Ah, hello, everyone, and welcometo your liveblog of the errant tippy-tap-tap sounds you hear emanating from Washington, DC, broadcast on the teevee.

Ah, hello, everyone, and welcome back to your liveblog of the errant tippy-tap-tap sounds you hear emanating from Washington, DC, broadcast on the teevee, like a nut trapped inside a tin can, endlessly bouncing against the metal walls, not making any sense, forever. My name is Jason. And the last time we spoke, I was about to go on vacation to Boston, Massachusetts -- the Cradle of Modern America and the place where all those Ben Affleck movies are set.

And what a nice time! So much American history has not yet been turned into a Chipotle, yet. I had no idea! And Bostonians are actually very nice. Once they are out of their cars, I mean. Up until then, it is literally kill or be killed. And look! I managed to secure a photograph of the biggest cliche in Boston.

And New England, what's up? Apparently you all have been holding out on me as far as this "coffee milk" things goes. I had no idea about this. It is like stuff you add to milk, and when you add it, the milk tastes vaguely like coffee. It is my new favorite thing! And one of the brands of coffee milk syrup is called "Autocrat." It's like they don't know, or don't care what the word "autocrat" even means! As it says on the bottle: "Autocrat coffee milk: enjoying it is mandatory!"

Alas, time off must come to an end and so we are gathered here today to watch the vapid Sunday offerings, together once more. (Plus the Capitals are playing the Bruins in the NHL playoffs, so if you Bostonians wouldn't mind not accepting those compliments until one team or the other is eliminated, and intead accept -- DAGGERS! POISON! BLEAH! -- that would be swell.

Okay. Y'all know the deal! Please enjoy each other's company in the comments. You can fell free to send your thoughts/comments in my direction. And after we're done here, please feel free follow me on Twitter, if you can even bear it.

And without further ago, I guess we're back.


Welcoming us all back today are Ed Gillespie and David Axelrod, who will be doing the Morning of the Shouty presidential campaign surrogates. Axelrod begins this round of "welcome to the general election, no matter what Newt Gingrich is saying at the moment."

Wallace begins by showing Axelrod a clip of Obama decrying the "stale tactics" of past campaigns, and juxtaposing it against -- ooh! Ooh! Can I guess? I'll take "Stale Political Tactics," please? Yes, we see the "thinly veiled Social Darwinism" like about the Ryan budget. Wallace asks, "This from the candidate of hope and change?" Ha, well, sure, but I don't think Obama was "hoping" to pass a Paul Ryan Hunger Games budget that would "change" everything like that.

Axelrod says that there's a difference between engaging in "empty scare tactics" and critiquing policy, and I'll allow he has a point, because it's different to say "thinly veiled Social Darwinism" and what I just did: "BOOGA WE ARE ALL GOING TO END UP LIKE PANEM IF WE PASS THIS BUDGET." That's probably not true. We would still have one or two different things we'd need to do to ensure we'd end up like Panem, and I'm pretty sure that we'd still end up like Mike Judge's IDIOCRACY first.

Wallace points out that it's a fair criticism to say that the Ryan budget hasn't explained how it's going to generate revenue or what loopholes it's going to close, but at the same time it doesn't have any specific cuts delineated either. Axelrod points out that an extrapolation is all that's necessary to surmise that tons of services, especially for the elderly, are cut significantly. (Meanwhile, the President has offered specific things.)

Moving to the Buffett Rule. Wallace reminds that Obama promised this rule would "stabilize the budget for the next decade." But would it cover that much? Axelrod says that first, Wallace isn't crediting the Obama administration for all of what they're cutting from the budget. But, Axelrod says that the Buffett Rule is, in fact, just a "piece of the puzzle." And then he's on to complaining about Romney proposing to gut Planned Parenthood and foreign aid.

They argue this point further, with Wallace saying that Obama made it sound like the done deal cure-all, and Axelrod arguing that it's just a piece. Axelrod, of course, is happy to argue the fairness aspect of this "Buffett Rule," because it a) polls very well and b) has nothing to do with Jimmy Buffett and/or "Parrotheads" and/or "Cheeseburgers in Paradise."

And now they are going to fight over whether Obama will contribute money to the national debt, and this is one of those "why don't you lead by example" questions, and they sound pretty when you're asking them but the point is that you don't run a country on donations, you run it with policies, and it would be irresponsible to just write a check marked "PAY TO THE ORDER OF THE DEFICIT" and then wash your hands of the problem. Alexrod actually responds well to this, "We don't run bake sales."

"The fact that Mitt Romney pays 14% on $20 million of income is not the issue," says Axelrod, who's happy to MENTION THIS while insisting "it's not an issue."

Wallace points out that right now, Obama is staring down high unemployment numbers and low GDP -- the worst of any incumbent President. (We don't often hear about GDP, when we talk about the phenomenon of Presidents struggling to get re-elected against poor economic indicators, but it is at least as important as unemployment, and the current state of growth is anemic.) Does Obama deserve to get re-elected?

Axelrod says that seven or eight months ago, those numbers were worse, and if you recall, the economy was giving the American people the flaming ramrod act from six months before the Obama administration take over. And then Axelrod goes off onto some talking points about spending priorities and Wallace tried to reign him back in.

The Fox News poll has bad numbers for the President in terms of head-to-head and approval, but this is the one poll that features numbers like this. Axelrod says that this poll has a partisan weight to it that other polls did not have. All of which is true -- we documented this in this week's Speculatron.

That said, Wallace is totally right when he says that Obama is still pretty vulnerable. He is! And Team Obama Re-Elect knows this -- they've been publicly concerned about coming off too cocky and instilling the idea in supporters that Obama's going to win in a walk. Axelrod eventually gets around to this: "We've always said this is going to be a close race." The message to the enthusiastic supporters of 2008 -- we only won by a few percentage points with the wind at our back.

The irony here is that he'd fare better if he could get those winds up and running again. Wallace made no mention of it here, but the last jobs report really put a damper on the whole prognosis of accelerating recovery throughout the spring. Whatever the economy is doing in August of this year is the economy the White House will have to run on.

Wallace lets Axelrod close out with a gout of talking points, which I can summarize by saying "David Axelrod endorses Barack Obama for President."

Okay, now it is Ed Gillespie time. Gillespie only joined up with the Romney campaign lately, I think? And while he's a veteran of this sort of thing, I already miss the dashing Hogan Gidley, who went straight from Hogwarts to running Rick Santorum's messaging. But, okay, here's Ed, hello, let's spin for Romney, away!

Wallace points out that Romney has emerged from the primary season badly damaged, especially within certain voting blocks. What can Romney do about that? Gillespie says, basically, that Romney needs to stick to his message, and would you like to hear it, because here goes, and then we're off to a festival of talking points.

Wallace brings up the gender gap, which isn't so much a gap as it is a chasm. Wallace points out that Mitt Romney keeps telling people that he keeps hearing from his wife about the struggles of women in the economy, and then he basically does a round of "Here's how you do this, Hilary Rosen," by telling Gillespie that Romney talks as if women were "some kind of obscure group that he's delegates his wife to report on."

He goes on to point out that Romney supports the cutting of social programs that help low income women, Planned Parenthood and its pap smears and cancer screenings. Gillespie complains that Planned Parenthood gets a lot of money from private contributions and it's not noble for the government to fund abortions. Wallace counters by pointing out that the Hyde Amendment exists and that Planned Parenthood keeps the federal money sequestered. Gillespie says, "money is fungible," which is an argument that he'd only make in terms of talking about Planned Parenthood. (Don't feel bad, Ed! Tim Geithner uses the "money is fungible" excuse too, up until the moment someone likes me points out, "Well, then, the bank bailouts bought a lot of lobbyists who are now torpedoing our efforts to rein in Wall Street excess.")

At any rate, we're now down a Planned Parenthood K-hole, which Gillespie pivots from to give us his, "Obama cost women all the jobs." Wallace says that the numbers Gillespie of tossing around aren't true. "It's a little bit of an accounting trick and all of the independent fact-finders say it's misleading." Gillespie says that all of the independent fact-finders aren't independent, which isn't what he was saying when Politifact thought that it was a lie to say that a bunch of people who wanted to change Medicare to something that did not provide money to old people was essentially "ending Medicare as we know it."

Apparently, per Gillespie, only ladies know about the high cost of gas because they are the ones "filling up minivans," and they are apparently SO ADORABLY CUTE AT SEEING THAT GAS IS EXPENSIVE. So thanks for your really, really nice contribution to these talking points, ladies!

Romney, Wallace points out, is not doing well with Hispanics, considering that his immigration policies are not warmly embraced within that community. Gillespie points out that Hispanics are not "single issue voters" (they aren't like women, anyway, who vote for President solely on their "State of the Minivan!") and that immigration is just one issue. Wallace is all, Romney is okay with Hispanics being stopped on the side of the road and asked for proof of citizenship? Gillespie says that the Arizona law that Romney supports is supported by a majority of Arizonans.

Why did Romney file for that six-month tax extension to pay his taxes when he knew everyone would be interested in them now? And why won't he turn over the 23 years of tax information that he gave John McCain when he was vetting Mitt for the vice-presidency. The answer to both questions is, "Because it will make Mitt Romney look very bad!" There's a reason why Romney was knocked off McCain's shortlist, you know! (Actually, he was knocked off the shortlist because McCain COULD NOT STAND HIM, but you know, water under the bridge.)

Gillespie says that Romney is waiting for "other entities" to provide information he needs to complete his taxes. IT'S SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT, you know? And Gillespie thinks that releasing 23 years worth of returns is overkill and a distraction. Gillespie thinks that two years of tax returns are the standard, and everyone will have to live with it.

Will the Romney campaign name the vice-president early? Gillespie says that, contrary to reports, he is not in charge of finding the vice-president, and it's only been a week since Romney's been the presumptive nominee, so everyone needs to chill! He does not know who the vice-president is going to be.

Gillespie gives his talking point spiel, and significantly, it's a positive set of messages that does not brutally over-indict, or even mention Obama by name. This is interesting, because lots of people want this competition to be polite and high-minded, and that both of these candidates are capable of that. Still, it's an article of faith among a large part of the GOP base that McCain lost because he wouldn't go crazy dirty. We shall see, I guess.

Panel time, now, with Jeff Zeleny and Brit Hume and Susan Milligan and Mike Huckabee -- who's off on an interesting experiment to see if there's a niche for a kinder, gentler conservative talk radio show. Let's get to yapping!

In Iran, there has been progress made in some set of diplomatic talks, but do you think we'll be bombing them soon? Hume says that there's a good chance that a deal can be made, but will it make a difference? he figures that Iran wants a nuclear weapon, period, and that's it. Milligan points out that the sanctions are having some impact and everyone seems to be encouraged by the talks, but Iran has been known to use the diplomatic process as a stalling tactic.

Huckabee says that diplomacy is always worth an attempt, but there are limits, to his mind, because Iran lacks "a rational government." "This is a country that doesn't think the Holocaust happened," he says. Is it "The country" that thinks that though? Or is it their batpoop leaders?

Zeleny notes that foreign policy is not yet at the forefront of the campaign, but looms large. It could loom larger, should economic recovery happen. (This is another reason the election could be close.) "If something bad doesn't happen in the next seven months," Zeleny says, "that will be a good thing for Obama." (It will be a good thing for EVERYBODY, actually?)

Hume says that North Korea -- well, those brothers be tripping to an even greater amount that Iran! But they are also really, really bad at making rockets.

But, North Korea, like, a week ago, made a deal with the United States for food to feed their starving populace and then they went and did this anyway. Milligan says, well, the effort was nice, but I guess once again North Korea be tripping. Huckabee is more critical of Obama's policies, because you are apparently always in a "damned if you feed the North Korean people, damned if you're withholding food because they tested more terrible rocket-failures" situation. I guess we've all been there.

Moving to the campaign season, Hume says that the race between Obama and Romney are "tied" right now but that Romney's doing better. Because it's a tie. According to the one poll, anyway. As far as Hume's concerned, Obama should be crushing this! (This is maybe the first election that Hume has watched, in his lifetime?) Huckabee says Romney has the upper hand, too, but it's because this election will be a referendum on the Obama administration, and that people who are unhappy with the direction the country is heading do not blame Mitt Romney for that, obviously.

Zeleny says that this is going to be a close election, fought mainly in eight or nine states, in which the results in three or four states will decide the winner. Obama has a huge lead in terms of building out a campaign infrastructure on the ground in the battleground states, but they've not yet successfully persuaded the people on their economic argument. Hence this will be a close race. I think this is more or less right, though I differ from this panel largely in that I do not think this is a tie. I think Obama has a huge lead at the moment, it's just that I think that Mitt Romney will have time and opportunity to make up the ground, and when he does, don't be the guy standing in the corner caught flat-flooted by this! The guy has been running for President for a long time, now.

Huckabee likes the idea of picking Marco Rubio as vice president, but that it's stupid to pick the VP early -- as he points out, he can turn out the prospective candidates as a surrogate army so long as you don't name one as the running mate. The moment you pick one, you limit the effectiveness of all the other surrogates. SO the best strategy is to wait. Huckabee is 100% right!

Hume says that the American people are ready to settle for Mitt Romney. (He is probably used to settling for things?)

I'm obviously not going to do a comedy liveblog of Chris Wallace remembering his father, the recently passed Mike Wallace. I'll obviously extend him my condolences, and let him know that even though I wasn't manning the Sunday Morning Liveblog last week, he was in my thoughts as soon as I heard that his father has passed away. The best of wishes to everyone in the Wallace family.


Thanks very much to people emailing me, "Glad you're back!" My response is, "Egads I am out of practice, so maybe tune in next week, when I am more ready to do this?" I forgot how hard this was. So, naturally, I will turn to the marshmallow fluff of Sunday morning teevee, the Chris Matthews show, and it's easy to follow tropes and predictable segments. While you are waiting, why not read Jen Doll's hilarious piece at The Hairpin, "All the Weddings I Have Ever Been to, as I Remember Them."

Okay, this particular version of the show may be really stupid, because it has a bunch of very unserious soft-focus topics. But we'll at least get to watch Michael Duffy, Andrea Mitchell, Kasie Hunt, and our own Howard Fineman, grappling with these things.

So, apparently, ex-Presidents are in some kind of club, and they literally have sleepovers and a clubhouse in Lafayette Square? And they help each other out of President jams, and fight crime and stuff?

The club is "functioning and affects history" and it was formed by Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman way back in the 1950s. Duffy says that these folks are part of a unique fraternity, bound together, no doubt, by the horrors they have seen at secret Air Force Bases in New Mexico.

Matthews is very excited to learn that Kennedy talked to Eisenhower about the Cuban missile crisis. Mitchell points out that at the time, they were having their era's equivalent of a Twitter war. And yet, wow, Dwight Eisenhower was able to put it aside and give Kennedy advice about whether or not we were all going to die HOT CUBAN DEATH. And of course we didn't. Eisenhower would of course go on to arrange Kennedy's assassination over the previously perceived slights -- BUT OH NO I FEAR I HAVE SAID TOO MUCH!

Mitchell points out, of course, that Eisenhower's advice, "Ehh, don't worry about Cuba," was pretty terrible!

Matthews plays another video of LBJ talking about how Eisenhower cam down to advise him and after Kennedy's assassination, and OF COURSE HE DID, he was there to gloat about having arranged Kennedy's murder -- BUT MY GOD THERE I GO AGAIN! The only reason I haven't been hauled away from my laptop is because the Secret Service is obviously waist deep in prostitutes at the moment.

Howard points out that Ike was a reassuring figure in American life, which is really good cover for a secret assassin puppet master, isn't it?

Obviously I am now getting sued by the Eisenhower estate, as soon as they untangle themselves from their whole monument mess. (Frank Gehry! The one man Ike couldn't take down!)

Reagan and Clinton apparently sat around in a room for hours practicing the salute that the Gipper had mastered whilst performing in the movies. So that was important! This "president's club" really handles all of the important stuff!

Mitchell points out that after Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter warblogged at each other, they eventually became very close friends. And Howard notes that similar legal troubles fostered a kinship between Clinton and Nixon. Kasie Hunt notes that Obama remains pretty close to the Bushes -- grateful that his predecessor has stayed out of the critical weeds, and warm toward Bush's father. So remember that when Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney open a cupcake store next year! I'll take a dozen of the CREAM OF RIVALS, please! And before long, Rosen and Romney will probably command their own cadre of ninja assassins.

While I recommend the coming Rosen/Romney cupcake shop, I still recommend that you stay away from Fred Malek's barbecue food truck. TRUST ME ON THIS.

Apparently, though, Richard Nixon wasn't a very good member of the ex-President's club. Such a hater! So Gerald Ford, who was running for President, totally had trouble with Nixon always running around, being an underminer. And Eisenhower was totally advising Reagan about what to do about Richard Nixon. Fineman says that Ike hated Nixon so much that he was a constant adviser, and that he basically deserves credit for launching the Reagan brand into the world.

Now, Matthews wants to talk about something that's "tricky and perhaps menacing." Oooh! Oooh! Is it cobras?

No, it's LBJ, which is sort of the same concept. Apparently, he challenged Nixon for trying to undercut diplomatic efforts in Viet Nam, which Johnson learned by secretly taping Nixon somehow? Then, when Watergate was happening, Nixon went to Johnson and told him to tell his Senate pals to back off, or I'll reveal you were taping me. And LBJ was like LOLyndon Baines Johnson, telling Nixon that he'd just tell people what Nixon was saying on those tapes. BAM, TRICKY DICK! YOU JUST GOT COBRA'ED!

Matthews says, "We haven't touched Jimmy Carter, yet." Speak for yourself! Duffy says that Carter is sure that he's a better ex-President than he was a President, and that of all the ex-Presidents, he's the best one of all. As Carter often says, "I'll see you in hell, Grover Cleveland!"

So, what does Matthews not know this week? We don't know! Apparently he's rather ask Duffy if Hillz is going to run for President in 2016. Duffy says, sure, why not? "It's what the Clintons do," he says, adding that she's probably see a really weak field of Democrats in 2016. Mitchell cosigns. Kasie Hunt says that a lot will "depend on what Joe Biden plans to do" and, more importantly, who wins this year. Howard agrees that Hillary will run, and she'll do it to break down the men's club we've all been talking about, and she's got the genes to compete. Also, "once people run, they run again."

So, another question Matthews has for his panel is: who will be the transformative Democrat, Obama or Clinton? Duffy says that it will be a split decision. Mitchell gives Hilary Clinton the credit. Hunt says that Obama has much more to prove before we call him transformative. Howard agrees with that, and he's the only person on the panel who does not read, "transform the Democratic Party" as "restore it to it's roots." Duffy and Mitchell pretty much only understand "transformative" as "leaving behind populism and becoming a party of the decadent, corporatist 'center.'"


Tim Geithner is here, today, but first, ABC breaks some news about massive tornadic activity in the midwest, including one house that was turned upside down. Be safe, Tornado Alley denizens! Also, those Sexxxy Secret Service Sexcrimes continues to be a sex-story, with many agents being put on administrative leave for bringing prostitutes back to their hotel rooms. This will apparently end their careers. In security, anyway!

And just as I'm storyboarding this AVN award winning pornographic tour-de-force, Tim Geithner appears on my screen, in his full boner-murdering glory. Oh well! Another time, beloved fight of erotic fancy! Another time.

George Stephanopoulos, hereafter referred to as GS, tells Geithner that most Americans still believe we are in a recession. Geithner says that there's plenty of evidence to suggest the economy is getting stronger, but there are challengers ahead, blah blah. He sounds like he is brimming with confidence, too. If by brimming with confidence you mean, "almost broken in half, spiritually, by the state of the economy."

GS asks Geithner if he's not confident in the job growth trend turning around. He says he is, but that external and overseas events remain a concern, especially in Iran. But, he says, "if the economy keeps growing at a moderate pace," the unemployment number should be lower on election day.

GS points out that Nouriel Roubini has given some dire predictions about where the economy is going, which is a lot like me telling you that the Washington Wizards are going to probably lose their next game, even if it is against themselves. GS says that all critiques converge on the idea that we'd be better off if Obama had made better decisions. Geithner says that there's no basis for that, and in fact, a lot of the decision making was made by a Congress bent on obstruction, that prevented better remedies from taking root more quickly. Nevertheless, Geithner maintains that the actions taken were responsible for preventing a calamity, and while they're making slow progress, Geithner insists they are making good progress. (A lot of this probably has to do with Geithner's preference to restoring Wall Street.)

GS points out that income inequality continues to stay spread and that wages are stagnant. Geithner says, "that's the tragic legacy of the economic crisis," but it's really the tragic legacy of decades of policy drift that led to these trends, which the economic crisis only widened and exacerbated.

We move on to the "war on women," and Romney's contention that the "real war on women" has been job losses among women. "Is the number accurate?" asks GS. "That's a ridiculous way to measure the problem," Geithner says, pointing out that the job losses first hit male-dominated professions, like construction, very hard, before moving on to a lot of job losses in sectors dominated by women. So, looking at it in this manner is silly, because it removes you from examining the unemployment crisis on a continuum of impacts and shocks. "It's a ridiculous argument, and it's been debunked," Geither says.

GS wants Geithner to concede that the numbers are "technically correct," but Geither reasserts that his whole point is that they're not technically correct -- it doesn't fully look at the entirety of the unemployment crisis, and that if you're guided by this notion that it's specifically been a woman-unemployment apocalypse, you'll be led to policy decisions that don't remedy the problem. (The most vulnerable job sectors were in construction and manufacturing.)

Not that Geither has much fondness for the remedies that Romney has proposed: "the alternatives proposed by his opposite would be devastating, not just to the safety net, but to investments in education, it would be very damaging to the economy."

Moving to the Buffett Rule. Geithner stops GS before he can say that the Rule alone was proposed as a cure-all, but rather, a part of a policy that would achieve fiscal balance. Is Geither concerned that the Rule would harm growth? "There's no fear of that," he says. If for no other reason, he's right because this will not actually pass Congress. Geithner goes on to say that in terms of shared sacrifice, the $200 that will be cut for every dollar raised by the WH proposals (what a ratio! do Democrats even exist anymore) would be felt by the middle class in terms of program cuts.

What if the GOP won't help pass anything? "There's no reason that has to happen," says Geithner. Sure! Still will, though!

Will gas prices continue to go down, as they did this week? Geither says that it will require growth to continue, globally, and for what currently passes for "stability" in the Middle East to continue.

What qualities would Geithner recommend in a Treasury Secretary? Geithner says that "it's very important to have somebody who will tell him the truth...but this understates the magnitude of the challenge."

Panel time is here, with Paul Gigot, Katrina vanden Heuvel (KVH), Cokie Roberts, Kevin Madden, and Melody Barnes.

Geithner sure was cautious, eh? Gigot says yes, because while the economy is getting better, it's not strong enough to absorb even a mild shock. Roberts says the larger challenge is the bring people into to the "thinks the economy is getting better" column, and out of the "we are all going to die, of never-ending recession" column. KVH says that the White House needs to fuse their fairness argument with the recovery argument. Madden counters by saying that these anxieties exist because the president has not kept his promises. Barnes counters back by saying that if you focus on the facts, Obama has added jobs throughout his tenure, and there has been growth in "quarter after quarter."

Roberts says, "it's not as bad as it could have been a campaign slogan." This is true! But, "I bet this could have been better if there was more Romney" is an equally tricky argument. (Especially when there has been a LOT OF ROMNEY in the mix already, in terms of our health care reform policy.)

That's why this election might be a carefully argued, high-minded economic debate, or a complete dive into the poop-trench for the lumpiest projectiles to hurl at one another. (So far, by the way, I've heard the two Romney surrogates on teevee today -- Gillespie and now Madden -- keeping it pretty elevated...so we'll see, we'll see.)

Moving on to releasing tax returns. Obama says that Romney needs to let his Kraken free, to dance in the sunlight! Madden says that Romney's released his 2010 returns and an estimate of the 2011, and that will be fine! Roberts says, NUH-UH! "Romney needs to find a narrative about his wealth." KVH agrees, and starts to helpfully build that narrative, describing Romney as the Bain Capital slash and burn artist of the one percent. That causes Madden to predictably come to Romney's defense, arguing that Romney's running because he recognizes the anxiety of the people, on rising costs of things, like health care. (That's where I would ask him what he plans on replacing Obamacare with.)

Barnes, of course, says Obama's plan will be better for the middle class.

GS wants to get back to the tax return issue. Gigot wants to defame the Buffett Rule. Madden says it's a gimmick. And now there's a lot of yelling. Everyone just go read Brian Beutler's story, "How Washington Forgot Where The 'Buffett Rule' Came From," because this panel is an example of this.

Are we ever going to commercial, by the way?

BLAH BLAH YELLING. GS is just cold laying up in the cut, watching it unfold. KVH grabs the conch and places the Buffett Rule in context, as the centerpiece of a set of policies that breeds fairness...and we're through to commercial. But we're headed into a segment about the "mommy wars." Good grief.

I've already said my piece about the whole Rosen vs. Romney Twitter war, which has helpfully relieved any of Romney's people from having to discuss either his donor's assassination joke or the sixth anniversary of the groundbreaking achievement that brought Romney to the exalted place where he could conceive of running for President, his creation of "ObamaCare." It's also given Democrats a fairly cheap way of saying, "We totally policed one of our own, though we remind you that we weren't all that close, of course."

Anyway, let's get through the panel, yelling about this, and get on with our lives. Roberts says that this is a sideshow, but that Obama has a historical problem winning the votes of married women. "Mommy wars are always a big issue, and they make me crazy," she says, but the thing that Romney achieved is that people got to meet a Romney who was actually likeable -- Ann Romney.

Madden agrees that this is a sideshow, and that you shouldn't get "to excited when they break for you or too down when they break against you." He goes on to add that the overall argument is about job anxiety. Barnes says that Madden's team has been using fuzzy math in building their argument. Gigot says that Democrats oppose allowing women from breaking out of "New Deal concepts" of working, and the two nominal Democrats on the panel tell him that he's crazy.

Roberts notes that women are both the caretakers of, and the primary recipients of government entitlement programs. "We wish you guys lived longer," she quipped, "but you don't."

Madden says that this election will be about a choice between "putting all of one's faith in the government or placing some of it in the private sector." KVH counters by saying that "no one's talking about putting all of one's faith in the government," only that the government has "a role to play in ensuring everyone's shared prosperity." Again, let's not that Madden doesn't go the "Obama is a socialist" route. These are very quiet and understated attacks.

KVH notes that the infrastructure bank -- a public/private investment strategy -- was obstructed by the GOP in Congress. Barnes follows on by noting the many times that the GOP would stand in front of an effort to address unemployment of women, and shout, "NEVERMORE!" (Barnes mentions equal pay -- but she missed an opportunity to note that more or less all of Romney's female surrogates are against women earning equal pay in the marketplace.)

Crosstalk and boredom, for about a minute.

Now GS wants to talk about whether or not the president has a persistent problem with Bill Maher, because he keeps saying things that cause the president grief. Of course, Maher's only connection to the president is through a super PAC donation. Technically, the President is legally barred from telling the super PAC to return that money. Of course, I will tell you that the notion that the campaigns are not working intimately with their super PACs are plain bullshit. So, if it becomes an untenable problem, it will go away. If it doesn't manifest itself into an untenable problem, Maher's money will get spent. (And Obama's team will probably get the piss and moan blues over something some Romney super PAC donor will say in the coming months.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that super PAC's are plainly corrupt and if we were allowed to hunt them for sport, we should.

Barnes says that Maher's language was problematic, and that Obama's campaign team will continue to not go on his show. Roberts notes that in a similar fashion, the Democrats all threw Hilary Rosen under all the buses, because they did not help them shed the "elitist" image. (Roberts says, "for some reason, the 'women in the home' versus 'women out of the home' debate really gets people going." I think that the fact that everyone feels SO DAMN SPECIAL ABOUT THEMSELVES and by golly, YOU ARE GONNA HEAR ABOUT IT, is pretty much the driving force behind it.)

Now we'll talk about the Trayvon Martin case-slash-media minefield. Will the case recede into the justice system and fade from the larger conversation. Roberts says that it probably will, because there won't be a need for all of these press conference. Gigot says that politicians and provocateurs will back away. KVH suggests that we'll still have a debate over "stand your ground" laws. (Promise you: Obama won't come near that, especially if Michael Bloomberg is going to draw all that fire.) I'd like to believe it will recede...but the media tends to want to make "Trials of the Century" out of things like this.

Why hasn't Obama talked about gun control? Barnes insists that the White House has done things to address the issue. But it's largely been a hair-split effort -- what Barnes calls a "common sense approach" is founded more on the premise that "common sense" will point out that Democrats have only started winning the West once they dropped their opposition to guns. Let's note that one of the most beloved Democrats in the West was nearly GUNNED DOWN, and the policy response was basically nil.

And wow, so, we're finished! Well, folks, it's very nice to be back with you. Thanks for occasionally letting me go on vacations. I promise that I won't be doing it again until July.

On a side note, let me recommend Rachel Maddow's new book, Drift, which I read on the train to Boston. Like a lot of other people, I'm impressed by the fact that she did not use her book deal for some sort of brand extension, like most cable news types. Instead, she's got a very thoughtful, meticulously researched work about the series of decisions that have been made over the last few decades that have made war...well, let's say "too easy" to wage. And she's done so in a way that not only avoids being particularly laced with partisan barbs, but actually quite understanding of the way these decisions got made. It's really quite good. And it "pairs well" with another book I've recommended in the past, Peter Van Buren's We Meant Well.

[NOTE: I typoed the bejeezus out of the previous paragraphs. Regrets, etc.]

Both are available wherever books and e-books are sold! But you should also do lots of reading for fun, don't forget. Have a great week, everyone!

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