POLITICS

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome back to the Huffington Post's essential and somewhat sado-masochistic liveblog of the Sunday morning nimroddery. We return after a week's absence. Hope everyone is well! As usual, leave comments, send emails, and relax: we're watching this crap so you don't have to.

Fox News Sunday

Chris starts off with a sit down with Henry Paulson to talk about the Too Little Too Late Act of 2008 - the economic stimulus package. Paulson's like: "Are you not pleased with our magical bipartisanship!?" All that really means is that the GOP wanted to food stamps and unemployment measures stripped out of the bill. Paulson won't come right out and say what needs to stay out of the bill, and he won't come right out and say the president will veto the bill. "Complexity is the enemy."

I haven't had a whole lot of experience watching Paulson, and maybe he's hoarse or something, but he sure comes across this morning as some meathead from out of David Mamet play - licking his lips, rasping his consonants to give them this menacing edge...let's give us the "always be closing" monologue, here, P!

Can't we all just sit back and stop pretending that the Bush economic policies were ever anything other that a warm plate of dung? Came in on a cheap tax rebate plan, going out on an even bigger rebate plan. Glacial growth, a moribund job market, the dollar dying a grim death. Bush has had one idea and now he's used it twice. Oh well. If you get this money America, don't use it to stimulate the retail economy! Pay down debt! Put it in savings! Wrest the interest earnings from the government and keep it for yourself. And send a clear message to the administration: "HA HA BURN!"

"Shouldn't the administration acted much earlier?" Wallace asks about the housing bubble. Not when the administration was attempting to give the electorate a conservative makeover! Getting people into homes tends to make them more conservative. Unfortunately, what the GOP is going to learn is that massive foreclosures and unaffordable mortgages only make people anxious and angry.

Mike Huckabee! Oh, Mike. Is the run over?

Wallace gets Huckabee to weigh in on Romney and McCain, and, as agreed, Huckabee slams Romney without really doing it. "I've never known John McCain to be dishonest." It's telling that he only gets to talk about his own record on the second question. His economic message - this "trickle up" concept - is interesting conservative populism, though, and he's right that he was the only one back in Michigan who felt the economy was moving in the wrong direction.

What's Huckabee's "private sector" acumen? I think this is getting mention only because Romney did so well in the debate.

Huckabee has truck drivers with big magnets, driving all over the country stumping for him! It's like a sensible version of the Ron Paul Blimp - in that you can actually SEE the campaign massage because it's not hundreds of feet in the air, and the supporters aren't terrifying freaks chasing people down the streets of New Hampshire.

Wallace gets to the whole "Easter Eggs" comment. Huck says he doesn't have any secret evidence of WMDs. "We didn't find them so they didn't exist is a bit of an overreach," he says. No Mike: believing the weapons were spirited away to "a remote location in Jordan" - JORDAN!, people...Jordan!! - THAT's an overreach.

Panel time. First topic: Obama beating the crud out of the field in South Carolina. Brit Hume thinks Obama is appealing to whitey! His appeal to black voters has been "greatly enhanced" by the way the Clintons launched a bunch of attacks. Liasson makes a good point: the attacks hurt in SC, but they might be helping her on Super Tuesday.

Bill Clinton, according to Liasson, was voter poison wherever he went. Juan Williams disputes this, saying the exit polls showed that fifty percent of the people who thought Bill mattered to the race voted for Hillary. Bill Kristol also said some stuff.

Brit Hume! Gives us his Napoleon Dynamite act! For a few seconds the camera lingered on him as his eyes rolled back in his head and his jaw dropped, and I was totally ready for him to just say, "GOSH! IDIOT!" Didn't happen, but it's what he was thinking.

On Bill Clinton's "Jesse Jackson" comment, Bill Kristol said, "If a Republican said it, there would be outrage." Isn't there outrage, though? The blogosphere seems to be a bit upset about it. It was a dumb thing to say, but, guess what? We should all be well-trained at this point to not expect anything from Bill Clinton's mouth other than petulant stupidity.

Meanwhile, McCain and the Romney-bot are running in Florida. Chris Wallace and Hume are totally bitchslapping each other over Romney's "timetable" statements, and Hume is Dynamiting even harder than before! Hilarious. It doesn't sound to me like Romney was calling for a public timetable for troop withdrawal. That's too bad! There needs to be one!

Kristol thinks Giuliani is on the verge of leaving the race. He also says that Liz Cheney will back Romney - of course, his context is a happy one: it means a continuation of Bush-Cheney foreign policy. But if you have a brain, that should scare you. Of course, your alternative is McCain's 100 Years of Wars.

This Week With George Stephanopoulos

Obama is GS's first guest, and right away, avoids the bait of being asked "Does it feel like vindication." Then, though, he hits him with Bill's "Jesse Jackson" campaign. "That was twenty years ago," Obama says. Obama's trained response is to take the race-baiting, or negative-baiting questions and bend it back to the stump speech. It has a slightly deleterious effect--we hear the same platitudes over and over and over again, robotically. But this reflects poorly on Stephanapoulos, as well--this whole segment has been one long game where GS looks for a way to trip Obama up. He's just adjusting the same question, over and over again. But Obama's beginning to repeat himself.

GS brings up the Reagan stuff. "What ideas of Reagan's challenged conventional wisdom." Obama states this case more clearly: Reagan attracted Democrats to his candidacy because the disaffection they felt was real. At the same time, his street level view was that Reagan's ideas were crippling Americans. He needs to say, though, that the "conventional wisdom" of two-three decades ago is different from today.

Here's a very good iteration of his point: it's not the "Clintons' fault" but in the 1990s we got "caught up in a slash and burn style of politics," that still prevents "non-ideological conversations" on various issues. That's still way too high-faluting, but he should think about refining that idea into something bare and clear, that American voters can understand.

Let's get into Rezko! Obama says that this story has been "gnawed on." But will he return, "every dollar" that he got from Rezko? "Absolutely," Obama says. He'd better hop to it then!

Is Obama open to having Clinton as a running mate? Obama says that's premature. (And that Edwards is running a terrific campaign as well - in other words, thanks for drawing all those white voters away from Hillary!) But what Obama needs to realize ISN'T premature is that polls indicate that 3 out of every 5 democratic voters polled would like to see Clinton and Obama BOTH on a ticket. That speaks loudly to a resonant enthusiasm among the Democratic voters. If the two of them don't stop the high-profile slugging of one another, that enthusiasm could diminish, and that would be really bad for the Dems prospects nationally.

By the way, on the matter of seating the Florida delegates, a reader named Curtis Walker, emailed me back at the top of the hour:


Watch for this to bloom into a full blown issue on the Sunday Talk Shows....sorta of a BUSHIAN way to try to steal Florida from the other two democratic challengers.

Nice call, Curtis. Indeed it did. Obama says he'll abide by the agreement made by the Democrats at the beginning of the primary season.

Panel time: Will believes everything's coming up roses for Obama. Cokie Roberts points out that the Obama campaign eschewed the old "walking around money" style of campaigning. Indeed, the most interesting tactical aspect of the Obama campaign is this community organizing acumen he's borrowed from city politics. I think as long as we've been in these state-by-state races, this has been, at times, effective. But is it going to avail Obama on Super Tuesday? Seems to me like traditional campaign machine politics is going to be most effective.

But if it doesn't play out that way, we're going to have a new model of national campaigning.

Just about the entire panel agrees that Bill Clinton needs to get out of the spotlight. Without him, at the debate, she had Obama on his heels, she earned the Times endorsement.

Key endorsements that you probably already know about: Ted Kennedy will back Obama. Charlie Crist, who looks like he should be captaining a Love Boat somewhere, backed McCain. McCain pulling Crist and Martinez...that might not be enough to beat Romney, but I think that it's enough to effectively end the idea of Rudy Giuliani's presidential ambitions. The panel tepidly agrees with me.

The idea of issue terrain: Isn't it ironic that the "Surge", that McCain supported, and which has, through a lot of timely ethnic cleansing, bought a temporary period of peace and quiet in Iraq, has kept Iraq from the headlines, and allowed economic worries to take over? From an "issue terrain" perspective, this means that McCain's biggest success - being behind the "Surge" - has only benefitted Romney. McCain could REALLY use some bad news in Iraq!

The Chris Matthews Show

I think that this was filmed before South Carolina, so we'll maybe get to see how bad the punditry is here. We have Elisabeth Bumiller on the panel, so we're one foot in the hole already.

Matthews is calling Bill Clinton "The Terminator." Oy. "How does Barack come back and deny he's a Reaganite?" Matthews asks. Uhm...shouldn't it be easy? There's nothing in his policy proposals that's the least bit Reagany. Obama should just apologize for, I guess, noticing that the Reagan administration happened.

Bill Clinton is in Obama's head! Eh, it's still an all-or-nothing, scorched-earth sort of strategy. Clarence Page seems to recognize this. Again, we have the benefit of knowing the South Carolina result. If this weres filmed today, YOU JUST KNOW Matthews would be all over Clinton's Jesse Jackson's comment. He'd also probably swoony with his whole, "BARACK IS A GIFT FROM THE WORLD!" stuff. And Andrew Sullivan would probably charge the set and say, "I loved him first!" Then the whole show would disintegrate into something that looks like that episode of Flight of the Conchords where Jemaine and Brett compete over Sally. "I made Barack Obama a glass butterfly!" Matthews would brag. Then Sullivan would pull out a disturbingly anatomical oil painting of Obama.

None of this has anything to do with what's being discussed on the Chris Matthews Show, mind you. I just thought you'd find it more interesting.

You know what's also slightly more interesting than the discussion? Katty Kay's decision to wear neon-lime green with black in the middle of winter. Not working for me.

Now Chris Matthews is putting songs over the scene of Bush doing the sword dance. They play, "Side By Side" - which is, I think an old Andrews Sisters tune? Anyway, Matthews giggles and say, "It's like an old road movie! Bob Hope and Bing Crosby!" Which causes my wife to sigh, "Thanks for stating the obvious, fat face." Again, I'm guessing that all of this is more interesting than what was actually discussed.

By the way, I saw Cloverfield last night. You should know that I enjoyed it. Our politics editor, Nico Pitney, did not. This is a trend with he and I! Though we've found some common ground this morning, in a mutual affection for Keira Knightley. Make of that what you will! By the way, my wife and I have revised our emergency preparedness plan to include localized incidents of FREAKAZOID MONSTER ATTACKS. We suggest you do the same.

Meanwhile, let's try to pick up the inane discussion, which shifts to the GOP race in Florida. Matthews is running out of opportunities to send valentines to his BF, Rudy Giuliani. "Does it come down to Romney and McCain?" he asks. "Doesn't Rudy have a chance? Please, maybe?" No, says Bumiller. McCain generates more enthusiasm, says Kay, her blazer cutting a white-hot swath across my retinae. John Heilemann points out that the shift in concern to the economy benefits Romney. Frankly, Romney doesn't impress me with his economic knowledge. Page calls him a "brainiac," but that's laughable. The only brainy thing he's done is point out again and again that McCain once said that the economy wasn't his forte. But Romney's done little more than demonstrate that his forte is pointing that out.

I said it once before. Romney is Michael Scott! He's Dunder Mifflin Infinity!

Tell Chris something he doesn't know! Katty Kay says Pakistan could get a lot worse than it already is! Page says Nader will run if Hillary gets the nomination! OH NOES! DO NOT WANT! John McCain has touched off an old feud between Al D'Amato and Rudy Giuliani. And here I thought Al D'Amato was dead! Sorry, Al! Glad you're alive! Although I think the idea of you haunting Rudy from beyond the grave (once you get there, Al, please feel free to take your sweet time) is hilarious! Like a sequel to Blithe Spirit, except, NOT SO BLITHE. Heilemann shills for Slate's new Henry Louis Gates-driven black culture offshoot.

My favorite part of the Sunday Morning shows, by the way: the preponderance of commercials for stool softener. It tells me that I'm not yet fully inside the Sunday Morning political show demo, and that's a great relief to me.

Though, nothing softens the stool so much as repeated viewings of Tim Russert, who's up next.

Meet The Press

OK. Really? I'm going to have to listen to Maureen Dowd? FEGGGHHHHEHHH. I hope it's not too early for something stiff to drink.

First, Tim Russert and John McCain get their powwow on. McCain is hammering Romney for speaking about a "timetable." In fairness...Obama:Reagan::Romney:Timetables. To suggest that Romney had the Dems back on timetables is staggeringly incorrect.

But this is great! McCain, referencing Russert's own gotcha moments of pulling clips and cherrypicking statements (the only thing he's any good at), McCain whips out an index card with Romney's statement on it, just to make sure his point (however flawed it is) get's made. Hilarious!

McCain sticks it to Clinton, saying that her withdrawal plan equals surrender and that most people would agree. Except that most people want to withdraw. And as far as timetables go, why not set a timetable? If the only argument is that the insurgency is laying in wait to mark their calendar, then it still makes sense to try to put incentives in front of the Iraqi government. Without a timetable, the insurgency just sits back and waits anyway. They have all the time in the world! This approach to Iraq is so numbingly stupid that I feel I need to convene a meeting with Bush and McCain and the rest of them and give them a proper Romper Room style scolding.

I'm also getting sick of McCain pretending as if he INVENTED the General Petraeus strategy. Like he led on that issue. He just glommed onto Petraeus and the "Surge" because it was his last ditch strategy for reviving his stumbling campaign.

He's also worried about "genocide and chaos" in the region. We'll see. Here's a timetable for you, Mr. McCain--April 2008. That's when the surge ends.

McCain cops to having said that line about his economic acumen that he denied saying at the debate.

As far as his flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts, his explanation is "Blah blah...9-11...restrain spending...2006 election...restrain spending...my tax cuts were better...we have fiscal difficulties today...right now today...restrain spending...so now we will make these tax cuts permanent." Oy. Uhm, John. John. Listen. The circumstances we're different in 2004? You want to restrain spending? Where can spending best be restrained, John? What's been going on since 2004, John? That's cost us a lot of money? That's the top-line, runaway expenditure? THE IRAQ WAR, NIMROD!

Tom Coburn, fan of sterilization and fearful of lesbians, supports McCain.

McCain: "I will embrace Joe Lieberman anywhere and at any time!" Well, Shabbat Shalom, sexy boys!

Don't you love it when he says, "I'm a border state governor! I know how to secure a border!" Is it secure? No? Then stop braggin'! Other than that, he says, don't worry about my terrible immigration bill, because it's dead.

Thad Cochran feels that McCain is a ticking timebomb of animal rage! McCain says Cochran's just saying that because Cochran is an "Appropriator." No bridges to nowhere! But he will not knock them down with his rage.

Panel time: The topic is South Carolina. Chuck Todd calls it a "major victory for Obama and a major rebuke for Clinton." He also says, though, that Bill Clinton drove white voters to Edwards. I just think Edwards attracted a lot of white voters!

MoDo is talking about King Arthur and Dan Quayle and mispronouncing Caroline Kennedy's name. But CK's endorsement is "yooouge," she assures us. Then she takes an interesting question about what role the Clinton's have played in the racial context of the election, and the potential long-term effects of their rhetoric, and reduces it to an image of Bill Clinton patrolling the White House for tail. She really has one of the most reductive minds in punditry.

Chuck Todd redeems the program by giving a good analysis of the Clinton's modus operandi: "How can I get her to 51%." A good look at the politics of triangulation. Still quite powerful, still potentially the strategy that can win on Super Tuesday. "All the Clintons can do is put a dagger in the heart of hope," says Dowd. That's the answer she was better off giving to the last question.

What happened to Giuliani? Byron York says "bad strategy," and tips the panel to Rudy's recent stops on the trail--a tepid reception in Orlando. Did Kerik/Nathan/scandal take a toll on Giuliani? Dowd says yes, at first, but gets closer to the heart of the matter when she speaks of his "mundanity."

McCain and Clinton did vodka shots in Estonia, says Dowd. She goes on to compare Obama to Adlai Stevenson, RFK, JFK, Tonya Harding, Ronald Reagan, and I think, cockfighters. I don't know. I'm not going to rewind my TiVo to try to parse that. But this I understood: "She starts by comparing him to MLK, who couldn't get anything done, and he finished by comparing him to Jesse Jackson, who couldn't get elected. It wasn't pretty." That was good.

And we'll close with a reminder that tomorrow is the final State Of The Union address from President Bush! So many memories! Yellow cake became something more than a dessert. Steroids took center stage for some reason. There was that time that guy that Bush had never heard of, Ahmad Chalabi, scored seats next to Laura Bush! And there was sexytime, too! Dubya kissed Joe Lieberman, Michelle Bachmann tried to have sex with the president right there on the floor. These were probably the best State of the Union addresses ever. Especially if you loved being lied to. But if I had to pick a single memory of Bush's SOTU addresses to place in the little toxic locket of my heart, it would most definitely be the time he stood up and vowed to fight the coming human-animal hybrids. Good times! See you next week!