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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

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Good morning everyone, and welcome to another edition of your Sunday Morning Liveblog. My name is Jason, and...that's all I got for you today in terms of a preamble. August is the slow news month and the slow preamble month, I guess. You guys know that you should spend the morning making your own fun as I torture myself watching these shows. And as I do it, you can feel free to converse in the comments, drop me a line if need be, follow me on twitter if you feel up for it, and check out my Sunday Reads if you get bored waiting for me to continue typing.

Okay, let's go, I guess!


Today, Fox News Sunday will scrape the surface gloss off the State Department travel ban story and the Edward Snowden story and try to make it all as shiny as possible. Though Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) will actually be here, attempting substance. And then Eric Cantor, who has historically been Kid Dealwrecker for President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, will assess the likelihood that a deal will be struck in Congress by the time they hit crazy deadlines. Should be fun.

So Amash will be matching wits with former NSA head General Michael Hayden, but first Wallace wants to ask about the embassy closures and the travel alert. Hayden says that he's not "reading any of the relevant cables," but it sure feels and looks very serious to him. He adds that this means that the "al Qaeda danger is not yet over." Wallace asks if al Qaeda's demise was overrated by the White House, and if there's any danger in our reaction. On the latter point, Hayden says that it's the "cost of doing business" and you want to be cautious. He also says that the announcement itself is intended to put al Qaeda on the defensive.

Amash says that it's "precisely because of these dangers that we need the protections of the Fourth Amendment." Wallace asks Amash about Snowden being given asylum in Russia, framing the first question as, "When he gives up secrets to other countries etc." I don't believe there's any evidence that this was done through any other mechanism other than the Washington Post and the Guardian UK, though I'm always happy to get evidence otherwise!

Nevertheless, we will proceed from a set of false assumptions. Amash cautions that you need to have actual facts to support allegations, and in the meanwhile, he'd favor focusing on what previously unknown information is now known to Americans. "Members of Congress were on the whole not aware of what these programs were being used for," he says, and in that respect, he considers him a "whistleblower" for the time being. "He may be doing things overseas that we'll find to be problematic or dangerous, we'll find those facts out over time," he says, "but as far as Congress is concerned, sure, he's a whistleblower. He told us what we needed to know."

Hayden disagrees, because a "whistleblower" to Hayden is someone who "raises concerns within our government to affect change" and then, if we're being realistic, gets tagged by that same government as a malcontent and/or gets sandbagged by his superiors so that the change doesn't happen. I still give this advice: if you think that say, the way your fellow coworkers take Iraqi prisoners and strip them naked and pile them into pyramids, don't go through the chain of command, leak to a reporter.

Hayden says that Snowden being offered asylum in Russia is a "bit of a slap in the face." Most of our international relationships with other nations are based on metaphors like that. Hayden says that we should not participate in other reindeer games that Russia is involved in, like the G8 or the G20. How about the Olympics? Since Russia has decided to fill the vacant space left by America's Loser Homophobe Industry, I'm not all that keen to see Americans competing in the Winter Games, even though the Winter Games are the more dangerous of the two Olympics.

Anyway, foreign relations are always like a particularly overheating episode of Downton Abbey.

Hayden says TRUST ME AMERICANS, THE NSA MEANS YOU KNOW HARM. I just wish that the NSA would give us all a nice Christmas present, since they know what we want. Hayden thinks that the Amash bill would have "turned the NSA program on its head." This is actually probably true -- you should, in practical terms, think of Amash-Conyers as the opening gambit, and not the end game. A more narrowly targeted bill, however, could pass, given that it would only have to move a few votes from one column to the other.

Amash says that there's no evidence that his bill would have torn the NSA program asunder, as a way of suggesting that the NSA disclose more about the way the program works.

Wallace asks Hayden to explain to Amash's constituents how it is that their privacy is not being violated, and what it is that the government needs with their metadata. Hayden basically says, that the Courts have held that metadata is not something to which Americans should have an expectation of privacy over. Those courts, of course, unspool that decision from an old 1979 case, from an America that couldn't have conceived of what "metadata" is.

I would daresay that a substantial majority of the NSA's critics aren't averse to the NSA doing their job, they just want to be caught up on the process and have a little bit of an understanding where their personal liberty rules the day and where it doesn't. So, yeah, "Courts" have issued opinions on metadata -- meanwhile, the average American just learned that term a few months ago. See what I'm saying? Sometimes, what liberty boils down to is simply the notion that those who govern and those who are governed are on an equal playing field. We would probably not have an Edward Snowden if we were. America is more secure when we are all equal partners. This information feudal system we have is what's really dangerous.

Hayden says that what they do with the "ocean of data" is "very important." What does the government do with it? He says "a larger national purpose." Could they be more specific? Hayden offers a fun little thought exercise about terror cells, in which authorities find a cell phone, and back check that cell phone against their giant haystack of metadata. Hayden calls this explanation a "metaphor" at one point, and again, I think that getting from the "metaphor" explanation to the "literal" explanation might help put everyone on comfortable equal footing.

Amash objects to this, saying that this all relies on third parties giving consent for you, and that all of this goes beyond metadata.

Wallace says that it's clear that there's a movement afoot to "put more restrictions on the NSA." I'm pretty sure that shouldn't be framed that way. The "movement" that's "afoot" wants simply to have a public debate on the matter, and their proposals simply level the playing field. One proposal, which would put a special counsel in the FISA court to ensure the civil liberties of citizens, isn't going to impede the War On Terror at all. It will impede only, the irresponsible use of spying powers. If the NSA objects to this lawyer being in the room, we should turn the old saying back in their direction: "Don't worry, NSA, if you guys are doing nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about."

Other ideas being kicked around is reducing the length of time the NSA can keep metadata, and releasing annual information about the warrants the NSA is seeking. Hayden says that the intelligence community is looking at giving ground on these matters. Amash says that "we have a whole host of ideas...and we'll have a lot of good bills coming through the Judiciary Committee."

For the Fox News Sunday horsey-race segment, we have Eric Cantor -- wielder of the blade that John Boehner suspects will one day take up residence between his shoulder blades. But will he plant that blade between the shoulder blades of the global economy, and then shoot the global economy in the back of the head, and then let wild dogs devour the remains of the global economy, as the formerly healthy life-fluids of the global economy congeal on his hands, by taking debt ceiling sociopathy to its furthest extreme? Let's find out!

There were jobs numbers out in July, they look okay on the surface but are somewhat mehhhh. Wallace still doesn't understand why the overall trend isn't considered great. Cantor says that he's concerned that most of the jobs recently created were part-time -- a factor that would not be a bother to Cantor if there was a Republican in the White House, but since there's not one he is riven with concern over the most recent snapshot of a sad multi=decade trend.

Anyway, Cantor says that the solution is to take away health care from Americans and return the regulatory system to the pre-crash settings. There are, like, paragraphs and paragraphs of that.

Wallace points out that most of Cantor's dumb ideas aren't going to pass in a million years, so why not get real? And why not hang out in DC and finish things like the farm bill. Cantor says that he is hurt, in his pants, at the sight of Obama "campaigning." (What Obama is doing is "facilitating change in a favorable environment" and "making personal appeals that already have substantial support" and "signalling a desire to come to the bargaining table" on these matters...which is I guess why Cantor is so upset about it.)

Cantor has somehow just EXHAUSTED Wallace, who is now all, "Ugh, why don't you just tend to your own knitting." Cantor says that the way he made the Farm Bill totally unpassable is basically the greatest accomplishment in the history of governing, because it's rooted in "welfare queen" concern trolling.

Wallace just goes right on throwing shade, and cites Representative Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) saying that the stupid sequester games are over and now it's tiem to bring the sequestration to an end. "Are you willing to give? Are you willing to compromise?" asks Wallace.

Cantor channels Ron Fournier and says that Obama needs to show "leadership" where "leadership" equals "a willingness to simply submit to the rule of the House GOP caucus, and adopt their ideas, policies, and governing philosophy as the official Obama White House ideas, policies, and governing philosophy."

Cantor makes it clear that what he really wants to do is cut entitlement programs in exchange for no new revenues and also very deep domestic spending cuts, and if only the President would just spit in the eye of the people that elected him and join Cantor in thinking the same thing, you would see the House of Representatives get amazingly productive. Cantor thinks that it's just unreasonable for points of view other then his own to even exist.

Wallace doesn't understand why compromise is just impossible. He points out that Cantor's position is a recipe for a "train wreck," and scoffs when Cantor suggests that everyone can find "common ground," a few breaths after he essentially insisted that there was only one way of doing things.

Cantor says, "I think we are earnest in our desire to solve these problems," and he doesn't understand why the President doesn't just repeal Obamacare. (We are apparently still doing that fun thing where the employer mandate is the same thing as the individual mandate. Sigh.)

And it really doesn't sound like Cantor is going to do much to ensure the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, either. So, you know, if you see John Boehner, buy him a bourbon.

Okay, time for panel blather. Joining the Bill Kristol and Juan Williams hate-eyes duo are Heritage Foundation prexy and living Chia Pet Jim DeMint and, for the first time, former Daily Beast goober Howard Kurtz. My Sundays...getting worse and worse with every passing year.

Gotta freshen my cup of coffee in order to endure this group of taint-snacks. Kristol says, well, so much for all the boasts about al Qaeda being on the run because now we have to close embassies. DeMint says that our decision to "placate" the region was wrong. The obvious wisdom fo bombing and occupying these regions is apparently lost on me. Williams tries to real-keep, noting that the al Qaeda of pre-9/11 has truly been dismantled, and now we're dealing with a new kind of threat.

I mean, there's a point to be made here: Afghanistan is really no longer the place where any of this effort should be concentrated, but if you said, "Let's pull our resources out of Afghanistan," Kristol would howl at you until either you or he died of an aneurysm.

DeMint says it's "hard to tell" whether the administration's policies have hurt, and suggests that the President should definitely be "overcautious," but he's pretty sure that we are seen around the world as weak and unwilling to act. Kurtz gamely attempts all this interrupting, trying to argue that stuff the Bush administration did wasn't exactly the hallmark of courage or conviction, but the better argument here is "We're seen as unwilling to act? We are droning the bejeezus out of these regions. We have dirty war going in Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Come on now, son! I know that most of you are playing catchup, but aren't we all finally up to speed on the whole 'Benghazi consulate was actually crawling with CIA mopes' thing?"

Now they want to take on all the "GOP in disarray stories." I missed when Chris Christie accused Rand Paul of bringing "pork barrel" money home to Kentucky. Oh dear, Chris, that wasn't Paul! I mean, sure, give him time and I bet he'll end up slinging pig back at the Bluegrass State like anyone who wants to get re-elected. But as my colleagues have extensively reported, Kentucky's king of pork is McConnell, not Paul.

Store it away: Christies may be in the 2016 mix, but he's really not gotten a grasp of how to offer a sophisticated argument that extends beyond New Jersey's borders yet.

Anyway, Wallace wants to talk about the "growing split" between the GOP's membership. Kristol, for example, had previously made it clear that he thinks that the whole "get rid of Obamacare or we'll shut down the government" position is really stupid, but he does a lot of grovelling before King DeMint today, suggested only that there are "more intelligent" ways to fight those battles. That was some quality bowing and scraping.

DeMint doesn't really bend on his position that this is "the last opportunity to stop Obamacare." Wallace says, "you don't take a hostage unless you mean to shoot it," and DeMint says that if the GOP takes the government hostage and Obama doesn't agree to consign millions of Americans to sickness and indebtedness and death in exchange for not shutting the government down, then it really will be Obama killing the hostage, which is a pretty unique point of view from a law enforcement perspective, to say nothing of a radical alteration in a policy that's been held to be very important in America for as long as I can remember, which is: "Do not negotiate with terrorists."

Most of these divisions that are occurring in the GOP sort of have to do with the fact that you've got two ideas in tension: 1) you have a "rebranding" movement afoot to ensure that a revitalized GOP hits the hustings for the next Presidential election, and this conflicts with 2) a sooner midterm election in which the GOP benefits the most from an energized base of far-right voters.

Anyway there's some more blargle and I think Juan Williams quoted Jimmy Cliff? Oh well, bored now. One down, two to go.


We're going to see if I enter the latter part of Sunday in a happier frame of mind if I watch MEET THE PRESS now and end the day with THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS. My theory here, is that while MTP and THIS WEEK are both really, really vapid shows, THIS WEEK is more honest and open about their own vapidity -- like, they aspire to be feather-light and substanceless -- whereas MEET THE PRESS is very dishonest about this, and to boot is actually sort of brain-cancer causing in the sense that everyone involved in producing the show is a genuinely bad person (whereas the THIS WEEK people are more "demented and sad but social").

This show is going to include a colloquy on baseball and steroids, so we have that to look forward to. Really, just the important stuff.

First the trivial matter of the State Department's terror advisory. Andrea Mitchell shows up to tell us that the locus for all the recent chatter is Yemen, and from there, I'd just recommend you read Jeremy Scahill's book for a proper assessment of how people in Yemen may feel about us. Meanwhile, we are reminded that our relationship with Putin has hit the skids over Snowden, though if you've even a passing familiarity with Putin, you should pretty much be of the mind that a mad relationship with that weirdie is what we should expect, if now aspire to. (Wouldn't you worry if the United States and Putin were "on the same page" about something, up to and including a book?)

Okay, so who is this guy? White dude, old as mud, terrible hairstyle, I'm guessing a member of Congress, possibly a Republican? Oh, yes, this is Saxby Chambliss, who inspired the porn name "Sexby Chablisness." He is retiring, and will probably be replaced by some barking-mad git, so this is maybe a moment I should appreciate him, but I think I'll stick to talking about fun pornstar names that he inspires.

Dick Durbin is here, too, which is also mostly a good porn name, too. Durbin is all "business casual" today, no tie, top button unbuttoned, he and his roommate Chuck Schumer probably woke up this morning and made each other waffles. Later they will sort laundry and watch whatever is on the Cooking Channel. (This is mostly what I am going to do today too.)

Chambliss says that there's been "an awful of chatter out there." Buncha chatter. Like, near 9/11 level of chatter, implies chatter. But he's paying attention to the chatter, and he thinks it's "the most serious threat we've seen in years." Not that he knows the location of the threat. Still, he says that he's heard some specifics, about what's being dreamed up, and some individuals, and then he goes on to talk about suicide vests and "vehicle borne bombs being carried into an area" and also "anecdotes."

Gregory asks Durbin if this is a "big deal" and Durbin says that it is a "big deal." Is it a "big f--king deal," though? Seemingly no.

Gregory is all, "Aren't we getting this information from our heroic self-espionage metadata gathering programs from the good people at the NSA, who were so recently criticized?" And Chambliss is all, "Well, heck, David Gregory, now that you mention it, it sure was the NSA and their awesome programs that totally helped us find out about this awesome threat I can't talk about but maybe suicide vests! Maybe vehicle borne whatsits!" So, there's your Meet The Press not-ready-for-primetime players doing their NSA infomercial for America.

"Wow, this is key part of the debate," says Ron Popeil, host of Meet The Press.

Durbin says that it's still worth having a debate over whether every single American needs to be spied on in order to provide security. Gregory, who's picked a side on this weeks ago, derides Durbin gently. Durbin pushes back and suggests that it's nevertheless a matter that deserves discussion, and proposals like putting a legal representative in the room for FISA proceedings who is there to represent the American people in these matters is not going to impede any legitimate intelligence gathering operations.

To Gregory, people like Durbin, who want the debate, are "[EYEROLL] forcing this into the open." But he'll take up their cause briefly, asking about the fact that many members of Congress are complaining about being underinformed about these programs. Chambliss says that this is their own fault, because they have access to most documents pertaining to the programs. Most, by the way, does not mean "all." It is sort of reasonable for people who plan on casting votes to do so on the basis of knowing "all," not "most."

Chambliss says that "if we could limit" the intelligence gathering to "just the bad guys" then they would. "If you could let us know who the bad guys are" then do that, he says to NSA critics. Well, I'm glad to help out. I am not a bad guy and I've no attention to doing terrorism or helping anyone else do terrorism so you can leave my metadata out of the pile starting right now, dude.

Ha, ha. The NSA, Chambliss says, does a "pretty good job" at keeping the information they gather within the law-enforcement community. Great! A "pretty good job." Fantastic.

Chambliss and Durbin both criticize Ted Cruz for his "shut down the government over Obamacare" mewlings, Durbin more harshly then Chambliss.

We have apparently already gotten to the panel roundtable blather portion of the show, and today we have some combination of Joe Scarborough and Rick Santorum and Andrea Mitchell and probably some other people I missed.

Santorum says that the terror warning is a big deal and it's definitely because of an administration that's gone totally light on terrorism, only constantly droning them to death constantly a little bit. Scarborough sort of mildly objects to this, noting that the Obama approach to national security is very Cheney-esque. He does say that "there are a lot of familes of the people who were killed at Benghazi" (so...four families) that wish that the Benghazi consulate had gone on the same sort of alert that the Embassies are getting now.

Ha, well, first, as Saint Alanis of Toronto teaches us, "You live, you learn." Second one big difference between the embassies getting warnings now and the "consulate" in Benghazi is that the embassies getting warnings now are sort of decidedly under the purview of the State Department as opposed to the "consulate" in Benghazi, which was crawling from stem to stern with CIA dudez. (I guess this news, which already took way too long to "break," hasn't gotten out to the Sunday shows and their producers yet?)

Santorum seems to think that the Obama administration has not "gone after radical Islam" and has even "embraced the Muslim Brotherhood." Scarborough says that actual intelligence community, including conservatives in that community, tell him that the Obama administration has absolutely damaged the operational ability of global terror networks, and this is why there is this attempt at reconstitution in Yemen is occurring. He goes on to suggest that while this is the case, a lot of what the Obama administration is doing -- such as launching drone attacks in nations we are not at war with -- are not particularly helpful.

Santorum throws shade at Scarborough, and hey guys, Santorum is no fool -- he knows that Scarborough just attempted nuance on a Sunday show which is something you are never ever ever ever supposed to do.

Santorum says that we are totally benefitting from all of the harnessing of "big data," and basically goes on to write a quick Fast Company cover story about it.

"I'm open to looking into the presidential race in 2016," Santorum also says. "But we've got a little ways. We've got elections in 2014 to focus on."

Meanwhile, I am thinking of what life would be like if a "President Santorum" and his Dominionist scold pals could "collect all of our metadata," and the inevitable conclusion I come to is that life would be many, many Fahrenheit degrees colder, at least for me, because I would have successfully obtained political asylum in Scandinavia long before his inauguration.

Joy-Ann Reid says that one of the things we've learned is that there are a lot of random people at the contractor level that have access to this stuff, so who knows what a "Snowden with impure motives" might do with that information.

There is a video of Dan Balz saying that Rand Paul has different foreign policy views than the rest of the GOP. This is helpful! Maybe someone awoke from a coma today and turned on Meet The Press, not knowing this. Anyway, Scarborough says that there are foreign policy divisions between Hillary Clinton and, say, Pat Leahy as well. Interestingly enough, the Democrats are probably more discplined and playing down these divisions then they are at playing down their divisions on domestic policy. And let's face it, I don't think that Pat Leahy and Hillary Clinton are going to stage a public festival of insult over their divisions on any policy. At least not the sort of spectacle that Chris Christie and Rand Paul have treated us to lately. I am prepared to be wrong about this, though!

Now for some reason we will talk about Anthony Weiner. David Gregory says he wants to know "what makes these politicans want to stay in public life." Joy-Ann Reid says that there are just a lot of incentives to stay in -- or rather, no incentives to getting out: Bill Clinton and David Vitter are just fine. The difference with Weiner is that there's almost nothing on his slate, nothing ELSE that defines him, other than his fancy marriage and his ridiculous scandal and his history of being a loud bloviator.

I sort of think that what is uniquely Anthony Weiner's problem -- and we'll leave aside the obvious problem, that he is a perv, for a minute -- is that outside of the white heat of the spotlight, the man doesn't exist! What is it the Weiner has QUIETLY accompished. When Anthony Weiner rolls up his sleeves and puts his head down and just WORKS, what is he working on, and what did he accomplish. The truth is that he's just a sum of different celebrity parts, without anything substantive to even glue those parts together.

These are questions that you can actually ANSWER about Eliot Spitzer. And that's why he's in much better shape.

The panel said a bunch of stuff about this too, and about Bob Filner too, who is a super-creep, like a Cavity Creep. And speaking of super-creeps, here is Rudy Giuliani, for some reason.

Gregory asks how the Weinerschnitzeldammerung is reflecting the city, and he doesn't have a whole lot of interesting things to say about it, other than the facts are in front of the electorate and he's sure the electorate will "figure it out." Giuliani also sides with Chris Christie in the Great Christie/Paul war of 2013.

And I'll fast forward through all discussion of baseball, while thanking Meet The Press for finally committing themselves to the discussion of a topic whose slightness is more in keeping with their abilities as people.

Oh, and this baseball stuff is literally the last ten minutes of this show? Happy, happy fast-forward finger!!


Ahh, it sounds like George Stephanopoulos is not coming to work today, and what do you know, it's Martha Raddatz doing hosting today.

Jonathan Karl says that everyone is taking whatever this threat is super-seriously, and this continues to be a weird amount of specific stuff about a threat, after many years of hand-waving and smoke.

One U.S. official telling us, quote, "the part that is alarming is the confidence they showed while communicating and the air of certainty about their plans."

The official tells us they even talked about their media plan for after the attacks take place.

Now, one of the things that is especially concerning about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen is that they have developed techniques to evade western security measures, specifically officials are concerned about terrorists carrying surgically implanted bombs.

As one U.S. official told us, quote, "these are guys who have developed the techniques to defeat our detection methods."

Is the target going to be an embassy or a consulate or even a "consulate?" Karl says it could mean anything.

Everyone should just wander around in a generalized state of panic for the foreseeable future, okay?

Meanwhile, now we'll have Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald to talk about the most recent developments of the NSA story. Today's upshot, according to Greenwald, is that members of Congress, from both political parties, have been sharing their efforts to learn about the NSA program with the Guardian. "Remember, we keep hearing that there's all kinds of robust oversight by congress and we need not worry, and yet these members of congress, one of whom is Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia, the other Alan Grayson, the Democrat from Florida, showed us and we're publishing this morning very detailed letters trying to get this information and they're being blocked from getting it and they've said, and other members have said, that they are forced to learn about what the NSA is doing from what they're reading and are reporting."

Greenwald goes on to note that there is a legal opinion about the FISA court that remains classified (despite the fact that the FISA court would be fine if it was made public). The reason? Well, a little matter of the fact that it "ruled that much of what the NSA is doing which is spying on American citizens is both unconstitutional in violation of the Fourth Amendment."

Anyway, many members of Congress have been asking to read this court opinion, and the House Intelligence Committee is preventing this from happening.

Would Snowden come back to the United States? Greenwald reckons that there would have to be a significant change in American culture for that to happen, and as it stands, there's really no good reason for a whistleblower to be under the impression that a fair trial is possible.

Now, we'll hear from Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Mary.) and Peter King (R-NY). Ruppersberger joins in today's sudden-terror-threat themed NSA infomercial. King says that there's really no way of knowing what sort of attacks are in the offing and where they will happen. He is of the opinion that al Qaeda is now "in many ways" more dangerous than they were before 9/11.

King and Ruppersberger continue in this vein for another few minutes:

RADDATZ: I want your reaction to this. The New York Times reported this Saturday that: "Some analysts and congressional officials suggested Friday that emphasizing a terrorist threat now is a good way to divert attention from the uproar over the NSA's data collection programs, and that if it showed the intercepts had uncovered possible plot, even better."

What's your response to that?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, I am glad you raised that issue because the bottom line is, is that the NSA's job is to do foreign intelligence. The whole purpose is to collect information to protect us. We have NSA people going to work every day that this whole purpose is to get information against terrorist attacks.

And these people who work at NSA are hard-working people who follow the law. In fact, we have lost 20 members of the people working for NSA in Iraq and Afghanistan attempting to get information to help the troops.

It is a very good informercial. I would buy some Slapchops from these guys.

Peter King, suggesting that there is a conspiracy here, says it is "absolutely crazy" to suggest that there is "a conspiracy here."

Raddatz asks Ruppersberger about why he is preventing Members of Congress to read the legal opinion that Greenwald cited. He answers this way:

RUPPERSBERGER: We have rules as far as the committee and what you can have and what you cannot have. However, based on that, that statement I just made, is that since this incident occurred with Snowden, we've had three different hearings for members of our Democratic Caucus, and the Republican Caucus, where General Alexander has come with his deputy, Chris Inglis, to ask any questions that people have as it relates to this information.

And we will continue to do that because what we're trying to do now is to get the American public to know more about what's going on. The NSA is following the law. And that we have checks and balances. We have the courts. We have both the Senate and the House intelligence committees. We have the Justice Department. We have checks and balances here to make sure that NSA does not violate the law in what they're doing.

And, you know, since these two programs have come in effect, especially the metadata, there has not been one incident of any member of the NSA breaking any law whatsoever.

But we can do better. I have to educate my caucus more, the Democratic Caucus. And we're trying to declassify as much as we can.

There were like, nine opportunities there for Raddatz to break in and say, "Sorry, but if you could juts give a yes or no answer as to whether or not you'll let members of Congress see this specific legal opinion, that would be great, you can just put a big ol' cork in your cakehole otherwise, 'kay?" but she doesn't take any of them.

Suffice it to say, Ol' Dutch Cleanser here will continue to ensure that members of Congress will continue to not have access to information, as they have before, and will nevertheless be expected to vote to reauthorize and re-fund these operations or they will be characterized by opponents as being sympathetic to terrorists.

Peter King tries this out: "I've never seen this -- to me it's unprecedented to have all of these top people from an administration during this time of crisis still come in and answer question after question after question. So anyone who says that Congress is somehow being stonewalled is just wrong and is generally, I think, raised by people who are trying to make a name for themselves."

In other words, surely quantity is better than quality and surely activity is better than achievement. I honestly don't know why those words aren't just enscribed on the Capitol Building, as they sum up this modern aristoidiocracy pretty effectively.

Now we'll hear from former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, for whatever reason.

Chertoff continues the informercial, big upping the awesomeness of NSA surveillance, and how it Works For You. "Apparently," he says, "the collection of this warning information came from the kinds of programs we've been discussing about, the ability to capture communications overseas." This is the Evidence-Free Assertion Of The Day, kids.

Jeffrey Goldberg says that all the Embassy closures mean that we are in a "post-Benghazi" environment. I'd say we're in a "mid-Benghazi" environment since the word of Benghazi essentially being the CIA's Gosford Park in the Middle East has not trickled out yet.

Chertoff says that a "splintered al Qaeda" is "in many ways more dangerous." WE WERE FOOLISH FOOLS, FOR SPLINTERING AL QAEDA, NOOOOOOOO!

Goldberg goes on to say that "we might actually be in a more dangerous phase with al Qaeda," and Chertoff says that "unfortunately, this problem is not going to go away."

And that sounds bad. Fortunately, Raddatz counters with an optimistic take:

Still to come, our powerhouse "Roundtable." Their take on the high-profile Republican rift between Chris Christie and Rand Paul.

And this should give you hope, because if we as a nation were in serious danger, there is no way a news organization would actually budget serious time and effort to point cameras at some collection of dumb clucks to talk about the rift that's going on between those two assholes!

First, though, we have to hear from General Martin Dempsey, the President's top military adviser, who must be pretty good at advising, because the way he whistles everytime he uses the letter "s" would drive me right up the goddamn wall. He says that Snowden totally sucks and is "disappointing." He says that as a result, "our adversaries are changing the way they communicate," so that they avoid detection, and all I can say is that if that is true, it sounds like our adversaries have an enviable amount of options, under the circumstances!

Raddatz tries to get Dempsey into a spat with John Kerry, at the latter's recent insistence that the people who coup d'etatted the Morsi regime into the "delete" file were "restoring democracy," but Dempsey is all, "Ha, no, not going there."

So we switch to Syria, where Assad's forces are slowly retaking territory from the Syrian rebels. Dempsey says that the situation is ebbing and flowing and it looks like Assad is doing great at the moment, but he's pretty sure it won't be sustainable.

How does Dempsey view Iraq today? Dempsey says that we "provided Iraq with a historic opportunity to be what they wanted to be" -- you know, provided that what they wanted to be was some variation on "burnt to the ground" and "mostly killed."

There is a brief conversation about sexual assault in the military, in which Dempsey insists that there are currently "nine different places" outside of the chain of command that women can avail themselves of so he doesn't understand why Senator Kirstin Gillibrand is so het up to change things. And then he talks about his grand-daughter, for about the same amount of time he discussed Iraq.

This is followed by a produced reported segment on Anthony Weiner's segment that is both longer, and into which more substantial amount of effort was made, then the previous reported segment on the Terrifying Terror Threat.

Finally, we get the Blather Panel, with George Will and Soledad O'Brien and Jeff Zeleny and Neera Tanden and Matthew Dowd.

Will makes a similar point to one I made before -- the surprising thing about Weiner is that he carries no real substance with him wherever he goes, and were it not for the scandal, we're left with a guy whose major contribution is that he was willing to go on cable news shows occasionally to infotain. Why even continue his mayoral run? Zeleny offers the best take yet: Weiner has nothing better to do.

This is probably true! And what's at risk, here? That New York City might still elect him, maybe by accident? As I keep pointing out, New York City is really good at electing terrible mayors on purpose. So Anthony Weiner isn't worth worrying about.

O'Brien, doing her very best to ensure that she'll never be invited back to a Sunday show, says that we could just stop talking about Anthony Weiner and start talking about the issues that impact the normal humans of New York City. "We could be talking about school choice," she says, "we could be talking about some of the charter schools that are actually failing new york city children. We could be talking about this massive income gap in New York City." Ahh, but we don't talk about that stuff because who wants to have access to a bunch of poor people from New York."

"None of this could be good for the Clintons," says Raddatz, in an effort to wrest "This Week's" steering wheel, and ensure that the show will continue to steam headlong toward the rocky shoals of Dipshit Politics, after Soledad O'Brien briefly threatened to do something on a Sunday that was actually substantive.

There is then a whole segment on the fact that President Obama and Hillary Clinton had lunch.

Now we are on to the whole "Rand Paul and Chris Christie" are having a tiff and the tiff has Deep Meanings.

Will decides to mansplain libertarianism to Chris Christie:

WILL: So let's be clear about what libertarianism is and what it is not. It is not anarchism. It has a role in government. It comes in many degrees and it basically says before the government, it bridges the freedom of an individual or several individuals contracting together. that government ought to have, "a," a compelling reason and, "b," a constitutional warrant for doing so. Now, if Mr. Christie thinks that's a dangerous thought, a number of people are going to say that Mr. Christie himself may be dangerous.

Zeleny says that Christie is "down" right now and Paul is "up." Dowd agrees with that. Tanden disagrees with that, at least in terms of the fact that the "Tea Party" is keeping the GOP from governing. (It is probably convenient for Tanden to link "the Tea Party" to "libertarians," and insofar as there is discernible factionalism in Congress, maybe that's even fair, but there is actually more than a dime's worth of difference between "tea party" and "libertarian."

Meanwhile, should there be a boycott of the Russian Olympics? Or rather, should the International Olympic Committee nut up and show some moral courage for the first time in their benighted lives? Christine Brennan, who joins the panel says, "The international olympic committee could basically say to the russian government, you must change this law, and here's why...Putin wanted these Olympics more than anything. He himself lobbied for the Olympic games several years ago, so just as the opportunity was missed in China with dissidents being thrown in jail because the Olympics were held in China, the IOC missed an opportunity there to demand human rights change for generations."

All true! But it's not going to be seen as a "missed opportunity" for the IOC, whose members essentially lack a soul. We're talking about an organization whose most morally informed members are simply privateers -- from there, the typical IOC member has all the character of the average war criminal. As Chris Lehmann put it, the Olympics is basically a big party thrown by a "mobbed-up oligarchy" in order to celebrate themselves.

At least our panel is of a different timber. LZ Granderson also thinks that the Obama administration, through John Kerry, should really denounce Russia, and he notes that what's really important is that we have an impact on what happens to the LGBT community in Russia, after the Olympics have packed up the rings and gone home.

There is some talk about A-Rod. Then the show does a nice thing, and talks about NPR's Scott Simon, who tweeted about the last hours of his mother's life. You can just have this:

Lots of people have oddly deemed Simon's tweets inappropriate for Twitter, because God knows they're doing such bloody important things with Twitter, so they should know.

Anyway, that's that. The new Doctor is Peter Capaldi. Sorry, Richard Ayoade fans! Have a nice week!!

[The Sunday morning liveblog returns on August 4. Until then, feel free to check out my Rebel Mouse page for fun things to read.]