03/18/2010 10:28 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning, fans of sleeping in on Sunday! And welcome to your Sunday Morning liveblog. My name is Jason and I hope everyone is having a happy Martin Luther King Holiday, even those of you who are forced by law to celebrate that alongside Fort Sumter Day or Seccessionist Saturday or what have you. Today, Haitian disaster and ex-presidents and maybe Massachusetts Special Elections and who knows what else? Maybe more GAME CHANGE...which, by the way, you no longer have to read. Check out Nick Rizzo's Cliff's Notes on Mediaite -- they really are the best way to read the book.

By the way, this is my favorite new thing, pertaining to GAME CHANGE, via Josh Green:

An exchange I had yesterday with an administration source:

Me: "So we'll do this on deep background, right?"

Them: "Yeah, but not 'Halperin deep background'--deep background."

Me: "Right. I can use the info, but if I want to quote I gotta run it by you first."

Them: "Yes. No book scenes, none of that stuff."

Me: "Yeah, yeah, I got it."

Ha, ha. Because they can't be trusted!

Anyway, feel free to email me, if you like, or leave a comment, if you want, or follow me on Twitter, if your life could use a little extra meaning (it won't help). Time now for...


Oh boy. Fox News televangelist will be saving our souls for Roger Ailes today, in lieu of Chris Wallace. That is going to make this liveblog's stock image super-inaccurate! I hope ABC can come to decision, swiftly, on the new THIS WEEK host so we can get that all fixed. Just rather do it once.

Anyway, we got the ex-Presidents and Mitch McConnell on the wing. The latest from Haiti, is sad news: 50,000 dead, expected to double, water system is collapsed. Fox's Steve Harrigan says there are incremental gains being made, but many still have nothing, "and my definition of 'nothing' keeps getting lower every day." Harrigan says that supplies are in non-supply, even if you have the means to procure them.

Fox has Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, who's running our operation in Haiti, and Rajiv Shah, who runs USAID in Washington. Keen says USSOUTHCOM and the United Nations are doing what they can to ramp up their operations as quickly as possible. They are relying on helicopters to get supplies out into the country. Keen says that everyone is co-located in the United Nations facility, and suggests that the coordination of the effort between relief providers and the Haitian government is, so far, running well.

Shah says that our response has been "quick and comprehensive," so far. He says that as far as supplies go, "we could always use more." Those supplies include MREs, water, meds, tents, and tarps. Cue the tarp versus TARP comparison, I guess!

Shah says that certain ministries of the Haitian government is functional, but in places, it has "suffered greatly."

Keen says that so far, the men who have been delivered supplies haven't encountered any security threats, but that there have been incidents of violence reported. Who's providing security? Keen says the United Nations forces are operating within their mandate, but the nation's police force has been "devastated" in the disaster.

Meanwhile, the ex-presidents are on the case! Bush 43 and Clinton talked to Major Garrett. Bush isn't going to Haiti "anytime soon," Clinton says he may go as a part of his work with the UN, and says that it just wouldn't be a good idea to go and be in the way of the relief effort. Bush says he feels "sick to hsi stomach," watching the devastation. Clinton says it's been "extremely painful" due to some longstanding connections to the nation, going back to 1975.

Their website, by the way, is

Bush says that their fund will operate with some transparency so that the American people can be assured that it will go to the right people. Which makes it distinct from Hank Paulson's TARP, which is also a government run charity, to which Tim Geithner doesn't think any fund accounting needs to be applied!

Haiti, Bush says, has been the focus of faith based groups, and he recommends that people in the faith-based community send "money now," and offer their "talents and time" later, once the situation has stabilized.

Please, no more Satan stuff, from any of you. Speaking of, the "letter" that "Satan" wrote Pat Robertson was pretty spot on:

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.

Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"?

If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan


Now, Mitch McConnell is here, talking about his issues. McConnell says that the Brown-Coakley election is electrifying. The good news for Coakley is that he's not calling it a Brown win. The bad news is that he's framing it as an overall dislike of health care reform.

Hume asks about the "raw political" side of the health care bill. McConnell says that it's bad for the Democrats if it passes, and that it's bad for the Democrats if it doesn't. Hume isn't very excited about that answer, pointing out that Democrats believe they'd have been better off in 1994 had the Clinton-era reforms had passed, and that if McConnell believes the Dems are in trouble electorally if it passes, then it follows that they're in good shape if it fails. McConnell also goes on to yammer about how terrible unions are.

McConnell's been saying since forever that the American people are "hollering" at Congress to not pass health care reform. Obviously, he's sort of largely projecting his constituents' desires on the rest of the country, but what lay underneath is the fact that the measure would have more support if it had stronger reforms and didn't look like cheap incrementalism at best, a giveaway to the health care industry at worst. Independent voters who bought in because of boldness have not been rewarded for their fealty.

Meanwhile, it's panel time, with Nina Easton, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and Juan Williams.

If you want to know how terrible Coakley is, consider the fact that Coakley has squandered a thirty point lead. Kristol suggests this is a national referendum on Obama and health care, but I do believe that's a bit of a stretch. I expect, for example, support for Obama's policies to basically lead to a Blumenthal win in Connecticut. Coakley, though, is so remarkably tone-deaf a candidate that it's almost hard to believe. She seems to simply believe that Massachusetts should just give her the win. That sort of attitude should be rebuked.

This race, really, could be a hard lesson for the Democrats, mostly about complacency. A hard lesson about voter enthusiasm -- the only currency that matters. And incumbents should understand that those unemployment numbers have made everything that was once bedrock, more fluid.

Krauthammer says that "everything hinges on this election," but that's difficult to see: the Senate Dems have been getting so little done with a super-majority that the loss of the one vote isn't going to substantively change much -- save for the continuing impression that one is better off in the minority in the Senate, where there seems to be no political cost for simply filibustering everything.

Actually, let me be fair: does one ever learn an easy lesson about complacency? Oh, well! Sorry, Coakley campaign, insofar as you can be called a "campaign."

Labor unions are exempted from these taxes, until 2018, and it limits the fiscal benefit of the bill tremendously. Williams says "it looks like a special interest looks tawdry." Krauthammer, of course, has problems with it! But he seems so surprised! Lobbyists are the people who write legislation and who shape the laws that have been passed in your lifetime, PERIOD. Hume deserves praise for pointing out that this isn't that distinct to what goes on in Washington, all the time.

Kristol thinks the bill will fail, which is good news for the bill.

Williams is the only one who thinks that passing health care reform is going to be a boon to the Democrats. Krauthammer thinks that attempting to expand health care to millions of Americans who would die like dogs in the street otherwise will be a "millstone that will hang around the Democrats' necks for years." As Williams points out: "People like entitlements, I gotta tell you."


Jake Tapper sits in today with the extreme fighting force known as the Ex-Presidents! And Ken Keen and Rajiv Shah. Plus, there will be a panel discussion!

Apparently, 12,000 troops will be in Haiti this week, which makes me sort of wonder where these troops are coming from? I'm guessing that these are stateside troops that are being deployed on the fly, but who are back because of dwell time? Haven't figured this out yet.

Anyway, here's Clinton and Bush. Clinton is beseeching a certain amount of patience, because the "structure of the country was taken down." "within two or three days," he says, "things will be in much better order."

Bush says that "he looks forward to working" with Clinton, and again touts the accounting of their fund, which does not seem like the most paramount concern, but ok, maybe it is?

Interesting people call Bill Clinton, apparently. He's apparently been on the phone with "the major donor nations," all at the same time, it sounds like.

What about making sure the money goes to the right people? Bush says that the first priority is to "save lives," and assuaging the "desperation," and that politics needs to stay apart from that. "I think we should" care, he says, from a humanitarian perspective and from a strategic perspective.

Tapper asks about how you go in for massive reconstruction if the reconstruction won't withstand another earthquake. Clinton says that the Haitian government was doing good work, modernizing the country, taking developmental steps, and that now, donations should be contingent on construction being up to a certain code. "The Haitians want a modern country," Clinton says.

Clinton also points out: "Housing takes too long. It's the thing that takes the longest." So plans for long-term housing need to be developed this week.

Martha Raddatz reports that she went on a supply run, and that typically, it's taking a long time to distribute. There's lots of aid at the airport, but at the moment, there's blocked roads, downed buildings, and security problems afield.

Why aren't U.S. troops working to secure Haiti? General Keen says that it's a matter that will have to be addressed. I imagine that there just aren't enough troops on hand to do some robust, country-wide security mission. Keen tells Tapper that their "footprint" is going to increase in the coming days, but it doesn't sound like U.S. troops, on their own, will be able to secure this nation.

Rajiv Shah starts off again by praising the response from the White House. OKAY, RAJ, we GET IT. You guys did not Katrina this operation. Maybe now is not the time to get your brag on, okay? Tapper cuts through the eno: "Nobody doubts the sincerity of the effort!...What do you need?"

Shah says the metric of success is whether or not they do a better job overcoming the infrastructure failures on a daily basis, and get more supplies out each day, and "increase the supply flow."

What casualty count is Keen preparing for? Keen doesn't get specific, other than to say, "We must prepare for the worst."

Panel time, with George Will, Donna Brazile, Tucker Carlson, and Katrina vandenHeuvel.

So, a year later: polls aren't too enthusiastic about Obama as they were a year from now. Will says, "to his credit," he's a serious President, who'd made a ton of hard choices, and while he doesn't agree with the choices, he says that's the cost of making them. KVH says that her biggest disappointment has come in the area of siding with Wall Street over the people.

Carlson doesn't think that Obama's popularity has suffered too much and will not suffer much in the future. But, he says, there's an intensity to the dislike of certain policy choices that should concern him.

Now we are going to grade Obama! Yay! It's just like my Introduction to Calculus class, except that I cannot drop the class on the last day to drop because I am failing and start over the next semester with a teacher who doesn't have bizarre problems socializing with people and/or teaching math, and okay, if I'm being honest, the second time around I was the beneficiary of some extra credit, but I got through it, and really, isn't it worth knowing that I'm not good at math? I think so! But the president cannot just say, "Oh, I'm bad at this stuff." So, why not give him incompletes? I GUESS I JUST DON'T THINK THIS "GRADE" STUFF HANGS TOGETHER.

And now, KVH is saying that if Martin Luther King were alive today he'd march on this White House. But he'd be eighty-one years old! So, I think he'd probably ride Segway, or something.

Anyway, Brazile and KVH give him B's. Points off, I guess, for the hypothetical march of Martin Luther King. Will gives him a B-minus, and says, "He wasn't elected to do what I want him to do." Tucker gives him a D, partly because he answered Oprah Winfrey's grade-yourself question, but also because he feels that Obama hasn't governed as "cleverly" as he campaigned. Well, does anyone?

OH MARTHA COAKLEY. She is the TERRIBLEST! You know, I have this feeling that if she ekes out a victory, she'll come to her victory party to give a speech, and she'll say, "Well, I don't see why you people had to make it so hard!" And then, hopefully, a thousand seagulls will poop on her. As a politician, she really, really needs to have woodland creatures relieve themselves on her, as often as possible.

Anyway, I cannot stop anyone from having an opinion on whether or not this is a referendum on anything outside of what seems very simple to me. I think that politcians who run bad campaigns and make dumb mistakes tend to lose, the end. And outside of the mistakes Coakley has made, what disturbs me is that she just acts like she can't be bothered to even try.

I think, though, it's pretty clear that there would be a lot more support for this bill if it were as strong as people wanted it to be.

Will talks about the various side deals that have been made, and describes it as "serial corruption." I don't like it that much, either, but I don't know why Will is pretending that this is just something he noticed. Maybe Kang or Kodos has body-snatched George Will this morning! We'll know if we see him in public wearing relaxed-fit jeans, exchanging long protein strands by holding hands with Harold Ford, who is also no longer behaving as if he makes human sense!


Do you ever get the weird feeling that you've already watched the same show, twice already? Because, today, yes, you have. Except that the panel is going to be Karen Hughes and John Podesta -- WONDER WHAT THEY WILL SAY? -- along with Mark Halperin and Bob Woodward.

Anyway, Haiti update. And here's a reminder, from Choire Sicha and Tom Scocca, that journalists need to be careful about using the word "looting":

Tom Scocca: Matt Marek, Haiti country representative of the American Red Cross, said: "There has been widespread looting of collapsed buildings since the earthquake hit. There is no other way to get provisions. Even if you have money, those resources are going to be exhausted in a few days."


Tom Scocca: If there's no other way to get provisions, it's not looting.

Tom Scocca: This was also how it went with Katrina, right? Reports of rampant, scary violence. To go with the "looting."

Choire Sicha: Black people running in the night!



Tom Scocca: I certainly hope they get law and order established there soon, so store owners can reopen their half-collapsed supermarkets without fear of thieves.

Keen and Shah are here again. Guess what? Shah says that Obama's response has been AWESOME AND SO NOT KATRINA. You won't hear Kanye complain, no sir! Unless of course, Haiti wins a Grammy! Keen says they are trying to do better everyday! But for the time being, yes, we're going to just GLOSS OVER any security question? Okay? We're having "very good encounters" with the Haitians. David Gregory, of course, is all, "LOLSURGEOMGZOMGZOMGZ!" Keen says that supply and security priorities are "in sync."

But they are not perfect, are they, Rajiv Shah. "NOT A KATRINA, DAVID! SO NOT KATRINA!"

Are we going to annex Haiti, and straight-up run that place, like Jay-Z? NO, says Keen: "Well-- we're not gonna be running the country. We're gonna be in support of the-- the Government of Haiti, working-- alongside the United Nations. Our first priority is getting-- water and food and other supplies out to the Haitian People and doing that in a safe and secure environment."

SHAH: "Every day we're doing more than the day before. We need that continued exponential growth. The good news is we're very focused on it. We have tremendous support from the President, whom-- we're in contact with regularly." DID I MENTION THIS IS SO NOT KATRINA, BECAUSE IT SO ISN'T.

Anyway, now it's NBC's turn to show the video of that time Bush and Clinton were hanging out in the Map Room, talkin' about Haiti. Here's what you haven't heard already:

--CLINTON: "40 percent of the Haitian police forces signed back in, volunteered for duty. A lot of them don't have uniforms or weapons or anything anymore. But-- the American military's working closely with the U.N. troops that are there. And-- they'll get this organized."

--Our military is running the airport, with socialism.

--BUSH: Relief needs to continue even after the media focus shifts to other stories.

--CLINTON: "And the Caribbean and Central America and Latin America, they all want to help now. For the first time in my lifetime, they are committed to being good partners with Haiti."

--What did Bush learn from Katrina? That it's good to be able to quickly pivot to a plug for the charity website! Also: "I appreciate the President's quick response to this disaster."

--BUSH: "One of my concerns-- around any crisis is that shysters show up and take advantage of people's good will and generosity." Like Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, John Mack,, and Brian Moynihan.

Anyway, panel time! Let's talk to this panel about Haiti? Karen Hughes says, "I have been through disasters!" In that she's visited them, afterwards. Podesta says that the lessons of Katrina have been learned...didn't you hear Rajiv Shah how awesome unKatrina-esque the response was? He made the point, several hundred times.

Bob Woodward says it's fascinating that two presidents could come together and unite under the banner of people not starving or being crushed to death by buildings. "It's a monumental disaster," Woodward says. Mark Halperin, I think, is attempting to make the point that the earthquake is like a Christmas Crotchfire bombing, that Mother Nature is taking credit for. Halperin thinks that it's insane that more Republicans haven't chastised Rush Limbaugh for his remarks. Because they so often do that!

In case you haven't heard, Obama inherited a lot of problems, says John Podesta! But, Obama is a "hair's breadth" away from making health care affordable -- especially if you've cut a side deal in the process. Hughes seems to think that Evan Bayh, complaining about Obama and high taxes and "government intrusion" represents the mindset of American Democrats, but it really just represents the mindset of Evan Bayh, Sir Mamby of Pamby, Lord of the Hyper-Timid.

Bob Woodward "did some research." Some very banal research. He also really lingers on the syllables of the word "biographer." Bi. Og. Raf. Fer. Anyway, he is reading a book to me now, about Reagan. His bottom line: We don't know if Obama is going to be re-elected or not re-elected, but it will probably be one of those two things.

Halperin says that IRONICALLY Obama has run the government great, but that IRONICALLY, he hasn't inspired anyone to "feel a sense of optimism or renewal" or embrace bipartisanship. WHY WOULD PEOPLE EMBRACE BIPARTISANSHIP A YEAR AFTER A "THROW THE BUMS OUT" ELECTION? Anyway: so not IRONIC. Obama said he could run the country, Halperin thinks he's done a good job. That's not ironic. I guess the other part is "ironic" if you were LITERALLY EXPECTING OBAMA TO use...I don't know...POWERFUL MIND BEAMS? To feel optimistic? Or renewed?

You know what WOULD make people feel optimistic, or renewed? IRONICALLY, IT WOULD BE HAVING A DAMN JOB.

I love how Hughes and Woodward talk about who saved the economy. Did Bush? Did Obama? Hughes says Bush. Woodward says Obama continued it. And now, he says, the banks are better. Yet, "the success looks like a failure!" YES, BOB, BECAUSE WHAT YOU GUYS ARE CALLING "SUCCESS" IS NOT A "SUCCESS." Unless, of course, you are getting a massive bonus.

OH, HEY! Have you heard everyone's talking points on Captain Crotchfire versus Sergeant Shoebomb? BE SURE YOU TUNE IN TO MEET THE PRESS, RIGHT NOW, BEFORE IT...and, you missed it, sorry.

Also: COAKLEY IS TEH SUXXORS. But, Halperin says, "The silver lining is that if they lose the seat, they can go to the House and urge them to pass the Senate bill" with the understanding that they can add teeth to it over time. I'm not sure what "Senate" Halperin has been observing...but in the scenario he describes, the health care bill gets filibustered forever.

Woodward insists that Obama is not a European socialist! Hughes wants Woodward to admit that Obama has governed to the left of where he campaigned. Sorry, Karen, reality just does not support that view! His health care plan alone is to the right of where he campaigned.

And that's when I turned the show off.

Okay, folks, I got to go Neti Pot myself for a half an hour. But first, I just want to say a few words of praise for my good friend Rachel Weiner, who was, up until Friday, one of our editors and one of my favorite colleagues. She's now bound for the Washington Post, and I am terribly sorry to see her go, but happy that she'll have the opportunity to do a slew of different, and I'm sure, fulfilling things.

Rachel started with us during the 2008 campaign, and she was tireless in pursuit of work that would have exhausted a lesser person. She was a constant source of inspiration and support, always working hard to get the best from me, and doing a pretty mighty job at keeping me from going off the rails entirely. I really cannot count the number of times she demolished writers' blocks when they reared up in the road ahead of me. And I can't count the number of times she convinced me to stay on a post that I thought wasn't going to yield anything fertile or interesting. Her instincts were extremely superb.

One of my favorite Rachel moments came when she indulged my need, in the middle of a tedious week in the campaign, to write this silly post, about an supposed August sighting of the legendary Chupacabra. It was probably more a testament to just how slow the news is in August, that it was reported out in the first place. But, I'm fascinated by crypto-zoology, and Rachel was good-natured enough to let me do it.

Later in the day, I remembered the post, and asked, "So, how is the traffic on the Chupacabra entry?"

She made a quick check, and with mild surprise, said, "Actually? It's doing a lot better than it really should be doing."

I don't think there's ever been anyone who's summed up my existence as well as she did, that day.

At any rate, Rachel was and will continue to be a friend and a manager and a muse. But, now, everytime I perch myself over this keyboard, she will be one more thing to me, and that's missed.

Have a good week, everyone!

[This is not the end! Liveblog is still being written. Hit refresh in a few minutes for more.]