12/22/2013 09:49 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Oh, hello, and welcome to your penultimate Sunday Morning Liveblog. My name is Jason. Sorry about last week, guys, I was feeling fantastically under the weather, and wasn't able to do things like type words or watch the television they show in purgatory. But, we've two more of these liveblogs left before I go back to being a normal brunch-going American and I'm bound and determined to finish out my term.

Probably I'm am getting out while the getting is good. I read the good news on the internets that the folks over at NBC are facing "cutbacks" that could really affect MEET THE PRESS. I don't know about you, but I hope the cutbacks are significant. It would be good for America to cancel MEET THE PRESS -- this is where America is now, fundamentally, I feel. The most frightening thing suggested in the article here is a scenario where Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski "take over" the show. That's usually the step you take right before you just give up. People say that Obamacare is in trouble, and I always tell them, "I wouldn't get too worried about it until they announce that Mika and Joe are taking over Obamacare, and at that point I would effing RUN FOR THE HILLS because OMG TIRE FIRE."

But we can spend all day pondering the fate of a show I'll be happy to stop watching on Sunday mornings, right? (Actually, we cannot.) Let's see what wonders all of these idiots have in store for me this week. As usual, drop me a line if you like, follow me on Twitter if you're prepared to make that life choice, and check out the Sunday Reads on my Rebel Mouse page if you get bored waiting for more typing.


What are we talking about today on the Fox News Sunday? Well they've scraped Mike Huckabee, of all people, off the bottom of the barrel of "people who could possibly discuss modern life" to do that, and they'll probably ask him if he wants to run for president, and he'll say, "Will it be like the last time, where just anyone could run and there were no standards?" And the answer will probably be yes.

And then Joel Osteen will talk about Christmas? Ha, okay, I will be fast forwarding that, guys, sorry. I think Fox News Sunday is very much catering to me in my final days of doing this by giving me as little to do as possible, and I really will remember that, guys.

But! Someone booked Mike Huckabee and so we're going to do that for a few minutes. First of all, he needs someone to light him properly -- his skin looks pale and ashen like he just came off a long-term ward of some kind and I worry he's going to spend the next ten minutes just fitfully coughing at me.

Anyway, so, the individual mandate on the Affordable Care Act has been partially suspended for people who have ended up with cancelled policies, the idea being that they aren't going to fine the people for whom the law has totally jammed up. Which seems reasonable, to me? Also it's not going to affect a huge portion of the population? But let's find out why this isn't reasonable.

Mike Huckabee thinks that Obamacare will not work out very well, and he feels like these tweaks are arbitrary, et cetera. Wallace gently suggests that we're not actually at an Obamacare "endgame" moment, and that after all the shouting and strife is over, the program "will extend insurance to 30 million people." So, given that, "does the GOP have an alternative plan to reach those people or is that just not a priority."

Hint: It's not a priority.

Huckabee says that "it ought to be a priority," which is what you say when you think someone else should get right on that problem, but not to trouble me with it. Huckabee's stated priority, in fact -- he says this out loud -- is keeping the people with insurance satisfied "as much as anyone can be satisfied with insurance." You're off message, there, Mike! If you want to drive home the idea that the 2-4% of insured people who lost their plans are the victims here, you don't want to drive home a reminder that these lost plans were terrible!

Huckabee basically suggests that the government subsidize the chronically ill to the tune of -- coverage? He then says he'd be surprised if there were a lot of Republicans who'd have a problem with that, and if it's paper-thin, fake, say, something like Paul Ryan Medicare Fun Bucks then maybe they wouldn't. But clearly they'd have a problem subsidizing the chronically ill in a meaningful way -- that's what all the shouting over socialized medicine is about.

Wallacw changes the subject -- to the "Duck Dynasty controversy." What is controversial about this? A teevee network pointed a camera at some rural folks for the purpose of laughing at them. Those people turned out to be precisely the people everyone imagined them to be. Oh, well! That's what you get. Stop pointing teevee cameras at these kinds of people and we'll solve this problem.

Huckabee thinks that these Duck Dynasty people have been bullied. Good God! They have been given money and celebrity and a teevee show and they all clearly have way more political power in America then the average fast-food worker! I volunteer to be bullied exactly like that, please! There really aren't many people IN THE WORLD who have it better and easier than these guys from Duck Dynasty.

Wallace seems perturbed by Mike Huckabee's answer, but why is Chris Wallace even asking this question? It's because Chris Wallace hates himself, I guess.

They spend, like, a half and hour talking about these Duck Dynasty welfare queens, and none of it is worth talking about or recapping.

Wallace says now, "The reason we had you on the show before all this news broke" is because he "left the door wide open" for a 2016 presidential run. First of all, that's a terrible reason to book anyone. Second, that stuff you think of as "news that has broken," Chris, is not actually news.

Chris Wallace cuts away to a clip of Huckabee in 2011 declining to run for President, and just before the video clip begins you can see from Chris Wallace's eyes that he knows he is dead inside and that he's wasting precious minutes of his life he'll never get back, talking to Mike Huckabee.

Is Mike Huckabee running for president? He does not answer. Wallace says that he is "being a little coy." More minutes of his life tick away, into the ether. Huckabee says that maybe there is a "fifty-fifty chance" of him running but "he doesn't want to put a percentage on it." He claims to have "things he needs to focus on a full time basis," but I don't think that's true either.

Here are some things that Huckabee gets right: he has this crazy idea that maybe there is some "collusion" going on between "Washington and Wall Street" (he calls this the real "Axis of Evil").

And so that's how Mike Huckabee, in saying that there was a fifty-fifty chance that he might run for President but he didn't want to put a percentage on it managed to ensure that he'd be backed by zero GOP fundraisers.

Huckabee doesn't want the government to solve income inequality, he just wants people to want income inequality to be solved, and then it will, because magic.

Oh, hooray we are skipping right to the panel, which today is George Will, Kirsten Powers, Charles Krauthammer, Juan Williams, and a garbage bag full of turnip cores and old coffee filters.

George Will says that it's "very hard to quantify" what's going to happen with the Affordable Care Act when it goes into effect in January. (He seems to think that the exemptions that have been carved out are quite systemic, however.) That said, Will reckons that if Obama had never said that whole "if you like your plan you could keep it" line, he'd not have gotten re-elected.

Ehhh, no. I think that if he'd honestly said something like, "The Affordable Care Act is going to reshape the insurance market in ways we can't completely grasp yet but by our estimates there will be a not insigificant portion of the already insured population who will endure some chaos and perhaps not get insurance of commensurate value for the same prize once everything is sorted out," people may have said, "Oh, wow, I never expected that level of honesty from a politician," and then the Affordable Care Act would probably not have become law. But Obama would have likely been re-elected because his opponent was pretty terrible.

Would be better off if maybe that level of honesty ruled the day? It's a pretty good question! I am one of those people who would prefer being levelled with -- saying "if you like your plan, you can keep it" would not have been my call. But it seems that American politics is a place where you're better off being a glib liar if you want a long career.

Powers says that Obamacare is making things "chaotic," which is about the most obvious thing you can say about a law that reshapes the bloody health insurance market.

Wallace, who doesn't seem to want to have any skin in the whole "Obamacare bet" game (this is the concept I've been talking about that holds that everyone who is either invested in being a proponent or opponent of the law should sit back and let it ride now, because whether the law works or fails is not just a matter of inevitability), asks if it's not unreasonable to imagine getting to this time next year, and the law is basically working, and the blinkered roll-out is a distant memory.

Krauthammer says that it's "possible but highly unlikely." He seems to think that offering the temporary exemptions from the mandate will be the thing to kill the law and throw off the risk pools. The truth is, not offering these exemptions would have killed the law. Had this offer not been extended to the people who lost their coverage it's really hard to imagine that Krauthammer wouldn't be raging about that.

Williams says that everyone in the panel is sort of cracked in the head -- but be nice, Juan, Chris Wallace did entertain the idea that this was all much ado about nothing!

Krauthammer is, of course, deeply offended that Williams gets to speak, and tries to shout him down, but Williams manages to hold his own, noting that lots of people are leaping at the chance to join these exchanges.

Kirsten Powers says that she is a person who lost her insurance policy, but she's a super affluent teevee personality, so I'm not going to worry about her getting health care. She's not as well off as those Duck Dynasty guys, but she had it pretty easy.

Oh, we're talking about the NSA now! Will says that really, the judge that suggested that there is a legitimate Fourth Amendment claim against the NSA has really done the agency a "favor," because the Supreme Court can either reign in the NSA or ratify their techniques. More to the point, he says, it's time we had a debate over security and liberty, and it's best had at the "highest levels."

Juan Williams is all, "BUT THE TERRORISTS OMG," and "protecting us is the government's number one job." Some people say preserving Constitutional liberties is the government's number one job, actually!

Now the panel is talking about the Duck Dynasty people? Indeed, coddle them further. First, Charles Krauthammer wants to talk about the NSA again, and he seems maybe a little bit appalled that the show would leave that important topic to instead discuss a group of celebrities who want for nothing and have no worries in the world. Or at least I prefer to think that, for the next thirty seconds? Anyway, Charles Krauthammer says the same thing that Williams said -- the threat of terrorism is a more fundamental change to society than the technology that now enables the NSA to hoover up every detail of your private life. His twist on the argument, however, is that Congress should sort all of this out by passing laws and setting (potentially alterable) parameters, as opposed to leaving the responsibility to the Supreme Court. That's a fairly reasonable argument, actually!

Everyone spends a half-hour talking about Duck Dynasty and whether or not the fact that valuable teevee time is going to this discussion means that everyone on the panel should get out of their seats and immediately leap upon a sword, ending their lives in a way that at least allows them all to retain some small portion of honor.

Joel Osteen loves Christmas, but not has much as me and Katla McGlynn.


Looks like THIS WEEK is going to talk about the NSA debate a little before doing some soft-focus "2013 in politics" nonsense and then do their half-hour of coverage of the Duck Dynasty scandal.

I tell you what -- there are so many Americans who have been ground up in the gears of economic dislocation since 2008. The fact that the Duck Dynasty guy gets a voice on the Sunday show for his problems ahead of all of those people is the number one reason the producers of these Sunday shows should get horsewhipped in the town square before being forced into the woods to live in exile from polite society. The people involved in making these shows are, authentically, bad human beings.

So much to fast-forward through! But it looks like someone decided that the NSA debate is a big deal. It's a pity that when ABC News has a big deal to talk about, they call on "America's Wrongest Reporter" Brian Ross. I guess he looks pretty good by comparison, ever since Lara Logan went knickers-up on 60 MINUTES.

Anyway, the basic backstory is that the White House got a panel together to evaluate the NSA's case for hoovering up all your metadata, and the panel was basically all, "HOLD UP NOW." They produced a 300 page report that essentially "repudiated" the NSA and called for an end to the program. That came on the heels of a Federal judge getting his Constitution on, ruling that all that phone record-collecting wasn't Constitutional.

Meanwhile, Edward Snowden has basically been all, "I told you so, guys." But that hasn't really improved his chances of being treated as a whistleblower and not a criminal. One of the most entertaining things in the world, if you hate people, has been watching the wide swath of the American left that would have thrown Snowden a ticker-tape parade if he'd blown the doors off the Bush White House essentially become latter-day John Boltons because this happened on Obama's watch. OBAMA WEARS THE WHITE HAT IN OUR COWBOY SOAP OPERA, GUYS.

Anyway, the panel made a bunch of recommendations, and now the challenge before Obama is how does he go about not implementing any of them, because DAMN IT FEELS GOOD TO HAVE ALL THAT EXECUTIVE POWER.

Here to tell America about how terrorist poltergeists from space require the government to tag and bag every single bowel movement they have, is Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who actually looks as if he's just arrived from digging through a fresh pile of human waste, searching FOR ANSWERS.

Rogers has a different take on this whole "panel recommends the NSA pack it in and maybe piss off right to the gates of hell" thing, saying, "Basically what they said was, this information is a vital part of our counterterrorism effort to keep Americans safe."

ROGERS: They found no violations, no unlawful activity, no scandal, none of that was found in this report, but what they said maybe it shouldn't be with the government, maybe it should be mandated by the government that it's held by the private companies. And I think that's a very different debate and a debate that we should have. And it's probably a good one.

I'm reluctant, because I think it opens it up to more privacy violations when the companies hold it. They don't have somebody directly controlling that information. That not their job, their job is to provide service, that these are business records, not private records of content and so they're not listening to phone calls. I think in that regard, a very important step to actually debating on the same set of data points.

As for that judge who ruled against the NSA, Rogers basically dismisses him -- and he's probably on firm ground doing so, because of the "of the sheer volume" of cases in which federal judges looked at this issue and declared, "Constitution? Bqhatevwr."

Rogers is still of the mind that Snowden committed treason and hold the opinion that his "open letter to Brazil," in which he offered to assist the nation in investigating the United States' espionage efforts against the country places Snowden well outside a discussion of amnesty.

Stephanpoulos asks Rogers if terrorist poltergeists from outer space are going to attack America for Christmas, and Rogers basically says, "PLEASE BE AS PARANOID AS POSSIBLE AND PICK UP THE PHONE AND TELL THE NSA YOU LOVE THEM."

Now Senator Mark Udall will yell about everything that Rogers just said. Udall throws shade right away, saying: "The arguments for the status quo, George, fell apart this week in Washington. I do find it interesting that Chairman Rogers...when the presidential panel agrees with his point of view, he says it's a great panel. When it doesn't agree, then he says, well, it's manned by three law professors, as if those law professors don't have an understanding of the constitutionality of what we've been doing."

Udall says that we should "quickly move to adopt the 46 recommendations of the president's panel." Stephanopoulos is like, "HUH WHAT ALL 46? THAT'S CRAY, right?" Udall says that all of them should be looked at. "It's time to have real reform and not the veneer of reform...because we have got to rebuild the American people's trust in our intelligence committee so we can be safe."

Stephanopoulos points out that even the panel said that there was no abuse or scandal. Udall says, "COOL TAKE BRO, LET'S KEEP IT THAT WAY." "The potential for abuse is always there," he says "and Americans have always erred on the side of protecting our privacy."

Udall seems to think there are higher priorities in play than worrying about Edward Snowden:

UDALL: I think that Edward Snowden ought to come back to the United States. He ought to stand on his own two feet. He ought to make his case. History will judge him in a however way historians and the American people decide to make that call, but I'm focused on reforming in a fundamental set of ways the way in which the NSA operates. That's where our attention ought to be focused right now.

Udall does go on to briefly discuss the central "conundrum" of Snowden -- he's going to face an amount of music, should he return to the United States, because there's no denying that he violated criminal statutes. That said, Udall notes that "Senator Wyden and I have been shouting from the wilderness for a number of years about the violations of Americans' privacy conducted by the NSA." It took the Snowden revelations to provide critical mass.

And that was probably the interesting part of this show, in its entirety.

And sure enough, we jump to the panel discussion, with Matt Dowd and Donna Brazile and Bill Kristol and Jonathan Karl and Greta Van Susteren and a huge blob of existential ennui.

Bill Kristol doesn't think Edward Snowden has been vindicated, which is the clearest sign yet, actually, that he has been, owing to the "Bill Kristol is almost always 100% wrong about everything" guide to life that I've been using.

Van Susteren makes a pretty strong case for the Fourth Amendment, explaining that you don't actually get to violate people's rights because you are super-scared of terrorist bad guys from Mars. "There is no fear exception to the Constitution, if you don't like it, change it."

She and Kristol get into it. Kristol insists that the NSA leafing through all your personal records are the same thing as "cops cruising up and down streets looking for problems." Except those cops can't enter my home, dude.

What's really funny about this is that I'm pretty sure that the idea of the IRS giving political groups the once-over to ensure they aren't violating campaign finance laws would make Kristol go red-faced with pure lunacy right now.

Van Susteren and Kristol yell at each other for a while, befor Steven Rattner, who I maybe incorrectly identified as Jonathan Karl, starts talking. I guess all bespectacled white guys look alike to me, because I am racist.

Matt Dowd says that Edward Snowden "has been totally vindicated." He goes on to make a set of very reasonable observations -- that there has always been a pendulum swinging between liberty and security and at the moment it's simply "swung way too far in the direction" of national security, and it's time to get it swinging back. He's glad that we're finally having a debate on these matters.

Brazile agrees that the American people have developed a taste for accountability, within the national security apparatus.

There are some more arguments, because Van Susteren keeps trolling Kristol. He thinks that we had our "debate on national security" in 2006. Brazile and Dowd just stare at him like he's nuts. (He's not nuts, he is just upset. Greta Van Susteren was really trolling him pretty hard!)

Does anyone disagree that 2013 was the worst year for Obama? No one does. Dowd, as is his wont, cites polling data and frets that Obama won't be able to recover. Brazile reckons that Obama will "rebound in 2014." Kristol thinks that Obama's worst year was the one where he signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

Rattner says that it's unfortunate that Obama was allowed to go out in public and continually say, "If you like your plan you can keep it." It's worth pointing out that Rattner was one of those people that could have told Obama to not do that, if he'd wanted to.

Dowd, I think, hits the nail on the head when he says that Obama's polling woes are more firmly rooted in the fact that we keep hearing about this "economic recovery" and not one jot of it has filtered down to the people who are doing all of the working and living and dying and sacrificing in this country. As he notes, Obamacare doesn't really figure into this mass discontent. It can't! The law affects a very thin sliver of the population.

Kristol declares Obamacare a failure. He might be premature, but piss it, he might as well say that -- that's the Obamacare bet. Go all in or go home.

Rattner trolls Kristol by pointing out that the economy, post-Bush administration, was a tire fire. Kristol grits on Rattner right back.
Dowd praises Elizabeth Warren, boldly suggests there is room for the GOP to team up on populism, and goes on an extended jag of preaching against income inequality. He is one of maybe four people who come on these shows and give middle- and working-class people a voice.

But was this the worst year of Obama's presidency? I think Obama is a super rich American celebrity who will never want for anything and if 2013 was his worst year, then my wish for all Americans is that they also have the sort of bad year that Obama is having.

Now the panel discusses Duck Dynasty as God contemplates whether it might be preferable to just flood the planet Earth and kill everyone again.


David Gregory points out that it is seventy degrees right now in Washington, and thus MEET THE PRESS reaches its peak of competence in the first thirty seconds of its broadcast. But I guess they will soldier on, anyway, discussing the NSA and Obamacare. But first, Gregory wants to ask his panel of garbage people whether or not 2013 was Obama's worst year.

E.J. Dionne says no, that was 2011, because that was the year Obama stupidly let debt ceiling hostage taking happen, ending in the sequestration.

Ana Navarro says yes, this was the worst year. David Brooks agrees. Robert Gibbs also agrees, adding the caveat that if the economy continues to grow in 2014, people will forget all about this year.

He'd better hope that when the "economy" continues to "grow," that "growth" is maybe one day reflected in "normal human Americans" noticing that the economy is "better."

After that brief conversation with the panel, we are joined by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who will now yell at each other for a few minutes, for America.

Does Charles Schumer agree with a Wall Street Journal editorial that insists that the Affordable Care Act is failing? You will probably be surprised to learn that he does not agree with that editorial. Thank God we pointed a camera at Schumer so we could get this surprising information.

Gregory asks Coburn if running against Obamacare in 2014 would be the "wrong thing for Republicans to do," and based upon how readily Coburn enunciates the latest talking points on Obamacare, I'm guessing he feels as if it's not the wrong thing for the GOP to do at all.

Gregory asks Schumer to get into the weeds on the exemptions being made in the individual mandate for people who lost insurance. True to form, Schumer would rather accentuate the positive -- the child with cancer who can't get tossed off coverage anymore, the people managing to get health insurance for the first time on the exchanges.

"There have been a lot of problems," Schumer says, "but they're getting fixed. And six months from now, many more people are going to see the positives rather than the negatives."

Yeah, it could happen like that!

Gregory switched topics to the small budget deal that everyone managed to agree to before Congress went home for Christmas. Coburn says that on the positive front, yeah, people in Congress can occasionally come together and agree. On the negative front, he doesn't particularly like what was agreed to: "We agreed to spend $740 billion we didn't have last year. We agreed to waste $30 billion, as I put out in the waste book, this year. We agreed to continue to let Medicare have $80 billion a year in fraud in it. We're going to have $80 billion a year in Fraud in Obamacare. We agreed to all those things."

Schumer predicts that the GOP won't be dumb enough to stage a hostage crisis over the debt ceiling again, but I say don't count those idiots out!

Gregory briefly gets into it with Schumer, over the Iran talks, and it forces him to walk a line between his geniune support for the White House and his genuine desire to maybe drop a load of hot bombs all over Iran in his lifetime:

So here's a question about holding firm that some of the papers in New York are asking about you. And the topic is Iran and new sanctions on Iran. You and others are pushing for it. The president was asking about it in his press conference. And he said, "Look, don't do it, Senator Schumer." He didn't call you out by name. But, in effect, he did.

He said, "He knows that it's good politics." But for you in office, for those running for office, that you can look tough on Iran. He's basically saying, "Give me room to negotiate with Iran and see if I can shut down this nuclear program. Back off on sanctions for now." How do you respond?

Well, look. There are many of us Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who believe the best way to avoid war and get Iran to give up nuclear weapons is by ratcheting up sanctions, not by reducing them. The Iranians didn't come to the table out of the goodness of their heart. This administration still labels them a terrorist organization. The supreme leader, Khamenei, is still pulling the strings. And only tough sanctions will get them to give up.

Now look, I give the president credit for talking. I don't agree with some on the hard line who say, "No talking until they give up everything." But the bottom line is very simple. It's pretty logical that it's sanctions, tough sanctions--


--that brought them to the table. If they think they can ease up on the sanctions without getting rid of their nuclear capabilities, they're going to do that. So we have to be tough. And the legislation we put in says to the Iranians, "If you don't come to an agreement after six months, and the president can extend it to a year, the sanctions are going to toughen up." I think that'll make them negotiate better and give up more.

And now Christine LaGarde is here, to attempt to explain what "the economy" is to David Gregory. First off, is there likely to be a rebound in 2014, and should we get all those "RECOVERY SUMMER" t-shirts out of storage? LaGarde says that there will be a bit more "certainty" in the coming year and the actions taken to unwind some of the sequestration were smart ones to take. The IMF's overall forecast is a "stronger outlook."

LaGarde notes that the Fed's decision to ease off the pedal, in terms of the amount of debt they've been buying up for the sake of keeping the economy juiced is evidence that the Fed no longer believes that this level of life-support is necessary, the corpus is now maybe ready to start breathing on its own again.

"Unemployment is still high in the United States," says Gregory, noticing this for the first time. LaGarde offers this forecast: "Unemployment will continue to go down. It's around 7%. It's likely to move towards the high 6%, but certainly will continue to move down. Most importantly what we need to see is a higher participation rate. Participation means the number of people who actually join the job market and get a job. That number has not moved up significantly, and that's the one we will be looking at. Are people getting jobs, rather than, are people receiving unemployment benefits and registering as unemployed?"

At some point I hope someone starts worrying about whether the future of "jobs" means "working in an Amazon fulfillment center" as opposed to "having a robust and economically mobile middle-class."

What about the fight over the minimum wage? LaGarde explains: "There is a clear indication that rising inequality leads to less sustainable growth. Not to mention the fact that the social fabrics of society can be at stake. So reducing inequality, making sure that people have a job, making sure that there is growth, that there is adequate redistribution through various systems, is important."

On the debt ceiling, LaGarde laughs and says she is hopeful that no one will be stupid enough to threaten the global economy with a massive default crisis ever again. She may be whistling past the graveyard a little bit -- there are now a lot of people who actually do not believe that such a default crisis is possible. Worse still, there's a not insignificant people who have slurped up the High-Test Dumbass and actually believe a default would be great for the economy.

Gregory asks about what it's like to be a woman in power in a world where most "still fail to recognize all of the upside potential of women as managers, women as executives, women being powerful as consumers, as well as leaders." Pretty thoughtful question, props.

LaGARDE: I think it's historically based. It's deeply rooted in certain societies, more so than in other parts of the world. The power struggle, absolutely. You know, why should I leave my seat to somebody else, and particularly somebody of the other gender, is sort of inherent to a tradition that has sustained over time. How can it change? First of all, because women can demonstrate that they can do the job. Whether it's, as you say, first, being great leaders in their respective environment, whether corporate or public, there is now evidence that women can actually do the job, and do it well. And I think the second reason is that it makes economic sense.

There are countries, particularly advanced countries, like Japan, like Korea, that need to open up that job market to women. And in the U.S., as in other European countries, the participation of women in the job market, the access for women to credit, is going to be conducive to more growth, to more well-being for the people.

Gregory asks LaGarde if she is going to run for President of France. Welcome to our leading public affairs show, Christine!

There is an extended interview with Senator James Inhofe, discussing the loss of his son. Not going to liveblog that! Rather I'll extend my condolences to the Senator and hope that this first Christmas season without his son is fueled by the happy memories of what he and his son had together, and not what was lost. Let's all wish his family the best.

Okay, we pick up with the panel and their limp discussion of modern life. Gibbs thinks that 2014 will be better for Obama on health care because "they have no choice but to get it right." Oh, honey, failure is ALWAYS AN OPTION, and a really good one, at that. Don't just shine me on with the whole "things can only get better routine."

Brooks says that "the competency of getting the website" working is the "least important issue." Honestly, he should rethink that. In terms of Obamacare, sure, that's true. But we're getting to the point where most Americans are going to expect to be able to get on their laptops or mobile devices and -- BOOM! -- get answers, solve problems, receive data. And government won't get a pass. Agencies will have to talk to each other and services will have to be seamlessly delivered. If anything, the failures of this website point to the need for massive reform.

The ensuing discussion is not particularly interesting. Dionne points out that "every rich democracy in the world uses government to deliver health care." The fact that they do so, and do it better than us, has historically failed to impress our Thought Leaders.

David Gregory opines: "Isn't the crux of the matter that people don't like government telling them, 'This is what is best for you?'" It's a pity this isn't being offered in the context of the NSA debate.

Then, the panel closes in on the inevitable discussion of Duck Dynasty. You know what? In terms of Meet The Press, this is fine. Discussions of reality teevee celebrities are more this show's speed.

Oh wow, there is still more show? Apparently, yes. We're going to have Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) yell at each other over the NSA.

King, naturally, thinks that everything is fine and dandy as maple candy as far as what the NSA is doing, and Edward Snowden is a "defector and a traitor." As far as the security apparatus goes, King says that "The president says it's essential." I am guessing that the president wishes Peter King would always just take his word for things like that, instead of just doing so when it's convenient for Peter King's demogoguery.

David Gregory's sister-in-law apparently speaks for all of America:

DAVID GREGORY: Senator Leahy, my sister-in-law from Kentucky, we've debated this topic. And she says, "David, you talk about the founding fathers and the principles of freedom that's their basis of the country. But that's not where the country is. The country wants what Peter King wants, which is these programs to exist."

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY: Well, I think we ought to what the founding fathers said, that's what's kept us strong as a country for over 200 years. I think the founding fathers would be astounded to see what N.S.A. and others are doing. It's not Snowden. In a way, he's irrelevant on this. It's a question of how well this has been looked at, and how much the American public knows about it.

Actually, according to a recent Washington Post poll, 69% of Americans are either "very" or "somewhat" concerned about "the government or private companies collecting digital information from your computer or phone," as opposed to 30% who are either "not too concerned" or "not at all concerned," so maybe Gregory should apply some of that strict MEET THE PRESS "gotcha" game on his dumb sister-in-law and spare the rest of us her opinions? KTHXBAI, Gregory family!

At any rate, Leahy says that he doesn't want to force the NSA into some sort of existential crisis over being a security agency that eavesdrops on people -- he just wants "controls" over what they are allowed to do. Everyone understands that this isn't some sort of debate where we apocalyptically decide to not have a national security apparatus of any kind, right?

Leahy is amenable to exploring the reforms suggested by the White House's panel, and strongly urges the Congress and the White House to work together on such reforms, and restore public trust in these institutions.

Gregory asks King why he's not amenable to reining in the NSA. King responds, "What is there to rein in? There's not been one abuse cited." If you say so, Peter, but that's also a great reason to rein things in -- when the potential for such abuse is so obvious that a panel of independent experts is declaiming, "Whoa, the NSA is allowed to do what now?!"

"We should not be disarming the N.S.A.," insists King, despite no one ever proposing that we do such a thing.

King says that he wishes that Obama would "step forward and defend the NSA." A few minutes ago, King was proclaiming that Obama had already offered this defense. "The president says it's essential," King said, and that was good enough for him, just three minutes ago.

But, in reality, Obama will probably try to have this a bunch of ways -- suggesting that the panel did a lot of good work while simultaneously not taking up even a single argument that panel made.

Peter King does a little bit of lycanthropic September 11th fearmongering, saying that all this metadata collection would have prevented the terrorist attacks. He is the only person to have been personally affected by September 11th, so I guess we all have to listen to him.

The fate of everything is eventually handed to David Brooks to sort out with the awesome powers of Thought Leading:

BROOKS: Listen, I'm a pretty serious national security guy. But I think if Dwight Eisenhower were here he'd be worried about the concentration of power in the intelligence community. I do think we've got ratchet it a little back. Not all the way, but just a little. And I think that's what the panel recommended. So I'm sort of for it. We should not legitimize Edward Snowden, though.

"I'M SORT OF FOR IT" says the brave and serious "national security guy."

And that's a good moment to tell my TiVo to delete this show, from memory, if not from existence.

So, hey, Merry Christmas everyone. Hope the holiday week is bright no matter what you celebrate. Next week, I get the Greatest Gift Of All -- the final Sunday of me having to wake up and watch these shows. I am sure that our final liveblog together will absolutely not be a powerful anticlimax that I'll truly not regret having hyped in any way!