Good morning and happy new year. As you might have heard, we're just a few days away from the Iowa Caucuses, so today will be our last chance to consult with the Sunday morning experts on what will happen in Iowa. Next week, they'll all be pretending to know what the results of the caucuses mean. And then a WHOLE OTHER YEAR of this stuff. Oy. Let's get on with it.
Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace
Gads. Fred Thompson. It's too early for me to have to deal with this lip-licking somnambulist. "Don't Americans want someone who wants to be President?" Thompson accuses somebody--Wallace maybe?--of "journalistic malpractice." Apparently, the quote Wallace read left off Thompson talking about the things that do motivate him. Can't say I don't appreciate Wallace being accused of "malpractice."
Thompson says that the polls don't reflect how well he's doing...expect for those that do reflect how well he's doing. He mentions that he's met with Musharraf...so there's today's first mention of Pakistan.
And that's where Wallace goes. What's wrong with bringing Bhutto's killers to justice? Thompson says it would be great, but we are losing sight of the fact that we're in a war. Really? We're losing sight of that? Boy, that would be a good trick! He then offers the same old platitudes that the GOP always offers.
Is Huckabee ready to be commander-in-chief? Thompson won't "throw a blanket over Mike." A blanket, riddled with the smallpox of petty criticism, maybe? He does say that "his ideas now" are not the sort of ideas that reflect someone who's prepared to be president. Sounds like a blanket to me! Thompson goes on to call Mitt Romney a big old flip-flopping weathervane.
Thompson says he was the "floor manager" for the Homeland Security Bill, and that he likes to think that he's had something to do with the U.S. not getting attacked. Yes...his brave wielding of parliamentary procedure has saved us all...please take ALL MY ELECTORAL VOTES, sleepwalking Law and Order zombie!
Wallace TOTALLY tries to nail Thompson for not showing up to every meeting that some obscure commission held. Fred's like: "Yeah, nice try, but I had two full time jobs and still found time to make a bunch of these meetings."
Now the Des Moines Register's David Yepsen is on. "Dead heat," he says of the Democratic side. In the past, Jule Banville of the Washington City Paper has noted that wining and dining Yepsen has it's impact. But no one seems to have done anything for him lately, because he's going out on no limbs here today. Hillary may have a better ground game, "but not by much." The polls, astoundingly, all say something different.
Still, Yepsen won't predict anything on the Democratic side. He does believe Romney needs to be staging a comeback.
Is going negative "poison" in Iowa? Yepsen says that the case can be made, but that the negative ads have had an impact on Huckabee's fortunes in Iowa. Yepsen won't predict the outcome on the GOP side, either, but agrees that McCain is surging. Yepsen does warn that the primary schedule favors the winner in Iowa as far as winning the nomination goes.
Time to hear from Wallace's panel, including newly minted New York Times columnist Bill Kristol. All the news that's fit to be printed alongside people who were relentlessly incorrect about Iraq and the War on Terrorism, I guess!
Brit Hume offers Huckabee his trademarked phlegmatic, "Napoleon Dynamite"-like dismissal. "The avalanche is gaining," Hume says. Mara Liasson says that the debates have allowed Huckabee to deploy his wit, and without them, he's foundering. Juan Williams and Kristol spar on whether this is a "commander in chief" election.
Where does Giuliani fit into this? Kristol says, basically, nowhere. And as if to underscore, he changes the subject to talk about Romney and Huckabee.
Predictions: Juan Williams says Huckabee, Romney, McCain. Kristol and Liasson says Romney, Huckabee, McCain.
Hume takes David Axelrod to task for his suggestion that all these many years of bad policy decisions were, in fact, bad. Typical! Liasson feels that the scorn for Axelrod is confined to the "tut-tutting" of editorial boards. Kristol goes on to tut-tut Clinton's "experience," though he'd have you believe she's a "one-term Senator."
Hume seems to think that Democratic voters "are not consumed with foreign policy issues." Love to meet these Democratic voters someday!
Williams praises Edwards for getting to talk to Musharraf on the phone this week. And, yes, one imagines that Musharraf must have been powerfully moved by the statements of a guy who's currently elected to nothing.
Hume says that if Clinton wins in Iowa, the inevitability factor returns, and she gets the nomination. If it's not a narrow win, he corrects. Liasson says that whoever wins will benefit. So there you have it! Winning the Iowa Caucus is good!
Williams says Clinton, Edwards, Obama. Kristol predicts Edwards, Obama, Clinton. Liasson says Obama, Clinton, Edwards.
This Week with George Stephanopoulos
Clinton gives us a big cackle right up front...but for once, who can blame her? She's responding to the mindgrapes of Peggy Noonan, which truly is like watching a clown. But Dodd said that her FLOTUS experience was essentially meaningless. Clinton won't offer her claws to Dodd, but mentions that leaders from Northern Ireland contacted her this week.
Stephanolpoulos points out that she was never given a security clearance or received a daily brief. But she counters that she was given briefings of her own, and had direct access to the decision makers, and got to fly on planes with important people. So there's that.
They get into Rwanda, where Bill Clinton, who did nothing about the Rwandan genocide, has offered that Hillary was right on the issue and that he regrets not acting on her advice.
"Voters know I've been vetted, been tested," she says.
On Bill Clinton: "I will rely on him...as many people rely on people with experience." So "experienced" people rely on people with experience? But when inexperienced people do...that's bad? The problem with this whole "experience debate" is that it feels like we haven't heard about a policy position from one of these Democratic candidates for weeks.
Stephanopoulos asks about whether she's part of a broken system, and thus unable to bring about change. Clinton says the choice between change and experience is a "false choice." But, that's a false answer! She eventually goes on to say that she's "incurred the wrath" of the special interests.
We go over to John McCain. Who's being attacked by Romney. And who's hitting him back, and frankly, while it's a little schoolgirl, it's nice to see. I have a feeling that McCain really despises Romney. McCain won't immediately answers whether or not Romney's a "phony"--he pleads technical difficulties--but eventually says that he's a candidate who's switched his positions repeatedly.
Is New Hampshire do or die? McCain says, "it's very important...we have to do very well."
Panel time! Who handled the Bhutto crisis best? George Will mocks Edwards phonecall. So does Brooks, who says, it's not enough to say you've met Bhutto...you have to have some policy. Brazile says "advantage Clinton" in the short term, but doesn't feel like Obama harmed himself. Was it an error for David Axelrod to inject himself into the fray? Brazile says yes, but not a major one.
Brooks calls Huckabee a "William Jennings Bryan" candidate...what an insult to Bryan! He says Romney is basically the "core" of the Republican Party. Sounds like the Republican Party desperately needs a new core!
Now Will is saying that the Republican core died in 1964. Huckabee sounds a little like John Edwards! Romney hates the poors! Here's the most chilling thing I've heard all year, courtesy Will: 30,000 people in Iowa may be responsible for Romney winning the nomination. Yeeps! Just thinking about it makes you feel like a shadow has fallen over your grave!
David Brooks says Edwards has "juice that you feel in the air." O-kay. Brazile has a less gross way of saying it, "He has a real shot of winning."
Brooks thinks that Clinton can survive a third place finish in Iowa, and that a win for Edwards is, "long-term," a win for Clinton. As well as a win for atmospheric juice. We're going to take a brief break.
The Chris Matthews Show
OMG! Somebody declared war on Bugs Bunny? Heroic!
Todays panel is Howard Fineman, Michelle Norris, Andrea Mitchell, and everyone's favorite FISA expert, Joe Klein. I'm thinking I'm going to dearly miss the past two weeks of Kay, Rather, O'Donnell and Sullivan.
Matthews skillfully presents each candidates pitch as if it were somehow novel or new or something we haven't all been hip to for the entire past year. Experience is Clinton's best argument, Fineman and Mitchell says. And it was Bhutto's assassination that got us back there. Joe Klein, who doesn't have the time to do a lot of thinking about things like politics, says the crowds in Iowa have been bigger, the polls are unpredictable, Hillary's run the best campaign but she's carrying the most baggage, Republicans are "salivating" to run against her...Klein's a leading expert on everything we already know.
Fineman offers his chit in the competition to decide who's mastered the obvious: Bill Clinton is Hillary's greatest asset. Michelle Norris makes a good point...Iowa voters love the Bill Clinton nostalgia, but there passion in the present tense isn't as acute.
Matthews asks if Benazir Bhutto's death was "one of those unpredictable things." Mitchell agrees, which is preposterous! Wasn't there always a very good chance that Bhutto might get killed? Then Mitchell starts talking about Hillary's visit to Pakistan years ago as "an important trip" that she "handled well." What? Who attached importance to this trip when it was actually happening.
Joe Klein continues to advance this ridiculous meme that Edwards is "angry." "Very anti-Halliburton," Matthews scoffs. But how unreasonable is it to be angry at Halliburton? Chris Matthews is just unbelievable.
Now we get into the Huckahunt...and boy is Matthews proud of himself. "It reminds me of Bugs Bunny and good old Elmer Fudd." There always has to be some sort of limp cultural referent with this guy! (Of course, I'm one to talk!)
The pundit class says John McCain will win New Hampshire. Fineman says it's his honesty. Of course, his honesty doesn't go as far as say, admitting that he's supported a raft of terrible foreign policy decisions. Joe Klein still thinks Romney will beat him in New Hampshire, despite having seen Romney "one of the most reprehensible campaigns he's ever seen."
Chris is really begging for someone to talk about Giuliani. I think it's killing him that no one wants to talk about good olf Rudy!
Michelle Norris says that "two frontrunners" are studying the mistakes of the Dean campaign, especially ground game mistakes--making sure that folks can get away to caucus, making sure staffers stay "civil." Fineman says the Iowa caucuses will be YouTubed! Great! Condoleeza Rice and the New York Philharmonic are going to Pyongyang! Will Condi take a turn at the piano? OH! JOE KLEIN just read my mind! Ha!
What's going to be the big surprise of 2008? Norris says there will be at least one third party candidate. Will that person's name rhyme with Shroomblerg? Michelle isn't saying! Fineman says the "next generation of Clintons and Bushes will be getting into politics. That reminds me...does the Huffington Post's health plan offer the option of a medicinal gunshot to the frontal lobe? If Fineman's right, I might have to investigate! Andrea Mitchell says, "What the heck? Return of the Golan Heights to syria, breakthroughs in the Middle East." Joe Klein says "We may get Osama bin Laden!" Not if Morgan Spurlock gets him first!
Meet The Press
Live from Iowa! "This is it!" Cue the heroic trumpets of Meet The Press! Ever notice how into horns NBC is? Their theme for their Sunday night football show sounds a lot like the Meet The Press theme. Just another one of my useless observations for you to enjoy.
Huckabee's on! He's lost nine points! He doesn't care. Apparently, everyone in Iowa got the gift of learning what a schmuck Mike Huckabee is! But Huckabee's greatest strength is that Romney's a bigger schmuck. And so, we get one long negative campaign ad against Romney. Backed up by Truckers magazine. And fees are taxes! But Huckabee's taxes are "legitimate." I think Romney and Huckabee should spar on AMERICAN GLADIATORS.
"Education was my ticket out of the bottom of the economic spectrum." And expensive speaking engagements are keeping him out!
Huckabee wants to invade Pakistan! And Benazir Bhutto's death has made him the Prophet! But is it worth the risk to destabilize Pakistan, asks Russert. Huckabee responds by saying, "Isn't it not NOT worth the risk, Tim?" Give him credit, though: he clearly read the Wikipedia entry on Pakistan this week!
Ahh, here's Donald Rumsfeld's legacy! He gets to be the avatar of Bush's "bunker mentality." In a way, this is totally right, but it allows Huckabee to provide an example to Russert without really ending up on the wrong side of Bush. Though he offers that we've drawn to many lines in the sand. And he points out that Romney, for all his demands for an apology, felt the same way about Bush's foreign policy.
For all these candidates looking to work their way back into the lead, Romney is the greatest gift. Huck says that he's running a "dishonest" campaign. Romney takes all the flak, and his dishonesty outshines Huckabee's unserious ideas and McCain's backing for every failed decision to come out of the White House.
Oh good God. Russert points out that Huckabee thinks we should process out all illegal immigrants during a 120 day window - where they return to their country of origin and then stand in line to return. Huckabee's also said that removing all the illegal aliens would collapse our economy. He stands by both statements. How then, can we do this "send fifteen million people out of the country within 120 days and bring them all back WITHOUT collapsing the economy?" Huckabee's response: "All of them aren't going to go back on the same day." OH WELL! Of course! That won't be traumatic at all! And, then, as if he thinks he's still making sense, he says, "We'll have sealed the border." So we're going to disapparate 15 million people, and overnight, we'll have the immigration process solved for speedy, legal return, and it won't be traumatic at all. THIS MAKES NO SENSE.
Ha. Huckabee says it's perfectly appropriate to tell a gathering of Southern Baptists that he hopes "we can take this Nation back for Christ." Then he says that he wouldn't use the government institutions to impose his faith on other people. So...I guess he's saying that it's "appropriate" to walk into a room full of Southern Baptists and shine them on by telling them that he will use the institutions of government to impose their faith on the nation.
Ugh...this whole swamp Huckabee wanders through on homosexuality. Everyone's a sinner! Heterosexuals just sin less! And you can be gay as long as you don't "behave" gay. God has a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy? Doesn't God's omniscience sort of make that untenable?
And then there's his whole stand on abortion. Doctor's take an oath to "first do no harm." But in Huck's world, the harm that could befall a woman is trumped on every occasion by the harm to a fetus.
And yet, *sigh*--I'm not surprised by this in the least.
And now, Barack Obama joins Russert. How's it feel to be in third place? "We're seeing bigger crowds, and the polls are going to be bouncing." He adds: "If our folks come to the caucus and participate, we're going to do very well." Uhm...you think?
Does Obama believe that Hillary Clinton killed Bhutto? Barack says no, "and that's not what any of my aides said." But people made judgements...and, uhm...some of those judgements weren't very good. "I am not drawing a causal" line...I am drawing some some loops of causality.
Now we get to the "roll of the dice" statement. Obama says that Iowans have been kicking his tires, and that Clinton represents "same" while he represents "change." I don't know why he doesn't just point out, "Hey, the Democratic party, before I served even a minute in the Senate, rolled the dice and made me their keynote speaker at their own convention." Obviously some part of the "establishment" gave Obama's career some considerable spurring on. Probably the reason Obama doesn't mention this is that ultimately, he doesn't really want to run as an anti-establishment candidate. So this gets all papered over with his "fierce urgency of now" talking points. For all this debate over who represents what break from what tradition of policy-making, the Democratic Party monolith remains in the room.
"I'm sure if you talk to my wife, she can point out a few more flaws in my character." Yes...the Wives of America...such heroic nags! What about her comment about not running again? Obama says that what she was trying to say is that they still remember being ordinary people now, and that they're likely to become jaded Beltway insiders over the next four years if he doesn't win.
That makes a totally unfortunate sort of sense.
And that's the note we'll leave the last Sunday Liveblog of 2007. Happy new year! See you in 2008.