TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog. Today marks the final Sunday of the Bush administration! Does that fill you with nostaglic waxings? It does for me, but they are, in all honesty, mainly of the warm bed I just got out of. Ugh, Fox News Sunday, enemy of Morpheus. Anyway, the time is nigh. Leave a comment, send an email, crawl under a blanket, and, if you are attending the inaugural this year, pray for a little uptick in temperature. Because it is brutal right now. Speaking of brutality, here's...


Today we have Nancy Pelosi and Robert Gibbs, plus the Fox Panel.

First, Madame Speaker and Chris Wallace meet cute on Capitol Hill. But right away, they are spatting over interpretations of the recovery package. Pelosi wants to make it all bipartisan, f'reals. But is she and Obama chasing GOP votes in vain? Maybe, but Pelosi is letting Boahner do a mark-up on the stimulus package bill, and there are tax cuts and investments in the bill and Mr. Zandi says it's great and what, what? You aren't following this?

Wallace points out that there's some "Christmas tree" stuff going on with the bill, but Pelosi disputes that, saying that it's a solid infrastructure bolstering bill and an energy independence bill. And it's full of science! Lots of science! And middle class tax cuts, for Republicans to vote for, since science scares them. Will the House GOP "meet her in the middle?" Pelosi hopes so! Because the bill reflects the wishes of the American people, who want jobs.

How about the first 100 days? Is there a disconnect between the White House and the Congress, and, since this is Fox, let me speak to our obsession: CARD CHECK CARD CHECK CARD CHECK. Pelosi says, we're going to stimulate the economy and give jobs to people. "Five hundred million people will lose their jobs next month," she says, inspiring a moment of panic before Wallace corrects her down to "five hundred thousand."

And now, they are fighting over the Bush tax cuts. "Isn't it wrong to raise taxes on anyone during a recession," Wallace says, which means, "Isn't it wrong to raise taxes on the wealthy, ever?" And what about all the spending? Pelosi insists their will be FISCAL DISCIPLINE. Wallace asks, will you put benefit cuts on the table? Pelosi won't get rid of Social Security. Wallace says he's not talking about getting rid of Social Security, who's talking about that? Hey? Hey!

Will Pelosi be upset if it takes a year to close Gitmo? No, but she will be upset if we have to wait until September to celebrate Labor Day. Jeesh. What about investigations, of the Bush White House? I didn't know that Fox News wanted investigations? How exciting! Chris Wallace wants to get to the bottom of the "politicization of the Justice Department!" Exciting!

"I get the sense that you don't intend to kowtow to this new President," Wallace suggests, hopefully. But Pelosi is excited about working with the president, because they share an agenda. Not to worry, though, Chris, because in the Senate, Harry Reid will kowtow to the threat of a filibuster.

Now it's time for silver-tongued country-boy press secretary Robert Gibbs. What's up with the inaugural speech? It's going to talk about responsibility, and accountability, which will go over well to a crowd of people celebrating the extended hours of DC bars. Also, there will be hope, and "crossroads," and "generations."

But will he talk about "the moneychangers," and order banks to lend money, by hand, in DC's prostitution free zones? No. But he will support stimulus packages, that are different and transparent, and which don't line the pockets of executives. The Era Of Big Executive Pocket Lining is over!

The first day in office, Obama will meet with the Economics Team and Military Advisors, both Here, and On The Ground. But will he issue a series of executive orders? Gibbs says that there will be some ethics stuff, and some lobby stuff, and they'll close Gitmo, and there will be others. Gibbs says that all the problems of America will not be done overnight. Nor will the stimulus package, apparently!

Wallace asks, "Are you serious, about this 'patience' stuff you keep talking about? Surely these problems will take only a few days to solve!"

And what about Tim Geithner, who can't even figure out how to do his own taxes? Gibbs says that he doesn't think Geithner did anything more than make some "embarrassing but honest mistakes," but he must SAVE THE ECONOMY. Didn't Superman make some honest mistakes? Did Superman even pay taxes? Did he follow permitting and zoning regulations when he erected his Fortress of Solitude? Wallace asks, "How can this guy be in charge of the IRS?" And it's a very good question!

Does Gibbs work for the President or the People? He says he will always tell the truth, so that he can live with himself. Get ready for a long period of self-loathing, then, Robert!

What's his attitude toward leaks? "They are frutrating, unless they are his own, strategic leaks." Anyway, he will bomb leakers, with Twitter and facebooks.

Will Gibbs continue to smask reporters, with sledgehammers? Only the ones who ask questions.

And now, Fox News Sunday's panel of gargoyles: Hume, Liasson, Kristol and Wan Juan Williams.

What stands out about this Inauguration? Hume says it's peculiar, because the Obama presidency has been well underway. Liasson says this is true, except for the fact that Obama has been able to cop out of foreign policy, despite Bush's obvious hopes that he might start doing something about that, too.

Kristol went to have dinner with Obama and George Will and Dracula and the rest of the Stonecutters. What was that like. Kristol makes a joke about how Obama told him he agrees with Kristol on everything, "When this transcript gets published people will take it seriously." HA. No one takes Kristol seriously, because he hasn't taken his own work seriously in years. And then he says a bunch of relatively neutral, relatively nice things about Obama, and that's counterinsurgency strategy at work, as Spencer Ackerman would say.

Juan Williams says the city is busy with excitement and emotionally powerful, and the camera cuts away to Hume, looking at Williams like he's an idiot.

Wallace asks about Pelosi and Holder and waterboarding and what's going to happen about criminal investigations of the Bush administration? Hume says Conyers wants them and they will be farcical and an embarrassment, because why can't a guy torture somebody who miaybe is guilty of something? And, finally, Hume says, in essence, that "investigations are liberal." Hey, if liberals believe crime should be stopped and criminals punished, I won't argue.

Did Chris Wallace just call Mara Liasson "Murray?"

Anyway, Hillary Clinton doesn't care what you think about the Clinton Global Initiatives and what sex-bloated tycoons give to it. And, hey, Timothy Geithner, who took a deduction for sending his kids to camp. Kristol is very shocked about it, and thinks they are off-putting. But at least Kristol cites a GOOD REASON to vote down Geithner: CITIBANK. That's something Kristol says that I'll gladly take seriously.

Williams is, I guess, worried, that Holder said nobody is "above the law." I didn't realize that there's a better stance for the Attorney General to take.

Now Hume is talking about how President Bush doesn't deserve to have to feel bad, just because he had one massive and devastating terrorist attack on his watched that he was warned about in a brief he didn't pay attention to on vacation other than to say that the presented could now consider his ass covered. Since then, he's kept America safe, so long as those Americans weren't participating in his unecessary wars! So, love Bush for the Gentleman's D-minus he got in keeping America safe, after that time we were all in deadly danger.


Apparently, polls indicate that there's like, one dude who hates Obama, but thinks he's done a bang up job with the transition. So, yeah, POLLS MAKE SENSE! Meanwhile, who thought that the Bidens waiting for a train could be so exciting? Or the words, "Welcome to Wilmington," fraught with such significance? And, am I alone in my curiosity in how the train trip got secured? Best I never know, I guess. Good job, Secret Service, all the same. I hope you've got DC scoped out good.

David Axelrod thinks the six percent of you who feel that the economy is doing well need to have your heads examined. And so might John Boehner! Where were his OMGs when his party was running up debt? Good question, but remember: the Republicans run up debt because the only way to stop running up debt is to learn a hard lesson about it, so it will go up and up and up and up until the tough love has sunk in, and until then they yell "I can SPEND TAX DOLLARS ON WHAT NOW? A BRIDGE TO NOWHERE? EFF IT, I'M DRUNK ON POWER! YEEE-HAAAAA! Buy, yeah....debt is bad, mmm'kay?"

GS, by the way, is sharp today, moving briskly through transitions, asking shapr questions. He's going all out to deliver abnother Sunday win for This Week.

What is America supposed to take away from the fact that Geithner didn't pay some taxes? Axelrod says they should take away that he's a great guy and, I guess, everyone gets to make that sort of mistake. Anyway, he will confirmed quickly, Axelrod says, and I have no doubt he will, though I have my worries (and not about his IMF taxes).

Will Obama ask for a withdrawal plan from Iraq? Shouldn't such a plan be getting assembled by now? The Status of Forces Agreement more or less mandates a withdrawal!

Yikes, jump right to the roundtable. George Will, Gwen Ifill, EJ Dionne, and Donna Brazile.

GS asks about the dinner with Obama. "Suffice it to say, he was impressive and we probably weren't." Dionne is happy that he didn't have to cook for Obama, and he didn't have to stay as circumspect about their discussion, saying their meeting was about crisis management. GS says Obama is getting "high marks for listening" to other dudes, even the guy who sat next to him on the train, and his great idea to make money, on the internet. "Really?" Obama said, shifting in his seat, "That's great." "It really is great!" the guy on the train said, "I'll tell you how I came up with it!" Then he spoke for three more hours! But what was Obama's choice? Talk to Joe Biden? At least now the President knows what it's like to travel by train in America. This is why I sit in the quiet car.

Anyway, panel discussion. Donna Brazile is pro-big, pro-bold. She will make economic recovery her "boo." And that's got a lot of appeal. Will waxes nostalgic about the romantic notions of the Presidency, which is his way of saying that he spooned with Obama on his couch, each man wearing a monogrammed Slanket.

Dionne calls Bush, "Obama's Herbert Hoover," and because of that, he'll get a long honeymoon, because people will look at the Bush administration and say, "Yeah, there was a LOT of straight up effing up."


Donna Brazile says that Bush was a "big void in Washington," which Obama will now fill with Hope, and the remains of Mark Penn.

My pool report updates say that Obama and Biden went to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier this morning, to lay a wreath. Taps was apparently played. One of the lovely things about my apartment is that on clear nights, I can hear taps being played from across town when I have my window open. I do not have my window open today, because it is negative five billion degrees. It seems like rote tradition to visit Arlington Cemetery, but it's comforting to know our leaders make this effort, because they soon find themselves in the position to order other men and women to die for this country, and, as such, those orders should not be taken lightly.

And, speaking of, we're back to the panel, to talk about President Bush, and Matthew Dowd is there now! Dowd is rueful about the plummet Bush's approval ratings took, and offers the Roberts/Alito appointments and his AIDS work in Africa, which is significant, and could me even more significant when it's not subject to antiquated religious hoo-hah. Will laments there wasn't a serious approach to Iraq, but that Bush might be thought of differently if in twento years, Iraq is a healthy state. Will says that the two names that haunt the GOP are Harriet Miers and Terri Schiavo - "frivolous" errors, to Will.

Ifill says that the unavoidable element to every discussion during the Bush administration was the rift or Blue and Red America, and that rift toxified everything. But, as GS points out, the goal of the Bush White House was to expand the Red. The opposite occurred. And that's probably because the White House was a political-base-expansion apparatus instead of a judge-us-by-our-policy apparatus.

Brazile recently met with Bush yet, and characterizes him as a "nice guy" who maybe hasn't done a thorough self-reckoning yet. I sort of wonder what Bush's life is going to be like, from here on out.

Dionne says that Obama's task is going to be keeping hopes high and expectations low. That is basically what I say to myself every day, while I wait for the bus. Because here I am, waiting for a bus. Ifill notes that Obama probably HAS to dampen expectations, and she could be right! One possible outcome of the first term is that Obama could make a lot of correct calls that do not yield sexy, visible effects by election day, and then you really are running on, "Trust me, this is all working!"

Will, meanwhile, is pretty sanguine about the political shift. "The Repiblicans need to have ideas for when things don't work out, and when things do work out, then that's great!"

By the way! Two shows now and nothing on Gaza! That's because the cease fire is coming right where it was predicted to come. That was all about getting votes, by the way, and February elections, and some politicians who needed a little burnishing on their reputations for bellicosity, and a great example of an issue whose existence is more important than its solution. When politicians need the people who live in Sderot to be endangered, the people who live in Sderot stay endangered. The end.


Maybe this will be the last Meet The Press for a while, since it's been pretty awful of late. Maybe I'll start TiVoing that new CNN stuff instead. Of course, that stuff goes on forever, all Sunday long. Maybe I'll just do that next week. Or maybe I can liveblog some other things. Like LOST reruns. Or Guthy Renker on CNBC. Or I can talk about Battlestar Galactica, but cryptically, so as to avoid ruining it for anyone who hasn't seen it. (By the way: Can you believe that after all the buildup, THAT person was the final YOU-KNOW-WHAT? Or that THAT PLACE turned out to be populated by THOSE GUYS, who went to farmer's markets in DUMBO, apparently, until THAT THING HAPPENED to THOSE GUYS which caused all THAT OTHER STUFF? I was blown away! And as usual, it "raised more questions than it did answers."

Anyway, MEET THE WHOEVER, with your host "STRETCH."

Someone need to tell Stretch to stop recording "Our issues this Sunday!" in that plaintive, reedy voice of his! Use your "newsman" voice, dude.

Anyway, Rahm Emanuel will be on the show, castrating his foes. And Tom Brokaw will be back with David Brooks, Chuck Todd, Tavis Smiley, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, with whom History must file forms in triplicate before it is allowed to happen.

But first, Rahm. What is Obama going to say on Tuesday? Rahm says the you will hear "a time and a place that we all have in an era od responsibility, a culture of round the world, and leaders leading by example, in boardrooms, restore value systems and give to your country EQUALS GREATNESS." Then he repeats those platitudes again. Because that's how Rahm does these things. Whether he knows what he's talking about, or just mashing words together, like today. He has a system for answering questions, and here it is:

STRETCH: I have a question.

RAHM: Here is the answer. Hope you like it.

STRETCH: Let me followup.

RAHM: HAHA. That's so nice for you! Yes. My answer, again, with fewer modifiers and colorful quotable rhetoric.

STRETCH: But Rahm, another followup.

RAHM: Okay, stretch, here's the same answer I gave twice already, but in a tone of voice that says, "Hey. Guess what. I think that I am going to quietly choke the life out of you with my bare hands. That would, I think, be fun for me."

"The era of big government is back in a big way," Gregory says. LOOK AT MAH CHARTZ! THEY HAVE BIG OL' NUMBERS. YOU CAN HAZ! And, Gregory says that this is $17,000 in debt on the back of each household. Rahm says, yeah, yeah. Debt. We inherit some, and we got to add to the obligation, in order to get people into jobs. "Here's what that chart can't tell you," Rahm says, "We haven't approached this problem on a two-front basis." Which means: get banks to lend money, and spur infrastructure recovery.

BUT STRETCH AND TAX CUTS! Last week, he was like: RAISING TAXES ON THE RICH, isn't that a bad idea? This week, he is: LOWERING TAXES ON THE NOT RICH, isn't that a bad idea.

Stretch does run down some pork-y sort of things to ask, are these stimulus. One of them is Pell grants, and Rahm drops all over him like a ton of schoolmarm: "Why I am shocked at you, David Gregory! Would either of us be here if we didn't go to college?" Gregory is all "Is that a shovel ready job? Is that a shovel ready job?" It lays the foundation for a stronger economy, Rahm says. Anyway, now Rahm's filibustered away the time we could have spent talking about money for the NEA or "habitat restoration" or I forget what else. Though, I'd point out that someone, presumably must be hired to do "habitat restoration" and that Bartok's String Quartet No. 6 is a shovel-ready project if you are a violinist!

Anyway, Emanuel gets the conversation back around to the general: infrastructure, energy independence, jobs, middle-class tax cuts, we're open to ideas, so long as they are good ones. He finds it ironic that the deficit spending criticism is coming from the people who put us into the deficit.

So Timothy Geithner! Let's talk about him! Man, is Mary Schapiro getting off lightly! Anyway, Rahm says that only Tim Geithner can save us. What if Yoda had made some tax mistakes? Would that discredit the Jedi training luke received? Well, maybe if Jedi training hinged on whether one understood the emplioyee manual at the International Monetary Fund. That, by the way, would probably appeal to George Lucas as a riveting prequel to the prequel episodes.

Anyway, Roland Burris is a Senator, SO BURN ON YOU RAHM. Rahm is all: "Well, whoop-de-doo, he's the Senator." But what about all your calls with that red-devil Blagojevich? Rahm said that he had general conversations about possible Senate candidates with Blago's Chief of Staff. Was there any impression that Blago wanted something in exchange for picking a preferred candidate? Rahm says he was not under that impression. So Stretch asks if he can explain why Blago talked about how he was only going to get "appreciation" from Obama, and "F*** him." Rahm is all: "Do I look like Blago's brain or his lungs or his larynx, or his mouth, filled with teeth, tongue and palate, used to form words? Because I am not, and maybe if you want an answer to your question, idiot, you should ask Blagojevich." Then he tells DG that his question is crazy and that answering it would be crazy. OH I HOPE RAHM KILLS EVERYONE, IN THE MEDIA.

Stretch wants to know if it's "beyond dispute" that President Bush kept America safe. Rahm plays it diplomatically, saying that all the public servants in the outgoing White House worked everyday with the specter of a new 9-11 over their heads, and they worked very hard and very professionally. But that doesn't necessarily mean that invading Iraq, for example, was a good idea or a contributing factor to the success of ongoing efforts to keep the country safe.

Finally, will Rahm Emanuel crush everyone who gets in his way, leaving a trail of blood behind him? Will he actually be seen, in the White House, dripping with the viscera of his political opponents, howling at the full moon for more, more, more innards of his enemies, to sate his thirst for vindication? Rahm says no. BUT I'D WATCH OUT ALL THE SAME.

And now, Panel Time. Remember how Tom Brokaw said the show needed some new blood, blood of youth? Here's Tom Brokaw, anyway! So much new, young blood on this panel!

I'm going to see if any questions that follow can be considered beyond cliche through a mix and match. Here's a list of the panelists and what sorts of matters I expect they will hold forth on, because MEET THE PRESS lacks any imagination whatsoever. PROVE ME WRONG MEET THE PRESS!

A: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Arbiter of Historical Hoopla
B. Tom Brokaw, Renderer of Gravel-Throated Perspective
C. David Brooks, Fusty Bringer of Conservative Contrarianism, Anthropological Observer Of Middle-Class Mores (Wants To Be Liked, Desperately!)
D. Tavis Smiley, Black Guy, Blackifying On Blackness
E. Chuck Todd, One Foot In The Airy Historic, One Clasped To Earthbound Political Pettiness.

First question: "This is in many ways a day about poetry, not prose, how do you capture the moment."

This goes to Doris Kearns Goodwin, Arbiter of Historical Hoopla. She says nothing surprising.

Second question: Same one!

This goes to Tom Brokaw, Renderer of Gravel-Throated Perspective. He says nothing surprising.

Third question: Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? How about that? He would have been 80? Barack Obama is African-American, and stuff!

This goes to Tavis Smiley, Black Guy, Blackifying On Blackness. He says Obama is a "downpayment on King's dream, not a fulfillment," which is a smart and interesting thing to say. He also wants to know how Obama will inspire us to spend, "our engagement dividend." That is also a fine observation! Harness the Chesley Sullenberger in all of us.

Fourth question: NBC has a video clip, of Obama speaking. Will it be a preview of the speech on Tuesday. This is a "process" question, so...

It naturally goes to Chuck Todd, with One Foot In The Airy Historic, One Clasped To Earthbound Political Pettiness. He answers: Yes.

The next question will likely go to David Brooks! How David Brooksian will it be?

Fifth question: How does Obama capture the moment that he is in? This is not a good question for:

David Brooks, Fusty Bringer of Conservative Contrarianism, Anthropological Observer Of Middle-Class Mores (Wants To Be Liked, Desperately!)

It would be better suited to Doris Kearns Goodwin, Arbiter of Historical Hoopla, or Tom Brokaw, Renderer of Gravel-Throated Perspective. But, remember, Brooks Wants To Be Liked, Desperately, so he gets a Goodwinian/Brokavian question, instead. He mentions "independence from ideology/sixties sucked/entitlement reform/poised to be a great president" - so: conservative contrarianism.

Sixth Question: Everyone's making Abe Lincoln comparisons. How about that?

Obviously, this is going to Doris Kearns Goodwin, Arbiter of Historical Hoopla, who says nothing suprising, but does so for a long time, bringing us closer to the end of the show.

Seventh question: Obama is the champion of the left, but is emerging as a moderate, how about that?

Hey, in a surprise move, this goes to Tavis Smiley! Cliches dictate that this question go to Brokaw or Brooks. Smiley, sadly, dodges the question to tail onto Goodwin's point, which renders his answer rather unsurprising. Though, we add points for not engaging the whole "OMG, he's a centrist now!" debate.

Tom Brokaw interrupts without a question, because he is a Renderer of Gravel-Throated Perspective, and so he talks about the Battle of Bull Run and stuff. Then he says Obama will be inaugurated, and that's "when the rubber hits the road, to use a cheap cliche." Oh, Tom. They're all cheap cliches! Also, Tom Brokaw went to a fancy party this weekend, and talked about New Hampshire.

Brooks wants to make a "Lincoln point." And a point about the Middle Class. He has fulfilled his destiny.

The Eighth Question is about World War Two. Duh, Tom Brokaw, duh. He wrote books about World War Two and stuff.

The Ninth Question is a Process Question. So it goes to Chuck Todd, One Foot In The Airy Historic, One Clasped To Earthbound Political Pettiness. He says Obama is an "appeaser, but not in a Neville Chamberlain sense." This will give every right-wing blogger a hard-on, as they leave off the "not in a Neville Chamberlain" part. Todd decries "hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit" like Third Way, and Harry Reid, and Rex Sorgatz.

Tavis Smiley and Tom Brokaw sort of dance all over David Brooks' territory.

The Tenth Question is about Rick Warren, and Guantanamo. Should we keep Gitmo open, and put Rick Warren there? No. Probably not. I mean, that's fun to fantasize about, so imagine that. But we shouldn't imprison anyone without a trial and torture them, even Rick Warren, who should otherwise be shunned. Also, David Brooks says some stuff.

The Eleventh Question is about an article about Tavis Smiley and New Orleans, and Katrina, and Obama not pandering to black leaders. What does Tavis Smiley, Black Guy, has to say about Tavis Smiley, Black Guy. Smiley says nothing that surprising. Goodwin adds some Historical Hoopla.

And that's it! You know, Meet The Press is really not all that bad when you find a way to be mindlessly reductive about it! That brings us to the end, and now I must make my own Inaugural preparations and stuff. I hope everyone enjoy sthe festivities, either up close or somewhere warm, and next week, we'll have our first Sunday of Hope and Change, I guess. Have a great week.