to a point: there will be a debate about the path forward, and that Obama did start to articulate that path forward. "It didn't convince me," he says, "But you can't beat something with nothing and Mitt Romney needs to lay out his plan" better sooner than later. "Romney has to have a forward-looking vision," he says, or he won't be competitive.

Williams goes on a long pro-Obama jag, affording Fox the opportunity to use the "gritting on Juan Williams" camera shot, with Rove giving Williams the head-shake and the side-eye.

And now Rove and Williams are fighting with each other. Boring.

THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW

Today at the genius bar, we are talking about corrupt money and the kooky political discourse and Watergate, I think? And the 2012 horsey race. And probably Matthews will show a video he thinks is funny. Today's panel is our own Howard Fineman, Liz Marlantes of the Christian Science Monitor, NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell, and David Ignatius. Let's commence the blah-blah!

Matthews says that the shadow of Watergate extends over the horsey race today, because way back when, there was a movie where Deep Throat said, "Follow the money," and today you cannot follow that money because it's all secret and funding Super PACs and what not. Also, Watergate made everyone really love investigating people, and it made everyone very distrustful of politicians. Another thing Watergate did was make it so you now have to add the word "gate" to everything that even sniffs of scandal, to the point that I am sure one day someone will shorthand "The Teapot Dome Scandal" to "TeapotDomeGate."

The only way to break the cycle is for someone else in politics to commit a crime at the Watergate and then try to cover it up, which will hopefully lead to someone trying to call that Watergategate and thus force it all to stop. So, please, someone, break into the Watergate and jack that place up, real good.

Anyway, Chris Matthews is gonna set it straight, this Watergate, and determine the way those memories illuminate "today in politics." Fineman says that there was "an era before Nixon in which people believed in government out of necessity." "Vietnam and Watergate broke that consensus," he says. This inevitably put Sally Quinn on a path to self-torture and the existential crisis that she and her husband, Ben Bradlee (Washington DC's answer to Bruce Jenner), endured at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Fineman goes on to explain what a shocking thing it was to learn that your president valued ruthlessness and the sowing of division -- this is something that Woodward and Bernstein said last week was still surprising them, years later, as they listened to Nixon's famous recordings.

Matthews notes, however, that Congress is terribly hated as well. O'Donnell says that Congress' self-awareness of this is "pervasive" on Capitol Hill, and it manifests itself in the "wary" way Congresscritters engage with the press. (So: Congress is very self-aware of their myriad problems, and stand foursquare and united to not doing anything about it other than eluding the press -- and the inevitable -- for as long as they can. Bring back the stocks, please.)

Matthews says that everyone thought, post-Watergate, that the corruption of money in Washington had been totally cleaned out. Oh, look, my TiVo just sent me a pop-up message on the screen that reads, "Would you like to pause to laugh at that, for like, 20 minutes?" Sure thing, TiVo! Thank you!

Matthews is pretty sure that the people who are giving millions of dollars to campaigns "want stuff." I mean: I'm guessing? They probably want whores, mainly?

Marlantes points out that the puzzling thing is that rich liberals seem to be declining to participate in the Super PAC frenzy. (This is because there aren't many of them, and they find this process distasteful, at least for the moment. Eventually, however, they too will realize that they "want stuff.")

Fineman says that we're back to the era of "naked exchanges." What? Okay! That sounds like something -- "...naked exchanges of money." Oh. Disappoint.

Marlantes wants to make one more point! "We're talking about Sheldon Adelson because of disclosure." Sure, but I have the feeling that Adelson is one of those nutters who wouldn't be able to abide people not knowing that his cash was purchasing exclusive access to Romney's short-hairs.

Matthews says, "Everything good that came out of Watergate has been blown away." OMG, Matthews is really having a sad over this today! Ignatius says, "Sometimes it seems that the ghost of four years ago is re-enveloping us" and that every new generation needs to re-leard the lesson that their leaders are lying fartfaces with terrible combovers and the morals of a demon-lamprey suckling at the teats of Asmodeus that they wouldn't thing twice about shunning socially if they didn't hold some sort of powerful office. (Ignatius does not use those terms specifically, he mostly just murmurs and stammers.) He big ups Ben Bradlee, for his Watergate-era work. (This is why I compare him to Bruce Jenner, who also used to not be a shambling wreck of his former self, haunting the community like a sad wraith.)

Ignatius says that maybe the media should not always get all bouncy-bounce-jackass-hammer-shiny-shiny-eyepop-wow over every piddly little piece of political nonsense.

Fineman says that Nixon "corrupted the idea of leadership," and that corruption has spread like a toxin.

Now everyone is remembering the post-Watergate unity that spread throughout the land like a holy note sounded by the lute of the angel Gabriel, lo and there did go forth a spirit of healing! Yes, it's almost as if people should suspend their debates on the long-term policy trajectory to deal with terrible crises.

Matthews' pals believe that Romney's treatment by the press is going to improve over time. I don't know how the press approves on "constantly passing on the examination of easily disprovable lies told by a guy who said from the outset he was going to constantly lie to the press as a component of his strategy." How do you get nicer, from there? (They will find a way!)

Fineman says that "one way the coverage for Romney will improve is that he has a better chance of being President." That scenario actually went in reverse for John McCain, who the media LOVED until they realized that they had to start taking him seriously. But what the press corps won't be able to do is keep reporting on the GOP in disarray -- slowly, they are coming to terms with Romney, and so the constant frustration with Romney is fading.

Ignatius says he hopes that the media will hold Romney to accounts. Gosh, if only Ignatius knew some journalists he could talk to/is a journalist himself!

Now for some reason, a long clip from Forrest Gump.

Meanwhile, June: it has not been the best month to be Barack Obama, especially if we forget that he's a fantastically affluent political figure who is going to live well and die happy no matter what happens. June has been bad because of a disastrous job number (again, this was worse for just about everybody not named "Barack Obama"), and losing the Wisconsin recall, and the uproar over leaks, and the "private sector is fine" gaffe. Just terrible!

Meanwhile, Ol' Mittens. He's just cold criss-crossing the country straight up ignoring reporters, who want to ask him dumb questions. "They can ride out the clock for a little while, during this spring period," O'Donnell explains, which makes you wonder why the press just doesn't let Romney and Obama have the summer. They can all go to places like central Ohio or California's Inland Empire or south Florida or coal country or the Western ranch states and find out how ordinary people are living, and then come back in the fall with no end of well-informed inquiries about the country to put to the candidates.

Or we can just have the "Mitt Romney gets weird when someone gives him a doughnut" story every week until we die.

"I think the whole lens through which everything is being viewed is that jobs report," says Marlantes, who adds that if the jobs report had been better, it would have been treated as great news for Obama. What does that tell you, though, Liz? The jobs report would have still "reported" that the country is in a perilous unemployment crisis, in any event. What does it say that it could have been graded as "great," in some way?

How will Obama "up his game?" Fineman figures that he'll have to explain the way the economic recovery has not been perfect. "I see him improving his performance between now and November because he's facing the possibility of defeat," he says. (I mean, he could get inspired to do a better job because his constituents aren't doing well at the moment?)

Here are some things that Matthews doesn't know: that the Virginia Senate race is going to be "the pivotal thing" because it's a big Tim Kaine/George Allen tilt, and because it meshes so well with the national race; if the SCOTUS strikes down Obamacare there will be a silver lining because the "politics will be defused" and because small businesses might start hiring and thus improve the economy (also lots of people will sicken and die); the Romney campaign doesn't know if they'll announce their V.P. pick before or after the Olympics; and in Cairo, everyone is anxious about the whole nation going crackers again after the election.

Can Obama win re-election without giving voters a clear idea what his second-term plans will be? Everyone says no. The general consensus is that a "vision" is what's necessary, Marlantes says (accurately, in my opinion) that the more specifics you mention, the more you open yourself up to criticism. (Also, "specifics" require the support of Congress.)

FACE THE NATION

Bob Schieffer managed to get Mitt Romney to appear on his show today, so we'll watch.

Schieffer is out with Romney on his current bus tour, which is definitely an improvement over the last regional political celebrity bus tour, which muddied the historical record over Paul Revere's derring-do.

Schieffer starts off with the Presidents recent change in immigration policy, and asks if Romney would repeal this order if he was elected. Romney begins by dodging the question: "First of all, we have to secure the border, we need to have an employment verification system, to make sure that those that are working here in this country are here legally...And then, with regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is."

Romney goes on to talk about how Marco Rubio was TOTALLY going to do something, you know, immigrationish, but the President was like, "Intercepted!" (There are political lessons to be drawn from Choom Gang etiquette after all.)

Schieffer winds up, and tries it again: "What would you do about it?" Romney just keeps talking about Obama and the opportunities he supposedly had to try to pass comprehensive immigration reform. (This would have led to Obama being able to say he tried, but nothing getting actually done, because Congress, Waterloo, etc.)

One more time. Schieffer is all "Aguywhohasnotansweredmyfirstquestionaboutwhetheryouwouldrepealthisorder says what?"

Romney says that it "would be overtaken by events," specifically, "my putting in a long-term solution' with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals such that they know what their setting is going to be, not just for the term of a president but on a permanent basis."

Well, it's good to know that Romney grasps the important details, like the fact that "legislation creates law." Essentially, though, he does not want to answer the question, other than to say that "stuff" would be passively "overtaken" by "other stuff" and then hey, sit back and watch the nebulous swirls of vague in the sky! Whoa-hoo-whee! What happens to the immigrants affected by the policy? SOMETHING! Maybe something cool! Maybe something terrible! Maybe they all become swans?

Schieffer is going to try one...more...time...for...the...love...of...God. "Would you leave this in place, while you worked out a long term solution?" Romney says, "We'll look at that setting as we reach that, but my anticipation is I'd come into office and say we need to get this done, on a long-term basis, not this kind of stop-gap measure."

So basically, Romney is pretty sure that at some point in the future, some stuff will happen. He anticipates the happening of stuff. He won't admit to having any agency, that might personally cause some stuff to happen, only that he is pretty sure that he will continue to exist and during that period of existence there will be things that happen, and he will "look at that."

"The President should have worked on these things years ago," he says, and Romney has been working on being President for many years. "The timing is pretty clear," Romney says, referring to the fact that Obama probably did this in a cynical attempt to "win" the "election," which is not fair.

Moving to health care. The SCOTUS ruling on the Affordable Care Act is imminent, and the law may get thrown out. If that happens, what will Romney do? I am guessing wait for a future in which stuff happens? "I will continue to describe the plan that I would provide," says Romney, not referring to the plan he actually did once provide, to Massachusetts, but a second, magical plan, in which people don't lose their insurance because of pre-existing conditions (without a mandate, this is a tough lift). Also there will be a "race to the bottom" as every state sells out to have the cheapest and most worthless health insurance. And there will be block grants to the states, which the state governments will do what they typically do. (Mismanage the money badly.)

Anyway, Romney promises less healthcare, more tenther crackpot wisdom, and tiny American flags for everyone not currently immortal and inpervious to injury and disease.

What should we be doing about the European economy right now to protect us against their coming crisis? Romney don't know! He just figured that the past three and a half years have been a period where we aren't on a strong footing, economically. Cool, okay, but what about Europe? "I'd strengthen the basis of America's economic might." Schieffer asks, "How would you do that?" The better question is, "What are you talking about?" Unless of course, the "basis of America's economic might" is "giving constant voice to glib platitudes about America's economic might."

Romney would "take advantage of our energy resources," by fracking the bejeezus out of your neighborhood. Schieffer is all, can that help us right now? "That's going to take a while." (And remember, his question was about insulating ourselves from Europe's pending woes.) Schieffer tries again to get a question answered, again. This time Romney says, "Well we are not going to send checks to Europe," unless he said, "we are not going to send Czechs to Europe," unless he said, "We are not going to send Chex to Europe." I mention all of these possibilities, because Romney is the sort of Eddie Haskell-type of guy who might become President, bail out the Eurozone, and when you call him on it, have him say, "You misheard me. I distinctly recall saying that I would, under no circumstances, send the Europeans any of our delicious snack mixes."

Instead, we will be "poised to support our economy" and Romney is "very much in favor of the fundamental things one does to strengthen the economic footings of a nation."

So, specifically, Romney is totally in favor of the stuff that makes other good stuff happen, and if he's elected, he will totally be "poised to support" that good stuff. Well, you know, if Romney could just show some courage and come out against the stuff that everyone hates and is totally bad, I'll be totally convinced!

Now Romney is saying that "our banks are much stronger now" than they were during the economic crisis and they have rebuilt "their capital base and their equity base." Now, I do not believe any of that is true -- banks are still marking their toxic assets to fantasy, so the illusion of solvency literally rests on the ability of everyone to pretend that things are going to have more future value than they inevitably will -- but if Romney really believes that, that undercuts his point that Obama's policies have led to a shaky economy.

What does Romney think about further quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve? Not much about it! He is worried about inflation, like everyone is. He is aware that this is the sort of thing that politicians do to boost themselves in an election year.

Romney goes on a lengthy monologue of aggregate demand crisis denialism.

Romney is against America "exposing themselves to the vagaries of the European banking crisis." He knows we're actually sort of way past that, right?

Romney signed the Grover Norquist pledge, Schieffer reminds Romney. Does Romney still feel inclined toward being a total anti-revenue crackpot? Sure does! Romney compares the federal fiscal situation to California, and that's pretty inapt -- California's status as "well-and-rightly-fracked" has more to do with their insane citizens referenda system and the way they have, over time, systematically hamstrung their state government into this tortured place where theye have all sorts of demands but no real agency to act on them. (California needs to get rid of those citizens referenda, but you'd probably need an effing citizens referenda to do it.)

Romney goes on to say that he thinks he can get revenue from getting rid of loopholes and exemptions. All of which exist because of powerful lobbies. And that plan violates the Norquist pledge. Romney also says something about the Simpson-Bowles plan, which smart and regular readers understand is not a thing that actually exists -- Simpson-Bowles never agrees to a plan. The titular chairment did release a "Chairman's Mark," and if Romney is citing that as a guidestar then he needs to understand that it also increased taxes and would violate the Norquist pledge.

Just to be sure, Romney says that the wealthy will continue to be taxed at historically low rates, only he says this in a way that makes it sound like he's extending some great burden upon them: "I think it's important to say, look, I'm not looking to reduce the burden paid by the wealthiest. I'm looking to keep the burden paid by the wealthiest the same share as it is today." Good thing he clarified this!

Bill Kristol, as per usual, thinks it's time for us to start bombing Iran. Romney says Kristol is right and we should do some stuff to make Iran recognize that we are willing to take military action against them. See, this is the sort of stuff that unauthorized leak defuses! I can't help but notice that damaging their infrastructure with computer viruses basically sends that message. (Because of the leak, we may not be able to continue doing so, of course.)

Still, Romney's "everything is on the table" is the same stuff that everyone says, and everyone's objections to everyone else is just over the relative quality of the metaphoric stuff that it on this theoretical table.

Romney caps things off with a monologue of campaign platitudes, which Schieffer interrupts because he wants to know what Romney thinks he can do to bring people together. Romney says that he can do it -- by not having a political career. Huh? "I don't care about re-election." What? He's...not...an incumbent to anything, so...

And then, more platitudes and campaign talking points. First question dodged, last question dodged.

"We have got to have people who are willing to put aside the partisanship," Romney says, referring to none of the people who have endorsed or funded his presidency.

Oh, now Romney and Schieffer are riding around on the bus. Schieffer has more really tough questions, like, "Do you love your dad?" Romney says "yes." This goes on, sentimentally, for a few hundred million hours of our time. They also talk about the horse they have in the Olympics, but he's got a campaign to tend to, and won't be able to spend too much time thinking about this up-from-nowhere middle class success story.

And now, Howard Dean is here, to yell at and be yelled at by Lindsey Graham. Hey, that means that with McCain being on Meet The Press, and Lieberman getting on Fox, that the old Senate warmongerin' crew notched another Sunday trifecta, in a pretty good example of what being easy to book and totally predictable will get you in Washington.

Howard Dean literally looks like the just stapled another man's hairstyle to his head three minutes ago.

Oh well! Dean says, of Romney, "Same old, same old." Romney doesn't say what he's going to do, and Dean thinks he won't win. Dean is enthusiastic about Obama making this move on immigration, because it leaves Romney "holding the bag." And in that bag? Snakes! Probably!

"This is the end of the road for Romney on the Latino front," says Dean, "unless he puts a Latino on the ticket." In which case, keep going strong, on the "Latino front."

Meanwhile Lindsay Graham disagrees, which is remarkable and you couldn't have seen it coming. "I don't think it's a brilliant move when a President tells an agency to stop enforcing the law." Graham does not like Congress being bypassed, because by bypassing Congress, Graham does not get to play his traditional role as the guy who gums up the entire legislative process when things are not done to his liking and the schedule of legislative actions does not tailor itself specifically to Graham's secret demands.

"Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh," Graham says, for what seems like forty minutes.

Schieffer asks Graham if Obama helped his party and hurt the GOP, and Graham just says that he hurt the country, and did nothing good for anyone, and there's no way that the Hispanic community that was already going to vote for him is going to continue to vote for him, just because he did something relatively humane for that community.

Dean says he thinks it is hilarious to hear the "Senator who had a hand in killing immigration reform" doing all of this complaining. And it is hilarious. Maybe not "Ha ha" hilarious, but a jaded sort of "early Woody Allen" hilarious. But yes, like Pareene said:

Say you support immigration reform and comprehensive climate legislation. If you’re Lindsey Graham, you announce that you will un-support the climate bill you helped craft with your good friend Joe Lieberman, because:

“What I have withdrawn from is a bill that basically restricts drilling in a way that is never going to happen in the future,” Graham said. “I wanted it to safely occur in the future; I don’t want to take it off the table.”

But of course the real reason Graham withdrew from the climate bill was because Reid announced his intention to make immigration reform a priority, and Graham wanted to do climate first. Doing things in the wrong order is one of Lindsey Graham’s biggest turnoffs.

Of course, three months earlier, Graham was peeved that the White House and Democrats weren’t leading the charge to craft immigration legislation. “At the end of the day, the president needs to step it up a little bit,” he told Politico.

But apparently Harry Reid was not supposed to do the stepping — and that’s why eventually Graham came out against the DREAM Act, a far-from-comprehensive bill that would’ve provided a path to citizenship solely for children who spend a decade or more on their very best behavior.

Where some saw the bill as a small, painfully gradual step toward a just outcome for people who came to this country as children and have never known another home, Graham saw “a silly, stupid game.”

[...]

Legislation is entirely about feelings and deal-making for Graham. He’ll join in apparently good-faith efforts to craft pragmatic solutions to complex problems, but the second anyone looks at him the wrong way he’ll dive off the bandwagon and accuse everyone else of ruining the compromise by not following some bizarre script that exists solely in Lindsey Graham’s head to the letter.

Graham’s personal rules of order are a magnitude more insane and complex than “Riddick’s Senate Procedure” could ever hope to be. Almost every senator makes obnoxious “process” arguments when they cast votes against things they ostensibly support (Oh, I want to give homeless orphans hot Thanksgiving meals, sure, but unless my colleague Senator Inhofe is allowed to attach an amendment excluding orphans who don’t speak English — an amendment that will fail and that I will not actually vote for — I simply can’t vote for cloture at this time), but Graham’s made it an art. If you can call narcissism an art.

This is why I actually don't mind Graham being on these Sunday shows, because while he's occupied, other Americans have a fighting chance to unconstipate America. I am working on some way of tricking Graham into believing there are Sunday shows on everyday, but so far no luck.

Anyway, Dean still thinks this idea is great. So much so that he calls it an "idee-yer." He also praises Graham for going against Grover Norquist. Grahan says, "You're killing me, Howard."

Schieffer takes up the matter of the pledge, because Jeb Bush has criticized it as well. Graham believes that there is a connection between the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the "Gang of Six" and the "Supercommittee." Total widespread failure? Yes. But in addition to that, Graham sees a "formula" of revenue and cuts that makes sense. Graham is confident that Romney would embrace that.

Dean says that he agrees, mostly, with Graham's idea to get rid of most tax exemptions and raise revenue in exchange for entitlement cuts, with the exception that Dean would use a greater share of the revenue to pay down the debt. (The difference between the two men is obviously unstated here -- Graham wouldn't pay as much of the debt because he needs that overhang to make huge slashes to the safety net. Dean would pay more of the debt off through tax reform because the smaller overhang would not lead to as much widespread impoverishment.)

Okay, a little bit of paneling and we can all get on with our lives. Today, FTN has Peggy Noonan and Rich Lowry and John Dickerson and Jan Crawford. (This is one of those "reporters versus conservative pundits" panels that frequently passes for "balanced.")

Anyway, Dickerson points out that what didn't come out of the Romney interview was that he had pretty well defined himself as an immigration hardliner (to the right of Rick Perry), who believed in self-deportation (creating conditions that would inspire undocumented immigrants to leave) and was against policies that could serve as a "magnet." So, "primary Romney" is pretty fully against this change to policy, and has also promised to veto the DREAM Act (sorry Marco Rubio), but post-primary Romney needs to keep that under wraps or otherwise shoved in the direction of the memory hole.

Noonan, who once saw a Mexican, says there are a "bunch of ironies here." Like the one where we tune in to the television to have Peggy Noonan explain irony to us. Noonan goes on to say that this is very "Obamaesque" in that it is "crassly political." Is there someone in politics today who isn't engaged in crassness? Point them out to me -- I will make a sweater from their fur.

Crawford says that Obama doesn't want to talk about today's economy, today. And Romney doesn't want to talk about tomorrow's policy specifics, today. So, we should all probably stop covering this election for a few months. Take up a hobby, maybe. Meet new and interesting people. Do bath salts. Try to figure out what was going on with the character of David in Prometheus.

Rich Lowry figures that eventually, Romney will have to endorse Rubio's plan in lieu of calling for a repeal of this popular thing Obama has done. (Rubio will have to stop pretending to be working on a plan and actually deliver a plan, for that to work.)

Schieffer is pretty baffled with Romney's responses to the European crisis. "Basically, he says we just have to stand here and hope nothing bad happens." Peggy says that she doesn't "know what's right" but if you're "going for president right now" and "Europe is trying to get its house in order" you have to tell Europe not to look to us for help. (So, there is some level of self-interested political "crassness" that Noonan is willing to tolerate.)

Dickerson says that you "can't be in favor of a bailout" and be in the GOP at the same time. On the economy, Romney has to cross his fingers and hope that things work out. Dickerson adds, "Businessman Romney would never go for a deal as vague as the one candidate Romney is making, trust me to make loophole closures." And Dickerson notes what we've already noted: that having signed the Norquist pledge, the plans that Romney sort of elucidated today aren't things he can follow through on, without breaking that promise.

(And Norquist, let's recall, expects Romney to keep that promise. He expects Romney to check his brain and his autonomy at the door to the Oval Office, and render unto Norquist but the movements of his signing hand.)

Lowry adds that Romney has a "great allergy to specifics and details," a lesson learned from his unsuccessful run against Ted Kennedy. He credits Romney for plotting a direction, but adds, "it is extremely vague."

Crawford points out that Herman Cain at least had the 9-9-9 Plan, which people "responded to," despite the fact that it was "bonkers." (It was not developed by the Rich Lowry who is on this panel, by the way.)

Now Noonan is criticizing people using applause lines in speeches, as well as speeches that are long and verbose. The lack of self-awareness here could power the solar system.

Lowry notes that the difficult bind Obama is in is that he can neither praise the economy, nor disparage it, without it being a reflection on his Presidency. Now can he be too "full-throated" about further Keynesian efforts to spur the economy out of its hole.

Crawford thinks that Romney will pick someone safe for Vice President. Dickerson adds that Terry Branstad wants Romney to position himself as the "candidate who fixes stuff," and he needs a teammate that goes along with this. Noonan likes Thune. Lowry likes Portman and Pawlenty, and figures Rubio isn't quite there yet.

Are we not done yet? No, John Dickerson hosted a Google Hangout. So there is a few minutes of grainy footage of people in blank rooms wearing headphones, and proving that the next generation of bland political hacks are apparently being trained in "Google Hangouts." It is about as exciting as it sounds.

Yeah, well, that's another Sunday of our political culture, distilled to it's sour and unfeeling essence. Next week, we will return, of course, but here is an IMPORTANT PROGRAMMING ANNOUNCEMENT: your Sunday Morning Liveblog will be taking the week of July 1, 2012 off. We will return -- tanned, rested, fearful -- on July 8. Have a great week, all of you!

[Your Sunday morning liveblog will be back next week. But, as noted above, while you wait for that day to come, your reading pleasure continues with my Rebel Mouse page's "Sunday Reads."]

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
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