09/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Hello, good morning and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog of political chat and related tom-foolery. My name is Jason, and I am about to have beer summit with my teevee, except with coffee, and maybe an English muffin, maybe not, and, okay, maybe some beer, if it gets too painful, because today I think we're going to talk about the economy! The economy: she's kind of been coming on to us, lately! Come hither stares, hopeful sighs. But should we believe her? Are we ready to love again? Because the emptiness of a jobless recovery...I don't think I need to tell you how that feels. Don't want to get fooled again! Or do I? No, probably not. Gah.

Anyway, send me emails, or leave comments or follow me on the Twitter if you want short bursts of animus and whimsy on a daily basis. Let us begin with the Real Housewives of Fox News Sunday.


Testing my patience right off the bat today will be Jim DeMint and Charles Rangel. Jim DeMint thinks that what is being proposed is a "single payer health system," which is daft. He also thinks that taxes are going to be raised on small-businesses and that Obama has reached his "Waterloo" or his "Take a Chance On Me" or his "Super Trouper." Charles Rangel growls about health care "horror stories," and criticizes DeMint for believing that the health care plan is "single payer," implying he's not paying attention.

How to pay for health care? There's this whole surtax on 1.2%. He goes on to compare the already high taxes in New York and Oregon to Denmark, which is a great place to live. DeMint says it will be a "jobs killer," for some reason, and then, predictably, says, DO YOU WANT HEALTH CARE LIKE THE CASH FOR CLUNKERS PROGRAM? DO YOU? DO YOU? Rangel clarifies how limited the tax impact will be, and suggests that maybe a healthy workforce would add productivity and revenue.

Public option, anyone? CRAZY POPULAR WITH THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. But the Blue Dogs haven't been sucking down industry money for nothing! DeMint is all blargle blargle government takeover. Just give everyone five thousand dollars to by a tiny sliver of health care from other states.

Is the public option a "stalking horse" for single payer? Barney Frank thinks maybe. I hope so! But the bill in front of Congress is not a single payer, and it will probably be a long time before single payer is a reality. Rangel notes that all the Blue Dogs have achieved is to negotiate higher costs into the bill.

Chris Wallace accepts the premise uncritically that the public option is the equivalent of "Fannie Mae." DeMint raises the specter, "It's like a government run auto company." COMPETING SO UNFAIRLY! But if the public option ends up being like government run car companies, there will be no worries for private insurance! No one will buy the public option! DeMint compares "cash-for-clunkers" to public option again, calling it "stupidity."

No worries unemployed! Everyone will be extending your benefits for another thirteen weeks.

And now, Fox continues to rehabilitate the GOP in their continuing series, "We Care, Party Out Of Power," for the time being. Mike Pence is here. He thinks the economic numbers are improving because the American people have resilience! WE ARE MAGICALLY GROWING GREEN SHOOTS, ON OUR FAMILY FARMS.

Pence is mad that the stimulus package isn't working, saying it's no substitute for pro-cyclical, no growth spending freezes that exacerbate economic downturns for decades. He goes on to say that the GOP was "always ready to support infrastructure spending," which doesn't explain why they added, mainly, tax cuts to the package which don't stimulate the economy.

The GOP "fought for fiscal discipline all year long," Pence says. By "all year," he must mean, "seven months."

In the battle of opinion polling, Pence says that the GOP is "starting to win back the confidence of voters," and that the GOP is returning to fiscal discipline. Wallace disputes Pence's premise with the poll results, news that Pence greets with more moist bromides: "This is about who we are as a nation! The American people know we can't borrow and spend our way back to fiscal health!" YES, THAT'S WHY AMERICANS SPENT A BILLION DOLLARS ON CARS IN A WEEK. To show their resilience! To demonstrate their resolve to not spend government money!

Pence says that the public option will kill everyone, because that's what government takeovers do. I hate the government takeovers of burning buildings by firefighters! THOSE FIRES WILL GO OUT IF WE'RE RESILIENT.

Pence says some dude thanked him for being unemployed and not doing anything about it because he can "get another job but can't get another country." All unemployed Americans should just shamble around the country, demonstrating their resilience! And the more that maybe perish from preventable illnesses, the more health care costs will go down. Free lunches in Galt's Gulch for the RESILIENT, courtesy of Mike Pence.

And now, Fox seems to be having technical difficulties! There's nothing on my screen but the Fox logo. I MUST BE RESILIENT!

Meanwhile, NPR vs. Weekly Standard panel! Bill Kristol says that Obama's numbers are slipping for "policy reasons." Liasson says, no, polls indicate that the President's health care plan still polls very well, and that Obama's mistake was to let Congress make hash of health care.

Why is everyone demonizing insurance companies? Pelosi is calling them villains! Here's a fun fact: my private insurance company, Cigna, currently employs nobody capable of changing the erroneous date they have for my date of birth. Every couple of weeks, I call them up, I tell them that they have my wrong birthday, I give them the right one, the person says there's nothing they can do, I pass myself along to a supervisor or two until I get bored, and then I bid them farewell, making sure they know that they are a gang of incompetents! Anyway, in the world of "Private health care," my birthday is in September, so SEND ME PRESENTS THEN, TOO.

The Federal government, by contrast, knows damn well when I was born.

Kristol insists that the insurance companies are aligned with Obama's plan, but Liasson points out that the insurance companies love the individual mandates, but hate the public option. She goes on to note that the public option "takes on water every day" and will probably be shaped into something "more benign" that's not REALLY a public option. Stephen Hayes basically suggests that Obama will reinvent the public option, by calling something that's not a public option a "public option," so that he can pretend to have given the American people a "public option." Depressingly, I think that's probably true! And people ought to register their electoral displeasure! The "public option" is more popular with the American people than just about any single elected official.

Liasson thinks that "cash for clunkers" is too small to be of any real harm, but Hayes points out that it's terrible timing, because it is a poorly-administrated program, flaming out dramatically, at a time when the government can ill afford to demonstrate mis-management. Juan Williams, of course, thinks that the program was a huge success because it builds consumer confidence! That sort of makes...uhm...NO SENSE? If I walk into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino with $4500 of my own money, I am going to probably gamble very tentatively. But if you give me $4500 to do whatever I want? SCREW IT! I'll project a lot of consumer confidence.

Anyway, Juan Williams is getting worked, badly, by Bill Kristol and Stephen Hayes, but Juan is SO RESILIENT that I'm sure this discussion is benefitting the economy!


Chris has Norah O'Donnell, Eugene Robinson, Jennifer Loven, and Howard Fineman on the panel today.

Anyway, CRAZY PEOPLE are calling up Obama on his AARP panel asking where and when they must line up to DIE. Don't kill us, say the olds! And so, people like John Kyl have made talking points sausage that goes like this: BUREAUCRATS WILL RATION YOUR DEATH DECISIONS BLARGH!! BOOGA BOOGA!

Howard Fineman thinks that Obama made a mistake by "fighting the health care fight on conservative turf," and he should have been more like, "WOO KUMBAYAH, LET'S ALL PAY FOR THIS" instead of attempting to make it deficit neutral. Loven says, WOW IT'S WEIRD, somehow he got the feeling that the people were worried about deficits! It's like there was a national media, or something, that NEVER EVER EVER tells the story of Americans doing without health care, and NEVER NEVER NEVER shrieked in mortal terror over TEH DEFICITS, until January of 2009, where the finally discovered TEH DEFICITS again.

Norah O'Donnell says that the problem with the public option is that people with employer-provided insurancew might start examining the two options, side-by-side, and decide to go with the public option. Yes, Norah, this is called "the free market," where entities "compete" to sell "products" and make "revenue."

Jennifer Loven says that politicians should talk in "bumper stickers" so that their policies are "easier to understand."

Chris is worried that Obama is going on vacation! Jennifer Loven says, ON NO, WHO WILL MAKE THE BUMPERSTICKERS. This is disaster. Norah O'Donnell vainly points out that EVERYONE IS GOING ON VACATION, it's August, the month where the news goes to die.

And now Eugene Robinson is talking about bumperstickers.

Chris Matthews just interrupts Loven. SHUT UP LOVEN. MUST HAVE MATTHEWS-METER. Obama: AWESOME PRESIDENT? OR AWESOMER PRESIDENT. The Matthews Meter is mixed, with a bare majority saying "Obama will be historic."

Will the Democrats get some bill signed that will allow them some campaign bragging rights? Norah says, "Yes, but I don't think it will change the lives of average Americans." LE SIGH. She's probably right! Everyone agrees with O'Donnell's premise, and Matthews acts amazed, and that's your Washington press corps! EVERYONE AGREES THAT NOTHING EVER CHANGES, HAR HAR HAR.

Meanwhile, Chris Matthews interviewed a drugged-up G, Gordon Liddy, and Jon Stewart told jokes about the Birthers. So let's dedicate a segment to the craziness!

Eugene Robinson says that this is "train whistle" politics, and it's just about the nutlog stuff that you'd expect to come along with the first African-American president. Loven says that the White House isn't worried about this stuff because none of this stuff will stop him from winning elections. Maybe other stuff will, but not craziness. But, are the GOP using it? Norah O'Donnell says, "You betcha!" in her best Palin imitation. "It's a dark undercurrent in America," she says.

REAL TALK: Right now, I think that the GOP's numbers have dwindled to the point that they cannot afford to lose a single one of these birther votes. At the same time, they do need to expand their voting base. It's a tricky walk: I think that the recent attempt to blame "the liberal media" for the attention the Birthers have received is an attempt to revitalize the rump they want to have without losing the rump their stuck with. But it should be pointed out, that Republican politicians are like all the rest. None of these people has any authentic desire to spend time with Birthers, or go to Tea Bag Parties. They all have rich friends and fancy parties to attend, where important people give them scads of campaign money. They all have to show up and rub elbows with the fringe, but they don't have any authentic fellow-feeling for them. Basically, the GOP sees these folks as useful rubes. If the GOP could win tomorrow with moderate-to-left voters, they'd frost the weirdos in a minute.

Fineman points out that hopping up the crazies is a good short-term strategy for the GOP, because no one votes in the midterm elections other than very motivated people. So if there's to be a "Birther Election" it will probably be the next one.

Things that Chris Matthews doesn't know: Norah O'Donnell says that Sarah Palin has no advisors of any kind and doesn't consult with anyone. She's just a lone wolf with a Twitter account and a head full of cotton-candy. Robinson says that minorities are "way way more optimistic" about their future. Loven says, BUMPER STICKER. Seriously she wonders if Obama will regret doing more town halls on health care. Howard Fineman says that Dan Brown's new book is based in DC. That's something Chris Matthews didn't know?

Lastly, will Barack Obama avoid talking about race from now on, so he doesn't have to host a billion more "beer summits?" Nobody thinks he will. I could have set my watch to their predictable responses.


Okay, maybe I need glasses? Because as I flashed past the TiVo screen on MEET THE PRESS, I swore that the menu said that today's guest was going to be Busta Rhymes. Which would have been AWESOME, obviously, because WOO HA! GOT DAVID GREGORY IN CHECK. But, not believing that Busta Rhymes could POSSIBLY be the guest, I flipped back, and sure enough, he wasn't the featured guest. The featured guest was Larry Summers.

I think there ought to be a long, German word for the feeling you have when you think Busta Rhymes is going to be on Meet The Press, only it turns out it's Larry Summers.

Like everyone else in "THE MEDIA," I basically only get emails from Birthers, whining about how I haven't done enough to bolster their inane claims, and that until they hear from Jesus -- the REAL JESUS WHO HATE EVOLUTION AND TAXES -- then Obama is a mudblood, half-Muggle, furriner who shoots anti-Christ rays from his eyes. But now and then, I get an email from Chris Blakely!

While watching today's FOX News Sunday's discussion of Cash for Clunkers and listening to Kristol and Hayes pooh poohing it's apparent success, I must conclude that neither of these two gentleman ever had a time in their privileged lives where they experienced true, real hardship. Reflecting on my humble beginnings, when the only teaching job I could find paid $7500 and required a one-hour drive both ways in a car I was not certain would make it to the end of the road I lived on, I know that with three children and a wife who was unemployed, a "cash for clunkers" program would have been a lifesaver during a financially difficult time in my life.

Although I don't doubt that there will be those who are not "truly in need" who are motivated to buy a car by the "cash for clunkers program," let's not fall into the trap of punishing the many (in need) for the few (opportunist who cash in at the government trough). Plus, what's the worst that could happen even if some undeserving consumers cash in -- we sell cars, those in the automobile industry stay employed, unemployed auto workers are called back to work?

I'm sure that Bill Kristol endured a few painful minutes contemplating the possibility that his family connections might not provide him great wealth and influence, but they passed.

Anyway, MEET THE PRESS, with gangsta font of pure charisma, Larry Summers!

Oh, God. Looks like MEET THE PRESS will be book-pimping Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson's new book on the premise that we need to take a look back at the 2008 campaign and suck what's left of its sweet, sweet nectar.


Larry Summers says, oh well, we're seeing a "turnaround in production" and "economic output" is ticking up and the "jobs picture is going to be serious for a while," but that the "picture is improving," and WOW, RIGHT THERE. Larry Summers just fell asleep, mid statement. David Gregory is trying to wake him up by pouring water on him.

Summers wakes up and says "growth is increasing" and "inventories are down," and then he takes five minutes to say the word "inventories." He says it like, "inventorrrrRRRRRrrrRRRrRRrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRrrrRRRRRrrrRRRRRRrrRRRRRRrRRrRRRies" and nearly falls asleep seven or eight times.

More and more "projects are coming on line" and teachers are keeping their jobs in Florida -- which is one of the states in the Union where when someone says, "YES! We've saved these teachers' jobs" you shudder and think, "Oh, no!"

David Gregory asks a question about extending unemployment benefits. Summers says he'll work with Congress to keep the unemployment insurance flowing, because there's going to be a lot of unemployed for a long time. He then says something about "holding banks accountable" which is hilarious because it's like Summers has never heard of "accounting" when it comes to TARP. "OH, THAT MONEY IS MAGICAL!"

David Gregory asks if the stimulus package was actually the thing that caused all of the unemployment and ruined the whole economy. Summers says, "That's unfair" and goes on to say that they always said the package would roll out over time. Gregory is all, WHAT WHAT. But now Summers won't stop, "you can hardly hold the administration accountable" for the unemployment numbers! Employers turned out to be surprisingly jumpy, and just started laying people off, willy nilly, because they were a'scurred!

Gregory then basically asks: "SINCE THE STIMULUS DIDN'T MAGICALLY MAKE EVERYTHING GOOD, WOULD YOU GUYS CONSIDER REPEALING THE LONG TERM SPENDING SO WE CAN HAVE PRO-CYCLICAL, NO-GROWTH POLICIES FOR A WHILE?" Summers says, no, everyone's committed to the Stimpak, which is unfolding over two years. The "efficacy" of the stimulus, he says, is "on track."



Larry Summers is saying something about supermarkets, in response. And solar panels. The President is not going to repeal the spending, because otherwise kids will eat paint chips, and grow up to host MEET THE PRESS.

NOW DAVID GREGORY IS ASKING IT A FOURTH TIME. Now I want Summers to fall asleep, for the sake of agitprop!

Come on, David. Ask it a fifth time! Ask it a fifth time! Do it! Do it, you great big bag of wind and hair and uselessness! Ask it! Do it!

Drat! Nothing doing. Instead he tries to tie some random statement Summers made about Japan, blindly asserts that there is "a lot of opposition to the stimulus money" (there is?) and that "we're seeing it play out in the opinion polls" (we are?), so--deep breath--WILL THERE BE A SECOND STIMULUS? This is a question Gregory can ask eight or nine times. I predict Summers will say something to the effect that the current stimpak is meant to go out over two years, blah blah. Let's see what happens!

Yes! "Our stimulus' impact is going to increase with the passage of time." So, NO.

Questions about health care! Again, David Gregory asserts, with no back up, that there is "public opposition to health care." I don't know what he's talking about. PUBLIC OPPOSITION TO HEALTH CARE?! Only on this dumbassed show. Has David Gregory ever taken note of the fact that America, in large numbers, want the public option? Anyway, Summers points out that the health care effort has actually reached unprecedented milestones. legislatively. Summers goes on to say that the Obama administration has been willing to look at the costs, where the previous administration just spent and spent. He asserts that no health care bill will be signed that isn't deficit-neutral. Or budget neutral. And that there's all sorts of cost-saving markdowns that the CBO hasn't been able to measure. "This is the most fiscally responsible approach" to major structural change, ever, he says.

Are banks meeting their obligations? Summers says, "Some are, some aren't." Then there's a lot of "They need to do this...they need to do that...we hope they'll help us build a regulatory system." I think that maybe YOU SHOULD BUILD A REGULATORY SYSTEM AND IMPOSE IT, LARRY. IMPOSE IT ON YOUR FRIENDS, AND CRONIES, LARRY.

Does Summers want to be Fed Chair? Does he? Does he? Does he? Probably. BLEAH.

That's twenty-seven minutes of my life I won't get back.

PANEL TIME! Harold Ford says you "have to appreciate the fervor and the passion of Larry Summers." Do I? Must I? Can I see this fervor, on an electron microscope? Anyway, there is a whole lot of DLC sauce Obama can pour on the stimulus, like payroll tax holidays and small-biz tax cuts. JC Watts says that the American people are concerned and worried, but in reality, I think their main worry is that they are not going to get the robust public health care option that they are clamoring for, in large numbers.

What do our two esteemed authors whose names and book title I will have forgotten by mid-afternoon think about Obama's slipping poll numbers? Presidenting is hard, they say! And people worry that it might prove to be too hard! But there is still a "reservoir of goodwill" for the President.

The other author says that there is some sort of debate, about what the government should do, and whether it should do it well. It's shiny!

Again, Gregory thinks that the public opinion on the way health care legislation is proceeding means that the public no longer wants health care. This is, as they say, "vastly stupid."

Harold Ford thinks that the Blue Dogs have done constructive work, by which I assume he means: constructive work building their campaign coffers, with lobbyist cash? No, Ford, thinks that the Blue Dogs are "principled." That's hilarious.

I have no idea what JC Watts is even talking about. He's basically stammering, repeating himself, and asserting that "people want things" that are great, and don't want things that are TEH SUCK. Ford says, "I think the points that JC raises should be addressed." He raised points? "We got blistered in 1995!" Watts says, referring to his blisters. Now he's just sighing, as the author guy rattles off the names of presidents. I think that his job, in this authorial partnership, was to be continually giving voice to whatever is most painfully obvious.

Now Gregory is reading a part of this book. Not a very interesting one. David Gregory wonders if Obama is being professorial. Because that's bad! The author guys say Obama is struggling with taking criticism, and that this defines all the troubles he has as a president. ARE ANY OF YOU REALLY INTERESTED IN THE TOTALLY EMO STRUGGLES OBAMA IS HAVING, WITH CRITICISM? Blargh! Nut up, Mr. President, if any of this is true! If only so I don't have to listen to these people talk about this!

Gregory "wants to move on to the very difficult subject of race." Is there something that David Gregory can do, to return the racial discussion to a more irrelevant place? But first, an audio clip, from this book, aboiut whatever, by these two white people!

Dan Balz gives a recap of our lives, circa 2008. Like, "PREVIOUSLY, ON LOST: Reverend Wright happened." And then: Beer Summit! SEE THE CONNECTIONS? David Gregory forms these words: "I do think that [Obama] recognizes he is in a unique position as the first African-American president." WHO KNOWS? MAYBE THAT WILL SINK IN. Anyway, Harold Ford points out that people elected Obama to do a lot of things that are more important than some national symposium on race relations. Watts says that it's just too hard to have that discussion within the frame of politics, and that's unfortunate, because we can out a man on the moon and "google people."

Dan Balz says that the GOP may fare well in the future, unless they don't. Did Haynes Johnson just say that Palin was a "reacharound" for John McCain? I'm just going to pretend that he did.

It's over, unless you want to go online with Johnson and Balz. I understand that a lot of you already use the internet on a daily basis, for this purpose.

OK. Good-bye, for a little while! Next Sunday is my famous vacation! You all must take care and provide for one another during that time. Cleave to one another's bosom. Keep steadfast hearts. And above all BE RESILIENT! THE ENTIRE ECONOMY IS COUNTING ON YOUR RESILIENCE.