Hello everyone and welcome back to another Sunday morning of quickly-typed recaps of political blathering shows. My name is Jason, and I'm really wondering why we haven't just gotten rid of "waking up on Sundays" as a concept altogether. Really, it should be just banned, from American life.
Which is another way of saying I got an inadequate amount of sleep last night. So who knows how today is going to go? I've already slept through Fox News Sunday, so hopefully you weren't in need of hearing about what grouse-like noises Brit Hume was making at the world today as he digested his breakfast of resentment. He should do what I did: sleep in and skip it altogether and then you won't feel so bad and your disposition will be a little bit cheerier. Sure, if you are me, you just have to turn around and watch...
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
Oh, hey, and the usual stuff applies! Thanks for waiting this long, I am very tired. I've no idea how this is going to go today! But feel free to hash things out in the comments, drop me a line if you need anything, follow me on Twitter if you are interested in the uninteresting things I have to say from time to time, and check out my Rebel Mouse page for some of this week's stories that I thought you'd enjoy reading.
Again, who invented typing on a Sunday morning? They are monsters.
Today on THIS WEEK there is breaking news about Edward Snowden getting himself a freshly-sealed indictment for espionage and the fact that he's left Hong Kong for...Iceland, I guess? Anyway, we'll talk to the guy who's been spying on all of us, General Keith Alexander, who is giving an exclusive interview...to George Stephanopoulos, of all people. This Alexander guy is either a dude who does not dream big or who is not up for a particularly difficult challenge. (Maybe he wants to check out that "Anchorman" exhibit at the Newseum, too.)
Plus there are a lot of panels, for your face, jibbering about whatever it was that happened this week in Washington. But first, here's the news: Edward Snowden is hopscotching his way from Hong Kong to Moscow to Venezuela, and it just underscores that I wish there was one really nice and non-sketchy place for whistleblowers could chill out and avoid extradition. Because right now the whole Moscow to Venezuela trip sounds like it's from the front of the "Let's Go: Be Miserable" travel guide.
Pierre Thomas is here to do some reporting on this. He says that the whole U.S. versus Snowden situation has been a "game of cat and mouse" and that the U.S. has "lost this round." Apparently, the United States had settled in for what looked like a very lengthy extradition process with Hong Kong, and was all, "Whatever, let's get on with it." But then Snowden "got the heck out of there."
Stephanopoulos wonders if maybe they can snatch Snowden while he is in Moscow and Pierre Thomas is like, "Pffft, no, dude." "Snowden appears to be bound for countries that often have a combative relationship with the U.S.," he says. He says that people from WikiLeaks are traveling with Snowden as he makes his way to wherever he ends up. Thomas says, "At some point officials will have to resolve whether WikiLeaks is a journalistic entity or an enemy of the state." "Journalists" are not supposed to cause trouble for people in power, you see. Ball-lessness is part of the job description, ideally.
Anyway, General Keith Alexander has arrived for his massage, so let's get to that presently.
Stephanopoulos wants to know how it came to pass that Snowden was allowed to leave Hawaii "with his secrets." The hell? Does Stephanopoulos think Hawaii is the enchanted island from LOST or something? I am guessing that he got on a "plane" with a "flash drive" or something and "flew" in the "air" to Hong Kong, "landing" at this place called an "airport."
Alexander says that he doesn't know how Snowden left Hawaii (pretty sure I just explained that) but that Snowden is "clearly an individual who's betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him" and "not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent." Alexander should know from nobility because he pages through the metadata of our most noble citizens on the regular.
Anyway, Alexander just wants to defend you, America. Hold you close to his bosom. Listen to your heartbeat. Collect metadata on that heartbeat. Because 9/11. NINE-ELEVEN, you jerks. A bad thing happened that one time and so now we need metadata. So that the next time a bad thing happens, the national security state can shrug and say, "Bummer, dude. Don't blame us, though. We were collecting all that metadata. If we couldn't have stopped the bad thing from happening, no one could have. I suppose we could put CCTV cameras on every street, though."
Anyway, one of the things I love about these controversies is that when the Snowden news broke, everyone acted as if it wasn't at all significant. "OH, this is BORING and no big deal, you already knew that the NSA was doing this, didn't you? Oh, you didn't? Ha, ha, well, look at you! You DO know there isn't a Santa Claus, right? Oh, how adorably naive and wonderful you are."
Now the story is "Snowden has revealed has caused irreversible and significant damage to our country and to our allies." I thought that this was all no big deal, stuff we knew, etc.
Alexander says that they stopped 50 terrorist plots that obviously couldn't have been stopped with traditional policework or in abeyance with more traditional constitutional standards because terrorists are all magical geniuses from the Romulan Empire.
Alexander says he has a "quote" that proves everything is a-okay though!
ALEXANDER: This is a report issued by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2012 in support of the reauthorization of the 2008 amendments to FISA, and I quote, "Through four years of oversight, the committee has not identified a single case in which a government official engaged in willful effort to circumvent or violate the law."
"What that means specifically," he says, "is we take protecting our civil liberties and privacy as one of our key foundational values." Of course, that is what that means everyone knows that ultimately, the truths about the universe are contained within reports issued by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Okay, well, I trust them, then.
Stephanopoulos wants to "ask more about that," but he really just wants to make sure poor General Alexander is gonna be okay, with all his problems, and can we get him a hug or a mug of hot cocoa or something: "There are about 3.5 million private contractors who's classed as top secret classification; about a million with government clearances. How can you prevent this from happening again?" Seriously, are you okay, General Alexander? Alexander is all, "I feel so betrayed. But we will work harder on spying on out sysadmins in the future."
Stephanopoulos asks Alexander if the NSA is spying on the Chinese, because I'm quite sure that Alexander is going to now shake his fists at the sky and say, "Darn it! You got me, George, with that clever question, and now I guess I have to tell you everything." Alexander gives the non-denial denial: "I'm confident that we're following the laws that our country has in doing what we do. We have a set of laws that guide how NSA acts; we follow those laws. We have tremendous oversight by all three portions of the government: the courts, Congress and the administration."
The oversight is just so tremendous.
Alexander says he has "no opinion on WikiLeaks" and that he "doesn't really track them" and that he "doesn't really know who WikiLeaks are, other than this Assange person."
If Alexander is telling the truth, then he's a witless incompetent. Luckily, I think he's just a liar.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- you just said that, as you testified to Congress this week, that the government programs have helped prevent 50 terrorists' attacks.
Senators Wyden and Udall from the Intelligence Committee responded to that assertion this week. They acknowledged that the PRISM program had been quite effective. But they went on to say this:
"However it appears that the bulk phone records collection program under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act played little or no role in most of these disruptions, in fact, we have yet to see any evidence that the bulk phone records collection program has provided any otherwise unobtainable intelligence."
Can you provide that evidence?
ALEXANDER: Yes, and I think we did.
Okay, I guess that's settled!
Alexander goes on to say about a paragraph of gobbledygook that, to his estimation, allowed "us to form some dots" and also "connect the dots" and "we can argue about what dot is most important" but we need to "connect the dots" because 9/11, and remember that we're actually using very small sets of the much larger set that we are already connecting and also Zazi, and we are FORMING THE DOTS, DON'T YOU WANT US TO FORM THE DOTS AMERICA.
It was somewhat unsummarizable.
Stephanopoulos asks a different set of questions. "You are asking a different set of questions," Alexander says. He goes on to promise that in order to listen in on your calls, they have to have probable cause, and they have oversight from lots of people -- an administration that needs it's ass covered, and even a few select people in Congress who don't get to talk about these programs with other people.
The conversation turns to cyberwarfare, and it would be, eventually, pretty awesome of all war were conducted on Instagram or something, and we could just be left the hell out of it altogether. Anyway, Stephanopoulos wants to know the conditions and circumstances that would authorize Alexander to launch a pre-emptive cyberwar attack on the internets. He says that "what he can do right now" is "launch offensive measures to stop somebody from getting into the networks."
"Anything that I want to do outside the networks that is offensive in nature, we would have to call the secretary and the president to get their approval," he says.
And when those programs work and bring glory to the nation, THEN somebody can leak that stuff to the newspapers. That's allowed.
Are we losing the cyberwar to China? Alexander doesn't say specifically, other than to remark that "the theft of intellectual property by China and others" is "the most significant transfer of wealth in history."
"'Who's taking our information?' is one of the things I believe the American people would expect me to know," says Alexander, who apparently does not actually know. But MOAR METADATA PLEASE.
Now Richard Haass and Martha Raddatz and Dan Senor are here, to talk about this, and basically rub their bodies against the surveillance state like kittens. Haass is really mad at China for some reason, the fact that Snowden wasn't captured or something. He is really mad. Raddatz is like, WHATEVS, what was China supposed to do, exactly, chill. Senor says this all "strengthens the center" on the surveillance state, by which he means that critics and fans of oversight have lost, again, to War On Terror, Incorporated.
Haass says that Snowden is not a whistleblower and that he's endangered the lives of Americans by disclosing all those things that were totally a nonstory and way way boring who cares, last week.
Raddatz has some stuff on Syria: "For some time the CIA has been training the rebels in heavy weapons." So, remember, anyone who promises no "boots on the ground" in Syria is either lying or not up to speed with current events. Boots on grouns in Syria? Check. Paving the way for al Qaeda to receive some shiny new cutting edge weapons training? Check.
Senor says that it's not too late to get involved in the exciting quagmire opportunity in Syria, and that's too bad because I was sort of hoping to be one of those guys who are all: "We really messed up when we didn't get in on the ground floor of this hole into which we can throw billions of dollars and American blood." Senor is hoping that we do some bombing too, because you gotta bomb SOMETHING.
Haass doesn't want to go as far as bombing, and is totally content to just arm anti-American militants, for kicks. He says that U.S. foreign policy shouldn't be strictly defined by Syria.
This is precisely what a non-serious foreign policy discussion sounds like, up until Raddatz says, "I still want to know what comes next." Haass says, "Years and years of prolonged fighting in Syria."
George Stephanopoulos notes that Obama seems unwilling to make a big public commitment to intervening in Syria, and Raddatz says that once he's got a toe in, he's in all the way. I'm a little surprised that no one seems to realize that one reason he's not willing to intervene is because the Libyan intervention led to a handful of Americans dying, and that handful of deaths caused the entire city and the political system to freak out, in fourth-dimensional fashion, over the matter. As Syria will be more difficult that Libya, I think part of the calculus here is that Obama realizes that we a literally not mature enough to handle the prospect of intervening in Syria and things not going super-gooey-gossamer perfect.
The people at ABC News have apparently not figured out that it's impossible to take a foreign policy panel seriously when it's immediately followed by a clip from Jimmy Fallon's teevee show.
Anyway, it's just dimwit parade from here on out, it seems. We are joined by a roundtabling group of mummers, including Representative Mike Kelly (R-Penn), Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), Amity Shlaes, Steve Rattner, and Rebecca Jarvis. Not a crowd I'm likely to pause the TiVo for.
Immigration is deemed the shiniest metal ball. Castro says that the Senate's bill has to pass the Senate with "strong momentum" and that the House is not likely to do anything original with the bill, because they are totally dysfunctional and terrible. For whatever reason, Castro is "optimistic." He is new in town.
Kelly says that Washington is bad at doing "big things" because it's filled with nimrods like Representative Mike Kelly, aspiring to nothing and wanted even less of himself, so he wants to do a "piecemeal" version of immigration reform that will definitely enshrine Congress' personal motto of "activity before achievement always."
Kelly and Castro seem to disagree about whether there is adequate border security.
Jarvis reports that the good news with the Senate bill is that there is significant deficit reduction projected, as well as some healthy growth. If opponents of immigration reform got something out of the CBO report, however, it's "a minor downtick in wages" with a minor uptick in unemployment.
Shlaes and Rattner seem positively inclined toward the bill.
There is some brief discussion of the "Hastert Rule," and basically breaking the rule is going to have to be a precondition to John Boehner accomplishing anything.
There is some brief discussion of Ben Bernanke. Jarvis notes that the news for normal Americans was pretty good, but Wall Street hated the latest round of Bernankiana: "The irony, that Wall Street has become dependent on the Federal Reserve and its economic stimulus program. They've been pumping $85 billion into the markets, the overall economy, for more than four years now on a month-to-month basis. And those trillions of dollars, some on Wall Street are calling them a Hotel California, because you can check out, but you can't necessarily leave. You could never leave."
Rattner thinks that Bernanke "saved the economy." Shlaes likes Calvin Coolidge, because she just wrote a book about Coolidge. Castro says that Wall Street is still doing really well. Kelly seems to not understand why the middle class has lost economic ground over the past fw decades. Perhaps he can do some piecemean legislating to fix it, incrementally.
We move to a discussion of discussions of climate change. Are we even allowed to talk about this? Not with Congress. Obama will put out some executive orders to to some piecemeal things about climate change. Rattner says that there is a "package" coming. And that package is basically: Light greenhouse gas regulations combined with Keystone XL tar sands forever. (Tens of jobs will be added, through this package.)
Mike Kelly must train for his teevee appearances with flash cards.
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
In my ongoing tribute to both the last days of the Chris Matthews Show and my own laziness, we continue our "Sort Of Summer Of The Chris Matthews Show: A Sunday Show That Had The Guts To Be Just A Half-Hour Long."
Oooh, today is a clip show, which means I have probably made a terrible mistake, TiVoing this, and that this probably won't be teribly interesting. Nevertheless, let's press on, if only to find out who are the "Eleven most fascinating people that have ever been talked about on this teevee show" and the "History of stuff Chris Matthews doesn't know."
Is this thing even formatted? I honestly don't know. I guess the first person we are talking about is President George W. Bush. Remember, this show has only been on for eleven years. We flash back to 2002, and we are about to do the stupid War In Iraq. Here is David Brooks, lamenting the fact that not all Americans are excited about the stupid war in Iraq and how Bush was right to "give Saddam the test of disarming," which he "failed," and then we found cache upon cache of Infinity Gauntlets.
So the most fascinating people in America are the many Americans who thought invading Iraq was a great idea! They should all get talk shows. Instead we have more clips of Chris Matthews and Joe Klein wishing that more people had the guts to invade Iraq.
I don't understand this as a clip show. So far, in retrospect, it looks like Matthews historically booked a lot of insanely stupid people.
Klein says, "The humanitarian case for the War in Iraq turns out to have been a stronger case than the strategic case." Katty Kay says, "the welcoming Iraqi faces are going to last a long time." At least until those welcoming faces are sending their best regards via IEDs.
I am laughing so hard, at this show, and its rich history of not being even remotely serious.
There are some very stupid comedy bits, that Chris Matthews really wants people to see, and remember this show by.
Okay, moving on to the next Fascinating Person We Talked About, and it is John Kerry. Were we just not particularly fascinating this past decade?
Anyway, Norah O'Donnell finds it fascinating that John Kerry had a hard time distinguishing his position on the Iraq War, eventually settling for "this war is terrible but I can manage it slightly better." Matthews says that beyond Kerry's positions on the seriously stupid war that he and his dumb guests were shaking their pom-pons for in the last segment, the most interesting thing about Kerry was...uhm...Bill and Hillary Clinton? Okay!
Did the Clintons even want Kerry to win? Some said yes. Some said no. Katty Kay was pretty sure that all Bill wanted is for Hillary to be President. Joe Klein admonished her for being cynical. Kerry lost, and the war in Iraq got worse, but yeah, I can totally see why you would want to take that idiotic snippet of conversation and hold it up as the best and most fascinating work you've done in the past decade.
Okay, so the third and fourth fascinating people are Dick Cheeeeeneeeeee, and Condi Rice. Brooks returns, muttering something that doesn't make sense, but it's not his fault, because whoever edited this package didn't helpfully include the context of Brooks' answer, and so it comes across as random. Even more random than he usually is.
Dan Rather says that "when the big cards are on the table" in the Bush White House, basically, Dick Cheney is the guy in charge, with maybe Rice following behind. The group discusses this further. Andrea Mitchell notes that Rice is closer to Bush, as pals. But she still maybe falls behind against Cheney and Rumsfeld's nuclear-powered mansplaining. Brooks feels like she gained in confidence, during the course of the Bush administration. Why on earth she'd gain in confidence as time went on is a very strage concept.
Andrew Sullivan doesn't like torture. He doesn't like waterboarding. He is willing to endure the patrician mutterings of David Ignatius. I can't cope with those for more than five minutes before I'm ready to hand over state secrets.
Chris Matthews says that he "admires Andrew Sullivan's passion." On torture, Matthews also apparently admired the way a lot of other people equivocated about America's slide into a giant moral sewer.
For whatever reason, there is now a clip from "Fatal Attraction." Howard Fineman says, "I don't think Dick Cheney is going to boil the rabbit." I will have to ask Howard exactly what the hell was going on there.
Am I missing something or are we two thirds our way through the show and we've only talked about four of these eleven fascinating people? And that one of them was John Kerry?
Okay, so I guess Bill Clinton -- whose period of being "fascinating" occurred many years before this show went on the air, and Hillary Clinton, are Five and Six on the Eleven Most Shiny People I Remember From Politics list. Matthews is especially fixated on the epic gender-bending adventure that would have been Bill Clinton as the "First Gentleman" of a Hillary Clinton administration. Because it's the President that usually has a penis! [SOUND OF LAUGH TRACK]
Anyway, in 2006, most of the people on the Chris Matthews show were starting to understand that Hillary Clinton's 2008 bid wasn't simply inevitable. Howard suggested that Clintoniana had Hillary wrapped up in this sort of dizzying ether of political celebrity, and she needed to be more humanizing. (He also noted that an America run by a "double-helix" of Bushes and Clintons would be boring. He had to explain to Chris what a "double-helix" was.)
Brooks said that "a large chunk of the American electorate" was "white working class woman" and that they'd totally deliver the election to her in 2008, you just watch!
Norah O'Donnell thought, actually, that Clinton was close to peaking, and that other members of the Democratic field might end up carrying the day. Well done, Norah O'Donnell.
Okay, so there are still five people left to discuss, right?
We are still talking about Hillary Clinton, and her support for the Iraq War. Elizabeth Bumiller, whose name is actually spelled Elisabeth, unless it isn't, though that Clinton's support for the Iraq War was unwavering, and Andrew Sullivan imagined her as a "warrior queen," which Joe Klein thought was funny, because "Ha, ha, Iraq War."
Sullivan reckoned, at the time, that Clinton needed to channel Golda Meir. Because that was the first female head of state he could think of. Kelly O'Donnell said that Hillary had plenty of time to change the conversation of her candidacy to something other than her support for the War In Iraq. And that's why Norah O'Donnell is the better O'Donnell.
Sullivan, at least, figured that an "anti-war candidate" would emerge to take on Hillary, and siphon off the votes of those who "loathed" the Iraq War. Klein said that the period of Hillary being an inevitable candidate had come to an end.
Now they are showing Bill Clinton playing the saxaphone, and admitting to smoking dope, and telling the youngs that he wore briefs instead of boxers, because that's the crazy, kooky Baby Boomer generation for you!
Matthews shows, in brief succession, a jokey clip from FAHRENHEIT 9/11, and then he smash cuts to some news clip of George W. Bush trying to swallow some enchiladas or something, while having a conversation, and all you can hear is, "Fhaa shnnn llvvee, eoeeowss. MMMMMHhhhhhgggmnnghhh craaawhhh."
"This reel is a reel from hell," says Matthews. This is a pretty good way of summing up eleven years of the Chris Matthews Show, to be honest with you.
Oh, this is a two parter? Well, I'm actually out of town next week so I guess I'm going to miss it. Who are the remaining five people of Fascination? I'll guess Obama, and then four Saturday Night Live cast members.
MEET THE PRESS
Okay, so David Gregory and his salon pals are going to try to come to grips with the Snowden story, and there will be a bunch of panels. One panel will feature Dick Durbin and Tom Coburn and Loretta Sanchez and Mike Rogers. These are the Congresscritters they could scrape together to pretend to talk cogently about immigration and surveillance. Then, there will be an even worse panel with Kasim Reed and Robert Gibbs and Mike Murphy and Chuck Todd and Carly Fiorina. I really don't know what to tell a teevee show that books Carly Fiorina on a show to talk about politics. It is the textbook definition of "doing it wrong."
Anyway, I am putting the TiVo remote in the other room and we will get through this as quickly as possible.
Snowden is on the move, and Hong Kong apparently LOLed at the United States' extradition request, so it's great to know that the government that's decided to charge Snowden with espionage is so bloody competent in all of its dealings.
First Glenn Greenwald is here, to talk about this. Greenwald says that Snowden's calculus revolves around the need to stay out of "the clutches of the U.S. government because of the record of the Obama administration on people who disclose wrongdoing," and that he is "headed to a democratic country that will grant him asylum" -- a description the conventionally excludes Venezuela, because Venezuela is not terribly "democratic."
Can Greenwald "bolster his claim" that Snowden is a whistleblower and not a spy? Sort of?
GREENWALD: Sure. I think the key definition of "whistleblower" is somebody who brings to light what political officials do in the dark that is either deceitful or illegal. And in this case, there's a New York Times article just this morning that describes that one of the revelations that he enabled, that we reported, is that the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, went before the U.S. Congress and lied outright when asked whether or not the N.S.A. is collecting any form of data on millions of Americans. His response, Director Clapper's response was, "No, sir."
As The New York Times said today, even Clapper has had to say that that statement was absolutely false. In the very first conversation I ever had with Mr. Snowden, he showed me the folder in which he had placed the documents and labeled it, "N.S.A. lying to Congress," that proved, as we reported, that the N.S.A. is bulk collecting the phone records of millions of Americans indiscriminately, exactly what Clapper denied to the Congress was being done.
As for illegality, The New York Times also said today that the bulk spying program exceeds The Patriot Act. And there's a FISA Court opinion that says that the U.S. government, that the N.S.A., engaged in unconstitutional and illegal spying on American citizens. That court opinion is secret, but he showed me documents discussing internally in the N.S.A. what that court ruling is. And that should absolutely be public.
Gregory and Greenwald fall out over the FISA courts and whether they are proceeding with reasonable checks and balances to preserve individual freedoms or not. Gregory says that he's been told that the FISA courts often push back on government requests for data, Greenwald scoffs at that, and says that the documents he possesses prove this is false. "There was an 80 page opinion from the FISA Court that said that what the N.S.A. is doing in spying on American citizens is a violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the bounds of the statute. And it specifically said that they are collecting bulk transmissions, multiple conversations, from millions of Americans, not just people that are believed to be involved in terrorist organizations or working for a foreign agent, and that this is illegal. And the N.S.A. then planned to try and accommodate that ruling."
He continues: "But I think the real issue as journalists and as citizens is why should we have to guess? How can we have a democracy in which a secret court rules that what the government is doing in spying on us is a violation of the constitution and the law, and yet, we sit here and don't know what that ruling is, because it's all been concealed and all been secret? I think we need to have transparency and disclosure."
Greenwald won't say where Snowden is going. Of Venezuela, he says: "Venezuela has a democratically elected government, though it has lots of problems in its political system." Well, one of the "problems" it has in its "system" is the lack of "democracy," for which "democracy-like material" has been substituted. Also, these aren't "problems" in the system, they are "features."
Gregory asks why Greenwald shouldn't be charged with a crime. Uhm, because reporting on things is legal?
GREENWALD: I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I've aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced, being a co-conspirator in felonies, for working with sources.
If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information, is a criminal. And it's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why The New Yorker's Jane Mayer said, "Investigative reporting has come to a standstill," her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced.
In David Gregory's defense, I think it's been pretty firmly established that Gregory's understanding of what journalism is begins with how the word is pronounced and ends with how that word is spelled.
Pete Williams has a lot of information about extradition and Hong Kong and all of that is a bit useless right now, unless we are boning up for the next time a whistleblower goes to Hong Kong. Williams thinks that the government would probably restrict itself to pursuing Snowden through legal and diplomatic means and not try to pull off some weird, clandestine snatch and grab.
Greenwald and Gregory end things on a passive-aggressive argumentative note, but the salient part of Greenwald's debate point is, "There's been nothing that has been revealed that has been remotely endangering of national security. The only people who have learned anything are the American people, who have learned the spying apparatus is directed at them." Well, perhaps the American people are the enemies of the state here, because after all, it is against us that a massive surveillance state has been erected.
Okay, well, onward, into panel hell.
Meet The Press is getting a new executive producer soon. His name is Rob Yarin, and I would like to send my condolences to everyone involved in his life. That's a real tough break, Rob.
Rogers says that it is "concerning" to him that Snowden is flying on planes, he thinks that Snowden might go to Cuba. He also says that Snowden's actions "defy logic" and that "bad guys" have already "changed the way the operate" because of the things that Snowden revealed -- which, I'll remind you, were NOT EVEN REVELATIONS just a few weeks ago. "Everything Snowden supposedly revealed was boring and well-discussed and we all knew about it," was the conventional wisdom not long ago. Now, the conventional wisdom is that these were all super-duper secrets and now our enemies know our special gumbo recipe.
Well, if the status quo ante, surveillance-wise, is now obsolete and useless, why aren't I hearing the sounds of it being dismantled.
Rogers says that whistleblowers come to his committee to blow the whistle all the time, so why couldn't Snowden do that? (I'm guessing that the answer lies in the fact that we've not heard anything about all those whistleblowers who are "working within the system.")
Durbin says that "every President has the responsibility to keep Americans safe," which is something he's pulled from his ass. What he probably means to say is that a lot of political careers would end if harm came to Americans, and so politicians have the responsibility to create the illusion of security.
Coburn says that the NSA is the "most oversighted program in the government," and then says, "if we could talk about everything, which we can't, which is one of the problems with this, that Americans would be pretty well satisfied." Yes. That sure sounds like the oversight is tremendous. The oversight is so vast that we can't even talk about the oversight! To stare directly into this oversight would be like SEEING THE FACE OF GOD. The less you know about the oversight, the better.
Sanchez, at least, makes a little bit of sense: "It's the Congress, actually, who can reign it in. But it's the Congress who's actually allowed it to be much broader and have collection happen. And my biggest point is that not everybody in the Congress is given access to what is really happening. And so when our American public says, "Hey, we don't know about this, and why are you doing this?" I mean maybe we can't tell everybody in our nation. But you wouldn't think that 435 members of the House and 100 senators should have access and ability to understand what the N.S.A. is doing, what all the other agencies, intelligence agencies, are doing, and to actually have a good debate. And maybe it has to be behind closed doors. But certainly, with all deference to our chairman here, he may have information. I doubt he has everything and knows everything."
Sanchez notes that what Snowden has done violates existing legal statutes. For some reason, David Gregory thinks that denying this is central to some case Greenwald is making, when just a few minutes ago I heard Greenwald on the teevee noting that what Snowden has done violates existing legal statutes.
Rogers is pretty sure that Snowden is just going to give away national security secrets to the Russians and the Venezuelans and the Cubans, who are now suddenly in this conversation for reasons I can not pinpoint. Here's some advice to people who want to one day give away national security secrets to the Russians and the Venezuelans and the Cubans. JUST DO THAT. You will probably make a lot of money, and maybe you won't even garner a lot of media attention. If your intention is to do that, don't...you know...fly to Hong Kong and get a bunch of newspapers involved and then tell everyone your name and what you look like.
Now, if your aim is to just inform American citizens what's going on in their own country, do the other thing, with the newspapers.
There is a brief conversation about immigration. Sanchez says she's ready to "get it done." Coburn wants a "cogent" border security plan -- "walls with doors."
Gregory is really just angry that Snowden cut into his time to ask dumb questions: "There are other topics that I wanted to cover, including the economy, and more on immigration, but we've run out of time, and especially with this Snowden news."
Hey David! You still have TWENTY-NINE MINUTES OF SHOW LEFT. You can literally ASK THESE FOUR PEOPLE ANYTHING YOU WANT. You are actually NOT OBLIGATED to switch to your dumb panel where Robert Gibbs says Democratic things and Mike Murphy says Republican things.
Telling Carly Fiorina -- who was a failure in the private sector and as a politician -- to go home because you have better things to do than ask her questions IS JUST ABOUT THE EASIEST GODDAMN THING A JOURNALIST CAN DO.
But, whatever, leave it there.
Todd says that the relationship between the United States and Russia are chilly. Putin is apparently something of a dick. Gibbs reckons that Snowden will not be returning to the United States, nor does Todd. So that's useful.
For some reason, David Gregory is going to try to have a Twitter war with Greenwald, and so here's a paragraph of word-salad from the talking mop that hosts Meet The Press: "Because this is the problem from somebody who claims that he's a journalist, who would object to a journalist raising questions, which is not actually embracing any particular point of view. And that's part of the tactics of the debate here when, in fact, lawmakers have questioned him. There's a question about his role in this, The Guardian's role in all of this. It is actually part of the debate, rather than going after the questioner, he could take on the issues. And he had an opportunity to do that here on Meet the Press."
It's fibrous and you should pass it quickly.
For the best take on whether journalism should or should not have a point of view, read Jay Rosen, who concludes that both are vital, and both have limitations, and for that matter, maybe we should have both. That still excludes shows like MEET THE PRESS, which I'll remind you JUST ENDED THEIR SEGMENT IN WHICH THEY HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO PUT QUESTIONS TO FOUR LAWMAKERS IN FAVOR OF A PANEL OF FIVE PEOPLE WITH ACCESS TO AND FRIENDSHIPS WITH POWERFUL PEOPLE INSTEAD.
"[General] Mike Hayden was a great N.S.A. leader, and he's a great friend," says Carly Fiorina. So without question, she thinks he is great.
Fiorina also says: "I actually think the I.R.S. and the N.S.A. scandal have something in common. Whatever you think, you don't need to think the president politically motivated the I.R.S., and you don't need to be against the N.S.A. program to raise the profound question of when you have such vast bureaucracies, how do we hold them accountable? How does Congress meet its oversight responsibility? How do the American people come to trust government again, knowing that big bureaucracies actually are held in check somehow, and we have a way of determining that the people who work in them are not abusing power but are confident and ethical? That's an important debate to have."
The difference between the two is that it is DEMONSTRABLY, even RIDICULOUSLY easy to hold the IRS to account, subpoena their leaders, expose them to public scrutiny and criticism, debate their tactics and actions -- hell, KNOW their tactics and actions in the first place -- and punish the people who abuse power. Whereas with the NSA, the answer for, "Hey, can we have some reasonable debate about what you are doing?" is "SHUT UP AND TRUST US OR DON'T WE DON'T CARE."
Gibbs and Murphy said some stuff that's not worth noting, followed by Gibbs saying the same not-worth-noting thing that he said at the top of the panel. Now Fiorina is close to making a point, but missing it: "I do think one of the reasons it's important to step back and kind of begin to talk about some of these profound questions, distrust is created when people can't square the circle. So on the one hand, you hear people say, 'Oh, we've disrupted 50 terrorist plots.' And on the other hand, Boston happens, we were warned about this person twice, and yet, somehow that occurred."
See, reconciling this is possible when you realize that the NSA program and the surveillance state has nothing to do with security as a practical matter. It is more like a security blanket. We can know it's there, and go on sucking our thumbs. It feels nice to know that benevolent angels are watching over us. And it SURELY helps with the liability a little bit. "Well, you got to give the government a break, because they were really doing all sorts of STUFF to keep us safe!"
But in the end, the benevolent angels don't save us and "Boston happens" because the system is only designed to INSTILL A SENSE OF SAFETY, not actually CREATE SAFETY.
Oh, LOL. Here's David Gregory.
GREGORY: I've got to get a break in here. I want to come back with our roundtable, talk about the immigration fight. Also, another big story this weekend, Paula Deen, her apology, what it means for her future after using racist language.
Oh, well, I'm sure glad that the breaking Snowden news LEFT YOU ENOUGH TIME TO ASK THIS PANEL ABOUT THEIR THOUGHTS ON PAUL DEEN.
Jesus wept. Jason stopped watching and deleted MEET THE PRESS from the TiVo.
Okay, well, I can't continue to pretend to try to make sense of the world after that display. "FFS," as they say.
Just so everyone knows, we have hit the sweet part of the summer now where I am in town as much as I am out and from time to time I will not be liveblogging. I am sorry to say that next Sunday, events have conspired to take me away from you. I will be back on the seventh, but then I will be away (in Canada!) on the 14th. And then I'll be back for the rest of July.
It will be weird, and it will maybe try your patience, but then, doesn't everything we talk about on Sunday mornings already do that?
I guess we'll find out. Have a wonderful fortnight!
[The Sunday Morning Liveblog returns on July 7th, 2013.]