TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Welcome once again to your Sunday Morning Liveblog, and especially welcome once again to the second week of this great debate: Should We Do Some Ultimately Inconsequential Stuff In Syria For The Sake Of Feeling Credible On The Playground Of Nations or Should We Refrain?

Hello everyone! Welcome once again to your Sunday Morning Liveblog, and especially welcome once again to the second week of this great debate: Should We Do Some Ultimately Inconsequential Stuff In Syria For The Sake Of Feeling Credible On The Playground Of Nations or Should We Refrain? Today is the second week of Fill Ginsburging on the matter with White House Chief of Staff or whatever he is Denis McDonough going from show to show to make the case for the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves (MSTWSLBMUFGAO).

My name is Jason, and it has been very hard to avoid this topic of conversation in "This Town." Last night, for example, I went out to see a comedy show, figuring, "Okay, I will probably be able to get my mind off of this Syria stuff for a minute." Rhys Darby was headlining and no one on the bill seemed particularly political or newsy. But the feature comic asked for the audience to give him two topics, that he'd try to make jokes about in his set. And some complete jerk -- I mean, this was a real "That Guy" as in "don't be That Guy" -- called out "SYRIA!"

UGH. Total "That Guy," right? Everyone's having a good time at a party talking about the football game and he's the one who's like, "Oh, wow, Somalia, right?" And everyone is just, "FSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS" inside? Like the air leaching out of a beach ball?

Anyway the comic on stage was like, "Huh cereal?" and I was like, "OH PLEASE JUST LET HIM CONFUSE IT FOR CEREAL" and the "THAT GUY" was all, "No, no. Syyyyyyrrria" and I was like, "UGH GAH HATE YOU."

The joke about Syria ended up being okay. BUT STILL.

Rhys Darby was AWESOME. Did a whole bit about dressage and didn't even have to go to a Rafalca joke. Bless him.

Anyway, you know the dealie. I type a melange of thoughts and feelings about the flickering images and idiot sounds that come from my teevee and you live your lives as fully as possible. If that includes hanging in the comments or dropping me a line or following me on Twitter or reading my Rebel Mouse page's Sunday Reads when you are bored, than so be it, go with what your heart desires, because life is too short and God knows we'll be talking about this same stuff next Sunday too.


So, yes, today, it's all about the MSTWSLBMUFGAO, and the administration's "argument for action." Denis McDonough will compete with Rand Paul on who has the best "message," and then there will be what amounts to a completely ironic panel discussion on #BENGHARGLE with whatever twits they could scrounge up to pretend to take that seriously, in the light of the fact that most people are, out of the other side of the mouth, pitching to have more Americans die in Syria.

But first, the run of play -- in terms of Congressional whip counts and public opinion -- is way way way against the MSTWSLBMUFGAO. So Denis McDonough is here to convince the world to greenlight it, because "credibility." McDonough has three children, and I'm sure they've all volunteered to put themselves in harm's way in Syria. At least I assume this is the case! Maybe he has three wee children, in which case that's adorable, and forget it.

This is the first act in McDonough's "full Ginsburg" which is that thing where one person does all the Sunday shows in one day. I love the full Ginsburg, because as a liveblogger, I know that once I watch one, I've watched them all. The Sunday Morning hosts aren't a particularly creative lot, and there might be one question that Bob Schieffer and George Stephanopoulos (if he even bothered to come to work today) will ask this guy that Chris Wallace won't, so this is a pretty easy day for me.

McDonough is here, obviously, because after John Kerry did the Full Ginsburg last week, they thought it best to dial it back and send someone with less animal charisma to soft sell the MSTWSLBMUFGAO.

Wallace immediately goes to the whip count in the Washington Post, which is currently looking a lot like the UVa.-Oregon game from yesterday: 226 "No" to 25 "Yes." There are 182 people who are "Undecided." As my bureau chief Ryan Grim points out, all of the Democrats in that "Undecided" rump are not actually "Undecided," they are just not going to become "Yes" until they get a personal call from President Obama or someone REALLY high ranking for a session of "lather up my derriere with your sweet, sweet tongue." And then, they become happy warriors!

This is still going to fall short in the house, so Wallace asks whether or not the resolution is going to pass. McDonough says that it's "too early to tell." He emphasizes that no one he's talked to is "rebutting the intelligence," though. Just in case you thought some back bencher from Ohio was running his own intelligence agency! And so, the emotional appeal for war remains.

Obama will give a speech to the nation on Tuesday night, in the hopes of changing minds, but Wallace is concerns that the effort is not working, because why aren't we at war right now? So what magic words is Obama going to use to change minds on Tuesday? McDonough says that he hopes that members of Congress watch these horrifying new videos from Syria of people convulsing, but he's not going to offer a preview.

It's important to note that right now, the President really needs CONGRESS to change their minds. The American people, from his perspective, will have to come along later. And there really aren't "magic words" that the President can use. This is going to be a HUGE HUGE week for all of the Beltway political hacks that love to pimp the notion that the President has a magic Bully Pulpit that can alter the political landscape in a fell swoop.

I'm not saying that the President can't turn that whip count around -- part of me thinks it will turn around, and that lots of these "no" and "undecided" votes are "yeses" that haven't gotten the necessary tongue bath yet. This is war, and when the Empire wants war that's usually what the Empire gets -- but nevertheless, familiarize yourself with the political science of persuasion, and set your expectations accordingly. Obama will get the MSTWSLBMUFGAO if the environment is favorable, and I would not be surprised if the environment was, right now, more favorable than the whip count allows us to appreciate.

Wallace says that the public is against this war in large numbers. McDonough says that this is an "understandable sentiment" but "this is not Iraq or Afghanistan, this is not Libya...this is not boots on the ground, this is a targeted effort to reinforce a prohibition that goes back 100 years." When we go to war with whoever next, it will be "this is not Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya or Syria or Yemen or Somalia, this is the Aleutians and I'm pretty sure we can take them, they fight with icicles."

Wallace points out that there's really no way to guarantee that this war will stay "limited." After all, what if Assad uses chemical weapons again? McDonough basically says that the risk of Assad using chemical weapons are the same after we do our targeted attack as it is right now. Wait, rewind, let me make sure I heard that right.

WALLACE: Frankly, voters and a lot of members are saying they don't believe it. They think you can't control it. Yes, it starts as limited but you don't know what Assad will do back. What if he fires another chemical weapon, gives it to hezbollah? They say we don't know what the limits will be. It isn't a limited test tube case. It isn't as neat as you are portraying it.

MCDONOUGH: I wish the situation in Syria were neat, Chris. Each of the risks you have talked about is as real today as it is the moment after the United States takes targeted, limited action to reinforce the prohibition. The risk of Assad using chemical weapons against our friends, against Syrian opposition is as real today. The risks of inaction outweigh the risks of action. This is a person who's used conventional force to using napalm on children to chemical weapons with a scale and scope we haven't seen in three decades. The question for Congress this week is simply that -- they do not dispute the intelligence. The question is should there be a consequence for this?

So, in case you missed it, the bolded part is McDonough essentially admitting that the missile strikes are intended as ACTIVITY, not as an ACHIEVEMENT. The White House has mapped it out for us, in an equation, like so.


So, in the grand scheme of actually MATERIALLY AFFECTING CIRCUMSTANCES IN SYRIA vis a vis the dangerous stuff Assad can do, the answer is, it is a wash.

BUT! McDonough also says:


How do you square the two notions? This sentence here:

"The question for Congress this week is simply that -- they do not dispute the intelligence. The question is should there be a consequence for this?"

So, the goal here of the airstrikes is for there to be a "consequence" for Assad, even if the consequence is ultimately inconsequential. "IF YOU DO THAT THING THEN WE WILL ALSO, VERY RIGHTEOUSLY, DO A THING TOO." The thing we do may not save lives or change regimes or bring piece, but that's not the point of the thing we do. The thing we do need only possess some INTRINSIC QUALITY OF THINGNESS.

My mind is pretty much blown! I mean, I figured that this was the case but I never thought the White House would come on teevee and prove that I had this right using math!

Wallace wants to know if the President will "abide with what the Congress decides," and if so, why not make that clear to Congress, so that they give the President his war. McDonough thinks that this has been made perfectly clear to Congress: "if Congress wants to make sure there is consequence for a dictator using this weapon against people including children, they have to vote yes for the resolution."

Wallace asks if the President will blame Congress for any future atrocities if they vote "no." McDonough doesn't "want to engage in a hypothetical." Translated from Beltwayspeak, that means you BET YOU SWEET ASS HE IS GOING TO BLAME CONGRESS.

Wallace wants McDonough to take the GOP off the hook for opposing this war, based on the fact that Democrats oppose it in large numbers, too, but McDonough doesn't want to get into that. He also asks if a "no" vote in Congress doesn't turn Obama into a "lame duck the next day." McDonough doesn't really want to address that, and I don't blame him -- that's the political media showing their true selves. It never matters if normal humans are dying or living on the edge of poverty or going without their inalienable rights -- what matters is whether some affluent political celebrity is "winning" or "losing."

I promise you, if Obama becomes a lame duck tomorrow he will leave the White House super happy and his whole family will be set for life and he'll brush off all these hang ups, that political reporters make sound as if they are just as dire as a roomful of children choking on sarin gas, as if there isn't any substance to them at all.

Okay, now Rand Paul is here to run for President in 2016.

Paul says the authorization's most "difficult obstacle" is the fact that the "rebels" are, to his mind, essentially "al Qaeda," and he continues to maintain that while the Senate is likely to approve the resolution, he still has "doubts about the house."

Wallace shows Paul the videos of people dying in Syria. Paul says, sure, whoever did that to those people "deserves death," but he's convinced that what's being proposed is "so surgical and specific that it won't even affect the outcome of the war." Based upon our McDonough math, Paul has grokked this correctly. What he's holding back on here is that he'd also be against a special force invasion that WOULD perhaps affect the outcome of the war in Syria, too. (He just referred to the forces opposing Assad as "al Qaeda," after all!)

He does stake out an odd position in which "destabilizing Assad" is something we should actively avoid.

"We need to convince the Russians to change their mind," Paul says, and perhaps get the whole international community involved. Which, again, wouldn't be enough to convince Paul, given on what he's said in the past about foreign policy.

Paul reckons that a talking filibuster isn't the way to do here, because this isn't an example of using the talking filibuster to get an amendment considered or pry information/concessions out of the White House -- no talking filibuster will ultimately thwart this authorization. He says that he will insist on a full debate, and a binding vote in the Senate.

Paul also says that if the President acts unilaterally after a "no" vote, he'll consider that unconstitutional. Paul says that he won't "make a judgment on impeachment," however.

Paul also rejects the notion that our enemies will see a no vote as a sign of weakness, and that the weakness actually happens if we attack Assad. He also scoffs at the whole notion of North Korea getting emboldened by our actions in Syria, saying that they should know that if Americans are attacked by North Korea with anything, "there will be an overwhelming response."

Wallace wants to pin Paul down on whether there is any atrocity exhibition, up to and including the holocaust, that would convince Paul based on it's mere existence that America needed to act militarily. "I consider myself to be a realist," he says, adding that it's up to Congress to consider the situation on the merits and make a decision. He doesn't rule out intervention exclusively, he says, but "typically, American interests" would have to be at stake.

"I think if we get involved in's more likely to cause instability," Paul says. He adds that he straight up doesn't believe the "no boots on the ground" promise.

Wallace asks about the fractured GOP, between interventionists and isolationists. Paul says that he rejects the name-calling, and that he is not an isolationist. He says that Americans want to fight for America and they want to "fight for victory, not stalemate."

Dave Weigel suggests that we recall that neo-conservative interventionism is actually NOT the GOP's default setting, and the unwillingness to greenlight this particular intervention isn't exclusively rooted in antipathy for Obama. (Though there is some of that!)

On the panel today are the Four People You Meet In Hell: Karl Rove, Brit Hume, Howie Kurtz, and Juan Williams. War, Famine, Pestilence, and Durrrrrrrrrrr. I am throwing the TiVo remote across the room, because I won't need to linger on the thoughtfulness of this group.

Hume says that all that the Obama can do right now with a televised address is slow the stampede away from a Syrian intervention. Kurtz says that there are Democrats who don't want war and Republicans that don't want Obama and a Congress burned from Iraq, and it's all combining in a way that doesn't favor intervention. (Somehow, though, to Kurtz, this is a "box of Obama's own making.)

Rove says that he's talked to a bunch of Republicans and they don't know whether an intervention serves short or long term American interests, and also Republicans just don't trust him. He also says that Democrats don't trust him. Impeach, probably!

Juan Williams, "I think the ghost of Vietnam and Iraq still haunt this administration..." ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. What, what? Hitler-something. "Don't want to send a signal to North Korea...don't want Assad to think he can shoot at Israel." When is Assad going to do that? On the days off from the massive civil war in his country? "Oh, you know what? I think I'm going to antagonize Israel, because what I really need right now is for there to be a few hundred Israeli fighter planes in the air over Damascus right now, beating the ever-living bejeezus out of me." If Assad COULD PRETTY PLEASE BE THAT DUMB, I would be greatly relieved.

We pick up with Rove complaining that Obama "took time off" from the Syria debate to go to the G20. In the timeline where Obama didn't do that, Rove is complaining that Obama didn't go to the G20.

Then the panel discusses #BENGHARGLE. Hume benghargles with a low, dull buzz. Rove benghargles with a weird, animal intensity. Kurtz benghargles with the uncertainty of a teenage boy about to commit himself to the loss of his virginity. Williams benghargles with insistent, defensive gulps.

HUME: Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

ROVE: Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!

KURTZ: Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!

WALLACE: Jacha-chacha-chacha-chow!

WILLIAMS: Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!

And that's the answer to "What does a Fox say, about #Benghargle?"


Oh, hi, whaaaaaaat? Apparently Charlie Rose just interviewed Bashar al-Assad huh what now? This is a thing that happened? According to Bob Schieffer, it is.

So, what's the haps? Rose says that Assad, as you might expect, "denied that he had anything to do with" the chemical weapons attack. And that despite the fact that there are videos and what not, that "there's no evidence to make a conclusive judgment."

Rose apparently spent a significant amount of time just reading the New York Times to Assad, because Syria just gets spotty delivery of the Weekender and so no one gets to read the "Modern Love" column or the "Slow Pour Coffee And Refugee Situation" section. There was a big article in the paper about Assad's chemical weapons capacity, and Assad was like, "Yeah, I'm not saying we do have chemical weapons, but if we do -- and maybe we don't! -- they are in 'centralized control' and 'no one has access to them.' If we have them I mean! I mean, we probably don't, so...ha me the new Maureen Dowd column again, Charlie? She is a DELIGHT."

Rose, though, pressed on this. Assad is basically of the opinion that there is no evidence he did anything with chemical weapons and maybe the rebels did that to themselves. I guess if everything hinged on Charlie Rose eliciting a confession from Assad, bad news. We did not have that moment where Assad said, "Oh shucks Charlie, you got me. I can't lie to those beautiful eyes of yours. Damn those gorgeous eyes! Oh, I wish I could sarin gas your beautiful face...oh ho ho ho, Charlie! See what I did there? I just LOSE MYSELF around you, dude. Ha ha ha, I'll confess to everything...just give be four minutes to stare at you, okay?"

Assad apparently does "not necessarily know whether or not there was going to be a strike" but he is "prepared for it" and warned darkly of "some kind of retaliation" from "people that are in line with him." He warns the American people that "it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the middle east in wars" and that "they should communicate through their congress and through their leadership in washington not to authorize a strike."

Rose goes on to say that he asked if Assad would just agree to give up chemical weapons. Rose doesn't tell us what he answered. He does say that Assad admitted some concern that an airstrike would "tip the balance" of the civil war, which is a weird thing to admit if you don't want the attack. Also there was a lot of discussion about his father? I don't know. This interview is going to air on Monday night on the Charlie Rose show.

So, now Denis McDonough gets to answer some new questions, maybe!

McDonough says that the most important takeaway from that brief stuff with Charlie Rose is that he's "paying attention to what's going on in Washington." Then he goes back to the "he used these weapons" and did so "on children" so now "congress has to figure out" is there will be "consquences" no matter how inconsequential.

Schieffer says that Assad wants the U.S. to "show the evidence" and McDonough says that the extant videotapes constitutes "evidence." He repeats that the airstrikes will be targetedlimiteduseofforcenobootsontheground and notIraqAfghanistanLibya.

Schieffer says, "I think you are losing support with every passing day." McDonough says that it's "too early to suggest that" because "members have been in their states and districts and haven't received the full briefing on what's going on." And, again, the airstrikes will be targetedlimiteduseofforcenobootsontheground and notIraqAfghanistanLibya.

Schieffer says, "Can I interrupt you? Isn't that what we always hear?" McDonough says, yeah we need to be disciplined and not let the mission creep, but hey remember how Obama was against the war in Iraq? That was awesome. "He undertook an effort to end that war," McDonough says. That "effort" by the way, amounted to "not changing the Status of Forces agreement that was signed by the Iraqi government well before Obama became president."

"This is not an empty exercise," McDonough says, "We are working this very aggressively." This will be Congress' chance to "hold Assad to account." Because that's what Assad will probably say, "Wow, looks like I've been held to account! I guess I'll just let the rebels in my country kill me and drag my broken corpse through the streets. YOU GOT ME, CONGRESS."

Now Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) is here to yargle some about this.

Rogers says that getting approval from Congress is an uphill slog, and what Obama really needed to do was "start this process two years ago." OH YES, EXACTLY. Here's how that would have worked.

OBAMA: Congress! I need you to authorize the use of force in Syria, stat!

CONGRESS: Holy shit! Okay, why?

OBAMA: Because we really have to hold Assad accountable for using chemical weapons.

CONGRESS: WTF! Hold on? Assad used chemical weapons? That BASTARD! When did he do that.

OBAMA: Two years from now, give or take, guys. I have a really funny feeling about this.

CONGRESS: Oh, well, this makes perfect sense! I mean, if you came to us with intelligence and videos two years from now, we'd naturally be very skittish about sending you the authorization to use force! We'd probably listen but get really nervous about it. But wow, the fact that you have some bundle of fuzzy worries about something maybe happening two years from now, you can of course go ahead and take all the force you need to do whatever? Thanks for asking us, Obama!

OBAMA: Don't thank me! Thank Representative Rogers, super genius!

ROGERS: (splashing around in a wading pool of his own feces) ZOOOOOOOM! WHEEEEEEEEEE! ME HAVE SUPER BRAAAAAIN!

Rogers goes on to say that Obama's done an awful job explaining what our vital national security interest in slightly bothering Assad without doing much of consequence is. This is also something that Rogers has done an awful job explaining.

"PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH" he says, implying that this would be achieved in a bunch of airstrikes intended to get Assad to "think twice" before using chemical weapons to kill his own people, without burdening him to think at all about killing his own people with all other weapons with which he can kill people.

Rogers says that if "chemical weapons spread throughout the Levant and into Europe" it's going to be a problem. I don't get it -- do we have missiles that stop this from happening? Also, aren't the people who are most likely to traffic chemical weapons to Belgium from Syria the Syrian rebels?

Rogers has this crazy, extravagant list of things that he promises will happen if we only nudge Assad with a limited airstrike intended to simply dissuade him from maybe using some chemical weapons:

1. "It does mean our relationship with Russia."
2. "It does mean do we get a nuclear Iran."
3. "Can we contain North Korea."

In order to get the relationship with Russia we want, prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, and "contain North Korea," we simply must drop an inconsequential number of bombs on Syria. No one denies this, this is just how foreign policy works!

Schieffer points out that the American people keep calling up their Congresspersons and explaining that they do not want to get involved in Syria. Rogers admits that the same is true with his constituents. But, he says, this is how representative democracy works: you listen to yoru constituents for a couple of days and then ultimately decide that they can get bent, and few lucky constituents get to fly dangerous sorties over foreign countries, and policymakers have steak dinners and cluck-cluck over how things are going and who's ineffable leadership/wussiness is ultimately responsible for the success/failure of those sorties.

And if at some point in the future, those constituents say, "well, maybe I'll vote for someone else over this," the incumbent has the option of pointing out that his opponent wants to SOCIALIST MOOSLIM SHARIA LAW HIS TAXES COMMUNIST FETUSKILLER, while piling up lots and lots of PAC dollars from the influential pals he's carried water for while serving his term. And that's how America works.

Schieffer monologues about how he doesn't like any of our options in Syria, but surely doing nothing would be more dangerous, right? Okay then.

There is a commercial that CROSSFIRE is returning to CNN. One thing I do support dropping on Syria from a very great height is everyone and everything involved with CROSSFIRE. Just push the sets and hosts and lights and cameras and producers right out of a plane over Damascus.

Think about the message that would send to our enemies! "Holy crap," they would say, "Maybe we shouldn't mess with America. Those motherf-----rs are CRAZY."

Now Representatives Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Mary.) are here. Amash is against a Syrian intervention, whereas Cummings is one of those guys who hasn't gotten a call from the president, yet, asking him nicely-nicely to pretty please get on board.

Schieffer wants to know what we need to do to convince Amash to change his mind, and he says that based upon the briefings he's received and the strategy the administration wants to carry out and the things his constituents have told him, there's no reason to grant the authorization. Schieffer wants to know if there are things that Amash would be willing to vote for, in spite of what his constituents want (this is apparently the Beltway model for good-governance). Amash says, "absolutely" there are, but war is outside the realm of things he believes should be divorced from constituent concern.

Cummings says that plenty of people in his district are against the war too, but reminds that his district supported Obama's re-election by wide margins, so he thinks that they are still convinceable. All he has to do is make it clear that the mission will be restricted to the inconsequential display of force that McDonough has been describing today. As long as Obama can keep from promising something consequential -- boots on the ground, or a wider commitment to Assad's opponents -- he should be fine.

Amash says that he doesn't rebut the evidence he's seen in private briefings, but he does rebut the premise. It's not as strong a set of evidence, he says, as the administration has told the public it is. He also says that what he's been given to pore over in classified briefings has actually made him a bigger skeptic about using force. Last Friday, CNN's Brianna Keilar reported that the members of Congress she talked to were experiencing the same thing, after coming out of classified briefings.

Oh, hey, that was short. Now Bob Woodward is here, to talk about...the fiscal cliff negotiations? What, did I just fall into a time machine? Fiscal cliff is dunzo, dude! And it was an overblown crisis when it was in the news. Where the hell did I throw my TiVo remote?

Oh, there is like a whole panel happening. Bill Kristol is here, because every Sunday show needs to get a piece of his brain. Also David Sanger and David Ignatius and Danielle Pletka are here. I am going to use the loo and refill my coffee cup, and I'll just let this play and maybe something interesting will be happening when I return. Maybe not. Who cares.

Okay, so that took me a long time because Declan, one of my cats, said "Meow" and I stopped to listen and pet him. "You really know a lot more about this issue that Danielle Pletka," I said. "Reeeowr," he said. "Oh, well, it's classy of you to offer her that much, Declan."

Okay, so, Woodward is mewling about how Obama doesn't call enough of the lawmakers who have very publicly broadcasted their intention to thwart his agenda at every possible turn without regard for the policy substance or the state of the world up on the phone to say, "I need you with me on this." He is also "baffled" that he and Boehner haven't notched that Grand Bargain yet! (IT IS BECAUSE THE HOUSE GOP STEADFASTLY OPPOSE ANY DEAL SHORT OF THE PAUL RYAN BUDGET, YOU IDIOT.)

I really can't even with this ditz. Fortunately, we move to this zany idea that Senators Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp had to pass a bill that gives Assad forty-five days to sign a chemical weapons ban and disassemble his stockpile. Schieffer says, "Is there any future in something like that?" and the answer -- Pletka gets to give it -- is "LOL NO."

Kristol calls the Manchin/Heitkamp bill an "ineffectual but facesaving" measure. He, by contrast, supports "authorizing the use of force." This is also an ineffectual but facesaving measure, but it's one where planes go ZOOM and bombs go BOOM, so it's better.

Pletka worries that by not doing something inconsequential in Syria, we will fail to impress Iran with our toughness. Schieffer agrees that this is the "bottom line." It's hard to fathom the widespread acceptance of the idea that as a nation, we must be held hostage by the idea that Iran doesn't fear us enough. I mean, I think we've got them pretty terrified. That's what all the "let's hurry up and build a nuclear weapon" stuff is about.

Oh, on with the last show. You all should really just switch over and try to enjoy the NFL now. According to the news, we aren't even out of the first quarter in most of the first week's games and there have already been three safeties. Safeties usually happen because someone cocked something up really, really badly, so in a way, the NFL right now is being a more enjoyable-to-watch version of America.


Well, George Stephanopoulos actually showed up today, to ask the same questions of Denis McDonough that everyone else has asked, basically.

McDonough says that no one in Congress has rebutted the evidence they've been presented with, the question is whether they believe there should be consequences, that answer will be followed by Iran and Hezbollah, yadda yadda, they are investing the time and effort, Congress should be a partner, if they want Assad to be "held to account" they should vote yes.

But the question is whether or not Obama will attack if Congress says no, and whether or not the specter of impeachment looms large in that thought-process. McDonough focuses on Assad being a murderer. It's actually kind of interesting, if Congress will impeach the President on behalf of Bashar al-Assad. Stranger things have happened.

McDonough mentions again that chemical weapons are bad, mmmkay, and we should definitely be against them when it's not our napalm or depleted uranium or white phosphorus that we're talking about when we talk about "chemical weapons."

McDonough says that he's outraged for anyone (like Ted Cruz!) who says that our actions would be carried out in an alliance with al Qaeda.

So now here is Ted Cruz, to respond to McDonough's response. First he responds to Assad: "He rightly should be subject to condemnation." So, attack him? No. "They are beginning from the wrong objective and they have no plan for success." Cruz is against using the military to defending "amorphous international norms." Rather, he would "right now cut off Iraq's aid unless they cut off air rights to Syria."

He also thinks we should force Russia and China to veto a resolution in the UN about Syria. Which they would do. Whereupon, Cruz would reinstate the anti-ballistic missile battery in Europe to be all "Nyaaah-nyaaaah on Russia." He would then sell F-16s to Taiwan to do similar playground taunts at China.

Stephanopoulos is kind of "Huh, what?" because Cruz's "decisive actions against Assad" look a whole lot like "ineffectually antagonizing Russia and China." Cruz says, "We should unify international opinion condemning him." That really isn't a plan.

But Cruz's concerns are obviously, the fact that the people ostensibly opposing Assad aren't necessarily an improvement, in terms of non-psychotic, non-death culty super-zealots, over the Assad regime. That's kind of a big problem here -- the sideline argument is whether the "rebels" that would fill the power vacuum are these "moderate good guys" or terrorist bad guys.

Stephanopoulos is way more interested in whether or not Cruz's "al Qaeda's air force" comment has bungled his "messaging." HAS TED CRUZ LOST CONTROL OF THE NARRATIVE AHEAD OF THE 2016 ELECTION?

Cruz filled out his time on the show, saying, "#BENGHARGLE!!!"

Now it's time for THIS WEEK's Shower-Mouse Roundtable Panel Grab-Ass Session with Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Donna Brazile and Dan Senor and Katrina VandenHeuvel and Greta Van Susteren and there are still FORTY FIVE MINUTES OF THIS SHOW LEFT?

Ugh. Kinzinger says that he offered to help the White House round up support for the strike in Syria and he's all whiny in the undies about the fact that no one at the White House said, "OH YEAH, LET'S IMMEDIATELY GET THE SUPER INFLUENTIAL REPRESENTATIVE WHATSHISNAME ON THE CASE."

Van Susteren says that you can't take anyone seriously when the the President went golfing that time and also Congress won't come back from their vacations.

Senor helpfully notes that there is an "isolationist" camp in the GOP, and also a camp in the GOP that reflexively opposes anything Obama wants to do, up to and including recommending dental hygiene. If Obama said, "People should really curb their dogs," then the sidewalks of red districts would be caked two feet deep in dog-shit. Because of this, Senor says, "What sort of message does this send to Iran." VOTE ROMNEY 2012.

KVH says that we are being presented with a false choice, "bombs or nothing," and supports helping refugees and not doing surgical strikes. She also notes that America is just sick to death of fighting wars.

Van Susteren just says the same crap she already did. Kinzinger objects. He says that definitely the moment right now is TOTALLY DEFINING IN WORLD HISTORY and it's NO TIME TO BE WAR WEARY AMERICA. Vote MSTWSLBMUFGAO/Kinzinger 2016!

Brazile says that whatever we do in Syria won't be enough but it's vital to convince a war-weary America to do something anyway.

Van Susteren says: "If we take out all [Assad's] military installations, as you've said, he has still got the gas, he has still got his supplies, he is still in power." She also says, "If we take [Assad] out, which is not the president's goal at this point, regime change, we still have a problem because we have more than 26 groups -- rebel groups that are not the least bit -- they're not one good group that we want to work with."

Just five minute ago she was criticizing everyone for playing golf and being on vacation instead of saddling up to "do stuff" in Syria, now she's saying that no matter what we do in Syria, we can't win. She is really some kind of super-genius. Definitely put her on the bloody television as much as possible. HEAD::DESK

There is some yelling, which deepens the viewers already powerful convictions that in terms of the future of America, they really came in after the good parts.

KVH seems to like one aspect of Manchin/Heitkamp -- it gives the President more time to assemble an international coalition against Assad. Senor isn't impressed by this, naturally, because he just thinks it's time someone gets wet, at the hands of our bombs. I want to go back to bed.

Stephanopoulous asks for predictions. Senor says that the Senate will say yes, the House probably not, and he "encourages the President" to ignore Congress. KVH says that it may pass the Senate, won't pass the House, and Obama should heed Congress. Van Susteren says it will pass the Senate, not the House, Obama was right to go to Congress, and in the end there is no imminent threat. Kinzinger says it won't pass the House, but everyone should be "team America" and "do the right thing" which is some ineffectual, face-saving airstrikes in Syria. Brazile says Congress isn't going along with this.

There is a whole segment on #BENGHARGLE and some segment on a "miracle baby" that was born to some Congresswoman. We all deserve better, so that's it for today. Next week, we will continue to try to resolve the whole Syria issue, but who knows, maybe we'll end up simply cancelling America due to lack of interest. Or we'll do something in between. Or maybe they'll do my "Drop CROSSFIRE on Syria plan." One thing we probably won't do anytime soon is get started on the unemployment crisis.

Anyway, have a good week of getting bombarded with "Let's Go: Syria" marketing. See you in seven days, I guess. Try to do something that doesn't breed a deep, deep cynicism, if that's even possible anymore. I mean, why is everything already getting pumpkin-spiced, it is only September? I mean, come on people, you're blowing it big time.

[The liveblog returns on September 15, unless all these shows get cancelled, which would be okay. In the meantime my Rebel Mouse page will be filled with things that are hopefully fun to read.]