TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning everyone, to a day -- in Washington, anyway -- where it's frosty cold outside with a dusting of snow, the perfect sort of Sunday for hunkering down in your house without any ambitions to do anything but stay warm and relaxed. My name is Jason and I hope that's what all of you have planned for your day, today! I have the same plans, but first, I must get through another morning of Sunday political chit-chat. And today, the star of the show is...uhm...Jack Lew. Yeah! (Who is Jack Lew, again?) Oh, right, He's the White House Chief of Staff, and, I'm guessing, Tiger Beat cover model. Plus there will be some Rick Santorum, and, for some reason, Sarah Palin. (You know she's not running for President if she has the courage to come on Sunday Morning teevee.)

Anyway, y'all stay in bed, I got this. As per usual, you should feel free to enjoy each other's company in the comments, send me a line if you like, and of course, you can feel free to follow me on Twitter if that's your bag. Let us commence!


Chris Wallace says that the White House is "still trying to put out the fire" over its contraception kerfuffle from last week. Har. Dude: fire out. From what I hear, the only people who are disappointed are liberals who actually wanted to spend the next eight months warblogging about contraception, and the U.S. bishops, who want the "every sperm is sacred" standard upheld or they'll caterwaul well into the early morning. But the bishops may have gotten rooked -- the compromise, politically speaking, was pretty sound, and it's left opponents without a religious liberty argument. They're forced to now come out against contraception (and modernity) which is not a good election year issue, unless it's meny centuries ago and I am liveblogging this on the Gutenberg press. (I hope not! That will take forever!)

But Jack Lew! He will explain this to us, I guess. Wallace has some "lingering questions," about your diaphragm. Where does the president get the power to have insurance companies provide this for free, he asks. Lew says the President has the authority under the Affordable Care Act. Lew does point out that "actuarial projections" indicate that plans that cover birth control are lower cost than those that don't, which makes sense, considering the fact that pregnancy is expensive.

Lew says that what the President has done is pretty consistent with where he's been all along, and the solution-slash-accommodation that's been reached has the support of the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities.

Wallace notes that the more hardcore religious figures are upset that there will be all this avoided pregnancies. Lew says, yeah, but in America, women aren't chattel. Essentially. Wallace says that the Bishops don't like it, but Lew says that no religious institution has to offer or pay for contraception, and this boils down to the fact that some people just think women are chattel, and that government should do more to prevent them from getting contraception.

Wallace keeps at it, for the Bishops, but this isn't going anywhere, because too many Catholic organizations are happy about it. "This question about religious institutions was something we treated with respect right from the start, and we have addressed the core issue," Lew says.

On to the less sexy issue of the budget. Paul Ryan hates it! Why isn't Jack Lew doing enough to make Paul Ryan -- Kid Private Investigator, happy. Does everyone WANT his hair to be sad?

Lew says that the budget reflects agreed-to goals in spending cuts, and involved a lot of tough decisions. Wallace points out that one trillion dollars of cuts they're taking credit for in the new budget were already agreed to, and Lew notes that this is true, but doesn't understand what the big deal is. But it's a big deal to Wallace. They fight about whether or not this is a big deal. And of course, central to the discourse is this newfangled idea that "revenue" is a word that refers to something awful, lile "syphillis" or "Feline AIDS."

Lew says that the budget "gets us there" as a "blueprint" for an "economy that will last into the future," because "blueprint for an economy that's built to last is a White House Election Year talking point.

It's actually a flurry of election year talking points.

Wallace asks if the money they claim to save on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't just being used as a budget gimmick, in which money that's never intended to be spent is counted as savings. The correct answer is "yes" and the even more correct answer is "End the war in Afghanistan, we said? Because LOL." Lew doesn't agree, because "the policy to get out of Iraq was very real." As real as it is, it's something that we've known was going to happen for four years.

Will the President keep his promise to cut the budget deficit in half? Of course not. Lew says that teh cuts are a "significant accomplishment" and that there was "a deeper hole to crawl out of" than anyone anticipated. This is all a game to get Jack Lew saying words like, "No we didn't keep the promise" on teevee more than it is a substantive discussion on how administration policies affected ordinary Americans -- Lew wants to only talk about the rosy stuff, Wallace doesn't want to talk about it at all, and this is why the only people who can bear to watch Sunday morning political television are those who have no stake in whatever policies come out of Washington.

Hey, a question about Syria! Why won't the President do for the Syrians what he did for the Libyans? (ALSO BAHRAIN, HELLO?) Isn't it a "betrayal to stand on the sidelines" and watch Syrians get killed? Lew says that no one is standing on the sidelines, because they've been imposing economic sanctions. But the attacks are intensifying and it has not stopped the slaughter, Wallace points out. Lew says, "There's no question that [the Assad regime] will come to an end."

The real answer here is that it was easy to intervene in Libya, and hard in Syria, and if you want America to stop the brutal killing of you and your family, you should try to live somewhere that's convenient, the end!

Now, Sarah Palin is here to yammer yammer lily hammer about politics and the 2012 race for the nomination, which developed a little bit further last night when Mitt Romney eked out a victory in the Maine caucuses over Ron Paul. (Paul has the better organization, however, so don't be surprised if he doesn't end up with more delegates than anyone at Team Romney realizes.) Romney also won the CPAC straw poll.

Anyway, Palin wants the "Tea Party" members to stop getting ostracized by the establishment GOP in Congress, and put in leadership positions. Wallace wants to know who "the establishment" is, is it John Boehner or Mitch McConnell or whoever? Palin doesn't name names, it's just "people who are fighting to keep the status quo." (I thought that conservatism was all about maintaining institutions, though?) Anyway, there are Straw People, who "keep the status quo" and are "the establishment." They allow the president to have a "plastic credit card" to allow for debt.

Wallace asks if she's referring to the people who agreed to raise the debt ceiling, and Palin just word soups it up, saying that it's not really any specific person with a specific vote that bothers her, but the "culmination" of some, or many, votes, by one or more people, that was "establishment" and not "change."

Palin says that she was "shocked at the skin" -- I think? I'm not rewinding this -- at Lew's discussion of the contraception accommodation, because he "sounded like the press secretary." (Probably because the "chief of staff" and the "press secretary" are part of the same administration? Anyway, she hates the mandate...for some reason. Because of an assault on religion, for starters. (Though no one's religious liberty is in jeopardy, thanks to the accommodation.) But, more specifically, she believes that the mandate is government control of private business. "What gives government the right to tell us what we should provide our employees?" Palin asks, and hey, why can't business just provide employees with chicken bones and mud?

Wallace points out that the economy is improving and Obama's approval is up, and "doesn't he have to be favored now to win re-election?" The correct answer here is that as long as GDP growth remains anemic, the incumbent is always vulnerable, because that's just what political science says, the end. Palin says that now the U4 employment numbers look good, it's time for conservatives to start citing the U6 numbers. And failing that, anecdotes. Palin says that if you ask the average person, they may have a different story about the economy, but the media hates talking to "average people" and I doubt Palin knows any, so that's a dead letter. Which is too bad, because Palin is 100% right about how everyone lives in a "political bubble" and is chronically out of touch with ordinary people.

Palin says Romney is a "great candidate" and "everyone's a great candidate" and "getting stronger and getting better," and she wants "to see the competition continue, and she literally has NO IDEA how much her political opponents agree with that.

Wallace points out that in her CPAC speech, she was making anti-Romney dogwhistles to beat the band, and wants to know if she trusts Mitt Romney to actually be the sort of conservative she says she wants. She says that she "trusts that his idea about conservatism is evolving." And then she hangs RomneyCare around his neck and uses the term "ObamneyCare!" She really, really needs to just say, "VOTE FOR RICK SANTORUM." That is what Rick Santorum wants, SO BAD. She instead keeps throwing shade on Romney, noting that he can't close the deal.

"What does he have to do to convince you?" asks Wallace. Palin says that he still needs to "articulate" something that she can't articulate...something about not fighting with each other and just providing solutions to problems, which we've not heard yet from any of the candidates.

How does she compare Gingrich and Santorum? Santorum has been "bold about social issues." Newt has "a historical perspective" about "how America was built" that can be "put to good use." But she just gave a speech railing aganist "crony capitalism" and you can't say "Newt" and "historical" in the same sentence without thinking of his Freddie Mac millions! Oy. She says she will not "go into the negatives."

Wallace asks about the GAME CHANGE movie and Julianne Moore, playing Sarah Palin. She is not very pleased about the movie or the book, or Julianne Moore. Wallace keeps showing her clips, saying "millions of people are going to see that." Really? I hope millions of people do not, actually, watch GAME CHANGE, based on a book that should be lining kennels. But if they do, they'll probably recognize it for the misogynist pulp fiction that it is.

Anyway, Palin says she was "never in a funk" and is "ambivalent" about the movie.

Wallace says that he was "touched" by her article about Trig in Newsweek. Palin is also really excited about the article she wrote about Trig for Newsweek. Palin and Newsweek are best friends now, or something!

Okay, Panel Time, with Bill Kristol, Mara Liasson, Kimberly Strassel, and anthropomorphic Nilla Wafer Evan Bayh.

Bill Kristol says that the contraception issue will get "bigger" not smaller, and I think that's exactly what the White House hopes will happen, they'll be beset on all sides by crazies who hate women. Liasson says that it was a "mistake to let the culture wars bloom again." It's sort of hard to avoid that when you have principles rooted in 21st century life. Also, contraception is popular! Strassel says that "this is the sort of question that comes up when you have government directed health care." And Bayh says that while it was mishandled, the accommodation has been well received, and if the countering argument is coming from Romney, no big deal.

What about Super PACs? This is a big reversal in position from the White House -- his support of super PACs. Kristol says that it's not a shock to see Obama take advantage of the super PAC, and any Republican who thinks they can beat Obama "by outspending or out-organizing him will be proven wrong" and that's why the GOP needs to cut a contrast with Obama based on more than who raises what amount of money.

Liasson says that Obama flipped because without his approval, the Democratic super PAC was not raising enough money to keep up with the competition, and regardless of what happens, the Democrats are going to be badly outspent this year.

In the GOP race, Strassel says the race remains pretty wide open and the electorate in general has "not made a decision" on who they really want to support. "They are resolutely rejecting the Mitt Romney narrative," she says, and eventually, he will have to stop talking about himself and start presenting his ideas.

Wallace sort of mocks him for ad libbing the phrase "severely conservative" as a description of his governorship. He has a "Berlitz dictionary of English to conservative but can't get the translation right." That's a pretty good burn, Wallace. Bayh says the underlying problem with Romney is that they have a problem in that the more they have to pander to the base, the more they risk running off independents. (This is something everyone says about every candidate in every election.) He also says that Romney has an authenticity problem, and then he loses me completely by saying that the longer the decision making process goes on, the better chance for American's Elect to get a candidate in the race.

Ha-ha, no. On their first round of balloting, Americans Elect's top four candidates were:

1. Ron Paul
2. Jon Huntsman
3. Bernie Sanders
4. Barack Obama

Recalling that Americans Elect's board retains the right to overrule the will of the people who vote in their online balloting process (which can and does make their entire enterprise out to be a stupid joke), the Huffington Post can project right now that the only person on that list that will be acceptable to the aristocratic twits who created this organization to try to get some moderate-behaving lover of money onto a Presidential ticket to run on a campaign of generic niceness is Jon Huntsman. They will never ever allow Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders to be their standard bearer, because what would their neighbors say! Heavens! And obviously they won't let Obama be their candidate, because if they liked Obama, they'd just raise money for Obama.

Only walking Nilla Wafer Itchy-Palmed Lobbyist Voidhead Evan Bayh (D-Bag) would come on a show and say that if Romney keeps it up, he'll only end up making Americans Elect stronger. Hell, Mitt Romney would be the dream Americans Elect candidate, any other year.


UPDATE: Americans Elect, who typically enjoy publicity of any kind, strenuously object to my characterization of their organization. Spokesperson Ileana Wachtel writes me:

Please allow me to correct your statement that “Americans Elect's board retains the right to overrule the will of the people who vote in their online balloting process.”

In fact, the rules and bylaws of Americans Elect stipulate that the delegates have ultimate and exclusive power and authority over the balloting process:

“Delegates shall have exclusive power and authority to: draft, support, oppose and nominate the Americans Elect ticket for President and Vice President of the United States of America in accordance with the rules…” (Read the bylaws here. )

The role of the AE board is to ensure that the Rules are followed and that the will of AE’s delegates are accurately conveyed through the online convention process.

All well and good, but I'd like to point out that my characterization of Americans Elect is founded in nothing more than the characterization offered by the people at Americans Elect. To wit:

"The bylaws were set up in a way that gives me confidence that we'll have a candidate who I would be able to support," [Americans Elect Board Member Admiral Dennis] Blair said.

He said he also believes mass participation online will bend the result to the center.


"It's all terra incognita," said Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute and a mainstay of Democratic Party politics, who is among the Americans Elect leadership team working on developing a platform of questions for the prospective candidates.

"It's important to say that it is a guided effort, not just an unguided democratic missile. There will be rules designed to prevent it from being commandeered by ideologues, but that is difficult to do when you don't have an explicit ideology," said Marshall, who acknowledged that, when all is said and done, he may find himself voting for Obama a second time.

Indeed, the bylaws that confer power to the Americans Elect delegates include this: "...with Board, certify or decertify other Delegates and candidates in accordance with these Bylaws;..."

So it's no wonder that a member of the AE board is comfortable saying that the "bylaws were set up in a way that gives me confidence that we'll have a candidate who I would be able to support." That's precisely correct! And that's why I don't anticipate someone like Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders being anointed the standard-bearer of this organization, regardless of how many votes they receive. This process is intended to yield some sort of "centrist" candidate that the people who've invested in this organization can approve of -- that's straight from a board member's mouth.

But look -- they'll probably say otherwise, and that's fine. The salient point is that I do not believe them! If you feel otherwise, well, that's your prerogative. Good luck with that.


Kristol says that Santorum is now the conservative alternative to Romney, and if he beats Gingrich in Arizona, this will be emphasized. I don't know what Gingrich is going to do, but if he spends anytime or money in Arizona, don't be surprised if he wins -- and don't let it convince you that Santorum's faded. Santorum is apparently going to spend his time in Michigan, not Arizona, which is smart, because Arizona is a winner-take-all contest, and if you're not going to have a shot at winning, it's pointless to spend a lot of resources there.

Wallace brings up the turnout issue. Liasson says that Republicans are not particularly into their candidates. I think that maybe the "enthusiasm gap" story is premature in terms of the general election -- GOP voters do seem to want to cast a vote against Obama. The enthusiasm gap will be measured by how many diehards show up to make phone calls and go door-to-door to get fencesitters on their side.

Evan Bayh says the problem is a "lack of a passionate vision or cause animating the Romney campaign." He would know!


Hey, is this show back to being a half-hour long again? Argh, I really can't wait for the permanent change, for Bob Schieffer's sake.

Hope you like some more Jack Lew today, by the way! He is this Sunday's on-every-show guy. So if you're not yet excited about generic discussions of federal budgets, maybe your local cable provider has a cockfighting channel you can turn to? Otherwise, you are kind of stuck in the Sunday morning charisma-sink.

But first, here's Ron Paul. He's probably hoping for better treatment from Schieffer today! Schieffer points out that he's expected to take seven delegates to Romney's eight, but this was a state he thought he could have won. Is there any disappointment? Paul says, "Our delegate math is different, because this process has only started." Here are some details about what he's talking about -- the short version is that Paul's campaign is playing the caucuses differently from the other candidates, and as a result may be snagging additional delegates beyond the projected proportions.

He's somewhat disappointed, but he's more disappointed by the fact that one county cancelled their caucus. Can you do that?

Asked if his path involves a path to the nomination or just to the convention, Paul says that he's still in this to win, and that Romney's been "up and down" and his numbers grow and never diminish. "This whole ball game can change very rapidly."

Why is Romney having trouble convincing people he's a conservative? Paul says he isn't sure, but that in all fairness, Gingrich and Santorum should "suffer the same consequences." Shots fired! "I don't think they've been vetted very well, because I know them and their records aren't very conservative," he says. Paul says that his competition is "rigid" only in their dedication to "flip-flopping." He says that if the country is stuck with Mitt and Rick and Newt, the country will have to look to see which one of them might be open to more conservative positions, and the only really way to distinguish the three is "management style."

Schieffer asks about Romney and his weird choice of the phrase "severe conservative" at CPAC. Paul agrees that it was a strange thing to hear, but that "Mitt will have to tell you what it means."

Why don't the other candidates have the same enthusiasm as Paul's supporters? Paul says that he's the only one that appeals to young voters, and that the rest don't have an appealing message. He says that he's the only one in the race "with a message that makes sense" and that young voters are looking for someone who "believes in something" and uses "common sense." He allows that his competition could, in the end, beat Obama, but that it's really "up for grabs" now. "Any Republican who thinks their a shoo-in has another thing coming."

Does he think that Romney can beat Obama? Paul says, "I do, I do, but I can too." He points out that in New Hampshire, he was bringing in Democrats to vote for him. (Not sure those are 100% sincere votes. If you are a Democratic voter in Virginia, for example, the "Project Mayhem" approach to the Virginia Primary is to register as a Republican and vote for Paul. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly some progressive voters for whom his anti-war message has appeal.)

Now Mitch McConnell is here, because why not? He obviously thinks that the Republicans in the race will beat Obama and the primaries will produce a "credible candidate" and that the long primary process is not going to end up weakening the eventual nominee, which is really just as likely an outcome as any other -- people said that the long Democratic primary in 2008 would be bad for Obama and it wasn't.

On to birth control! This is just the topic that old dudes on the teevee should be talking about. But McConnell says that it's an issue of religious liberty, but the accommodation has essentially made this satisfying to everyone other than the badly-rooked bishops. But McConnell obviously hates the government and hates the Affordable Care Act and hates the idea of women controlling when and if they have children.

Is McConnell willing to support his colleagues' plans to ensure that more and more organizations can opt out of providing women with adequate health care? Of course! Because: Freedom!

McConnell will allow a vote on the president's budget, however, so look forward to that, I guess!

Jack Lew is here now, and we'll see if he's asked some new question, or provide some new answer to an old question.

Schieffer wants to know if Bill Daley left the job because of this particular kerfuffle with the Catholic bishops, and Lew says "no" along the way to saying a lot of other things he already planned to say. But Schieffer just wants to know if this is why Bill Daley left! Lew just wants to get through the two paragraphs that were prepared for him on the matter. It's a battle of wills! A boring battle of wills, where nothing is at stake, at all.

Lew says they've implemented a policy that provides all women with the health care they need and that provides all faith communities with what they need to stay true to their beliefs.

BUT IS IT THE REASON BILL DALEY LEFT? I cannot believe this is considered to be an important, or even interesting, question. I just assume Bill Daley left because as predicted, he was awful and Democrats hated working with him. You might recall that Daley taking the job was greeted with the same enthusiasm as stepping in a pile of chewed bubble gum whilst crossing the street. "Oh, wow. Some old white homunculus who loves Wall Street works for the Obama administration, great."

Didn't Obama change his mind on Friday? Lew insists that a "detail" came Friday that was "always" going to come and that it remains consistent with the president's approach to issues like this. Wouldn't this go better for the President if he said, "Hey, I heard your objections and responded to it?" What do you gain from pretending that he didn't change his mind. That's what he did!

Well, at least I got to spend some time today thinking about Bill Daley, for some reason.

Bob Schieffer concludes the day by giving well-deserved props to CBS reporters in Syria -- Clarissa Ward and Ben Plesser (sorry if I've misspelled any names). They've taken risks to cover the uprising in that country, and are both safely out of Syria. Ward says that during their time there, there were times they worried about getting out of the country -- it involved "wading through canals in the dead of night" among other things, which included people with guns, killing one another. On the rebellion, she says that the rebels have high hopes and big ambitions, but no skill or support. "It's unfathomable to me how they could continue at this for any length of time," she says.


Are you ready for some more Jack Lew? Let's hope so, because that's what we're getting. Hours and hours of Jack Lew.

Anyway, Jack Lew, woo. Did the White House botch this and have to backtrack? Lew gives the same answer he's been giving -- the White House has always had two principles at work, health care for woman and religious freedom, they sped up the decision making process, it was controversial, and they made an accommodation and are now, I guess, trying to pass this off as what was always intended and that everyone just didn't get it and freaked out for no reason, only know everyone's really cool about it, so crisis over (unless you happen to think women are chattel who should be stuffed with baby batter and made to be brood mares for the state, in which case, step forward and say so, please, and do so loudly, because it's such a great election year argument that doesn't at all turn off independent voters).

I think I've gotten pretty good at summarizing Jack Lew. Can David Gregory find some new wrinkle? Ha-ha, no. "What the president announced Friday was what was always envisioned," says Lew. "There are some who oppose women having contraception, we don't agree with that."

"Was it political malpractice?" asks Gregory. "Yes, totally, you got me with that ace question of yours," Jack Lew does not reply.

Gregory than says that there are "headlines" in the papers that tell a different story, but the two he cites are the Washington Post and the New York Times covering the same story about the Catholic Bishops being angry that Obama has not eradicated contraception entirely from America. Then he reads from the press release that spawned those two newspaper stories. In it, the Bishops make it clear that the only acceptable solution is for the government to stop providing contraceptive care to women. I can assure you, the Obama administration is content to let the Council of Bishops saying this over and over again.

"So you're think you can move forward with this without the church's hierarchy being on board," asks Gregory. Dude, I really, really hope so! This is America. We are always moving forward with all things, regardless of church hierarchies! We are not, for example, Iran. Besides, what do you think the Catholic Church has to say about killing Pakistani children with robot drones?

You'd be surprised to learn that Jack Lew does not agree with Rick Santorum's take on the matter, and that the president will campaign on the Affordable Care Act and definitely campaign on providing health care to women, and he'll veto any effort that impedes the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

What's a realistic unemployment number, Gregory asks. Lew is not stupid enough to answer that, and just says that things are improving, there's work to be done, and hopefully "Washington" will not screw up the recovery. The unemployment rate is in the "low 8's and we hope that it gets lower than that."

Lew says that as far as Congressional gridlock goes, it's a challenge to work things through, but it's more the House's fault than the Senate, because guess which one the Democrats control? (But yeah, also the supermajority you need in the Senate is terrible, when you do not have the supermajority.)

Now we have a Schoolhouse Rock segment, about budgets:

GREGORY: But can you just explain to Americans how is it that the government funds itself when there's no budget?

JACK LEW: So, the Congress has to appropriate money to run the government on an annual basis. And actually, last year, one of the things that was part of the budget agreement was agreeing to the overall levels of funding for two years. So Congress will be able to continue to do its business. It would be better to do it in the context of an overall budget. The president, tomorrow, will be presenting a budget that does $4 trillion of deficit reduction over ten years. It does it in a way that builds an economic, an America, that can last. It does it by developing manufacturing, the skills that we need in this country, energy independence, and calling for shared American values, where everybody, you know, has a fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same rules. That's what we hope Congress will do. And we're going to work towards that end.

Gregory says: "It's probably fair to be cynical about whether people should pay too much attention to a budget outline, when budgets don't get passed in Washington for 1,000 days." No worries, brah! The only people who pay attention to that trivia are Beltway pundits.

"OMGZ THE DEFICITZ!" says Gregory. Lew says that "there's pretty broad agreement that the time for austerity is not today." Not among Beltway pundits, who really, really need to see entitlement programs slashed, because that's "serious" and that's "making the tough choices."

Gregory goes on to ask yammeringly if he's saying that cutting the deficit should not be the number one priority, and Lew says that things like the payroll tax cut is more important. What he should say is that Beltway bubble dwellers need to get it through their dense skulls that Americans are far more concerned about jobs than they are about deficits and they've been resolute on that for years, and will continue to be until THEY EXPERIENCE SOME RECOVERY.

Now, Rick Santorum is here, live from California, land of Sodomy.

Does Santorum want to have a fight over birth control? Duh, of course, but he'll try to frame it as a matter of religious liberty: "I mean the bottom line is that you have the federal government now saying, 'We're going to give you a right,' and then saying, 'By the way, we're going to tell you how to exercise that right. We're going to control you, a religious -- a church-affiliated group, as to, you know, what you provide to your employees. And if you don't like it tough, because our rights, our right to tell you what to do, trumps your deeply-held convictions about what your dollars should be spent for.'" Santorum either doesn't understand or prefers to obfuscate the fact that after Friday, religious organizations will now no longer have to either provide or pay for contraception. That burden falls to insurance companies. There's definitely a conservative argument against that mandate, but it's got nothing to do with anyone's "deeply held convictions" about religion, because insurance companies do not have deeply held religious convictions. (If they did, they wouldn't kick sick people off of their rolls in the first place, right? Unless they worship some complete dick.)

Santorum continues to bang on and on about a matter he doesn't seem to understand was effectively resolved on Friday.

What is the "secret plan" that Obama has for his second term? He will apparently control the minds of men with "Obamacare" and "cap and trade" and "Dodd-Frank" and a consumer protection board that DARES to help people understand their mortgage and credit card agreements!

What about gay marriage? What would he do if the SCOTUS said that gays and lesbians had a Constitutional right to marriage? Santorum says that's not what his campaign is about, and then out comes a torrent of filibustering talking points, which Gregory really should interrupt, but doesn't, for many minutes, and eventually ends with him saying that the 9th circuit's decision was terrible and the judiciary is "out of control." This is all a long way of saying that OF COURSE he wouldn't be satsified with a court decision granting marriage equality. He wouldn't be satisfied with a legislative decision granting marriage equality. He wouldn't be satisfied with a citizen referendum that granted it. "I would seek to overturn it," he says, and based upon what he's said about New York's decision to allow marriage equality, as president, Santorum would spend an inordinate amount of time meddling in that state's affairs in an effort to get it reversed.

David Gregory attempts to discuss feminism with Rick Santorum. "Perfect," say feminists, adding, "Great, just great."

GREGORY: You've also talked about, you know, your view of feminism. And it's something that you wrote about. I want to show something that you wrote in your book It Takes a Family. "The radical feminists," you wrote, "succeeded in undermining the tradition of family, and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness." Now Senator, everything I've learned about feminism from my working mother, my working sister, and my working wife, is that it's about respecting the choice of working or not working, not somehow the choice of working undermining the traditional family.

SANTORUM: Well, I would agree with that, if that's what it was about.

Awesome. "Hey, I guess, you know...probably," says Rick Santorum, man of convictions. But feminists were mean to his mom for the choice she made in life! "We should affirm both choices," he says. I don't believe him! Anyway, let's not base public policy on say, women on the military, over whatever decades-old sociological dust-up your mother endured.

Santorum says that woman can come into the workplace, including his, and that his administration would have "plenty of working moms," tastefully breastfeeding under tarps.

Santorum says that "he feels great" about how his campaign is going, and he's raising lots of money, and he's actually suddenly getting his campaign on a nationwide footing! He'll be jetsetting across the map in the next few weeks, which suggests he might have a good shot on Super Tuesday.

"This is a two person race, and that's how we're focused on it," Santorum says. "If you look at the results from Maine, I mean we didn't spend any time there. We did much better than we expected. CPAC again, we felt very good that it's, you know, two-person race, and the other two candidates were pretty far behind. And I think Michigan and Arizona are going to show the same thing."

David Gregory and Rick Santorum are very excited about sweater vests, and Richie Cunningham, and Gregory thinks it completely destroys the perception that Washington, DC is an "uncool place." David Gregory is really wrong about that.

Okay, I think it's time for paneling with Bill Burton and Joe Scarborough and E.J. Dionne and Peggy Noonan.

Meet The Press wanted to have Bill Burton here because he runs a Super PAC and therefore must know something about the issue of "money in politics." But as a guy who runs a Super PAC he's not going to do anything other than say "Super PACs are awesome and money in politics is awesome!" (Also, no one in the Beltway media thinks money in politics is a bad thing.)

But first, more discussion on contraception, an issue that I now understand only affects the election hopes of President Obama and is not understandable as an issue that impacts ordinary Americans.

Dionne says that Obama must have wanted some sort of fight, because there were lots of warnings that there would be a fight about it. "They came to the right place," he says, but it took longer than it should and they hurt themselves in the process.

Noonan says it's interesting that this has become known as the "contraception story" because, "it is about contraceptive devices, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures that Catholic Church found unacceptable and wanted a conscience clause for itself and its agencies." Except it was never about abortifiacients or "sterilization," at all, full stop. And now, it's not even about "conscience clauses" because the accommodation that was reached upholds all those conscience clauses. (The only way this was about "abortifacients" is if you are suggesting that the "morning after pill" is an abortifacient. This is, of course, incorrect, but there are many liars out there who enjoy saying otherwise.)

Dionnes points out that the Obama administration would love, love, love to get into a fight about contraception. Scarborough says that all Obama needed to do was split the unified front the Catholics were presenting, and having done that, he essentially won on the politics.

Gregory is still sort of confused that Obama compromised on Friday, because he's apparently not been paying attention to "the Obama administration" and its "political tactics," for the past three years.

Burton explains it: "Before the compromise, the opponents were separated into three different camps. The folks who had a legitimate religious liberty concern, the folks who are actually just against contraception, and the people who were just playing politics. And what the compromise did was it isolated those folks who were just against contraception, and who were just playing politics, and let the Mitt Romneys and Rick Santorums out on a limb, outside of the mainstream of American thought."

Yep, basically. Of course, the part he's leaving out is whether the administration lucked into this endgame after stumbling into a fight they didn't want, or if they somehow perceived that they could play everybody. I personally play chess on a flat board, so I go with the former, not the latter. Nevertheless, it's very fortuitous that this all goes down at a time where the administration would love to elevate Rick Santorum.

"Is it really outside the mainstream?" Gregory asks. Yes. Women LOVE contraception.

Scarborough says all of this confluence of social issues really work to Romney's detriment. Dionne agrees, noting that Romney's been all over the shop on various social issues, and would rather make an economic argument. They mock Romney's "severe conservative" line. Man! That really did not play well, did it?

Noonan dissents and says that the dormant issue (ObamaCare) has been revived and will now be a bigger part of the election year debate. Here, I think you see the Obama administration making that recovery gamble, knowing that ObamaCare will play a lot better in a nation where people are back at work and not in a state of financial dislocation. The simple truth is that had there not been an economic calamity in 2008 that wrecked so many lives and made it hard for ordinary people to imagine a future, the Affordable Care Act would not have been that controversial at all. (Of course, if there hadn't been an economic calamity in 2008, would Obama have become president in the first place? The perils of alternate history!)

Now they are discussing the "two views of the Obama White House" and defining those two views as Mitt Romney versus Ezra Klein -- ideologue versus moderate. Burton says that Obama has done a "great job at pushing his opponents outside the mainstream." He's just so great at that that who knows? Maybe Burton will run a Super PAC or something? Scarborough mocks the multi-dimensional chess idea, but says that the two sides of Obama, for his critics, aren't compatible. "He can't be Jimmy Carter and Josef Stalin at the same time...Is he an incompetent moderate, according to the right? Or is he a dangerous ideologue?"

Finally, David Gregory remembers that he invited the guy who runs the Obama Super PAC on his show.

GREGORY: What happened to the, you know, the guy who stood up in front of the country during the State of the Union in 2010, and criticized the role of the Super Pacs?

BURTON: But the president, from what I read, the president has not changed his position on whether or not campaign finance ought to be reformed. I mean the difference here is that Republicans look at campaign finance the way it is now and say, "Yeah, that's how we want it. We want unlimited donations. We want non-disclosure. We want all those things." Democrats, the president, all of us, think that there ought to be disclosures, there ought to be different rules. Our view is that we're not going to let one team on the field while we stand on the sidelines.

LOL. "The president, from what I read." Because these two GREAT FRIENDS NEVER EVER COORDINATE EVER!

Peggy Noonan for some reason, is allowed to shift the conversation back to contraception. And that ensuring access to contraception, in her opinion, is "extreme," and that "Clinton would not have done it."

Oh, Peggy, dear heart, I am only too sure that Bill Clinton never walked into a room without knowing where the closest prophylactic was. That guy was the Jason Bourne of knowing where contraceptives were and how quickly he could provide them.

Finally, we arrive at the point where David Gregory reviews the stuff that happened on his show. Jack Lew talked about contraception, if you missed it! HOW COULD YOU HAVE MISSED IT, HE TALKED ABOUT IT ALL MORNING. Also, E.J. Dionne did not know who Richie Cunningham is. Ha, ha, everyone laugh in E.J. Dionne's dumb face! GOTCHA, E.J!

Okay, well, I hope everyone enjoyed CONTRACEPTION WEEK in politics, and the irony of hearing it talked about on these Sunday shows, which are already America's first and best source for boner-killing. Thanks for coming by and reading the liveblog, I hope everyone has a great week!