Good morning all, and welcome to your quickly-typed, intermittently interesting liveblog of the Sunday Morning political hotsy-totsy talky shows. My name is Jason. This is your Sunday Before Thansgiving edition of this liveblog, and I'll start by reminding everyone that there will not be a Sunday After Thanksgiving liveblog because I am taking next Sunday off, to celebrate Thanksgiving, by which I mostly mean "drive around New Jersey." I have found that a surprising number of Americans seem to like to do the same thing.
Anyway, I bring all this up becaus while there will inevitably be someone who emails me, asking why there is no liveblog, I think we can keep those to a minimum by just mentioning it before we do anything else.
Cool! Now that it is mentioned, let us do those other things, shall we? I will watch these terrible garbage hours of television, and y'all can just chillax and maybe make soup or something? Please feel free to hang out in the comments. If you'd like to drop me a line, please do. Also, like usual I have social media thingies of interest, like my Twitter account, and also my RebelMouse page, which has been set up today, once again, with a bunch of interesting articles from the interwebs this week that you may enjoy while you are waiting for me to do more typing.
And as always, if you are having iPad troubles, keep calm and use Safari. Okay, let us commence.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
Today, Fox will be rapping with Saxby Chambliss and Joe Lieberman about how bad they want to stuff Susan Rice into a sack of wet leaves and dead chipmunks, because of Benghazi. Also Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal will participate in Fox News Sunday's long-running "rehabilitate the Republican Party movement," probably by talking about how Romney was terrible and he is a big ruiner and now that he's gone everything will be okay.
First off, we get a bunch of news that essentially amounts to "Israel is about to go straight nuthouse on the Gaza Strip with tanks," so looks like we have another chapter in the permanently intractable Israel-Palestine (Tear Each Other To) Piece(s) Process that you probably grew up thinking the adults in your life were going to solve, and then you became one of those adults, and now you should probably just tell your grandchildren, "Yep, this is probably gonna be depressing and dismaying you pretty soon, too."
And now, here's Joe Lieberman, bomb-fetishist, and Saxby Chambliss, who is inexplicably named "Saxby." (Perhaps he is named after the coffeeshop in Georgetown?)
What do they think about the growing conflict in Israel, or a ground war in Gaza? Lieberman says that they will only roll into Gaza to take out the missiles, you know, the same way you only stop by the grocery store to get milk and maybe a jar of olives? I roll into Harris Teeter and blow the place to smithereens and then leave without paying all the time, it's really no big thing, why worry about it?
Meanwhile, Sacks-Bee Chambliss says that Obama should put more pressure on the Egyptian government to get Hamas to stand down, and "prevent a full blown war" from happening. He laments the fact that Hamas puts their rocket batteries near schools and hospitals, because you have to feel bad about the abstract concept of children dying, for a few minutes anyway, and then you can forget about it.
Chris Wallace, by the way, briefly laments that Egypt is no longer run by a pro-American dictator, because those are the best sorts of dictators. Go ahead and be corrupt and steal your nation's wealth and torture/maim/kill your citizens all you want, so long as you respond to our invoices within thirty day of transmittal. Also, there was never any problem between Israel and Palestine while Mubarak was in charge, right? Definitely got to remember that regime with fondness!
Moving on the Benghazi, we learn that David Petraeus' testimony over Benghazi. It's posited that that the point he was making in these closed-doors hearings was that the CIA's talking points that were given to Susan Rice way way back when, were "watered down" to avoid tipping off the malefactors behind the bombing. Sex Bee Chambliss says that he did not "interpret" Petraeus' testimony to mean that. It was difficult, because David Petraeus' testimony was delivered in the form of a Dance Of The Seven Veils. David Petraeus is a master, with veils and fans, and the way he undulates through his lower body and hips is just mesmerizing.
Sacramento Bee Chambliss goes on to say that at some point, Susan Rice will have to testify.
Lieberman says that the "talking points" from the CIA reflected, in the first week, the opinion of the intelligence community -- which was that what unfolded in Benghazi was related to a protest. Hey, and you know what, it actually does take time to plumb the deaths of a confusing attack like this -- for a long, long time, everyone thought TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a missile (some people still believe this, for whatever reason).
So, you know, maybe we shouldn't all be pointing guns in the barrel in an attempt to shoot the fish labeled "Susan Rice said some things on teevee" and instead train out attention to bigger matters like, "Wow, there sure were a lot of spies on the ground in Benghazi" and "Hey, I thought this whole thing was supposed to be no "boots on the ground" and "Did anyone figure out who, exactly, we'd gotten into bed with in this Libyan revolution thingy?" and "Wow, do you think that maybe we should have never done this in the first place?" and "Come to think of it, are any of the wars we are involved in a good idea, and/or do they even pass Constitutional muster in the first place?" and then, "Well, fine, then but can we bring back the draft so that the sons and daughters of all you lawmakers and lobbyists would have to go off and die in these things as well?"
Ha, ha: of course we will not get that far in our self-examination in this America! In this America, we are in a crisis because we might run out of Twinkies!
So, I sort of expect Lieberman now to say something very sensible about the fog of war and the need to be circumspect, and he does not disappoint: "I don't find anything inconsistent" with Rice's talking and the talking-points she was given, and "I think we're focusing on questions that are not insignificant, but not the most significant." That's very sensible, thank you! And that's how Lieberman gets kicked out of the John McCain Bomb The World Club, I guess!
Lieberman also seems a little sketched out by the FBI just secretly rooting through David Petraeus' emails, and here's a pop quiz for any legal experts out there: what's the actual legal process involved? Is this some "first episode of Homeland" stuff where Claire Danes gets a couple of shady freelancers to cold snoop through CIA emails? I'm genuinely interested if the right people had, say, you know...WARRANTS and stuff? Or does Jay-Z need to write another verse to "99 Problems" covering this little quasi-legal escapade?
Sags-B Chambliss says that all the secret sexing that David Petraeus was involved in does not appear to have affected his work in the CIA. Wallace asks him who he feels is currently responsible for the security problems in Benghazi, and he says that it's an ongoing matter, yet to be determined. (That is actually pretty responsible of him to say, as you shouldn't have, like, a running blame-game leader who gets mud-dragged for a week, only to be put in the clear a week later.)
Chambliss and Lieberman of course, have their own ideas about what should have happened in Benghazi, and what protection should have been offered, and what assets should have been stationed there. Lieberman, in particular, will be a pretty formidable Dungeon Master when we all get together to play the "Let's Have A Consulate In Libya, For Some Reason" role playing game. He has several volumes of Benghazi Security Protocols fan-fiction already written.
How about having a select committee, so Old Man McCain can feel important, now that he's being rotated down in all of his committee assignments, because he didn't win the Paul Ryan waiver card? Chambliss and Lieberman both say no. "This was a tragedy, but it doesn't rise to the level of 9-11," Lieberman says, breaking with his "two amigos," McCain and Lindsey Graham, who very plaintively whined some cool emo feelings about how we got to have a select committee, we just got to!
Has there been any talk about Lieberman getting a nomination to some position from the Obama administration? He says that there's been no talk, and he doesn't expect to get any calls.
Now, we have Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, to tell us about how to solve a problem like the GOP. Jindal, in case you haven't noticed, is very extravagantly testing the waters for his own presidential run.
Jindal and Walker are the new chair, and vice-chair, of the Republican Governors Association.
So this week, Mitt Romney criticized Romney's post-game analysis of his campaign woes (in which Romney wrote his loss off to the fact that Obama got "gifts" for his constituencies, which is a very strange thing to criticize in politics), and Jindal continues to do so, today. Jindal says that the GOP is "aspirational" and that the Democrats can go right on being the party of "demographics" because that is so "divisive." (Though, how it is "divisive" to unify all those demographic groups under one banner is never explained.)
Walker says that the GOP has to do a better job making the case for their policies, and how they help the lives of all people at all stratas in society, and that the Republican Governors are probably uniquely positioned to make that case. That is fairly well-reckoned, as Governors get to show their managerial acumen, and are frequently in the position where their service to their constituents forces them to shelve their ideology in favor of solutions -- their work isn't a long thought-exercise, as you see in the career of a Senator. Of course, whether or not Walker is any good at this is pretty debatable. The old version of Mitt Romney -- the one that wasn't allowed to run for President this year? -- he was actually pretty good at that sort of management. (He gave his fair share of "gifts," too.)
Jindal says that the GOP needs to make it clear that they are in favor of the very same tax plan that Mitt Romney endorsed on the stump, but also make it clear that they need to be in favor of it in a different way, so that people forget it was Romney's idea, too.
Jindal says, "This country doesn't need two Democratic parties...we need to stick to our principles." Uhm...just asking, but is that actually part of your diagnosis? That the GOP was getting too liberal, and indistinct from the Democratic party? Because that's a pretty bizarre take. Let me assure Bobby Jindal, right now: no sane person in the world is worried about the GOP being too liberal.
Wallace asks Walker if Bill Kristol was wrong to say that we could, and perhaps should, just raise taxes on the wealthy, and Walker insists that revenues can be raised while not raising taxes on anybody, because magic. He essentially implies that Kristol's thinking is too steeped in Washingtoniana to be taken seriously.
Does the GOP need to do better in reaching out to Hispanics? Walker answers that by saying that he got lots of Hispanic votes, because of freedom.
How can Bobby Jindal "convince unmarried women" that the GOP is "looking out for them," when the Democrat's can lay back and point out that so many GOP policies are straight-up hostile to their interests and, indeed, their existence? Jindal says that the GOP can continue to be the party of hostility to the interests of single women, while being, you know...nice about it. "We don't need to be saying stupid things," he says, making it clear that Todd Akin's problem isn't that he believes asinine things -- it's that Todd Akin used oxygen to vibrate his vocal cords to produce sound, which he then used his lips, teeth, palate, and tongue to form words, enunciating his stupid beliefs out loud and in a language that everyone could understand.
Is Obamacare here to stay? Probably! Though every state can come up with their own version of health care and implement it so long as it hits vertain metrics and targets. (Take us single-payer, Vermont!) Walker says that states like his (run by Republican governors) would rather the Federal government run their health exchanges, "as much as it pains us." I imagine it's pretty painful! Going so quickly from opposing a Federal takeover of healthcare to loudly campaigning in favor of it is fairly whiplash-inducing.
And that's the end of that. Did we make the GOP all better today? Probably not, but there are about a hundred more weeks to go.
And now it's time to panel with Bill Kristol and Bob Woodward and Kim Strassel and Charles Lane.
War in Gaza is pretty messy, Wallace tells us. Kristol says, that the good news is that Obama has "evolved" from being "distant" from Israel to supporting Israel, which fills Kristol with hope. It's worth pointing out that during the period Kristol describes as "distant" we were selling Israel all sorts of flash weapons -- tricked-out bling bunker-busters and the like. I suppose that the "distant" part came because those weapons were, like, a pot-sweetener for Israel to be a wee bit more conciliatory toward the Palestinians. But, if that's what a "distant relationship with Israel" looks like, what does a "close relationship" look like? Obama slaking his thirst with the blood of your favorite allies' enemies?
Woodward says that "the whole foreign policy portfolio" that Obama is facing is a real dilly! Quite a pickle we find ourselves in, Bob Woodward thinks.
Now the conversation is moving to Benghazi, and just generically speaking I sort of think that having a bunch of panels where people who aren't anywhere near to knowing the facts of what happened is sort of lamentable, when you consider that when the facts are in, whoever gets to deliver the blow-by-blow of what happened and what went wrong will probably get about ten minutes of air time, against many months of idle speculation by pundits who are only really skilled at "occasionally pretending to care deeply about Benghazi." I mean, I'm looking at Kim Strassel and Charles Lane screw on their "oh so serious" faces to talk about this, and it's so obviously a mask they've put on for the occasion. In a few hours, they'll all be back in their comfortable lives, and they won't at all be rending their minds with concern about four people they didn't know who died doing something they only partially understand.
Woodward, at least, agrees with Lieberman that the whole "What did Susan Rice know when she was tasked with talking to Sunday Morning's potted plants about Benghazi?" question doesn't really scale up to a serious matter of concern. I think that now that we are shot of the hot partisanship of the presidential election, and we're also getting testimony from people who have accrued and who continue to accrue the essential knowledge of what went on, we will continue to back away from the "Susan Rice Witchburning." Today, already, you get the strong sense of gears shifting. (Though this probably because I'm not watching the tiresome antics of John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who will be dead-enders on Susan Rice to the end.)
Even as we slightly pirouette away from jamming meathooks into Susan Rice's back and hoisting her high above Constitution Avenue as a tribute to whatever vengeful gods hold sway in the whited sepulchres of Capitol Hill, we are also starting to tippy-tap in a more optimistic direction on the so-called "FISCAL CLIFF, OMG" that everyone was slightly worried about (in a rather gasping contrast to the blithe reaction everyone had to the Republicans threatening the blow out the brains of the global economy by threatening debt-ceiling default and disaster for the sake of satisfying their Tea Party Thrill Kill Cult).
Woodward says that things look brighter, because to his mind, Obama is totally brave when he is considering any further impoverishment to the people who would normally receive the earned benefits of Social Security and Medicare, but says that everyone is "at loggerheads on the tax issue" and he is "not sure how they are going to fix it." My suggestion is that we go over the so-called "cliff" on January 1, reset the tax rates to pre-Bush era rates, and then Obama says, "Here is a list of your tax options that I will not veto, now chop-chop boys, get to it!" And that will be that.
What's even better is this approach is specifically the one that a majority of Americans would like Obama to take, per the 2012 election results.
Ha, ha! Kim Strassel: "It all depends on how far the President is willing to bend." Oh, dear. Someone doesn't understand what "leverage" is. She also doesn't understand that the President does not have to get the GOP to comply with some plan to raise rates on anyone. Those rates go up by default on January 1. The inexorable passage of time is gonna do that work, for everybody.
Lane: "I don't understand where the Republicans have a whole lot of leverage, here." Yes. Duh. He also parts ways with Strassel on the matter of whether Obama should be allowed to even negotiate the matter. Strassel thinks it's irresponsible, Lane thinks that is straight up nuts.
Kristol predicts that we'll have a deal in place by the end of the year, and that the GOP will give in on raising rates. That probably means that outcome is doomed! But, Kristol insists that his comments about raising the taxes of millionaires from last week were sort of greeted with a grudging agreement, according to whatever contacts he has in Congress, who were willing to talk about it. (Potentially, Kristol gives a whole lot of people cover. His way of playing it -- which was to say that most of these millionaires vote for Democrats anyway -- is a good way of hitching the policy he wants (a reasonable approach to tax policy; resolving a debate that costs the GOP public approval in favor of moving to more winning territory) with the means to bring it about (connecting it to the Republicans' sense of bottomless resentment).
Woodward says that the Tea Party is going to "burn Kristol's Tea Party card," but Kristol says that you'd be surprised how many Tea Party types are perfectly content to jack tax rates on the wealthy, which is something I will believe after I see them high-fiving each other after the Fiscal Cliff is averted in the way the White House wants. (Assuming the White House now actually has the guts to do so...always an open question with them!)
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
Today, we are dividing and conquering the world of punditry with Chris Matthews and his Scooby Gang du jour: Dan Rather, Katty Kay, Jodi Kantor, and Sam Donaldson.
First off: David Petraeus, and all the sex-having of people who are in positions of power, but now powerful enough to actually do something like, say, resolve a bunch of unwinnable wars. Rather says that he knows Petraeus and likes him and thinks he's great, but man, he doesn't know exactly what got into him. He theorizes that some people just get to be so high and mightly that they start to figure that they are invisible and bulletproof and can just do things that ordinary people aren't allowed to do. Or, alternatively, he says that maybe it's just the situation that Rather's great-grandmother described when she opined, "Men are just no damned good."
This brings the LOLs to Katty Kay, who agrees that "people in high positions" get "surrounded by yes men" and eventually you just get accustomed to people flattering you and telling you you're great and this causes that little bitty twitch that eventually leads to your pants being down in public. Kay adds that people who pursue these sorts of careers, let's face it, aren't signing up to "lead mousy little lives" and that the daily adrenaline thrill of the workday starts to bleed into their personal life. When you have my career, a thrill-free and joyless life at staring at idiots on television and transcribing their remarks whilst adding the occasional dick-joke, you don't have that sort of problem.
Kantor says that Petraeus' unraveling is a mystery to her and she's waiting to "read the story" of Petraeus' psychological winky-wanks, so that she can better understand what happened.
Donaldson says that maybe we should consider whether these sorts of human frailties should cause such career-ending outrage, considering that guys like FDR and Kennedy had sexytime liaisons out the yang and yet did not drive the country into the ditch. Kay adds that Clinton's pecadilloes (a word that sounds like something you put on a taco, I don't know) were public and humiliating, and yet it didn't stop an era of relative peace and prosperity from happening. (Kay also basically describes Francois Mitterand as a walking Kama Sutra of sexxxy doings.)
So maybe we have met the enemy and it is us, gawking overmuch at David Petraeus' crotch movements?
Kantor says, "Bill Clinton didn't get to get judged by the French rules." To which Chris Matthews quips, "He got judged by Tom Delay." I am now forced to consider whether or not Tom Delay actually provided this nation with some vital boner-killing services, while he was in office. And that was a pretty bad period of boner misadventures, nonetheless! But maybe Delay was the bulwark that held back something far more seminal.
"Everybody has a movie that the Petraeus saga reminds us of," says Matthews, setting up commentary on both a Maureen Dowd column and Matthews' love of Homeland, and I have to mute this because -- as you may have grokked from an earlier reference to it -- I'm only just now starting Homeland (because I'm reliably told that as a white person in Washington, I should be well-versed in this show) and I don't need spoilers! (I am also finally starting "Breaking Bad," and what can I say -- I am terrible with keeping up with anything cultural, especially during an election year.)
Moving on to grand bargains and "tough choices" about gutting our longstanding earned benefit programs. Donaldson says that he would sort of "means test" the eligibility age of Medicare by allowing people who turn 65 with the need for routine, life-saving care to join Medicare immediately, while people in relative good health should wait a couple of years to join. The difficulty, he says, is that the "who determines who is in what state of health when" will tip everyone back into "death panels" territory.
Rich emails in to point out an obvious flaw in Donaldson's reasoning that I missed: "I would like to point out that Donaldson's suggestion that healthy seniors be allowed to delay enrolling in Medicare makes absolutely no sense. Raising the eligibility age for Medicare would only ensure that the percentage of Medicare recipients who need significant medical care will increase. What Medicare needs is more healthy enrollees, not fewer. Allowing healthy seniors to opt out of Medicare would be akin to requiring only accident-prone drivers to buy auto insurance. We need the premiums from safe drivers to offset the costs of insuring unsafe drivers. Medicare needs the premiums of healthy beneficiaries to offset the costs of providing care to unhealthy beneficiaries."
Matthews says that some sensitivity should be paid to those who are aging into eligibility range while holding down tough, physically demanding jobs. That's well worth thinking about. I'd go further and say that whenever you talk about raising the eligibility age of Social Security or Medicare, you are also saying, "Let's ensure that poor people die more quickly," so if that somehow strikes you as something that's not a particularly virtuous position to hold, then maybe that should factor into your calculations. (In general, I sort of think that Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles' position on that matter is, "Whatever, poor people." I point that out at great risk to my current, "not getting a lot of angry emails from Alan Simpson comparing me to a sack of goat farts" lifestyle.)
Katty Kay notes that America doesn't so much have a "deficit problem" as we have a "healthcare cost problem." I'd go further and say that for the moment, we actually have a huge unemployment problem that is causing a gigantic inadequate aggregate demand problem, but yes.
Kantor reckons that the best solution is one where all parties are a little bit unhappy. I'm prone to this same sort of glibness, but I should stop and critique: Why, if everyone pursues this matter responsibly and professionally, would anyone be "unhappy" at the end of it? And for that matter, why do we even care, for a minute, if our legislators are in some state of happiness or not. They're not actually entitled to happiness, I'm afraid. They have embarked on a career of doing constant, diligent, nettlesome work, and they all get connected to the big corporate teat eventually, so they'll be plenty happy when they retire. Ol' Evan Bayh, in his final years on Capitol Hill, successfully got everything he wanted out of every debate, and he STILL WAS NOT HAPPY. So he packed himself off in a whiny huff, and now he's a lobbyist (his PR reps will object to me using that term, but they can all eat my grits) for three different places, and he's totally stoked now, every day.
I don't care if these guys are happy! John Boehner can go find happiness in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon, and Obama can take up smoking again, and that's fine with me! Nobody ever promised anyone a rose garden, except these people, to their constituents, against all evidence to the contrary.
Aren't we all having sex with our biographers now, anyway? I mean, this sounds like a tough life. So, yeah, Congresscritters, if it's not too much to ask, go out there and...you know...occasionally don't get everything you want. It will be okay.
What are some of the things that Chris Matthews doesn't know this week? Well, Dan Rather says that he's talked to a Republican Congressman who wants to "move up the timeline" for getting out of Afghanistan, and that people might be underrating the extent to which getting the hell out of that quagmire is a bipartisan matter. Kay says that going after Susan Rice is costing the GOP the same sort of political capital as the year spent going after single women in the Presidential race. Kantor says she lives in Brooklyn. Ha, seriously, she has some Sandy recovery updates, and says that only now are people in high-rise buildings are getting power -- and that means elderly New Yorkers are only now having the chance to recharge the batteries of the wheelchairs that confer mobility. Donaldson says that Obama is gonna straight up nominate Susan Rice and dare John McCain to come snatch his chain.
Matthews asks if all the Susan Rice-related angerbanging just a mess of personal gripes or if it's political. (It's telling how, at this point, no one is even pretending that there's anything practical-minded going on in the whole Drown Susan Rice Like A Succubus movement. People are either pursuing their grudges with masturbatory zeal or trying to shoot political three-pointers.) Rather and Donaldson both say it's personal. Kay says it's political. Kantor says that it's personal for Romney but political for McCain (which is, to my estimation, perfectly incorrect).
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
An emailer, Beverly, writes in to let me know that "Saxby" means "from the farm of the short sword" in Norwegian, and if that isn't the most delightful thing I've learned today then I don't know what is.
Once again, this show's titular star, George Stephanopoulos, is nowhere to be found. But, Martha Raddatz is here, so that's nice! Still, when a guy doesn't show up for work this often, there's usually some sort of intervention around the corner.
Senator Carl Levin and Representative Peter King are here to talk shop. Levin kicks things off by saying that the Israel-Palestine conflict is serious, and the potential escalation should concern everybody. Levin and King both generically state that Israel has the right to defend themselves against these harrowing rocket attacks. Raddatz escalates the stakes by asking will and/or should the conflict turn into a ground war? King is pretty noncommittal, not willing to "second guess" Israel but stipulating that it would obviously not be a desirable outcome.
Levin, noting that they should have a vested interest in keeping the Middle East from exploding into further disarray, cites Egypt's response, thus far, as "weak."
Moving to Benghazi -- not literally, of course, do not actually MOVE there, no matter how decent the rents are and how good the slow-pour coffee place is -- Raddatz asks after the testimony offered by David Petraeus this week, and whether King still holds to his hot-headed criticism of Susan Rice. Raddatz points out that Petraeus said that Rice's talking points, as provided by the CIA, kept some details out about the Benghazi attacks. Does King feel differently, knowing that? No, King does not! Does he have a particularly good reason to, though? No. King says that Rice, going on teevee, should have relied "on more than just unclassified talking points."
I'm trying to figure out how this works! "Hey, thanks for this input, Central Intelligence Agency, about what you believe is happening right now in Libya! But, I don't know? I sort of have this crazy feeling that what America needs right now is for me to go on television and speculate wildly on matters, without evidence or input, and basically take a big poo on the stuff the intelligence community has provided me with. I naturally note the numerous historical examples of incidents, such as this, in which weird information ran far afield of the facts, which took time to gather. I think that as the UN ambassador full-ginsberging my way around the Sunday shows, I should really continue to add to that body of folly. But thanks, CIA!"
Raddatz asks, "But what is she supposed to do?" King basically says, do other stuff, that he himself could not have done and only knows could have been done with the benefit of HINDSIGHT. Levin says that Rice should "not be pilloried" for using talking points that Petraeus and Klapper signed off on.
I'll point out, again, that if you really want to plumb depths of the Benghazi incident, and whatever attendant stupidity is there -- and for that matter, plumb the depths of the stupidity of being in Libya in the first place -- then you really, really have to move off this Susan Rice Stake Burning as soon as possible.
For some reason, THIS WEEK goes to commercial with Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" as its bumper music.
Next up, we go traipsing about the edge of the "FISCAL CLIFF OMGZ" with Nancy Pelosi, who is part of Team Optimism, because there is "urgency" now, and John Boehner seems to want to get things done. Her personal suggestion is that everyone come to the table and draw out a calendar of deficit cuts, to get a sort of defined timeline of spending cuts over the near term.
Meanwhile, of course, there's the debate over tax rates. Pelosi says that the GOP is warming to revenue-raising, but there remains a gap between the parties, in terms of how revenue is obtained and what cuts to earned benefit programs are made in the trade off. She notes that the "closing the loopholes" approach doesn't add up.
Raddatz asks Pelosi about Patty Murray's stance on the matter. She reckons that we should proceed to the edge of said cliff and jump down, and move into the world where the tax rates reset to pre-Bush levels and then everyone starts cutting. Pelosi doesn't sign on to this -- she says that her role is to play deal-maker, and she does not want to go to the table "with a threat." Pelosi reiterates her previous position on the matter -- that going over the cliff in any way risks a lessening of GDP, that is an amount of pain that will be doled out to everyone, and so she's pro-get a deal done. (I seriously doubt that she's going to budge on resetting the tax rates on upper income earners, and I also don't doubt that she isn't planning on going to the more liberal members of her caucus and getting them to line up in favor of "reforms" to Social Security and Medicare.)
Raddatz asks about that dumb question Luke Russert asked her, in which certain people that Russert imagines he maybe will one day talk to might at some point perhaps express the notion that she is too old to remain in charge of the Democratic caucus, and that maybe she should step aside and let younger members of the House caucus do the work that they all enthusiastically support Pelosi doing anyway. Pelosi says that she found Luke's question to be worthy of LOLs then, but she seems to have just sort of settled today on generously extending poor dumb young Luke the full extravagance of her infinite pity.
Now we will panel ourselves into submission with George Will, Donna Brazile, Jonathan Karl, Xavier Becerra, and Newt Gingrich.
Will says that in Israel, we have "come full circle" as Israel's "enemies" has moved from fighting conventional warfare to terrorism, and from offensive warmaking, to defense, to going back on the offensive again -- this time to remove the threat of rockets being fired over Israel's "Iron Dome" -- which, by the way, is expensive to maintain, and a critical bit of asymmetry in this conflict. Gingrich says that basically everyone should just throw the notion of a "peace process" in the trash. That is, I suppose, much easier to do now that the Israelis have killed the guy who was tasked with developing a "peace process."
Becerra insists that we have to be resolute in getting the parties "back to the negotiating table." But is that the same table on which we've been putting all that stuff, when we say, "all options are on the table?" We need to make an IKEA run, or something.
Raddatz shifts to Benghazi and Susan Rice. Will opines that Rice totally misread the country when she read the CIA's talking points, but it's an open question if she "intentionally" misled the country. I sort of just went through the thought-exercise that leads rational people to answer both "No" and "Surely there is a range of more important matters, related to this debacle, that we should be talking about." Like, what Karl says, "How was the intelligence community so terribly wrong."
He also says: "I can tell you that she probably almost certainly wins confirmation if the White House goes forward with this, and the White House is signaling clearly that that is where the president is heading right now." Though, Karl says, there's no way of knowing if Obama will ultimately "go through with it." Karl reports that there actually isn't a lot of widespread desire among Republicans to get into a month-long battle over Rice's confirmation.
Becerra adds on, saying that "Our beef is with the intelligence community, not with Susan Rice," and that John McCain would be raging at Rice no matter what she said.
Brazile asks, "Why don't we let the investigations conclude" before we start blaming people willy-nilly? I think the answer to that is that if people in Washington actually paused in their relentless blame-seeking shenanigans to consider the facts, it might lead to a wider spread of cognitive effectiveness, and depending on how well everyone's brains might start working at that point, it could cause a sudden onset of self-reflection in which everyone associated with governing or covering the governing suddenly realizes that they are deeply shameful and stupid people, and then suddenly everyone is jumping off of buildings to perform an honor-saving act of ritual suicide...and if you recall correctly, Washington DC has weird height limits on buildings, so there's a good chance that they would not be sufficient to the task of enabling this mass seppuku, and then the American taxpayer has to care for these still breathing meat-sacks for many more years.
The David Petraeus sex-having holiday continues apace. Gingrich reckons that Petraeus offered his resignation based on his own judgment about his ability to perform amid scandal. Not everybody, after all, can be Newt Gingrich, I guess. The glory of the media, having bathed Petraeus so long with their tongues, is that it's the one case I can recall when everyone is sort of squeamish about saying that a guy maybe shouldn't have to walk the plank for this kind of personal failing. The great irony is that this particular type of failing is one that gets asked after of every single person who needs to obtain a security clearance in Washington.
We move to the edge of the Fiscal Cliff. Gingrich says that his read of everyone's "body language" is that everyone currently negotiating their way around the cliff would much rather be having their faces punched, repeatedly. But Becerra sort of shrugs and says there's reason to be (sort of) "optimistic"...maybe. (Kind of?) "If the math is simple, what the problem is, is the egos and the concern about the special interests," he says, adding "If you can hang your egos and the special interests at the door…" He does not finish that thought. He points out, however, that the President has, at every turn been prepared to make a deal -- he authored a "Grand Bargain" of his own, as well as paving the way for the existence of the Simpson-Bowles commission.
Brazile and Will fight over who has the mandate. Again, what really matters is who has the leverage, and how generous the leverage-holder is prepared to be, despite having said leverage. The answer, by the way, is "Obama has the leverage, all of it," and "based on history, he's probably willing to be more generous than he actually needs to be."
You know, one huge after-effect of Obama making a "Grand Bargain" at last, is that it becomes impossible to continue to portray him as an apparatchik to some phantom socialist illuminati.
Newt Gingrich says that going off the fiscal cliff woud be "mildly chaotic," like his marital history.
So, how goes the post-Romney circular firing squad? Basically, all guns are trained at Romney. Gingrich goes off on Mittens, and his "gifts" remarks, saying, "I just think it’s nuts. I mean — I mean, first of all, it’s insulting. This would be like Wal-Mart having a bad week and going, 'The customers have really been unruly.' I mean, the job of a political leader in part is to understand the people. If we can’t offer a better future that is believable to more people, we’re not going to win."
Actually, this weekend is "Black Friday" and if I know Wal-Mart, there is a level of customer unruliness -- up to and including people getting trampled to death -- that Wal-Mart is prepared to accept in the name of profits. They shan't abide their workers' suggestions that it might be a more humane thing to allow them to spend some of the holiday with their families! (The main reason I don't believe in ghosts is that if ghosts, in fact, existed, then the ghost of Jacob Marley would be rolling around America with a bullhorn.)
Becerra gamely tries to assert that Mitt Romney remains the spiritual leader of the GOP, but Karl responds by saying, "LOL, wut? You crazy." "You will never see Mitt Romney speak at a convention ever again," Karl says. Gingrich agrees and says that there's a new generation of Republican leadership waiting in the wings, and that Romney is basically finishing himself off in public.
Oh, for heaven's sake, This Week is actually doing a segment on Twinkies. I can't even, with this s#!t.
Okay, well, let's call a halt to our Sunday Morning encounter session and return to our lives, shall we! I'll steer this good ship in the direction of Thanksgiving by telling all of you that I remain endlessly thankful to all of you who turn out regularly for this liveblog every week, and who have made it the thing that it is. And I'll hope your permit me to have the odd Sunday off, as I'm having to do next Sunday, in order to celebrate the holiday myself. In exchange, please go into your week of celebration with my best wishes, for you, and the people you care about, and my hope that we're heading into a very glad holiday season and a bright New Year. I am reliably informed that I can make these wishes, because the decorations for all these holidays have been up at the CVS since September.
Speaking of the holiday season, an emailer, Barbara, suggests a "fiscal cliff" metaphor from our traditional holiday fare: "I was already watching 'Rudolph' ( a Christmas classic) with my grandaughter when I realized there is a 'cliff' in the story line. Yukon Cornelius goes over the cliff with the Abominable and his friends all think that this is the end of him, as we, most of the American public, think it will be the end of us, BUT later he shows up with the Abominable, saying, 'It's not fit for man nor beast out there. I am the man and here is the beast' (pulling the sled with the Abominable on it). Then, when Rudolph queries, he says 'Bumbles bounce,' so as you suggest, will we when and if we go over the fiscal cliff."
Unless I'm wrong, of course. Then it's back to the Island of Misfit Bloggers with me.
At any rate, have a nice holiday, and I'll see you in two weeks!
[The Sunday morning liveblog will, barring unforeseen calamity, return on December 2. In the meantime, please enjoy a roster of constantly updating internet pleasures over at my RebelMouse page.]
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