TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome once again to your Sunday morning liveblog, which transforms approximately three hours of political talk-show blather into concentrated form and then there are quickly typed judgments and observations and then everyone goes on about their lives a little less worried or jaded. My name is Jason, and I congratulate everyone who had Louisville and Michigan as their final two picks in their bracket. The fact that I had one of them is in now way indicative of how my bracket fared this year, it was a tragedy wrapped in a disaster by the time the first Saturday night of the tournament had concluded.

By the looks of things, today White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer will be making the Near Ginsburg around the Sunday shows, probably talking about the new budget from the White House that isn't a new budget at all but everyone is acting as if it contains a bunch of really surprising things instead of something that's been telegraphed for months and months and months. The short version of the story is this:

1. Obama still wants a "Grand Bargain."
2. John Boehner has already said "No" to this offer.
3. It is not clear that Boehner has read it.
4. It doesn't matter. The reason Boehner is saying "No" is because Obama has offered it.
5. There is no budget plan that Boehner will accept.
6. Lots of Democrats don't like Obama's budget plan either.
7. In their case, they've actually read it, and they think it sucks, particularly on Chained CPI.
8. Chained CPI does suck.
9. Why is Social Security part of a "budget" discussion, anyway, you kneebiting idiots? Just raise all the income caps on contributions and get on with your lives. Gah, this doesn't have to be hard.
10. Anyway, anything called a "Grand Bargain" is actually a turd sandwich for the vast majority of Americans, and you should root for it to fail, like I do.
11. You will also be rooting against the dumbest pundits in America, so take pride.
12. Call your Congressman and remind them that if they're trying to be a deficit hawk in a period of less than full employment, then they might as well jump down a well.

Anyway, now you don't have to watch these Sunday shows. Go back to brunch and/or bed. If you choose, however, to stick with me through my contractual obligation, remember that you can mix it up in the comments, drop me a line if need be, follow me on Twitter, or catch up on some of the more interesting reads on the internet with my Rebel Mouse page.

Okay, getting coffee, and then, let's look at the atrocities my TiVo has recorded today, beginning with...


But first, we're going to talk about gun safety legislation, the issue that has "faded" from the conversation so much that everyone can't stop talking about how much it has faded from the conversation. This is the second week in a row that my Sunday morning has began with talk of this issue that no one is talking about. Anyway Asa Hutchinson is here to mansplain the NRA's position on school safety, which is that there should be armed guards in every school, which would be neat if it were not for the fact that you probably won't get the House of Representatives to increase the necessary taxes to put qualified, Secret Service-level armed guards at every entrance of every school.

But hold on, we're beginning with Dan Pfeiffer. Wallace wants to know if the Obama administration "risks looking like it's caving" to North Korea and their young idiot dictator loon by cancelling a missile test. Pfeiffer -- and I am going to mistype that name about a million times today -- says absolutely not. He says that North Korea needs to "take a step back and meet their obligations." Wallace points out that North Korea is really just getting down to the business of ratcheting up tensions and pointing missiles every which way, including Guam, which is where we store our unicorns (shhhhh don't tell anyone).

Pfeiffer says that North Korea is simply demonstrating a repeated pattern of behavior, and continuing down this path will enable their continued isolation in the international community. I think though, that Wallace was kind of hoping that Pfeiffer was just going to say, "We shall rain hellfire on their lives and devour their entrails!"

Wallace moves to gun safety legislation, which no one is talking about anymore, on talk shows, because who cares we are all jaded now. Pfeiffer says that the President is pushing very hard to enact legislation, and he has marshalled significant support for background checks. Pfeiffer lays the blame for delays on the GOP, but Wallace points out that Democratic legislators -- including Harry Reid -- have also opposed various pieces of gun safety legislation that have bubbled up in their chambers.

Pfeiffer sticks to the background checks as the goal, laying off the other pieces (assault weapons bans) as stuff that belongs on the back burner.

Basically, Wallace wants to emphasize the assault weapons ban, and it's failure, and Pfeiffer wants to talk about the background checks, which is supported by over ninety percent of Americans, but still might fail.

What's wrong with armed guards? Pfeiffer says that the idea is simultaneously dumb, but also the White House won't stand in the way of anyone putting armed police in schools. He's happy to just let that go, he just wanted the background checks because they are a "common sense" measure and "the right thing to do."

We move next to the budget. Wallace notes that the president is offering to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for revenues raised through tax reform and subsidy cancellations and loophole closures. Wallace wants to know if this is a "final offer" on cuts to earned benefit programs, or are those programs just going to keep on trucking, being all not-destroyed and stuff. Pfeiffer says that the budget emphasizes that it is a "false choice" to say you have to choose between deficits and jobs growth. That is technically true, but I wish Pfeiffer would just emphasize that when you have full employment, deficits go down, and we should be doing everything we can -- especially at these low interest rates -- to put people back to work and recognize that every time someone works on a Grand Bargain they are hurting America.

Pfeiffer says that the Congressional Republicans continue to just hurt their brand by being intransigent, but the problem is they all keep getting re-elected and they all look pretty good for 2014, too, because of redistricting.

"The ending of the payroll tax cut is hurting Americans," says Pfeiffer. Ending that tax cut had bipartisan support, though! Just one more example that anything that garners "bipartisan support" in Washington is probably bad for America.

What's up with the Gang Of Eight and their immigration reform? Well, the thing could get all hung up on language pertaining to a "border security trigger" that must be hit before anyone gets a "path to citizenship." Would the President sign that sort of plan? Pfeiffer says only that the White House is really working closely with the Gang Of Eight and they LOVE the Gang Of Eight and they feel really good about what the Gang Of Eight is doing. Wallace is all, "SRSLY? O RLY?" and Pfeiffer says that what the Gang Of Eight is doing is "100% consistent" with the White House's own turgid immigration reform dreams, so don't worry.

Okay, let's get way into guns with Asa Hutchinson. Wallace asks him if the "guards in schools" plan only addresses part of the problem. Hutchinson says their plan is "much broader" and includes all manner of resources, but it does stop short of arming teachers, which was one of the more fuzzyheaded ideas that was kicked around after Newtown. (Another was the "hand the underpaid janitor a gun and tell him to run toward certain death" plan that has hopefully fallen by the wayside as well.)

Wallace doesn't particularly think that the NRA is "solving the problem" by just "hardening one target," noting that shooters can still pick from a variety of hunting grounds. Hutchinson says, "Well, you're protecting children and that's a huge priority." He goes on to note that shopping malls already have guards, and I sure hope he's got greater ambition for schools than to bring them up to the level of mall cops.

Wallace asks about background checks. "The fact is," he says, "1.9 million sales have been blocked, so why not make it as hard as possible for people to get their hands on a gun who have a criminal history or a history of mental illness?" Hutchinson says that this means the current system is effective, so why expand it? Sure, Americans want to see criminals not get weapons, but what about the farmer who wants to "transfer a shotgun to a neighbor." Is this a widespread thing, with farmers? Is the inconvenience of possibly telling your neighbor, "BLOORP, I AM SORRY, BEEP BORP. I WILL BE UNABLE TO TRANSFER MY SHOTGUN TO YOU, BEEP BLOOP," so BAD that the rest of us cannot have nice things?

Hutchinson says that it would be so onerous for these two robot farmers to do the necessary paperwork to transfer the shotgun beep blorp, but maybe the second farmer can just go buy his own shotgun?

Wallace says, why don't we just have background checks for store purchases and gun shows and internet sellers and then families and friends who want to TRANSFER THEIR GUN BEEP BLOOP can just be exempt. If we just have that sort of law, could ol' Asa get on board with that? Hutchinson says, "Ugh well I read the bill..." and Wallace stops him and says, dude, I am just asking a hypothetical here. Hutchinson that sure, "that's a fair debate," and he allows that the bill has some measures beefing up information sharing that he supports. Wallace, noting that he didn't quite answer the question, and asks him to confirm that he just said he'd support expanding background checks to include gun shows and internet sales. "I can't speak to all of those," he says, and then goes on the hem and haw for about two minutes, uselessly, before slipping in a mention that such checks might be "appropriate" at the end.

Hutchinson says, though, that the background checks discussion is the President "taking the conversation in the wrong direction," because it doesn't solve to problem of safety in schools. Wallace says that "making schools safer isn't going to protect anyone who is going to the movies, or the shopping mall, or on the playground, or even on the school bus going to school." That sends Hutchinson into a reverie about how you "can't expect the government to solve this problem." Then he says that you can expect the government to solve the problem as long as it's limited to schools.

The idea seems to be that the gun lobby has decided that school shootings in particular are really bad for their brand, that all other kinds of mass shootings are things that their brand can survive, and if the government could pretty please do something really big and expensive to solve their branding crisis, that would be swell.

Also, cray cray people getting guns is bad for the gun lobby's brand, so someone should do something about that, too, for them.

Okay, now it's time to panel with Brit Hume, Kirsten Powers, Jennifer Rubin, and Juan Williams, who are probably the roommates I will have in hell if I don't properly atone for the wrong I've done. (Fortunately, liveblogging their pantings is part of that atonement.)

Anyway, let us make our foray into the vapidity beginning with the "Grand Bargain."

Brit Hume says that Obama offering cuts to earned benefit programs is a "step that's not inconsequential." So, he is among the pundits who believe that this is a thing he's actually newly proposed, as opposed to being something he's been offering for years and years. The ignorance really does run deep among the pundit class. Hume seems to hit the President a little bit for not being more ENTHUSIASTIC about potentially impoverishing millions of elderly Americans -- "Is it a concession or a proposal?"

Wallace says that one think that it is -- it's a package deal, you don't get your juicy elderly impoverishment without giving some sweet, sweet revenues through tax reform. Hume calls the "balanced approach" a "non-starter."

Is the left all upset about this? Powers says that there is a "lot of heartburn" over the cuts to earned benefit programs. She points out that this is not a new offer -- it's the same one that was offered in the "fiscal cliff" talks. So, Powers is not as dumb as Hume. Still pretty dumb, though! She thinks that a "Grand Bargain" is a great idea and especially excited by the fact that some Democrats hate it.

Rubin doesn't want to raise additional revenues, because additional revenues are bad, etc. Also we shouldn't cut from defense.

Williams thinks the President is just a bloody genius for wanting to limit the future prosperity of the middle class as they grow old and can't hold down regular jobs anymore, fap fap fap fap fap.

Wallace points out that lots of GOP lawmakers have paraded onto his show insisting that they would take cuts to earned benefit programs super seriously and would maybe have to compromise on revenues. Hume says that Obama will have to go farther than merely offer to cut earned benefit programs. What would he have to do? Hume says that he could offer those cuts "as a standalone." (That would assure that no one gets revenues alongside those cuts.)

Even Wallace suggests that Obama is obligated to "campaign" on cutting earned benefit programs and provide the GOP with "political cover," all of which is fundamentally idiotic. It would be pretty great for the GOP to have the President walking around, campaigning on cutting Social Security. Then, the GOP could just vote on it, run in 2014 against the White House that "slashed Social Security" and then spend all of 2015-16 agitating to slash it further, whereupon it would be really nice of Obama to make it look like it was his idea.

Oh, we are still paneling? Apparently so, and now we are talking about North Korea. Hume says that "you have to sympathize with any administration dealing with North Korea" because they are cray as cray can be. Hume says that the cancellation of this missile test that apparently just happens constitutes "mixed signals."

Powers says that the administration is "balancing on the right side" of the issue, based on the funny feelings she has about the situation.

Whatever it is the Obama administration is doing about the matter, Rubin is reflexively against it and Williams is reflexively for it, and what they have to say about it is the null set of interesting to humans and animals. They argue, apparently providing Wallace with a potty break, because why is this being put on the teevee?

Anyway, Hume says that trying to get Iran to forsake its nuclear ambitions through diplomacy isn't working and it's a foreign policy failure (though one that he thinks is a long-going failure), and who knows what lessons North Korea is extracting from our relationship with Iran. And then the panel ends, abruptly.


We are going to talk about North Korea with Madeleine Albright, and Chuck Schumer and John McCain will, maybe, NOT yell at each other, because they are both on the Gang Of Eight and they've been attending many comprehensive immigration reform key parties on Capitol Hill.

But first, Margaret Brennan briefly runs down all the North Korea stuff, because Kim Jong Un is sort of really embracing his whole inbred-dictator act, threatening to launch a missile test on April 10, and otherwise acting all cray on the Korean peninsula. All of which sounds like things are headed out of the zone marked "ZANY" and into the area called "REALLY EFFING DANGEROUS MAYBE."

So, for comic relief, we will have the "Chuck Schumer John McCain Laff-Time Segment." Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will make the fatal mistake of wandering into the space between McCain/Schumer and the teevee cameras, because they will murder him in cold blood with their teeth if he makes that mistake.

Anyway, McCain and Schumer are immigration buddies, but first we have to ask McCain about North Korea. McCain says it's "obvious this is a serious situation," and that "we would win if there was an all-out conflict" but North Korea could "set Seoul on fire" which sounds kind of cool if you are talking about homophones (or homonyms or whatever), and Alicia Keys is singing, "THIS SOUL IS ON FIIEEEE-YEERRRRRR!!!!" But it's not "cool" if it's actually Seoul that's being set on fire.

McCain doesn't "know the game this young man is playing." Maybe it's "How Crazy Do I Have To Be Before You Don't Name Me As Your Vice Presidential Pick?" -- the fun game for total jerks by Milton Bradley? But, he says, it's a cycle of confrontation and talk down and dealmaking and cessation and ramp up again to a new cycle. McCain wants China to "cut off their economy."

Schumer jumps in and says that he agrees with McCain that Kim Jong Un is an "erratic leader" and that China should get involved.

Anyway, time for SMILES, because the Gang of Eight is gangbanging up a comprehensive immigration reform plan, and despite the fact that there have been some "kerfuffles along the way" Schumer says that it's really been more like Smile-time Sunshine, just best buds makin' up some immigration reform. Reformin' the old immigraysh, as they like to say, at snacktime.

Schumer says that the Gang Of Eight is working twelve hours a day with their staffs, cold workin' on draft language, and it's an arduous process but they are on target to have it completed by the end of the week -- at which point, it will probably get all blown to smithereens by Lindsey Graham, Congress' most storied smithereen blower-to, or Marco Rubio, who is already doing a bit of a fancy pants dance about "taking it slow" and "easing up" and "maybe only inserting the tip of comprehensive immigration reform," possibly because it's dawned on him that Obama seems to LIKE their plan and might sign it, which would make it part of Obama's "legacy," and then Marco would have to live with that for the rest of his life.

Schieffer is all, "What is up with Marco, anyway?" McCain says, "Oh, Marco is so important, so amazing." Also, Chuck Schumer is amazing, and everyone in the gang is wonderful and they are just always Instagramming each other, because FRIENDZ.

McCain says that most Americans are pretty amenable to the whole "pay-a-fine-and-go-to-the-back-of-the-line-but-here's-a-path-to-becoming-American" thing as long as the doing of that thing doesn't result in a wave of people coming over the border. (The one with Mexico, they mean, though there is probably a scourge-lette of Canadians who want terrible health care, who knows?)

Schumer says that there is "no one main sticking point" in the bill that needs to be resolved, just a lot of little things that need to be worked out. Also, John McCain is just the best, he spoons like a supple lover, warm to the touch, and everyone on the Gang Of Eight is just engaged, in the most bromantic way possible, with reforming immigration.

McCain is also like, "Oh, man! Business and labor, they like, totally spent seven minutes in heaven!" Schumer is like, "BUSINESS AND LABOR SITTING IN A TREE, OMG, LYLAS!"

So, basically, everything is super awesome but Schumer says that we still need "broad bipartisan support," because what would happen if immigration reform only gets 53 votes? (SPOILER ALERT: IT WOULD PASS.)

Oh, but now Smile Time has to end, because what about gun control? Schumer says that there are a "handful of Senators" who want to filibuster the background checks bill, led by Senator Ted "Ted" Cruz, who is Canadian, which blows my mind. And this really bums Chuck Schumer out. Still, he's pretty sure that what he calls "the sweet spot" or "the G-spot" -- namely, background checks -- can still get through the Senate, if it's allowed on the floor. And then it will go to the House, to get murdered with pointed sticks.

McCain is all, "I don't understand all these filibusters, man, they are bumming me out." "Why not take up the debate, the American people will profit from it?" says McCain, who nevertheless called that time there was an all-day discussion about drone policy the work of "cuckoo birds."

Now we are going to move from the SMILE-TIME IMMIGRATION segment to the SAD TEARS NORTH KOREA part of the show with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is, to the best of Schieffer's knowledge, the only Secretary of State to ever go to North Korea, and she confirms that she is "still the highest sitting official" to visit the crackpot regime. She wore a GIGANTIC flag pin.

She says that North Korea's nuclear program is the nation's "cash crop," literally the only thing the whole country has going for itself, besides the "ridiculous statements" industry, which seems to be booming, if not profitable.

Albright says that this is part of a repetitive pattern, going back years. We should recognize this, and not panic. We should simply take "prudent defensive measures," and the administration has so far responded to her liking. "I think we are handling this the right way," she says.

"Is China the key, here?" asks Schieffer. Albright says yes, because they facilitate what remains of the North Korean "economy."

Would South Korea retaliate if they were attacked? Albright suggests that they would almost have to, and that's one of the reasons it's important to not let this nonsense escalate.

Albright says that the "difficult but necessary" thing to do is to convince the Chinese that North Korea is not the "buffer" that they think it is, that the South Korean-American alliance is not a threat to them, and that a denuclearized North Korea would be to China's advantage.

Albright says that as far as talking to the regime goes, she and Kim Jong Il were able to have "sane discussions" and that he was not "crazy" or at least not "super cray cray in the face like a crazy face." That said, Albright says that the problem is that the North Koreans are in "delusional denial" about how the rest of their own nation is living, and -- oh yeah! -- "they have the tendency to lie to us." Nevertheless, she think that we should continue to talk to North Korea, despite the ever-growing lulzy-ness of it.

Bob Schieffer offers an editorial, wondering why there's no one in Kim Jong Un's circle that could simply tell the young man that he is being super-crazy, and it turns out that people who aren't total yes-men get murdered or disappeared.

Time for a million panels! At the moment we have Gerald Seib, Blaine Harden, Nancy Cordes, and Major Garrett.

Harden has written a bunch of books about North Korea, and he says that "one thing that Americans should know" is that North Koreans are "afraid of the United States" -- to the enshrouded North Korea, memories of our military excursions are at the forefront of their minds, and so any time we are flying bombers over the Sea of Japan or something, it freaks them right the hell out. He says that when we put out a photo of our bomber flying over the area, it was a "propaganda gift the North Koreans were happy to have."

Garrett says that we flexed some muscle to just send a message that we are on board with our "allies in the region" and now we're dialing it back to keep the regime in Pyongyang from manufacturing further propaganda. Garrett says that since our display of ally-hugging, the diplomatic responses from China have moved in the appropriate direction. It would seem that playing this game with North Korea is like getting the temperature of your shower, just right.

Seib says that the newness of the governments in the region -- including North Korea's -- fuels a lot of this boundary testing and message-sending.

Garrett says that the White House is "pre-emptively describing" North Korea's pending missile launch as something that "would not surprise them" -- all part of the effort to lower the temperature.

Meanwhile, comprehensive immigration reform is "almost all in place," says Cordes, and seemingly impossible to stop. "This is a marked achievement for Congress," she says, adding that the effort has all of it's major i's dotted and t's crossed. They have the major interest groups singing in the came choir.

Cordes is also generally inclined to see Marco Rubio's "slow it down" moves as something that's intended to assure the bill passes. Garrett agrees, saying that this is all just Rubio playing it cool, letting his colleagues know that nothing's being slammed down their throats.

Seib says that with the budget offer, Obama keeps the "grand bargain" alive and that the deal that's on offer is one that makes everyone angry, so it must be awesome. "The basic formula for a big deficit deal" is entitlement cuts in exchange for revenue, Seib says. (He goes on to note that all the White House is asking for are revenues that Romney and Ryan ran on in 2012.) Left unsaid is the fact that we really don't need a big deficit deal in the current economy, we need to solve the unemployment crisis.

Garrett says that the South Carolina special election will be an "early indicator" of whether or not the Democrats have a shot at winning back the House, which is sort of a weird thing to say. The South Carolina first district special election is only a bellwether if the GOP is going to run nobody but philandering weirdos who are broadly unpopular in every open House race.

Everyone talks about how no one is talking about gun safety anymore. Harden says that it's "shocking" to him that public revulsion has declined. I'm not sure that it has, but a guy was on the teevee saying it is so it must be truthy.

Garrett says that there will be a "concerted effort" made by the White House to keep the issue alive, that Obama is in part marshalling his own courage to move the issue ahead and keep it alive, and that everyone is treating it like the first steps of a long process -- the goal, for the time being, is just to get VOTES on some measures, not necessarily pass things, just get the ball started on what will hopefully be a long roll.

Now Mark Mazzetti is here, to tout his book, THE WAY OF THE KNIFE. The New York Times has excerpted it, go check it out. The newsy bit of intel here is that the drone program in Pakistan, which has grown more and more controversial, got started because the Pakistani government was getting more and more discontented dealing with this one specific Taliban militant, and so could we maybe take care of that eensy little problem?

Anyway, moving on now...


Okay, gonna ease off the pause button because this is all "same s#!t, different panel...though Michele Flournoy is here, which is pretty cool.

We begin with David Gregory, talking to Senator Lindsey "Jowly Dave Foley" Graham, who is on the Gang Of Eight and also loves bombing stuff, so there are many things in his wheelhouse, today.

Beginning with North Korea, Gregory lets him know that he's read a bunch of magazines about North Korea, and wants to know if we're going to go to war anytime soon. Because man, there have sure been some magazine covers! Graham says that South Korea has just had it with North Korea, Pyongyang is "overplaying their hand," and the administration is so far managing the situation to his liking. The big deal, he says, is that "the politics in South Korea are changing by the day." So what happens if South Korea is provoked into a war? "North Korea loses and the South wins," Graham says -- alluding to the fact that the U.S. would ride along with the South Koreans.

Nobody seems to know much about Kim Jong Un. Graham says that "this is a surreal place, North Korea," that you wouldn't believe if this was just a movie about a crackpot place. He blames China for propping up this cuckooland for the sake of having a border-buffer with South Korea.

Gregory changes this discussion to Syria, asking if he's got a different view about getting the United States involved.

DAVID GREGORY: I want to ask you about Syria before we get some more perspective on North Korea. You met with opposition forces in Syria. You have been talking about more actively helping them, getting the U.S. more involved. Do you have a different view about that now?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: A bit. The Syrian opposition council replaced the Syrian national council. They want more assistance; I think we should give them more assistance. But there's two things that drive my thinking on Syria. The king of Jordan's going to be a casualty. The worst is yet to come regarding Syria if we don't fix this soon. Jordan is being overrun by Syrian refugees.

And before I would arm the rebels, I want a commitment by them that they will allow an international force to secure the 17 chemical weapon sites, enough weapons to kill millions of people, and commit to destroying those weapons. In the new Syria, they will reject owning chemical weapons. If they would do those two things, I told them I think there would be more involvement by the Congress; there would be more willingness by the Congress to help them.

They've got to commit to destroying those weapons and allowing us, the international community, to control those weapons. I don't think what they're going to say, but if they publicly made those two statements I think it would be easier for Congress to help them. And the radical elements in the Syrian free army are growing by the day.

The worst is yet to come. We could use the king of Jordan. This could be a nightmare in the making with these chemical weapons falling into radical Islamists. The number of radical jihadists on the ground in Syria today is growing every day this war goes on.

Suddenly we're in the midst of a panel discussion? What? Suddenly, Bill Richardson and Michele Flournoy and Andrea Mitchell are around the table.

Richardson says that "Kim Jong-Un is playing to three audiences." "He's playing to the North Korean generals," he says, and he is also playing to "his own people" (trying to make up for the humiliating failure of the missile test), and finally he is "playing" to the new South Korean president. Richardson says that "a new diplomatic track is needed, some out-of-the-box diplomacy involving the U.N., the World Bank, some special envoys outside of government, because I think we need to get to this new young leader who I don't think is calling the show."

What to do, from a diplomatic point of view?

MICHÈLE FLOURNOY: I think we have to convince this new, young, inexperienced leader that he's playing a losing hand. That the only way out of the box to get the economic development he wants, to get the progress that he wants, is to ratchet back the rhetoric. Come back into compliance with the international obligations that North Korea has, and to get serious about trying to implement some of the commitments he's made at the negotiating table in the past. I think in the meantime, the U.S. has been right to focus on bolstering deterrents, bolstering defense, standing shoulder to shoulder with our ally, South Korea.

Richardson adds that the goal "should not just be to calm them down," but getting them back to the table on denuclearization, because the region is currently a "tinderbox."

Mitchell says that only China can finally keep this "cartoon" regime in check, exert "maximum pressure" to get them into the modern community of nations. She adds, "I've been at the DMZ many times, I've been to Pyongyang a couple of times, once with Bill Richardson. And the proximity, 800,000 forward-deployed North Korean troops, and the South Korean and our Americans; now, Senator Graham is absolutely correct: We will obliterate North Korea. But in that first 24 hours, I think the military game plan is that we would lose enormously."


Graham is genuinely stressed that South Korea is near a breaking point, and thinks that the administration has "stood with our allies" and is doing the whole "steam control" thing appropriately. Flournoy adds: "The fact that we have gone ahead with these annual exercises, that we've sent B-2 bombers, which is a sign of our extended deterrence, our strategic deterrence, to South Korea, all of that is incredibly important. We've also done extensive planning with them on how to deal with various scenarios of provocation. And how we would respond together, as an alliance, so that they don't feel that they have to lash out unilaterally by themselves."

Mitchell doesn't know how far you can get, in diplomatic talks with Pyongyang. Richardson says, "But what's the alternative?"

"We need a new negotiating track," he says, adding, "I think the key is going to be the United States and China."

Graham says that Chained CPI and Medicare reductions in the Obama budget "begin to set the stage for the shit sandwich Grand Bargain." Gregory asks if we could maybe shove the shit sandwich Grand Bargain down the throats of the American people as early as July, and Graham says, "I think if you do immigration and the shit sandwich Grand Bargain this year, we'll dominate the 21st century."

He goes on to describe how important it is for the shit sandwich Grand Bargain to have a lot of delicious toppings and condiments that taste like old people getting impoverished and dying destitute in greater numbers, because those are the most delicious parts of the shit sandwich Grand Bargain.

What currently stands in the way of a deal on immigration deal? "We've got an agreement between labor and business about the guest worker program, but we're revisiting that," Graham says, because if it's all fixed, take the time to break it again. Maybe this time it will be impossible to repair, and maybe you can blame the other party.

That's how a bill becomes a flaw!

Bill Richardson says that the "path to citizenship" should be "achieveable" and not burdensome, he also thinks the security trigger is a bad idea.

"We're not being overrun by Canadians," says Graham, underscoring the fact that Canada is pretty awesome and that their government has decided that they won't be feeding their citizens a shit sandwich Grand Bargain.

Graham goes on to hammer Mitt Romney:

GRAHAM: And as to Republicans, the politics of self-deportation are behind us. Mitt Romney's a good man, he ran in many ways a good campaign, but it was an impractical solution. Quite frankly, it was offensive. Every corner of the Republican Party from libertarians, the R.N.C., House Republicans, and the rank-and-file Republican Party member is now understanding there has to be an earned pathway to citizenship. That gives us leverage on immigration with our Democratic friends.

Instead of a border fence, we should build a wormhole, to Canada, on the border, and that will solve this problem.

Instead, we are going to get a wormhole to 2016 horse-race blather with Mike Murphy and Maggie Haberman and Bill Richardson and Andrea Mitchell. First and foremost, what's going on with Hillary? Just read what I wrote, and you'll be fine, probably for the next year.

Maggie Haberman says that Maureen Dowd wrote a column about Hillary Clinton's hairstyle. The road to Hell is paved with Maureen Dowd columns about hairstyles.

"The Mark Penn factor gets talked about a lot," says Haberman. Yes, well. It gets talked about because he was a campaign consultant who set all new standards in world-historical stupidity. Mark Penn is a walking, breathing slideshow of "35 Hilarious Campaign Fails."

Murphy says that Clinton is definitely the frontrunner in a race he won't predict, and that she will almost certainly win unless she doesn't, in which case she won't.

Richardson says, "Hillary Clinton doesn't confide in me." So, who gives a rip what he says, then? Never lead with, "Well, my opinions, you should understand, have no foundation in reality." At any rate, Richardson says "It's still too early and anything can happen" and two of the things that could happen are: 1) Hillary runs for President, and 2) Hillary does not run for President.

"Campaigns have changed dramatically since" she ran before, says Mitchell, apparently angling for an endowment from the Brookings Institute's Department of Obviousness Studies.

Murphy says that Clinton running again would lead to a certain amount of re-litigation of past issues, which is just great because what about the present issues? Anytime we're speculating about the 2016 election, we should maybe spend some time ruminating on what the country might look like, four years from now. Seems to me like if we stay on our present course, there will be widespread income inequality, continued unemployment, and a burgeoning future of poorer elderly Americans? So those are the conditions that the next presidential hopefuls will be dealing with.

And now they are talking about Obama's Kamala Harris kerfuffle. Tom Scocca wrote the definitive piece on this, but in general, you should know that you can always always pay people compliments. Recognize, however, that when you pay someone a compliment -- that's a frozen moment between you and that other person. It's a demonstration of the unconditional love between people who care about each other.

If you're in public, and you want to compliment someone in public, recognize there is a difference between a compliment that asks the audience to CONSIDER the person you are complimenting (integrity, courage, intelligence) and a compliment that asks the audience to GAZE AT the person you are complimenting (hotness, beauty, abs, etc.).

If you stick with the public compliments that inspire consideration, and lose the ones that inspire the gaze, you are going to do just fine. And that's your Sunday Morning Tip For Professionals.

Jim Cramer was talking about the economy during that time, and I think the salient point is that Cramer and Murphy want the Keystone Pipeline built, and that all the bankers that talk to Cramer say a lot of things except the critical thing that matters, which is: "Ha, ha, if you only knew the true value of the assets on our balance sheets you would see how hilariously insolvent we are but definitely keep telling people that we are scared to lend because of 'uncertainty.'"

In the argument of "long-term environmental collapse" versus "let's have a few jobs now to tide us over until Armageddon" Cramer defines the "serious center" position as the latter. He predicts that "employment numbers will be so much better in six months" if Keystone gets greenlit, which only reminds me of that time he said it was stupid to get out of Bear Stearns because Bear Stearns is awesome.

Richardson is pretty sure that the Democratic Party base is going to learn to stop worrying and love impoverishing the elderly, no worries, that shit sandwich Grand Bargain is gonna taste delicious.

On guns, Haberman says that Obama adequately "capitalize on the momentum" after Newtown and Murphy says that they "should have gone fast, one bullet, right at, metaphorically speaking, the issue of the gun show loophole and background checks," and not even discussed the matter of an assault weapons ban.

Mitchell points out that what's really happening is that "the American people are...far in front of their legislators" on guns, but with the current House living large in safe seats because of redistricting, we have what amounts to "Congresspeople for life" who "don't feel the pressure." (Which, by the way, is why you DON'T TRY TO DO SOMETHING FAST.)

That is apparently it, from MEET THE PRESS, so I am going to shut it down and proceed with the rest of my day. I hope that spring is finally breaking where you live, and that it lasts a bit longer than the 20 days we get in Washington before the wet, stank mop of permanent humidity drops over the area and makes life terrible. UGH BLEAH THE SUMMER IS GROSS, SORRY. Anyway, have a wonderful week, and we'll get together next Sunday!

[More liveblog is on the way. While you are waiting, please enjoy some of the stories I've stacked up on my Rebel Mouse page!]