TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: This vast and clueless slab of derp

Stood in the Senate. Heard him on the stand,

Half sunk, in rather ornate lies, his frown

And twitching lip and sneer of cold command

Tells that this orator of eggs and ham read

As to connive, vamped on such senseless things,

To the pols that mocked him and the Reps that fled.

And on the news chyron these words appear:

`My name is Cruzymandias, Bat of Dings:

Look on my works, John Boehner, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that abysmal dreck, boundless with blare,

The multitude of LOLs stretch far away.

Hi, my name is Jason and this is your Sunday morning liveblog. Right now, everything about the future is uncertain because two different factions of the GOP are having something of a member-measuring contest, only no one can remember how, exactly one goes about unzipping ones pants. The rest of us wait for them to figure it out. Did I mention they might shut down the government over this? Ha, yes, it's true. But there's literally nothing left for anyone to do while they figure it out.

But it's Sunday, and today will probably go down in history as False Equivalence Day. The standard for not being an idiot in this coming weeks involve clearing these VERY TEENSY hurdles that James Fallows writes about here. I've already written about this, but the one we'll be watching the Sunday Morning Flappatariat fail to clear all morning is this one:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a "standoff," a "showdown," a "failure of leadership," a sign of "partisan gridlock," or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on. [...]

This isn't "gridlock." It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us -- and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

BOLO, and YOLO, so let me watch whilst y'all chill. As always, you should feel free to visit one another in the comments, drop me a line if need be, follow me on Twitter if you like indecipherable nonsense (I mean moreso than normally), and as always I have fun Sunday reads awaiting you on my Rebel Mouse page.

Oh, just as a programming note: the Sunday Morning liveblog will be off next weekend. Should be fun for everyone.

Okay then, let us get on with it.


Wallace says that Congress is in a "standoff" right now, but as noted above, there is no standoff featuring Congress, just one party in Congress that can't figure out what they're all about, everyone else is totally sorted out and waiting for the intraparty staredown to end. Here to talk about it today is Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the "Shemp" of the House GOP leadership team. Then Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) will yell about the Obamacare exchanges for a while. (I was gratified to learn that if I lost my insurance tomorrow, for some reason, it would only cost about $100 more. That's good news for me, but remember, everyone's mileage is going to vary.)

But hey, governmen shutdown. Last night, the House tried passing another bill that won't pass the Senate, and now we'll wait for the Senate to not pass it, and then we'll probably get a government shutdown sometime tomorrow night or something like that. Anyway, what does Shemp have to say about this? A skeptical Wallace doesn't understand the point to the latest but of wrangling is essentially "dead on arrival" in the Senate.

McCarthy says that everyone is just assuming that the Democratic-held Senate will delay the implementation of the bill. "Let's have the debate," he says, of a debate that's long over. There are very rosy scenarios, flitting through McCarthy's mind, in which multiple Senators who didn't accept the weird part of the House's last continuing resolution, suddenly lose their minds.

Wallace, because he has to deal in practical matters, and not magic, is just like, "Ugh, let's just assume that it's not going to pass the Senate because duh, can you please explain what the House does then?" McCarthy doesn't have anything specific: they will send a new continuing resolution with "a few other options" attached. So, not a clean CR, but who knows what "a few other options" means. Maybe someone's puppy gets it!

Wallace points out that this is the first time the government will have shut down in 17 years, and it will hurt the economy, so is McCarthy willing to take the risk? He says, "We are not shutting the government down." Ha, okay, Shemp.

He goes on to say that "The president was out golfing and the Senators had gone home, we were here till 1am," working to write a funding bill and avoid the government shutdown. Again, the reason people were golfing or sitting at home yesterday, is BECAUSE THEIR WORK IS DONE, DUDE. It's McCarthy's crew that has to work on the weekend, because they've not yet delivered their deliverables.

Man, when I didn't get my work done back in the day, I stayed nights and weekends too. That's how it works. If the GOP could get their differences with one another sorted out, they could spend Saturday laying up in the cut like me.

Ha, this whole, "The President will negotiate with Putin and Houssani but not with us" line also doesn't work because it just points out that at the moment, it's not Putin or Houssani who are itching to blow up the economy right now. Why McCarthy wants to brag about being more bug-eyed and sociopathic than Putin and Houssani is really beyond me.

Wallace, noticing that after all that flurry of half-thought out talking points, his original question didn't get answered, asks again what happens after the Senate sends back the CR with the junk removed from its trunk. "Will you pass a clean CR with Democratic votes, and send it back to the Senate to avoind a shutdown."

McCarthy offers a contradiction: in that scenario the House will send back a CR that the "Senate can accept" that include "fundamental changes to Obamacare." The Senate sends that right back too. He "thinks," anyway. Part of his reasoning has to do with Senator Joe Manchin -- but McCarthy is just not up on current events when he pins his hopes on a Senate Democrat revolt on Manchin.

Wallace asks about maybe sending up a clean short term CR, to give this process more time, and McCarthy just keeps at this whole "he thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts" routine. The government won't shut down, he says, because if you present the Senate with unreasonable demands long enough, they will finally vote for them out of boredom or anger or delirium.

Wallace: "Let's be honest, you did not want to be in this position." That's true -- House leadership wanted to pass a CR that allowed everyone to vent their feelings on Obamacare one last time but ultimately just pass a clean bill, and Ted Cruz came around and ruined it by angrying up the Morlocks into a revolt. Wallace wants to know who is running the House. McCarthy insists that "we all have the same goal."

One day, you're going to get some lucky reporter and a long out-of-politics John Boehner together at a pub in Ohio, and he's gonna spill about how he could have landed a lot of amazingly favorable-to-Republicans deals from Obama, but he was the GOP house speaker that ended up with the caucus full of TrueBlood addicts.

What's going to happen with the debt limit, by the way? POTUS says there aren't going to be negotiations. Wallace goes down the laundry list of GOP demands, and asks him if attaching the "entire GOP platform" is a bit "over the top." McCarthy hits Wallace with another flurry of talking points, including the "why won't Obama negotiate with us?" The answer being, it's not the President's job to sort out the seemingly intractable differences between two factions of the opposition party.

Now we will have Tim Kaine and Mike Lee "debate how the Affordable Care Act Exchanges will affect you." This segment is a great example of the pure and undistilled uselessness of Sunday morning television.

First of all, we already know what's going to happen. Kaine is going to praise the Affordable Care Act, Lee is going to defame it. No one comes in with the possibility of a changed mind. We already know EXACTLY what is going to be said.

Secondly, Kaine and Lee DO NOT KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT HOW THE EXCHANGES WILL AFFECT "YOU" TO HAVE AN INFORMED DEBATE ABOUT IT. Know how we'll find out how "you" are affected by the health care law? We'll find out the minute you sign up for it, and later, we'll find out how well it works when you get sick. It may all work great, or poorly, or somewhere in between, depending on what state you live in, and how good the people running the show are. But when you find out, you'll probably reflect upon this "debate" we are about to have and discover that nothing said here today really applied out in the real world.

Finally, this whole thing is useless, because the fake "debate" is focused on how this law will affect normal human Americans, and this is not a teevee show that normal human Americans watch. This is a show that wealthy Beltway elites and schmuck internet livebloggers watch, and we all have health insurance.

Anyway, I'll watch this segment that will feature no useful information and no surprising opinions for you.

Kaine, by the way, not aging well! Anyhoo. Kaine will probably pass a measure to keep funding the military in the event of a shutdown and doesn't think it will be too controversial.

Lee supports what the House did last night, which makes sense, because he was one of the people that engineered it. He offers a fleet of talking points that essentially indicates that he doesn't like the Affordable Care Act.

Wallace asks Kaine about the public exchanges, and he says that debates are great, "but we shouldn't connect this to a government shutdown." Wallace cuts him off before he wander up the government shutdown grandstand, and focuses him on the impact of the exchanges. Obviously, he likes the exchanges.

It remains pretty funny to me that a continuing problem that the GOP cites with the Obamacare exchanges is that you may not be able to keep the doctor you like. This is a condition instrinsic to American health care. I was faced with the whole "I don't get to keep seeing the doctor I prefer" problem DECADES before the Affordable Care Act even happened. Absent the existence of Obamacare, there are exigent circumstances that could find me shopping for all new doctors as well.

It's just weird to hear people hold this up as an issue. Total bubble thinking. I'm sure Wallace is affluent enough to see who he likes. Out here in the real world, the whole "I don't know if I'll get to always see this doctor I like" is a problem that every adult with an ounce of realism and a soupcon of basic maturity has already reckoned with.

Kaine doubts that this will be a problem, because it is a "health care exhange" that includes a bunch of different private insurance options, each with their own bespoke provider network. In the end, it's really designed to allow people to start seeing a human person with a medical degree, who are currently seeing, "I sure hope my kid doesn't die from this."

Mike Lee is still misusing the whole "trainwreck" line, claiming that the "author of Obamacare called the law a trainwreck." Let's review, shall we?

On April 17, the Senate Finance Committee called HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to testify on implementation and other issues. Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee, one of the fathers of Obamacare, raked Sebelius over the coals about a decision that cut the PR budget for implementation. The administration requested $554 million for PR. House Republicans, understandably, cut the entire budget for implementation. The fiscal cliff deal slashed the overall spending on the Prevention and Public Health Fund from $15 billion (over 10 years) to $10 billion. So Sebelius moved money out of PR and promotion and tried to make up that money by asking health care companies to chip in.

That ask became an outrage all its own. That was the context in which Baucus asked Sebelius how HHS was possibly able to educate patients and providers about a new law that was deeply confusing.

"A lot of people have no idea about all of this," he said. "People just don't know a lot about it, and the Kaiser poll pointed that out. I understand you've hired a contractor. I'm just worried that that's gonna be money down the drain because contractors like to make money ... I just tell ya, I just see a huge train wreck coming down."

What would cause the "train wreck"? Insufficient awareness of how the law worked. Not the law itself. Neither at that hearing nor in the month since has the (always pretty mush-mushed) Baucus said the law itself would be a disaster if implemented.

Pro tip: If you want to avoid me calling you a liar or an idiot, stop saying things like this. Stop saying stuff that I can factcheck on the internet in thirty seconds. Stop tacitly saying, "I have such contempt for people, even those who support my position, that I won't even attempt to be honest." There are a thousand ways to argue against the Affordable Care Act that don't include explicitly attempting to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.

"I'm going to explain why this isn't a trainwreck," says Kaine. I GOT THIS ONE, TIM. If you argue against this talking point as if it is a real thing, you will only undermine my position, so STFU. Fortunately, Wallace indicates that he is bored with the turn this discussion has taken, and sick of "the rhetoric." I'd be more sympathetic to Wallace's position if he hadn't actually decided to stage this debate on who has the best style points.

Now we're going to have a debate over premiums. It would appear that some premiums will be higher than some current insurance positions are. Like I said, I ran my own numbers and found that this was the case -- I'd pay about $130 more a month to insure myself and my spouse. (I don't qualify for any subsidies.) Obviously, if the choice is keep my current insurance or bounce onto the exchange, I keep my current insurance. If my choice is bounce onto the exchange and drop dead of something easily treatable, well...that's an even easier choice.

Lee doesn't like the news about the premiums, Kaine does like the news about the premiums.

My thought is that if Obamacare really has a lingering problem that may turn people against it, it won't be the premiums -- people will likely enjoy being able to pay hundreds of dollars a month to stay alive, as opposed to losing their savings and homes to stay alive. Where it all could go wrong is in the basic workings of the bureaucracy -- the customer service, the form processing, the reimbursements, the transparency, the literal human-on-human interaction between the people who run the exchange and the people who need the information on how to use it. Right now, I think everyone dreads picking up the phone to call just about anybody. My advice: if you REALLY want people to support these exchanges, make sure you have got tight customer service game.

Meanwhile, Lee doesn't like the employer mandate, as I expected him to. he wants to delay it...and he perhaps gives away the game here: "The only way to delay it is to defund it." Everyone on the GOP who have been selling those things as two different ideas just got torpedoed by Lee.

Kaine, to the surprise of no one, likes what the Affordable Care offer people. He says that where everyone agrees a fix is optimal, they should agree to fix things. The problem is that is a complete non-starter because you unfortunately need to have a majority of legislators sincerely invested in making a beneficial tweak to the law.

It's funny to hear Fox News briefly contend on behalf of union members, though. Once the wind is blowing in the prevailing direction again, they'll be back to helping to undermine wage growth and middle-class economic security.

Lee professes an affection for the CBO results that gibe with the outcomes he wants, and a distaste for the CBO results that don't. Wallace says that Lee doesn't have a plan to insure the uninsured, Lee claims he does. Kaine says he's open to anyone's ideas. In truth, Lee doesn't really have a plan to insure people, and Kaine is not even remotely interested in talking about ideas. We knew all of this before the segment began. Nobody hugs, and nobody learns, but there was a sort of shiny light on the teevee screen for a few minutes.

Okay, we've reached the soft and spongy part of this show's skull. It's panel time! With Brit Hume and Kim Strassel and Juan Williams and the Hollowed-Out Soulless Husk Of Lobbyist Crud dba "Evan Bayh."

Once again, Wallace is talking about the government shut down with phrases like, "neither side is backing down." As a reminder, the two "sides" here that are deadlocked are two factions of the Republican party. Will they work out their differences? Find out, on tonight's episode of DAWSON'S CREEK.

Wallace elicits a LOL saying, "Wow guys, I bet a lot of people just thought this government shutdown stuff was just political theatre." If you're not an idiot, you still think that, because that's all it is. Nobody with a brain in their head thinks that Obamacare is getting defunded until there is a President with an (R) after their name. This is one big lycanthropic musical-comedy, and the gun that was waved around in the first scene is finally going to get fired.

Hume says that "you saw in the interviews how the two sides saw this." Did we? Humes theory is that Kaine talked about not shutting down the government, and avoiding a government shutdown, whereas Lee didn't, and this is because history demonstrates that a government shutdown was going to rebound to the GOP's detriment. I dunno, Brit! Seems to me that in that scenario, Kaine sits back and says, "Please proceed, Mr. Lee." I think that maybe Kaine really actually thinks that a shutdown will be harmful to normal human Americans.

Oh, Christ, of course Evan Bayh is part of No Labels now. He spits about a hundred words on behalf of the meritocracy, because obviously the real victim here is Big Business.

That's two panelists who don't even seem to be aware of normal humans who live outside the bubble. I wonder if any of these Sunday shows will manage this trick.

Finally, Wallace and Strassel arrive at what's really going on here -- an internecine shit-fit between two parts of the Republican party. Strassel essentially demarcates both sides, thusly -- those GOPer who want to practice governing according to practicalities and achieve what's possible, and glory-seekers who want to make headlines. That's like, the first completely true thing I've heard today. Strassel says that she's contacted many of the dead-enders, asking about what their plan is, how they'll manage the messaging, what they'll do in terms of PR, and to a person they've told her that these aren't important questions to ask. So, there is really no "plan" here.

Williams: "It's not the normal politics on the Hill anymore." Yes! Good. That's right! Per Fallows:

As a matter of politics, this is different from anything we learned about in classrooms or expected until the past few years. We're used to thinking that the most important disagreements are between the major parties, not within one party; and that disagreements over policies, goals, tactics can be addressed by negotiation or compromise.

This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate. Outsiders to this struggle -- the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or "opinion leaders" outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority -- have essentially no leverage over the outcome.

Bayh says, that there has been a "complete decoupling of primary politics...and general election politics." Not as relevant, but yes, that's true, too. Suddenly this gaggle of mouthflappers is on a roll!

Hume says that there never has been a downside for Democrats in the event of a GOP-led shutdown of government, and back when they took it on the chin the last time, the GOP was held in higher esteem. He also thinks that the government shutdown "could be a game-changer" in 2014, but I would actually disagree with that. I actually think the GOP are so well-positioned for the midterms that a government shutdown would not cause Dems to make noteworthy gains in the House.

I am, as always prepared to be wrong, I guess? But for now, I'm feeling pretty confident about how 2014 is going to go. (A debt ceiling debacle could be different. But then, a debt ceiling debacle could mean that we're all "liveblogging politics" with our mouths around a flaming oil drum we're using for warmth.)

The panel will now briefly spatter on about foreign policy. Hume says that while we are now totally calling up the new dude in Iran, who seems to have managed to pass over the low bar marked, "Better than Ahmadinejad," nothing has really changed between the two countries. Strassel reckons that when Obama and Netanyahu speak, ambitions may get dialed back. She also says that it's important that Obama "doesn't get played" and agree to remove sanctions, but I don't think that's in the offing? Right now, the administration seems to really like the sanctions.

Williams reckons that the phonecall is historic and we're actually closer than ever before to brokering a substantial deal with Iran, which seems to be also a bit too optimistic. I can confirm that the new president of Iran is not on Tinder and will not send me Snapchats, so, from a strictly diplomatic standpoint, I cannot assess right now whether or not President Rouhani is "DTF."


President Clinton is here, today, to do an infomercial for the Clinton Global Initiative, plus we will have panel bluster on a range of topics, and more OMG HISTORIC PHONECALL stuff too. Oh, and government shutdown pie in the face cream everywhere now comes the seltzer clownshow 2013.

Ha, ha, I sort of love Dana Rorhrhhrrrhhahhrhrhaahabacherrrrrhhehehrr and the way he frames, "scuttling the law you fought so hard to pass" as a "compromise." That's just genius. A man who can say that, can say ANYTHING. That's how Buddhist statues in Afghanistan get grenaded. Life is wonderful, by which I mean terrible.

Jonathan Karl, if you are interested, says that he puts the chances on a government shutdown at 99%.

One thing I'll give Stephanopoulos: having been in the position to appreciate exactly what it's like to have to periodically raise the debt ceiling, he typically treats the matter with seriousness. He begins today, noting that the debt ceiling issue is far graver. We'll see how it goes.

Before we wade back into that whole farce, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is here, to discuss the future of U.S.-Iranian relations. The lead-up segment to the interview probably is a bit too optimistic and Panglossian for my tastes. I don't know why we can't simply attach a scintilla of importance to a phone call -- right now, it seem that you have to treat this as "OMGZ THE PHONE CALL HEARD ROUND THE WORLD PROVIDED YOU WERE ON THAT PHONE CALL" or "BWAHHAHAA IRAN IS TOTALLY DIABOLICALLY PLAYING US WITH THEIR EVIL PHONECALL HYPNOTRICKSY." I guess we don't have much else going on.

Terry Moran, though, seriously has the most supple and pillowy lips and I just want to spend a few hours on top of them.

Now, we go to Javad Zarif, and Stephanopoulos saying that some people are talking about the phone call as if it was the equivalent of "the fall of the Berlin Wall." Who are these people, saying this? I seriously need to rap them on the head. At the very least, if David Hasselhoff is not dancing on top of this phone call, then it is not the same as the Berlin Wall.

Zarif says that "we have taken the first steps" in repairing a relationship. He thinks that the tensions should not have gone global in the first place, but hey, man, that's sort of on you guys. Stephanopoulos points out that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, is not thought of as a person who'll likely cotton to a deal wrought by Housani and Obama. (After the Ahmadinejad years, when we all pretended that he was the terrible threat we all had to worry about, we appear to have returned to the reality frame, in which Iran's "president" is actually not the guy in charge of Iran.)

Zarif: "“There has been 34 years of the building up of this mutual distrust...We need to move in that direction of removing some of that mistrust, true mutual steps that each side needs to take in order to convince the other side that its intentions are positive and for a better future for all of us.”

Zarif says that both Iran and the United States have pluralistic societies where differences of opinions are freely aired and -- holy crap what's that!? Crap, seventeen anvils just fell out of the sky and hit me on the head. Cripes, that hurt a lot.

John Kerry has some tangible things that they can do vis-a-vis their nuclear ambitions, Zarif is only interested in starting negotiations, and the starting point, from his point of view, is removing all of the economic sanctions. "The Iranian people have showed that they can put their trust in the ballot box," he says, and OH NO ANVILS AGAIN, CRAP.

"Our right to enrich [uranium] is non-negotiable," he says, adding, “We do not need military grade uranium. That is a certainty and we will not move in that direction.” He would also really like Israel to stop assassinating their scientists, and the "best way to ensure that Iran's nuclear ambitions remain peaceful" is to have nuclear facilities of the sort that can be monitored, including surprise inspections. (How "surprising" can a "surprise" IAEA inspection be, by the way? Genuinely would like to know.)

Stephanopoulos points out that Benjamin Netanyahu is pretty skeptical about all of this, and he apparently is gonna dump some hot tracks on Obama that sing a different song about what Iran's up to. Netanyahu says Iran is mounting a "smile attack." Zarif says "a smile attack is better than a lie attack." Maybe! "The Smile Attack" would be a good band name, in any event,

Zarif does masterfully deploy some "Thomas Friedman Unit" snark: "“Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that? And they are still saying we are six months away from nuclear weapons.” He goes on, "We do not want nuclear weapons," and "Israel is the source of tension in the region."

I think that the phone call is suddenly a lot less historic and amazing.

We are now to the part of the interview where George Stephanopoulos asks the high ranking Iranian official whether or not "they endorse or reject" the idea that the Holocaust is a myth. Now, naturally, Zarif says that the Holocaust actually happens, and blames the fact that the Supreme Leader's website says otherwise on a bad translation.

Look, I'm just going to say this. If you even have to be asked, "Is the Holocaust a myth?"...if that's even the sort of question to which a reporter or a news bureau or a news audience thinks is going to yield an interesting answer, like -- we are all leaning in, to see how you respond to the question...then I'm sorry, your whole political culture is completely bankrupt. You really need to re-examine some things.

I don't know if we should trust ANYONE with nuclear weapons, but just as a first low bar to get over, you should be able to answer "Yes" to the whole "did the Holocaust happen" question. It should not take paragraphs of handwaving, or, "I'm not a historian" stuff. I'm not a physicist, but if you ask me if gravity is real, it's not going to take ten minutes to answer the question.

Bill Clinton is here, now, to talk about, among other things, the debt ceiling:


Well-- the current price of stopping it is, we're not gonna have any legislative process, no negotiations, no hearings, no evaluation of the consequences. Here are the draconian cuts we want you to adopt, including massive cuts in nutrition for the children of low-income working people, people working. The Republicans say, "You just haven't given us enough cuts in the things we want to cut. And we've decided what we want to cut and we've decided what we don't want to cut. We don't want to negotiate with the democrats in the House. And we have no intention of doing what the law requires that we negotiate with the Senate, because the Senate has the Democratic majority. The Democrats in the Senate have already negotiated with the Republicans."

"So we want to just scrap all that. Give us what we want or we're gonna shut the government down." I think under those circumstances, the president has to take the position he's taken, which is you, not me, you voted to spend this money. America is one of-- maybe the only country in the world that requires two votes to spend money.

First, they vote to spend the money. Then they got to vote again to issue the bonds to, in effect, bar the money from the American people to cover the spending they've already voted for. You can't negotiate over that. And I think he's right not to.


But as you know, one of the things the Republicans say is that you did that. You did negotiate over the debt limit back in 1996. They do control the house. So doesn't the president have to negotiate? And they're banking on it.


Well, but the negotiations we had were extremely minor and keep in mind. There was two different things. Number one is the economy was growing and the deficit was going down. We didn't give away the store and they didn't ask us to give away the store.

What they-- it was more like we got out here on this ledge. Please give us some face-saving way to walk back. And we didn't stop negotiating when we passed the balanced budget bill, for example, there's no opportunity for that in this forum. We don't have enough time. They don't want-- they're mad because they don't want to negotiate.

Clinton goes on to say that Obama "shouldn't delay the health care bill...we're ready...that's a non-starter." He goes on: "if I were the president, I wouldn't negotiate over these draconian cuts that are gonna take food off the table of low-income working people, while they leave all the agricultural subsidies in for high-income farmers and everything else. I just think it's-- it's chilling to me. It seems almost spiteful."

Almost, sure.

Clinton was pretty much "#mckaylaisNOTimpressed" with the Cruzymandias filibuster, as you might expect: "He just kept making all these claims that just aren't so and everybody knows they're not."

Ok, CGI infomercial. That's nice. Suddenly, though we are smash-cutting to panel time, with Matt Dowd and Bill Kristol and Paul Krugman and Jennifer Granholm.

Kristol, naturally, believes that the GOP is not in disarray, and is performing perfectly as one seamless unit. LOLity, LOLity, LOL.

Krugman points out that right now the GOP position is somewhat undermined by the fact that the substantive news on the law is pretty much positive -- the premiums weren't as high as even the optimists projected, and the law is helping to lower long-term health care costs. He acknowledges, however, that at the point of implementation, unforeseen problems, like computer glitches and the like, could prop up. Like I said, we're at the point now where pure and simple customer service is going to be the primary driver of opinion.

"The odds are this is going to help a lot of people," says Krugman. Kristol, who honestly comes to any non-Fox News Sunday debate semi-equipped to deal with the world, briefly attempts to conflate the inessential employer mandate with the individual mandate, Krugman is all smack smack flyswat smack.

Dowd, as is his wont, takes the hot new GOP talking point, inverts it, and goes dagger: "It's somewhat amazing and ironic that more reasonable and enlightenment is coming out of the Middle East than is coming out of Washington D.C. these days."

Dowd and Krugman say it boils down to one party simply not being able to accept the outcome of an election. Kristol goes to his quiver of false-equivalence arrows:

KRISTOL: Democrats thought the Iraq War was wrong right?

KRUGMAN: But they didn't cut off the funding for it.

KRISTOL: They did try to cut off the funding throughout 2007, 2008. Oh not seriously? What were all those votes about?

KRUGMAN: Where was there a confrontation like the one we're about to have, the scary one about the debt limit.

In the real world, after running and winning in 2006 on a platform of "we will defund the Iraq War," the victorious Democrats very pointedly elected to allow the Iraq War to continue. And voters got to ask each other, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Kristol and Granholm are fighting now. Kristol barks, "Do you really want to take that position that the Iranian Republican Guard is more rational than the House Republicans?" Of course she does! WHO WOULDN'T TAKE THAT POSITION? I will officially say, right here and now, that this is PRECISELY my position. I don't feel the least bit weird about it. It's not a shaky position to take. It's obviousness is so apparent that to doubt it is to doubt the air I'm breathing. Go ahead, attach my name to that position and tell EVERYONE about it.

Kristol says that if Boehner eventually has to pass a CR with a Hastert-rule violating maneuver that allows the government to continue with Democratic votes and 17 GOP "yeas," that Boehner will not be deposed as Speaker. That pretty much means doom for Boehner, according to the Law Of Bill Kristol Predicting Things.

DOWD: If the implementation of Obamacare actually happens and people save and people see savings, they see some wrinkles in it and it goes about reasonably well, the president and the Democrats are going to be fine with that. If it does not go about reasonably well, somebody's going to address in 2014 or 2015 and fix the problem. But ultimately it's the implementation of the act and I think the Republicans just should have said, go for it. Implement the act and let's see how it goes.

Yes, I think that's precisely what they should have done, too. If they authentically believe that the law is going to stink up the joint, WHY INTERRUPT IT? Let the chips fall where they may and reap the electoral rewards of being right. I have this really funny feeling that they are terrified of the possibility that they program will work, and people will say, "Hey, turns out there are a few occasions where the government can really help people."

Now there is some more Clinton interview.

Ha, Clinton must be feeling me: "Look, they are desperate for [the Affordable Care Act] to fail, because if it's not a failure, their whole-- everything they've been telling us since 1980 that government's bad is wrong. Can you remember a time in your lifetime when a major political party was just sitting around, begging for America to fail? I just think that when all these dire predictions don't come out, if they don't-- I believe that pretty soon, within the next several years, this'll be like Medicare and Medicaid. And it'll be a normal part of our life. And people'll be glad it's there."

Clinton's lesson for how to win elections is actually not a new lesson. Well, one is, anyway: "You've got to have a plan for the future that relates to the people. You know, this is not about the candidates as much as about having a plan for the future." This is really what a presidential candidate needs to do -- say, "Here is what the future is going to look like if you elect me. Here is how all of you are going to help us get there." Winning candidates almost always focus on creating a fun, national mission for us all to undertake.

What was kind of interesting about the last election is that no one really bothered to mount this kind of campaign. The whole notion eluded Romney, and he accidentally allowed Obama to not have to mount that kind of argument of his own. That was a real advantage to Obama! One of the things you want to do to an incumbent President, is ask him why he didn't fulfill those promises in the last four years.

The sort of new lesson is "you have to have a strategy for presenting your true self to the voters in an environment where there are unprecedented opportunities for those who don't want you to win to paint a different picture of your true self."

And then there is a CGI infomercial.


As Cruz has demonstrated troubles with prolixity -- and because these troubles make everyone's life a little harder -- I am going to boil his answers down into their simplest form so that for once, Ted Cruz doesn't have to be such a long-winded pain in the ass of John Boehner or anyone else.

Let's begin:

ACTUAL GREGORY: You're the man in the middle of this whole fight. So here are the stakes: "De-fund or delay," say you and other Republicans. President says, "No way. This law is moving forward." Are you in control of what happens next?

SHORTER CRUZ: Don't know. Somebody else's problem

ACTUAL GREGORY: You keep saying that the Senate and the House should listen to the American people. I looked at polling this week that shows, in a lot of quarters, the bill is unpopular, the law is unpopular. 56% want to uphold this law. So when you say, "Listen to the American people," they're not necessarily with you.

SHORTER CRUZ: Trick poll. So what?

ACTUAL GREGORY: So it's just polling methodology?

SHORTER CRUZ: Dunno. Obamacare bad.

ACTUAL GREGORY: We'll get into some of the particulars of Obamacare, because obviously, there's more to that story that advocates would argue. But let's just stick with the here and now. So how does this end? Because, as I understand it, you would only support de-funding of Obamacare. A delay, for you, is not enough.

SHORTER CRUZ: Senate needs to do stuff.

ACTUAL GREGORY: You know, the Senate has acted, the Majority Leader will say, passed a bill to keep the government open, and now we've gone back to trying to delay or de-fund Obamacare. So the Senate is saying, "We're not going to take this up." Should they take up part of it? Should there be votes? Would you filibuster this bill?

SHORTER CRUZ: I am basically opposed to the Democrats in the Senate taking a position and voting according to that. Harry Reid bad.

ACTUAL GREGORY: But Senator, even Republicans that I've spoken to, your colleagues, say, "Senator Cruz can't blame Harry Reed for shutting down the government. Senator Reed acted. He passed a bill to keep the government open."

SHORTER CRUZ: No Harry Reid wants shutdown.

ACTUAL GREGORY: It's interesting. Democrats say, "You know, the problem with Senator Cruz's position is that it's a purist position." There are problems with Obamacare. The White House admits that. We talked about polling in some quarters indicating great dissatisfaction with the law, as you're talking about in Town Hall meetings. But you have to engaged in a debate about how they change the law. What you've gone out and said is, "Let's kill the law all together. Let's de-fund it."

SHORTER CRUZ: Your question is dumb. You are dumb. Our offer to destroy Obamacare is a "compromise."

ACTUAL GREGORY: So here's the thing, Senator.


ACTUAL GREGORY: You make this argument as if there's no broader context here. Obamacare has been legislated. It has been adjudicated. And it has been tested to the political system. And so let's go through that. We had an election where I heard the standard bearer for the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, say Obamacare should be repealed.

All the Republicans already voted against this thing when it was ultimately passed. The Supreme Court upheld it. And then this summer, you and your colleagues said, "Look, let's have a strategy here of de-funding Obamacare," and you had people who signed a letter. And they said they joined you in that fight.

Well, here you are now, you don't even have the same number of folks who signed the letter who voted with you in this effort. There are not protests in the streets arguing to do away with this law in the way that you'd like. Again, 56%, in one poll of this week, New York Times/CBS said, "Let's uphold the law." So I'm focusing on results. Your goal and results. Where have you moved anything?

SHORTER CRUZ: [holds hands over ears] BLAH BLAH BLAH I DON'T HEAR THAT. Obamacare is bad.

ACTUAL GREGORY: You're a terrific lawyer. You're making an argument. I asked you a specific question based on the facts on the ground. You've made all these arguments. My goodness, you went and spoke for 21 hours to make these arguments. You haven't moved anyone.

SHORTER CRUZ: No one likes Obamacare, this is just facts. Harry Reid is bad. There is only one right answer.

ACTUAL GREGORY: You're an opponent of the law. There is, of course, another side to this story, right? Millions of Americans are getting access to health care that they couldn't otherwise afford. Folks who have children, they can now be on it up to 26. Republicans agree with things like not having pre-existing conditions, get in the way of getting insurance.

Utilization is down. I spoke to a hospital administrator in Illinois this week, quite skeptical of the law, who said, "Look, utilization is down. That could ultimately be helpful for health care costs." You can't know what the effect is five years on from this law. And nor can proponents of the law.

But here's one argument. You've made yours. And the president, when he spoke this week, he actually referred to your words, and I want to play a portion of this, suggesting that what you really don't want to happen is for the law to go forward because then people would really start liking it. This is what he said.

BARACK OBAMA: "It's going to prove almost impossible to undo Obamacare." (Laughter.) Right? So in other words, we've got to shut this thing down before people find out that they like it.

ACTUAL GREGORY: You don't think Americans will like it. You don't think that 25% of the state of Texas that's uninsured will actually like the expanded access to get health insurance?

SHORTER CRUZ: No, no it's not working and everyone already agrees that they will never like it, that's just proven science. Obamacare is wrecking everyone's life right now, these are just facts.

ACTUAL GREGORY: There are also benefit administrators, in my research, who indicate there-- that there is no real sign that employers would stop giving health insurance to their employees. It's a major recruitment took for how to get employees. And aspects of the law have been delayed so that it can work better. And perhaps these problems that you're identifying could be rectified, short of complete de-funding.

I want to go back to where we started for a moment, just to get you clear on this point. A government shutdown under these circumstances, because this doesn't sound like it will be resolved, that's an acceptable outcome to you?

SHORTER CRUZ: Harry Reid bad he want big bad government shutdown why won't he take the awesome compromise? Why is President Obama and Harry Reid holding the military hostage?

ACTUAL GREGORY: But it is an acceptable outcome?

SHORTER CRUZ: No, because Harry Reid is being an absolutist.


Oh, wow, sorry everyone. When Ted Cruz called another person an "absolutist," about forty or fifty anvils fell right out of the sky, onto my head and I blacked out for a little bit. Where is the interview? Christ, it is STILL GOING ON.

ACTUAL GREGORY: You're talking a lot about Democrats. They're critical of you. But it's hard for them to get a word in edgewise, because it's members of your own party who are so critical of what you've done and how you've done it. You have colleagues who have accused you of putting on a show. That was Senator Corker. Congressman Peter King said you're a fraud, that you're lying to the base, over-promising something that's possible.

George Will, who's been a conservative columnist for The Washington Post and others, has been very supportive of you in the past. But he wrote this, this week. I want to have you respond to it. Because it seems to crystallize some of the opposition. "Those people who are best at deceiving others first deceive themselves," he wrote. "They often do so by allowing their wishes to be fathers of their thoughts, and begin by wishing that everything has changed.

"Republicans now making a moral melodrama over any vote that allows the ACA to be funded should remember Everett Dirksen of Illinois, the leader of Senate Republicans during passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He recalled '40 preachers caught me one afternoon there in that lobby. "I am not a moralist," I told them. "I'm a legislator." It is good to be both. It is sterile to be the former to the exclusion of the latter.'" Are you more moralist than legislator?

SHORTER CRUZ: I obviously don't read George Will columns. When I offer to destory Obamacare, I am actually making a very generous concession to Democrats. Harry Reid is an absolutist



ACTUAL GREGORY: Who's the legislator you most admire? Who's your big role model?


Okay I'm pretty sure the substantive part of the interview is over.

ACTUAL GREGORY: Do you regret comparing the future of Obamacare to the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany?

SHORTER CRUZ: I never did that.

ACTUAL GREGORY: Do you ride this to the presidential nomination?

SHORTER CRUZ: SIGH, "THIS TOWN," ETC. Harry Reid is bad.

Isn't Cruzmandias kind of okay in that sort of dosage?

Okay, now that the first seventeen hours of this show are over, we can hopefully zip through the remaining nine hours. We return with a panel of Andrea Mitchell and former arms control advisor to Obama Gary Saymore.

Saymore says the economic sanctions are very much working and are pushing the Iranians in the direction of a diplomatic deal. But, as Mitchell says, there's still a question as to whether the Iranians, even in a new and nice and happy diplomatic relationship, well "give up the real stuff."

Saymore says that one condition for lifting sanctions will be Iran's acceptance of limits on their "nuclear capacity in terms of size and strength of its enrichment program." Saymore is realistic: "So far, Rohani has not indicated any willingness to accept those kinds of limits."

But, as Mitchell points out, you follow the path because the potential rewards are so promising: "So if this works, then Syria becomes at least more viable as a solution, a political solution in Geneva. If the Hezbollah and Iranian arms are not going to prop up Assad. And then Russia becomes a partner. We let them into the Middle East, which is dangerous, but we have now some way, through the United Nations, of monitoring things. Afghanistan, as you mentioned, Iraq, Iran has been such a troublemaker in both of those places. If this economic pressure has been profound enough and you have 30%, or rather, 60% of the Iranian population is under 30. So this is the mandate that he has. It's a short window. If this were to work, then perhaps Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would see the benefit. Because they, as well as Israel, are very, very concerned."

Saymore says that he doesn't yet believe this is "real," and that the Iranians opening gambit will try to charm and rope-a-dope the sanctions away. But when that doesn't work, realism may eventually set in. Mitchell says that regional observers are sweating whether or not Obama will be so legacy-obsessed that he'll grab for something half-baked and weak-sauced. She suggests that the way things are currently in Syria, suggest that's what could happen in Iran. I think that having been castigated for not dropping bombs on Damascus, the stronger incentive, for Obama, is to tough-to-the-point-of-gratuitous on Iran. But I guess we are going to find out.

Okay, now we've gotten to the second, dumber panel discussion, with Representatives Raul Labrador, surrealist presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers, and Tip O'Neil manga-porn author Chris Matthews. They will attempt to kill twenty-seven minutes of time and/or me.

Gregory asks who is going to get the blame for the government shutdown. Matthews very gently suggests that Cruz is a bit of a sociopath, without saying that outright (he may want to book him!).

MATTHEWS: Senator Cruz talks as if there should be a final test that you have to get through before a law goes into effect. In other words, a final vote, whether it's on debt ceiling or whatever, or on the shutdown of the government, sort of a final look at the law and say, "Well, should really let it go into effect even before it's set to go into effect?" That's not really our form of government. You outlined our form of government. The test by which we submit any new legislation, and it's submitted, president signs it, it's reviewed by the courts, it's the law. And upholding the law is a good poll question. Should we uphold the law? I think he goes past to his issue, which is the substance, the policy itself, which is going to be debated for years. But the question is, "Should the law be upheld?" And I think that's the issue.

Labrador and Meyers argue whether it's legitimate to threaten the government shutdown over the matter. Labrador is basically all, "Yes," and Meyers disagrees.

Huntsman plays the open-minded broker (who may not want to run against a successful Obamacare in 2016).

HUNTSMAN: Here's where I think it's going to get interesting. I mean it will be important to see how this is executed throughout the states. You have 17 exchanges that are going to be up and running on Tuesday. We created the first one in the state of Utah. It has about 240 individual policies that can be accessed. 300 small businesses are already-- ready to buy into it. I think it will be a very important experiment this year. I mean politics aside, we now move into the real world of economics, jobs, and competitiveness. And that is: Does it work or not?

Matthews says that there's no way in the world that all the Democratic party's efforts to pass a health care law over several decades is never going to end with Obama agreeing to delay Obamacare, and he points out that there is no distinction between delaying and defunding.

Huntsman is still running for President, anticipating the possibility that in two years time it may be totally untenable to denounce a super-popular program.

HUNTSMAN: We're going to be beyond politics real soon. And then the real world does take over. If there's a shutdown, it's going to be a 24 hour shutdown.
You have Republicans that know this is a loser for them. So Republicans are going to have to learn the lessons of this whole episode. And that will be you can't have an all-or-nothing approach.

Now there is a bit of a dumb fight over who wants to shut down the government. Labrador is here to offer the talking point that Democrats secretly want to shut down the government, and by continually asking for it not to be shut down, they achieve this, through Mindwarp Jujitsu, or something. But seriously, this is getting old. And nothing says, "We're pointless" then Labrador and Matthews arguing over how many times, and for what reasons, did the government shut down over Tip O'Neill.

Huntsman continues to set the terms of the debate in a way that will be favorable to his presidential candidacy. His 2016 bid is already hundreds of miles ahead of his 2012 "just do a bunch of weird commercials and land the cover of Vogue" campaign.

Labrador, at the very least, says that they should not breach the debt ceiling over Obamacare. That's about all the hope I can offer America today.

The rest of the show is dedicated to letting Matthews talk about his new book and pointing out that Mariano Rivera retired. BREAKING NEWS!!

Okay, well, that's that for me and our liveblog today. I am going to be away from the office next Sunday, doing special things for my wife's birthday. It will be okay, we will all survive, at least until October 17, which is when we might end up destroying the global economy for no good reason. Maybe you guys should take a Sunday off to spend with the people you love, too! Just a suggestion. Have a great week!

[The Sunday Morning Liveblog returns on October 13. In the meanwhile, check out my Rebel Mouse page for reads from around the web to tide you over until we return.