TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads
Good morning everybody, and welcome to another edition of your quickly-typed, snaply-judged compendium of Sunday morning political teevee mouth-hole utterances. My name is Jason, and I'm guessing that some of the clamor, asking me to reblog Fareed Zakaria's show is going to subside for a little while, huh?
We start today with some sad news. Meet The Press is back. I know, I know. It's been a good run, lately. We have the Olympics -- and NBC's role in providing traditional, spotty coverage of it -- to thank for that. We might have gotten another week's respite, except we had some big political news break yesterday, and I guess NBC couldn't go on without David Gregory talking at people.
That news, is, of course, that Paul Ryan has been selected to be Mitt Romney's president. Longtime readers know that I have long thought this wouldn't happen, owing to the influence and power Ryan already projects from his House seat. Clearly, my prediction did not pan out, and I've already done the whole Social Distortion thing. Too bad, once again, to Tim Pawlenty -- quit dragging his heart around, presidential nominees!
Of course, the thirty-second skinny on Paul Ryan's plan for America is this: Ryan's plan to reduce taxes is to raise them on nearly everybody. (He's a good match with Romney, given that the Tax Policy Center, who tried excruciatingly hard to make Romney's plan work, nevertheless demonstrated that it could not avoid a fat middle-class tax hike.) His plan to balance the budget is to not balance the budget. (He is, incorrectly, considered a deficit hawk. Actual deficit hawks exist to hawk over the deficit that he essentially voted into existence._ His plan to reduce long-term health care costs is to ration out vouchers that diminish in value over time, relative to rising costs. His main objection to that is the use of the word, "voucher," so let's give him a break, and just call them, "Ryan Fun Bucks."
Lots of people are ecstatic today, because Ryan was chosen. On the right, there is happiness because a) people can think of the Romney ticket and not get depressed, but also b) Ryan is immensely popular with those who want to end entitlement programs. Ryan, in this instance, gets to stand in for Scott Walker, and as Walker demonstrated in Ryan's home state, there is a lot of genuine enthusiasm for pitting the lower classes against each other, and for the notion that no government benefit of any kind flow toward them. As Jonathan Chait has been writing, Ryan represents the best chance of finally unspooling the Great Society that those that want to do so are likely to have.
Democrats are very happy today because they've wanted an opportunity all along to tie Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan together. In fact, while Ryan's ascent is at least in part self-perpetuated, he didn't build that on his own. Barack Obama has worked very hard to make Ryan both a political celebrity, and a foil. His party has been grateful for that, and Ryan's ascension is being broadly seen as the one possible inflection point that could allow Democrats to slip back into power in the House of Representatives. (For the record, I still do not think that this is possible, but, heck, I guess I've been wrong before, like, say, yesterday.)
Be careful what you wish for, Obama campaign. Paul Ryan's budget plans are, indeed, unpopular. Ryan himself, however, is both more highly regarded, and capable of sowing further popularity for himself. Because he speaks very glibly and is capable of deploying serious-sounding budget jargon, the Beltway media treats him as a super serious person.
What's even more essential is that Ryan gives the political media something they really crave -- a voucher (or "Ryan Fun Buck") that entitles them to "One Free Election Season Where They Can Continue To Treat The Ongoing Unemployment/Foreclosure/Aggregate Demand Crisis As An Election Year Abstraction That Only Impacts Whether Or Not Affluent, Well-Connected Politicians Lose Their Seat And Go Into Lobbying." They will avail themselves of the opportunity, and get to talking about "TEH DEFICITZ" with a fury. The Beltway press -- and you can see this daily in the pages of the Washington Post -- LOVE a guy who is going to cut entitlement programs. They don't have friends who fall into the category of "elderly" or "poor" or "scraping by on whatever they can live on," and subsequently don't see the need for these programs anymore. When you say you'll end them, you're thought of as "brave." I tend to think that people who are ekeing out a subsistence level existence as "brave," but that's just me.
Still, the larger truth is that with Ryan in the mix, we can actually have this debate over the long-term direction of the country's budget priorities. It's clear that this is the argument that everyone really wants to have. The good news is that it's a substantive debate, and it's worth having, and both sides of the battle worked hard to elevate Ryan to this point. The bad news is that the short term economic crisis is not going to get nearly as much attention -- perhaps ever again. And the chance for holding those who caused the crisis accountable is basically gone, thanks Mr. President.
I was watching that NBC Olympics special last night on Great Britain's role in holding off Nazi Germany -- the Dunkirk speech, the RAF playing the Luftwaffe to a draw, all of that. The strongest impression that was left on me was that the people of this nation fought so bravely, and so stoutly, against an almost unstoppable, crisis-inducing force. And I think what gave all of them their strength was the way that Churchill -- who, don't get me wrong, was a super-wealthy guy who ate fine food and smoked the best cigars from his own bunker -- led in such a way that the people he ruled over never felt abandoned. I wonder what that feels like? I suspect I'll never know.
[A reader and Churchill expert, Jack, writes in the point out I've mis-characterized Winston -- he was from nobility, but not rich: "Although he was born in a big castle he didn't wind up with the family wealth and relied on writing and speaking engagements to earn enough money to smoke those cigars, etc. He did buy a place called Chartwell were he built brick walls, etc. It was touch and go with that investment, but I have found that Englishmen love the idea of having their own castle in the country. He was in NYC when the market crashed in 1929. He lost money on that date.
He adds: "Churchill was a special man, who spoke and wrote in ways that worked to convince the people that they could survive and triumph over a real enemy. It was an amazing time." Agreed. More importantly: Thanks for being out there and willing to share your knowledge with us, Jack. Cheers.]
As always you should feel free to hang out in the comments, or drop me a line if you'd like, or follow me on Twitter. While you wait for new stuff to be posted in this liveblog, you should head out to my Rebel Mouse page, where there are fun and informative Sunday Reads waiting.
MEET THE PRESS
Okay, so, David Gregory is coming to crips with this new shiny thing that is Mitt Romney having a vice-president. Peter Alexander reports a bunch of stuff you probably already know about the cloak-and-dagger sneaking around that went on to get Ryan to Romney secretly. It's reminiscent of stories from 2008 -- especially the McCain-Palin doings -- that demonstrate that if all a Presidential administration had to do was sneak a vice-presidential prospect from one place to another, we'd be an amazing nation. Sadly, that's where most peak, I think.
Anyway, Reince Priebus is here, and it looks like he might not cry, so that's good news. Priebus agrees that this is a "game-changing" pick -- leave it to Gregory to go right to that cliche. Amid Priebus' typical emo jangle, he says that Ryan presents an opportunity to have a big, grand debate. Gregory points to a Dan Balz article reporting on the fact that "there was no one on Romney's short list" that Democrats "wanted to run against more" than Ryan. Priebus says that the focus should be on Obama's record, not Ryan's budget, and to prove that, he'll straight up ignore the question.
Gregory makes a second attempt, and tries to tie Ryan's unpopular budget to Romney. Priebus sticks to the script, which includes pretending that money was "stolen" from Medicare -- which also involves a second-level of pretense: Priebus actually does not want Medicare to have money, anyway, in the main.
Maybe Gregory is best when he's had two weeks off -- because he calls Priebus out on that, and asks what's so different about Ryan's budget, "which is to change Medicare as we know it, that's an objective fact." Wow. Let's have fortnight vacations between every Meet The Press! He goes on to call the "voucher system" a "fact" and that Ryan's plan basically cuts back on the social safety net, again, as an objective fact.
Priebus says the sort of self-contradictory thing: "Medicare will go bankrupt if we keep going down the road we're on." Of course, Priebus is essentially doing that Google Maps thing where it gives you three routes to the same destination -- he may contend that the route we're on leads to bankruptcy, the route he wants to take just leads to "not spending any more money on Medicare."
Obama, he says, "has blood on his hands" over Medicare. Priebus just basically would be the "Dexter" of eliminating Medicare.
At the same time, Priebus is already trying to put distance between Romney and Ryan, saying that Romney "respects Paul's ideas," but Romney has his own ideas and that's what they'll be working off of. But give Ryan credit! He has "ideas" that you can actually go and read and understand. Romney's ideas are still mostly hidden -- and it's the right's demand that Romney show his cards that led to him picking Ryan, in this merger and acquisition.
Gregory continues this astoundingly rare, "I've-eaten-my-Wheaties" performance, calling out Ryan for caterwauling about the Bush-era deficits while providing a rubber stamp for them. He even points out that Ryan supported TARP -- indeed, he PASSIONATELY supported it. One of the things, of course, that Ryan popularity demonstrates is that the supposed antipathy on the right for ending bailouts and preventing another Too-Big-To-Fail crisis is sort of a pantload.
Priebus seems slightly unnerved by Gregory being on his game, and tries to wave the question away, insisting that Ryan is serious and courageous.
Gregory throws what looks like a softball as his last question, "Will he be ready on day one?" and then when Priebus wades into it, thinking the worst is over, Gregory interrupts by pointing out that Ryan has no business or private-sector experience (this is the central theory of Mitt's candidacy, that such things are required). But Priebus manages to avoid making news, and we turn to Scott Walker, the next guest.
Walker, even more than Ryan, represents the cutting-edge in right-wing politics these days. If there's one thing that Wisconsin's repeal michegas demonstrated is that you can take the populist anger that exists over Wall Street's malpractices and the ensuing economic calamity it caused and bend it back in the opposite direction, and get one group of working class strivers to lock themselves in battle with another group of the same. The results? Instead of everyone cooperating to get everyone levelled-up as high as possible, you get everyone fighting amongst themselves in a zero-sum game of levelled-down scraps. After the Wisconsin recall was resolved in Walker's favor, a quick stroll through social media revealed that Wisconsinites were genuinely enthusiastic and happy about the fact that they'd successfully impoverished their neighbors.
Well, we'll see if Gregory keeps this up, because maybe he's just generically annoyed by Reince Priebus.
Gregory does begin with some generic nonsense about Wisconsin cultural traditions, before asking Walker about his comments from a previous interview, in which he contended that Romney needed to do more than just sit back and let a referendum on the Obama White House happen. That was a particularly insightful contention from Walker, so it's right to credit him for that. Walker, as you might expect, takes a lap. Walker thinks that Ryan's ability to communicate in his district will translate nationally. That's an open question, of course! The interesting thing here is that Walker is already past the idea that Romney is the guy communicating his ticket's message.
Gregory points out that Medicare is still very popular, and that people want to either leave it alone or make minor modifications to it. Walker thinks that Ryan will "raise the stakes" in the debate over that matter, and again Walker assumes that as Janesville goes, so goes the nation...and AGAIN, the whole idea of Romney is almost completely erased.
Gregory says that there's a "real interesting piece" by John Harris and Mike Allen, which presages this brief run of Meet The Press beging sort of awesome is beginning its U-Turn. Nevertheless, the point is, again, that the programs Ryan wants to fillet, are very popular with voters. "Is that politically risky? Could it imperil the Romney candidacy?" Walker says no, and he believes his own experience proves it. Romney, in this response, swims back into existence: Walker says he showed "courage" (by picking Ryan).
Is Wisconsin up for grabs this year? Walker says yes. I say check back in three weeks time. Ohio, Florida, and Virginia are way more competitive.
Now here's David Axelrod, to do this morning's first exulting over Ryan getting picked. Again, this is precisely what Team Obama Re-Elect's strategy was, but the "be careful what you wish for" adage definitely applies.
Axelrod says that Ryan will "thrill the Tea party" but "trouble the mainstream electorate." Why? Tax breaks for millionaires, cuts to students and seniors et cetera. "It clarifies the choice, in a way that will be helpful for Americans."
Gregory monologues about having Ryan on his show and asking him if Newt Gingrich was right in calling Paul Ryan's plan "right wing social engineering" -- which, give Newt credit, is about as apt a description as you can give Ryan's ethos. He notes that Gingrich wasn't alone on the right in wanting to put some distance between themselves and Ryan's designs (though this desire is most strongly felt by establishment lifers). Ryan's response, naturally, was that gutting entitlement takes seriousness. It's worth pointing out, of course, is that Ryan promises only to keep "the promise to seniors who are on the program now or currently retiring." That's the whole point of premium support -- you make Medicare worse and worse as time goes on (the "Ryan Fun Bucks" most "unfun" feature is that they're not tied to inflation), while securing the votes of current recipients, thus harnessing the Great American philosophy, "I got mine, so KMAG YOYO." (Google it.)
All Gregory is doing is setting Axelrod up: he points out that the Obama administration has already taken steps, there's no doubt they need to do more, blah blah -- the key question, he says, is "do you really believe in Medicare or do you not," and he believes in the program, and Ryan doesn't. He points out that Romney has already tried to distance himself from his own running mate, and then we're back to Axlerod filibustering -- Ryan supported big Bush-era programs that blew out the deficit and other ideas, like Social Security privatization, that weren't popular.
Gregory interjects, eventually, and asks Axelrod if Obama has a record to run on, if Obama got everything he wanted after the first two years. Axelrod points out that we were in "freefall" at the outset of the administration and the ship has been righted and there is "more to be done." Naturally, Axelrod thinks that Romney-Ryan represent a "prescription for economic catastrophe" that we've already endured.
Gregory bottom-lines it -- this is a campaign now, with some big ideas, and large philosophical debates, no small ball tinkering. But with a polarized country, "will either side really have a mandate?" Axelrod insists that the Romney campaign is invoking the middle-class cynically, and that the President will be re-elected.
Worth pointing out now: the Democrats may want this fight, and may savor the prospect of having it, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are ready for it.
Gregory tosses the Priorities Super PAC ad, which implies that Romney basically killed a person, in Axelrod's face, and Axelrod says that "he doesn't think that's a fair implication" to make, and adds that he doesn't "think" that's what the ad is doing (this is how we maintain the pretense that the super PAC and the campaign aren't coordinating, the whole, "Huh, you know, I haven't looked at this, but here's what I think..." thing). He goes on to say that Bain Capital did ruin a lot of companies and is "emblematic" of Romney's corporate past. He goes on to complain about Romney's welfare ad, and says that he should be "ashamed."
Every day we are paneling, today with Dan Balz and Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow and Rich Lowry and Bill Bennett.
Todd says that Romney's decision to pick Ryan was, essentially, a reboot of the campaign, and necessary to provide Romney with some definition that he was, weirdly, unable to provide. Balz says that now, these competing visions are sharply defined and as clear as a bell. Both sides, he says, want to have this debate, he's skeptical that's actually true, but there you go.
Gregory talks about Twitter -- the upshot: people be tweeting!
Maddow says that a Democratic fundraiser told her that they were "praying that Romney would pick Ryan." She says, "It's no longer a referendum on Obama, and that's precisely what they wanted."
Bennett gives a monologue that essentially boils down to: Ryan is awesome, and the debate is now awesome. "You don't have a caricature" in the debate anymore. You have the real deal. (He also compares Ryan to Jack Kemp, who everyone remembers as being the guy who took Bob Dole to the White House.) "I am very much looking forward to the Biden debate," he says. Yeah, who isn't! Joe Biden will probably have to be the most debate-prepped candidate in the history of debates.
But doesn't it kind of suck that Obama is not going to get to debate Ryan? Call me a purist, but I just think that the people who represent the top of the ticket should have a chance to argue with each other.
Lowry says that the pick shows that Romney is creative and bold, which is charitable, considering that Lowry is someone who browbeat Romney into making the pick. (A long time ago, when the GOP was complaining that Romney was on his way to winning, I wondered, "Why doesn't the GOP not understand the benefit of having a presidential candidate who you can literally force into submission with just a few stern words?" Grover Norquist, to his credit, was ahead of the curve on that, reminding people that as long as Romney had enough core brain function to sign the Ryan Budget Plan into law, he could literally sit back and play jacks for the rest of his presidential tenure. Since then, the other thought-leaders have figured this out, and they've stopped whining about Romney, and instead are using him as they should -- as an amanuensis.
Maddow goes at Lowry about the Ryan Plan, and finds it pretty fascinating that Romney is still pretending to have his own ideas on Medicare and the like. Todd points out that he hasn't heard a lot of GOP thought-leaders defending Ryan's policy specifics (though they still continually suggest that now the race is going to be grander and more substantive -- but you can't get there without admitting Ryan's policy specifics are now actionable!)
"Reince Priebus does not sound like a guy who wants to have that conversation," says Gregory. True enough, but in fairness, Priebus ALWAYS sounds like a guy who doesn't want to have a political conversation, and who wants to get back to his Jetsons coloring book as quickly as possible.
Bennett points out that there are two alternatives to just straight up Ryan plan -- there is the Ryan-Rivlin plan (that won't win a single GOP vote in the House) and a mused-upon plan with Ron Wyden that is basically Ryan Fun Bucks that ARE tied to inflation. The thing about the latter idea is that there is nothing written down, nothing to analyze, nothing to score, it's just an idea that's floating around in the air, and that if Ryan's willing to make that compromise, why not try to make it now, and put Democrats on the record? (SPOILER: He doesn't want to make that compromise, and now, there's no reason in the world to do so!) So, to the extent that this does "complicate" things, as Bennett suggests, it just maybe blows a little colored smoke around.
Bennett's contention of course, that under Ryan, future seniors have the option to either take the Ryan Fun Bucks or stay on "traditional Medicare" is a shuch: those that opt for the former permanently distort "traditional Medicare" for the latter and slopes the latter group toward the direction of the former.
Still more paneling? Okay. One thing Obama and Romney share is the inability to properly refer to their Vice Presidential pick as the "next vice president." (Maddow points out that one rarely, if ever, has the occasion to festively invoke the vice presidency.)
Todd surmises that Ryan pushes Pennsylvania and Florida's aging population push those states out of the battleground for Romney, because of Ryan, unless they can get current seniors to get all KMAG YOYO on future seniors. (Iowa, too, says Todd.)
Gregory wants to know if this is a high-risk/high-reward pick. Bennett agrees, and says that this is now a big national debate, and that "as these ideas develop, we'll have a debate that involves reflection and choice" on these ideas. Maddow says that the Ryan Plan's appeal is mainly based on a mystery, which is why it's vulnerable -- revenue-neutrality, for instance is achieved through closing loopholes that are currently, merely, imaginary. (In practice, every single tax loophole exists because a powerful lobby opened it up. Those powerful lobbies still exist, and there really is NOBODY running for president that you should assume will be resistant to their wants and desires, to say nothing of the fact that your-clapped out Congress isn't going away anytime soon, either.) Maddow also notes that Ryan is a bog-standard supply-sider.
Lowry says that Ryan's ideas on tax reform are based on the "Simpson-Bowles plan" (again, there's NO SUCH THING, we'll assume Lowry is referring to the "Chairmen's Mark"), which Ryan opposed, because, as Maddow points out, the "Chairmen's Mark" was not revenue-neutral -- it RAISED REVENUES. (Again, I'll point out that "revenue-netural tax reform" is essentially a pure waste of time -- it's like "cake-neutral baking.")
Now Lowry and Maddow are arguing over $700 billion cut from Medicare, and why does she support this. Maddow "doesn't understand the logic" of Lowry criticizing the President for Medicare cuts that actually aren't as deep as the cuts that Lowry wants. Lowry just wants Rachel to defend cutting $700 billion from Medicare. (Aren't we talking about cuts to wasteful Medicare Advantage spending? Because that actually extends the life of the Medicare system.)
Now Bill Bennett is talking about hiking? Okay. Moving on.
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS MAYBE
I reckon now that I've watched one Sunday show, I've watched them all, because what else is anyone going to be talking about today? Certainly not the unemployment crisis or our costly wars. So, as best as I can, I'm going to resist the call of the pause button. Because lawzy! Don't we all want to get on with our lives?
So, first mystery solved: George Stephanopoulos has shown up for work today. Pawlenty has won the consolation pause of defending the pick against Axelrod. There will also be a roundtable discussion, for America.
Axelrod goes first. He says that the President was surprised that Ryan was picked, because while he's popular with the far right, his plan is easy to attack because deep cuts, raise burden on the middle class, end Medicare, et cetera. Axelrod's "Ryan is outside the mainstream" argument now includes some social issues, like abortion. He says that Ryan "was a faithful supporter" of the Bush policies and now they want to "double down" on them. You can basically refer back to everything he's already said about it.
Axelrod is asked about Obama's Medicare cuts -- I guess that's the new thing, now. Axelrod notes that Ryan has is complaining about cuts that his own plan also makes, the difference being that the president did so to extend the life of the plan and get better prescription savings for seniors. This is followed up by a standard issue critique of Ryan Fun Bucks, that has some slightly harsher moral language -- he says Ryan would put Medicare into a "death spiral."
Does it help the ticket, Axelrod does that thing where he's not sure, but totally sure! Ryan will help Romney have a "more convivial convention," but on policy, he's on the fringes.
GSteph, like Gregory, tries to get Axelrod to answer to the Obama campaign's ad that implies Romney killed a man's wife. He asks if the President stands behind the ad. Axelrod says the same thing that he told David Gregory, with basically the same talking points.
Axelrod says that Pawlenty would have been an able running mate, and that he didn't think Romney would choose a far right "ideologue." "I was wrong about that."
Now, here's Pawlenty, the two-year loser of the "Game Change" game. "It's got to hurt a little bit, right?" GSteph asks. Pawlenty shows no sadness, he supports the Ryan pick. He jokes that he's already told Axelrod that his compliments probably didn't help him.
So, Pawlenty, like Priebus, says that Romney picking Ryan means that it's a big new debate on entitlements and long-term fiscal scenarios, so now we just wait for the moment where Pawlenty insists that Romney is his own man, with his own plan, and that no sirree, we're not straight up adopting the Ryan Plan, ha ha ha, why did you think that?
Pawlenty also does the $700 billion cut talking point, so I guess that's the next thing the Obama campaign is going to have to deal with -- opponents fanatically using their outside voices to say, "Obama made big cuts to Medicare," while using their inside voices to say, "We'll change all that. No one will be able to cut $700 billion from Medicare ever again because Medicare will not have more than a couple of nickels to rub together to try to make a dime."
Pawlenty waves at Ryan-Wyden, which is "bipartisan" in that neither party will support it and pass it. But this plan, to Pawlenty, represents "leadership," which is funny because Ryan could have gone ahead and leadership the beejeezus out of it by bringing it to the floor of the House, and get people to vote on it.
Does Pawlenty like the Obama campaign responding to Romney's ad, accusing Romney of lying about the welfare waivers? No, Pawlenty doesn't, and says that Obama can clear things up by just saying that "he doesn't, as part of his directive, mean to undermine the work requirement." Stephanopoulos basically says, okay, here's the skinny on that: the Obama directive only grants a the waiver, providing governors with more operational flexibility, if they STRENGTHEN, not WEAKEN, the work requirement. Pawlenty says, basically, "Nuh-uh" but "okay, he needs to say that louder."
Pawlenty also complains that Obama has "punted back to the campaign" on the matter of the ad that implies Romney killed a person, which is true, they have done that.
Generically, Pawlenty says that "we need to get back to the issues." (Stop implying that it's not okay to not disclose tax returns.) GSteph almost hooks Pawlenty on the hypocrisy there -- Pawlenty released more tax returns than Romney -- but just goes to commercial, correctly figuring, "Ugh, really, what's the point of nailing Tim Pawlenty on something anymore?"
Roundtable time with Paul Gigot and Howard Dean and Cokie Roberts and Gavin Newsom and Peggy Noonan.
Gigot says he likes the choice, and that the veep pick "reflects the character of the candidate." He agrees with the idea that the pick defines the "nature and stakes of the election." He says that Romney's decision demonstrates that Romney knows he can't win just on a referendum on Obama's term, that Romney needs to add "positives," in the form of Ryan's policies.
Dean agrees, with everything except the the positive impact. He also says, that "premium support" is a fancy term for "voucher," but we're going with "Ryan Fun Bucks" now, redeemable at Ryan's Randian Zoomtown on the island of Saipan.
Noonan has deep thoughts about Romney's deep thoughts and his "eye for talent," which actually is something I'm sure that exists but we've never really heard about before. (In fact, the knock on Romney up until now was that he was averse to bringing in outsiders into his fold.)
Newsom says that Ryan is admirable and skilled, as a politician, and deserves in general to be treated as a serious figure in politics, but he doesn't "get the pick." To Newsom's mind, Romney didn't need a dose of voter enthusiasm (on the right, it's already running at an all time high), and that Ryan hurts him with women, doesn't ensure Wisconsin's electoral votes, and costs Romney votes in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
I generically agree with Newsom's take, but I would call this stuff "things we should watch" and not "conclusions we should make." Yes, it's hard to see what new enthusiasm he brings to the table right now, but the measure of that enthusiasm can be taken by visiting Romney campaign headquarters in swing states and finding out if they are a hive of activity or moribund. (McCain's were moribund.) Also, it's not a done deal that Floridians and all those retirees abandon Ryan because of Medicare -- he promises they'll be safe. He only asks that current beneficiaries pull up the ladders so that others can't avail themselves of the same entitlement. (That basically describes the defining quality of the entire Baby Boom generation, so I'm not sure Ryan loses their votes -- this literally feels like destiny, to me.)
I will say that it's more interesting to me to find out whether Ryan being on the ticket is a "Holy S#@t" moment for Democrats that lead to a renewal/revival of their own enthusiasm, or whether it's another thing that makes them mope and stay at home. The Obama campaign, generically, assumes the better outcome.
The panel agrees that Democrats will probably try to make people worried about Medicare, and Romney's supporters on the panel think it won't work, Obama's supporters think it will. Gigot gently asserts the "death panel" argument and the revived "$700 billion cut" talking point, but Roberts immediately hits that as "intellectually dishonest." Newsom says that it's much bigger than Medicare -- Ryan is a proponent of privatizing Social Security. Well, Wall Street does need a new bubble! Noonan says that the GOP won on 2010 because they support the GOP's position on entitlements.
She says that the danger of Paul Ryan being picked has to do with the fact that there is a massive economic crisis and people are living on the edge and that he needs to "quickly" tell people that he does not intend to take away the benefits that they are using to survive. (That's basically tantamount to asking Ryan to straight-up hide his agenda, in a sort of election year "Scorpion and the Toad" scenario.)
Roberts says that the bigger problem with Ryan is that Ryan does not support adding revenues, which might preserve these programs. But he doesn't want to preserve them, so there's no real point in worrying about that.
Gigot's reasoning on tax reform and loophole closures suggests that he needs to go back and read what I've said about lobbyists and tax loopholes. (Also, I find it hard to believe that the Wall Street Editorial Page will not be a venue where those same lobbyists' voices will not be heard, defending tax loopholes.)
Newsom: "It's inconceivable to me that you can balance your budget with a cuts-only formula." Noonan hits back, suggesting that California's dysfunction is what's being projected nationally. California's budget problems, however, stem from their absurd citizen-referendum binds, which force the state government to take responsibility over budgets while simultaneously restricting the actions they can take. (To a different extent, the state's budget was savaged greatly by energy-sector grift-and-graft in the early aughts, and their state pension program was destroyed in the fire of the 2008 economic collapse, but it's the silly citizen referendum junk that California needs to do away with -- they'd probably have to do that by citizen referendum, however!)
The roundtable has been continuing all this time, it just hasn't been interesting. People don't like the negative ads the people don't like have run! The opposite is also true!
Stephanopoulos points out that Romney has a particularly big problem in terms of personal favorability. Noonan says that "he looked great yesterday." She basically says the Ryan is going to bring the likeability to the ticket, and that Ryan had better amp that up because pretty soon the Democrats will be talking about Ryan's plan to end Medicare. (Of course, that's objectively true.)
I think the most surprising thing about this is that Mitt Romney has basically been erased from the conversation.
Roberts and Dead suggest that Obama run on Title IX, given the success of female Olympians, who got the chance to compete because the government helped them "build that."
Now they are letting Peggy Noonan talk about the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, for some reason. She thought that they were silly. She did like a hurdler from the Dominican Republic, however. It's too bad he couldn't have ended up on Romney's ticket!
Oh, bless, this show is over.
FACE THE NATION
So, just to show you that there's no point to having multiple Sunday shows on this morning, Bob Schieffer didn't even show up for his. Instead, we're going to have Nancy Cordes presiding over this. (This is a good thing, actually, and let's note that CBS is on a decent streak of being good for gender diversity.)
Oh, okay, Schieffer is actually going to be interviewing Romney and Ryan tonight, on 60 Minutes. So that's where he is.
So, we'll have a slightly more bitter battle of the surrogates, because it will be Stephanie Cutter and Eric Fehrnstrom doing the cutting and fehrning. Let's get it on, or at least over with, by summarizing:
Ferhn: Romney picked Ryan to be his vice-president, did you hear? He was chosen because it's totally bold and big, and we have a fiscal crisis, and we realized that our ticket could really use somebody who was interested in that. So now, finally, Mitt Romney has an identity, and that identity is Paul Ryan.
Cutr: It's big and bold -- BIG AND BOLD SUCKING, ANYWAY. Ha, ha. But seriously, I'll be here all week, talking about how kids and veterans and infrastructure lost out. Also, Medicare will be over. But we'd love to have a substantive debate, we weren't able to do so until Romney picked Ryan, so it's really their fault we put out that ad that implied Romney killed a person.
Ferhn: Stephanic Cutter is garbage. Barack Obama has "no new idears." We bet that Americans will totally love our "idears." But Obama is trash, and without a conscience, and I'm going to make a "Fifty Shades Of Gray" joke, because I'm into erotica.
Cutr: The President's plan is on the website and it's totally tough on everyone. But while I could talk more about that, I just want to leave you with this: Eric Fehrnstrom is terrible. And we have a website.
Fehrn: Tell us the plan!
Cutr: Okay, sure. [She describes the plan.]
Fehrn: That plan doesn't address the entitlement problems. Our solutions are awesome, because when you don't fund entitlements, they go away, and then you don't have an entitlement program. You'll note we do not have a "passenger pigeon problem" anymore.
Cutr: I want to ask a mean question designed to just needle Eric Fehrnstrom.
Fehrn: Go [expletive deleted] yourself.
Cordes: Can I ask about foreign policy?
Me: Sure, I guess.
Ferhn: Ryan has the same amount of foreign policy experience as Obama.
Me: He totally would have killed Osama bin Laden, with premium support.
Ferhn: "One of the first criterions..."
A Dictionary: The word you are looking for is "criteria."
Cutr: Watch as I use the word "criteria" correctly. Also, Romney went overseas and shambled his way around like Pete Doherty on a bender.
Cordes: Okay, I'm going to cut the cord on this nonsense.
Now, for some reason, here's Newt Gingrich. We basically just want to hear him get asked whether he still holds that the Ryan plan is right-wing social engineering. Cordes asks how much of the Ryan plan does he support, and Gingrich says that Ryan's plan is parallel to Romney's own, and that it's what America should adopt. Okay, now just waiting for Cordes to play that old Meet The Press clip of Gingrich saying it was "right wing social engineering." But despite the fact that the clip was part of the promo package at the top of the show, it never comes. Granted, I was watching it in fast-forward, because it's the only thing I'm even remotely interested in about Gingrich.
We cut then, to the roundtable, with John Dickerson and David Frum and Bob Shrum and Roger Simon and Michael Gerson.
The important takeaway, from Dickerson, is that Ryan has brought larger crowds to campaign events than Romney alone mustered. That portends well down the line -- if Ryan bring people to phone banks and GOTV efforts, that will help erase some of the ground-game advantages that the Obama campaign has. Again, the key enthusiasm factor that Ryan brings to the race is whether or not his presence on the ticket brings Obama's supporters back to the campaign in higher numbers than before. Much of the stakes-raising that Obama's campaign will do in the coming days will be done to shock their base out of (what the campaign sees) as their sense of complacency.
Democrats assume Ryan is going to be their rainmaker, but it remains to be seen, frankly.
Still, Ruth Marcus (she is on the panel, too) doesn't like the pick, calling Ryan "Sarah Palin with a paper trail." She says that Romney's essentially saying that Romney embraces Ryan's budget. She uses the phrase "jot and tittle." I might vote for "Jot/Tittle 2012," if they will reform lobbying.
Frum essentially agrees with Marcus, pointing out that already, the conversation has shifted to "Medicare, Pell Grants, and Social Security." He adds that every minute that's spent on talking about jobs, "Obama is losing," the opposite is true when everyone is talking about these other topics. "Obama cannot win on his jobs record, he needs to change the ballot question," says Frum, "Romney is cooperative with Obama in changing the ballot question."
When is David Gerson and Erskine Bowles going to have the Epic Forehead Battle that we deserve, as Americans, to witness? Anyway, he thinks Ryan will be really good at reaching out to Hispanics and members of the working class, which is, how do you say? I believe the phrase is "wholly orthogonal to the existing concept of common sense."
Shrum says something about how "every time we go through these selections we come up with a new rule" and that the rule is "never pick a man with a plan." This is basically the "Ryan/Romney ticket," he says. He adds that Ryan doesn't add much to the ticket's appeal, in terms of Hispanics and women or seniors.
I have to say, all this Conventional Wisdom swinging against Paul Ryan is the best thing that Paul Ryan has going for him.
Corded points out that Ryan is a total honey badger when it comes to people not liking his vision for America. Marcus agrees, and says that if you want to run on the Ryan Plan, run with Ryan. Still, to her estimation, it's a bad decision.
Frum thinks the debate is headed in the wrong direction -- the short term crisis, and resolving it, is what the election should be about, and not what happens to Medicare in 2024. Frum figures that the Obama administration has provided ample material for a GOP campaign to work with, especially in the area of the foreclosure crisis. Gerson contends that Ryan allows the GOP to make a "macro" argument, and then he and Frum fight about whether the United States is "becoming Greece." Shrum takes up for Frum's argument, and adds that Ryan helps Romney avoid paying income taxes.
Simon says that this campaign "will not be about wonkiness." This campaign was never in danger of that. He says the most likeable candidate usually wins, and with Ryan, Romney outsourced the likeability. Dickerson adds that Ryan is the superior politician and spokesperson, but Romney is going to have to hope that people, on balance, like the "idea" of having a "plan," and not "dig into the detail" of the plan, where all the unpopular stuff is.
Does Paul Ryan help with a battleground state? Shrum says he helps a little in Wisconsin, but hurts in Florida and Ohio. "This was a base pick," he says, designed to put down internecine "grumbling."
Does Ryan help with women, given that he is in favor of policies that are antithetical to their interests? Gerson says that he was a "winning personality," and is "likeable." So I guess Gerson hold to the "Second Verse of Nicki Minaj's 'Super Bass' scenario" -- ladies like Ryan better with those fiscal caps on, so much so that he ain't even gotta try to put the mac on. Ryan, in Gerson's estimation, just gotta give ladies that look, because when he gives them that look, then the panties comin' off, UNH!
Women might disagree with that. But I think we can all agree that "Super Bass" is our jam.
"Why do you pick a guy who's tax plan is even nicer to rich people?" asks Ruth Marcus, who is seemingly not entirely up to speed with the Republican platform.
Frum says this is a tragedy, because Republicans are cooperating with the President in changing the subject away from the current emergency.
Okay, well, to a certain extent, I can't disagree with that, but the media beat the 2012 race out the door toward abandoning the American people and their current emergency a long time ago. I could bore you with another diatribe on that, but I'm going to assume that your current emergency is that you've been on this shift with me too long, and it's time to wring some pleasure out of you Sunday. Hie thee hence, good people of Sunday morning, and take all of my gratitude and my best wishes with you. See you next week!
[The Sunday Morning liveblog returns next week. Please visit my Rebel Mouse page for this week's Sunday Reads and access to interesting news and conversation starters throughout the week.]