Well, hello there, you! Welcome once again to another edition of your Sunday morning liveblog of the political chatshows that Washington wakes up to and watches for some reason, maybe masochism? My name is Jason. When I last left you, I was about to go on a two-week sojourn with my co-workers into some of the most humid parts of America and attend the two political conventions while questioning some or all of the life decisions I had made.
Now, that's over, and my body is slowly re-learning the things it knew before -- like that I had a home with a bed, or that it's possible to get more than three hours of sleep, or that there was something else on teevee, all this time, and not just a parade of grinning politicians trying to tell us about the humble beginnings that they or their parents had to endure. Seriously, whoever decided that it was vital that I hear all about Martin O'Malley or Marco Rubio's parents needs to rethink things. I have never been drenched in so much worthless biography in all my life. One good thing that will come from economic recovery is that the worst people in America will stop carrying on and on about how they totally understand what it's like to have it so tough.
Things weren't all bad. If you didn't hear, David Gregory got booed, lustily, at the DNC, because he was permitted through a security scrum that had locked down the Time Warner Arena. Or maybe they were just booing him because they were ordered to, by angels from Heaven. Either way, that's fantastic. Also, Robert Rubin fell into a pool. OR WAS HE PUSHED? Don't know, don't care, just savor that for a minute. Any day a member of the terribly mis-named Committee To Save The World falls (or is pushed!) into a swimming pool, is a grand day of existence.
Am I encouraging further pushings-into-pools? Only if they are filled with water and properly chlorinated.
At any rate, these conventions are now over and we've all returned to out lives and loved ones and non-public restrooms, and there are now about eight weeks or so until the election, and three years before we have contemplate going to another pair of dueling political conventions. And who knows? Maybe we'll stop having them. Maybe next time around, we'll do the smart thing, and empanel delegates on the internet, and stream speeches for people to watch at their leisure. If there weren't so many donors that needed to be impressed, we wouldn't have these things, so push a super PAC CEO in a pool as well, if you get have a chance.
In short, the best part of my time away was a single spaghetti dinner cooked, with great difficulty, in Charlotte. And my favorite stories were the ones we captured that were either behind-the-scenes or far removed from the convention itself. (If you check out my Rebel Mouse page right now, I've frontloaded it with our unconventional convention coverage.) So, the trip wasn't entirely without merit. Nevertheless, while I have to acknowledge the brilliant way all dying empires spend lavishly on dumb festivals as they approach the hour of their permanent decline, next time, I hope they just send the Ronald Reagan hologram directly to my iPhone.
As usual, you all may feel free to mix it up in the comments, or drop me a line. No, we probably haven't fixed that whole iPad/iPhone issue. Keep Calm And Use Safari (and click here). You may follow me on Twitter, and now that I am back from wherever in America I was before, my Rebel Mouse page shall bloom anew.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
Ok, well, some things do not change, and one is that the economy is terrible. Another is that Glen Hubbard and Austan Goolsbee will be around to talk about it. So that's what we are going to do today on Fox News Sunday, as well as some other dumb stuff.
So, jobs numbers, they were not good. 368,000 people stopped looking for work, and so the unemployment number dropped, and we all got a reminder that sometimes, it's a bad thing if the U4 unemployment number ticks down. Tune in the next time the economy gets so encouraging that labor force participation spikes, and the U4 number ticks up, and we think, "But wait, isn't that bad?" and I say, not in this case. And then you say, "Ugh, all these charts and graphs, right?" and I concur and say, "There's one thing that always works though," and you ask me "What?" and I say "Peyote," and then we both get arrested. Hope that was worth it!
Hubbard says that President Obama is basically terrible at creating growth, and we need new policies. Goolsbee says that the things to separate here is that month-to-month, the unemployment picture may look brighter or bleaker, but over the year's haul, the unemployment picture is better. He does agree that the United States is struggling to produce growth, but he doesn't favor, as Hubbard does, a fleet of tax cuts as the solution.
Wallace asks Hubbard about Romney's plan, to cut taxes on the wealthy, and specifically to defend the presumed notion that raising taxes on the rich is always bad. Hubbard topspins his answer, insisting that Romney's plan is an "across the board" tax cut, and then just cops to the underlying tautology: growth equals lowering taxes on the wealthy. Goolsbee says that reverting to the Clinton-era tax levels would not have any negative impact on the economy, and then probably goes a step too far, cheap-shotting Romney's horse.
Anyway, he has horses, plural. Get it right, accountants!
Wallace confronts Goolsbee with Obama saying, himself -- at the GOP retreat he attended -- that raising taxes on the rich was a bad idea. This flummoxes Goolsbee tremendously, and he is left to suggest that the unemployment rate at the time was higher than it is now, and so now it is a good idea. It's a bit of predicament, for the President, and everyone on Obama's side is going to have to suck it up and deal with the fact that Obama once said that, probably in the hopes that he could pander his way to a deal on some other legislation.
Hubbard emos about the Obama promising "faster growth." Goolsbee says that the depth of the recession was not known at the outset of the administration, and the fact is that they've added growth, while the other side is talking about policies that will create big debts and fewer jobs.
Could anyone have turned things around in four years, better than has been done by the Obama administration. Hubbard says no. He says that Romney is awesome though, and Obama is terrible, so what are you going to do, America?
Wallace throws some hot hate on Obama's plan to reduce the debt without destroying entitlements. Goolsbee says that the bottom line is that Obama's budget-bargain gets to the $4 trillion in cuts that they've offered. Goolsbee does not accept the argument that the cuts outlined in the current deficit reduction plan, are bogus, and that -- more to the point -- Romney's plan is almost completely opaque, and cannot be evaluated.
Wallace notes this, and asks Hubbard to account for it -- noting that Romney plans a $2 trillion hike in defense spending (to fight Martians, presumably) and restore a Medicare program that was eliminated by the Affordable Care Act because it was inefficient and threatened the programs solvency. (The single biggest thing to note, about the $716 billion Romney and Ryan want to "restore" to Medicare, is that restoring it brings about their desired end: putting Medicare in an immediate solvency crisis. If Medicare is not in an immediate solvency crisis, it will be harder to spend the political capital needed to end it, and unfortunately for Romney/Ryan, that $716 billion change bought everyone time.)
Hubbard insists that Romney's been specific about bringing the discretionary part of the budget down to 20% of GDP. Wallace says that he hasn't been specific enough, Hubbard insists he has. Goolsbee says that "objective people" have looked at Romney's plan and noted that it will both blow out the debt, and force the middle class to pay for it.
Anyway, I'm not sure we learned much more other than the candidates have economic flacks available for booking on Sunday.
Now here's Mia Love, who was at the Republican National Convention and is mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, which is not to be confused with Saratoga Springs, New York, where Skidmore College is. Hello to the fighting T-Breds!
Anyway, Mia Love came from hardscrabble beginnings, eating pennies and farming dust and now she is on the teevee and running for Congress, or something. She wants to cut food subsidies and college assistance and K-12 support because she believes it will...well, she doesn't really say? She wants to "start a discussion." About bringing the "cost of tuition down." How do you do that? She says...a bunch of word salad. She sort of puts the words "private sector" and "education" into a sentence together, and I don't know why the private sector would offer a tuition less than the market would bear unless the product was substandard, so I'm left to assume that she supports the generic University of Phoenixing of education.
Love has student loan debt, and she says that she wishes she didn't, and could have used, "options," which I guess someone needs to come up with.
She goes on to disagree with the whole "war on women" charge, because lots of women are out of work and the government keeps taking taxes and maybe if they didn't take taxes, people would be able to buy more contraceptives. Then there is a sentence I don't understand about choices, possibly because she doesn't agree with everyone's choices and would restrict them.
But, hey, how about her leadership in Saratoga Springs? Wallace notes that she had supported an increase in property taxes and wants her to acknowledge that there are "just times when it's necessary to raise taxes." Love says that when the housing market dropped, it was necessary to cut spending and establish a property tax for the first time in the city's history, and that tax does nothing but pay for public safety.
What does she think about Washington? "I think Washington's broken," she says. And yet, she's running to be a part of it. If elected, I'll set the over/under on Love becoming another clapped-out captive of the influence-peddling industry at seven months. (I am paying her a huge compliment, here.)
Okay, panel time, with Brit Hume and Mara Liasson and Kimberly Strassel and Juan Williams.
Your post convention bounce appears to have gone to Obama. Hume agrees that the Democrats got "more out of their convention" than did the GOP. It might have helped Romney somewhat if anyone other than his wife had offered him more than a few sentences of unconditional praise, but it is what it is. Also, people watched the DNC, and it got higher rating. Hume also says that Obama, himself, still has some "magic," though no one quite does the "stardust memories" thing more than Clinton.
Liasson says that Obama has a "small but significant lead" nationally and now it's time for everyone to peep those battleground states. Romney has the "narrow path" to 270, etc.
There is a good chance, I think, that the jobs report might take some sind from Obama's sails, and Wallace agrees with that somewhat. Strassel says that the goal of the DNC was to "activate the subsets" of their base that had been dormant, and she still figures that there is more enthusiasm on the GOP side.
Williams says that the GOP is giving up on states like Pennsylvania, and Obama is doing better in many of the battlegrounds. However, the GOP has an enormous advantage, money-wise, that Williams doesn't think Obama "can match."
Incidentally, the most significant news to happen in the battleground states didn't happen at one of the conventions. It was former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, qualifying for the Presidential ballot in the Old Dominion.
Hume is still pretty sure that the "decisive factor" in the race will be the economy and Romney leads on the economy. The jobs report doesn't "materially change" what people think about the economy, and that's what Obama needs to happen. Obama could have used a good jobs report, Hume says, and he didn't get it. (Obama also likely knew that he wouldn't get it.)
Liasson says that the reason Romney is losing the horse race because Romney hasn't articulated how he would help the economy improve. Strassel thinks that the Democrats made a mistake by highlighting the bad policies of the GOP, and asking for more time in office was a bad idea. Williams disagrees, and says that the DNC was a clear explication of "values." The simple fact is that the Democrats would have clearly loved to have run on a message of economic recovery! That being impossible, they instead ran toward every wedge issue they could enunciate. (And I'll give some credit -- this was a far braver convention on matters like marriage equality than I'd ever seen the Dems run.)
My, oh my, though! It was really neo-conny, though! (Especially John Kerry, right?)
The panel is running out of things to say about the conventions and are now just reading all of their liveblogs from the past two weeks. Hume says that Romney has a better argument on the economy and is also handsome, but "something is keeping him from breaking through and it is interesting to speculate on what it is." (Probably the fact that no one on his side seems to genuinely like him?)
Liasson says, "you would think that Romney would be winning but he's not" so WTF, y'all? Liasson figures that the GOP opted to "husband their resources" until the very end and the Democrats opted to quickly define Romney and so that's where we are.
Strassel just thinks Romney is great at everything except for rebutting all of the attacks on him and now Romney needs to tell a story about what happened back in 2008. Strassel says that Romney needs to somehow, personally, deliver an exculpatory address on how Bush era policies played no role in the recession. Wallace is a bit surprised to hear her calling for such a thing. I have to think that Team Obama Re-Elect would be so amenable to Romney attempting such a thing that they would donate the HD television feed to beam that address into every American household.
Wallace asks if Romney has done a good job convincing the middle class that he's on their side, and Strassel is all, Yes, yes, nettlesome middle class and their demands to be treated as bipeds, etc.
Williams, for some reason, says that the "polls" tell him that Americans "do not think the economy actually stinks," which, if true, doesn't explain why the race is so close? And there's another paragraph of words from Williams, that are not particularly informed by anything that makes sense.
The panel turns to the debates. Yes, let's set up the next shiny bouncing ball. Wallace says that the conventional wisdom is that debates don't prove to be decisive. So...why are we talking about them?
Hume says that this is true, but who knows, maybe it will be different. He also thinks that Romney will do better in the debates because he's "been debating all year." Yeah, against Rick Perry! Liasson does not know if Romney will "pull it off" but Obama is "rusty" at debates.
Hume's favorite moment of the conventions was the fact Debbie Wasserman-Schultz got a new haircut and looked fabulous. Liasson liked Gabby Giffords leading the pledge of allegiance. Strassel liked Susanna Martinez, at the RNC, and basically touts her as one of the people that maybe should be running for President, but isn't. Juan Williams liked Julian Castro's daughter's hair flips.
So, yeah, the conventions really are that shallow, as are the people who cover them. But hey, again, my favorite part of the convention was when Robert Rubin ended up in a swimming pool.
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
Ok, so, easing myself back into this grind with Chris Matthews and the Genius Bar of American politics, today featuring Michael Duffy, Trish Regan, Kasie Hunt, and John Harris.
Matthews says that the Democrats "ended their convention feeling sky high." Duffy agrees that he's never seen a convention conclude on such a note, though he's careful to add that the President's team is not known for lacking in confidence. He goes on to say that the rift between the Clinton and Obama wings of the party seems to have been healed. So, if that mattered to anyone in America, I guess you can feel better?
Hunt says that the Romney campaign did not like the Democratic National Convention, breaking decades of tradition in which the people from the first convention watch the second convention and say, "Well, I'm convinced. Let's just concede the election and get on with our lives."
Interestingly enough, it seems that the post-DNC thing that the GOP is going with is that Bill Clinton "shrunk" or "diminished" Obama, and so it was a big failure. They seemed to have missed the point that the whole point of the convention was to do just that -- shrink Obama back down to manageable size. With the economy as bad as it is, it's critical to recast Obama not as some all-powerful being who could have stopped the wind in its tracks, but just one member of a community of normal people who are slowly mending America in the post-Crash years.
Now, of course, Obama is about as far from "normal" as you can get -- he will be a survivor and a thriver no matter what happens to the economy in the next year. But the convention was still very strenuously themed around humanizing the incumbent. Hence, all those mentions during Obama's speech of the small contributions and successes of people in America who'd done their part knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care. All those occasions where he had to mention, "You did that."
Whether or not the planned stadium appearance really was predicated on the weather, or a thematic choice pulled out of the hat at the last minute, it was smart to hold the last day of the convention in the more intimate setting. The speech was certainly a more intimate one. And that was, I suspect, part of the plan -- restore Bill Clinton to the status of demigod, turn Obama into Clinton's mendicant, and cast him on the equivalent level of every Democratic voter who remembers the glory days. In the end, the attack ad that replayed Clinton's "fairytale" criticism of Obama in 2008 missed the point -- the Democratic Convention was an admission of that.
How negative are the ads going to get? Harris says they will get pretty negative. He says that Obama will run a negative campaign about Romney's personal characteristics, and Romney will do something that's not as personal but just as negative. Hunt says the Democrats are pretty confident because they've planted all these negatives over the summer, and are ready for them to bloom.
Regan notes that the jobs report was terrible -- she points out that to keep up with standard growth of the labor force, you need to add 150,000 jobs a month to keep pace. The trend, she says, is the thing, so watch the next two jobs reports.
Bob Woodward has another book coming out, which we shall be forced to care about, about the debt ceiling negotiations, or something. If it's not titled, "That Month Where Congressional Republicans Became Brain-Dead Lycanthropes," don't buy it. The book will have stuff to say about Obama's inner circle, and everyone in Washington will obsess over it, and say that it shows the limits of Obama's "team-building" and "messaging." And it will be fap-fap-fap inside the Beltway, and the rest of the country will be all, "Jesus, did they forget about us again?" And I'll say, "They cannot forget about a thing they never knew anything about to begin with, but wow, look at the fap-fap-fap! Sure looks like they all sort of hate themselves, doesn't it?"
John Harris and Duffy have just whipped out their junk and are hefting it for weight in front of the rest of the panel. Harris has read Woodward's book! Duffy's magazine had an interview where they knew some of that stuff already! Now they are fighting each other, with maces and throwing stars.
Matthews plays some clips of Romney and John Kerry snarking at each other, while Duffy and Harris make love to one another out of anger behind the set.
Did you know that in the history of U.S. Elections, the man leading the Gallup poll on Labor Day has always won the election in November, except when he didn't? It's a true fact that Chris Matthews wants you to know, for some reason.
Now we're going to talk about the future of Hillary Clinton, and whether it would be better for Obama to win or lose now. Matthews says there is some sort of "pendulum rule" that applies here, but I sort of think the larger factor in Clinton's decision-making may be solely the fact that the Democrats' 2016 bench looks pretty awful. (It features Andrew Cuomo and Martin O'Malley, who put the fear in precisely no one.)
Harris says he's pretty sure that the Clintons want Obama to win, because there is perhaps some small chance that someone in Washington isn't making every decision based upon personal political calculations.
BREAKING: Trish Regan knows about twenty volumes more about the global economy than John Harris, and it is visibly killing him.
Michael Duffy is pretty sure that if one set of factors doesn't play out in 2012, there will be a second set of factors that do. Unless there is a third set of factors.
That was literally all that was worth liveblogging in that segment. In fact, I question the wisdom of recapping what little I did.
So, here are things that Chris Matthews doesn't know. Duffy says that Democratic super PAC leaders think they can now raise $50 million between now and Election Day, and that, folks, is the real reason we have conventions. Regan says that there is another Federal Reserve meeting with the expectations that another round of "bond-buying" will be decided upon. Hunt says that the Romney campaign may opt to play in Wisconsin "more aggressively." (Indeed, getting up in Wisconsin helps Romney to bust up the "narrow path to 270" scenario with which he's currently saddled). Harris says that Democrats are very confident that they'll retain the Senate, and that Claire McCaskill is going to be re-elected because of Todd Akin.
Will Romney win the first debate? Duffy has no idea. Regan says that Romney is good at debates, and could win. Hunt says that the GOP has placed all their eggs in the debate basket. Harris says that the first debate will be the one time during the election that we might look at these candidates and see them as people possessing even a single shred of merit as human beings. Hooray for America, I guess!
MEET THE PRESS
So, Mitt Romney is on today, and this was all billed as "Mitt Romney finally Meets the Press," the implication being that something is at risk here? Sorry, this is like going to a spa and meeting the pedicurist. Still, who knows? Maybe being showered with public contempt in Charlotte has David Gregory vowing to turn over a new leaf and prove himself, or something.
Yes, woo! David Gregory goes one-on-one with Mitt Romney, with a hot sack of nothing at stake. Also there will be a political roundtable discussion, as always, that will inform the public debate in no ways.
First, though, Gregory's been ridin' around with Romney on his bus in New Hampshire, straight chillaxin' with the candidate and watching him shout platitudes at people, as President Barack Obama shouted platitudes at other people. SO EXCITING, THESE POLITICS.
Anyway, we go to a taped interview on the bus which is bouncing and visibly delighting Gregory even though it is making hash of his camera shot. How does Romney feel about the campaign? He feels like he is making progress. He is "better known." Once, he was just this obscure rich guy, permanently running for President, and now, people may recognize him when he shows up on their street.
Obama, he says, has not satisfied the people, with an economic record, and the poorness of the record is such that it gives obscure perma-campaigner Mitt Romney a chance to be president.
Gregory talked with a top person, in economics, today, apparently. And that guy said that the "underpinnings" of the economy were "terrific," and is "primed to take off," and "yet we seem to be in a jobless recovery." Huh? How about that? Gregory says all this with a big ol' grin on his face, because he is on a bus, a real life bus, bouncin' and jostlin' around New Hampshire, which is one of the newest Hampshires around.
Romney says that it doesn't look like a recovery, because there are not recovery-like things happening, and so maybe it's not a recovery at all. "People are having a hard time finding work," Romney noticed, like, a few hours ago, "And it's very troubling." Romney doesn't want the Fed to do any more quantitative easing, because what if it helps? (It probably won't.)
Romney is pretty sure that everyone is ready to invest money in job growth, they are just waiting for someone who once borrowed money from the government to rescue the Winter Olympics to be in charge. He's sure that if Obama wins the election, everything will just be terrible, forever. He promises to create exactly as many jobs as the CBO has projected will be created by 2016, because he is totally brave.
David Gregory pulls out a bumper sticker he got at the DNC that reads "Bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive." Here is the question that he, David Gregory, professional journalist, asks of Mitt Romney: "Why is that not a good bumper sticker?"
His next question: "What's the Romney/Ryan bumper sticker?"
I might just record all of Gregory's questions, from here on out. He asks Ann Romney how she felt about Julian Castro's charge that the Romney's didn't understand what it means to struggle financially. Ann Romney, says, "I think the thing I want to communicate to people -- it's so important that people understand -- is that Mitt and I do recognize that we have not a financial struggle in our lives, but I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle."
Okay! On a similar vein, I want all of you to know that I have never quarterbacked the New York Giants, but I think everyone should recognize that I know what it is like to throw a football, so give me Eli Manning's salary, please? Isn't Julian Castro just going to point at that answer and say, "See what I mean?"
But wait. Better question. WHY IS ANN ROMNEY ON MY TEEVEE RIGHT NOW? This was supposed to be an interview with a presidential candidate.
Anyway, long filibuster from Ann Romney.
Gregory's next question: "When is the last time you got to spend some quality time from someone who is out of work and what did you get from that?"
Funny, that's the same question I would ask most reporters.
Anyway, Romney's answer is "yesterday." And "those people who try to minimize the connection we have with ordinary Americans miss the mark very badly."
Gregory's next question is about Clint Eastwood. Was Romney laughing along, or wincing. Romney says he was laughing. Then there is a long filibuster on how awesome Clint Eastwood is.
Are you getting a sense of how titanically dumb this interview is? I want you to know, also, that the stupid, "I have had synthetic ecstacy injected into my eyeballs" grin has yet to leave Gregory's face.
Next question, on Bill Clinton: "Do you think he could be elected today?"
Romney "doesn't know the answer to that."
Now, Gregory says, he "wants to ask them something a little bit more personal." Because up to now, this has been an unbearable fusillade of tough, political inquiries. Does being the first Mormon candidate for President give Romney some pride? Romney says sure, and then filibusters a lengthy answer about how awesome he was at saving the Olympics.
Gregory then asks Ann Romney if she thinks Mormons can, themselves, be "openly proud" of what she and her husband have accomplished. Yes, again, this is the interview that NBC News decided to air, for the first fifteen minutes of this terrible television program.
Now there is a segue that sort of promises that the questions might get better, or more substantive, or at least be more in keeping with journalism and less like David Gregory was a big old beagle who just wanted to lick himself some Romneyface for an hour as he got his tail scratched.
Now they are sitting outside on a roof in Boston, I think? Gregory wants to know about TEH DEFICITZ, and why he rejected raising revenues when it's impossible to see how not including revenues in a solution will bring about the desired changes. Romney insists that his math totally adds up, and that there's a study from Harvard, land of toffee-sucking elite twits, that even agrees with Romney's math. Gregory says that no one can be sure what can be expected from Romney's claims, because he is not specific enough about what programs he'd eliminate to make up the savings. Plus he wants to increase defense spending!
Romney says he just wants to maintain defense spending, and that "this sequestration idea of the White House" is a bad idea. He really should talk to his running mate, who set his callused hands firmly on the task of ensuring that we'd inevitably come to the point where the sequestration trigger was pulled, by blowing up Simpson-Bowles and then voting for the super-committee and the sequestration triggers and then blowing up the super-committee.
Gregory points out that the "Republican leaders agreed to the deal," and Romney says that was a mistake. Again, one of the mistakes he's referring to is on all of his campaign bumper stickers.
Romney will prevent middle income people from paying taxes on captial gains, which they don't do already, because that is not a thing that "middle income" people do.
Gregory keeps asking for "the specifics that get to this math," and Romney keeps saying that he's indicated that there will be specifics because he was once a governor and while governor, he had to, after a fashion, you know, do some specific things! So Romney has a strong record of eventually being specific, which you will see, eventually and specifically, when he is elected. One day, you will look back on the things that Romney did and say, "Romney did those things."
Romney promises to balance the budget by the end of his second term, because doing so in one term would be "too traumatic."
Gregory wants to know if he'll cut a deal to avoid a conservative revolt on the budget. He doesn't seem to understand that the Republicans in Congress are going to give Romney everything he wants, including as many raises to the debt ceiling as he requests.
Is Romney really ready to tell Americans that "on day one," they will be going back to being uninsured and/or at the mercy of what insurers call pre-existing conditions, after he repeals the Affordable Care Act? Romney says "of course not" and adds that "we say we're going to replace Obamacare" and "I'm replacing it with my own plan," only no one knows what his plan is.
Anyway, Romney will put something in place that does all the good stuff about Obamacare that he likes without doing all the stuff that he hates about Obamacare that will ALSO resemble the stuff he likes about his Massachusetts healthcare plan without being SO MUCH LIKE that plan that it gives Rick Perry a conniption over their famous fight on whether or not Mitt intended it to be a model for the nation. It will be good, and Romneyish. Whatever it is.
Romney seems to be completely on board with the Ryan Fun Buck vouchers, so much so that he doesn't even try to argue against the use of the word voucher. Gregory asks him if he'll back off the plan if the competitive bidding for seniors' health care do not lead to an attendant reduction in health care costs. Romney basically backs off answering the question, insisting that this Medicare plan won't affect current seniors (and if you look past his Medicaid plan, that's true). But there will, eventually, be men and women of advanced age who will enter this new Hunger Games world of Ryan vouchers, so what about them? Romney seems to be content knowing that he will have been out of office for two years (assuming he wins and is re-elected), so it will be someone else's problem.
He also just argued on behalf of Medicare's prescription bidding process by suggesting that the government successfully became a competitive market player and used their advantages to garner lower prices. This, however, is a better argument for the "public option" than it is for the Ryan Fun Bucks.
Was it a mistake for Romney to not mention the War in Afghanistan at the convention. Romney says that he gave a talk about Afghanistan to another audience at another venue, and that was just as awesome as anything he could have said at the convention.
What does Romney think of all the mean things that Democrats said about him on foreign policy at their convention? Not much! Rather, he accuses the President of not solving the problem of a "nuclear Iran," and that Romney will have a different approach that will "begin with crippling sanctions" that are now being implemented but should have, in Romney's opinion, been implemented sooner. So, on Day One, I guess, Romney will make sure that things that are already being done will be done harder and better, earlier.
MITT ROMNEY: ONE DAY ONE, WE SHALL DO THE THINGS WE ARE DOING TODAY, ONLY YESTERDAY SOMEHOW.
What is Romney's redline? "I think we make it very clear that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable." So that would mark a huge change from all those American politicians who maintain that a nuclear Iran would be awesome. Gregory points out that two Presidents have said the same thing: that it's unacceptable and, of course, "all options" to dissuade Iran remain "on the table." So what makes Romney different? Romney says that when Bush was president, a nuclear Iran was "years away" and Bush "pursued diplomacy" and we "should continue to pursue diplomacy." (Huh?) And we need the "crippling sanctions" that are currently the norm.
But, he says, we cannot "take the military option off the table," not that anyone has ever suggested doing so. In fact, it's pretty clear to Iran that our "military option" is going to remain table-bound, which is why it does not particularly dissuade them.
"We have to maintain it on the table," Romney says, "or undoubtedly, Iran will continue on their treacherous course." Crimony! Is Joseph Heller writing American history from beyond the grave?
Abortion question: will Romney "fight to overturn Roe vs. Wade?" Romney says yes, sure, you know, unborn children and stuff, boy, I don't know, he'll encouage people to have abortions. He'll keep taxpayer money from funding abortions, and who knows, maybe we'll get some justices to overturn that decision.
Will Romney risk being a one-termer in order to get a deal on the debt? Romney says that he "could not care less about his political prospects."
Gregory wants Romney to answer whether he is a moderate or a conservative, and he basically says that he is awesome. Think of him, not as a ideologue, but as this awesome guy, who is fun to hang out with and fix a country.
Gregory's last question is, "How will he handle it if he loses?" "I will go on an implacable killing spree," he says. JUST KIDDING, but one time I would love for someone to say, "My, my, if I don't win in November I am JUST GONNA LOSE IT SO BAD, OMG OMG," and then they grab their knees and start rocking back and forth and you know, right in that moment, that if you don't vote for that dude, he might make himself a skin suit out of you neck fat, who knows? Can you afford to take a chance? VOTE FOR FETAL POSITION-ROCKING NECK FAT-CRAVER, FOR CITY COUNCIL.
I'll say this, whichever man loses the presidential election in November, that dude is one unbelievably lucky mofeaux.
Okay, let's quickly get through the panel discussion, which features, Julian Castro and Chuck Todd and Peggy Noonan and E.J. Dionne and someone else I can't remember.
Chuck Todd says that Mitt Romney is "playing battleground state politics" on the sequestration trigger and that everyone has "amnesia" on how this trigger came to be. Bill Bennett, he is the guy I could not remember, thinks that Romney should talk about these cuts as "devastating."
Castro says that Romney keeps missing "opportunity after opportunity" to get specific about anything, almost as if that is some sort of strategy or something.
Dionne and Noonan discuss this, because Gregory turned to them and said, "E.J., Peggy, discuss." That's the best way to talk about a lack of specifics, with a specific instruction to get vague.
Anyway, Dionne and Noonan both say things, neither worth transcribing. Noonan says what she says in that tremulous voice of hers, that makes it sound like she is on the outer edge of an amazing orgasm that never quite arrives.
Bennett, really doesn't like Obama, because he's fallen for every single dumb gimmick budget vote of the past three years. Dionne fights him on that. Bennett assures us that Bob Woodward's book would make us feel like Obama's inner circle are totally pathetic.
This is like the Platonic ideal of a Beltway discussion right now. No one is talking about anything that is actually happening in America. There are multiple examples of people simply saying things they do not actually believe. And a Bob Woodward book has been mentioned. If Sally Quinn shows up with a tray of canapes, I can yell Yahtzee.
"Peggy Noonan, where are we now, with less than sixty days?" These are the important questions that drive adult discussion in post-Crash America. (Noonan's answer: "It feels like it's very close and nobody knows what's going to happen." And then she trails off into a monologue of gorgeous nothing.)
Chuck Todd says some excited things about polls, and how "body language is everything," and "it's a narrow path for Romney," and now "Romney has to win the first debate."
Dionne says that Bill Clinton is awesome, and independent voters like him and use him as a "referee." (Huh?) He's pretty sure that the Democratic convention was better and was more connected to swing voters.
Bennett says that in a survey, respondents said that given the choice between "a bigger government with more services" and "a bigger economy with small jobs," most people chose the latter, but what if they had offered a third option, "Or would you like better surveys with fewer false choices?"
Julian Castro loves his daughter, and she is cute. "We're going to leave it there," says Gregory.
Eight more weeks of this.
Anyway, I am glad to be back, and I hope you are glad to have me. No matter what you feel about it, though, you're stuck with me. So, I'll simply wish all of you a happy and bounteous week, and we'll meet back here next Sunday.
[There will be more liveblog in a bit. Click here for interesting things to read.]