TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Morning liveblog, the first such liveblog of the Barack Obama Administration. As such, here's some news about exciting new changes: HA HA KIDDING I have no exciting new changes, sorry. Though I suppose I could have spent my Inauguration Day coming up with ways to turn this liveblog into a "shovel-ready" "infrastructure project" so that I could become a "slumdog millionaire," but if you follow me on Twitter, you'd know that there was this thing called the Purple Ticket Line on Inauguration Day. I was in that line, getting ambulances driven at me. As such, the time I could have spent contemplating new innovations for this liveblog were instead spent inventing intricate and delicate punishments for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. You people realize you could take over Washington, DC with about twenty guys and a stack of garbage can lids, right? Anyway, no changes. There's a different group of people who'll try to run game on us every Sunday, as the same dull panels spin their dullness around and around forever, until we become too senile to care, the end.

As usual, send emails, leave comments, and pass along your favorite crock pot recipes. Yes, let's become a cooking blog, why not?


Hey! It's John McCain! He looks happy. He did Obama a solid in helping to push the Clinton nomination along. But what's his role? He says that it's to be the "loyal opposition" and to stand up for values, just as soon as he decides what his values are. But how can he "help" Obama? One way is Afghanistan, and McCain is saying more or less the right stuff, talking about mapping out a plan, carefully noting that Iraq strategy might not work there...that could prove to be a vital partnership. Something else McCain will spend the next four years doing? Not offering Sarah Palin any particular amount of help.

McCain says he can't vote for the stimulus package, as written, because it's porky and not Graham-Rudmanny enough. "There's got to be some sort of litmus to whether or not something will stimulate the economy," he says. Yeah, but you need to stop reading the litmus tests provided by the Heritage Institute. "As far as I know, no Republican proposal has been incorporated," McCain says. That's incorrect. There are business tax cuts in the bill and a shift in emphasis from rail to highways. McCain doesn't say if he'll consider a filibuster.

Wallace wants to know if closing Gitmo makes the "War On Terror" into a law enforcement affair, and is that fair. McCain says no, that's not a fair assessment, Gitmo's a symbol of moral bankruptcy and should be closed.

How does McCain feel about people getting prosecuted for torture? McCain wants to move forward. I am going out this afternoon to knock over a jewelry store. And if I'm caught, and tried, I am going to take the stand and say, "Look. We need to move forward. In this economy, America cannot afford a trial that will lessen its morale. Let's get past this, and heal together." And if that didn't work, I'd pull some Blago shizz, and talk about cowboys, and lynching.

Meanwhile, Bill Lynn. This Obama appointment is horse manure. He set up his ethical tests, and now he's got to appoint people that past these tests. Why have them? What's Bill Lynn done to warrant an exception? I mean, if Bill Lynn landed a plane safely on the Hudson River, then sure, let's grab some of that mojo.

Oh, and John McCain hates the Palins, forever.

Now, Chuck Schumer is here, and he says the "air of bipartisanship is in the air." Chris Wallace starts arguing about the stimulus, but he appears to be using a CBO report that does not exist.

Chris Wallace seems to be aggrieved that the Democrats have more votes in Congress, and doesn't understand why the Republicans don't simply get to have their way on everything. Granted, in certain iterations of the recent "Democratic Congressional Majorities," they have. But, anyway, that's what happens when you lose elections.

Meanwhile, Caroline Kennedy. WTF. Schumer says that Kennedy is smart and hardworking, but she decided not to run. Of course, there was no "running." That implies an election was happening. Wallace wonders if there wasn't something more to Kennedy's decision, and of course there was! But we're all agreeing to look past it. Meanwhile, Kirsten Gillebrand and David Paterson must start building themselves their mighty Giuliani firewall.

And now, Panel Time! How is Obama doing, with all that bipartisanship. Brit Hume says that we will never know how the economy recovered, when it recovers, so who knows what the stimulus package will accomplish. "This one's big enough to do real harm," he says, meanwhile, the last one did no real good. Kristol says this debate is going badly for the Democrats, and he's right to a certain extent: the bill may well end up being an great achievement in political comity. Obama could walk away with an exciting victory on that front. What I'm not sure of is whether this bill will be a victory in the arena of stimulating the economy. I'd settle for a lot less political comity. Who cares about party line votes? If you are right, people will remember you for being right. Bipartisanship is a cover-your-ass tactic when you're not sure you're right.

Hume believes that we'll one day realize that "enhanced interrogation techniques" really did help America in the seven years after 9/11. I would like to say that I believe Hume will one day realize that NOT USING these techniques really did help America in the seven years after the first attack on the World Trade Center, and, past that, Presidents should take their Daily Security Briefing seriously.. I'd like to believe that, but this is Brit Hume we're talking about.

Caroline Kennedy! Hume says Paterson dumped her. Liasson says the endgame was "lame and really really unseemly." She also says that the Governor comes out of this with a "big black eye." Titter. Titter.

Does this show the double standard vis a vis Sarah Palin? Juan Williams points out that a) Palin was running for Vice President, and b) the national media was all over Kennedy, beating her with sticks. Then Bill Kristol does his "I'm the last man in America who still thinks Sarah Palin will be president one day."

Finally, we get to some BLAGOJEVICH. Blago's the one guy who's turning me into a total whore. I cannot get enough of his nonsensical surrealist comedy act. Brit Hume, though, is Blago's earnest defender, because in his eyes, Patrick Fitzgerald is a serial embellisher of the truth. Oh, Brit Hume! You and your angry, potato-shaped head need to get over it! You don't want to be the sober guy in Blago's corner.

Anyway, what's next? Oh, let's do something different today!


Today, instead of the usual massively ambitious meal Bob Schieffer sets up, he's, you know, JUST going to interview Joe Biden. This is his 54th appearance on Face the Nation, which only scratches the surface of what Joe Biden can, will, should, shouldn't, can't, won't and doesn't say.

Will Joe Biden become America's next Dick Cheney, with man-sized safes and vial upon vial of baby tears, to slake his unquenchable thirst with? No. He will be an advisor to the president, with value-added judgment and synergistic confidantery.

So, what's up with our faltering economy? "Getting worse every day," Biden says. The good news is that Obama acted swiftly on a stimulus package. But will it be effective? Biden gets into a general discussion on what might make the package effective as a vehicle for bipartisanship, but there's no real sense of what the package will do. To be fair, Schieffer doesn't ask that question. But I don't care if the bill has "strong support." I just want a good bill. If the best bill has "weak support," so what? That means you get to go back and tell a whole lot of people that they effed up, and guess what, come election time, they're gonna be famous for their weak support.

Anyway, three more minutes of the "genuine effort" to make everyone happy. Bah.

Biden thinks that Timothy Geithner is "one of the most talented men" of the "the past twenty years" and that "most people would agree." I have no working idea what Geithner's "talents" are. Anyone who thinks that know what makes Tim Geithner so crazy talented should let me know. Try to restrict yourselves to things that only Tim Geithner could do. Stuff that there isn't another human being on the planet who could do as well. I don't expect to hear very much!

What about Gitmo? Will they release people inside the United States. Biden says, no, most aren't American citizens. They'll be going to other countries. They are examining each case individually, to see "what they've inherited." Some countries have already agreed to take these presidents. Biden believes that they can get the prison closed within a year.

Biden's also recently returned from the Afghan/Pakistan area. With this week's missile strike in mind, Biden reiterates that Obama has always promised to go after al Qaeda if there was actionable intelligence. Biden says the good news is that they are making progress in training up local forces in COIN strategy - and that this is growing more and more effective. And, hey: intel behind that last missile strike had to come from somewhere. Biden is otherwise playing it close to the vest. There may be something more to say about the strategic effort in that region in the next month or so.

Should we expect more American casualties in the Afghan theatre? Biden says yes. Unfortunately. Our forces will have to engage the enemy militarily. We'll see some resistance to these efforts.

Biden talks about the future of Iraq in terms of a needed political reconciliation, and says that Iraq may be in the "Articles of Confederation" stage. But! The Iraqis managed to vote on the Status of Forces Agreement, we are complying with the agreement, we'll have to see if U.S. Forces are the stumbling block or the linchpin to holding Iraq together, politically. I think that there will be a little from column A, a little from column B, myself. Hopefully the balance will fall heavily on the functionality of the Iraqi government, and not the dysfunction. Not a lot of talk about the Kurds, lately, you know. They've got their own designs on the future, and are more institutionally advanced than the other factions.

Anyway, Bob Schieffer gives a nice statement about the end of immoral practices, putting him on Team End Torture. Hooray, Bob!


Today's Chris Matthews Show panel features Kelly O'Donnell, Bob Woodward, Ann Kornblut (who looks tense!), and Howard Fineman.

First things first! Obama's had a smartly choreographed week! Outside of the whole swearing in thing and the music, neither of which should rate too much attention. It was really funny on Friday watching CNN just CHASE DOWN that canned music story. OMG! That was a recording! And so we heard about this Yo Yo Ma-sync scandal, from anchors, each of whom had an earpiece in the their, through which producers told them what to say. None dare call this ironic, I guess! Anyway, this is, is Spoon sings, "Small Stakes."

Bob Woodward is excited about diplomacy and unclenching fists. "This is the big difference because Bush and Cheney did not like diplomacy, Obama and Hillary love it." They like diplomacy, and they put a ring on it. PUT YOUR HANDS UP, IF YOUR FIST'S NOT CLENCHED.

Kornblut talks about the White House, and I cannot understand a word she's saying because she is talking WAY TOO FAST. Like faster than Blagojevich! Something about dingy basements and bowling alleys. NO IDEA WHAT SHE'S TALKING ABOUT.

Now Bob Woodward is talking about Gerald Ford, and his technique for toasting English Muffins. Just another amazing story that Bob Woodward has BLOWN THE LID OFF OF. Somehow, English muffins speak to the burdens of the Presidency.

Also, the economy. Can the president, "undergird the markets" with confidence? The "Matthews Meter" says no. And they're probably right! The presidency is not some sort of underwire, holding the pendulous orbs of our economy aloft, making them look fabulous, yet hopefully not trampy.

"Certainly, people on Capitol Hill are concerned about" the economy, says O'Donnell, who has some NASCAR metaphors. "But can this work?"

Wait, rewind: "One of the things Clinton and Bush can teach Obama is that you have to be a strategic thinker." Eeeg. I hope they mean, "politically." The absence of foreign policy strategy, or, if you prefer, the presence of foreign policy "strategery" is something I'm looking forward to moving past. Funnily, I'm much more satisfied with what Obama's been doing on the foreign policy front than I am on the economic front.

OK. Kornblut's speaking a little slower now, talking about how Obama wants to pass the stimulus package with a beautiful pageant of bipartisanship.

Howard Fineman is talking now. I forgot he was on the show! The Republicans are "a lot more partisan than I expected them to be." Ha, really?

There are stones and stomachs and bungee cords and vomit metaphors, I guess. Anyway. The economy: can bipartisanship save it? I think there were a LOT of party-line votes during the Bush years, and, in the end, it wasn't the quality of the bipartisanship that did the GOP in. In fact, Bush got to rule for two terms! It was the quality of the policy that undid them.

Anyway, speaking of undoing, will Obama be taking on the torturers and wiretappers? Woodward says that Obama will not be mounting investigations, but that these immoral tactics shall not be used. O'Donnell says there's no "political upside." Yes, who needs "upholding the law" when one can have "political upside." AT my larceny trial, that'll be one of my arguments also: "Where's the political upside in granting this jewelry store relief?"

Woodward wonders, "who will we prosecute?" The people who committed the acts or the people who gave the orders? Well, the fish rots from the head, doesn't it? Who'd have thought that you'd have to explain this stuff to a guy best known for taking Nixon down! Is Woodward like the dude from Memento, unable to retain short term memory, having to reinvent the wheel of living his life a hundred times a day?

Things Chris Matthews doesn't know! O'Donnell says that Caroline Kennedy may have some sort of political future. Bob Woodward says, "This may be tantalizing but vague," which will probably go on his tombstone. He alludes that the "household tax problems are not over for the Obama administration." Ann Kornblut avers that she can't "top that," but she says that the most exciting political story of the coming month will be the race to replace Gillebrand in the Congress. What about Blago? Fineman says he has something "not tantalizing, but specific." Snarky! Keep your eye on Richard Holbrooke, he says. He's going to be taking on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. That's something Chris Matthews didn't know? I've known about that for weeks, now.

This commercial where New York Times readers talk about what sections of the paper they are "fluent" in is so preposterously pretentious that it makes me want to beat New York Times readers, with sticks - sticks grown on my BEAT PEOPLE WITH THESE STICKS stick farm. Come visit it sometime! Harvest your own stick. Beat someone with it. Then, when you are arrested, tell people that they should "look forward!"

Anyway, Bush left behind a letter for Obama. What was in it? O'Donnell says Bush was all gracious. Woodward also says graciousness - and also upbeat and reflective, like a mirror, from whence cocaine is snorted. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Bush is going to enjoy himself soem cocaine, finally. Kornblut says, "I bet you there was something funny in there." Like, what? The scent of a fart? Fineman says, "I bet the word 'prayer' was mentioned." Matthews says, "I bet he said to hug your family." So, yeah! There's five minutes of rumination on a letter we'll never get to see from a celebrated nincompoop, who will get to enjoy some cocaine maybe, because why not.


I was totally set to do nothing today but watch John King, forever, but I got a bunch of emails saying NO NO PLEASE, don't stop watching Meet The Press, we needs it! Okay, but King himself, last Monday night, to my face said that he was gonna be bringing it on Sundays, and that I should definitely watch. Well, for all I know, there's some genius stuff going on over there, but I am going to watch MEET THE FRAKKING PRESS, because I think what most people like about this liveblog is the damage it does to my health, sanity and longevity. Somehow, I think I deserve to get this qualified as a "dirty job" so I can make Mike Rowe do it for a week.

Anyway, here's Meet The Pranging. Today's prangings! Lawrence Summers! John Boehner! Gitmo! And a panel with teenage airhead Thomas Friedman, Stephen "Human Blood Dripping From My Hands, Endlessly, Which I Sup Upon, For Nourishment" Hayes, and Michelle "Consider All Of These Things" Norris. One of those nicknames is a total shout out, to Chris Lehmann, whose legendary band The Charm Offensive, will be playing The Red And The Black (1212 H Street, NE, Washington DC) on February 12 at 9pm, with Finding Fiction and The Slow Learners and YOU SHOULD GO TO THIS SHOW. Pretend it is the Inauguration, and you have a purple ticket.

Anyway, Lawrence Summers is here, to talk about the stimulus package. Will it be enough? Gregory's got some GOTCHA that says that Summers said that not doing enough would be more dangerous than doing nothing. Or something like that! Why not more stimulus! Why not pump the economy full of many quintibillions of dollars? Summers says that it's the biggest stimulus package, ever. It's like, the Guinness Record Holder for stimulus packages. And that Obama has Other Plans in a Multifaceted and Systemic Approach to saving everyone's bacon.

The economy, Summers says, needs to be stimulated tenderly, yet firmly. Sensitively, yet strongly. With warming gels and feathers and a delicate eye for what works. This won't be the sort of stimulus package that says, let's dig right at the clitoris of this economy, because we are "shovel-ready." No, no. There will be foreplay, followed by a gentle lead up to solid yet exciting stimulus, that will inspire the economy to put out over a long period of time rather than in a single tidal wrack of explosive discharge. Afterwards, the economy will be cuddled and spooned with, because it's important to send the message to the economy that it can learn to trust again, that it's in a safe place now, and that the Obama administration isn't going to be like all the other people who have tried to stimulate it before, only to find out days later that their rate of interest keeps dropping and dropping, as if that's all they know how to do - beg the most from the economy and then start cutting back.

No idea how Larry Summers is going to fit into all of that, since he's not very good with women.

David Gregory reads Summers some more WaPo GOTCHA about the spending priorities in the bill, and, unsurprisingly, Summers does not agree with the Post, because cops are getting laid off and saving their jobs saves the economy. Kids losing their college opportunity hurts the economy. Summers especially likes, the balanced approach, Obama has taken. Let's hope the economy gives extra points for bipartisanship! Let's hope the economy says, "Well, ordinarily, the laws that govern the economy don't support these strategies, but because EVERYONE WAS SO GOSH DARN AGREEABLE ABOUT IT, we'll give everyone some extra gold stars." These will be gold subprime stars though, so don't take them!

"The President has vowed that there will be taxcuts for 95% of Americans," Summers reminds. Gregory, who loves him some Bush tax cuts - I mean, EVERY WEEK THIS GUY AND HIS GODDAMNED LOVEMAKING TO THE BUSH TAX CUTS - wonders why Obama's tax cuts should happen if the Bush tax cuts are going to expire. This is where you'd like Summers to say, "BECAUSE WE WON AND YOU LOST."

Anyway, Summers strives to be reasonable, instead. He also promises that Obama will utilize the TARP in a different way than did Bush and Paulson. "If the government now owns the banks, why can't you just make them lend?" Gregory wonders. Summers dodges the question by mocking the Bush administration, and then finally says that it's not a fair characterization to call the government the owners of the banks. That's, perhaps, more indicative of the fact that we made bad investments, or the wrong kind of investment, than whether putting taxpayer money into banks is smart or not. If the government was coming back with equity or a significant return on the investment, for taxpayers, no one would complain, outside of those who complain on principle. But we haven't come back with anything because we haven't spent this money the way, say, Warren Buffet spends his money.

"What do you say to someone who's trying to prepare for their future...who's lost confidence?" Gregory asks. Summers responds by saying "Platitude platitutde blah blah vapid blah blah talking point stump speech, blah." But the next few months are going to be bad. I think everyone's set their sights on that hopeful, but maybe too optimistic, July 09 recovery mark. Anyway. Everyone needs to go to the store and buy some bipartisanship.

Now, we have John Boehner, and his robustly tanned faced. He thinks that there's slow moving spending that won't work. Also: not enough bipartisanblah. Every time he says, "ailing economy" it sounds like he's saying "alien economy." Which is funny! But let's look at Boehner's ideas, that he's going to bring to the White House next week:

--Let's let the American people keep more of what they earn. That's just a talking point that ensures tax payers get as little return for their investment as possible. The "people" aren't getting back, "what they earn" - "what they earn" is getting funnelled to the top earners.

--"Let's make sure there are incentives to invest in the economy, because government can't do this." I don't think this sentence actually HAS any meaning. It was a lovely container for the carbon dioxide Boehner just expelled, though!

--The $2 trillion dollar hole is too big for the $875 billion to fill, so we should do nothing, except provide incentives for businesses, like, what? More tax loopholes?

Anyway, as far as alien economies go, Boehner sounds like the one that's been cold rippin' up out of the stomachs of America for the past few years.

Gregory, points out says that Americans aren't spending or borrowing, they are saving their money, and doesn't that make the government the spender of last resort? Boehner says no: "If you give the taxpayer back more of what they'll earn, they'll either save it, spend it, or invest it, all of which are good for the economy." THIS ELIDES OVER THE QUESTION GREGORY ASKED IN THE FIRST PLACE. Americans will ONLY SAVE THAT MONEY. And that is a good idea! For the individual American! But it doesn't defibrillate the economy. Also, it just proves that individual Americans are not going to eschew their own self-interest to save the economy, either. I know I didn't! I took that $1200 bucks Bush gave me, paid down my debts, and sent him a nice letter that said, "Hey, Mr. President! SUCKER!" If anything, America cannot afford to keep giving me money like that, because I will save that money and screw America, right in the pants!

Anyway, that's what Boehner wants to do. Allow me to never stimulate the economy. At least give me some contraceptives, to distract myself with!

AGGH. Giving monies to the states allows them to put items back into their state budgets that keep people EMPLOYED and create infrastructure improvements that will be of great use when the economy recovers, fostering quick economic development and revitalizing dormant communities.

"Raising taxes on anyone in an ailing economy is wrong," Boehner says. And when the economy is doing well? I am guessing that it's wrong then as well! Anyway, it's a NET TAX CUT, nerd!

Will the stimulus package pass without Republican votes? Boehner says he won't vote for the package as is, and that "most Republicans" won't. So, all that means to me is that it passes the House as is, and if Reid has anything of any mass or density currently rattling around in his scrotum, it should get through the Senate as well. I think that most of this "Obama wants 80 votes in the Senate" talk is misinterpreted or downright apocryphal. Let's hope so! It's not likely to happen that often, and if 2010 rolls around and Nency Pelosi and Harry Reid are wobbling around from place to place begging America to give then an 80-vote majority, I'm just gonna give them the gas-face, because sooner or later, it's about their failure to lead, not America's failure to line up and vote the way they'd prefer.

What's the GOP's way back? Boehner says, basically, better PR. And, failing that, maybe some better solutions. Boehner is "rooting for Obama," though, because they need him to succeed. So, he'll get slagged on the right for saying that.

Oh boy! One more panel discussion and I can maybe read a book or go see a movie or something.

Michele Norris says that Obama's inauguralwas somber and that he told America that the worst part of the downturn was still to come. Friedman insists that consumers understand that something is different about these times, that we made a complexity on gloablization wrap and served it up to the world. And he's been dining out on his JAWS comparison, because no one's told him they're getting bored with it. Hayes says the risk for the Obama administration is...basically...that the JAWS metaphor might get even dumber, I guess. Hayes does make a good point that Bush, by agreeing to do all manner of bailing out, gave Obama a lot of cover to use.

Now, State Department, and the return of diplomacy. What can Obama do, say, in Gaza-slash-Israel? He's a huge fan of George Mitchell, he says, but Obama will have to "get involved," and I'm waiting to hear something that's not just rote nonsense...okay, Hamas needs to be part of the legit government...but Obama's called Hamas a "terror organization" and not a state. Norris points out that Obama called Abbas and then Olmert, which probably twisted Marty Peretz's panties well past the tourniquet-level of tightness in which he typically toddles around his pathetic editorial kingdom.

Now Gregory wants to make the point that closing Gitmo is "not so easy." Yes, HA HA, OBAMA. You can't just wave a magic wand and POOF! Gitmo! Just like you didn't promise, during the campaign! Honestly, I do not see what the beef here is. A year to shutter Gitmo? That sounds realistic to me! I have to assume that all the worry about how it will take a year to do is meant as an encouragement against doing it.

What about the "ethics waiver" granted to Bill Lynn? Terrible move from Obama! What meaning does his anti-lobbyist rhetoric even mean, if I guy like Lynn can take a job as Defense! If this appointment is defensible, it had better be a slam dunk. Bill Lynn had better be able to move comets with his brain or something! Because if he doesn't, all Obama can legitimately claim is to have less lobbyists in his administration.

Anyweay, I cannot wait for a day of Blagojevich tomorrow. That guy is a beautiful, scintillating nutlog. If you like you some Sunday liveblogging, please join us tomorrow for some exciting Blagoblogging.

Anyway, ARE YOU SATISFIED? Meet The Prangs, instead of John King's new CNN shizz. I hope that anyone who watched King's show will offer up their opinions in the comments. Actually, next week, let's say this: if anyone wants to peek in over there while I do the network shows, send us your highlights by email and we'll intersperse them throughout next week's liveblog. Remember: John King says he'll make it worth your while! Meanwhile, I'll keep watching MTP, at least for another week.

Anyway, enjoy your Sunday, and good luck with your own "stimulus packages."