11/14/2010 09:29 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning to all and welcome to this latest edition of the hopelessly TiVoted liveblog of your Sunday morning political lip-flapping. My name is Jason, and I hope that all of you are enjoying a lovely autumn weekend wherever you happen to be. Here's an important programming note: there will be no liveblog on Sunday, November 28, because of the Thanksgiving weekend. Honestly, I don't know why they'd even have these shows on in the first place that weekend, but that's just me. I enjoy a break from these shows every once in a while, because without it, what would I do other than wish for the sweet release of Death's firm handshake?

Anyway, you know the dealie, I type, you relax, you maybe watch some Turner Classic Movies, I'll describe what's coming out of everyone's mouth as quickly as I can, you might send an email, or leave a comment, or follow me on Twitter, and then it ends and we all watch football or do chores and otherwise get on with our lives.


David Axelrod and Jim DeMint are here, so, great! A whole lot of unexpected opinions are sure to ensue.

Axelrod is in Chicago, and everyone is still calling them the "Bush tax cuts" instead of the "Obama new thing" so, elementary school level messaging fail. Anyway, contra what he told our Sam Stein, Axelrod says that Obama's position has not changed on tax cuts, he rules out a permanent extension of ALL the tax cuts. Just an extension of the "middle class" tax cuts. We don't have the money to spend on "millionaires and billionaires," he says. But what about a TEMPORARY extension of those upper level tax cuts? Axelrod says he "won't negotiate" that on the air. (He also won't answer that, I guess the White House is open to it?)

Wallace goes fishing, and gets Axelrod to say that middle class tax cuts should continue, but we cannot "afford to permanently extend the tax cuts" on those upper income earners.

Let me translate from the original bullshit: The White House would LIKE to keep the "middle class tax cuts" and end "permanently" the tax cuts on the rich. But they'd probably compromise on a "temporary" extension of the latter. They have no leverage, though, AT ALL, because they gave all that up by punting before the election. So, they'll be forced to accept a "permanent" extension of all. And the policy people will say, "Veto that sucker" and the political people will sigh and say, "Sign that please." And who wins those fights?

By the way, all this talk of "permanent" and "temporary" is nonsense, because the next Congress is not bound by any of the things the previous Congress did. There's no such thing as a "permanent" anything. (Everyone who thought they'd be collecting Social Security is about to find that out.)

Okay! Earmarks, for some reason? Axelrod says that the White House supports the earmark ban. Hell, he wants a line item veto as well! Didn't we decide that was unconstitutional?

Is Obama going to "pull a Clinton" and "move to the center," because everyone's decided that things like a Mitt Romney-inspired health care reform package was taken from Dennis Kucinich's closet or something? Axelrod says it's not about moving one direction or the other, it's about "working together." "This ought to be a season for cooperation," he says.

Wallace says that there's a debate over what voters were saying on Election Day. I can settle the debate! People were saying: "We have no jobs, and we have no control over our future, can someone fix this?" If, by some stroke of amazing luck, we get unemployment down to 7%, Obama's health care plan will become plenty popular.

Lightning round! You know, Chris Wallace, there are some moments each week where I really think you do a decent job, but you need to stop using the term "lightning round." This isn't a game show.

Debt Commission! Their plan, it is eye-popping! Will the President put some of those proposals in his budget? Axelrod says that the President has promised to refrain from commenting on the matter until the full committee report. But Pelosi commented on it? Axelrod says he understands and respects those concerns, but there needs to be some general agreements that some taxes will be raised and some programs will be cut. (Also: the whole commission has not committed itself to the "Chairman's Mark" of proposals that were released, and nothing goes anywhere without fourteen votes from the eighteen on the panel.)

What's the deal with KSM? Is he going to be tried anytime soon? Axelrod says the DoJ is "working through those issues."

How will Axelrod win back the places where the Dems lost in 2012? Axlerod says "two years is a long time," and here, have some platitudes. But really, he'll need the economy to get better and unemployment to go down in order to win in 2012, and that's it.

When is Axelrod going to leave the White House and move to the campaign? He says "late winter/early spring." Fascinating.

And now old timey cigarette ad spokesmodel Jim DeMint is here to stir up tensions in the GOP caucus over earmarks, I guess? His hair straight up FASCINATES ME! I'm convinced it's some sort of lichen that subtly shifts around on his head and mounds itself in such a way that it can feast on unseen spores and sunlight.

Anyway, what's up, player? DeMint says that he would be willing to compromise -- a two or three year extension of the top earners. But he won't tolerate a tax increase on "small businesses," none of which fall under the top income bracket, and, oh by the way, Obama's already cut taxes on small businesses many different ways. Nevertheless, it's interesting that DeMint might be willing to move to a "compromise" position.

DeMint is solidly against earmarks and says it's an issue for 70% of Americans, and he thinks the outright ban will win the vote. But what about the top GOP Senators? Mitch McConnell loves him some earmarks. How to solve that problem? DeMint says that he and McConnell just disagree -- earmarks are, to DeMint, like a gateway drug of spending.

But Jim Inhofe loves him some earmarks, too! DeMint says that as a "recovering earmarker" who's gone "cold turkey." He could have also just said, "Jim Inhofe is an idiot and everyone in American would have nodded their heads."

Would DeMint be willing to accept a mix of tax increases and spending cuts, as the deficit commission recommends? DeMint begs off the question because the "Chairman's Mark" doesn't represent the real work of the committee or their ultimate suggestions. But the short answer is that DeMint believes we need to cut spending, and that taxes are already too high. He cites the corporate tax rate, seemingly unaware that there are a ton of loopholes that are exploited everyday. If we dropped our rate to the one in Ireland, and close the loopholes, we'd actually capture MORE revenue. (No one wants to do that, of course!)

DeMint supports changing Social Security so that young people have a chance to create a whole ton of moral hazard in the retirement system.

Memo to DeMint: people do not currently "pay for" their own social security. Someone much younger than you is "paying for" it.

What about Michael Steele, rocking the hip-hop jamz at the RNC for another two years? DeMint is "looking for some alternatives." SAUL ANUZIS WILL DO EVERYTHING ON TWITTER, MAYBE?

Can DeMint get elected president or is he too far to the right. "I don't think I'm far to the right at all!" he jokes. That was a joke, right? Because I'm laughing. It's a dark laughter. Like, "Danny Boyle movie" laughter. So, yeah, that was a joke. Anyway, he has no plans to run for president anytime soon. (That's smart, because he is too far to the right.)

And now a panel of people who never have to worry about taxes or providing luxuries for their families ever again will talk about tax cuts. Standard ish: Hume, Liasson, Kristol, and Juan "GET THAT TONER CARTRIDGE AWAY FROM ME" Williams.

Hume says a temporary extension is "on the table." "But how long will it last?" Liasson says that if the Democrats had been able to settle on a position, they would have voted on the matter before the election.

I'm not sure the panel is all that interested in the topic. Neither does Wallace, who moves on to earmarks. Kristol predicts that the earmark-banners will win for a couple of years, which is bad news for the earmark-banners. Kristol says that the Obama-Boehner-DeMint plan is going to be good for the country.

Again, I like the idea of Obama getting out of the legislation business altogether, and consigning Boehner to two years of having to make Harry Reid and thirteen other Democratic Senators happy.

Man, however it works, you know who's gotten shoved under the cows ass in the new power arrangement? Mitch McConnell! Dude doesn't even matter anymore, to anyone!

Anyway, Brit Hume says the "Chairman's Mark" is a "good start" to solving all of our problems forever, unless you don't happen to be very rich. Williams wants to know why no Republicans are cheering this. (IT'S BECAUSE THERE ARE TAX INCREASES IN IT, JUAN.) Liasson predicts that when they run the numbers on income distribution, and determine where the pain and where the benefit falls, income-wise, it will be revealed that it won't be as painful to the lower and middle class as liberals believe it to be. We'll see, Mara!

Four more years in Afghanistan! Hey, you know what's really useful about that whole crazy-ass right-wing Nonsensatron Dispatch From The Looney Cortex, where Obama's trip to India was said to be costing $200 million a day? Well, we had a lot of reporting on a point of comparison: the War in Afghanistan costs us $190 million a day.

Hey Deficit Commission! Hey all you people pretending to be adults! I have a way of saving nearly 300 billion dollars, if you're interested!

HAHA no one is, because forever wars are magical and only good for our nation and we can keep deploying troops forever and ever without any cost to our national security at all. Bill Kristol says that "Petraeus has a plan to win." OH, THAT'S GOOD! You know, I'm so relieved that the general in charge isn't walking around carrying our "Plan to Lose" in his back pocket! What a comical series of misadventures that might lead to! No, no. As long as we keep saying that we have a "plan to win," then we shall win because that's WHAT WE PLANNED TO DO. This is the way the world works, when you are in kindergarten! Glad to know that the lives of actual people are involved in this.

Hume's mad that everyone's hedging on the KSM trial, because it sends a message that terrorists cannot be tried in a manner "similar" to criminals. Wallace says, "Well people say there was a lot of politics in this process." And that's when I hit myself in the face with a hammer.

Hey, the Iraqis have formed some sort of government at last! Kristol says this is "obviously good news" and predicts that we'll soon be renegotiating the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqis and those negotiations will allow Americans to stay even longer in Iraq! Yes, because the Iraqis want a U.S. garrison in their country. They won't freak out on their fragile government, at all, for doing that.

(Of course, the civil unrest that would be caused by a SOFA renegotiation would make the need for American troops in Iraq a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Brit Hume says that Obama will have trouble with the "anti-war left," and it's "not a big deal." (Yes, the "big deal" is the strange and useless strategy that seemingly force us to pour money into a hole in the Hindu Kush and set it aflame.)


So, today: G20 woes for the United States, which somehow inspires a debate between Madeleine Albright and Lindsey Graham? I'd rather watch those two try to knock over a jewelry store, but okay, I guess that's what we've got going on today.

America's got declining clout, according to a report from Jake Tapper, who's been our round-the-world tweeter of our hearts. Obama couldn't get much leeway from other governments to assist us with exports or job growth. No trade deal with South Korea, no currency reform from China, no joy from the G20, who in better times typically get dressed up in funny costumes and party till the sun comes up. "Modesty was forced on the President, on this trip," reports Tapper.

Albright says she's not surprised to see nations like South Korea and Germany pushing back on American aspirations. "They all have their own's a process, it's very clear that America continues to be central to the process."

Is it psychologically demaging to the United States, Lindsey Graham? He says he doesn't want to overreact or say that our influence is diminishing, but "on the currency front and the trade front" the meetings were "disappointed." Graham says that Hillary Clinton "got it right" when she said that the U.S. needs to get their own economic house in order. He thinks that there will be cooperation and support from all parties in advancing the Deficit Commission's ideas, as soon as the Deficit Commission has some ideas that are, in fact, authetically those of the Deficit Commission.

Albright says she hopes that the START treaty is signed in the lame duck session. Graham says he's open-minded about it, but he thinks that the "modernization" program is a "stumbling block" and he thinks that bonkers missile defense systems need to be allowed outside of the START framework, else it's a non-START-starter. Ha!

Graham says that the U.S. "owns the night" in Afghanistan, which sounds VERY SEXY. NIGHT RAIDS! OOOOOOoooOOOOooHHH! NIGHT RAIDS!

"Taking night raids off the table would be a disaster!" Graham says. LINDSAY GRAHAM IS CLIMBING IN YOUR WINDOWS AND SNATCHING YOUR PEOPLE UP, IN AFGHANISTAN. We will need troops in Afghanistan until 2014, to keep bed-intruding the Afghans forever, and WORKIN' ON THE NIGHT CHEESE.

"It would be great to have a couple of airbases there in perpetuity," Graham says. I think that Graham travels the world, imagining deficit-killing American garrisons everywhere. "Amsterdam? Wish there was an Airbase here, where I can get high with Joe Lieberman!"

"We don't know what the Tea Party's foreign policy is," says Albright. Uhm, it's 1) surrender to America, 2) give us all your rare-earth minerals, 3) worship Jesus, 4) speak English and 5) go away, now.

Graham says that he's in the "wing of the GOP that wants to look outward," where our troops are snatching up wives and children. In Iraq, he's "got concerns" about the new Iraqi government. You mean the part where they form a government over the leftover parts of their country that we didn't explode, with bombs? Yeah, sugarpie, I GOT CONCERNS TOO.

The whole Iraq government thing is basically like the show ONE TREE HILL, except with more anger and guns.

And now, here's Senator Kent Conrad and Honeywell Chairman (??!?) David Cote to talk about the Deficit Commission that they are both on, and the tough choices that Americans who are not Senators or Honeywell shareholders are going to have to make, for the future.

David Cote starts be saying that we shouldn't think of outsourcing as a bad thing, I think? This is not off to a good start.

Conrad says that "a certain amount of this is shock therapy." Which I noticed! That explains why it's so kind to high-income earners and the financial services industry. I tell you, the 2011 addendum to Naomi Klein's THE SHOCK DOCTRINE basically writes itself.

Conrad says that we need to close the loopholes in the tax system. He's totally right about this! I was just saying so! Why he doesn't march into that lame duck session of Congress to do something about it personally, with his name on it, is a mystery to me!

"It scares me that as a financially conversant CEO, I didn't know how bad this is going to get," says Cote, apparently only arriving at the conclusions we all made about so-called "financially conversant CEOs" circa September 2008, which was that they were a gaggle of out-of-touch morons who didn't know a hawk from a handsaw.

"Managing currency is beyond my pay grade," Cote says, who goes on to say that it seems to him that presidents don't tend to "get credit for the problems they avoid." Conrad says that Obama was actually strong in South Korea, for not accepting a bad deal, when only the bad deal was on offer. Amanpour says that it didn't garner a whole lot of respect from other nations. Conrad says that "we have saved their bacon over and over again...they need to remember that."

Panel Time! Forming Sunday Wisdom Voltron today will be George Will and Paul Krugman and Ruth Marcus and (sweet Lord, why?) Robert Kagan.

Paul Krugman is not into the "Chairman's Mark." "The commission did not do its job," he says, pointing out that they did not come up with something that could go to an up-or-down vote. TECHNICALLY, can't make this judgment yet: the "Chairman's Mark" is NOT the authentic work of the committee. But he's right that the "Chairman's Mark" isn't serious about health care costs, which is the whole shooting match.

Will points out that this is only the work of two of the members. He also points out that as far as "caps" on revenue goes, "one Congress can't bind the other." He's absolutely right on this, but let's watch to see if he talks about anyone's "tax cuts" being "permanent!"

Marcus says that "both sides are screaming bloody murder" and "behaving very childishly!" Oh, no! It's like everyday in Washington! She says we need "reality therapy." Krugman says that "reality therapy" would involve serious talk about health care costs.

Robert Kagan thinks it's crazy -- JUST CRAZY! -- to even THINK about making cuts to the defense budget!

No one agrees on anything and no one has the votes to do anything anyway. Krugman thinks everyone's crazy and should get smart. Marcus thinks everything's "deranged" and we all need to behave better. My wife is singing the little song her kindergartners sing in handwriting class, and it's far more interesting to listen to.

Robert Kagan clearly spent about two hours sculpting his adorable little haircut today!

Krugman says that we're in "Herbert Hoover territory" in the U.S., since we'll get real pain on the state level as that sub-level of austerity kicks in and people start to struggle, since no help will be coming from Washington.

In Iraq, Kagan says that "it matters" what kind of government we have in Iraq, and the feeling is right now that "it feels like a Shia government," which, I don't know? That sounds to me like what happens in a state where most people are Shi'ite? And you depose, by force, the Sunni regime that had managed to carve out and hold and build enormous power despite their minority status? Anyway, this is the sort of stuff that absolutely flummoxes Kagan. These are entirely strange outcomes -- you know, the most obvious ones.

Also, he says that we cannot allow a resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq, by which he means, I guess, that we shouldn't invade Iraq again and bring al Qaeda there for the first time ever?

More about the NIGHT RAIDS! Hamid Karzai doesn't seem to like them, but Kagan assures us that he just has to tell his people that he doesn't like them, because obviously those people are getting night raided all of the time. Honestly, WHO KNEW that the entire Afghanistan War now hinges on NIGHT RAIDS?

Newsflash: Cindy McCain seems to be in favor of treating the LGBT community like first-class citizens, and now she's not. But nobody thinks that DADT is getting repealed in the lame duck session, or anytime soon.

Amanpour says that given the tremendous public support for a DADT repeal and the ongoing high need for as many people as possible to fight in our super-costly wars that last forever and ever with NIGHT RAIDS, why we're still kicking gays out of the military. Will places the Marine Corps commandant as the counterbalance to everything everyone else says and does and professes in surveys and declares that all other views are out of whack with consensus. NEAT TRICK. Ruth Marcus says DADT is "irrational!" But that it's going "to end slowly." Just a few minutes ago she was chastising everyone for behaving like children!

If a DADT repeal doesn't "come up for two years," Amanpour says, "that's a long time down the road." And many billions of dollars!


Okay! On today's MEET THE PRESS, we have lots of guests! Specifically: John McCain and Alan Greenspan and Newt Gingrich and Harold Ford, Jr.!


You know what? No. Fuck that.


Okay! On today's FACE THE NATION, we have Rand Paul and Chuck Schumer. Egghhh. I can live with this. Let's live with this!

Paul says that there is "room for compromise" but that people are concerned about the debt, so let's all get together on one big debt cutting party, on the military and domestic spending side, which he says he's willing to cut on both sides. Schieffer asks if the President or David Axelrod hasn't called him yet, but he'd like to speak to him, and he hopes that his kids and the Obama's can all hang out together and have personal relationships.

Scheiffer asks Paul about the "Chairman's Mark" and the ideas therein. Right away, a little bit of non-compromise. He's against raising the gasoline tax, or any taxes! Is he in favor of eliminating mortgage interest deductions? No. These do not sound, to Paul, like "spending cuts." I'm beginning to feel like his talk of compromise is pretty hollow! But Paul does think we should increase the retirement age, but do it faster. He doesn't want to increase the social security income caps. He would see fit to do some means-testing, so that social security money doesn't end up in the hands of people who do not need it. (Somehow, an eighty-year old man with $200,000/year in retirement savings is "creating jobs.")

What military cuts? Not reducing soldier pay, but cutting from the contractor side, and "looking at" how veterans' health care is paid for, but ultimately "not reducing veterans' benefits."

What about the tax cut extensions? Would he entertain a compromise on the tax cuts being temporarily extended on high-income earners, if he had a say in the matter, which he does not if it comes before the lame duck session of Congress? No. Paul says that all the cuts should be made "permanent." Businesses, he says, have make their plans based upon the tax cuts being made "permanent," which is weird because they were designed to be sunsetted, right?

Paul reiterates that his problem with the administration's approach to BP was that there language was so mean! Obama shouldn't have put it like "putting a bootheel on the throat of a business." Naturally, while figuratively talking about putting a bootheel on a throat is bad, LITERALLY putting a shoe on the back of an actual person's head, is perfectly okay!

Paul says that that whole time he talked about those mining accidents were a case where "Hey, accidents happen," was a "poor choice of words." Really, he just wants the people who are forced to work in mines because there's no other jobs available for them to do in their communities to know that sometimes mines collapse as a result of large corporations skirting safety regulations, and what are you gonna do, man? Aqua Buddha!

Now, here's Chuck Schumer. Schieffer asks him about the tax cut extensions. Would he be cool with extending the cuts on the upper incomes? Schumer says that "there is a compromise in the making," and maybe it will be moving the goalposts so that only people making $1,000,000 or more have their tax cuts ended. Schumer points out that they have plenty of money and they aren't likely to spend the money in a stimulative way, anyway, and that this will help reduce the deficit.

What are the chances that this will get done in the lame duck? Schumer says there's a good chance, because surely the GOP won't "hold middle class tax cuts hostage for the sake of millionaires and billionaires." Schumer says that "once we do that the public will be on our side, and the Republicans will come around." Surely! Of course, why didn't we just do this when we had the chance before the election?

What does Schumer say about the "Chairman's Mark" from the Deficit Commission? He "salutes" the chairman for coming out with an "opening foray" and that there are "things he would agree with, and thing he disagrees with." He notes that typically, however, when these sorts of things are released, you'll get lawmakers saying "I'm for that but never for that," and so it's "unwise to comment on any specific recommendations." Minutes ago, however, he basically signalled that there were things he was for and things he was against, so, I don't know how commenting in generalities is more virtuous, here.

Schumer says, SPECIFICALLY, that the "burdens of deficit reduction" should not fall "disproportionately on the shoulders of the middle class." "That should be a watchword." I note that the watchword doesn't involve the burdens on the lower class. Do they have representation in Congress, again? I forget sometimes!

Schumer, pressed to answer on his stance on where the retirement age should be, and whether it should go up or not, repeats that he doesn't want to make any specific comments, but allows that he's been a "strong supporter of Social Security" his entire career. That's my cue, I guess, to go out to his website, type "retirement age" into the search box, and pull up...oh, here you go, first thing!

"When it comes to cutting Social Security, my answer is no way, no time, no how," Schumer said. "The federal government made a promise to New Yorkers and all Americans that if they worked hard, paid their taxes, and played by the rules, they could retire in dignity and get their benefits. We're going to fight tooth and nail to protect Social Security."

Last week, Chairman Greenspan called for raising the retirement age for people to receive Social Security benefits to over 67 and slowing the rate at which benefits are adjusted for inflation. Raising the eligibility age would deprive many Americans of benefits each year. Greenspan, who called for the cuts during testimony to the House Budget Committee, said Social Security is over-obligated for the future and that some models show it becoming insolvent by the middle of the century. President Bush stated that his position on Social Security benefits is that they "should not be changed for those at or near retirement." The President did not give specific details of his plan or commit to protect the benefits for future generations.

Social Security has become an essential facet of American life, with one in every six Americans receiving a Social Security benefit and 98 percent of all workers covered by Social Security. Today, almost 45 million people receive these benefits. Nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits, and roughly two-thirds of Social Security beneficiaries receive 50% or more of their income from the program. Social Security also provides benefits to disabled workers and survivors of deceased workers.

Schumer released a report today showing that over 3 million New Yorkers now receive Social Security benefits and over 14 million are below retirement age, the group Greenspan's recommended cuts target. Specifically:

• In the Capital Region, 184,000 people get Social Security now and 745,000 would be targeted for cuts under Greenspan plan;

• In Central New York, 177,000 people get Social Security now and 710,000 would be targeted for cuts under Greenspan plan;

• In Rochester/Finger Lakes, 205,000 people get Social Security now and 1.1 million would be targeted for cuts under Greenspan plan;

• In Hudson Valley, 383,000 people get Social Security now and 1.7 million would be targeted for cuts under Greenspan plan;

• In North Country, 105,000 people get Social Security now and 417,000 would be targeted for cuts under Greenspan plan;

• In Southern Tier 137,000 people get Social Security now and 481,000 would be targeted for cuts under Greenspan plan;

• In Western New York, 308,000 people get Social Security now and 1.1 million would be targeted for cuts under Greenspan plan

Schumer encouraged New Yorkers to express their opposition to the plan by signing on to an online petition he posted on his web site ( Schumer said New Yorkers could sign on via the web site or by calling any of his regional offices. The signed petition will be sent straight to President Bush.

"The Social Security Trust Fund is currently projected to remain solvent until 2042 and the average monthly Social Security benefit is only about $900 per month," the petition reads. "We disagree with those who believe that this is too much to promise seniors who have worked hard, paid into the system, and made an honest living. We believe it would be wrong to balance the budget by breaking our promise to America's seniors."

Okay, so, there's something specific, I guess!

Is there any chance at compromise, Schieffer asks? Schumer is supposed to say yes, and he says, "I do." He says middle class incomes are shrinking, and "up for grabs." So, whoever focuses on "middle class anxieties" will win elections, and people who refuse to compromise will lose. He goes on to say that compromise is possible on energy and immigration.

What advice would he give Obama, on the next two years? Schumer says he'd point out that the last two years were historic and great, but that...well, there is no "but" -- just that the last two years were great. "Focus on the middle class like a laser." Maybe the middle class will chase that laser, like kittens do, when you show them lasers, to confuse them.


TWEET THAT, AMERICA. Have a great week!