Hola, my Sunday morning ponies, and welcome once again to a summertime edition of the Sunday Morning Liveblog of the Political Chat Shows, in which I court an existential crisis by watching some of the most terrible televised misadventures ever set in front of cameras. My name is Jason, and I'm back after a week away, before another week away, and I appreciate your patience.
Next week, I will be seeking asylum in Toronto, Canada -- home of Saint Alanis and the good people of the Great White North. There may be terrible Sunday morning chat shows in Canada -- covering the reeves and ridings as the Prime Minister copes with Bloquistes and Pequistes and Adequistes, as Canadians relax on the Chesterfields and eat poutine and wonder why these shows can't just be chucked in the BFI bin or down the garburator -- but I am not going to watch them, sorry.
At any rate, today's trial will consist of staring into the void that is Meet The Press, which has invited the Fink Tank Bros of the New York Times -- David Brooks and Thomas Friedman -- to jizz their Aspen Ideas about Egypt all over out televisions. It is, I think the last Chris Matthews Show, after which I have no other outlet for an occasional 30 minute show than to watch THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP. Should I start watching that again? Register your strenuous objections or unabashed approval by sending me an email. As it turns out, my bureau chief, Ryan Grim, is now on that show pretty regularly, and I'd love to start giving him a hard time.
By the way I am pretty sure that every time he appears on THE McLAUGHLIN GROUP, he is always really, really high. This is just one more thing he has in common with Eleanor Clift.
Anyway, the drill, it is known by you. Have fun hanging out in the comments as I watch this plainspoken jerks mumble and prattle. Drop me a line, if you like. Follow me on Twitter if you have random bits of unintelligible natterings. Visit my Rebel Mouse page for fun reads, especially this week's Sunday Reads section.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
John Roberts, sporting an aggressively aquamarine tie, is substituting for Chris Wallace today, lending the proceedings a sort of "Generic Inflatable News Anchor" feel to a space that's typically filled by Wallace's archness. He'll be joined by Senators Bob Corker and Jack Reed to talk about Egypt. Then Rick Perry is here to mansplain how things are going to be for women in Texas. He'll do so not wearing a military-style beret, so it will seem like we are getting freedom and democracy right as compared to other places.
First, there is a brief recap of the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed at San Francisco's airport yesterday. The latest details are that the "black boxes" were recovered in tact, and it is the opinion of most of the professionals conducting the investigation that so many people walked away from the crash. Two people, sad to say, did not, but apparently their official causes of death are being investigated. Also, the NTSB will be out on the runway at SFO for at least another week.
Smash cut to Egypt and those latest developments, which include more protests in Tahrir Square and more threats of violence between the pro-Morsi faction and everyone else. Also, there is some dramz within the internal wranglings of the transition whatever-we're-doing, where officials who recently advanced the idea that Mohammed ElBaradei -- who you might remember from his work as UN nuclear inspector -- was first appointed to serve as Prime Minister, then that was walked back, and even now as I type this that story continues to morph. Just remember, you have to go through the Articles of Confederation before you get to the document that counts slaves as three-fifths of a person, and then there is a long time where you have to basically untangle that mess, too.
Okay, let's talk to Corker and Reed about this.
Corker is in Afghanistan and Reed is in Rhode Island, so we are cautioned that there will be a satellite delay in our conversation with Corker, and we need to be on our guard for Reed to start referring to a water fountain as a "bubbler."
Is Corker worried about a further escalation of violence? "I think there's no question," he says, but says that "our role" should be a sort of calming agent, urging the military to "move through the civilian process" and asking the Muslim Brotherhood to be mature about the fact that they've been voted off the island, if not democratically. "Our role right now should be one of applying calm," he says. He notes that there is a "lot of frustration" with Egypt right now, but the more people who urge a lowering of the temperature, the better.
Reed says that there are many factions in Egypt that are willing to listen to the United States in that regard. He says that the primary problem with Morsi is that he worked very hard, in office, at driving up the levels of citizen exclusion, instead of inclusion, and that no longer fits with the mainstream of Egyptian politics.
Is the Obama administration, who has thus far studiously avoided taking sides (while also fairly clearly not exactly mourning the end of the Morsi government), handing this well? Corker notes that there in Afghanistan, you have a situation where all the things that we might have liked to see occur have not occurred. He points out that the reality of geopolitics is that just because America wants something to happen, doesn't mean that it's going to. He once again recommends that calm be urged, and reminds that the sort of work that he and Reed do on a daily basis is simply work to see our national interests preserved and protected. And calm, in the immediate sense, is in our short-term interest, the preservation of treaties and agreements is in our long-term interests, and "at present I'm not sure what else the United States can do other than to be a calming voice" both in Egypt and "the neighborhood."
Roberts notes that the administration has refrained from calling this a coup and correctly notes that the reason they've avoided using that term is because the vagaries of various laws would preclude us from sending aid to Egypt under those circumstances. That said, there are some Senators -- McCain and Leahy -- who want precisely that: no more aid. Reed says that what's happening is a very unique situation -- the military is aiding the population of Egypt in a popular uprising. Nevertheless, it was still an uprising -- popular though it may be -- against an elected government.
Roberts points that out. Reed says that there are a lot of strategic issues at play, beyond what's happening with Egypt's government, that factor into the thinking where aid is concerned, including trade agreements and counter-terror activities. "I think we have to be very careful in suspending aid," he says, adding that he'd simply hold the military to a hard and fast timeline leading to the "hopefully quick" emergence of a new democratic government.
Roberts asks Corker, "Was it a mistake to rush to throw Mubarak overboard?" I'm not sure who is the implied maker of the mistake, here. As Corker already explained, some matters are beyond our control to manipulate, and the Egyptians had obviously tired of Mubarak, and understandably so. Corker says that sometimes countries move too quickly in one direction or another, but he sees this as an opportunity for the United States to work with the Egyptians. May as well quit peeping the rear view mirror, anyway.
Roberts jumps to a discussion of the Affordable Care Act, and whether or not the employer mandate delay imperils the bill. I can answer that: ha, no. That's what Reed answers. Brian Beutler reports:
It’s an undeniable fact that the so-called “employer mandate” is poorly designed and creating real challenges for businesses and workers alike. When critics of the law cite the delay as evidence of an implementation “train wreck,” in other words, they’re being tendentious, and thinking wishfully, but there’s a kernel of truth to it.
But if the employer mandate snafu were as bad and as symptomatic as Republicans would have you believe, they’d treat it as vindication — a cause for celebration. As we and others have reported, though, the employer mandate exists at the margins of the law’s core functions. The decision to delay it for a year sidelines one liability that would have harmed the law’s rollout, robs Republicans (temporarily, but during an election year) of a legitimate public critique of the law’s real-life effects, and ironically strengthens the state-based insurance exchanges, which are the must-work components of the ACA.
There's widespread willingness to just scotch the employer mandate, but you aren't going to get cooperation to do so unless the GOP gets to scrap the entire bill. So, it's all a non-starter.
But it's not a big part of the bill.
Roberts suggests that the "employer mandate" works with the other "economics" of the bill as if it were all one big Cirque de Soleil routine, but Reed is all, "No, that is not how this works."
Would Corker support simply repealing that slim part of the bill? Corker would not, because he believes in the Cirque de Soleil argument. Corker also claims to be concerned about the way employers will move employees from full-time to part-time to avoid having to give them health care. If that behavior was restricted to the teensy number of employers affected by the mandate, though, that would be WONDERFUL! But as it turns out, employers have been steadily rooking their employees in that fashion whether they are subject to the mandate or not. In fact, that practice has been pretty widespread for many years -- years predating both the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration.
Maybe Corker hasn't noticed? He has been livin' it up in the Gilded City for a while, so that's a possibility. But I reckon he wouldn't go too far out of his way to curb those practices anyway, so that was just some concern-trolling.
Corker/Reed is probably where today's discussion of Egypt is going to peak today, though, so be glad for small mercies.
Tomorrow is "What Is Rick Perry Gonna Do Next" Day, in Texas, but today, he's just here to talk about his fondness for TRAP laws and footbinding, because he's a tease.
Will he run for Governor? Perry won't say. Is he bothered by polls? No. Is he excited about passing laws that further chattelize women? You betcha.
What is he doing the second time around, though, to ensure that someone like Wendy Davis doesn't just do things like "think" or "talk about stuff" or especially "continuing to use her voice to make noises long after a majority of state Senators have decided whether they'd be willing to pork her or not." In fact, in this special session, it will be harder to mount a filibuster, as Dana Liebelson explained at length a few weeks ago:
Here's how it works: Under Texas law, the governor can call as many "special" 30-day voting sessions as he wants, to deal with one or more specific pieces of legislation of his or her choosing. During these special sessions, only a simple majority is needed to put a bill to vote, instead of the more commonly used two-thirds majority. The two-thirds rule, as Jones explains, generally "keeps the GOP from moving too far to the right" during the regular voting process.
In the special session that just ended, the abortion bill did not reach the state Senate floor until the final day, thanks to stalling maneuvers mounted by Texas Democrats. This meant that Davis only had to filibuster the session for the final 11 hours of the session it took to kill the bill. But Jones predicts that an identical bill introduced in a new special session would have more than enough support to pass in the state House and Senate. And it could hit the Senate floor weeks before the session ends. With the Legislature's tough rules about filibusters—a lawmaker using that tactic must remain standing and on-topic, and resist the urge to go to the bathroom—it would be impossible for a person to filibuster the measure for that long. Jones says that he expects Perry to call another special session to deal with the controversial abortion bill: "I therefore expect legislation similar to SB 5, though perhaps with some modifications, to reach Gov. Perry's desk in July."
Perry says that what happened previously, was "mob rule," the way a mob of one person had to stand there and speak until she needed a back brace. Roberts actually side-eyes that contention, and Perry is forced to say that it was really just Texas citizens making their voices heard that was "mob rule." Apparently, Perry has met very few people from this place called "Texas," or he just has mobs that he prefers over ones that he doesn't.
Anyway, Perry's pearls were totally clutched over the whole matter. He is very shocked at the way people had opinions. Chances are, people in Texas will not be allowed to have that many opinions any more.
Roberts plays Perry that clip of Perry slagging off Wendy Davis for being a single mother, and asks if he regrets his comments -- and whether or not he thinks he'll come to regret having said those things if he runs for president again. Perry, playing the thick-o, says that when he said Wendy Davis hadn't learned anything from the experience of being a young, single mother, he was paying her a compliment. You would have to be a deeply sad sell-out to take that as a compliment, but such people exist, and there's a good chance that Perry is typically in the company of those types.
As for whether he thinks it will harm a future presidential bid, he doesn't say. I will give him credit for honesty, though -- Perry quite clearly wants to shut down abortion clinics and curtail women's rights and he doesn't pretend otherwise. There are a lot of supporters of the bill that disingenuously insist that what they are doing is "keeping women safe" and "improving the workplace/safety standards at abortion clinics," and Perry at least doesn't sit there and pretend that's what this is all about. That is at least refreshing, in the same way that a glass of battery acid can be refreshing, relative to a glass filled with week-old egg yolks and scorpion poison.
Oh, ha! Looks like I spoke too soon, because now he ACTUALLY IS talking about how this is all about keeping high standards of excellence at Texas abortion facilities. Fie on me for giving Perry even a tiny bit of credit, I guess.
Wow, that coin flipped rather quickly. Must have been some mob rule.
Roberts does deep into the electoral skullduggery, asking Perry if he's simply freezing the gubernatorial field for Texas AG Greg Abbott to run for the statehouse, but Perry, having signalled that he'd be coy about that topic at the outset, remains coy now. Similarly, he won't discuss specifics about future Presidential ambition. Roberts throws some shade, citing a bunch of polls that indicate that Senator Ted Cruz is now the Texan that Tea Partiers love the most and want to see run for President. Perry's got nothing but platitudes to offer in response.
And he's basically mixing his messages on the abortion issue -- he simultaneously wants to curtail abortion AND make it safer. The guy always had a way with an internal contradiction. If the planet was ever attacked by a cloud of Space Cognitive Dissonance, I'd definitely fire Rick Perry out of an ion cannon to combat that threat.
Perry, having just finished platitudinizing about how "the hard work is in the statehouse" is asked by Roberts, "Well, if that's true how come you are heading down to San Antonio to talk about your political future?" Perry says, "People can multitask well." I mean, "people" can "count to three" well, for the most part. In this case, that was a fitting question.
At any rate, Perry offers to help Roberts figure out how to drive from Austin to San Antonio, and Roberts is like, ha ha no thanks.
Okay, panel time, and today's blather gang consists of Brit Hume and Nina Easton and Dennis Kucinich and Juan Williams.
What's up with Egypt, y'all? Hume says that "we have no way of knowing" and that it is "completely up in the air." He concern-trolls a little about whether the Obama administration has a policy to get the right outcome in Egypt, because he apparently hasn't checked any readily available reading materials lately that reveal that the "President of the United States" does not set policy for "Egypt." This is conceptually difficult for a lot of people to follow (though Bob Corker, rather admirably, managed to explain this earlier today).
Hume is obviously having a lot of trouble with the whole "people getting thrown out of power" equals bad, but also the people who were in power equaled bad, and I think that it's too bad that we cannot just swing Rick Perry at Hume's noggin and solve this really face-squinchy intellectual conundrum. "That's a peculiar way of calling it a transition to democracy."
Ha, ha, he also calls ElBaradei "no friend of the United States" for all those times ElBaradei tried to keep the United States out of costly wars with Iran.
Anyway, Egypt is just a couple of years into their "transition to democracy," which took we Enlightened Locke And Rousseau Scholars over a decade to pull off, so I'd say that comparatively speaking, they could still do quite well.
Nina Easton says that "we stood by and let [the Egyptian] uprising" happen, and it totally is a shame that we didn't use our wizard powers to make the Egyptians love being oppressed and impoverished by the Mubarak regime more than they did. Kucinich says that the Egyptian military, at this point, is our de facto proxy in the region, and that plays a role in why we don't officially call this a coup. He goes on to suggest that it will be hard to vouch for the wonders of democracy if we keep insisting that it's only a democracy if the resulting vote hews to our interests above the interests of the people actually participating in the democracy.
Williams points out that the ironic thing about Hume hating ElBaradei is that the Islamists in Egypt hates him too, because they see him as a stooge for the United States.
Much of all of this hand-wringing is simply due to the fact that American elite pundits believe that the sole point of "Egypt," conceptually, is to be one party in a treaty with Israel, while Egyptians conceive their country as a "nation" with "citizens" that have "interests" that should be "served" by a "representative government."
Are we moved off Egypt now? Apparently so. We move to the concern-troll-about-the-Affordable-Care-Act section of the panel. Kucinich doesn't care for the ACA because he prefers something more like single-payer, which eliminates the whole health insurance industry. "Ultimately, we'll have to go to Medicare for all," he says. This is a bit past what the rest of the panel wants, but Roberts will take a former Democratic Rep bagging on the law, all the same.
Easton sort of plays it straight, saying that the employer mandate was playing havoc in a few sectors of the business community, and so the delay was a smart thing to do. Hume suggests that the employer mandate may never happen, but he is a dedicated Cirque De Soleil theorist. "There's a good chance that the law won't work," he says, but the employer mandate could be neatly excised right now and it wouldn't make a difference to the bill. Jonathan Chait very patiently cuts through the phony alarmism here.
Kucinich continues to vouch for single-payer. Hume thinks that it's really important to keep sick people from getting insurance in the first place. There is, I guess, a wide variety of opinions, in this totally neat-o discussion, about a ridiculously teensy matter that has already been more or less solved.
No discussion of unemployment, by the way. Oh, well!
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
Because it is the summertime and we're saying farewell to the show that occasionally got us through these long Sundays of hell by at least being agreeably formulaic, we shall recap whatever clips-show Chris Matthews is staging today. We missed last week, where he presumably managed to finish his list of the Eleven Most Fascinating People That The Apple Genius Bar Of Politics Has Obsessed Over. Hopefully it was interesting. I can tell you that I was having a very fadcinating brunch that day.
Nevertheless, we'll miss this show, if only because it was only 30 minutes long. More of these Sunday shows should be only 30 minutes long. A few should only be ten minutes long. If they all switched to test patterns, I'd be one of about 27 Americans to even notice.
Still, this show was at least -- for the lack of a better term -- "genial." Demented and sad but social. Did not immediately force the viewer to consider gargling a strychnine malted as an alternative. For that, I guess we are thankful, or at least "secreting gratitude-like pheromones."
Holy crap! They have sixteen people on the stage, as if they were CNN or something today. Maybe this will be like those reality teevee shows where all the people who were voted off during the show are invited back to carp about how awful everyone else was.
How much is everyone going to be able to talk today? Well, let's assume that there are twenty-four minutes of show. That gives everyone about seventy-five seconds to talk. Assuming that Matthews precedes their utterances with a question that takes only fifteen seconds to ask. Which isn't likely, because Matthews is frequently shipwrecked by the Siren song of his own voice. AND OH GOD THERE WILL PROBABLY BE A BUNCH OF SNL CLIPS, TOO. I don't know? Maybe everyone gets thirty seconds to talk?
Sorry! There are SEVENTEEN people on the stage. And they will talk about America, and how it's changed.
Our own Howard Fineman is asked to set the stage for the way America was when the Chris Matthews Show was born, into this world, to protect it, and offer it the delicate succor of particularly funny late-night comedy monologues that Chris Matthews found to be sustaining. Howard says that we were "proud" and "wounded" but forging a sort of unity in the wake of 9/11. I was a government contractor in 2002, and I remember hoping that a wounded nation would come together to give me something besides government contracting to do, because it was really boring. Years later, I learn that all the real action was being a sysadmin at Booz Allen.
Sixteen pundits remain! Matthews wants to keep pressing on the whole "how America was after 9/11 but not RIGHT after 9/11 because the show wasn't on the air then, but SORT OF after 9/11, you know, AFTERISH 9/11."
Andrea Mitchell says that Americans felt unified, but there was a chronic lack of journalistic inquiry during the time in which the "verities of the government" were too easily accepted by reporters and pundits, which is I guess her way of saying, "We totalled f--ked up when it came to keeping the country out of really dumb wars." We "accepted the verities." Which is another way of saying, "We were taken in by straight up lies that we should have smelled pretty easily."
Fifteen pundits remain! Someone, I think Gloria Borger, is saying "I think we all felt vulnerable still." Oh, it is Borger, and word-salads some stuff about vulnerability.
Fourteen pundits remain. Matthews talks about how he once heard someone playing the saxaphone on the J Train in New York City. This was meaningful to him. Also meaningful? The Boston marathon bombing.
Joe Klein says we re-learned what it meant to be vulnerable, as a nation, during the time that NBC was deciding, "Let's maybe give Chris Matthews a talk show." And now Michele Norris is saying that there "was a lot of fear." Twelve pundits remain!
Elizabeth Bumiller remembers that in 2002, there were "a lot of rumblings about a war in Iraq" and suddenly there was a War in Iraq, that came at the back of a long and intense campaign to gin up support for a War in Iraq. And Bob Woodward says that there was a question "are we well led" that was "always pulsing in the background," which is not something you'd have actually surmised from the books he wrote about that era.
And now only ten pundits haven't talked, so it's starting to look like some will get to say TWO things today, about Life In America At The Time That America Undertook A Plan To Launch A Man Into Space On A Teevee Set And Call It 'The Chris Matthews Show.'
Andrew Sullivan is here, via satellite, and he is pretty sure that 9/11 was "the most successful terrorist attack in the history of the world." He also says that the government at the time was "more panicked than the people," and then he laudably calls out the Bush administration for enshrining torture.
More British people talking! Not it's Katty Kay, who says that 9/11 "produced an America that was plagued by fear and self doubt," and the era was bookended from the Le Monde headline "We Are All America" and a Newsweek headline, "Why do they hate us." I think that the Newsweek cover that featured sexualized asparagus probably touched off a new era in America.
With eight pundits remaining, we get our first taste of David Brooks. "People have always had hostile feelings about America, but what's changed is our sense of confidence." But now institutions have failed us, because many of them were complete crap to begin with.
David Ignatius basically adds further mouth-feel to what David Brooks was saying. We might be able to get the six remaining pundits in, before this segment ends.
Ahh, but Andrea Mitchell horns in, becoming the first pundit to speak twice. SHe notes that during the run-up to the Iraq War, legislators pretty much sat around accepting whatever crap they were fed about the "intelligence" that was gathered in advance of the invasion, and we are supposedly living in a "lessons-learned" environment, but I'm not sure that's true.
John Heilemann says that the "other big domestic story" in our politics is "polarization" and that came about because of the Iraq War. (It sure is "polarizing" when one group of people are right about the Iraq War and the other group of people wants to go on being treated as equals!)
Kathleen Parker asks, "can I throw in a metaphysical note?" That being, essentially, hey we were all scared and so let's give everyone with a stupid idea during that time a pass, okay?
Cynthia Tucker says that people in New York and DC were really afraid after 9/11 but that she's not sure it pervaded the rest of the country until a bunch of opportunistic politicians went to the effort to make sure that the fear and anxiety was widespread.
And, we go to our first commercial. I guess Andrea Mitchell is "winning." Three pundits didn't get to say anything about to fraught year that followed the fraught year that eventually led to the creation of the Chris Matthews Show which solved everything.
Oh, hey, congratulations to Andy Murray!
Michael Duffy didn't get to day anything. He says that most Americans would like to "go back to normal" after the 9/11 attacks and the financial crisis. For some reason Borger is interrupting him, and I can't figure out why. Not that interrupting Michael Duffy isn't seen as a noble cause in some world cultures.
Kelly O'Donnell finally gets to speak, about Congress. She says that Congress is "part of the government." Which is useful. She says that people in Congress have doubts about whether Congress can function, again, because of "polarization." I imagine that people would have that fear, seeing how things are "polarized" between one party that wants the government to be useful and another party that wants to "sabotage the workings of the government to prove a pinheaded philosophical point." In the same way, a termite-ridden house is "polarized" by the group of creatures who want to use the house as a shelter and the group of creatures that wants to eat the house.
Clarence Page, is I think the last person to speak. He reminds everyone that the first Iraq war was the war that supposed to sure America of its "Vietnam syndrome," but it was actually an overcorrection -- we became too suffused with confidence over the idea that invading nations was a good idea. He also notes that before we lost faith in institutions, we put an unreasonable amount of blind trust in those institutions -- the PATRIOT Act was a good example of this.
Michele Norris becomes the second person to speak twice. She notes that at ground level, things like Katrina and the foreclosure crisis altered the dynamic of uncertainty about institutions in ways that people who are close to those institutions cannot fully appreciate.
Now Matthews would like some quick answers to a stultifyingly generic question: where is the country right now?
Brooks says that "the politics stink" and is "the worse they have ever been," but we are still a "bell curve country" whatever that means. He says that Jack Kemp was a "floating intellectual entrepreneur."
Mitchell says that things are "Balkanized" like the goddamn Balkans.
Page says that the interwebs have changed the media in significant ways.
Kay says that the "center" in America is "silent."
Sullivan says that going up to New Jersey to talk about hurricane relief with Chris Christie was the ne plus ultra of "the promise of Obama," and he disagrees with Brooks that polarization is a top-down phenomenon.
Heilemann says Sullivan is wrong. He says that conservative people are not as far right as their representatives. Because he has to say this as a Gilded City pundit, he says that the same is true on the left, but it isn't, as Democratic politicians are well centrist, well to the right of American liberals, and being pulled further rightward as the normalizing of what used to be fringey nonsense continues apace.
And that's that. We'll declate Saturday Night Live to be the winner, because none of their work was dragged onto the screen to underscore some dumb point Chris Matthews was trying to make about his feelings.
MEET THE PRESS
Okay, let's see how quickly I can get done staring into this void. At the top, there will be some perfunctory news reports on the SFO crash and the Egypt uprising, followed by some sort of conversation with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), for some reason. And then, there is a panel. And then Representative Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) will offer up some opinion-having on how immigration reform will fare in the House.
As to the SFO crash, no new news from this morning, other than the fact that officials and investigators are trying to determine whether the crash was mechanical failure or pilot/crew error. NTSB Chair Debbie Hersman makes an appearance to say that the crash, fortunately was not as bad as it could have been, and that the information they've gotten -- in terms of technical recordings and eyewitness accounts -- is quite good. They are still going through the information, however, and so she can not tell David Gregory if the Asiana Air crash will be running for president in 2016 or not.
Off the table: weather conditions as a cause. Close to being off the table: criminal activity.
Moving to Egypt. The big news is the whole ElBaradei situation -- he was seemingly headed to be named as Egypt's prime minister, then that was walked back. He was supposed to be a guest on Meet The Press today but cancelled just before the show went on the air, making Mohammed ElBaradei a winner in that respect, at least. But now he is not here for David Gregory to ask if he will be a running mate on the Asiana Air Crash/ElBaradei 2016 ticket.
He supposedly has "laryngitis and a fever" and his doctor has ordered him to not appear on Meet The Press, indicating that ElBaradei has got one hell of an intelligent doctor.
Anyway, in lieu of that, we get reporting! Ayman Mohyeldin reports that pro- and anti-Morsi factions continue protests of all varieties and the passion has not flagged on either side. The pro-Morsi faction, obviously, would like his reinstatement. Meanwhile, the military is trying to button-up the interim government very quickly -- objections to ElBaradei's appointment has thrown a monkey-wrench in that plan. And the deterioration of the security situation continues apace.
Now we are joined by Nabil Fahmy, the former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, who was supposed to be the interim foreign minister in this interim government. Gregory asks who will be put in charge of Egypt, and how Egypt will be governed once that is taken care of. It's great that, you know, a couple of minutes have been allocated to explore this question! Fahmy says that they are trying to establish a government, name a prime minister, and gain wide support for the interim process. This could happen in a few hours. It will hopefully, he says, not take more than a day to sort out.
Following that, the hope is that there will be an explainable path forward.
Gregory knows that he needs to evince some concern over the whole KOO DAY TAW aspect of this glorious transition phase, and asks if Fahmy will "rue the day" that it took the military to put his faction in (or at least near) power. Fahmy says that in the immediate sense, the military had to respond to the chaos, one way or the other -- either let it continue or respond to the outcry with the concessions they were looking for. Fahmy sort of treats the whole deposition of Morsi as a footnote, though. And if I were Gregory, I'd ask something like, "So, yeah, what a great job everyone's done putting an end to the chaos, right?"
Instead he asks if what's going to happen next is that the military will just be asked to depose governing coalitions everytime they can't deliver the goods and people dissent, noting that the precedent that's been established is that you can gather in Tahrir Square and get a new government. Fahmy's response is to note that this wasn't just some run of the mill popular demonstration, it was more than half of any Egyptian government's constituents. So, the regime was not going to survive. The concern -- and it's a fair one, I reckon -- is that Morsi was moving to consolidate power in a way that would have ultimately subverted the democratic process. Fahmy insists that the military doesn't actually have power-holding designs (though perhaps they don't need to!)
Now David Gregory is asking about whether or not American tourists will be able to safely come to Egypt. "Needless to say there is still tension and turmoil," he says, but he hopes he can say that things are generically safe.
Now here is what will probably the nadir of today's Sunday show-watching exercise, the Gathering Of The Baby-Palmed Elite Pecksniffs To Talk About All The Egypt-Related Fee-Fees, starring Robin Wright and Thomas Friedman and Jeffrey Goldberg and Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd.
Friedman says that Egypt along with many other countries in the region are "heading for human development disasters" if they can't get past the "victor/vanquished" mode of partisan competition -- which suggests that he hasn't noted already that the human development disaster has already transpired and the vanquished has already been pretty firmly established in a massive class of unemployed people.
Goldberg suggests that what's played out in Egypt this week is a "victory for progress" and a "defeat for democracy." That's about right, only I'd say "defeat" is way too strong a term. "Setback" is better. Also, one should expect setbacks. Christ, in America, there are still people in our ruling elite who think the sight of a woman filibustering something is an affront to democracy.
Wright says that its an open question as to what role Islamists can have in Egypt if the lesson is that the can't prevail in an election and not get thrown out of power. Which, sure, I see the point, but if the Morsi administration had thought "Now is our chance to show we can make the buses run on time" instead of, "Let's button up our own permanent sinecure in power by closing down everyone else's constitutional rights," we might be two years into this experiment in democracy saying, "Wow, the Morsi faction really matured when the moment arrived."
Mitchell makes this point -- a democratic election happened, and it led to a authoritarian government that smelled way too much like the thing the people had worked hard to reject.
Todd thinks that the United States will be more "hands-on" in creating the new Egyptian government, which doesn't necessarily mean that there is an effective government coming soon to Egypt. Why Egyptians would welcome MORE American involvement when the previous experiment in the same was Mubarakiana and its rot is a pretty open question.
Friedman spends a few minutes patting the United States on the back for managing to have a cosmetically attractive democracy that involved women and Mormons and African Americans that all come together from time to time to run a government that often cannot manage to create an equitable and just society for its citizens. Our institutions pretty much suck taint, and our legislative process is complete shit, but at least we are so INCLUSIVE as to who gets to muck about in the process now!
We move, gratefully, to Bob Menendez. Gregory asks if the United States failed to do more to keep the Morsi government from running amok. Menendez will probably get eviscerated for attempting simple logic and gamely putting forth the start of a nuanced set of observations -- but hey, good effort, Bob, who points out that Egypt is actually quite new to the idea of this sort of democratic process and people with greater facility and knowledge of the institutions involved may have to be somewhat patient as they struggle down the path to an "Egypt for all." And arriving at that requires a populace with access to democratic systems and a government that willingly preserves, extends, and deepens that access. Without both of those things, at the same time, you get 404 ERROR.
Menendez also suggests that the United States will have to have a stronger hand in guiding this along. Gregory asks, "Well, how do we do that?" Menendez says that the military has to understand that a civilian government is of paramount importance, and that means free elections and perhaps a new Constitution. He also says that this might be a good opportunity to encourage something of a pause in Egypt, inspire some reflection upon how we've arrived at this point.
How important is it to keep the Muslim Brotherhood in the mix though? Menendez says that it's obviously the case that it would have been widely preferable for Morsi's faction to receive a teachable moment at the ballot box. "That didn't happen," he says. "But President Morsi himself acted dictatorially," he notes, and "now the question is whether we can bring everyone together to participate" in an open and equal fashion.
Gregory asks Menendez about Edward Snowden and whether or not there should be repercussions against countries that grant him asylum. One day, perhaps we'll discuss the repercussions of the story, and not merely the source of that story.
Menendez goes on to tell Gregory that the employer mandate is not a big part of the Affordable Care Act, and the criticism is just the same old het up Wookies who'd be shrieking about the law in any event.
Okay, maybe the remaining twenty minutes of this show will not be so bad. We return with the Panel of Political Feeling-Havers, featuring EJ Dionne and David Brooks and Eugene Robinson and Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd. We are going to talk about domestic policy, thankfully.
David Gregory is the most credulous person on the planet, apparently:
GREGORY: You know, I talked to a business leader about a week ago. He said he still couldn't understand why the administration would pass a health care law and execute on a health care law, the impact of which was so uncertain. He said, "We would never do that in business."
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Holy crap, David Gregory, you should take that material on the road, because that is better than most Louis CK sets, right there.
Brooks says: "The biggest problems are things like the exchanges, which is where people are going to buy insurance, whether young people, who really don't have much incentive to get into the system, are going to get into the system. Those are going to be big and messy. And whether you support it or oppose it, you've just got to be ready for that messiness."
Brooks says that the "messiness" on its own is just stuff that can be worked through in a sensible fashion -- it's the politics that screwing everyone up. And so the biggest "DUH!" in American policy implementation is that opposing the ACA is causing the messes. Those who are just going ahead, dutifully implementing the exchanges, are going to have constituents who will be big fans of the policy. Those who don't, won't. That's too bad, because the people who get to participate in the exchanges will sitting atop a pile of accrued benefits and those that don't get to will still be at the bottom of the hill looking up at what they could have had.
Mitchell says, "I think also, in the reporting, losing that mandate is such a concession. It may not be the biggest piece of it. But it's a concession to the critics that something needs to be delayed, that something's not working." Naaaaah. You know, go read the actual reporting and chillax.
Todd points out that the Democrats would happily fix the employer mandate but their partners in government want the government to be a impotent, braindead institution.
Raul Labrador says that the question is "What part of Obamacare actually works" and I guess you'd have to say that it's only the part that sets up exchanges and expands access to insurance and keeps other people from being kicked off their insurance and thus limits the indebitedness and needless deaths of vulnerable Americans.
Labrador says that the whole lesson of the employer mandate is that you don't know whether the Obama administration will enforce all the parts of the immigration reform law either, which is a creative new way to kill the bill without having to credibly oppose it.
DAVID GREGORY: But Gene Robinson, as the roundtable is still here, take this on. You've got John McCain, who, just a few years ago, was doing campaign ads saying, "Secure this darn border first." He's saying that Congressman Labrador and anyone who cites insufficient security at the border is just looking for a way to kill this bill, and that it's not a credible opposition.
EUGENE ROBINSON: Well, if you actually look (CHUCKLE) at what's been going on, on the border, and the border is much more secure than it has been in the past. And there are those who will argue there will never be an impregnable fortress wall between United States and Mexico. It's a 2,000 mile long border. And what the House Republicans seem to be demanding is something that no one can deliver.
So what's the point of that? I think, look, this is, it seems to me, a pretty good compromise, from their point of view. Because they do get 20,000 new border patrol agents, and a lot of bells and whistles, that weren't there before.
Brooks says that he's "seen a lot of intellectually weak cases in this town. I've rarely seen as intellectually a weak case as the case against the Senate immigration bill." Labrador says Brooks is being ridiculous. Brooks looks really hurt by what Labrador is saying.
I'll just say that if he wants to see something that's way weaker than the case against the Senate immigration bill, he should read the columns about how we need a "grand bargain" on the deficit, because that's the intellectually weak case that straps on the clownshoes and dances the watusi.
Anyway, Brooks and Labrador are not BFFs anymore, and that is a seminal event in American politics.
Todd says that "doubt is seeping in" over at the White House that the House may not pass immigration reform. I've never not doubted that the House would do nothing but make a bunch of gagging sounds and collect a paycheck.
Holy cow on a crucifix! Chuck Todd says one of those true things that everyone knows but you are never supposed to say on teevee, calling out Paul Ryan for not showing up to support the immigration bill he supposedly is fully behind: "Paul Ryan has never been brave on the political front." True that! He is a phony-wonk that fades into ether the moment he is forced from the path of least resistance/constant praise. I tell you what, the climate around Ryan has really altered.
Gregory and Labrador have a colloguy:
DAVID GREGORY: Well, and Congressman, there is you, someone who has been pushing, I mean you're an immigration lawyer. You've been pushing for reform. I'll paraphrase something that you were quoted as saying in June in The National Journal, that, "We've got to fix the system, and that Hispanics essentially have stopped listening to Republicans." Isn't that a bigger concern than some of these policy differences that you have with David Brooks or others who would support the Senate legislation?
RAUL LABRADOR: I actually think, if we don't do it right politically, it's going to be the death of the Republican Party. If we do it right, I think it's going to be good for us. But if we don't do it right, what's going to happen is that we're going to lose our base, because we're still going to have a large number of illegal immigrants coming into the United States. And the Hispanic community's not going to listen to us because they are going to also listen to, at this point, to the people that are offering more, that are offering a faster pathway to citizenship, all those things.
So I think we lose some ground if we don't do it right. However, if we do it right, if we actually cut down illegal immigration by a large percentage, if we actually do it in a way that actually brings more legal immigrants to the United States. One of the problems with the Senate bill that we haven't talked about is that the non-ag guest worker portion of the Senate bill actually starts out at 20,000 guest workers per year. Think about that. I had some Congressmen say, "You mean 20,000 per county? 20,000 per state?" And it's not, it's 20,000 non-ag guest workers per year for the entire United States.
And an brief discussion about being a FLOTUS, and we are done! Thanks much for being around today, everyone. We'll reconvene here in two weeks. In the meanwhile, I wish all of you all the best!
[The Sunday morning liveblog returns on July 21. While you wait, check out my Rebel Mouse page for fun and diverting reads from around these internets.]