POLITICS

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

09/22/2013 10:22 am ET | Updated Sep 22, 2013

Good morning everybody and welcome once again to your weekly liveblog of the Beltway-located political media's shame spiral. My name is Jason, and today it would appear that the focus of our heroic Sunday morning telenovelas will be more toward the domestic -- especially as two big and unnecessary fiscal battles loom over Washington in the weeks ahead. Plus David Gregory will "take on" the NRA's Wayne LaPierre -- that's going to be like a televised staring contest between two dented aluminum cans in which one of the cans is also paranoid, so what fun that's going to be.

As always, feel free to wax poetic in the comments, drop me a line if the need arises, follow me on Twitter if you feel that's going to fill a hole in your life, and if you get bored, remember that I've collected some of the internet's most fun and engaging reads over at my Rebel Mouse page.

Okay, allons-y, I guess.

THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

Martha Raddatz will be filling in for Stephanopoulos, who is probably drunk or something. So she has the con, live at the Navy Yard, which seems like a pretty stupid place to do a show from...isn't it still a crime scene? Can we not convey our awesome opinions unless we are right in the middle of all the luridness? Oh well, I guess Newseum tourists get a break this week from all over the members of the Glowermouse Roundtable tromping through the halls with faux-purpose.

Meanwhile, as you may have heard there is a terrorist attack/hostage situation going on in Nairobi, Kenya, at some upscale shopping mall. Thirty people being help hostage by about 15 gunmen, linked to al Qaeda. ABC News reports that Kenyan authorities say that they have the matter "under control." There is apparently a sliding scale for "under control." The New York Times Tyler Hicks, who got dozens of photographs of the scene, indicates that it was the attack that appeared to be "highly organized."

For whatever reason, everyone decided that they'd better brief Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) on this, so now he's here. What can King tell us about the attack? He can say it's "sophisticated" and is most likely the work of al-Shabaab, which is one of the only terrorist groups to have recruited members from the United States. Naturally, King suggests that there could be a "follow up attempt here in the United States," so I guess I owe it to the Somali-American community to be on the lookout for paranoid neighbors in your community, who think you guys are all terrorists.

Any information about what Somali-Americans may be active? King doesn't know, so it's good that he threw that out there. King points out that al Qaeda's influence in Africa is growing, and that al-Shabaab now has an "international dimension." He says he's worried that Somali-Americans might "come back to the United States" and "use their abilities." What abilities? Is Al-Shabaab giving them super powers? Because if these abilities are "grabbing a gun" and "shooting a bunch of people" then I daresay we've got the market on those abilities pretty well cornered.

Nevertheless, a well-coordinated attack. But a pointless amount of murdering of innocents for cheap terror. One of the things that we learned from the cache of documents seized at Osama bin Laden's Pakistani rebdoubt was that he was growing concerned that al Qaeda has starting to develop a "bad brand" because, you know, ALL THE MURDER. I'm not sure Al-Shabaab gets much further, turning a mall into a charnel house.

Some discussion now with ABC's Peter Thomas, former Homeland Security official Fran Townsend, and General Peter W. Chiarelli.

Townsend says that she would want to know if any of the attackers were American, and what the FBI is doing stateside to protect us. Minnesota, she says, is the locus of recruitment successes. Thomas confirms this, and notes that the United States' law enforcement agencies have, since the Mumbai attacks, been ramping up their capacity to deal with these sorts of emergencies.

Raddatz asks what AFRICOM -- U.S. military command in the African continent -- is going to do in this situation, almost skeptically. Chiarelli says that AFRICOM is adding a lot to the security situation. He is pretty defensive about it!

Now they are talking about how Al-Shabaab used Twitter, which is deemed to be sophisticated. Twitter ended up shutting down the accounts that Al-Shabaab was using.

Raddatz asks Thomas, "If you are an American and you are afraid to go to the malls, what do you say to those Americans." I say, "Use the internet." You should have long been avoiding the malls because the most dangerous group of all is typically found there -- white suburban teenagers. Anyway, I guess this is how Jeff Bezos conquers the world.

Oh, so now we suddenly shift back to the fight over the comign government shutdown. Jonathan Karl is hosting this segment, and he's got Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Mary.) and...some other white guy I don't recognize? He kind of looks like a magician? He is also, like Van Hollen, deemed to be a "player." Hope I find out who he is! Great get, ABC!

Before we get there, we have to sit through a pretty bad video package that compares the government shutdown to the Emmys, or to reality television, or to HOMELAND, or to HOUSE OF CARDS. It's dumb.

Oh, okay, the white guy who looks like a magician is Representative Tom Graves (R-Geo.), so yeah, ABC News' bookers really had to scrape the cask to get that seat filled.

So, here's the painfully generic rundown of the "government shutdown fight" from these two painfully generic Representatives.

Graves says that "what is real" is that everyone hates the way Obamacare is keeping people alive, and he wants to delay it...and Karl interrupts and says, you aren't answering my question, will you vote for a government shutdown, and he says that's not his intention and isn't everyone just assuming that the Senate won't also vote to defund Obamacare? (Yes. We are. We also assume that plants will continue to photosynthesize.)

Karl continues after this Georgia magician, pointing out that the Wall Street Journal's more respectable band of laissez-faire capitalists think that the Congressional GOP have been huffing some strong inhalants. Graves says, "That's their opinion," but other people have other opinions. Like Warren Buffett, he says, wants Obamacare stopped and a do over to ensue.

This is what is embarrassing about the modern political media. Warren Buffett did not criticize Obamacare. In fact, he supports it. Some old quotes of Buffett's have been dredged up, assigned a new context, and have been deployed as talking points. Because the internet exists, the "Buffett says to 'Scrap Obamacare'" meme was very swiftly debunked, and one of Buffett's own spokespersons said that Buffett was "shocked" that the statements had been "attributed to him."

Now, out in the hinterlands, the low-infos are probably still laboring under the misconception that Buffett wants Obamacare to be scrapped, and so you'll get a lot of ALL-CAPS tweets with misspellings about this for a while yet. But Graves, while he is a never-before-booked backbencher that looks like a magician, is nevertheless part of the modern world, he knows, because he's been briefed by professionals, that the Buffett quote isn't true. He's going to use it anyway, for two reasons: 1) the lie still have some life in it and 2) because he knows that ABC News is not powerful enough to stop him. No one is afraid of organizations like ABC News, and so they'll gladly lie and lie and lie, right to their faces.

Karl, if he were a man and not a sack of gas stuffed into a suit, would have shut that down right there. But he doesn't. No mention is made of the lie that was just told on the teevee. Not even from Van Hollen, because he's got to wind up and spit all of the talking points he's memorized from flash cards, too. "THE CHILDREN, THINK OF THE CHILDREN," figures prominently. Van Hollen hopes to trip Graves up with the fact that the GOP passed a budget assuming that Obamacare and its Medicare savings, are extant. Graves just dodges the question, and Van Hollen dodges the dodge, and finally Karl interrupts with a poll.

Van Hollen says that Obama won the election, and Obamacare won alongside, and the rest of the negativity is a mix of bad information and GOP scaremongering. It's more the bad information. Graves says that if Obamacare is so great, why is Obama delaying it? Well, he's delaying an insignificant part of it, while the lion's share take off.

There is yelling, and Karl interrupts it to ask if John Boehner is going to retain his leadership position. Graves says he will, we've heard otherwise.

That was super-duper useful!

Time for roundtabling, with Newt Gingrich, Robert Reich, Jeff Zeleny, and Gwen Ifill.

Gingrich says that the GOP should "get some sleep" because the next few weeks will be, for them, very challenging. But he says that the Congress should not give up the power of the purse. Gingrich wonders if Obama is prepared to compromise at all. "What's he willing to give up?" asks Gingrich, who apparently took the "get some sleep" advice too seriously and missed the part where Obama is ready to give up Chained CPI, and Medicare cuts, and 200 pages of budget cuts, plus the revenues through tax reform and loophole closures plan that Romney/Ryan ran on in 2012. Also, remember that when he could have gotten a repeal of the Bush Tax cuts on people earning above $250,000/year, he relented and limited it to $400,000/year, because he wanted to be a good compromiser and good faith negotiator.

Gingrich is either too ignorant to have noticed this, or he knows it full well and is a cheap demagogue.

Reich says that the issue here, is not the Affordable Care Act, but whether or not one party in Congress should be allowed to hold the economy hostage just because of a law that got passed. "What's next, Social Security?" (Again, Obama is doing what he can to limit the effectiveness of Social Security.) Reich and Gingrich debate the values of this sort of governing.

Ifill: "Some of my least favorite things in Washington is when you do things just to send a message."

There is a discussion of the debt ceiling. Karl seems to be affronted by the fact that there have been "no negotiations on the debt ceiling." But not negotiating on the debt ceiling is the proper way to go. Reich argues the matter correctly, Gingrich says that Reich is peddling "historical baloney," but Gingrich is the baloney-maker, as Jonathan Chait already explained.

“No one is threatening to default,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner. “The president only uses these scare tactics to avoid having to show the courage needed to deal with our coming debt crisis. Every major deficit deal in the last 30 years has been tied to a debt limit increase, and this time should be no different.”

I spot two glaring factual errors and one logical fallacy. Error No. 1: As Richard Kogan points out, since the Reagan administration began, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 45 times. Only seven of those times were attached to significant budget legislation. Basically, when Congress does a budget deal, it usually attaches a debt-ceiling hike onto it. But it doesn’t make the debt-ceiling hike contingent on the deal.

Error No. 2: Boehner is not proposing a “deal,” as in a deal involving the swapping of concessions. Indeed, all the previous agreements he cites involved the two sides making mutually agreeable policy bargains. None of them, save the 2011 debt-ceiling ransom, involved Congress threatening debt default in order to extract concessions. Boehner isn’t looking for a deal, except in the sense that Richie Aprile was looking for a deal with Beansie to share the profits from his restaurant.

Discussion moves to the new Iranian president, and his current charm offensive. Admittedly, he might be a more reasonable man than the the debt ceiling extortionists, but in this case, Reich and Gingrich share an appropriate and equal level of skepticism. The seeming consensus is that our economic sanctions are working and Iran's new charming ways are meant to hopefully get those lifted.

And that's that.

We return to the Navy Yard, with General Chiarelli, ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser, and Mark Barden, who lost his son in the Sandy Hook shooting. Besser, who is ABC News' chief medical correspondent, calls the Navy Yard shooting a "predictable surprise." "Events like this are preventable if you understand what the root causes are," he says, "but as a nation, we're not taking the steps to really understand what those are, so we're going to see this again and again and again."

Barden says that he hopes that we are "not reaching a place of complacency," about events like this, agreeing with Raddatz that the aftermath of the Navy Yard shooting wasn't suffused with the same urgency that was felt after Sandy Hook.

How to fix? Chiarelli notes that laws are changing to allow the military to make time intercessions on behalf of people with suicidal ideation, and lessons learned can be applied to the public at large. Besser says that there's a role the CDC can play in the arena of gun violence, to identify the drivers of mass violence. Chiarelli says that you sort of have to accept that the science on all of this is not going to be terribly concrete. He and Besser nevertheless encourage a ramping up of these sorts of studies.

MCLAUGHLIN GROUP

Okay, time to take a break from whatever that way with some of the fun coot talk and yellery of the McLaughlin Group, the only American political show that's as American as getting belted in the mouth.

ISSUE ONE, as the host, John McLaughlin, likes to put it is about "D.C. WAR ZONE." This refers to the Navy Yard shootings from six days ago. McLaughlin makes a point of saying that the Navy Yard is "less than three miles" from the White House, but you can more accurately say, "nowhere near the White House." I mean, I work right next to the White House (it's not as cool as it sounds), and when I texted my wife that day to say that I was totally okay, she texted back, "Yeah, I know, you are nowhere near the Navy Yard."

At any rate, the more pressing matter here, as McLaughlin goes on to narrate, is that the shooter, Aaron Alexis, had a well-known history of troubles related to mental illness and also two previous gun-related priors on his record. He was discharged from the armed forces, but continued to work as a subcontractor to the military for Hewlett-Packard, as his mental health condition worsened. The worsening of his condition, however, was never made clear to the people who could have helped Alexis, or stopped him.

So who is going down for this, people? Lay it on us! Pat Buchanan says that the more important question here is that we have another in a series of massacres with one thing in common. And what is that what is that what is that, Pat? Well, the desire for notoriety, he says. And the need to kill a lot of people. (Did Aaron Alexis want to be famous? That seems like a weird contention.) Pat goes on to say, though, that these murders are about getting "the draw and the attraction" and that future psychos are going to "look at these examples" and what are they going to draw from it? "They all go out and do the same thing or try to do worse."

Ha, and there is one word in Pat's long oration about the matter that never comes up, despite the fact that if this is really a weird and lurid competition among disturbed sociopaths seeking fame, the game of one-upsmanship is probably going to be lost by the guy who shows up at his office looking to commit mass murder with his set of steak knives.

Eleanor Clift doesn't buy the whole "Who wants to be America's next top mass murderer" theory, focusing instead on the way we've allowed the desperately mentally ill to slip through the cracks in our society. She also notes that Alexis somehow got a security clearance that had a ten-year period of clearance with no periodic re-evaluation. So, as this guy slowly succumbed to his illness, there was no path to revoke the clearance.

Susan Ferrechio follows on, noting that we've cut budgets and caused old institutions that used to care for the mentally ill to shutter and their patients left with nowhere to do. Finally, Mort Zuckerman mentions, Hey and also probably these kinds of people shouldn't be able to get guns.

For whatever reason, McLaughlin wants to talk about how the Navy Yard shootings ended up front page news in Dusseldorf and Spain and European newspapers. He basically wants to know if Europe was totally sticking it to us, because don't they have the same problems of gun crazy people goin' straight bang-bang over there. And the scientific answer is, of course, "LOL, NO." But we've no scientists, here, alas.

Mort is basically all, oh yeah sure, I guess, occasionally. Clift says HA IT BASICALLY HAPPENS EVERY DAY HERE NOW. Mort sort of affirms that's what he was trying to say, and that we have a different culture, and one of the things that has always existed in it is violent sociopathy, or the lack of authentic Belgian pastries.

There is some yelling, Ferrechio tries to gamely suggest that stricter gun laws mean more shooting. Which, ha, yes, the only thing that's stopping slaughter on a daily basis in every city in America is our laissez-faire attitudes toward weaponry. Clift has to gently explain to her that when Norway has one horrific shooting, that is actually a lot better than a country that has multiple horrific shootings. (She also has to slowly explain that Chicago is a city in the United States, and not a separate country.)

Now Buchanan and Clift are romantically yelling at each other, Buchanan pointing out that gun sales in Newtown spiked after the shootings, Clift contending that this was as a result of NRA fearmongering, and McLaughlin finally having to yell over both of them so he could move to his next video montage -- this one about mass shootings.

McLaughlin's next question is whether or not President Obama's urging, on Telemundo, for voters who are concerned about passing new gun regulations "focus their efforts on Congress," was just a way of distracting everyone from Joe Biden's failure to get new legislation passed? Huh, what? Joe Biden is the Vice President, last time I checked. He can break ties in the Senate. That, and saying, "Come on...attaboy...pass that law, guys, you can do it!" is about all the legislative power he has. OF COURSE VOTERS SHOULD FOCUS ON CONGRESS. This isn't difficult!

Ferrechio points out that there are a lot of gun laws not being enforced, so we don't need new laws...but McLaughlin just shouts her down, because he is RAGING that Biden didn't use his heretofore unknown magic powers to pass gun laws.

Clift tries to explain how a bill becomes a law, but it's not clear that McLaughlin can accept this.

Buchanan horns in, noting that two people who voted for gun control laws in Colorado were recalled from office, and so Obama is "afraid to go to Congress." Clift laughs, because what is Congress going to do that's so terrifying.

Everyone yells at everyone else. It would be awesome to give all these people guns.

Clift points out that Virginia has very loose gun laws, and it's not like Virginians have problems getting into DC like it was Hogwarts or something. Ferrechio briefly blargles about Clinton changing rules about guns at military bases, and then McLaughlin and Zuckerman slow things down a little, to get coot-to-coot, and do so Real Coot Talk, with America. These shootings are "one of the black marks" in terms of the way the world sees America, Zuckerman says, and that more gun control is needed. Buchanan does some yelling, McLaughlin yammers about how this is Biden's fault. Soon everyone is yelling again.

"You shouldn't be allowed to buy a shotgun?" Buchanan yargles.

"Not if you're a nutcase," Zuckerman bleats.

"Beam me up," begs McLaughlin. Hey now, that's James Traficant's line!

Moving from guns to money, McLaughlin wants to talk about the Fed sticking with quantitative easing, and avoiding a tightening until there is some embiggening, of the economy.

Zuckerman says that we are not growing enough to create the jobs we need to create to get back to full employment, and that everyone was terribly overoptimistic about the economy. He is pretty pro-having jobs, as it turns out, and calls the current rate of growth a "major disappoinment" and that we're in the "weakest recovery" in history.

McLaughlin wants to know, for some reason, if the market was "getting jitters because of Syria." Why? Bombing Syria would have been good for business. Buchanan snarks that the market was really happy after Larry Summers bid to lead the Fed went down in flames.

Ferrechio and Zuckerman spend about a minute agreeing with each other, but also YELLING at each other, because of the rage pheromones that McLaughlin sweats from his pores.

McLaughlin now wants to talk about religion. NEVER HAVE THANKSGIVING DINNER WITH JOHN MCLAUGHLIN.

"Is the new Pope getting off to a good start, Pat Buchanan?" Buchanan says that he's getting his "brand" off to a good start -- he's not changed anything doctrinally but he is definitely pulling everything to the left. Buchanan goes on to add that if the Cardinals knew that the Pope was going to be as liberal as this, he would not be the new Pope. The irony here is that the Pope is still largely to the right of the leftist that Catholics ostensibly worship. Still, not bad! Buchanan's a little pissed off? New Pope is doing something right, then.

Clift points out that "the pastoral mission of the church" ranges far beyond these narror issues that American political elites obsess over, and that most Catholics don't follow church doctrine particularly rigorously, anyway. Zuckerman reckons that the Pope's new moves toward inclusion are a good thing. Buchanan seems to think that the Episcopal church, having followed that path, has "totally collapsed," which, LOL, is going to be news to all the Episcopals I know!

McLaughlin doesn't know what to make of the fact that the new Pope likes Dostoevsky and Fellini -- Buchanan points out that Dostoevsky and Fellini are pretty awesome.

Now the entire panel is yelling about celibacy, which itself only helps celibacy, because it is the most bonerkilling thing to watch in the world.

McLaughlin concludes by asking the panel whether or not President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will "meet at the UN and make big news." Everyone says yes, but Zuckerman, who says, "We hope."

MEET THE PRESS

David Gregory is wearing the bluest suit in the universe and something appears to be off with his circuitry, because he is speaking very slowly today. Anyway, he is going to host an "Obamacare Summit" with Senators Mile Kee (R-Utah) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). While it's great that somehow the bookers managed somehow to not drown us in pasty white guys today, there is no world in which these four are going to have a "summit" and come out with a compromise. Instead of calling it a "summit," Gregory should just say, "Lots of shouted talking points today!"

Then there will be "An Experiment With An Air Pump," starring David Gregory and Wayne LaPierre.

But we begin with all the talking points shoutery. Gregory asks if the government is going to shut down. Senator Lee says that "we all know that the government is going to be funded, the question is whether it is going to be funded with Obamacare or without." Since Obamacare is not getting overturned by the guy who signed it into law, this means that the government is going to be funded with Obamacare! But I have a feeling that Obamacare's endurance is actually the thing that's not a variable here.

Klobuchar says that the government will not shut down because we will eventually get shot of all this brinksmanship. Rep. Lee says the government will not shut down either. Blackburn decides to be this group's liar, saying, "As much as the president wants this shutdown, he's not going to get it." That is perfectly incorrect. I guess Tennesseans like being jerked around!

At any rate, with four "no's" on the matter of "will the government shut down," I'd say that chances are better than ever that it will get shut down.

Oh, we're still talking to these people? Fine. Gregory thinks that he's going to be bringing the news of the fact that there is an internecine fight in the GOP right now over whether or not it's credible to try to shut down the government. Lee obviously disagrees. He's been told that defunding Obamacare is impossible. They say that "the President" gets to "veto" laws. They say that the Senate is "controlled by Democrats." But Lee believes that none of that is true. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? HELL NO.

Gregory asks Blackburn about whether he remembers the whole 90s era shut down correctly, in which the GOP took it on the chin from voters. Blackburn persists in her fiction that the government shutdown is Obama's idea. If you can't pry her off her talking points, David, talk to someone else.

"We'd like the President to meet with us," she says, "instead of meeting with Putin." I have laughed out loud everytime they have used this line. Guys -- it's bad enough that you guys are less reasonable and more obtuse than the shirtless, journalist-murderer who runs Russia. Don't BRAG about it. Good lord.

Meanwhile Klobuchar says that she feels that "we're on a cusp of a great opportunity" because the economy is getting great in Minnesota. Well, LA-DEE-DA. But, okay, probably a government shutdown and a debt ceiling crisis would be a wee bit of a drag on the economy. She wants to pass the immigration bill instead.

Rep. Lee is tasked with real-keeping: "The President does not want a government shutdown." She also doesn't understand why the Affordable Care Act is the thing being implicated in this hostage situation, because "people right now are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act." She gets her answer when Blackburn starts yelling about it.

David Gregory does something wholly unexpected! He actually argues against Blackburn's contentions that health care costs are spiking everywhere by deploying this thing called "facts."

GREGORY: Let me interject a point of fact here. There is a lot of confusion, and we've done checking on this. On the issue of premiums, they have gone up in some states, but they're coming down in other states, if they have exchanges. And you know full well, it depends on who the governor is, if you're a governor of Florida...you're going to make it more difficult, the Feds have to come in and do it. In New York...they're having an easier time of it.

WOW. What just happened?

Senator Lee is forced to fall back on the hoariest talking point of all. "OMG UNCERTAINTY." If you want to make things "certain," raise the debt ceiling, cleanly, right now.

Gregory doesn't understand the obsession with Obamacare, pointing out that it's not going to be dismantled. Sen. Lee insists that "this is shifting," and that defunding Obamacare is no longer impossible. He cites the House's continuing resolution as EVIDENCE of this claim. Glory be, the man is a nutter.

Klobuchar throws Karl Rove polls and the anecdotes of the loved ones of Alzheimers patients into the arena, declaring her support for the Affordable Care Act. David Gregory throws a chicken into the room and says that whoever murders the chicken first "wins."

Ha, kidding. They are talking about the debt ceiling. Rep. Lee is against delaying the raising of the debt ceiling, and supports the White House's "no negotiations" stance. Blackburn just doubles down on the disingenuousness, and makes declarations about the history of the debt ceiling as a tool for budget negotiations that are all untrue and well-debunked by the aforementioned Jonathan Chait piece. Blackburn wants to hold the debt limit hostage in order to get a one-year delay of Obamacare implementation. Klobuchar concludes by predicting that we'll all be fine and the debt ceiling will get raised, without any poison pills.

We'll see!

Now David Gregory is going to talk with Wayne LaPierre about guns, which is maybe the most pointless conversation in the world. Anyway, he offers some false, pious-sounding concern for the victims, and yammers about how more people need to have more guns. Gregory asks him if he totally for real with these continuing contentions. "This is the Navy Yard, there were armed guards there," he asks, "Does this not undermine your argument."

LaPierre, you'll be surprised to know, does not feel his argument is undermined. "The whole country ... knows the problem is there wasn't enough good guys with guns..When the good guys with guns got there, it stopped." Gregory pushes back, again pointing out that there were "good guys with guns" there, so what's the exact saturation point of armed protectors that is required? "Where does it stop?"

For LaPierre, it doesn't stop anywhere. He essentially says that we need to be armed enough to stop these sorts of things within 30 seconds. He's super mad that there was even any outrage thrown in the direction of guns, though lord knows if there hadn't been, he wouldn't get to be on teevee.

"Can I ask you about mental health?" asks Gregory? Go for it! "They should be committed. And if they should be committed, they shouldn't be at the Naval Yard," LaPierre offers. "But here's what happens: The Aurora shooter in Colorado gets checked and is cleared. The Tucson shooter is checked and gets cleared. Aaron Alexis goes to the federal and state check and gets cleared because the mental health system makes this person completely unrecognizable."

Gregory wants to know what threshold the NRA would support, in terms of disqualifying people from gun ownership. LaPierre says that "adjudicated commitment to a mental health facility" is his threshold. Notably, Alexis would not fit that bill, and Gregory pressed. LaPierre falls back on "let's fix the broken mental health system." (What Republicans hear: "Let's raise taxes." Which is why this isn't getting fixed.) Beyond that, though, a "fixed mental health system" still produces people who should obviously be disqualified from owning guns. There's a good question to be asked, there. But it's not asked, and so, it's not answered.

Gregory solicited questions from people on Facebook, to ask LaPierre, including one from Colin Goddard (which was not asked on Facebook, but nevermind) who wants to know "what does it mean to be a responsible gun owner?" and whether or not a "responsible gun owner" would sell a firearm to anyone without a background check.

LaPierre basically says that private sales should go on between anyone who wants without restriction and with no oversight from a background check system, forever.

Now, Gregory will talk to Sandy Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the Aurora shootings. Asked about how she reacted to the Navy Yard news, Phillips says that "anytime you've been a victim of gun violence like we have, when you hear news like that it takes you right back to what happened when you heard your news." And she's been reliving her daughter's death as she falls asleep and wakes up ever since. "Now there were 12 more people here in D.C. that have that same nightmare day in and day out," she says. "Wish I could tell them that it gets easier in time, but it doesn't."

Gregory asks if her efforts to get new regulations passed are essentially over. "It took six votes over seven years to get the initial Brady law passed, and Sarah and Jim Brady didn't give up," she says, adding that "those of us who are involved, and unfortunately our numbers are growing, we're not giving up...it will happen."

Phillips says that "more guns" are "certainly not the answer." Gregory asks, so what's the most effective way to respond, then?

PHILLIPS: Well, the worst part of all of this, in my opinion, is with background checks, expanded background checks, we're going to close a lot of those gaps in our system, especially online sales, and the gun show loopholes that still exist. If you can do that, then it doesn't matter if someone is not as shall we say if they're predisposed to violence. If you can stop that, and have that put into the system-- the system can only work as well as what's put into the system. So, yes, we have to look at the entire comprehensive approach. But what the background checks, that's the first step, and 90% of Americans want them, and over 70% of LaPierre's members want them. So it's not a hard fix.

But it will probably take as long as it took the Bradys.

And we're onto panel time, at last, with Bill Kristol and Tavis Smiley and Kim Strassel and Robert Gibbs. These are the twenty slowest minutes of my life -- the last panel of Meet The Press.

We begin with "who's up and who's down" in government shutdown politics. Kristol says that the shutdown will be averted and the GOP is "up." Gibbs says that kamikaze missions don't end up working out for the pilots, and the GOP has "no real clue" what to do next. Strassel says that the House is using too many apocalyptic leverage points, and that there are more reasonable ways to achieve better outcomes. Smiley just remarks that we need a "strong two party system" and that "I think that the Republicans are doing themselves, and quite frankly the country, a disservice if this is how they want to self-destruct."

Kristol ends up moving to Strassel's position: "If they can move beyond de-funding to delaying particular parts of Obamacare, especially the unpopular parts like an individual mandate...or the congressional exemption, that's a good debate for Republicans." Gibbs reminds that government shutdown isn't a smart strategy, but I think Kristol just copped to that?

Kristol and Strassel want to point out that Obamacare doesn't poll well. (Unless, of course, you tell people what it does, and then it turns out that it's all a bunch of stuff people want.) Smiley says that civil rights didn't "poll well" and yet it was still "the right thing for the country to do." Good trolling! There is a little bit of crosstalk.

David Gregory objects to Strassel's use of the term "CR" for "continuing resolution." Why? The only people who watch this show are people steeped in the jargon. Just let Strassel use the Beltway vernacular and stop pretending that you're doing service journalism for the folks in Wichita.

Tavis Smiley is mad that Obama "advanced the notion of American exceptionalism."

SMILEY: The reality is that this week alone gives us all the evidence we need to push back, to question that particular claim. When Republicans want to shut down the government over political posturing, when you can kill innocence children at Sandy Hook and there's no real gun control debate, those who we are supposed to protect, our babies. And now you can you fire indiscriminately on those who protect us.

And nobody at this table believes that a real gun control debate's going to come out of this. All this other stuff is going to push it to the side. And it's not just mental illness that's the real issue, but in North Carolina you got this brother Jonathan Ferrell, this black guy, who's running toward the police, asking for help, and they shoot and they kill him? Congress has a 6% approval rating, and the answer really is to shut it down? I mean, what kind of nation are we going to be, what kind of people are we going to be? Very quickly. If we don't course-correct soon, we are going to lose our democracy. It's that serious.

Like the Gregory Brothers once sang, we still have "exceptional fast food and exceptional dance moves!"

Oh, sweet nutty. There's still thirteen minutes left? See what I mean about the end of this show lasting FOREVER?

Kristol is upset that we didn't bomb Syria. "And now Assad is in power, killing people, and has paid no price of course for using chemical weapons." Ha, well, had there been an airstrike, the price Assad would have paid, I guess, is the knowledge that we're slightly better at killing Syrians than his gas is? And then he would have bragged about taking the best shot the U.S. had to offer and gone right back to killing people. As it stands, we do get to have a Hari Seldon solution to the narrow matter of "will Assad use Sarin gas again." The answer being, "Not unless Assad wants to screw over his Russion benefactors and improve the U.S.'s position."

Gibbs thinks that Kristol doesn't give the economic sanctions against Iran enough credit. But before the conversation can get interesting, Gregory changes the topic to "Is Hillary Clinton going to run for President?"

Strassel and Smiley speculate on the matter, but their remarks are two devoid in value to merit recording. Gibbs and Kristol add even less.

A Meet The Press intern counted smartphones on Capitol Hill, and found that "members of Congress use iPhones more than twice as much as BlackBerry. 58% to 23%." By the way, that is the only demographic in the world in which nearly a quarter of the population still uses Blackberries. They watch Meet The Press, and use glorified doorstops to send email. They eat at Lauriol Plaza. They are, by most measurements, dead inside.

And on that note: See you next week!

[The Sunday morning liveblog will return September 29, 2013. While you are waiting, check out my Rebel Mouse page for the best reads on the web.]

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