TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning to one and all and welcome again to your quickly-typed liveblog of the facepalms and sighs that result from watching the flickering images of the Sunday morning political prattle programs. My name is Jason. Today, I suppose will be a grab bag assortment of things everyone in the world is worrying about, and a barometer, perhaps, as to how soon we'll be perma-entangled in Syria. Also, for one of the last times, I guess, we'll be recapping Chris Matthews eponymous show -- it will soon be cancelled, and with it goes the every-three-weeks break I take when I only recap 2.5 hours of nonsense instead of 3. I shall miss the sweet, occasional relief. Now it will be just me and the Big Four until I die, unless I want to mix in the CNN shows, in which case I'll likely die sooner. I know there are big goings on today on CNN's Reliable Sources, but voluntarily watching that show triggers one of the "Do Not Resuscitate" clauses in my living will. (As it stands, I am really pushing it with Meet The Press.)

Anyway, you know the drill and if you don't here it is: feel free to converse in the comments to your heart's content, drop me a line if you like, follow me on Twitter if you need, and when you get bored waiting for more liveblog, go and get some of the week's best reads on my Rebel Mouse page. Or do none of these things, it's a free country. For you guys, I guess. Me, I've got to watch...


Benghazi, y'all. That's what we'll be talking about today, for giggles, with Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), who just lost the special election for the Massachusetts Senate so I guess he's got nothing better to do today. Then we'll talk about how soon we can get quagmired in Syria, for thrills, with Senator John McCain. Finally, Fox News Sunday will have a panel with the absolute dregs of their Sunday panl rolodex.

Also, Mike Tyson, for some reason? We will skip that.

First, though, BENGHARGLE! And whistleblowers! And then I guess, impeachment, and ice cream cones for everyone? Is everyone still super-excited we interceded in Libya?

Anyway, there's no way of knowing what the people who will testify in front of the oversight hearings will say until they are testifying in those hearings, but could Chaffetz please maybe speculate a little bit? Sure! He says that the coming testimony from the testifiers will be unique people with totally interesting things to say, and they have been totally "suppressed," with the exception of being invited to give testimony on Capitol Hill. At any rate, Chaffetz reckons that we'll find out that there were some military options, during the firefight at the Consulate in Benghazi, that probably should not have existed in the first place.

The other guy who is testifying oversees the Fest. Which sounds awesome, who doesn't love a fest? Except that's an acronym for Foreign Emergency Support Team.

Now they are talking about "potential witnesses out there that want to testify," Chaffetz thinks, he's pretty sure, probably.

Lynch says that thousands of people have been interviewed since the consulate was attacked and there's no finding of "breach of duty." Wallace wants to know why "nobody on the ground" has participated in a Congressional hearing, and Lynch introduces him to the concept of "Republican control of the House" which kind of dictates what hearings get held and with whom. "The Democrats have been kept out of this process...there's been no sharing of information," he says.

Things are getting sort of soap opera-ish, with some attorney complaining that she represents some State Department employee who's getting boxed out from testifying and the State Department saying, "Who? Can you introduce us?" But Chaffetz insists that the Obama administration has blocked people from testifying -- the key feature seems to be that certain people are walled off because their testimony is classified? That may or may not mean anything in a government that tends to overclassify things.

Maybe a lot of these people aren't so much State Department employees as they are "State Department employees?"

Lynch points out that these attorneys who are complaining about getting treated curtly by the State Department have not actually gotten around to formally requesting any information from the State Department. He goes on to say that some complainant is just mad he hasn't yet gotten a promotion of some kind? I'm not sure what's really going on here, but if you've a mind for the possibility that "Benghazi" might just be one big Coen Brothers movie of dumb bureaucrats, consider the possibility that this is a probability.

Chaffetz and Lynch both alternately complain that they've not gotten to see information that they believe they deserve to have seen. Chaffetz says that Democrats have and have not been down to the State Department to peruse information. He seems to mind the fact that he had to peruse information while a State Department "handler" was in the room with him. Lynch says that he HAS been to the State Department, and if baffled that Chaffetz is complaining that a "handler" was in the room with him.

"That's not right!" Chaffetz whines (and he is literally whining), so, you know, if you're ever up on Capitol Hill, stop by Chaffetz's office and just start cold rooting through his stuff, because that's cool with him.

Wallace says, "Go ahead Congressman," and each guy thinks he's referring to the other, and the brief moment where no one is talking is actually the most sensible thing I've heard so far. "Shutting up," is a real good look for everyone. Please just sit there in silence for ten minutes, all of you.

Nope, Lynch starts talking about State Department funding that the GOP members of the House didn't provide, and that is waaaaay off topic. Lynch, though, drives through Wallace's complaint, filibustering.

Ha, ha! Chaffetz responds, "Well, the CFO..." and Wallace cuts him off, complaining, "Please use real words!"

Lots of arguing!

WALLACE: Congressman Chaffetz, it turns out that every cable that goes from the State Department has Hillary Clinton's name. Hundreds of thousands of cables, millions of cables. The Washington Post looked into this and called the allegation by the House Republican chamber a whopper.

CHAFFETZ: I would hope that Steve Lynch would join me in calling for the release of this document. It's an unclassified document. Hillary Clinton claims to take full responsibility for this, and yet at the same time pleads ignorance. Four months --

LYNCH: Wait a minute. Can I get in here at some point? Could I, please? Look, these are the same allegations, Jason Chaffetz, and the Republican Chair's allegations that she signed off on a reduction in force at Benghazi. It got four pinocchios from The Washington Post. That's hard to do, even in Washington.

LOL, no it's not!

Now, Wallace wants the conch and asks if he can please talk, and now they are talking about the "talking points" that were released right after the attack. The only important lesson to learn Susan Rice's talking points, and her Sunday morning interviews on shows like this one, is that never again will an administration official come on a Sunday morning program to talk about an incident like an overseas attack. That's smart! Somehow, everyone forgot that these sorts of investigations can take a long time, and creating the expectation that the first set of impressions about what happened were worth broadcasting on Sunday morning was a bad idea.

No one should ever talk about something important on these shows. In the future, hopefully we'll see fewer attempts at that.

Lynch blargle-gargles some more, and we're done.

Okay, John McCain will now talk about who he wants to invade for about fifteen minutes. McCain says that the Syrians and the Iranians have crossed a "red line" with Israel, hence the Israeli military strikes inside Syria. "The whole thing is escalating," he says, and the "red line the President had written was apparently written in disappearing ink."

McCain says that you should "never point a weapon at someone if you don't want to pull the trigger," and that Obama should have "never drawn the red line in the first place." Totally agree! But as the whole talk of "red lines" and the finger wagging over them SPECIFICALLY CALLS TO MIND A ROMPER ROOM FULL OF TINY CHILDREN, I would like to introduce some other foreign policy concepts, pitched at the same age group and level of educational attainment -- "Backsies," and "Psych!" The American people are pretty decidedly "DO NOT WANT" when it comes to a war in Syria, so why not.

The good news is that there was no red line with John McCain, who says that everything that the Assad regime has done should have simply necessitated heavy U.S. involvement from the get go.

McCain still wants us to "supply weapons to the right people" (the "rebels" in Syria include many, many people who want to murder Americans) and do that without "putting boots on the ground." So, hopefully, those will be some pretty magical weapons, that find their way into the hands of the "right people" while we are nowhere near to oversee it.

Wallace points out that the Obama administration is mulling arming the rebels anyway, so I guess al Qaeda can look forward to some cool new toys. McCain isn't satisfied with that, he wants us to bomb Syria with cruise missiles and enforce a "no fly zone." In recent years, establishing a "no fly zone" has never led to boots on the ground except for all the times it has.

Is McCain still Benghargling about Benghazi? Sort of! He is obviously chafed at the fact that the Obama election year message was "We decimated al Qaeda" and that is obviously not true. Good point! But McCain shifts seamlessly to complaining about the fact that Susan Rice's first set of talking points didn't have all the magic answers the first Sunday after a very confusing firefight, and the chance for a potent critique of the administration's terrorism policy is lost.

Now they are talking about the Boston bombing -- and I'm really distracted by the fact that I keep hearing clanking silverware and dishes, for some reason? Did they move the Fox News Studio down to some brunch spot?

Wallace says that the administration keeps "talking about the Boston bombers as two brothers working alone," and wants to know why he's doing that? I would say, "Because the evidence on hand suggests that this is accurate," but McCain is all, "I don't know, I'm so disappointed and Benghazi, blah."

McCain still supports the closure of GITMO but complains that there has been "no coherent plan presented to Congress." The reason that no coherent plan has been presented to Congress is because Congress' preconditions, as stated by people like Harry Reid (you may not release the detainees, you also may not bring GITMO detainees to a prison in the United States), preclude the possibility of coherence. I suppose that Obama could build a cloud-fortress, and surround it with Gryphons.

Fox News Sunday's panel today is an all-developmental league affair, with Nina Easton, Julie Pace, Jennifer Rubin, and the soulless husk that goes by the name "Evan Bayh."

Easton says that she either attended or watched the White House Correspondents Dinner, and tries to present some sort of argument about "presidential leadership" based on a cocktail party, which is actually how "political reporting" works, in America. She says that the whole argument that Obama's got "no juice" is overstated but still thinks it's remarkable that he could not get all the Democrats in the Senate to vote on background checks. She seems to have missed several points -- 1. Obama has no leverage over Red State Democrats who win in states where Obama loses, 2. Obama has no leverage over Red State Democrats who are not up for re-election until 2018, 3. despite this he still got Mary Landrieu's vote, 4. but then again maybe Landrieu was smart enough to not oppose something as popular as background checks, 5. since the vote, lots of Senators who voted against it have seen their poll numbers drop, 6. mostly Republicans, though, who Obama has even LESS leverage over, 7. also lots of people who cast surprising votes IN FAVOR of background checks have gone UP in the polls, 8. which is something that the punditocracy is completely stunned to see happen, 9. but I am not, and it sort of proves that 10. the voters have the best leverage over these legislators and Obama sort of set this whole thing up to work in this precise way and guess what? It did.

"It's so small bore," says Easton, a small bore, about the fact that no one is doing a Grand Bargain or lowering Apple's tax rates further than they already are.

Julie Pace says that she found the news conference Obama had to be "interesting" because normally the President has a specific reason for holding a news conference, but this time he didn't and it meant that the White House Press Corps had free reign to ask whatever they wanted, without a theme, and this is apparently "interesting," -- that Obama didn't just lead them by the nose.

Rubin has complaints about Obama's foreign policy and his domestic policy and thinks that he would have more "momentum" if he'd tried to do a "Grand Bargain," which is precisely what you don't do if you want "momentum." If you want to get permanently bogged down in the House of Representatives' psychosis, then that's what you do.

Bayh things that the most important things Obama will do in this term is appoint a Fed Chair or maybe a SCOTUS Justice. He wants a Grand Bargain, but he also notes that the deficits are sliding down very fast, which means he really just wants to gut entitlements...and lo, Bayh offers a short monologue in which he expresses his hopes that entitlements will be gutted.

More panel, and we're going to talk about the Plan B contraceptive, for some reason. Easton is pre-disposed to the idea that contraception should be in greater supply, with greater access -- saying that birth control should be deregulated more, though she understands why parents would prefer to be involved. She also seems to think that there is a greater stigma attached to being a young mother who gives up their child for adoption than there is attached to a young mother who gets an abortion. I do not think stigma should be attached to either group, but I strenuously doubt that Easton's contention is true.

If she thinks that's literally part of "the culture," then maybe she should come and join me in the culture in which I participate? Maybe Nina Easton's friends are just terrible human beings!

The conversation wends on, and as always, we sort of dance around the topic that one side of the debate actually sincerely wants to "punish" women for having pre-marital and/or non-procreative sex, but never says so. (And it's only women. No one ever questions the intelligence of keeping octogenarians in bonerjuice.)

Rubin is very upset that Obama, a pro-choice liberal, doesn't talk about the Kermit Gosnell case like a pro-life conservative. She seems to be honestly surprised by this.

Evan Bayh says that the Gosnell case is a murder case, and Rubin is really upset that he doesn't think other non-murderers are also murderers. Easton, in a moment that's probably too smart for Sunday morning television, points out that it's a murder case specifically enabled by poor oversight from the appropriate regulatory agencies. That's the sort of discussion for a more high-IQ Sunday affair like "Up With Steve Kornacki."

Okay, well, that's over. More coffee.

Okay, for one of the last times, I guess, we go to the Genius Bar of Sunday morning politics and talk to Chris Matthews and his panel of enthusiast pals about pundit-junk. Today, we are talking to Dan Rather and Katty Kay and Kathleen Parker and David Ignatius.

First, Syria! Damn, it's gettin' hectic, y'all. Matthews remembers how way back in the day before he had to start keeping promises, Obama talked a good game of never riding into a foreign entanglement without a lot of help from a "coalition" of other nations. But since then, he got mixed up with the wrong crowd -- the Red Line Drawing crowd -- and he's gotten hooked on "Red Lines" which is a gateway drug to "intractable quagmires."

Matthews notes that Obama's trying to walk the second back to the first point, and not move on a "Red Line" in Syria until the international community is all, "Oh, yeah, you should definitely do something about that." Meanwhile, I just wish someone would move on the Red Line of the DC Metro, because it has been messed up for years, yo. Years!

Rather says that he is obviously "being cautious" and that's good because "it is easy to get into" a war and hard to get out, and that "many of the people calling for military action don't have sons and grandsons" who will have to go off and die in those wars, which is true. Rather says that once you "put your toe into" Syria, the rest of the body is likely to follow.

Ignatius says that it looks like Obama has extracted a lesson from surging in Afghanistan, and that lesson is, "Man, these pointless quicksand quagmires of permanent costly hell really do nor seem to redound to our benefit, do they?" and so that might just be fueling his reticence in Syria. Ignatius says that Assad as doing some bad things that are "probably hard for a President to watch," and it's took bad that Assad could just go back to being the reprehensible man who did bad things that were easier to watch.

That said, there is apparently an emerging figure in the rebel alliance that appears to be trustworthy that Ignatius totally knows, and says "talks sense" and is a really cool guy so maybe he'll set up a playdate?

Kay says that the Obama administration "shows very little desire to get into this," where this is a Syria that suddenly everyone else is getting waist deep in.

Matthews is sort of wondering about the President's "juice." And Parker says that it's an open question as to whether Obama understands the "power of the presidency." The "power of the presidency," being a mythical concept, consistently overrated by pundits. WHY HASN'T OBAMA CHANGED ERIC CANTOR INTO A HIPPY WITH HIS MIND RAYS. Parker thinks, of course, that Obama can get all kinds of agenda items through Congress by taking John Boehner and Mitch McConnell "out for a drink."

I am going to miss Chris Matthews' weekly venue for this sort of simpleminded stuff!

Ignatius says that "Obama needs to make people afraid" of him, if they don't vote his way. Matthews says, "Well, what's Obama's hammer?" Ignatius seems to think that his "hammer" is "going after Senators who voted against the bill and make them afraid," he'll be doing the right thing. But that's the fear that's vested in the American people. And so far, the American people are doling our rewards and punishments. Maybe the Senate could hold a second vote. Maybe the polling trend will continue. But what Ignatius is saying Obama has to do, is precisely what he's done. It's really not reasonable to complain.

Kay likens the White House's inability to explain the health care reform bill (which is a thing that IS proper to complain about) is the same as the inability to explain Manchin-Toomey to the American people. But she's wrong: Manchin and Toomey had the responsibility to explain the bill to the American people. Joe Manchin, to his credit, has taken responsibility for that. If the Obama White House had gone heavy on the explaining, it would have made it MUCH MUCH easier for the GOP to oppose it. Right now, the more Obama likes something, the more the GOP will oppose it. By staying out of that push on Manchin-Toomey, Obama kept the polarization minimized.

"You've got to get public opinion on your side," says Kay, about a bill that the 90% of the public supported, and which has manifested itself in a boon for the lawmakers who voted for background checks and a burden for those who didn't.

This is pretty amazing. The narrative of "Obama has no juice, man" is SO STRONG, that these panelists cannot let go of it, even as they discuss the fact that other people are paying the price for voting against Manchin-Toomey. It's totally remarkable. But it's not surprising -- they literally do not understand that presidential power has limits. So much so, that when we're observing a matter where the limited Presidential power is paying off as optimally as it could, we're not allowed to evaluate it in realistic terms. Instead, we're forced to listen to people who assume that more could have been done.


Parker laughs at the notion that the American people have political power. "If the American people are so great, why do we need a President?" Uhm...because that's sort of the way our representative democracy is supposed to work, Kathleen?

And now some reason, we are watching a clip from the upcoming film version, and the previous film version, of THE GREAT GATSBY. All it makes me want to do is stare at Carey Mulligan all day.


In a move that will reduce pregnancies by putting people off the mood to have sex, the panel will now talk about the Plan B contraceptive.

The Plan B contraceptive, Matthews mansplains, "is a way for someone pharmacologically, to have birth control after the fact." "The fact," refers to "having sex." People are sort of flummoxed by the fact that there exists a pill you can take to prevent pregnancy after the sex-having, because isn't the only thing that's supposed to follow from the sex-having is the shame?

Kay says that it's slightly odd that we have reality teevee shows about pregnant teens, and that's because reality teevee producers are just awful human beings. She goes on to note that American has high rates of child abuse, and that there is a "direct link" between child abuse and teen pregnancies. "Whatever we can do to limit teen pregnancies," she says, we should do. The implication being that we should have a strong welfare state that limits people from sliding into total destitution and alienation from all means of institutional support.

Parker says that "we wouldn't let a teenager take an apsirin in school but we'll give them access to Plan B, etc. etc.," and I guess it hasn't occurred to her that maybe they should have access to both?

Rather says that it's a tough issue, but he says that from a parent's perspective, the choice is "do you want your daughter to come home pregnant or do you want her to come home having prevented a pregnancy without you permission." Parker says, "I find that appalling." Don't have teenage daughters, then, Kathleen, and you're all set.

Matthews, surprisingly passing the low bar for empathy you sort of need here, says that it's probably hard for a teenager to come home and say, "Mom I had sex I am fourteen I'm pregnant but can I go buy this pill." Uhm, well...nice try there anyway. The kid probably WOULD NOT say, "Mom, I'm fourteen," unless the mother had a severe memory problem. Also, "Mom, I'm pregnant, can I go buy the Plan B pill," would hopefully draw the response, "Why didn't you ask me this several weeks ago, before you got pregnant?"

Nice try, though Chris. Good effort.

David Ignatius says that the pills should be over-the-counter and widely available, but he wishes that the pills "came in a wrapper" that said, "talk to your parents," but the government cannot "mandate child-parent interactions."

Things that Chris Matthews doesn't know include: colleges and universities are obscenely overpaying their presidents and those salaries are driving predatory lending in the student loan arena (Dan Rather, always bringing a topic that's more worthy of discussion than the ones I get stuck having to watch); Democrats think that they might have a market on candidates who bring compromise (Kay); Benghazi hearings start on Wednesday (Parker). There is a colloquy. The important takeaway is that coming testimony will apparently contradict the "official line" on Benghazi, but Parker cannot stipulate how, because she doesn't know, and neither will anyone else until Wednesday.

Finally, Ignatius says that the scariest part of Syria is that hundreds of jihadists have flowed into Syria to fight for al Qaeda and so Syria is becoming as bad as the tribal areas of Pakistan.

There is a long pause.

"So...worry about that," Ignatius says.


The jobs report was good. If there are more good jobs reports, will the Democrats have "bragging rights in 2016 and therefore be the favorite?" Rather says "if things continue on the current trend line" then yes. Kay agrees. Parker agrees. Ignatius agrees.

That was a dumb question. Better questions are "Why do you think jobs reports that barely keep up with the monthly entrants into the labor force are 'good?'" or "What makes you think that the trend of good jobs reports will continue, because I hear that we might go to war with Syria?"


Today will be an OMG TEH TERRORISM yelling session with Rudy Giuliani and Tom Cotton and Jane Harman and Pat Leahy. Then I will be subjected to a panel with both Newt Gingrich AND Harold Ford on it. So, I could die before the end of this show, I'm pretty sure. Would not surprise me at all.

First, Andrea Mitchell is here for some reporting.

DAVID GREGORY: I mean here you have the president, who's issued a red line to Syria, saying if they move or use chemical weapons, it would change his calculus about some kind of intervention. Now the Israelis have struck. What does it mean?

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well first of all, it means many people within the White House believe that the president was mistaken in issuing that red line. But now the Israelis have taken this over. They've taken this on. And this actually takes the heat off of the president. The administration is clearly supporting this.
Coordinating, perhaps, intelligence from the U.S.. Certainly a green light. No caution light here at all. And second of all, the Arab leaders are likely to be supportive, as well. We know that the Assad regime's only partners now are basically Russia and Iran. This comes just as Secretary Kerry is going to Moscow to meet with Putin. This does complicate his mission to try to get Russia to somehow soften its continuing support for Assad.

MEET THE PRESS IS THE WORST IN ONE SENTENCE FRAGMENT, FROM DAVID GREGORY: "The conversation I was having last night on Twitter in preparation for the program this morning..."

Leahy says that the Obama White House is getting closer to "providing lethal aid" to the Syrian rebels. Hopefully the ones that aren't also trying to kill us as well! Cotton would also like to see the right rebels get the right weapons, and he's wee bit indignant that we didn't get more deeply involved in the Syrian quagmire sooner. Harman says that "the U.S. doesn't want boots on the ground...and I don't think we'll have boots on the ground," but she also would have gotten into the mess sooner. Cotton also seems to think that this time -- THIS TIME! -- we can totally get involved in a foreign entanglement without putting any Americans in Syria. We figured it out! Don't worry! Stop worrying!

Giuliani is here because we're all remembering how awesome the 1990s were, with listicles. Anyway, he thinks that we need to "get a lot more pro-active" becomes "things are heating up," and other cliches.

Leahy says that we should totally look at Benghazi but we should look at our security at other embassies and consulates. (Even the ones not crawling with clandestine operators?) Cotton says that the "CIA was aware" that the attack was more than Susan Rice was saying it was, and I'm wondering why he can't see the big spoiler alert there.

Are we any safer? Jane Harman says, "yes and no." We have "decimated al Qaeda" but there is still "lesser affiliated groups" and "homegrown terrorists" and they only need to be lucky once where we need to be lucky all the time, and so we need a "new narrative," and that narrative, per Harman will NOT FOOL ANYONE. It involves two elements:

1. Moving the system of permanent indefinite detention without trial to some other place besides GITMO, because its "symbolism" to terrorists is totally related to geography.

2. Say, like, some totally nice stuff about why drone-attacks in other nations is, like, super okay, y'all!

What does Rudy Giuliani think about the investigation into the Boston bombing? I really don't see a compelling reason to record his opinion on the matter. At one point, he basically concedes that he's been out of the loop on the whole "homegrown terror" front, anyway.

He's really mad at the Tsarnaevs' roommates for sitting around and jacking it for three hours while the Tsarnaevs got around to murdering a police officer, and we're all pretty pissed off at those three wads for that, so I guess it's nice for Rudy to join us.

Cotton says that "Well, we don't know if Tamerlan Tsarnaev was purely homegrown or if he was affiliated with al-Qaeda operatives in his return to Dagestan, a place from which he had sought refugee status with his family," but for some reason he keeps talking. Eventually, he gets totally indignant that we're prosecuting terrorists these days in the super-effective justice system instead of using the GITMO morass. Cotton especially thinks that Osama bin Laden's son-in-law should have handled this way.

Harman gives Cotton the side-eye, and Leahy makes the obvious point: "It is a shibboleth to suggest that sending him to Guantanamo would help. He was given his Miranda warning, and as the public accounts have been, he wouldn't shut up. He kept on, kept on, kept on. He has given an enormous amount of intelligence.
We've had a tiny handful, four, five, six, military commission successful prosecutions. We've had hundreds in our courts. What are we afraid of? What are we afraid of? The law enforcement did a superb job in Boston. These people are before courts. Mayor Giuliani and I are both prosecutors. We would love to prosecute this case."

What are the lessons from the Boston bombings? Harman wants more of us under constant survelliance -- London CCTV style. Also, we need to "build trust" with communities. She does not appear to understand the inherent contradiction.

Should we do ethnic profiling? Giuliani says that you follow evidence, first and foremost: "I mean this whole idea of profiling, profiling is perfectly legal and perfectly legitimate if you're following leads, if you're following objective evidence. Somebody tells you that the person who committed the crime is 6'4" and he's white, you don't go look for a 5'4", you know, Asian. So the reality is profiling is perfectly appropriate if it relates to objective facts, and not to some attempt to just smear someone."

Cotton offers up a variation on "They hate us for out freedom."

On immigration, Leahy says, "I hope it [passes]," and "I think it can." He says the Gang of Eight has done great work, and "deserve an enormous amount of credit."

Okay, time for a panel discussion with Gingrich and Ford, along with Rich Lowry and Joy-Ann Reid.

Gingrich says that Obama is not doing well on fighting the war on terror. "On the F.B.I. Most Wanted list for terrorism, 30 of the 31 are Islamists. Yet, the coverage the first few days after Boston was, "Gee, I wonder what motivated these two Chechens." Now, we still refuse to come to grips with how serious and how long-term this problem is going to be. I think it could be a 50 to 70 year problem."

Reid points out that we actually have a lot of "bad people doing awful things" that have nothing to do with al Qaeda-style religious death cults.

"I don't think anybody in the country wants to go back to the Bush era when what we were doing was domestic wiretapping, when what we were doing was demonizing and attempting to target entire groups of people based on religion, because, again, people who are not Muslim also commit horrible random acts, not all with bombs, some with guns," Reid says, sort of forgetting that we have gone back to the Bush era with the wire-tapping.

Lowry points out: "I just have to stand up for President Bush. He went out there after 9-11 and said, 'Look, Islam is a religion of peace. We're not going to target Muslims. This is a generous country.' And that proved to be true.
And also, I mean President Obama's picked up most of Bush's terror policies, anti-terror policies. Happy to slam them and slander them, I would argue, as a candidate. But he's picked up most of them as president."

It should be pointed out that Bush really does deserve credit for standing up and tamping down a lot of the hate that might have come at Muslim-Americans in greater numbers, immediately after 9-11. That said, Reid is right that you kind of wash away what good that gets you by waterboarding people.

Ford gets the whole "Leadership Surrealism" question. Ford says that Obama's not a "lame duck" but Obama's got to "channel his frustration" in a more positive way and "show more leadership" because that's what it will take to convince the Republican party that their so-far wildly successful campaign of just saying no to the White House without any consequences is a bad idea. Ford then somehow tangles this mess up into a foreign policy argument, only more nonsensical.

Gingrich says that Obama's "greatest problem" is that there are a "lot of Democratic Senators up for re-election in states that Mitt Romney won." I'd note that where Obama is catching a break, it's not being led by his bully pulpit magicks -- it's being led by simple public support for popular items. The Senators that are seeing their numbers fluctuate in the polls, after their votes on Manchin-Toomey -- that's happening because the American people have will to exert, not because the President does. The President promised nothing more than "a vote." Since then, the American people have doled out the punishment.

Lowry is trying to be reasonable about this, actually: "If I can just stand up for the president a little bit, though, because he's been getting hammered this week for not having the interpersonal skills on The Hill and not being another LBJ. It's a lot easier to be another LBJ when you have 60-plus senators in a large House majority. And he just didn't have those. And everyone should have been aware there are limits to how much he'd accomplish in the second term because of that."

Reid concurs: "Well, I don't think that there's any objective fact that could really help the president with this particular Congress. I mean I think some people have described the current Republican Party as sort of post-policy. Because really, they're so fixated on opposing Barack Obama that I'm not sure that there's any objective set of facts that could change the calculus of how he's able to deal with them. I think what we have is a Republican Party that needs to decide that it has to actually govern, that just opposing Barack Obama's not enough."

That's a surprising amount of real-talk considering I'm watching MEET THE PRESS.

Newt Gingrich got a McWrap at a McDonalds in Baltimore. He says it's "very dangerous to suggest that the economy is healthy." He blames Obamacare for something that's been an ongoing problem with employers for a decade: "The number of people who are going to have their jobs reduced to 29 hours because that way their employer doesn't have to pay for their insurance, is going to be staggering." You are about nine years late to being staggered by this, Newtie!

Harold Ford does not agree with Wayne LaPierre, in case you were wondering.

Now Brendon Ayanbadejo is here, to talk about Jason Collins:

GREGORY: Why, in your judgment, was this a big deal? And is this just the start in sports, basketball, football, baseball, hockey?

BRENDON AYANBADEJO: Well, it's a big deal because, really, America's calling for it. You can still be fired in 30 states for being a part of the LGTB community. So for someone to step up and show that society is changing and society is calling for equality and people are going to go out there and express themselves, especially in one of the four major sports, which has never been done before, it's really a show of the changing of the tides and what's to come in the future.

GREGORY: You, I know, follow the Supreme Court arguments. You know about the political fight of this. And the other side of this, the other side of all the celebrations and the president calling him, to Mrs. Obama tweeting to others saying, "This is such an important step," is very real and sustained opposition to gay marriage in many parts of the country, in many states. So this may be a big moment. And yet, the political fight still goes on.

AYANBADEJO: Yeah. Well, you know, politically, we're still fighting to change a lot of things, to be accepted federally, and to gain marriage equality in the other 40 states. But socially, it's just a change of the times. And people have to realize that, even though it's your right to have religion and to-- really, you can't use that right of religion to take other people's rights away. Equality trumps all of them. And we protect and we believe in religion, but we just don't feel that religion should be calling out the LGTB community. So we just need to open up people's eyes and educate people a little bit more.

GREGORY: Brendon, you wrote this week very powerfully about the fact that lesbians have come out in pro sports, have not gotten this kind of attention. Why, do you think? Why is this so much different?

AYANBADEJO: I think it's just a little bit harder to break the lines in men's sport. People have this idea of what gayness is. And my good friend Esera Tuaolo is a 300-pound physical defensive lineman in football. And people think that gayness has something to do with femininity, when, really, we just need to erase that stereotype from our minds. Because LGTB people come in all different types and shapes and forms. So I think that's really what we're fighting. But the beautiful thing about what Brittney Griner did is that it barely made a splash. And that's what we're trying to do in men's sports when people announce that they're gay. We don't even want it to change the climate or anything in sports. We just want everybody to be accepted, and people can go out there and they can love who they want to love and be who they are, so they can not only be better people, but they can also be better athletes.

Will NFL players come out of the closet? Ayanbadejo says that allies to such athletes are working hard to change the environment.

Lowry says that the cultural attitudes are changing, but that the NBA's culture is "about the seventh or eighth grade level." Reid says that Obama's favor for gay rights altered support for the same within the black community. That sais, she astutely points out, "There is not blanket opposition to gay rights within the black community. There are prominent pastors, our colleague, Reverend Al Sharpton, has been one of the most outspoken. There are plenty of black clergy who actually are in support of LGBT rights."

Gingrich is unsure if a pro-marriage equality Republican can run for President, but first, what about the Catholics, and their rights?

GINGRICH: Catholics, Protestants, orthodox Jews, Mormons, frankly, Muslims, "You cannot practice your religion the way you believe it, and we will outlaw your institutions." And this, by the way--

GREGORY: Wait. Which prohibitions are you speaking of?

GINGRICH: Well, let's just start with adoption's impossible for the Catholic Church to have an adoption service in Massachusetts that follows Catholic doctrine.

JOY-ANN REID: But didn't the Catholic Church, particularly Catholic Charities in Boston, they affirmatively decided to withdraw adoption services. No one said they are not allowed to provide adoption services.

Gingrich does not see it that way. Reid points out that religious organizations do not make public policy. She's sort of pwning Rich Lowry on the subject now, but for some reason, Gregory wants to hear what Harold Ford thinks about Jason Collins. "Nothing interesting," is the answer to "What does Harold Ford think about Jason Collins?"

Brief discussion of the Gosnell matter and abortion. Lowry and Rubin got the same talking points today, "President Obama goes to Planned Parenthood, the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood, and doesn't mention the word abortion." Reid tried to gamely point out that Planned Parenthood does a lot of stuff. And she follows upon Gosnell, saying:

Gosnell is not something that should outrage liberals. This is something that should outrage anyone. You know, general abortion services are not performed. He is performing this in late, late term.
And I don't think that any rational or thinking human being of feeling human being thinks that that's okay, whether it's in the womb or out. This was also a case of impoverished women who were going to a place for supposed health care that shouldn't have even been open, that wasn't being inspected, where the laws in that state were not being followed. Where were the inspections to make sure that these services were even being provided in a sanitary facility? Just because these women had no money doesn't mean they didn't deserve to be protected.

David Gregory concludes by saying: "I said we'd talk about 2016 politics. We will, just not on television, because we're out of time." Thank God!

Okay, and with that, I will take my leave! Thanks as always, for stopping by today and reading and talking and maybe just napping. Everyone have a lovely week!

[The Sunday liveblog returns on May 12, while you wait, my Rebel Mouse page will be regularly updated with interesting things to read.]