TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to the first Sunday morning liveblog of 2009. Glad we're here, glad you made it, too. New Year's resolutions include adding David Gregory to the image one day. When he's EARNED it. Ha ha, just kidding, he's already earned it, since the standards are so dizzingly low! All the same, David Gregory, we'd LURVE to see something in a vertebrate one of these days, okay, big guy? Two weeks running, you've been out-rigored by Chris Wallace, buddy. Not good.

Anyway, we haven't much in the way of preamble. Just remember to comment, send emails, trade new year's resolutions, and, if anyone knows how to bake a cake so delicious that it can spark the Middle East peace process, you know, LET SOMEONE KNOW!


Steny Hoyer and George H. W. Bush? I hadn't prepared for all this animal charisma and sexual heat! Lucky for me, I'll have Brit Hume and Mara Liasson back on the panel today, as bonerkillers.

Speaking of, ground assault in Gaza. Israel is said to be "softening its position with regard to a cease-fire." Uhm, yeah...ya think? Hamas continues to rain down rockets on Israel, and Israel continues to open and occupy settlements. And, now Chris Wallace is struggling with his segue. Humanitarian disasters all around.

Anyway, economic stimulus! Hoyer says it needs to be done "as quickly as possible and do it right." This is the same principle that Hoyer applies to his lovemaking. "We need a substantial package to accomplish our agenda," Hoyer says, offering up the sorts of double entendres that I'll need in the new year, for this liveblog. "We certainly want to see this package passed in the House of quickly as possible." All day. I can do this all day.

Meanwhile, John Boehner (all day, people) wants the stimulus debated in public, put online for scrutiny for a week, and free of pork. Hoyer's seemingly amenable to this, and says that there have already been public hearings. Hoyer also promises to keep the bill from becoming a Christmas tree, but they aren't going to give Obama an "informal veto" over any parts of the bill.

Also coming early in 2009: Lily Ledbetter pay equity bill, S/CHIP, and the 2009 Appro Bill. Hoyer and Wallace play partisan games with the Card Check/Free Choice act, with Hoyer noting that Wallace used the GOP term. Wallace says that Hoyer's just using the Democratic party term. Ha ha ha, they both laugh. The Congress isn't moving on it in the first month, Hoyer says, but early spring.

On to Charles Rangel, who's crazy scandalous and yet will probably die in office! "Why shouldn't he step down?" Wallace asks. Hoyer says the all powerful ethics committee is investigating! They'll get to it just as soon as they see what children Tituba taught voodoo to in Salem colony. Charles Rangel will be dunked in a tank of money to see if he floats, which will prove if he's a warlock or not. Hoyer's hopeful the matter is resolved "early," but yeah, dude, Rangel's not going anywhere unless he goes on a slasher raping spree among his own constituents.

"Up next, our interview with George H.W. Bush...wait till you hear what he has to say about his son Jeb's political future." OH CRAP MY PANTS.

So, Bush 41 is getting an aircraft carrier named after him and he will attend a luncheon of living Presidents where he and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter will initiate Barack Obama into their blood cult and feast on the meat of albino tigers, drink orphan plasma salted with rare aphrodesiacs, and then spend a few hours exploring one anothers' bodies. This is why Obama has to stay at the Hay Adams, because this party is going to WRECK the Blair House.

Bush 41 wishes Obama well, and pledges his support. "If you need the advice of an old guy, pick up the phone and give me a holler." On the honeymoon: "He's facing so many problems, I don't think it will last, but he's a big strong guy." Obama is "cool, stylish, articulate" on the level of "Shakespeare" and "impressive," but he wishes he knew Obama better. Wonder if there's a little acknowledgement of mortality there, given that Obama might not be able to enjoy the same post-office friendship that Bush and Bill Clinton have obviously enjoyed. Bush is also happy that W. is coming home.

"We're very close and will remain close for very many years...people just don't get that," Bush says about his son. "I feel unlimited pride in him and unlimited confidence."

On Jeb, Bush feels that he should run for the Senate, and the President, someday, but that it's okay if he doesn't want to. "Maybe there're too many Bushes in there," he says, of the White House, and, yeah, I don't know...MAYBE. Jeb is a strong guy, Bush says.

Bush also says that the Golden Knights, who he parachute-jumps with every year on his birthday, are "big strong guys." "There's a thrill with it," he says, "strapped to a big strong guy." He adds, that old people can still do "interesting things, scary things, exciting things." Like get strapped to big strong guys! Lots of big strong guys! This interview has been like getting gay married to the Bush family.

OMG BRIT HUME! WELCOME BACK with his crazy assessment of the Blago/Burris mess. He should be seated, Hume says! And the Democrats have made a mess of this! And how dare they, considering the "sensitivity they've shown" to Gitmo detainees, who have been convicted of as many things as Blagojevich! Holy crap that is some nutlog stuff from Hume! Please don't retire Brit! That's classic!

"I'm not totally with Brit on this," Kristol says, but basically says Burris deserves to be seated. Williams calls it "fruit from the poison tree," so he gets points for using one of my favorite legal terms. The Dems, he says, erred by not going along with a special election.

"Why is he thought to be under a taint?" Hume asks, saying that Patrick Fitzgerald distinguished himself as a gun-jumping incompetent in the Libby matter. And he's getting madder and madder about it! Williams says it's "pure racial politics" because of concerns over whether Emil Jones/Jackson/Burress/Davis couldn't hold the seat in a regular election. What no one seems to realize is that there's more to the Blago probe than just the selling of the Senate seat...and, OH YEAH...that "taint?" It probably came from Blago wanting to SELL THE SENATE SEAT.

Nevertheless, everything in the Blagosphere is magical, and I love it to death.

Meanwhile, Gaza. Liasson is not surprised that a ground assault has been launched, but that delegitimizing Hamas is a "long shot." Kristol says, "If you care about the peace process, you want Israel to embarrass and humiliate Hamas." So: this is a war of humiliation? Williams notes that the operation seems to be headed toward an occupation of Gaza, which Israel says isn't in the cards, but we'll see...good prediction.

"All this comes against the backdrop of elections in Israel," Wallace notes, asking the question that probably should have been asked at the top, and repeatedly, and often, because what's really in play here is that this is a war of domestic electioneering. That's why this is going to make the diplomatic effort hard. Williams: "All [Obama and Clinton] can do is support Israel."


Shimon Peres is one of GS's guests today, and right off the bat, declares the idea of a cease fire, at this time, to be something that "doesn't make any sense." The Palestinians have dones things "unprecedented" in the realm of terror, Peres says, and now "they are feeling the weight of their mistakes." "Hamas needs a lesson, and they are now getting it." That lesson does not extend to an occupation, however, so it's not clear how that "lesson" is supposed to land.

Strategically (and it's fair to say that Israel is going ahead with this in advance of the formulation of a strategy), the end result of a non-occupied yet - I suppose we'll use the term "humiliated" - Gaza will be a further radicalized Palestine, an entrenched Hamas that can claim "victory" and a continuation of the toxic state of play that initiated this action in the first place. The endgame probably comes when the electoral future of various Israeli pols is determined, after which the people of Gaza and Sderot will be left to twist in the wind until it becomes necessary to use them again for the careerist ends of various Israelis officeholders.

Meanwhile, after giving Dick Durbin an awkward chance to segue through that opening to the Blago/Burris pants party. "Doesn't Blago have the authority to appoint Burris?" GS asks. Durbin says that Blago has a job to play, and so does the U.S. Senate, and that the Senate will determine whether Burris should be seated.

Meanwhile, Bobby Rush. Oh, this guy. Spittin' foolishness. When that guy stumbled up to the dais at that press conference, like a drunk who'd just been rousted from a park bench to yell at some birds, I just knew that the Blagojevich story was going to get MAGICAL. The man is the Idiot Prince that this whole mess really needed. Bobby Rush has made it hard for me to listen to Billie Holiday sing "Strange Fruit" without me thinking about Blago, now, so THANKS FOR THAT!

I love how GS is so concerned about the national debt, now. Not when it was being run up, like crazy! Now when there was a chance to inquire as to whether the spending was troublesome then!

Mitch McConnell isn't sounding a very strong oppositional bell to the stimulus package. Rather, he's full of suggestions - limiting public sector job growth, offering a middle-class tax cut, and making aid to states a loan rather than a grant (I lack the expertise to judge that last one, but it sounds, in general like a bad idea to me, mainly because most times when you hear about the Federal government making "loans," it's just a hop and a skip away from We Are Totally Kidding Ourselves Land. Mainly, McConnell wants the GOP to be "part of the process" and siggests there'll be "significant support." He thinks that Illinois needs a special election.

And Gaza can be reduced to, "imagine if a neighboring country was lobbing missiles at you." If Canada were to do that, clearly, we'd have to respond. Of course, one might ask the question: in the years before Ottawa started shelling Lansing, did the United States wreck the electoral fortunes of a ruling party we just didn't care for, and pave the way for a more radical Canadian government who threaten other peoples and who create geopolitical turmoil throughout the world?

Ahh, Panel Time: George Will, Jonathan Karl, Cokie Roberts and Katrina VandenHeuvel. Will says the Senate MUST seat Burris, Karl says that legal arguments to the contrary are on shaky ground. KVH says that the Blago/Burris matter is a "sideshow" and that Burris won't be the worst Senator in the Senate by a mile. Will, for no other reason than the fact he needs to beef with KVH, argues that the Democrats could have and should have endorsed a special election, but KVH agrees.

Meanwhile, a thought exercise: when one suggests that Jesse Jackson, Jr. might not be able to hold the seat, is it because of his BLACKNESS or his JESSE JACKSON Jr-NESS? Worth exploring? KVH says JJ was leading in statewide polls, so maybe it will be embarassing for Reid. Will suggests that Blago should appoint Caroline Kennedy to the Illinois seat, which would, indeed, be WONDERFUL.

Will and KVH spar over whether the country wants quick action on stimulus or a pause. I think that current mood favors action, and once everyone is miserable at their shovel-ready new jobs, and hating their shovels, things will be different.

Cokie Roberts thinks that putting the bill online for a week is a "delightful" idea. And it is! I think people think this sort of transparency is going to solve everything, but have you read the language in which the average bill is written?

"There's lots of ways you can stimulate what's in people's pockets, other than giving them straight cash," says Cokie Roberts, helpfully providing us with the sort of sexual double entendre that we'd been running short of this morning.

George Will: "All Americans would understand what we'd be doing if rockets were landing in San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico." Uhm...I'd be wondering what sort of crazy drug party in Tijuana I was missing out on! I'd definitely be telling San Diego: "LET ME GO TO TIJUANA, TO GET MY DIPLOMACY ON, WITH DRUNKS AND WHORES." Later in the week, I'd report back, "We've all agreed to get tattooed with hallucinogenic ink, and then set some cars on fire. The shelling of San Diego will thus stop. We're calling this the Pacifica Accord, because our demands are that all San Diegans get load up their Accords with cases of Pacifica, and bring them to me, immediately."


Apologies for the delay, to everyone. Some emails in the meantime:

Gary Kirk writes:

Gotta give Mr. Will his props for describing the Blago situation as "a circus of situational ethics". I may not agree with the man on most things but I do admire a well-turned phrase.

Also is it my imagination or is Bobby Rush the inspiration for the corrupt pol on "The Wire"? Can't remember his name but his tagline was "Sheeeeeit!"

Definitely, definitely. And Clay Davis is the guy you're looking for, the subject of this lovely parody on YouTube:

And Chris Blakely rightly castigates NBC for brining Matt Millen - as in King Loser Fail from the Detroit Lions, to do analysis for NBC's NFL playoff coverage:

Being a "media" guy (and a suffering Washington Redskins football fan), I thought you might enjoy the email I sent to NBC Sports after I recovered from their hiring Matt Millen to provide expert commentary on the Football NIght in America show.

In retrospect, I guess it is a good thing that MIllen was working for the LIons for the last eight years or Bush would have tapped him to be the head of FEMA!

The glory of TiVo enabled me to skip or ignore most of Millen, but I was also crazy appalled that he was part of the coverage, since he is best known for being synonymous with idiocy. What little I heard from him sounded like the sort of polished nuggets that come from producers. Atlanta's QB coach was given credit for doing a great job with Matt Ryan. Really? The same Matt Ryan who continually went to Roddy White until the Cardinals simply figured where the ball was going every time and intercepted it? It was bad enough that Millen was there - the fact that he was spitting such safe, generic, nonsense as opposed to taking an active interest in what was going on...well, it sort of summed up his tenure at Detroit, didn't it?

My favorite part of Chris' letter to NBC, by the way:

Since your hiring of MIllen as a "football expert," I wonder what your next move might be:

a) hire Plaxico Burress to coordinate security at Football NIght in America?
b) hire Bill Belichick as an Ethics Consultant?
c) hire Donovan McNabb as an NFL rules consultant?
d) hire Ed Hochuli for officiating analysis?

They will probably hire Condoleezza Rice to run the NFL, fulfilling all of the above destinies and more!

I also had to muse darkly yesterday during NBC's glib and glossed over tribute to Arizona great Pat Tillman. As Amanda Marcotte put it: "Announcer: 'Pat Tillman is what we hope players can be.' Me: 'Murdered by their fellow Americans?'" Don't forget the part where the U.S. government works overtime to obfuscate the matter for Tillman's family!


Once again, MTP begins with a reported segment, with Richard Engel in Sderot, reporting on Hamas rockets landing in the area and the ground invasion which is ongoing. Gregory, for the first time in two weeks, asks some questions that take both sides into consideration. There's no talk of a cease-fire or any diplomatic engagement in the offing, according to Engel.

Anyway, on to Harry Reid. Gregory asks him if Israel's actions were "offensive or defensive." Don't expect an easy answer to that, and indeed, Reid launches into a preamble: eight years of rockets, Israelis killed, what if Vancouver attacked Seattle, Hamas is a terrorist organization that must come to its senses, and be more like Fatah (who the Israelis didn't enjoy engaging with either). "I am interested in stopping the rocket fire," Reid says.

I don't know which bullshit analogy I love more! Baltimore shelling Washington, DC, Vancouver shelling Seattle, or Tijuana shelling San Diego. In the Baltimore analogy, at least we have believable circumstances: I can see the local hatreds for one another blossoming into wanton acts of destruction. And Baltimore is filled with people who've deluded themselves into believing they are edgy enough to do it, when really they are just drinks who listen to bad techno. Could make for an interesting conflict, though, because Washington has rightly earned the sympathy of precisely nobody. I'd expect Baltimore to prevail.

I sort of see Vancouverites as being gentle folks, calmly providing a rain-swept, piney backdrop to Hollywood's mood pieces, being eminently photographable, and prepping for the Olympics. If they started shelling Seattle, you'd have to expect that people would head to Vancouver to ask, calmly, what was wrong, and what could be done about it. Seattle, meanwhile would revel in the attention, because that's what Seattle does.

I believe I've already explained the political dynamics behind Tijuana/San Diego relations, and will indeed be presenting my findings to the Brookings Institution in February of this year. So, in a final analysis, I think that the best option for the Palestinians would be for them to move to Baltimore, where they'd probably drive up property values about a millionfold.

But Harry Reid is really here to talk about Blago and Burris. David Gregory then launches into five minutes of EXPOSITIONAL NARRATIVE, explaining to Harry Reid what happened this week. JUST ASK A QUESTION, DUMMY!

The question is: "What is your basis for denying him?" Reid notes that there is an indictment coming down that's got more to do with the Senate seat and the appointee, and that Blago should have stepped down and allowed any of the awesome people we now exist in the world of Potential Senate Appointees In Illinois to have their day in the sun.

Gregory asks if the whole Blago matter was nothing more than a rush to judgement. My wife says, "REALLY David Gregory? REALLY? Come on!" One wonders if a better "rush to judgement" was the entire media declaring:

"OH NOES! Why didn't Obama say even meaner things about Blago right off the bat? Why did he say it was a 'sad day for Illinois,' instead of an 'epic rain of flaming Hell-spawned monkeyshit for Illinois?' MAYBE HE WAS HIDING SOMETHING OKAY YES THAT WILL BE OUR IDIOT METANARRATIVE GLUGGGHH-ARGGHH-AGHHH [...insert further sounds of mass-media auto-erotic asphyxiation here]."

Reid notes that Danny Davis turned down the appointment, because there was, actually, a Right Thing To Do. Reid says that the Senate will "do what they have to do," which would be a first for Reid, whose SOP has lately been, "we will do what we can, pending the threat of a GOP filibuster."

Reid parses the legal issue this way: The matter has nothing to do with the appointee (qualifications), but everything to do with the appointer (status of the "election" itself), and under that distinction, Reid believes the Senate has a wider latitude.

Gregory finally asks a sharp question: "Isn't this all about politics, isn't your primary consideration who you deem to be electable in 2010?" Reid says, no it wasn't, that he talked, for instance, to Governors Ritter (Colo.) and Patterson (NY), and, in both cases, said only to appoint whoever they wanted. Reid insists that he never told Blago that Jackson, Jones, and Davis were always acceptable to him. "He's making it up," Reid insists.

Reid attests to his race-based bonafides, and he presents an impressive sounding case, having backed Obama and Ron Kirk and Harold Ford, Jr. and others.

Meanwhile, Bobby, this guy. He really needs to get clips of himself off of the teevee.

"Are you willing to go to the mat on this?" Gregory asks. Reid basically responds, "Mat? Where is that mat?" Actually, he says, "There is always room to negotiate," which are words that should be inscribed on his forehead, with eagle talons.

Will the stimulus package by signed into law by February? Reid will try! But probably not! "I'm not going to give you a timeline." But they will be working nights and weekends!

Ahh, the age old conversation:

GREGORY: Will you work to repeal the Bush Tax Cuts?

REID: We're going to have a middle class tax cut. Cut taxes for working men and women. I am not going to get involved with any talk about tax increases. I haven't heard Barack Obama say that, I haven't said it...

GREGORY: The repeal of the Bush tax cuts would be a tax increase!

ARGH. The overall tax package would be a NET TAX CUT, you illiterate nimrod.

Then Gregory wants to ask about the "investor class." HA! I THOUGHT THAT'S WHO YOU WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT DAVID!

Anyway, the SEC should be ashamed of themselves, according to Reid, citing Bernie Madoff. Of course, another person you could suggest shame for, with regard to Madoff, is Mary Schapiro, who has been tapped by Obama as the head of the SEC!

Reid has John McCains word that "he's going to work really hard on immigration reform." So, there's that.

OH GOOD GOD. Now David Gregory is asking if Harry Reid was wrong on the "Surge!" This is a question pulled from The Fisher Price 'My First Book Of Trite Political Questions'. As always, the proper analogy for the "Surge" is the October 28, 2007 NFL game between the New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins. On that day, the Pats ran wild, scoring 52 points. BUT! Washington did manage a fourth quarter touchdown, so, SAY IT WITH ME: THE SURGE WORKED!

Anyway, this question must have been left on some set of MEET THE PRESS flashcards, for ages two and up, with Gregory failing to realize that "up" charitably tops off at, say, twelve years old.

Anyway, David Gregory wants to really NAIL Reid on this point, despite the fact that there isn't a single man, woman, or child on earth who will benefit from this nailing. Please note that this is the same David Gregory who said the press had no right to question the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq War. "It's not our role," he said famously, with actual lives hanging in the balance.

And now Gregory thinks he's a Big Heroic Newsman for nailing Reid on what amounts to, at best semantics, and, at worst, getting a ticky-tack policy point wrong. Don't get me wrong! Reid is definitely acting like a blustery opportunist...he's just as fatuous as he can be, sucking up to David Petraeus. BUT SO EFFING WHAT? What sort of journalistic coup is that? It isn't one! It just has no significance at all!

Honestly, this is ridiculous, and it needs to be said: in three weeks of MEET THE PRESS, David Gregory has effortlessly made the case for anyone who thought he'd be a fuzzyheaded ass in the role. MEET THE PRESS desperately needs some kind of do over, or Gregory needs to be trotted out to the woodshed.

Pathetic! It is painful, painful, to watch this crap.

Anyway, maybe today's panel will salvage this disaster. It features The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, BBC's Katty Kay, Al-Arabiya's Hisham Melhem, NBC's Andrea Mitchell and The New York Times' David Sanger.

Gregory takes pains to note that a single Israeli soldier has died so that the slide rule of proportionate response may be adjusted. Andrea Mitchell says that no one seems to know what Israel's endgame is, probably because the endgame involves certain people winning certain domestic elections, but we have to pretend that this mission has a strategic sense and sensibility to it.

Melhem notes that between Arab governments, there is little affection for Hamas, but sympathy for the Palestinians, and further notes that any ongoing peace process is going to get scrambled by this new incursion, and the realities it leaves behind. Obama will inherit a mess, the Palestinian moderates will be among the big regional losers. And someone, please, tell Gregory to not cough his way through another panel!

Gregory says, explicitly, that Israel undertook this military action "to re-establish deterrents." I'd have to ask him to show his work, and provide the underpinnings for that conclusion. Gregory looked Reid in the eye, on the matter of the Burris appointment, and asked: ""Isn't this all about politics, isn't your primary consideration who you deem to be electable?" There's an analogous question to be asked in the wake of the Gaza conflict, but I guess you have to be smart enough to ask it!

Sanger notes that, duh, none of the Bush administrations crazy notions of spreading Western democracy at the business end of a gun worked. Those of you who did so can claim your "I told you so" medal at the door.

Kay wonders if Obama can legitimately ask Israel to stop building settlements. Uhm...isn't that like asking if it's legitimate to ask Hamas to stop slinging rockets? If one can intercede on a single point of dispute, why not make the attempt?

Anyway, the panel wants Obama to know that he will "inherit challenges." So, another huge journalistic coup.

Anyway, it's getting harder and harder to determine whether beginning with Chris Wallace or ending with Gregory is the more unpleasant part of the day. Well, at the very least, I'll only, at most, have to do this 51 more times this year. Happy New Year, everyone. See you next week!