TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

All of Chris Matthews' friends think that Obama will be held responsible for negative attacks on Romney. (No one held him particularly responsible for negative attacks on McCain, though!) I often wonder what you are supposed to do, in politics, if you are never allowed to criticize your opponent!

Good morning to everybody and thanks for once again coming on by for this swiftly spat but never pat recap which you may use to supplement your Sunday Morning political chat-show experience or use in lieu of that experience, which actually falls at the bottom of a long list of experiences you probably wouldn't care to have like having your fingernails peeled back or eating lamprey pie -- though on the latter score, that is something the Queen of England may, at some point today, do.

My name is Jason, and I almost can't even with England sometimes, but traditions are traditions and who am I to speak, given that one of my traditions is waking up on Sundays, brewing many pots of coffee, and then staring at this nonsense for many hours. It is, I suppose, a kind of love. Still, England...that pie.

Okay, well, everyone get comfy as I peel my eyes back and stretch my TiVo finger. As per usual, you all are welcome to mix it up in the comments and catch up with one another. I'm available by email, and if you absolutely need to, you can always follow me on Twitter.


Apparently we're going to talk mainly about whether the rising unemployment rate means the recovery is stalling (YES) and if the Wisconsin recall race is a preview of the presidential election (NO). I mean, that's how easy it is to answer those questions, and yet we're going to point a camera at flapping gums for like, an hour.

But first, we'll have Romney surrogate Ed Gillespie. He'll be followed by Obama surrogate Steve Rattner -- who sort of looks like Mark McKinney of the Kids In The Hall. It's too bad Lindsey Graham isn't on today. They could do sketches together! Anyway, I am guessing the Gillespie will say that the unemployment rate shows we need to have Mitt Romney and more tax cuts, and Rattner will say that we've come considerably far under Obama and Romney will return us to the bottom of the gutter again, economically speaking.

Like I said: we actually do not need more than a minute to find out what these men have to say about this. (Though the frisson with Rattner is that he's a private equity man, himself. WHAT COULD HAPPEN if Chris Wallace brings it up? He COULD go OFF-MESSAGE, WHOOOAA.)

Anyway, May was a terrible month, jobs-wise. What does Gillespie think is the problem? The Obama administration. You should all now take a ten minute break, because this will be all ostinato from here. Specifically, Gillespie says that universal health care is bad for jobs and the Keystone pipeline would "have had an immediate effect on job creation." (About 7,000 jobs tops; many in Canada, for Canadian people. No, I do not know why Republicans want so badly to put Canadians back to work in Canada.)

Also, job creators need more of your tax dollars, because they are so uncertain! (Presumably about the profits they are or are not making, or the products they are or are not moving that typically lead people to hire other people, as a matter of last resort?)

Gillespie also hates the stimulus, because it kept teachers and police officers and firefighters in jobs, and doesn't like Dodd-Frank, even though it carved out big loopholes so that Wall Street could go back to trading derivatives like daffy morons again. It's seriously the quick litany, talking point throwdown, and Wallace is now all: "Wait, wait, wait, hold on."

What does Gillespie think that Romney think about maybe the House passing some of Obama's jobs initiatives now, and what's to happen when "Taxmageddon" hits (besides the fact that we start paying down the deficit that everyone supposedly hates?). Gillespie says that Romney will do more "leadership" stuff, and why is Obama campaigning? It's like Obama thinks it is a campaign season! But, no, Romney wants nothing specific and has nothing in mind: "I think he'll wait to see what they come up with," says Gillespie, about Romney, referring to Romney waiting for someone else to do something, which he will then laud or condemn, because LEADERSHIP.

Wallace wants to know where does Romney specifically differ from Bush 43 on the economy. Gillespie says that Romney has a different stance on China's currency manipulation. He also has a stance on "entitlement reform" that's "different in nature" from Bush's. (How is it different? Gillespie won't say.) Gillespie says that the whole point is that Romney is different from Obama, but that's expected. They are RUNNING AGAINST EACH OTHER. Gillespie is made by Wallace to "get specific on taxes and spending," and Gillespie just says, that Romney is different.

Wallace shifts to Romney's terrible record as a job creator in Massachusetts. Gillespie just says he disagrees with the data, and he has got some data of his own that's different. Wallace says, "I think you're wrong." Gillespie is all, "No you're wrong." And I guess this is the whole Scott Walker technique, where you just go out and find some way of making the statistics look good and shove it down everyone's throats. Anyway, Wallace doesn't much care for this, and stands firm on Romney's 47th place finish, and gives Gillespie the side-eye during this monologue.

Wallace moves to the "public equity" argument that Romney is making about Solyndra, pointing out that while Romney was governor, he moved public money into private sector companies (including TWO solar companies that failed). Gillespie says that there's a difference! Other people made the decisions to invest in these places! Wallace argues that Romney had "sign off," and Gillespie contests that, saying that Romney said at the time that the state should not invest in private enterprise.

Wallace asks the question that immediately pops in my head: what about tax breaks and subsidies for private companies? What's really dumb about the latest talking point about "picking winners and losers" is that we pick winners and losers all the time! Even long before our beloved bank bailouts, we had made Big Oil the Big Winner Of All Time. And when Abacus Federal Savings Bank commits mortgage fraud? THEY LOSE. They lose despite the fact that Bank Of America perpetrates the same fraud on a massive scale. Bank of America WINS.

But I digress! The point is, yes, that's right, Chris Wallace. Gillespie says that Massachusetts is different, and Romney doesn't have control over all those investments. Wallace seems pretty unconvinced that this was all activity that Romney disapproved of.

Wallace moves to Romney's opposition to the auto industry rescue. Again, Wallace has done his homework, pointing out that the current Republican governor of Michigan supported the rescue and has pointed out that Romney's weird explanation for how it came to be that he simultaneously opposed and supported this rescue does not make sense -- Rommey says he wanted a "managed bankruptcy" and has insisted from time to time that what Obama did was not a managed bankruptcy, only to say on alternate weeks that it was a "managed bankruptcy" and that Romney will "take a lot of credit for it."

There's only one salient difference between Romney and Obama's position -- Romney seems to think that private money should have been used and was available to manage the bankruptcy. The White House position was that private money would have OBVIOUSLY been preferable, but there was, as you could imagine, nobody who was particularly hot to pony up the scratch. So the federal government did, after the executives successfully jumped through a bunch of hoops. If we're being honest here, Romney played his hand back when it was still uncertain that the auto rescue would work, his gamble didn't pay off, and now he's having to spit a bunch of circuitous garbage about it to keep from simply admitting he was wrong.

It seems to me that he'd actually be better off if he just conceded the Detroit bailout to Obama, like Michigan's governor has, and just move to another point of critique. But in for a penny, I guess?

Gillespie doesn't have much of an answer, except to say that there was a debate and many people had different point of view. Gillespie says that a managed bankruptcy was Romney's idea. Wallace says, sure, but not with public money. Gillespie says that it's still a managed bankruptcy. Wallace counters, saying that doing it Romney's way would have actually led to a Chapter 7 liquidation. And around and around. "I understand that is an opinion," Gillespie says. He says that Romney's "belief" is that a private bailout would have been better. He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.

Gillespie eventually gets around to being slightly more honest -- Romney believes that the bondholders who made terrible investments in these companies should have been bailed out ahead of the middle class people who built the cars. That's really the only worthwhile thing to remember from this discussion.

Wallace asks if it's true that the Obama campaign is not as good as Romney thought at one point, and Gillespie says, duh, Romney is going to win, and win easily.

What happens if Scott Walker wins? Does Romney win Wisconsin? Gillespie says that the recall is "about Wisconsin" and "at the end of the day" he doesn't know if it will translate to a win in the election. He is pretty sure that the Great Lakes are moving in a more conservative direction, and he thinks unions are "greedy." So there's that, then!

We talked about the Wisconsin Recall in our Friday wrap-up, and as we said, we think there are some fundamentals involved that will make it hard for Tom Barrett to win. But this part is the most important thing to take away from Wisconsin:

Maybe we have to admit that the GOP's experiment worked: Let's remember that Walker was one of many Republican governors who executed a cynical post-recession plan: with America's middle class feeling high anxiety and facing extreme economic dislocation after the financial crash, Walker successfully managed to get all of that populist anger redirected away from the Wall Streeters who'd caused the crash. Instead, he got the members of the middle class at each others' throats, turning that anger and angst into a battle between all the have-nots over who had more of a shrinking portion of pie. We've since seen a video unearthed about Walker's intention to wedge private and public sector unions from one another, but will that be the antidote to the widespread poison?

Post-crash, it was really important for ordinary people to stick together, and in Wisconsin, Walker managed to create a toxic divide between the people at the bottom of the economic totem pole. And that's why it's going to suck to be in the lower or middle class in Wisconsin for a good long while.

Okay, now, here's Steve Rattner, to defend Obama. He says that Obama inherited a terrible economy. He says that the bulk of the job losses that took place during the Obama term happened pre-stimulus and since then things have been better. All well and good, but job growth hasn't kept up with monthly additions to the labor force in quite some time. I shouldn't be surprised if you could count the months we successfully did so in the 21st century on one hand.

Rattner says that nobody is happy with the rate of job growth. (You think?) But we wouldn't be doing as well as we are doing without the Obama policies.

Wallace wants to know if those Obama policies just haven't added to the debt, without doing much beyond earning us anemic growth and an 8.3% unemployment rate. Rattner says that the important thing is to think, "Compared to what?" Well, it would be nice to have a window into the sad America that got John McCain's pro-cyclical austerity plan. Though actually, that window is called "Europe" and if you look at it today you'll see they are having a "Diamond Jubilee" which sounds awfully posh!

Rattner says that Marc Zandi and Alan Blinder both totally love the stimulus, and it's been amply studied and approved of. He also points out that there was bipartisan agreement on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, way at the beginning of the Obama term, so it's on everyone.

How do you explain the way job growth was better two months ago? Rattner doesn't have an answer to that, beyond the fact that there seems to be a spring slowdown every year now.

Wallace asks, How seriously is the threat of another recession, and what about "taxmageddon?" Rattner says that the probability of another recession is quite low, but the reason that growth remains anemic is because we have sectors that haven't been restored in our economy yet -- government and housing and finance (the problem with the financial sector, is that all the big banks are pretending to be solvent).

If something bad happens in Europe, Rattner concedes, we could have another recession. Well, why worry, then? God, is there anything more firm and stable than the Eurozone right now? Oh, hey, look! A sofa cushion made from Faberge Eggs! Looks comfortable!

As for "taxmageddon?" Rattner says, "It would be great if everyone could get together early on a plan." Yes! That would be GREAT. I mean, let's form a Super DUPER Committee to decide on what sandwiches will be served at the "taxmageddon early planning committee meeting." OH WHAT'S THAT? Oh, sorry folks, I hear the Super Duper Sandwich Committee got bogged down in their own crap and now Moody's had downgraded our credit rating to "Go Get Stuffed."

Why is the president always bashing Wall Street? Rattner insists that he's "found the right balance." I'll say! No one has been punished for destroying the economy, and all the banks got to buy lobbyists to water down Dodd-Frank with their taxpayer bailout money. That's a pretty big win for Wall Street, on balance.

Rattner says that Obama spent "three years in the trenches" fighting the ad economy, and that he deserves credit for having done so, alongside whatever "business experience" Romney has had.

Rattner says, on the deficit, that while no one disagrees that the deficit is too high, it should remain high until there is an economic recovery, after whick, paring down to the lean and mean won't be such a shock to the economy. He says Romney has no plan to pay for his proposed tax cuts, and would end Medicare by signing onto Paul Ryan's plan, which is a plan to stop paying for Medicare entirely by allowing the premium support/voucher given to recipients to lag further and further behind the growing cost of healthcare, until having it isn't worth having anymore. (It is like using "Disney dollars" for health insurance.)

But how specific has Obama been on entitlements? "I do not think he has been specific," Rattner says. Wallace is all O RLY? And Rattner says, "Well, I think this has only been a ripe issue in the last year or so." No, dude. Like it or not, it's been a "ripe issue" forever.

Wallace is all EYE ROLL, COME ON. Rattner reroutes his strategy: health care, stimulus, financial reform, were all more immediately important in 2009 than entitlements.

Wallace says that the "Ryan plan has been changed and is now a compromise with Ron Wyden." Hold on, there, chief. That is an idea that's been talked about but no one has presented it as a bill. It's all theoretical, up in the air, and I suggest that Ryan is using poor Mr. Wyden as a smokescreen. Rattner agrees with me: "I think it's a little bit of a Trojan horse, that plan."

Wallace points out that Rattner seems to nominally agree with Romney in that the government should not "pick winners and losers," and that Rattner even said so, on NPR this week. WHATCHA GOT TO SAY, RATTNER? He says: whatever, Romney did that stuff too, is the point. He says that the government "has a role to play" in directing energy initiatives and that it's not something the Obama administration invented. Wallace says, "But he embraced it." Rattner says, sure, but Solyndra was not a "political decision."

Rattner concludes by saying Gillespie's take on the auto rescue was complete nonsense, and that there's nothing hypothetical about there being no private capital available for a managed bankruptcy, "that is a fact." And it's a fact that everyone recognized back in the Bush administration. Rattner tells Wallace he had it right, that the alternative to a government intervention was liquidation and layoffs. (It would have been nice, though, if Rattner had mentioned the job-losses lower on the supply chain, because that's everyone's local economy taking a cricket bat to the face.)

And the third-string Fox panels keep on coming. Today we have Juan Williams matching off against A.B. Stoddard, Chip Saltsman, and David Brody. This could get bloodbathy!

This has become my bad habit as a recapper -- I lean heavy on the TiVo pause for the first hour of watching and then it's 11:07 and I'm like, "Wow. I can't believe I invested so much in Ed Gillespie and Steve Rattner!" So, now I start giving everyone short shrift for the next hour. That okay with everyone? It's just panels. And not particularly good ones, either.

Anyway: the horsey race! How is that going? Saltsman says that the Obama campaign is terrible and that everyone who thought they were going to cruise to re-election, but no. Wallace says that it was also a terrible gaffe for Anna Wintour to host a fundraiser for Obama, and honestly...Anna Wintour, I just can't even. But Anna Wintour is, at least, not a Birther-mad scalp-wisp farmer like the Romney analogue, Donald Trump. Juan Williams can make this obvious point, but he doesn't because he's an idiot.

Brody says that the Obama campaign has an opportunity to keep reminding voters that Romney doesn't connect with voters, and that this is a more fertile attack than bringing up Bain specifically, or his Massaschusetts record (which, to be fair, includes a health care reform that the Obama administration borrowed). Brody says there's a whole huge narrative to be constructed about Romney's inability to converse and connect with ordinary people.

AB Stoddard says that it is time for the Obama team to panic and she's wrong: this is a low-engagement period of the election, and the stuff that both candidates are doing right now will be largely forgotten by the end of the summer. Frankly, this is the best time to make mistakes. This is a rehearsal for the high-engagement part of the election season that comes later. (Fundamentally, what matters right now isn't what the candidates do, it's what the economy does.) Stoddard eventually gets back to that, but there's no real reason to worry about anything else. The "messaging" from the campaigns in May is utterly irrelevant.

Saltsman sort of understands this: that the Obama campaign were just taking some ideas out for a walk, and that in the coming weeks they'll take what they've learned and come up with something specific to do or say at summer's end. Williams predicts there will be some sort of "stick with us" and "don't change horses in midstream."

Moving to the Wisconsin recall election. Wallace notices that there hasn't been a lot of discussion about collective bargaining of late. Williams says that the issue wasn't an effective one for Barrett, but it's more accurate to say that Barrett isn't really an effective leader on the issues that animated to anxiety in Wisconsin in the first place. Williams notes this, adding that he still thinks that the liberal side of Wisconsin has been animated, at the very least. Saltsman disagrees, saying that labor overplayed their hand and now the national Dems are skittish. (National Democrats being skittish is like saying cats are meowy.)

Brody says that Wisconsin should probably be seen as a sign of Tea Party strength against Unions. And that's sort of what I was saying -- the Walker victory isn't an electoral victory or a victory over a recall election. He got various groups of poor people fighting with each other. That's the sort of condition you need to get, say, the Paul Ryan Hunger Games budget passed.


Okay, today at the genius bar Chris Matthews is joined by John Heilemann, Andrea Mitchell, Katty Kay, and Andrew Sullivan.

Is unemployment so bad that Romney could win without being particularly well-liked? Honestly, sure, why not? But let's hear what all these other people have to say, I guess. Heilemann says it's possible, and that while the Obama team continually points to the likeability factors they routinely win, the economy remains a millstone. Meanwhile, he notes that the Romney team isn't even trying to pretend that Romney's problem can be fixed. Romney is definitely going to be America's first post-conviction candidate.

Mitchell says that the jobs report is terrible, no silver lining, and that's bad. "Just so bad!" she says, referring to the electoral conditions of a guy who will be affluent and well-liked whether he beats Romney or not.

Katty Kay, at the very least, uses the word "succour." Sullivan, at least, thinks that people need to ask what Romney would do, as president, and whether or not it differs in any way from Bush's. Sullivan says that Obama's prescriptions are still more popular in the public eye than Romney's.

But all of this ignores what I think Romney would actually DO as President. And I think that Romney is a Keynesian and the GOP like running big deficits, and so what I see happening is that Romney asks Congress to do the same things Obama asked, only a GOP led Congress says yes instead of no, the economy improves, the GOP gets the credit and they use their reputation as saviors to win a few more elections. I don't honestly believe that the GOP was all that against the stuff Obama's suggested these past four years, it was just very important that Obama not get credit for doing anything good.

Kay notes that it's still a tough arena for Obama to make the argument: "Things would be even worse if I hadn't done what I've done." Heilemann, however, says that all of the various attacks of the past few months have led to an overarching idea that the Obama campaign intends to use against Romney, "He's never been in it for you." Heilemann says that where FDR and JFK were rich guys who made themselves look like they cared about normal people, Romney has a problem in that area.

All of Chris Matthews' friends think that Obama will be held responsible for negative attacks on Romney. (No one held him particularly responsible for negative attacks on McCain, though!)

I often wonder what you are supposed to do, in politics, if you are never allowed to criticize your opponent! It's like the argument is that Obama should go out and say, "Guys, Romney is awesome and I wouldn't be put out if you wanted this wonderful guy to be President," and than everyone says, "Wow, that is so self-sacrificing" and they all vote for Obama. (And then Obama is all, "WTF, I actually wanted out of this job! I've been elbow deep in y'alls flaming turd sandwich and now I can't even critique the mofeaux who wants to back up the industrial strength fecal folder? I was being sincere! Get me the hell out of here!")

At least that's what happens in the extremely cynical sitcom I am writing about America in its final years on earth.

Back to Heilemann, who says that the President also has to activate his base, and his base believes that Obama has "a right to fight back."

Can Obama make Romney "scary?" Sullivan says that Obama can make the policies scary, and that would allow people to start having a negative impression of Romney without making it ABOUT Romney. Kay thinks this will work with woman and Hispanics. Heilemann says that if Obama can make "Romney own the Republican brand," then it will work even beyond those groups.

Now, for whatever reason, we're going to talk about Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee. And we'll have some clips of Helen Mirren playing Liz, so that's nice.

Anyway, corgis and swans, corgis and swans. This is life. We are all sometimes fluffy and adorable and sitting on the laps of our loved ones, and other times we are angry and squawking and unreasonable and ruining other people's picnics in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Oh, wow. This show really is going to talk about the Diamond Jubilee? Okay. Well. Kay says that Brits love Liz because she's steady and calm and not some mood-swinging psychopath. She also "makes the British people feel special" and eccentric. Sullivan says in the U.K., the monarchy is a place where women have historically shined. He also makes an interesting argument that the benefit of monarchy is that you can channel all of your nationalism into this family and this set of symbols, and in doing so, you get less polarization.

And now John Heileman is quoting the Sex Pistols, which gives me a great opportunity to embed the video:

Things Chris Matthews does not know include: Heilemann says John Edwards is not going to be retried, but the likelihood of him returning to politics is as likely as him "ending up in a sanitarium." Obama still feels he can cut a deal with Putin, says Mitchell, but Russia's involvement in Syria points to a re-emergence of the adversarial relationship (and that maybe Romney was right to make Russia into the Big Bad). Kay suggests that Rob Portman will be painted as the man "who turned surpluses into deficits" if he is picked as Veep. (It is not possible that Matthews did not know this.) Finally, Sullivan says that Cardinal Dolan is in trouble because he authorized payoffs to priest-rapists.

Finally, will Obama be risking any trouble by "pointing to George W. Bush," as the campaign goes on? Heilemann suggests that he is really "pointing to the financial crisis" and they want to remind people of the depth of the hole he inherited. Kay says that it's unlikely we'll have Obama and Bush in the same room together again, like they were this week. Sullivan says, "It is Bush's fault. All of it is."


Ahh, Meet The Press time. This actually allows me the excuse to embed another Sex Pistols classic:

Meet The Press is SO CONCERNED ABOUT THE ECONOMY, Y'ALL. It really could have an enormously slight effect on the rich and powerful people who sometimes live in Washington! Today's surrogate battle features Deval Patrick and John Kasich. And then there will be interminable paneling with Alex Castellanos, Kevin Madden, Kasim Reed, and Neera Tanden. And finally, Bill Bradley will be here, to promote a book.

Ha, ha. David Gregory! The dullest man in the toolshed sets the tone straightaway, noting how TERRIBLE it must have been for the Obama campaign that the stock market fell on Friday. Reflects so poorly on them! What I guess they don't get any credit for is that before Friday's teetering, the stock market had returned to its pre-recession height.

Okay. Let's see if the last 58 minutes of this show are worth not using a cats paw and some ammonia to destroy my eyes once and for all.

We'll start with Deval Patrick and John Kasich, yelling at each other, for freedom. (Patrick and Kasich do, at one point, suggest that they might just turn on David Gregory, together, to which I say, GOD SPEED YOU, GENTLEMEN.)

Deval Patrick: "Isn't it funny that we talk about the economy in political terms...without talking about the impact working people and families and the communities they live in?"

BOOM, thank you, Deval Patrick. That will be the moment this show peaks, however, he moves right to saying that we need to pass the Jobs Act and Gregory asks the obvious question, "And that's the silver bullet, how?"

Kasich says that he agrees that the jobs numbers are terrible, and that it is about families. Gregory is all: "NO NO I WANT TO HAVE THE HORSEY RACE." And so Kasich unpacks the "UNCERTAINTY" talking points and somewhere, Barry Ritholtz is rolling his eyes.

Patrick says that the "uncertainty" has to do with GOP obstruction, and that the Congress has taken political advantage from stifling legislative action. Kasich says pooh-pooh, Obama needs to do more to "lead" and get Congress to do things. (Kasich then provides an example of what Obama could do, and it boils down to "just pass lots of Paul Ryan stuff.")

Patrick says that the president has "bucked the trend" and created jobs against both headwinds and a hostile Congress, and that Romney failed while "riding the trend." Kasich says, no, Romney created jobs. And now he's decrying the entire "attacking Romney's Massachusetts record thing." I'm guessing that Kasich would have preferred to come on teevee and not have to defend that record?

Kasich says that the "whole town is dysfunctional" and "both sides do it" and blah blah. Oh, Lord, now he is off and running about how he won't vote for anyone for President who hasn't been a business executive. I mean, business executives have done a pretty lousy job over the last decade. I find it laughable that Kasich is basically saying that Angelo Mozilo and Jamie Dimon have the stuff to run a nation.

Patrick says that we have "sclerotic" politics in DC. Sigh. These two guys are just both here to spit platitudes about "Beltway culture" while pretending that neither benefit from it.

Patrick is now trying unspinning the spin on Bain that got Team Obama Re-Elect all spun out. It's pretty hard for Obama to continue to simultaneously woo private equity donors while also making hay with Romney's record at Bain. Sorry! You have to pick one! This whole, "Private equity is great, and Romney's business career was sterling, but he was also an awful unfeeling weirdo bastard" argument feels like oh, I see the wind is westerly now, so the hawk is handsaw, BOO HANDSAW.

Anyway, Kasich wants everything to be deregulated, forever. He is also "not here to criticize the auto bailout." Gregory really wants him to, though! Kasich is also saying that Ohio is doing great because things are stable, which sort of undermines his whole "blah, boo, uncertainty" argument of 45 seconds ago.

I can basically sum up the next five minutes by saying that Deval Patrick thinks Obama is awesome and yay, auto bailouts. Kasich says that it was nice that Obama said he would help with his state's tornadoes, but BOOOO, UNCERTAINTY. But both guys don't hate government! And now they are bro-ing out and touching each other's hands.

More terrific surprises, for viewers of this crap. Kasich likes Scott Walker. Patrick likes Elizabeth Warren. Kasich thinks Walker is going to win. Patrick thinks Warren is going to win. And they make some jokes, about Lebron James. Because it's all about the working people, in their communities, who are unemployed.

Okay now it's time to panel ourselves to death with Castellanos, Tanden, Reed, and Madden.

Does Reed think that the jobs report was a "low moment" that will benefit Romney? Reed says no, and the Romney is terrible, and ha ha, remember that time he put out an iPhone app that spelled "America" wrong? That is all a symbol of how terrible Romney is, and so here's five solid minutes of Grade-A surrogacy. Who's up?

Kevin Madden is up, and he thinks Romney is awesome, of course. Especially at jobs. But really, he's just so great at "changing the culture" and "transforming malfunctioning organizations," and everyone is so let down that Obama did manage to change the culture of Washington.

If anything, I think Obama spent way too much time trying to change the much so that, for example, he was still trying to pander to Chuck Grassley on health care reform, even while Grassley was telling reporters, "Ha, ha, Obama thinks I am going to compromise with him, LOL." Washington's culture is not going to get changed unless we manage to unleash some sort of plague.

Neera Tanden says that Americans want a "real debate on the policies" and Obama wants to have that debate, and Romney wants Bush administration stuff. And did you hear that Romney's got a few Solyndras of his own? (Yes. We already covered it.)

Gregory asks Alex Castellanos to "be more counterintuitive." Anything to make this solid, four-way talking point regurgitation interesting, I guess! Castellanos says that Obama is making a mistake by campaigning against Romney, and now he's got to be "Moses" and lead people to the "Promised Land." He also thinks it was pretty dumb to have David Axelrod lead a rally, and I have to say I agree -- Axelrod's charms are the sort that lose their impact if he has to raise his voice. He is the "quiet room political fixer," not the man at the barricades, and it looked weird to have him out there.

Kasim Reed says that the Bain Capital attacks are not new, because Ted Kennedy used them. Note: this doesn't mean that these attacks are always going to be successful, though! Mitt Romney has had decades to figure out how to defuse those attacks. Madden sort of makes this point by not making it -- he says, that Democrats are still talking, in 2012, about things that mattered decades ago. That's the "Bain attack defuser" right there.

"Governor Romney," Madden says, "has talked very acutely about what he would do to move the country forward." Bzzzzzt. Incorrect, Kevin. This is something that Peggy Noonan actually got right:

Mr. Romney has to give us a plan. He has to tell us his priorities. To lead is to prioritize, to choose: "We will take this path, at this speed, toward this end." He hasn't done this yet. He told me last week of some immediate intentions: repeal ObamaCare, and move boldly to unleash America's energy resources—he called them "newly discovered and extraordinary."

Fine. But afterward I realized these issues are immediately and personally associated with President Obama. They are not associated with the president I suspect Mr. Romney really has on his mind, George W. Bush.

Mr. Romney should be talking about the big things, taxing and spending, and offering a plan on both, a hierarchal declaration of needs. But taxes and spending are issues that are associated with Mr. Bush, and not happily. That, I suspect, is a reason Mr. Romney avoids addressing them at length or in a way that's easily understood. He doesn't want the Obama campaign to accuse him of being "just more Bush," of peddling the same medicine that helped make us sick. That was Ronald Reagan's 1984 charge against Walter Mondale, that all he offered was the empty, warmed-over liberalism of the past.

The Romney camp doesn't want to be accused of warmed-over Bushism. So they shy away from clarity on central issues. But you can't avoid central issues. If you try, your candidacy and message will be robbed of vividness, made a blur.

Right now, the only thing Romney has done "acutely" is put off having to take a firm stand on anything. It may be that ultimately, he just wants to be Grover Norquist's amanuensis. Or, maybe he shows up for work and suddenly he has a set of very "Massachusetts moderate" policies and he unites the country in the middle after staring down the House GOP's ragtag collection of freaks and geeks. (Believe me: this is John Boehner's wet dream.) But the salient point is this, Romney is actually, at the moment, verya adroitly NOT doing the thing Kevin Madden wants us to believe he is doing. LOL, Kevin, nice try, but come on.

Now we have a long and valueless colloquy about who is being more like George Bush and who is being less like Bill Clinton.

Castellanos seems to think that the "Obama economy" is tax money, driving top-down job growth, and if that was true, we'd see much less private sector job growth and much less private sector profitability and much more public sector job growth in the past three years. But, in fact, the facts invert this:


Oh, and we've discussed how amazing corporate profits have been only about a half a billion times. Turns out, all of this can happen without recovery actually touching the people who need it the most. Lots of arguments to be had there, but "OMGZ SOCIALISM" is not one of them.

The discussion continues, though. Obama partisans say Obama is awesome and will continue to improve things. Romney partisans say that nothing Obama has done works. Gregory sort of acts like all these answers are surprising. All of his statements seem rooted in the notion that he did not expect a conversation between Kasim Reed, Neera Tanden, Alex Castellanos, and Kevin Madden to go like this.

This was an actual topic for discussion: Will Romney do something stupid like pick Palin as his vice-president. Castellanos actually does a good job to make the conversation interesting. Castellanos says that picking Rob Portman brings bad Bush mojo, but he'll still pick someone boring and heavily-vetted like Bobby Jindal. Tanden says that Romney picks Paul Ryan as the vice-president, it will give Democrats an opportunity to tie Romney to all of Ryan's unpopular ideas.

By the way, Paul Ryan will not be Romney's vice president, unless Paul Ryan hits his head very hard on something and becomes insane. Why on earth would anyone think that Ryan is stupid enough to give up all of the power he currently holds, as the holder of a very easy to defend House seat, to become the Seamus of Mitt Romney's White House? It is just the most preposterous idea I've ever heard. Anyone who has Paul Ryan on their shortlists for vice president just hasn't thought it through.

David Gregory and the panel are all now reflecting on how nice Obama and Bush were to each other during the portrait hanging ceremony in the White House, and gosh why can't Washington always be like that? Oh, I don't know, guys. Maybe it's because there is PRECISELY NOTHING AT STAKE when Bush comes to town to hang a portrait. Maybe you guys shouldn't be all amazed and capable of being knocked into a sentimental reverie when it turns out that partisans can get along when the only thing to worry about is a portrait being hung.

Will there be a second act for John Edwards? No. And no one thinks so. OMG, we have bipartisan comity on another no-stakes matter! Maybe there is a trend emerging.

Two minutes on Donald Trump conclude the panel. That's followed by five minutes of Bill Bradley shilling his book, and I'm not particularly interested in recapping that, Go by his book, if you have already read all other books and you life depends on reading another book, I guess.

Okay, well, that is a wrap on this Sunday's long dark elevensies of the soul. Thanks to everyone who joined us today. I've got a reall good feeling about this first week in June, folks, so I hope it proves to be seven days that all of you can enjoy. (If it's not, let me know, and I'll file the appropriate complaints on your behalf!)

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