MEDIA

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

12/29/2013 09:44 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Good morning, everyone. Here is an idea I had: I thought I would wake up, watch the Sunday morning blather shows, type stuff as I watched them, put the stuff that I typed on the internet, do this until these shows were over, and then never ever do this ever again. Sound good to everyone? Actually, many of you are probably looking forward to this -- the last time I liveblog the Sunday shows. My name is Jason. Today is, for me, going to look a lot like this:

People ask me all the time, "What are you going to do, now that you aren't going to be watching these terrible shows anymore?" Many things, actually. I'll have better Saturdays and more rested Sundays. I'll get out of town on occasion and get to do some things in my own city I've been putting off. I'll see friends more often and get more things done around the home. Mostly, though, I will go to brunch. I am really looking forward to finding out how many innovative ways brunch has evolved in the past six years.

But for one last round, let's "liveblog" the "Sunday shows," which are two terms our grandchildren will not understand. As per normal, you can feel free to drop me a line if you like, follow me on Twitter if you are into that, and check out the Sunday Reads on my Rebel Mouse page if you want to know what sorts of news stories and whatnot-curios I'd rather spend this day talking about.

Over a million people just lost their unemployment insurance, and I'm still wondering if any of these shows have noticed! Let's find out.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

Ahh, Fox News Sunday. Sweet, simple, formulaic, unchallenging Fox News Sunday. I'll miss your dull and predictable rhythms and the always soft-brained panel. Brit Hume and his Napoleon Dynamite routine. Mara Liasson and her public radio haughtiness -- she really does think she's better than you! Juan Williams, who has no one left to sell out to now. And the noobs! Guys like Scott Brown -- you will have an original thought one day, Scottie! Just squeeze it REAL HARD. And the soulless Evan Bayh. When was the exact moment his father disowned him? I wish I had a YouTube clip of that.

How will we spend our last day together? Chris Wallace will let doctors Howard Dean and Scott Gottlieb yell at each other about Obamacare for a while. Then, Fox News Sunday will jump on the NSA bandwagon with Representatives Mike Rogers and Adam Schiff. And then the panel will come out and fap each other numb.

Years from now I won't understand why I woke up early to watch this stuff.

Anyway, let's do some blather about Obamacare, which is a thing we're still probably ten months away from knowing for certain if it works or if it's a turd. That's just ten months that can be spent, watching tense men vent about it, and so here are Dean and Gottlieb to prattle about it.

Gottlieb thinks that Obamacare is terrible, and predicts that it will be super terrible. He could be right! The next big hinky mess for the service comes in a few days, when people who have signed up for health care coverage go to access that coverage for the first time, and it's an open question as to whether all of the moving parts have settled in the correct manner.

Dean is pretty sure that the system will work, eventually. "I think it will work, but it wasn't my favorite plan," he says, adding that while it's not like everyone who signed up for insurance under the exchanges will be rushing to the doctor on January 1, "there are going to be some dislocations."

Dean reckons that it will be smoother than anticipated, Gottlieb believes it is a certain disaster. Both agree that the current data shows an ominous worry for Obamacare -- the population that's signing up is a less young, less healthy population.

There is a brief colloquy on whether people losing their doctors -- as opposed to health care coverage, is a broken promise akin to "if you like your plan you can keep it." Jonathan Chait already dispensed with this rather readily, pointing out: "Conservatives don’t want to protect everybody’s right to keep their doctor. They want to build on the same market forces that are creating the Keep Your Doctor sob stories."

It's hard for me to be moved emotionally by this, because "not keeping your doctor" was a feature -- not a bug -- of the pre-Affordable Care Act American health care system. I am a veteran of losing doctors that I would have preferred to keep (and I've always been a part of a PPO, not an HMO), and I'm quite sure that I'd have faced that prospect again regardless of the Affordable Care Act. Everything that Gottlieb complains about -- EVERYTHING! -- is pretty much the reality of health care in America pre-ACA. If there are people who, as he contends, "will be very surprised," then these are people who've had the luxury of not having to pay attention.

Dean says, "Remember, this is the insurance industry that's running this." Eventually, he points out that the things that Gottlieb frames as new complaints are actually features of American health care, since as long as I can remember. I applaud conservatives for consistently pointing out how awful health insurace is -- it's a big help for those of us who want to move to single-payer.

Now Wallace is complaining about insurance plans in the ACA exchanges with high-deductibles. Back in 2012, conservatives complained there weren't enough Americans participating in high-deductible plans. Now they are the devil.

Dean points out that this is a hilarious hypocrisy, because conservatives used to prefer these plans because consumers had "more skin in the game" and now they hate these plans only because it gets them a round of sob-stories for the media. That's cool, though! Keep pushing toward single-payer.

Will the Federal government have to bail out insurance companies? Gottlieb says that the reinsurance fund will cover any insurance losses.

Wallace asks Dean to revisit a previous prediction he made, that Obamacare critics were, in the end, going to look stupid. Dean should answer, "Well, I made that prediction in the consequence-free environment of the American media, Chris. Now I have hundreds of thousands of people who died in Iraq who'd like to haunt your studio for the next decade, while we're talking predictions and whether or not people should feel dumb."

He doesn't say this. Leaving Gottlieb aside, who Dean holds out as a honest and responsible debater, he says that most of the partisan take on Obamacare -- the socialism, death panels stuff -- really was stupid. Dean nevertheless reckons that the system will successfully benefit lots of people. Gottlieb reckons no. Someone is going to be right and someone is going to be wrong, but no one will pay a price either way.

I think if I did a show, the cost of an incorrect prediction would be an open hand slap to the face. That would do the trick.

Okay, so now Representatives Rogers and Schiff are here to bloviate our enemies to death, I guess, since that's the only conceivable contribution either of these two men could possibly make to our "national security."

Wallace begins by referencing the New York Times Benghazi report, which provided a factual accounting of who was involved in the assault and why. It's all made for a rather bad week for your weekend-warriors of "Beghargle" hashtaggery, but there are other hobbies so don't worry. Wallace tells Rogers that the Times report "directly contradicts what you've been saying." Rogers is pretty sure that he is a better reporter than the New York Times, though, and maintains that al Qaeda was involved. Rogers, of course, is the sort of goober who sees terrorists EVERYWHERE.

Wallace asks Rogers if he thinks the NYT report was meant to "clear the deck for Hillary in 2016." I think it's actually just meant to be some reporting?

Wallace asks Schiff if the NYT exonerates the Obama administration. He points out that the NYT report doesn't even come close to exonerating anyone -- there's still the rather thorny issue of the inadequate security provided the site in Benghazi. (That sort of gives the lie to the notion that this "clears the deck for Hillary in 2016.") Aside from that, he's pretty weaselly about how he feels about the report.

Moving onto the NSA debate, and Edward Snowden's "Christmas message to the world," about privacy. Schiff says that he isn't particularly moved by Snowden, but respects the debate that he "kindled," which sounds about right to me.

He believes that Snowden shouldn't have lammed it, however, which is weird because had he not done so, he'd be in a cell right now, and as bad as Russia probably is these days, prison is worse. I've always found it perplexing, the many people who seem to think that the optimal choice for Snowden would be for him to be in solitary confinement in some hole, here in America. Given the option, I would have definitely lammed it. People should perhaps think things through.

Rogers says that Snowden's disclosures puts our troops in Afghanistan in danger. Also putting our troops in Afghanistan in danger: the sociopathic idiots who continue to deploy them to Afghanistan!

Judges are of different minds on the matter of the NSA -- with the most recent ruling coming in favor of the surveillance state. Maybe Congress can get this out of the judiciary's hands? Schiff suggests that Congress take up the reforms of the White House's panel and the program restructured -- he insists that we can have the same level of quality of security without holding onto troves of metadata from every American.

Rogers insists that it's actually preferable for the government to take all of that metadata for itself and "lock it away" in its own vault, rather than allow private companies to do that, because Rogers hates the free market and loves big government having its tentacles in your nethers on this one matter, I guess?

I will miss Chris Wallace, missing these sorts of moments of intellectual dishonesty entirely, like a beaver whose had a large sack of hammers dropped on his head.

Okay, so for our last panel we have Hume and Liasson and Dim Scott and "even the liberal" Joe Lieberman. Perfect. This is like a healthy dose of cod liver oil.

Hume mentions unemployment benefits! He thinks they are something that "the Democrats can make some use of." Actually, they are things that "normal human Americans" make use of, for things like "not freezing to death" and "not starving to death."

Liasson and Wallace point out that the Republicans are willing to help people not starve or freeze to death, as long as the not starving and freezing to death doesn't add to the deficit. They truly are heroes, for pointing out what's really important: TEH DEFICITZ, which have rapidly fell, by the way, in recent years.

Wallace asks Brown if the Democratic narrative is going to win in 2014 or if the Republican narrative is going to win, and he answers "it depends" based upon what state you are in. Did he not get his flashcards today?

Would Lieberman have still voted yes on Obamacare, now that he's seen everything? Even the liberal Joe Lieberman would have voted yes, says Lieberman, because the status quo ante of the health care system was terrible. Wallace asks him why not just reform the part of the health care system that sucked? Ha, of course, I think that would have been great, because the part of the American health care system that sucks is "private health insurance."

Lieberman goes on to predict big time growth in 2014. Hume disagrees. Whoever is wrong, I am happy to slap in the face.

Do you even give one tinned turd about these people's predictions for 2014? As long as I have to care, you have to care. Fortunately, after today, no one has to care!

So, briefly: Hume predicts Obamacare will be TEH SUXXORS, Liasson predicts slight gains in the House and no majority in the Senate, Brown disgrees and says the GOP will take the Senate (he won't say if he's running for the Senate in New Hampshire).

Lieberman predicts that Congress will put tougher sanctions on Iran and that Obama will not veto those sanctions and that this will not cause Iran to quit negotiations. However, he goes on to predict that the negotiations will fail and either the United States or Israel will bomb Iran, and allow Lieberman to finally experience his first orgasm.

Hume thinks that television will be awesome and he's noticed that HBO has some quality programming. Liasson predicts that they will make a new FAST AND FURIOUS movie. Scott Brown says that he likes sports and predicts that there will be some sports in 2014. He also thinks that there will be some books and movies in 2014. Lieberman thinks "Gravity" will win the Best Picture Oscar, and Judi Dench and Christian Bale will also win awards.

Hume says that the U.S. economy is a "force of nature" and it will be totally awesome in 2014 and everyone will get a pony. Liasson says the economy will be fine in 2014. Brown says the economy will suck canal sludge because Obamacare is TEH SUXXORS. Lieberman thinks all kinds of positive things about the economy are going to happen, I guess up until we bomb Iran and throw the world into total chaos again.

Hume thinks fans will miss the BCS -- he is wrong. Liasson thinks that Russia will "get a black eye" for their anti-LGBT stance. Brown thinks that Boston's sports teams are really great. Lieberman says that the Washington football team will trade RG3 for Tony Romo. I predict that if that happens, I will be inconsolable.

MEET THE PRESS

Ahh, MEET THE PRESS, airing amid rumors of budget cutbacks and the imminent arrival of Joe and Mika, who will be welcomed as incinerators. I've truly picked a good time to get the hell out of liveblogging this once important show's (or so I'm told, evidence is scarce) decline into crud.

In truth, I have a hope for the people of MEET THE PRESS, and it is this. I hope their show gets cancelled and I hope that they are all unemployed for a certain amount of time. I really want the people who make this show to experience what it's like to be unemployed -- the specific combination of depression, cynicism, and pure animal terror, coming at you in waves at different times of the day.

The MEET THE PRESS people, more than most, need to get in touch with these emotions -- and in so doing, get in touch with life in America. When they are fortunate to return to jobs in televised news, their work will be better for having this experience.

So, MEET THE PRESS people, I am rooting for you -- in that I am rooting for this show to get scuttled and for all of you to experience a period of economic suffering. It will cleanse you and make all of you less terrible people.

What's on tap for the last day of this dreck? David Gregory is going piggyback on some actual news reporters at the New York Times, and talk about Benghazi. And that might be it! No stupid panel or anything? Just a news story? Let's hope so, because I am already tired of watching teevee and would like to get on with the rest of my life.

Alas, David Gregory is going to talk about other things. But we'll start with David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times, and Andrea Mitchell, talking about Kirkpatrick's story, which you can read here.

Gregory says that this is a "significant story because it changes the narrative," and you know that's a big deal, because we take The Narrative and put it on an altar and sacrifice virgins to it, and anything that changes The Narrative must have mighty and powerful magicks!

Kirkpatrick says that he is not "out on a limb" when he holds that al Qaeda was not involved with the attacks, and says that he's talked to enough people on the ground and in the intelligence community to be very firm about this.

KIRKPATRICK: There's just no chance that this was an Al Qaeda attack if, by Al Qaeda, you mean the organization founded by Osama bin Laden. Now, try to understand some of the statements coming out of the United States Congress blaming Al Qaeda for this. And the only way that they make sense to me is if you're using the term Al Qaeda a little differently.

If you're using the term Al Qaeda to describe even a local group of Islamist militants who may dislike democracy or have a grudge against the United States. If you're going to call anybody like that Al Qaeda, then okay. Certainly there were some anti-Western, Islamist militants involved in this attack. But to me, that's a semantic difference and not a useful way of answering the original question, which is, did the group founded by Osama bin Laden and led by Ayman al-Zawahiri lead this attack?

Does Kirkpatrick's report "bolster" the original statements made by Susan Rice in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Kirkpatrick says that his reporting should not be read as bolstering the original assessment: "We're not bolstering that original assessment. In fact, she made some clear misstatements there. This was not a street protest. And it was not a copycat of what happened in Cairo. That was unarmed street protest. This is a group of armed men, who inspired by the video, deliberately attacked the compound. And so what she's doing there through her misstatement is actually setting up a kind of a false dichotomy. Either it was a spontaneous street protest, or it was an armed terrorist attack. And neither of those turns out to be exactly the case. It was an armed terrorist attack motivated in large part by the video."

Mitchell points out something obvious that maybe she should have come on this show and said before today: "in those first few days were everyone was trying to cover up, appropriately, they thought, the fact that this was a C.I.A. outpost."

Gregory points out something that Schiff noted on Fox News Sunday, that the report hardly exonerates the Obama administration for the lack of security on the ground.

Now Darrell Issa is here, and the fact that Kirkpatrick has been dismissed speaks volumes about Issa, this show, and their wholesale lack of guts. Issa begins by saying that Kirkpatrick "did some very good work," and then begins to belittle it ("interviewing people in Benghazi after the fact, after the world has been told about this video, is really not real time") all while Kirkpatrick is not available to defend his work. I don't understand why this is playing out in this fashion. It seems sort of basic to me that Kirkpatrick should be on hand to face his critics.

Gregory takes up a tiny bit of the slack, insisting that Issa has "repeatedly said it was al Qaeda" behind the attacks. Issa drops into talking points ("Al Qaeda is not decimated") and then a dodge to another issue ("So we had warning beforehand and we, instead of increasing security, reduced security.").

Mitchell tries to fill in for Kirkpatrick next:

MITCHELL: But to the point of why use the term Al Qaeda? Because you and other members of Congress are sophisticated in this and know, that when you say Al Qaeda, people think central Al Qaeda. They don't think militias that may be inspired by bin Laden and his other followers. So it is a hot button for political reasons from the administration’s--

REP. DARRELL ISSA: But Andrea, it was accurate. There is a group that was involved that claimed an affiliation with Al Qaeda. Now, Al Qaeda's not a central command and control. It was, in fact, a loose group that could take general statements and act on them.

Based on that standard, who isn't al Qaeda? Everyone is al Qaeda. Mitchell would be better served if she just said what she means to say, instead of couching it in Beltway media politesse: that Issa and others put the notion of "al Qaeda" front and center because they know it offers them more political points -- the nuances of how global terrorism works and how groups come to be affiliated with one another is not something that Issa remotely cares about. For Issa, frankly, the Benghazi attack was a fortunate thing, and he treats it like a boon.

David Gregory continues to press on this:

DAVID GREGORY: The key question is, do you stand by that the administration lied about who was behind it and what initially happened, given this reporting?

REP. DARRELL ISSA: I think David Kirkpatrick very clearly says that the statements made were false and misleading. He says that in this report. I don't have to state anything. I'll stand, quite frankly, behind what the Kirkpatrick--

DAVID GREGORY: Misleading based on the amount of information they had at the time.

REP. DARRELL ISSA: No, that's not at all--

DAVID GREGORY: Isn't there a distinction between fog of war and an attempt to deceive?

And later, Issa says, "David, I'm sure Kirkpatrick doesn't have the classified information that Mike Rogers and others have, and neither do I."

Wouldn't it have been neat if, say, someone at MEET THE PRESS knew David Kirkpatrick's phone number or something and they could call him up and book him for this segment or something? I bet he could sort a lot of this out.

Gregory asks Issa about Obamacare, for some reason. Issa does not like Obamacare, according to his flash cards.

Now, for some reason, here is Representative Joaquin Castro. He will yell at Issa, now that Issa is not here to defend himseld. I suppose this is some measure of vengeance for what they just did to David Kirkpatrick.

Suffice it to say, Castro thinks that the Kirkpatrick story "changes the debate" and that Issa should have "learned a lesson" from this, but as we just saw, he didn't, so great job, whatever, we've learned a lot today, together.

Castro is here to take a set of standard questions about the Affordable Care Act. Gregory notes that the enrollment totals are off what the administration set as a standard for success. Castro is betting that it will all work out in the end: "t really is a new day for the American people. They can't be denied now because of preexisting condition, they won't get lifetime caps. And we have been a little bit behind the curve. But on Christmas Eve and the day just before that, there were about a million people that were either on the website or made a phone call to enroll. And so we've seen the numbers spike up incredibly since November 1st."

He is also unfazed by the tweaks that have been made to the law: "there's not a single big law like this that America has passed probably in our history where there haven't had to have been changes made to it to tweak it to make it better." Fair enough, I guess.

Gregory notes that the "fight coming up in the new year" involves " jobless benefits that are set to expire for Americans who are out of work." That fight is over, though! Those people are losing that lifeline. They lost. MEET THE PRESS did a hot load of nothing, on behalf of their fellow Americans, I should point out. Besides suggesting that it is a fight that's going to happen, incorrectly.

Ben Wizner is here to discuss the legal status of Edward Snowden and the NSA debate in general. Gregory notes that various district court judges are making a variety of rulings on the matter -- which could send the matter to the Supreme Court before long. Wizner sees a bigger picture, noting that "this district judge is not just disagreeing with another judge."

WIZNER: He's also disagreeing with the president's own hand-picked advisory panel. That panel, which included a former top-level C.I.A. official, a former counterterrorism advisor, concluded that they had seen no evidence that the bulk telephone metadata program had been uniquely successful, had stopped any kind of attack. So there is a dispute about whether this is effective or even legal. But yes, I think we always expected that there would be differences of opinion in the lower courts. There's no question that it's time for the Supreme Court to weigh in and to see whether, as we believe, the N.S.A. allowed its technological capabilities to outpace democratic controls.

Gregory asks about the nature of the program, "I can understand the argument that there is the potential for abuse by this kind of bulk collection. What is the actual abuse that's occurred?" Wizner responds that "this is a general warrant" and "what the framers of the constitution were worried about when they said that the government needed to have individualized suspicion before it collected records from the American people." The NSA, he says, has effectively gone ahead collecting "evidence" on the assumption that it will one day relate, in some way, to an investigation in the future.

Wizner clarifies Snowden's whole "mission accomplished" thing as well, saying that "what he set out to do was bring the American people into the conversation" about liberty, privacy, and security. "It's now up to the public and our institutional oversight to decide how to respond," Wizner says.

Gregory asks why Snowden didn't "come back and face the music." Does Gregory not understand that it's infinitely preferable to "not be imprisoned in a hole," as compared to "being imprisoned in a hole?" I really am astonished that this distinction is lost on people. I would be very glad to chain David Gregory in a closet and feed him Nutriloaf three times a day for a month if it would help him better understand why a choice between remaining outside of a prison is preferable to being imprisoned.

Wizner does that whole, "here's actually what the law says" thing: "The law under which Mr. Snowden is charged, the 1917 Espionage Act, a World-War-I-era statute, doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press and the public interest."

DAVID GREGORY: But he took an oath not to disclose classified information.

BEN WIZNER: That's not right. He took an oath to follow the constitution. Now, he certainly signed the same standard classification agreement that everybody else signed. But his oath was to the constitution. Now, if the law allowed him to make a public interest defense, if the law allowed him to come here and say, "Look at all the good this has done," if the law allowed him to say, "The government hasn't been able to prove any harm from these disclosures," sure, he would face trial in that kind of system. But for now, he doesn't believe and I don't believe that the cost of his act of conscience should be a life behind bars.

Wizner goes on to say that indeed, Snowden hopes to come back to America. Gregory says, "Only if given some deal...some amnesty." Wizner lowers a boom: "There's a lot of people in this town, including some who have been on your show, who have been given amnesty. We just don't call it that. Lying to Congress is a crime. Torturing prisoners is a very serious crime. There are lots of times when people violate the law and society decides for one reason or another to look forward rather than backwards."

I am glad that someone finally pointed out that the producers of this show routinely flatter some of the worst human beings on the planet, and haven't really retained the level of moral authority that they believe they are entitled to claim for themselves. That was a nice gift to receive today!

Wizner says that everyone should be able to agree that Snowden being in Russia is not optimal for anyone. Gregory asks what we should expect from him in 2014. Wizner says that he routinely turns down money for book deals and movie deals, preferring to "stay out of the limelight," but that he "might emerge a little bit." Gregory concludes by saying he'd like to book Snowden on MEET THE PRESS, I guess for Joe and Mika to interview, or maybe David Gregory is going to move the MEET THE PRESS set into his house after the show is -- fingers crossed! -- cancelled.

Who is going to be on the last MEET THE PRESS panel I have to endure? It's going to be Andrea Mitchell, Eugene Robinson, Robin Wright (not the HOUSE OF CARDS actress, sadly), Elliot Abrams (pretty much proving Wizner's point about the people to whom MEET THE PRESS offers "amnesty"), and some George Mason University history professor named Peter Stearns.

Gregory wants to know: "What is the big story in the U.S. about the U.S. that dominates 2014?" Someone please help him!

The answer of course, is "widespread economic dislocation and income inequality as a result of the never-addressed economic collapse of 2008. Andrea Mitchell gets the win, for noting this.

But let's round up the panel's incorrect answers. Robinson says it's "the continuing conflict between two visions of government." Stearns says that it's "the recurrent paralysis in Washington," and that the economy in America has actually improved. Wright says that "seeing not only a democratization demands within countries, but the democratization demands among countries." Abrams says nothing of import.

Gregory reads from an Economist article that hits Obama for retreating from Afghanistan. I wish he would! But, no.

Stearns says, "We're also dealing with the winding down of a second, inconclusive war that probably did us no good in the world. And that's an area where Obama can display leadership in helping us to find what's our mission after this. Not to reclaim superpower status. That's an illusion." Abrams basically says that we should reclaim superpower status, and Obama is not using enough powerful "leadership magicks."

Robinson says, LOL: "But if you ask the question though, how well did that work out? How well did it work out for the United States to essentially believe that it had the right to try to direct events in the Middle East. I would argue that there's at best, a mixed record."

Mixed? That's a bit optimistic.

Andrea Mitchell says that in Syria, it wasn't shrewd to insist that Assad had to go and then do nothing. It's worth remembering that the only "something" that anyone realistically suggested was even remotely possible in Syria was a one-time bombing campaign, the purpose of which was, I guess, to prove to Assad that we could kill Syrians even faster than he could?

Andrea Mitchell LOLs.

ABRAMS: What I fear is, is that during this period of retrenchment, we're going to see the threats grow. And then you just have them off to the next president. That's not going to work.

MITCHELL: The last president did that.

Wright explains that in Iran, so much depends on these nuclear talks, above and beyond the issue of Iran's future in the field of nuclear power:

WRIGHT: The focus on this issue in Iran are in many ways not just a nuclear issue, but they're really the kinds of things we want to see in Iran, whether it is the opening up of a political system, the inclusion of all a wider array of political players, women's rights, that when I talk to people in Iran, they were all saying, "Everything depends on the nuclear deals."

The women's rights activists saying, "If there's a nuclear deal, then we believe the administration, the current new president Rouhani will have greater say in doing things that we want, whether it's including reformers in the political process, dealing with some of the regional dimensions with the United States, and the Gulf countries that are important allies."

There is an interview between Harry Smith and Franklin Graham, because Billy Graham was both influential in Washington and also a pastor, and so flattering Graham during his career was, for the Beltway media, something that felt like purchasing an indulgence.

The panel returns to gently patter about some random things. Stearns says the most interesting thing: "The role of papal leadership at this point, you not only mentioned attention to the poor, after all, he also emphasized peace. I think in the year where presumably we wind down a war, I'm not trying to be naïve, but some discussion of what peace can mean and what role the United States could play in helping to construct a more durable peace in key regions I think is one of the things that ought to be on the agenda."

Mitchell says the least interesting thing: "And whether Hillary Clinton runs or not runs, should be this coming year."

I'm guessing MEET THE PRESS will be slightly more concerned about "OMGZ HILLARY" and not about the poor or the end of war they cheerled. Happily, I won't be watching in any event!

THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

I've had a hard time trying to determine which show, MEET THE PRESS or THIS WEEK is worse? And I'm not sure I'll ever resolve this. George Stephanopoulos, like Gregory, is the sort of host that fails to improve on the revolutionary possibilities of a pile of carpet remnants. I suspect that Stephanopoulos is the dumber of the two, but also the more pleasant of the two to be around.

And the shows come at Sunday from different vantages. MEET THE PRESS always aims for something lofty, and then fails to get even halfway there. Whereas THIS WEEK is almost aggressively simple-minded in its approach to news -- they booked Dennis Rodman, remember! -- but on occasion manages to break free of its low standard and do something decent. It's genuinely been difficult to come to a conclusion about this -- so I'm glad that it's not a thing I have to ponder. (Like others, I sometimes wonder what THIS WEEK might have become had they retained Jake Tapper as host. I suspect it might have become a better show, and even a more fun show.)

In keeping with their "aim low and hope for the best ethos," THIS WEEK will be doing a special episode called "GAME CHANGERS 2013" which is like the universal code for, "We just give up."

So who are the Game Changers?

TED CRUZ IS A GAME CHANGER because:
--he is a total attention whore
--was on the Jay Leno show
--he is glad no one in DC like him
--he is a "proud wacko bird"
--he convinced his Republican colleagues to shut down the government, which has really, really made John Boehner's life fantastic
--he offered the most ironic reading of "Green Eggs And Ham" in the history of the world
--he went to Tortilla Coast, a sort-of okay Mexican restaurant in DC, I mean, it's better than Lauriol Plaza
--he is really helping to bring business to Tortilla Coast, though, so maybe he created one or two jobs
--he is great at giving "victory" speeches after getting his ass handed to him
--John Boehner hates him
--And he really, really went to Tortilla Coast a lot! My God, maybe Tortilla Coast is a Game Changer
--"I'm trying to not pay attention to the politics," says Cruz, LOL.
--He thinks that the White House and Harry Reid forced a shutdown, still, hilariously.
--There is a coloring book about Ted Cruz. Take that, Malala Yousafzai!

EDWARD SNOWDEN IS A GAME CHANGER because:
--OMGZ THE LEAKS
--is he a hero or a traitor? a sinner or a saint? the Easter Bunny or whatever it is that the Easter Bunny isn't, like the "GOOD FRIDAY VOLE," or something?
--the public had "never seen anything like" the revelations Snowden brought to light but they were also, like, no big deal, don't worry about them! (unless we are talking about "the troops" in which case OMG THE TROOPS ARE IN DANGER WHICH HASN'T BEEN THE CASE IN OVER A DECADE, TRUST ME)
--Terrorists! Something about terrorists! Probably!
--We spied on Angela Merkel, the most dynamic personality in all of Europe.
--Julian Assange: still a little weirdsie, to be honest!
--The White House put together a panel of people to review the NSA practices, confident that they would get nothing but attaboys, except the panel was like, "WOW, you should change some of this stuff" and now Obama is shrugging and pulling at his collar awkwardly saying, "Woah, now! Reform the government or something? Is that my 'brand?'"
--And, I finally get an answer to my question, "If Obama maintains the bulk of his predecessor's surveillance state policies, will the American Left be as consistent in their criticism of the policies, or will the policies suddenly become "good" and instead the critics will be vilified?" I look forward to the Left turning around on this the next time there is a Republican president, I guess!

MOAR GAME CHANGERZ PLS. DOGECOIN! JUSTINE SACCO! VIRAL TURD THAT TURN OUT TO BE FRAUDY!

POPE FRANCIS IS A GAME CHANGER because:
--Conclave! Black smoke! Cardinals moaning in Latin!
--OMG this Pope guys is aware of poor people! This could force people in the news to pay attention to poor people! (Probably not though.)
--But the new Pope even has bearded hipsters all super excited, about Pope-stuff.
--Americans are really into this new Pope, except for maybe Paul Ryan, who is sort of awkward about it, because he was hoping to pull off this whole "I love the poor" scam in 2014 only now there's a guy who authentically does love the poor, showing him up.
--He really does seem to piss off the right sort of people though, doesn't he?

GAY MARRIAGE IS A GAME CHANGERA because
--it's becoming more and more accepted, because people continue to be mortal, and the people who oppose marriage equality continue to die in greater numbers than the people who support it
--there is a professional soccer player named Robbie Rogers who came out of the closet while continuing to play soccer, almost as if his sexual preference has no bearing on his ability to play soccer or something.
--Jason Collins also came out, providing the added benefit of clowning Howie Kurtz
--The Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality in a "landmark case" and can we just pause and ask, "Does the Supreme Court have any non-'landmark' cases?" I mean, are there some Supreme Court cases that are just sort of mediocre or blah?
--Robbie Rogers says he doesn't like being compared to Jackie Robinson because "there were people who wanted to kill" Jackie Robinson, and, by contrast, "there's just people that don't agree with us."

MALALA YOUSAFZAI IS A GAME CHANGER because
--She's just great.
--She would hate the stupid reductiveness of being called a "Game Changer" but she'd be super polite about it.

THE CITY OF BOSTON IS A GAME CHANGER because
--A terrible thing happened in Boston and everyone rallied around the city and helped it heal.
--The Red Sox won the World Series.
--If "people reaching out in sympathy with other people who are hurting and being generally good and decent" was a "game" that was "changed" in 2013, then wow, were we really all such terrible people before the Boston Marathon bombing? I sure hope not!

Okay, well. How about that. We are done. And done forever!

Ahh, so, many of you have already reached out on email, wishing me well, and wishing that this liveblog wasn't going away. I understand! It's sort of amazing to be still doing a "liveblog" of something in 2013, because Twitter is where we do all of our cheap and immediate reacting to things now. I probably got to do this as long as I have because of you guys.

Of course, this liveblog has basically been a failure, a long-running exercise in futility. As AC Newman sang: "It's always been a long shot or worse, for an author of the small work." I have changed no one and reformed nothing. Everything about these dumb shows is the same as it was when I started. I don't know if I managed grammatical competence on that last sentence, but hopefully you get what I mean.

Don't mistake this for false modesty or self-deprecation, because God knows I got away with a lot, writing in this forum, for six years. This is maybe the only thing written for the Huffington Post that goes up on the pages with no editorial oversight -- which is probably not something many of you missed!

These shows haven't been all bad. Matt Dowd last week reminded me that some of these panelists show up and try to give an urgent voice to ordinary, voiceless people. I've enjoyed his work and also Katty Kay's and Paul Krugman's and Rachel Maddow's and John Dickerson's work. That time Kara Swisher was on Meet The Press was so great, you don't even know. Like I said before, Jake Tapper was a fun host -- he listened to a lot of people who wanted a better Sunday show experience but he also didn't turn it into some fusty, boring, academic exercise of "news making." I've always been happy when someone from my own shop showed up on these things. And I'm sure I'm leaving out some people who were also great on these shows. But not many more! Most of the people involved with these shows are quite obviously garbage people.

While I eventually grew very tired of giving up my Sundays, the opportunity to write something with near-total reckless abandon, operate without a safety net, pushing the envelope in weird ways, was a fun thing that kept this project alive for me for a long, long time. It's going to be a challenge, getting some of that "go for broke" flair into the rest of my writing. It's going to want to go somewhere. I look forward to taking on that challenge, as well as getting to do some new things that I hope will be as fulfilling, for me and all of you, in the due course of time.

I will, actually, still watch and write about these shows in a less-obsessive but perhaps more precise way. And I will do something on these pages every Sunday that discussions can be formed around. I am not going to even pretend that these substitutes will be as enjoyable to those of you who enjoyed this liveblog in hardcore fashion, because they likely won't.

And you will still find me on the "Eat The Press" blog and on Huff Post Live, with Zach Carter, who all of you should like as much as me, if not more, because he is a lot smarter and funnier than I am.

Some thank yous. First, thanks to Arianna and Sam Stein and Nico Pitney for getting this liveblog started six years ago and putting me on this task. It was really great fun for a long, long while, and I'm glad to have made these contributions to the site. Second, thanks to my partner-in-all-crimes Elyse Siegel, as well as Ryan Grim and Sam again for helping me bring all of this to an end, when it became clear that the time for an end was at hand.

You guys only saw this on the page because someone from our front page team made sure it got seen. On most Sundays, this was Alana Horowitz. Alana (follow her on Twitter) is hilarious and fearless and has excellent taste, and when you are about to take a headlong plunge into anything -- a pie, a cave, the dark and decrepit heart of Sunday Morning television -- it is a fortunate thing to get to touch base with someone like her in the morning and get help screwing your courage to the sticking place. (I realize the the person who coined that term was a brutal murderess.) So, thanks to Alana, and also to Peter Finocchiaro, Adam Goldberg, Melissa Jeltsen and Benjamin Hart -- all fine people I am proud to know -- who did this whenever Alana could not.

Mostly, however, thanks to all of you who read this crazy self-indulgent thing during its six-year run. This liveblog is a thing that I'm still surprised actually came into being, and I'm not even sure that it should have existed but I'm glad it did and it wouldn't were it not for all of you who supported it in one way or another.

Like Lou Gehrig once said to the people that supported him, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." And I actually feel a bit luckier, because as far as I can tell, I'm not dying of Lou Gehrig's disease.

At least not yet! The day is young.

Okay, then, bye-bye you guys.

So I think we've burned our bridges, but it's difficult to tell.
I've been walking through the ashes saying "Didn't we do well?"
So I think we'll have to pay for this, but I'm not afraid of hell,
I've been walking through the ashes saying "Didn't we do well?"


[The Sunday Morning liveblog will probably return never, but I guess you never know about these things.]

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