TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Well, good morning everyone and welcome back to your Sunday morning liveblog of political yellery and pundit emissions. My name is Jason, and I have recently returned from the coastal wilds of Delaware, where I spent the week absorbing as little political news as I could possibly muster, building myself a near impermeable bubble of quiet reading and festive beach lazing and occasional food grilling and not-reading-anyone's-political-blog-or-newspaper.

Very little managed to penetrate that bubble. From what I can gather, various conservatives are fulminating about how Romney is doing terribly? Like the Wall Street Journal said that Romney was blowing it, or something? Because, as you know, every Republican strategist that Romney didn't hire thinks that they'd be twenty points up on Obama by now if Romney had hired them, just like a couple of weeks ago, every Democratic strategist that Obama didn't hire thought that they'd be twenty points up on Romney now? And so they are all whining to reporters and wetting the bed, and why are reporters talking to them at all? Because who else is there to talk to, I guess. Anyway, I understand that Bill Kristol got in on the "Romney is botching everything" bandwagon, which really doesn't speak well for that theory, because Kristol is so often comically wrong.

Also, I have gathered that every conservative is STILL sad because John Roberts isn't their boyfriend anymore? Is that going to stop soon, or are we literally in for "the complete series of Dawson's Creek" level of emo self-absorption? And I hear there was something that happened with the Higgs Boson particle, but not the whole "black hole devours the universe, starting with Switzerland" thing that everyone was worried about (except for, evidently, Switzerland).

Is the election even still going on? It seemed to me that we'd come to a point, before I left for a week, that maybe it was just time to quit while we were ahead, or something.

Anyway, I am very happy to be back. And very grateful to all of you. It appears that the Tour De France is pre-empting Meet The Press today. Thank you for that, international Spandex-clad bicycle gentlemen who everyone suspects are blood-doping! This will help me ease back into this process. As always you are invited to share some time with each other in the comments, drop me a line, or follow me on Twitter. I've not updated my Rebel Mouse page this week, but if you want to catch up on old stories, feel free. Okay, let us begin.


Oh, wow, someone named John Roberts is in for Chris Wallace today. Not the John Roberts who wears a bathrobe as part of his professional vocation that every Republican hates now, for some reason, but another white guy with slightly different, fuzzier hair and a paisley tie. He'll be talking about jobs. Oh, right! There was a jobs report this week, too! I am guessing that it wasn't good, because why should it be, since everyone gave up on having a plan for full employment this year, apparently under the belief that...I don't know? Maybe a magical dragon would solve this problem? Or we'd all re-grow gills and jump back into the oceans to die, choking on Deepwater Horizon poisons? Anyway, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (henceforth "DWS") and Reince Priebus (henceforth "Preebs") are here to tell at each other.

See, I'd hoped that I would have forgotten who those people are, but no luck!

Also there are some members of the House of Representatives here to yammer at each other, and later a panel discussion, like always.

Anyway, the jobs, there are not good. Let's let DWS and Preebs offer canned platitudes about it.

We begin with DWS, who drove from Florida to New Hampshire with her family and her dogs, insert Seamus joke. What's up with the economy, and its terribleness? DWS says that if "you look at where we were" job-wise before Obama took over, things were even more terrible, we are making progress thanks to the president's policies, and he can totally run on that record. Unless you have a record you can loan him? Maybe some classic Stax/Volt? Anyway, DWS says that we "haven't gone far enough" so we must "move forward" and Obama is "like a laser on getting the economy turned around."

Roberts points out that the U6 unemployment number is worse than the U4 unemployment number, and I hope we keep considering other metrics when the U4 number improves by dint of all the low-paying, no-benefit, sweatshop jobs at Amazon shipping facilities we add to the economy to "solve" unemployment. African-Americans are also faring poorly in the economy...maybe they will stay home and not vote, because that has historically always solved everything?

DWS says no, they won't stay home, and African-Americans and Hispanics are particularly engaged. Also, we are doing better now than we were in the Bush years. She adds that Romney is against saving the automobile industry and that is something that makes voters sad. And then there was like, two minutes of knotted platitudes.

Mitt Romney is mad that David Plouffe said that the poor jobs report was "what they expected," because it would have been preferable for Plouffe to have been caught unawares by it? DWS says that "everyone acknowledges that we have a long way to go" but we've "made progress" and nobody wants to "go back to the failed policies of the past." DWS really does not like Romney. She is happy about "28 straight months of job growth," but we "need to continue to improve." And did you hear that Mitt Romney wanted to let the auto industry go bankrupt? Well, she mentions it again. She also ties Romney to Paul Ryan's "Hunger Games" budgetpocalypse.

Roberts wants to know about manufacturing jobs, because while there has been some improvement in that sector, there is still a "net loss" in that sector. DWS says that in Ohio, there are lots of auto manufacturing jobs, and did she mention that ROMNEY EATS AUTO INDUSTRIES AND THEN DIGESTS THEM AND THEN POOPS THEM ON TOAST? Well, if she hadn't mentioned that in the past four or five seconds, she reminds us now. President Obama is committed to moving American forward. Romney, on the other hand, was a job killing robot from the dark side of the moon when he ran Massachusetts.

Roberts asks if DWS wants Obama compared along the same statistical lines that she uses when she cites Romney as 47th in the nation among governors in terms of job growth. (Those statistics are a total-term average.) DWS says, sure, because the Obama administration is at a "net positive" in terms of job growth now. Bush was a "net negative," so "we continue to move forward."

And she'd like Mitt Romney to release more tax returns, because of his Caymans holdings and "secretive Bermuda corporation that no one knows anything about." (It is SPECTRE, probably?)

"Why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account," she asks. I think it is to shelter huge sums of money from scrutiny and/or taxation? Though who knows, maybe it's awesome to have your money near the Higgs-Boson Particle?

Anyway, Roberts says that Romney's campaign says there's nothing to see here, about all those foreign investment shelters, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT.

Okay now it's Preebs' turn to yell about politics. Preebs says that DWS "is on Mars," and that "people are not better off today than they were four years ago." "We can numb everybody's mind with the numbers," he says. No worries, Preebs! I am numbing my mind with Diazepam and a ball peen hammer, like every Sunday!

Preebs says that there are lots of people unemployed, and the stimulus was terrible, and do you remember how they predicted that unemployment would be a lot lower? Well, a prediction is now a promise, and when predictions fail to materialize, people should be put to death. What's up with all the "hoping for a future," stuff anyway? We shall all end in fire. Or ice? Or in a black hole in Switzerland.

Anyway, Preebs is so mad that he's breaking the bonds of contemporary sentence structure and will "end the dream of theirs and fire Barack Obama and save Gotham City from Bane." I think that's what he said? He definitely said that Mitt Romney is an anthropomorphic stimulus plan. Romney makes all things priapic.

Preebs says "this jobs number is so bad!" And DWS is wrong about how this recovery stacks up to other recoveries. And Obama is "small ball" and "nastiness and division" and blah, class warfare, etc. Preebs says that, "It's not a matter of 'can Mitt Romney win,' Mitt Romney has to win for the sake of the very idea of America." Huh, what? I'm pretty sure the very idea of America is alive today, in all the chemical smells that cover up the fact that out fast food actually tastes like garbage.

Anyway, Reince Priebus is really getting all teen melodrama on us, today.

Roberts points out that the polling in the battleground states has Obama leading Romney, even on the economy. "Why can't Mitt Romney get some of that feeling?" he asks, in the weirdest constructed question of the year. Preebs says that Romney will totally get that feeling, yo, and there are "lots of polls," and in some of those polls, Romney is getting mad feeling, baby. So much feeling. Ipsos. Rasmussen. PPP. ARE YOU GETTING THAT FEELING YET?

Preebs says that "when the fireworks were going off people were excited about the country," but what happened when the fireworks stopped? (Everyone got stuck in traffic?)

Roberts asks Preebs, "Is this election going to be about Barack Obama or is it going to be about Mitt Romney?" He adds that John Boehner said that no one needs to like Romney to vote for him, just vote against Obama. Roberts asks if that means he'll fight a negative campaign?

Preebs says that the real issue is that Obama promised to "bring everyone together," but what happened to that? WHAT HAPPENED? Did you notice that no Republicans got on board with bringing everyone together? Totally Obama's fault, man.

"But what about Mitt Romney, though?" asks Roberts. "Sure," says Preebs. He protests that Romney is "all positive." And the election will totally be a referendum on Obama, and Romney is plenty adequate to be the replacement. And only Romney can keep America "going to the stars," with mescaline, I guess?

How does Preebs feel about Obama calling Romney an "outsourcer?" Because the Wall Street Journal basically called the Romney campaign a bunch of wimps, for letting "that charge go unanswered" and "squandering a historic opportunity." Preebs is totally having a sad about that. But Romney totally put out an ad with Hillary Clinton! Didn't you see that? (Wasn't that a negative ad, though, Preebs?) Anyway, Obama's ads are totally filled with lies, Preebs complains.

First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business…. Ads are agitprop…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context…. All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.

Thus, Priebus' complaints are out of bounds.

Priebus swears, though, that they won't let Obama define Romney.

"The only job that we need to outsource in this country is Barack Obama's job," says Priebus, who's really not one of those think-what-I'm-about-to-say-through-before-I-say-it-types, is he?

Now, for some reason, Fox News Sunday is going to waste a whole segment on Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-Calif) and Tom Price (R-Ga.), yelling about "Obamacare" and the Congressional efforts to repeal it. Just to review, the "repeal Obamacare" vote in the House is a purely ornamental vote, the second such vote that the House has taken. It will die either in the Senate or at Obama's desk and everybody knows it, the House just wants to waste everyone's time with a show that doesn't even include a descent tap break. Price hates the fact that lots of Americans have access to healthcare, Becerra is glad about it. They'll vote accordingly in this gimmick, and whoever actually brings the bill to the floor should probably reimburse the taxpayers.

Becerra thinks that Obama can run on his economic record. Price disagrees. The end.

Okay, panel time, with Bill Kristol and A.B. Stoddard and Chip Saltzman here to beat up and belittle poor Juan Williams, punditry's $2 million flagellant.

Jobs numbers! They are bad, lately. Is this going to be a problem for Obama? ANSWER: No. Obama is very wealthy and will always be wealthy and his family will always, always do awesome. Unemployment is actually a problem for millions of ordinary Americans. But, whatever, let's play along with Sunday morning's staggeringly low stakes!

Williams says, of course it will be a problem, because what if Obama doesn't get re-elected? He has to do all this "persuading" now, to get votes, and it's a total drag! No one could possibly understand this terrific burden.

Roberts thinks that the "tread water" line, in terms of job growth, is 125,000 jobs a month, but it's actually more like 140,000 jobs a month. But it's nice that everyone notices this, now. We've not done a particularly good job hitting the "tread water" line this century, actually.

Saltsman says that Obama is going to have problems, with the economy. "That's why this race is so close. It shouldn't be close, Mitt Romney should be doing better right now." But if it's Romney that should be doing better, then maybe there's a stronger factor than the economy keeping Romney down? Or, what now, Chip? It's hard to follow. (I think that the race is totally close in precisely the way you'd expect it to be close -- bad economy, but well-liked incumbent -- but I think that Saltsman is just setting up Kristol for some sort of "Romney is blowing it" lamentation.

Roberts is really trying to make this "black people will stay home on Election Day" thing happen, so Stoddard helpfully joins in, saying that African-Americans will definitely not be uplifted or inspired in 2012. (I think that's her way of saying that they will all be stricken from the voter rolls?)

"Obama will have to convince [African-Americans] that this is a long slog but that they're heading in the right direction," she says. Totally. I mean, African-Americans are pretty much used to having their basic rights and humanity immediately upheld, in America. This whole "long slog" might be a bit outside their collective human experience.

Kristol says that Obama is "holding his own" despite the bad economy, and he surmises that it's because poll respondents are less convinced that Romney has a plan to fix the economy than Obama does.

Kristol is basically chomping at the bit to get inside his glass case of emotion and talk about how awful Romney is, that Roberts is having to restrain him, because the second half of the panel is apparently entirely dedicated to that.

Why is Obama not "stung by these economic numbers?" Williams says that more people still blame Bush for the economy, and not Obama. He notes that's consistent, and overrides some of the ongoing anxiety of the present moment.

Fox News Sunday's cameras point at Bill Kristol for half of Williams monologue, as he leers at Williams in abject disgust that he is even talking, on the teevee. (Does Williams ever actually go back and watch this show? They treat him SO BAD!)

Saltsman says that people should stop blaming Bush. Because Presidents are like football coaches in the SEC, and they should get fired in three years if they haven't won a championship, which is of course the most reasonable thing in the world.

Stoddard just thinks that the people who respond in that way in polls just don't think Presidents control the economy. Uhm, if poll respondents affirmatively blame a president -- in this case, Bush -- for their economic woes, then by definition, they believe that Presidents affect the economy, A.B.

Anyway, now we'll have the part where Kristol does the piss-'n'-moan blues about the Romney campaign.

Kristol says that conservatives are frustrated. He doesn't care if Romney even solves healthcare, but he wants Romney to have plans, and stop playing "prevent defense."

"They are very risk-averse," says Bill Kristol, who apparently has not ever met Mitt Romney? I mean, all of Romney's "not ever taking a permanent stand on any issue ever" is how his risk-aversion manifests itself. Has Kristol not looked into how Romney came to run Bain? As Alex Pareene wrote in his "Rude Guide to Mitt Romney":

Here's an odd thing about Mitt Romney, hugely successful capitalist: He's incredibly risk-averse. He is not at all tempted by high-risk, high-reward opportunities. Mitt Romney likes to have all the available data and then take his time making the safest decision possible. So when [Bill] Bain asked him to run Bain Capital, Romney said no, because it was a new venture, and it might not work. So Bain had to promise Romney that if Bain Capital went bust, Romney could have his old job back -- with any raises and bonuses he missed -- and that an elaborate cover story would be invented to protect Romney from the blame. It was only then, once there was never any possibility of a less-than-comfortable end result, that Romney decided to embark on this new adventure.

So, risk-aversion is part of the deal, with that guy. Sorry you are so sad about it, Bill Kristol!

Kristol says that Romney's theory of the race is "not unintelligent" and he likes Eric Fehrnstrom just fine, so it's not clear what Bill Kristol wants them to do, besides not suck at politics.

Saltsman says that "he thinks Romney will get there" and will "end up doing really well." But you don't run for President to "end up doing very well." You run to win. Saltsman is basically saying, yeah, at this point, I think Romney definitely finishes no worse than second.

Williams says some nice things about Obama and bad things about Romney, but the camera doesn't cut away to Kristol, panting in disgust, except for just a few seconds.

Does Kristol think that Romney might pick a woman as Vice President? Sure, maybe Condi Rice, who knows? Stoddard disagrees, and says it will be Rob Portman. Saltsman agrees with Stoddard. Williams says that Kelly Ayotte would be he more probably Romney running-mate. Aren't Portman and Ayotte also the only two people in America who have said they'd be willing to do this? Oh, who cares. The segment is over.


Oh, so today, THIS WEEK is hosted by the white guy with the supple, pillowy lips. Jonathan Karl, I think? And Bobby Jindal and Martin O'Malley will yell at one another.

"Jindal versus O'Malley -- only on THIS WEEK," says Karl, as if that was some sort of attraction.

"Hey, honey, would you like to go [insert the name of any activity in the world that humans might conceivably spend time doing]."

"Not now, sweetie. It's Jindal versus O'Malley! We're going to lockdown! Set condition one, throughout the apartment!"

THIS WEEK will also talk about the heatwave. And Mort Zuckerman will be on the roundtable, helping to enunciate the concerns of rich dimwits. It's really a full plate that does not in any way make me regret waking up this morning.

Oh, ha! This is Terry Moran hosting, not Jonathan Karl. Is Karl the one with the glasses? I can't even remember. Maybe Jonathan Karl is just a person I made up, from dreams I had about the internet. Anyway, Terry Moran, welcome, to whatever this is.

"George Stephanopoulos has a well-deserved morning off," Moran says. Why is it that whenever I watch this show, he is always off? And does he actually deserve to have all this time off?

Anyway, if Stephanopoulos was smart, he said, "What, you booked Bobby Jindal and Martin O'Malley? Yeah, I'll pass. I'm not coming to the Newseum for that crap. Just have the white guy who isn't Jonathan Karl do it. Jonathan Karl. K-A-R-L. No, I swear, that guy works for our news station."

Anyway, the jobs numbers are terrible and Terry Moran has noticed and made an infographic. O'Malley responds by saying that "we faced the biggest job losses since the Great Depression...George W. Bush and his failed policies...but now we have 28 months in a row of private-sector job would be great if it was happening faster...but forward, forward, forward." It's like "forward" is a campaign slogan or something.

Jindal says that "by any measure, Obama has been a failure" and Obama himself said that he should be thrown out of office if he didn't turn it around. Jindal recites the exact same things that Preebs said earlier today, including the Einstein "insanity" quote and the failure of the Obama team's 5.5% unemployment prediction. O'Malley objects Jindal's response, naturally, because this is exciting television.

Moran notes that Karl Rove keeps putting out ads about the economy, as if he wanted to campaign against him, or something.

Does Obama not "own" this economy? Or is he "pwned" by it? O'Malley says that he "owns" all of the good things, like leadership and experience and handshakes and smiles. Also, Obama is "not running against the Almighty, he is running against the alternative," who is Romney, the alternative to an omniscient being with infinite wisdom. And Romney, O'Malley assures us, is terrible. He recites the exact same things that DWS said earlier today, including the offshoring and the terrible Massachusetts jobs record and the Swiss bank account.

"I've never known of a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs, or Swiss bank accounts to rebuild the levees to protect the people of New Orleans," O'Malley says, totally burning Jindal, because LOL, New Orleans and the levees and whatnot.

Moran notes that O'Malley used his question to attack Mitt Romney, because he has never seen what "campaign surrogates" do on Sunday morning political shows until today.

Moran asks Jindal about Romney's generic policy platform, which includes "cutting taxes, especially for the very rich, cutting corporate taxes, deregulation, especially for the financial sector, because apparently they don't need any more regulation." Moran wants to know why voters would go for that policy platform. Jindal says that he tells people Romney is awesome, because shut up!

Moran presses on the matter of these policies being a return to failed idea, and Jindal says, "He has said we need a lower, flatter tax code, so we need to cut individual tax rates 20 percent. We need a corporate tax rate that is competitive in the world. We now have the highest corporate tax rate in the entire industrialized world. But he's also said, let's take away some of those loopholes, those deductions, especially for high-income earners, so we're not growing our deficit."

Also, Keystone Pipeline and gas and stuff. Plus plastics! Yes, it is all like "The Graduate" on This Week, with This Guy Whose Name Is Terry, I Think?

Plus, we need to get rid of entitlement programs, and Obamacare, says Bobby Jindal. "Mitt Romney has already said on the first day he would not only cut taxes, he would also rein in spending and stop all of these regulations that are killing jobs, while at the same time regulating Wall Street in a prudent way," he says. That's going to be an amazing first day, where Romney solves everything.

He has also said that he's build the Keystone Pipeline by hand. That will be very amusing. He'll be two hours into doing that, and he'll have this conversation.

ROMNEY: Eric Fehrnstrom! Come help me! Something is happening to my hands!

FEHRNSTROM: What's the matter?

ROMNEY: Eric Fehrnstrom! I was straight banging some pipe, with a wrench, and also a hammer. And I noticed these odd things, forming on my fingers!

FEHRNSTROM: Those are calluses.

ROMNEY: Oh, wow, does this mean I'm dying? Because I have to de-regulate everything, still! And the pipeline...oh, man! It won't be done for, like, another hour or something, I don't know.

FEHRNSTROM: They're just calluses! They don't kill you.


"Well, OK, so, Governor O'Malley, this is a forward-looking program, according to Governor Jindal," says Moran. O'Malley responds by essentially saying LOL, and adding that "we need to move FORWARD (TM)."

Moran says that "voters are still not sure who Mitt Romney is," and that he has a "secret company in Bermuda," according to Vanity Fair. So what's the deal? Jindal totally "wants to answer that question" but first he wants to talk about how O'Malley's reasoning is totally wrong and that he's a bad person. Jindal is talking-talking-talking-fast-fast-fast, and Moran is all, "Holy Cow, you are talking very quickly."

Finally, Jindal answers the question by saying that he is happy that Romney is successful in business. Obama, he says, has never run a business. Why doesn't Obama have a secret company in Bermuda with its own staplers and filing cabinets and a break room with a coffee maker and stirrers and Splenda? BECAUSE OF OBAMA'S FAILED ECONOMIC POLICIES, PROBABLY.

"We're going the way of Europe," says Jindal.

Jindal says that O'Malley's criticisms are "distractions" and O'Malley disagrees. And, ha ha, you know what's "going the way of Europe?" Mitt Romney's money, in Swiss bank accounts, which are his "bets against America." (Also apparently this secret Bermuda company is in Ann Romney's name, so maybe she should be the President of Getting Calluses For The First Time Ever?

Jindal complains that Obama hasn't told the truth in ads, but we've already dispensed with those complaints permanently.

Jindal and O'Malley then just straight up yell at each other for forty-five seconds, Moran kicks to commercial.

Time to do some panel discussion and ride out the rest of the hour, with George Will and E.J. Dionne and Gwen Ifill and Steve Rattner and Mort Zuckerman and also Steve Rattner's giant forehead, which the Newseum has expanded to accommodate.

How bad is the economy, for America and President Obama? Will says that it's bad across the board and that Obama "got terrible advice early in his administration." Steve Rattner's forehead is all: "What? Are we just going to sit here and meekly take that?" (Probably! Who doesn't love throwing Larry Summers under a bus?)

Zuckerman says that everything that's been tried has added to the DEFICITZ OMGZ. He read about this in a Hemingway novel! We are not on a sustainable path to having a house crawling with weird cats in Key West.

Rattner sits there and more or less meekly takes it. Though he mildly insists that the stimulus package helped the economy. Also, there are mad headwinds, winding at the head of our economy, forever.

Ifill says, "in the end, no one really cares about the numbers and excuses...people feel a great deal of anxiety" and are looking for a sign that one of the two candidates will "make their lives better." "If Romney can't convince them that their lives will be made better," she says, "they'll just stick with the one they know. But if Obama seems like he's always on the defensive and can't -- no matter what we keep digging deeper, he is in peril."

Again, let me note for the record that Obama is actually one of a few Americans who is actually NOT in what I would conventionally describe as "peril."

E.J. Dionne hasn't gotten to talk yet, so let's let him talk? "One is, from the beginning, the stimulus should have been bigger. He cut it back partly to get votes in Congress. He had to cut it back further to get those last three Republican votes." Also: "I think the interesting question is, why is President Obama still ahead in these polls, and especially still ahead in the swing states?"

Why is he, exactly? Dionne says that the economy isn't actually falling at the moment. It's just not going gangbusters. (Also, Romney switches his positions all the time.)

Will still doesn't like the stimulus, and he says it didn't work. Rattner says shut up, because Marc Zandi and Alan Blinder have studied the stimulus and have proven otherwise. He says Obama's real problem is that he is trying to "prove a counterfactual." Well, he's only in that position because he got a smaller stimulus than he wanted and decided he had to sign it and cross his fingers.

Rattner's massive forehead wants to kick Will in the teeth, you can tell.

Zuckerman says that the stimulus money went to save public sector jobs, and everyone knows police officers and teachers are chumps who don't deserve help, because their unions wrecked the economy in the first place, right? Did Mort Zuckerman convince you, with his whinging?

Dionne says that Michigan and Ohio could end up in Obama's corner because of the auto bailout, and wouldn't that be ironic? (No, Obama should not be losing Michigan in any event.)

Ifill makes the crazy suggestion that Romney will have to actually do something that makes voters think he has some sort of actual plan, for the economy.

Rattner says, "The secret of the auto bailout is we didn't have to go to Congress. We did it using TARP money. We didn't have to go to Congress. It never would have happened with Congress. And I think that is a metaphor for the broader problem. Congress is doing nothing. They sit there with their 17 percent approval rating, and they pass nothing, and I think you have to put them in the mix as we debate who's responsible for this problem."

I mean, sure...but does the TARP have a higher approval rating than Congress? Maybe just say, "The President did it."

Zuckerman says, "With a different kind of leadership, I think we would have had a different kind of stimulus program and we would have different kinds of effects," because that's what's magical about Mort Zuckerman -- he thinks that when he regurgitates David Brooks columns, it's like casting a powerful magic spell.

No one on the panel even pretends that Mort said something that had any actual meaning.

We go to commercial. Terry Moran promises that the panel will "talk about the Veepstakes." Oh, be still my prostate!

Will says that the Obama campaign has thus far succeeded in making Romney's business career a negative. What does Steven Rattner, private equity guy and forehead farmer, have to say about that? "Look, I'm a private-equity guy, and I'm aware of some of these ways to use the tax code...But I have never -- I actually was with a very prominent private equity guy last night who said he'd never heard of some of the things Mitt Romney has done in terms of putting money offshore, in terms of having $100 million IRA, basically getting an interest-free loan from Uncle Sam on the taxes, on all that money, until he brings it home. And I think these are all -- I think these are absolutely fair game."

Zuckerman says, "Well, I think what is fair game about Romney is that he was a very effective governor of Massachusetts. He was a very effective governor when he came to the Olympics in Salt Lake City. He has done a lot of things that shows that he knows how to manage situations." In the case of the Olympics, Romney "managed the situation" by getting the Federal government to offer him a taxpayer bailout.

Zuckerman adds that Obama hasn't met with Mitch McConnell in eighteen months. Why, exactly, would you want to do that, though? What a waste of time!

Then the panel talks about the candidates taking vacations for what seems like an eternity.

Moran moves to health care, and the trouble Romney has had since the Supreme Court ruled that the health care reform that Romney invented was constitutional. Will says that "neither side wants to talk about healthcare," but I have a feeling that's not going to bear out. Romney was the one who called for the "cease fire," not Obama. Really, Obama needs to spend a significant amount of time explaining what Romney's health care innovation actually does. Dionne is feeling me: "I think that the Obama campaign now wants to talk more about those aspects of the health care bill that they didn't talk enough about before that are actually popular with people."

Zuckerman is, of course, totally astonished that Obama tried to help Americans get access to affordable health care. Rattner surmises that the Supreme Court ruling has just sapped Romney's mojo on the health care criticism front. I can't imagine that lasts very long, though. Probably Romney will go back to vowing to repeal it on Day One, and reporters will continue to never ask him what he'll replace it with, because what does that matter?

Moran brings up the Wall Street Journal article and other Republicans who think Romney is totally blowing the election. Will and Ifill are now the ones that are totally feeling me:

WILL: Well, to be fair to the Romney campaign, at some point in every campaign, the people who are not included in the campaign, which is 90 percent of Republican activists, say we should be -- we could do it better.

IFILL: That happened a month ago for the Democrats.

Ha, yes, very true. It's almost like these sorts of things become news stories only because of the tendencies of gums that are flapping to remain flapping even when it's July and there hasn't been anything new to say about politics in weeks.

Will: "Governor Romney seems to be risk-averse." I might be on to something there, George! Keep tugging at that string, definitely!

Rattner: " But it's a long-term problem for him, because I think it's more than just risk-aversion. I think it's suicide-aversion. Because if Romney actually starts talking about his economic plan and lays out clearly for the American people what he's in favor of, 20 percent across-the-board tax cuts that aren't paid for, privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher program, sending Medicaid back to the states as a block grant program, cutting a whole series of programs like food stamps by 33 percent, I'm not sure he's going to win the election if people actually understood what he's in favor of."

Zuckerman basically pleasures himself to the thoughts of 20 percent across-the-board tax cuts that aren't paid for, privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher program, sending Medicaid back to the states as a block grant program, and cutting a whole series of programs like food stamps by 33 percent.

Okay, we finally get to the whole discussion of the Vice-Presidential prospects. Zuckerman says it will be Portman or Pawlenty. Rattner agrees. Ifill doesn't care about the topic. Dionne says that it's a "competition between Pawlenty and Jindal." Dionne and Rattner are pretty sure Romney won't be dumb enough to pick Sarah Palin. George Will says it's between Jindal and Paul Ryan.

Why do so many people presume that Paul Ryan is stupid enough to abandon his easily retainable House seat, from which he projects enormous political influence, to make a lateral-at-best move onto Romney's ticket and risk his whole kitty on a Presidential election that's going to be close, one way or the other?

Now, they are talking about the heat wave. Will doesn't find any of this to be unusual. Global warming, global schwarming. Dionne disagrees. Rattner says, "But the 10 hottest years on record have been in the last 12 years. The 20 hottest years on record have been in the last 30 years. There is a lot of science around this." Yes, there is a lot of science involved, which is why we shouldn't be discussing the matter at a roundtable of opinion-pundits, which includes George Will, who has made it a habit to lie about the science?

The panel discussion ends with George Will leading a reverie about baseball.


Okay, since there is no Meet The Press today, and Face The Nation has booked John McCain -- the universal sign that a Sunday show has simply given up -- we'll watch the Chris Matthews panel of pundits gently guide me back to some dim awareness of what happened in politics while I was away, trying to avoid all of this.

Today's panel is John Harris and Katty Kay and S.E. Cupp and Joe Klein, and they will talk about religion and John F. Kennedy, for some reason? Man, has everyone just lost the thread this Sunday, or what?

Matthews says that voters are "sizing up their comfort level" with Romney and Obama, and "one factor" involved is Romney's Mormonism. This isn't an aspect of Romney's life that I particularly desire to be a deciding factor in this election, but as Matthews points out, there are still plenty of voters out there who are unsettled by Romney's religion. Matthews notes that Catholicism was the Mormonism of yesteryear.

Klein says that Romney's Mormonism could be an electoral factor, but he doesn't put a lot of trust in the polls Matthews cited, which show significant aversion to Romney's religion. "When it comes down to it," Klein says, "it changes when you actually have to go to the ballot box."

Matthews cites evangelicals as being particularly averse, but Klein says that this is not universal among evangelicals either. Some people are just upset by "the other" like "Mexicans all over the place" or "their grandchildren becoming gay." O-kay! Not sure where this is going, but it was evidently deemed something worthy of airing.

Matthews says that it's interesting that people are willing to tell pollsters that they don't think Mormons are Christian. I'm not sure that qualifies as "interesting," but I guess it was a slow week, or something? Kay says that some people see it "as an issue of faith." But it will "come down to a choice" as to whether they want a Republican in the White House or not. She adds that evangelicals have plenty of reason to distrust Romney outside of his Mormonism -- he has constantly flipped and flopped on social issues of importance to them throughout his career.

Matthews notes that Romney is "weird" and has a strange sense of humor and he "comes from a different background" than most people and so, how is that going to "play," John Harris, who definitely has his finger on the pulse of non-Beltway Americans!

"I don't think Romney is weird, I just think he's led a life that is removed from most Americans" you know, whatever that is, says Harris. Matthews is particularly taken aback by this joke Romney plays where he pretends that voters he meets pinch him on the...uhm...this is the word Matthews uses, sorry..."toosh." Of all the things to fixate on!

Harris says, "he comes off as square." With the "toosh" jokes. Harris figures that a lot of this lies in his Mormonism, what with all its teachings on toosh-pinch jokes.

Toosh. That's where we are, America.

Klein says that Mormons are kind and decent and industrious. Just in case we were wondering otherwise, which we weren't.

Matthews asks Cupp to get into the discussion. I seem to recall that she is an atheist, though, so maybe she was waiting until the discussion turned on something she considered to be relevant to her life? Or maybe it's just THAT HARD to get a word in edgewise when Joe Klein is in the room. At any rate, she points out that there's always a little bit of intolerance embedded in religion as it "requires you say I believe this, and not this...this is right, that is wrong." She cites G.K. Chesterton, who said that no religion comes into its own until you can make fun of it, and Mormonism in particular is having a considerable cultural moment these days.

Matthews switches back to the primaries, and Romney's inability to win the Deep South. That no longer matters, though! Kay points this out: "The equation changes considerably in November."

Will Team Obama Re-Elect play the "Mormonism is weird" card? Harris says no, though they might paint him as "someone from a different generation." Religion, he says, "should be radioactive." Kay disagrees slightly, saying that she "has never lived in a country where religion is as important" as it is here.

Matthews segues to some bad photos taken by Presidential candidates, including Richard Nixon's decision to take a stroll along the beach in loafers and slacks, Michael Dukakis in a tank, John Kerry in a set of strange space pajamas, and also John Kerry's decision to go goose hunting, which led to a Dick Cheney quip: "I think John Kerry's goose is cooked."

"When you give Dick Cheney the punchline," Matthews says, "you know you're in trouble." You're also in trouble because Dick Cheney loves several immoral forms of torture!

The economy! That is also important, right? So let's talk about that, for eight minutes or so. Kay says that the American people are "looking forward, not backwards," and that Obama needs to explain what America's economic future holds and how he will take us there. Harris recites some of the talking points that Reince Priebus and Bobby Jindal have gone over today -- the Obama administration "promised" 5.5% unemployment and a "V-shaped" recovery. Is Harris not aware that that, mistaken promise or no, that the GDP numbers the administration was working with in their first few months were downgraded after the fact to lower figures, which means that no one was actually aware of how deep an economic trench we were in at the time? Just wondering. I'm guessing no.

Harris is pretty sure, though, that they would have talked about the economy differently. No solid fecal waste, famous British detective!

Joe Klein interrupts S.E. Cupp again, when she was trying to get a word in edgewise, in order to say nothing worth noting. She finally gets to affirm what Kay said, noting that Obama's stuck in a tough position -- having to "ask for a leap of faith" from the voters on an economy that isn't giving them sure, palpable signs of improvement.

Klein notes that people living in underwater homes are "tremendously upset" by this fact. Okay, thanks for that!

Matthews doesn't know what Obama is supposed to do, then. Harris says that what Obama does is make the alternative -- that is, Mitt Romney -- "unacceptable" and "radioactive." My God, it's like we are just having our first discussion about American politics now.

Kay: "You make it a choice" instead of a referendum election. Matthews: "Really?" Cupp: "Yes, duh."

Matthews wants his panel to go on the record with a guess as to which candidate will "paint the most vivid and detailed platform for the next four years." Good question! I'll go with, "neither." Harris says that "Romney's got a real problem if he's not the one." Kay agrees that it has to be Romney. Cupp says Romney also has to explain how he will dismantle Obama's policies. Klein agrees. No one really "made a prediction," they all just said that the onus is on Romney to be specific. That's totally true, but it's not a prediction. But, piss it, who cares about predictions? It's not like pundits are punished for being wrong.

At any rate, everyone thinks that Romney needs to be more specific, which is what I'm pretty sure everyone has been saying for about a month now.

Matthews ends the show by reflecting on 1972. It is, after all, the 40th anniversary of 1972, y'all! So, what has been the most lasting effect from 1972? Harris says that the Washington Post was great back then, but they suck now, please advertise with Politico. Kay says Watergate bred a distrust in institutions. Cupp agrees, adding that it was just a year before that Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers made news. Klein says that the Munich Olympics proved it was possible for a terrorist organization to have the ambition to capture the imagination of the world using the media. What I particularly enjoyed about 1972 was all the breastfeeding.

Okay, so, well. We are back, for the time being, from our self-imposed sequestration. Thanks for having me, as always. And like every week, I'll sign off by wishing all of you the best in the week ahead. If you have access to a nice cool patch of shade, please make the most of it! The world is more interesting when all of you aren't struggling with heat sickness!

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