TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Oh, hello, good morning everyone! Welcome back from last Sunday's complicated-emotions blogging! My name is Jason, and today I think we return to a bit of normalcy, if by "normalcy" we mean "yammering on the teevee about everyone's awfulness" and "having pointless discussions about an election two years from now." In the meanwhile, we continue to be cheered by the remarkable recovery being made by Representative Gabrielle Giffords -- who is breathing without a respirator, now. So, some small good things.

Anyway, as always, you should feel free to leave comments or send emails or follow me on Twitter or do none of those things, it's a free country!


Oh, good, Chris Christie is here, so everyone needs to get out of the municipal bond market for the next fifteen minutes or so, lest his yammering cost you money. How will Christie walk the line between "opposing the Obama agenda" and using gun metaphors everyday? Christie says that he doesn't see what he does as 'opposing the Obama agenda," and he says people should not be "nasty or vitriolic." YOU GONE SOFT, CHRIS CHRISTIE! Also, Christie says Palin had a bad "unscripted moment" this week, as opposed to many of her super-amazing scripted moments. (Also I'm pretty sure that was scripted. I do not think Chris Christie understands the concept of scripts.)

Wallace asks if Christie is the person to be lecturing anyone on civility, and shows a clip of he and some New Jersey teacher yelling. It may surprise you to know, that after everything we've been through with toxic assets and credit-default swaps and military contractors and oil spills that the greatest devils in America are the teacher's unions -- the way they barely keep their charges paid a subsistence wage and occasionally fend off lawsuits from crazy-litigious parents has slowly undermined the fabric of the nation, and now they much be dealt with, much in the same way we once dealt with a bunch of uppity ladies in Salem, Massachusetts.

So Chris Christie will dunk the teachers' unions in a lake, and if they drown, he will stop yelling at them, because it will have turned out they aren't devils! Anyway, he says that he was being "civil" and "straight" with the teacher-lady at the town hall, and all he was doing was mansplaining that if she didn't like not getting the compensation she was entitled to after probably being told by the school district that she had to keep taking classes and receiving newer accreditation, then she could stop doing the job. (And, I guess, be a poor woman, in the Pine Barrens?)

Anyway, Chris Christie will continue to belittle his constituents, because he is fighting "political correctness" on YouTube, just as the founders once proclaimed would be the job of the governor of New Jersey.

Chris Wallace actually attempts to gamely explain that it's not the same thing to close down the government of New Jersey and halt the country and the economy over the debt ceiling. Christie says that you can avoid a problem in either event by just being clear and doing some straight talking, and then blowing off to Disneyworld, I guess.

Wallace runs down all of New Jersey's problems, and Christie basically says that he can avoid having to increase taxes by simply loading all of the debt burden onto old people.

Chris Wallace asks Christie again if he is going to run for President and he isn't going to run for President, but Christie isn't literally tearing Wallace's head off, for the YouTubes, in his answer, so maybe he is "leaving the door open." "I want to make sure in my heart I feel ready," says Christie. (I gather that at the moment, what he feels in his heart is mostly "sandwiches.")

Here is a headsnap as we go from yelly mansplainer Chris Christie to thin pile of Midwest sand Tim Pawlenty. He will, like Christie, draw lines in the sand, against spending, but he will be very nice about it. He says the GOP should not raise the debt ceiling, either! And no one should default on anything! Everyone should just agree in advance that everything will be fine.

Wallace tries to ding Pawlenty on raising cigarette taxes as a moment where he "blinked." Pawlenty explains that raising taxes on cigarettes was an acceptable thing to do because everyone agrees that cigarettes basically kill people. It's too bad Minnesota doesn't have other things killing them, that can be taxed, because then they could fix the bridges that are collapsing, killing people. Hmmm! Can you get any money from a pile of rubble in Minnesota that also contains busted up cars and human viscera?

Wallace points out that in 2008, Pawlenty was all for bailouts because McCain was for bailouts, and now he's against them. Pawlenty explains that he was always against them, but when he was "speaking for John McCain," he had to say and do and believe the things that McCain also said and did and believed. I mean, that's what whoring yourself out to raise your own profile is basically about, right? Well, now he's not in favor of all those things he was helping John McCain be in favor of.

If Pawlenty hates Obamacare, doesn't he hate Romneycare, since it's the same thing? Pawlenty won't say anything mean about Romney, because of Reagan.

How will Pawlenty help all the uninsured Minnesotans get health care after they repeal Obamacare? He thinks you give "the money directly to the people and let them make their own decisions" in the form of a "voucher" (that's not tied to inflation and gets steadily smaller and smaller and smaller until the "money" you are "giving directly" to the "people" to make "decisions" isn't any money at all -- but I guess we consider that "providing health care."

Okay, you can have panel, now, with Hume and Liasson and Kristol and Williams.

So, now that everyone is going to be civil, will the GOP be able to kill bills, like Quentin Tarantino? Hume says that toned down language won't hurt anyone, but there will still be big fights about laws. Also, are we supposed to worry about the fact that the GOP is going to use the word "job-killing?" First, it's a lot better than "person-killing" or "I am going to kill you" or "DIE, MOTHERF**CKER, DIE." Second, I think if you say "job-killing" enough times it actually starts to lose all meaning and potency.

For the record, there is no job-killing health care law. But if someone decides we should have one, I'll let you know.

Juan Williams is understandably mad that the Democrats are not going to be allowed to have debate or amendments. So he and Bill Kristol are yelling at each other. Hume thinks that the Democrats should just chillax and let the GOP do their repeal-the-job-killing-blah-blah that won't ultimately be signed into law.

Kristol says "Let's have this debate," apparently forgetting that they had a debate over this a year ago, that the GOP largely didn't want to participate in, so the Democrats added a bunch of stuff the Republicans wanted, which didn't get any votes, because this is really a debate about how government doesn't work well or do anything right, and the best way to prove that is to work poorly and do everything wrong.

Meanwhile: BLOOD LIBEL! What a day that was! What does the panel think about the time Sarah Palin made a video telling America that she is tired of being shot by Arizona gunman and having her blood baked into matzoh by the lamestream media? Hume says that after this episode, Palin will probably run for President. COUNTERINTUITIVE! (He says this because he is surprised that Palin made a well-produced video, which is something that only President-type people do. Hume obviously doesn't know that reality-teevee stars also make well-produced videos to get attention for themselves, in America.)

Bill Kristol "sympathizes" with the way Palin was so terribly offended this week. Reports are that Palin is nevertheless managing to breathe without a respirator, because she is so brave. (Still, he thinks that she should "pick her fights a little more carefully.")

Williams thinks that Hume is crazy to imagine that Palin is better-aligned for the President now. Hume says that he's very sad by the way the media has treated her, which is to say that they've faithfully reported Palin doing and saying daft things. If the media would learn to just turn the cameras off whenever Palin jumped in front of them, she would be better off.

Also, Reince Priebus is the new RNC chairman. The fact that he didn't immediately come to get booked on this show indicates that the RNC is in better hands, because it's no longer being run by an attention-whore.

Okay, let's meet back here in 30 minutes so we can...


Today, Bob Schieffer will talk to Rudy Giuliani and Ed Rendell and Jeff Flake and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Gillibrand says that Gabrielle Giffords is "doing great." She says that "right now, she is inspiring the nation" and "showing raw courage, raw strength." She can move both sides of her body, fixate her gaze, communicate in gestures, and is breathing without a tube. Wasserman-Schultz says that "neurologically," Giffords is in "a little bit better shape every day." So, that's some good news, from two of Giffords' best friends.

It should be noted, that now that discussion is turning to policy, we have turned now to Rendell and Giuliani, champion mansplainers. It was nice having you near the discussion for a few moments, female lawmakers!

Giuliani says that "we have the chance to do what we did after September 11th." Hopefully he is referring to something other than "pretending to have foreign policy experience" and "making a terrible run for President." Actually, Rudy says that it's time to talk about caring for the mentally ill. Schieffer wants to know if it's time to get more stringent with gun ownership. Giuliani says that you have to "deal with the most relevant problem first" and that means: treating the mentally ill, and being nice to each other, and then maybe "we can take a look at gun laws."

Giuliani says that Sarah Palin was "shaken and upset," by the fact that people reminded her that she put a gunsight on Gabrielle Giffords once and was asked if maybe she'd take that back or not do it again. Giuliani also will not be running for President.

That was eight minutes long!

Anyway, here's Ed Rendell. He agrees with Giuliani about treating and detecting people with mental health problems, but he takes it a logical step further by suggesting that if we're going to go to the trouble of identifying potentially dangerous people, we should be able to make sure those dangerous people can't just walk into a store and buy a gun. (You'd be surprised how often that circle doesn't get closed!) He also suggests that we ban the high-capacity clip, since the only recreational use for a high-cap clip appears to be mass-murder.

Rendell says that the rhetoric has gotten very bad and it's tearing the fabric of the nation apart. Also, the recession has "really hardened people's attitudes."

(I am as concerned about this stuff as anyone, but I honestly don't think that the "fabric of the nation" has been torn or that we're entirely hard-hearted.)

I am really not sure what Giuliani and Rendell added to this discussion, or why those questions couldn't have also been put to Gillibrand and Wasserman-Schultz. But we're back to them, although first we have to talk to Jeff Flake, for some reason. Flake says that we'll have a more civil debate about the JOB-MURDERING-HEALTH CARE REPEAL, than we would have had otherwise. Flake says, "Sometimes when we tone down our rhetoric it's more effective," and cites the popularity of PG movies, for some reason.

Gillibrand says that everyone sitting together at the State of the Union would be a nice symbol. She also says that the health care bill conversation should be "What about the bill do you want to change?" She cites that small businesses, for example, have a lot of onerous paperwork, that should be streamlined. So, we should make the bill better, keep the things everyone agrees are important, and stop the talk of repeal.

For some reason, Schieffer asks Debbie Wasserman-Schultz if she plans on "dialing back her rhetoric," which is bizarre, since I remember most of her rhetoric on health care reform and it was pretty reasonable. She didn't tell any lies, like anyone who promulgated the term, "death panels," for instance. What Wasserman-Schultz DID do was remind people that she is a cancer survivor and that there are people who are in dire need of health care. Maybe that was too INCENDIARY!

Wasserman-Schultz says that she will not back down from standing up for principles but agrees it's a good time for people to "lead by example" and stop talking like "shock jocks."

Jeff Flake has to answer this question: "What is going to be the hardest part of all of this?" This was not Bob Schieffer's best day as an interviewer. I mean, what does that question even mean? Why did Giuliani speak for seven minutes of monotone? Why did you ask Giuliani and Ed Rendell to be on this show at all?

Anyway, Schieffer thinks there are too many weapons available for crazy people. "What we can do, at the least, is make it harder for them" to obtain them.


You really know you are in store for an hour of pure nonsense when the introduction contains this phrase:

"Out of the madness of Arizona, is this the moment civility makes a comeback? Is this the game-changer in political attitudes, that 9/11 was to our attitudes about security?"

I mean, you trivialize the whole matter by invoking the dumb-assed term "game-change." And then you assert that 9/11 changed our attitudes about security? Are you suggesting that Jared Lee Loughner should lead us to doing a bunch of hasty and idiotic things that don't solve any problems, and, in fact, make them worse? I think that we can basically call this is truism: the term "game-changer" is always immediately followed by an epic cock-up.

Anyway, this is why I typically refer to MEET THE PRESS as "the worst hour of my week."

Oh, wow! Surprise guest Kirsten Gillibrand is here to tell everyone that Giffords is doing great and is inspiring us with courage, and I'm guessing she'll be chased off the stage so that Chuck Schumer and Tom Coburn can handle the important talk about policy.

"Gabby's one of the most non-partisan people I've ever met...she comes to public service with the goal of just helping people," Gillibrand says, adding that she was "before this incident" beseeching her colleagues for a better discourse.

OMG, why didn't anyone tell me that Tom Coburn shaved his beard? I really should start reading that HuffPost Hill thingy!

Should Congress do more to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people? Schumer will answer that question, but first he wants people to know that the discourse should be better, and that he thinks that he and Coburn are examples of lawmakers who keep the conversation elevated. (If you recall, Coburn courted "controversy" that time he told his constituents that Nancy Pelosi was "a nice person," that they'd like if they got to know her.)

Schumer points out that there are some things that can and should be done to limit the ability of people with psychological problems from purchasing guns, such as: getting the military and the FBI in communication with one another when the former becomes aware of a Jared Loughner. What about banning those high-cap clips, though? Coburn suggests that isn't where the debate should go -- rather, people need to intervene on the behalf of people with mental health problems. I see a future where the legislature does something with mental-health issues, and I'm starting to worry that it will play out along the typical Congressional lines: GRAB HAMMER, SEE A NAIL EVERYWHERE.

Schumer is behind a move to limit those clips, but he's not really keyed up about it, and Gregory picks up on the lack of enthusiasm. Schumer responds by pointing out that gun control advocates have had a few small-bore-but-important victories recently, but that if we're being honest, there just aren't enough votes to limit gun ownership. It's a fine line for him to walk as the new Democratic "message guru," because if he's too in-favor of gun control, suddenly the message from the western states will be "we don't want to be Democrats anymore."

Coburn says that he is willing to help Schumer prevent mentally ill people from obtaining guns. (I worry that their effort will require some buy in from a lot of mentally ill legislators, but I wish them the best!)

Now we are going to talk about the "discourse." What can be done about the constant "apocalyptic" drumbeat that suggests that the nation is being led to rack and ruin and socialist dystopia because they passed a Federal version of Romneycare? Coburn says that is a false premise, and he's been "disgusted" by the media because the "discourse" didn't lead to this event. Gregory says, okay, but while we're talking about it ("I'm certainly not tying this to the event," Gregory insists), maybe we could have less of the fulminate of Hitler-mustaching that goes on. (In what I would term an amazing victory for the cultural consciousness, Gregory somehow manages to point out that the majority of this stuff comes from the right.)

Coburn says that we need to stop talking about the political discourse and instead talk about the "real risk to the country." Gregory asks, "Do you reject those who say the president wants to injure the country and that will deny Americans liberty." "Of course I reject that," Coburn said.

Schumer says that if lawmakers lead by toning down the rhetoric, the media will get "less vociferous," as well. Schumer goes on to praise Coburn as someone who one can disagree with in a gentlemanly way. Coburn suggests that the problem stems from when you leave the area of ideological differences between people and start assigning motives: so-and-so supports this idea because he wants to subvert America and the like.

"We don't have the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Part of the problem is that we talk past each other and not to each other," Coburn suggests.

Speaking of! If health care reform repeal is not possible, what can be done about it? Coburn says that we should repeal it -- in an interesting turn, he manages to criticize the bill without attempting to suggest anything apocalyptic about it. Schumer says that he welcomes the repeal conversation, because it will give health care reform a "second chance to make a first impression."

Schumer isn't too amenable to any legislative hostage-taking with regards to the debt ceiling, saying that is "playing with fire" with soldiers abroad and markets back at home. He says that the Democrats are on board with spending cuts over the next year. Coburn says that the damage that not raising the debt ceiling is nothing compared to the damage that can be wrought by the "bond vigilantes," which is a really cool name for a rack band.

Panel time! This week we have Al Sharpton, Peggy Noonan, Tim Shriver, and David Brooks.

David Brooks is happy that Obama gave a good speech and now wants him to put forth an agenda that "gets people talking together," like a "tax reform thing." DAVID BROOKS WILL LEAD AMERICA IN HIS "RALLY TO HAVE, I DUNNO, SOME SORT OF TAX REFORM THINGY."

Peggy Noonan is totally biting Mark McKinnon's menswear dopeness today, rocking the scarf on camera. TOTAL SHOUT OUT TO MCKINNON, who is now a fashion influencer.

Noonan takes her shaker and makes a metaphor martini, crediting Obama for "taking the air out of the fingerpointing and blame game." SUCK THE AIR OUT OF FINGERS, FOR THE DISCOURSE. Also, we have to "cool it." Like in space. Where it's cold. Because it's a vaccum. Become space junk. HAL is only trying to help us. Where is my jetpack, future?

Sharpton draws the "what are we going to do about the mentally ill getting guns" question. He says that we have to face up the a "sober reality" and get policies in place where if a community college throws someone out because they are bonkersauce, that other agencies find out about it. (Maybe in addition to notifying law enforcement, we also notify someone who can help? So that the life of a Jared Lee Loughner isn't one of constantly getting thrown out of things?)

Sharpton also suggests that more can be done to emphasize the way people share common ground on issues.

Basically, a lot of the discussion this week about a return to sober and reasonable discourse is this situation where we sort of pretend that two years of calling the President and his agenda "socialist" and "tyrannical" was all just stuff that accidentally happened, and not the actual concerted effort of one side to win elections in a year where they had nothing substantive to offer in terms of policy, where they just cold stopped making the case for anything other than we were knocking at the door of despotism.

"How do we deal with the fact that people need involuntary treatment?" Gregory asks Brooks, who falls to discussing the way the mentally ill are alienated from other people and "don't have the facility to understand their own lives" or make decisions. They aren't violent "by and large," but we need to have a standard of safety for the community at large, so that they do not harm them.

So, people who are detached and alienated from normal people, who don't necessarily manifest "evil" but nevertheless continually do things that harm the "community" need to be intervened with by authorities to mitigate the damage they might do to others. IF ONLY WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR! Because folks: same level of detachment, same kind of damage.

Peggy Noonan, I think, just suggested that the problem was some sort of cultural movement that held that crazy people were the sane critiquers of America? I think she's just having some sort of response to the movie ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST or something?

Is it a game-changer in terms of acrimonious discourse? Sharpton hopes so. Bask in that. Also, I guess this is good for Tim Pawlenty, because he is not a slavering maniac?

Now David Brooks is talking about a culture that downplays sin, like the way we are downplaying the fact that one side of the debate spent the last year whooping and hollering about socialism, I guess by accident!

Now the panel is going to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr., because tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Lr day.

WIFE: What? Why? What's to discuss? Aren't they all just going to say, "Oh, Martin Luther King, he was awesome?" I mean: I HOPE THEY ARE ALL GOING TO AGREE HE WAS AWESOME.

ME: It will be a battle to see who can say the most florid thing. (Peggy Noonan will "win.")

WIFE: I don't care what any of these people have to say about Martin Luther King, I'm sorry.

ME: You don't care what Al Sharpton thinks about Martin Luther King?


MEET THE PRESS wants you to know that they had King on their show one time, in 1967, marking the last time, I think, that anyone on the show expressed a concern for poor people. HA, I KID. Al Sharpton is talking about closing income gaps and how we should celebrate King for "what he was," a principal champion for the most impoverished among us. Sharpton points out it's an interesting time for the civil rights movement: they have to critique a black president and a black attorney general. It's simultaneously a sign that the civil rights movement has had tremendous success, and a massive challenge for the same movement.

Shriver points out that King was painted as an "extremist," but he embraced that label as an "extremist for love and justice" whose non-violence made the large things he was talking about palatable for society's non-extremes.

All right, well, that's the end of shows for this Sunday. I hope everyone has a nice three-day weekend if you're having a three-day weekend (I'm not, obviously), and that your sports team succeeds, and that Gabrielle Giffords continues to recover, and, you know what, after last weekend, I hope we have some boring days ahead of us. Dull days where nothing happens! I had jury duty this week, and, not to belabor it, I found it to be an awesome reminder of the tiny, low-decibel, ways we settle disputes. Thousands of times every day, by average people, in boring ways. So, a toast: to the quotidian acts of ordinary people who on a daily basis weave a strong societal fabric that weathers terrible tragedy. All of you are contributing everyday to something great! You probably don't notice it much, or get much thanks, but keep it up! You're doing lots of good things!