TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning, Huffington Post people and welcome to your Sunday morning liveblog. You know, one of the great things about passing an economic stimulus package near Valentine's Day is that every wonk in town had at least one good pickup line this weekend. For other good ones, you need to follow Ana Marie on Twitter. DO THIS NOW!

But now it's Sunday morning, and whatever national pride that's swollen in our pants over the economic stimulus package must be put to the ritual bonerkilling of Sunday Morning and its conventional wisdom merchants. Hmmm. I think maybe we're going to hear about how Obama's dream of bipartiparadise won't be as easily achieved as we thought? And also: blah blah. So sit back and enjoy and send emails and leave comments and pray for the sweet release of Stimpy, the lovable economic stimulator that will save our economy for a few days.


Chris Wallace is willing to call Stimpy a "victory" and the banking roll-out a mess and Judd Gregg a stumble and David Axelrod a "close confidant." Let's see what Ax has got to say. Apparently, we have a "vested interest" in an auto industry, and the auto industry must be willing to "look forward and not back" - which I guess means the auto industry will not be prosecuting people for war crimes. Who will do it, then? Starbucks? The professional bowler's tour?

Meanwhile, Austan Goolsbee, and i have no idea if I'm spelling that right, says that Stimpy will yield some statistical bounce within six months. Axelrod says that he "doesn't expect the arrow to bend down," but soon enough, shovels will be in the ground, and firefighters will not be laid off. Bottom line: it will take time.

What did Axelrod learn about the difficulties of bipartisanship? So much for those 80 votes, right? Ax says that you learn that "old habits die hard" but that Obama doesn't feel he's "wasted his time." In general, the Obama Way is being cast (recast?) as a long-term plan to build relationships with the opposition party that will lessen the rancor, if not win votes. I think that's in line with the way the campaign talked about "reaching out" on the campaign trail, but you can't help but feel that the White House sort of thought that the stimulus package might be important enough to move the needle far in the direction of "bipartisanship."

Meanwhile, ugh, Tim Geithner. I'm still waiting for Geithner to give the sort of presentation that makes me stand up and cheer: "YES! YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY THE TAXES!" But not this week, right? Ax says that it's a "complex problem" that's "hard to penetrate," no matter how tumescent and stimulated we are.

Wallace and Axelrod can't agree if Geithner had a goal or a plan or a strategy or an "overarching strategy" or a notion or a dream or a brainstorm.

Wallace sticks up for the extraordinary Men Of Wall Street. Won't the cap on compensation result in a "brain drain?" Doesn't there have to be a "brain" there, to drain?

Finally! Judd Gregg. You know, it's sad that a guy can't make fun of the Department of Commerce without getting a whole lot of earnest emails defending the organization. It was Friday, nerds! Don't care!

Wallace runs down the whole litany of people who have bounced from the Cabinet. He's making a big deal out of the Chief Performance Officer. WHAT ABOUT THE CHIEF PERFORMANCE OFFICER? Jeez, Chris, between the two of us, I doubt we could explain what that person even does! Anyway, Gregg, a total mess.

Axelrod says that Obama is considering what to do with all the stem cells, which could be rubbed on Toxic Assets, maybe. He says that he and Rahm are not the experts on the census, though, I get the feeling that many of you ladies would love to have Rahm come to your door and, uhm...count you, real good.

Obama will continue to visit the American people as long as the poll numbers at his back remain crazily high.

What do Eric Schmidt and Mark Zandi say about Stimpy? Zandi says it's "meaningful" but America is in need of a bigger package. He thinks that the White House is overestimating the number of jobs that Stimpy will create. Why? The jobs will be created slower than projected, the AMT Patch is counterproductive, and some people will probably behave like the tax cuts in the package are permanent.

Schmidt thinks that Geithner is "about where he expects [him] to be." "The numbers are so large, I'd rather they get it right." Wallace wants to tag Geithner with something, so he asks Zandi about whether it was "disheartening" for the market. Zandi says it was, but Schmidt counters by saying that these short-term measures are, really, irrelevant. Schmidt says wait long-term, and see if banks start lending again. Job creation and confidence will steady the economy.

Zandi thinks in housing, you start by keeping people out of foreclosure, but the heavy lifting comes in reducing overall homeowner debt. He also believes that we are not following the Japanese "Lost Decade" scenario: we are acting more quickly, our strategy is more varied, the stimulus is must shorter term. He explains that we'll be "stress-testing" the banks and determining whether we we put them into receivership, or hand them over to the Cylons.

Schmidt's a big fan of the efforts being put forward to make the spending transparent, and thinks that it will be provide a number of good lessons that the government can use and grow more efficient and responses. Zandi thinks that the economy is in as bad a shape as he can remember, but the aggressive action from the government should make people feel confident.

That was actually one of the better economic panels I've seen on Sunday, in terms of people taking these complicated issues and making them clear.

Meanwhile, PANEL TIME. Bill Kristol hates reading big long bills! And he thinks the GOP will be in good shape, opposing the bill! And he thinks spending taxpayer monies in Athens, Georgia is bad, somehow. Williams says that Obama won in the eyes of the public, and the polling numbers reflect that overwhelmingly. But, in fairness, Kristol thinks the GOP's advantages will be all long term.

Bill Sammon says that if Stimpy works, the Democrats will get credit, if not, they'll get blamed. He thinks, incorrectly, that the result is a "public relations disaster" and he spits the debunked "OMG! THIS BILL FUNDS PELOSI'S FAVORITE MOUSE." Sad that grown-ups pay Sammon to spit that sort of cliched goulash. MAKES YOU MISS SAD GNOME BRIT HUME.

Kristol thinks that if Obama had put more stuff the GOP didn't want in the bill, that it somehow would have "split" the GOP. Or something!

Sammon says that Geithner bombed and was vague, and I don't know, dude. When you are on a panel, you are supposed to provide insight, not exposition! Sammon is like the "Previously...on LOST" guy of politics. At least Mara Liasson has learned to take the painfully obvious and make it seem like cutting edge insight by raising her eyebrows and acting flabbergasted.

Juan Williams says that Geithner's performance, being bad, was "an insult to geniuses." He's right, but Williams wouldn't know much about how geniuses are insulted. When I need insight into the minds of terminally unimpressive people, I look to Williams.

Agh, the census. Williams wants statistical sampling and Sammon wants a hard count. Sammon says that the phrase "minor catalyzing issue" is the "classic oxymoron." I guess he thinks that's a good line, or something! He also says that Rahm is the equivalent of Karl Rove, though, in fairness, Rove never had to live in someone's basement and Rahm doesn't run around penning idiotic op-eds filled with leaden, thudding lies.


I am IMing with Ana Marie today:

Jason: What have I missed? Katty Kay is wearing a tracksuit, I think.

Ana Marie: nothing

Ana Marie: savannah

Ana Marie: she's sweet btw

Ana Marie: but white suit and black stockings not a good call

Jason: Right, this is Savannah Guthrie, I think that this is her first time on the show.

Ana Marie: dressed like an evil nurse

Jason: She needs to take lessons from Norah O'Donnell. Who sent me an email this week and we are now boyfriend and girlfriend.

Ana Marie: she is very sweet too

Jason: Chris Matthews says that by opposing the stimulus bill, Republicans are "taking an unusual position." Naturally, this question goes to Andrew Sullivan. He says that the GOP are "insane" for picking the biggest crisis the nation is facing to start acting all principled. I guess because typically, their "principles" are more like "hobbies," as Jon Stewart says.

Jason: Savannah Guthrie does look like she's about to treat a World War I infantryman for trenchmouth, or something.

Ana Marie: and i'm sure she'd be cradle his head lovingly.

Meanwhile, Chris Matthews gets meetings with Nancy Pelosi and stuff.

Will the Democrats stick together on the "big ticket items?" Sullivan says yes. He says that the early defeats in the arena of "bipartisanship" are the lumps Obama has to take to make future legislation work. So he's not "making enemies."

Everyone agrees that Obama will continue to reach out. It's difficult to determine if that's driven by Beltway klatchism or sincerity.

Matthews shows highlights from the Obama press conference, but no mention of our Sam Stein? Shame. He actually asked a good question! And angered Mara Liasson, which is hilarious. Hey, Mara, here's my email. You let me know the next time you "break" some sort of "story," dear. Really, please do.

Jason: Katty Kay is straight up freaking out at how big some of these CEO bonuses are! "I could buy so many tracksuits!" I am probably unfairly portraying Katty Kay as some sort of Lily Allen-style chav, today. Not true at all.

Ana Marie: i love the tracksuit. Also she is sporting a gold tooth

Jason: I am also glad that Howard Fineman's hair is back under control! He was on Hardball this week and I was like, "HOLY CRAP! Chris Matthews is interviewing a Mardi Gras float!"

Jason: Chris Matthews says Savannah Guthrie is "too young to know about layaway." Sullivan does his "J'accuse" of modern life act, pointing out that we all bought our high standard of living on credit. I think that cannot be applied to me, unless buying New Pornographers tickets constitute a "high standard of living."

Tell Chris something he doesn't know? Katty Kay says we've got a ways to spend before we become Swedish, or Japanese. Fineman says that the census is going to be a big issue. Savannah Guthrie says that Chris alreasy "knows everything," because she's young and wants to be back on the show. She says that the first movie the Obamas watched at the White House was The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

Ha! Funny. Sam Stein's question (about truth and reconciliation committees) becomes the "Big Question" this week, and Sullivan's the only one who doesn't gloss over it, God bless him: "It's like a water table rising, everything will come to the surface."


David Axelrod is back! And David Gregory doesn't think he's creating enough jobs, faster, and maybe there will have to be more stimulating. Axelrod doesn't think Zandi's right, but will play a wait-and-see attitude. Also, Gregory picked this week to start reading Paul Krugman! Last week, the Krugman point of view couldn't get a hearing and the stimulus was way too big! But it's a new day, and let's all start from scratch on that wheel we were inventing!

Axelrod says that there's money for unemployment insurance, and infrastructure projects, and it's going to help. Gregory says: "There's a concern that government contracting won't work as efficiently as possible." UHM, THANKS. Where were you, David Gregory, when government contractors were flying away with airplanes full of money, and "losing" it in Iraq.

What about GOP opposition? Axelrod says that "their point of view" is a holdover from eight years of bad policy that the White House doesn't want repeated. Nevertheless, the GOP had their say, Ax says. He says that the website was Eric Cantor's idea! Axelrod says that the White House's point of view is to fund energy and enviromental and health care projects.

Gregory, naturally, is just heartsick over the "lack of bipartisanship!" That's all Obama's fault! He wants to know if Ax will "concede" it was a mistake to let the House Democrats write the bill. Guess what? He won't.

Gregory is all: "SURELY YOU MUST HAVE LEARNED IMPORTANT LESSONS ABOUT BEEEEEN NICE TO REPUBLICANS!!!" Axelrod is like: "Meh. We'll keep moving forward."

Jason: Well, Axelrod is back on to answer the same questions he's already been asked by Chris Wallace. YOU WATCH! PEOPLE WON'T GET LAID OFF! We will rebuild the levees. You will drive your Chevy to them, and find them shovel-ready.

Ana Marie: also no matter what facts David throws at him he will reply "jobs"

Ana Marie: "break the hard edge of this recession"

Ana Marie: also he resisted saying "we believe it's just right"

Ana Marie: i don't know why

Jason: This is some seriously delicious porridge America!

Ana Marie: shovel ready

Ana Marie: if you believed david axelrod you'd think that the entire stimpak will be spent on teachers, nurses and policemen

Jason: Not laying them off, specifically.

Ana Marie: sort of sad to be missing gibbs since he says nothing in a prettier accent

Oh, good God! David Gregory is pimping the now widely debunked notion that Stimpy added a super-new council of healthcare gurus who will determine people's treatment protocol and "ration" healthcare. The council isn't new, and it doesn't do what Gregory thinks it does. ARGH, JUST READ THIS.

Ana Marie: how do you do this? Seriously, every weekend, you do this.

Jason: I don't know how i do this! I think it's spiking my coffee with various anti-depressants.

Axelrod says that Geithner always planned to roll out a strategy for rolling out a strategy that would contain details about the details that would come in strategic roll out, but in general, so as not to be specific, and OH GOD FINE HERE'S WHEELBARROWS FULL OF MONEY.

What happens if the wheelbarrows become more valuable than the money? I'm not prepared for a wheelbarrow-based economy. Now is one of those times I had to do more mulching, and stuff.

Apparently, Obama is getting letters from America, some of which are "heartwrenching" and "emblematic." I hope he read my letter! It was sort of in the style of the Penthouse Forum, but I think it was definitely a package of stimulus. I think it started: "I never thought this sort of thing would happen to me, but there I was, alone in a Bounce House with Kay Bailey Hutchison..."

Judd Gregg! Axelrod says that he was just really MAVERICK. Too Maverick for the Senate. Too Maverick for the White House. Too Maverick for this world. Judd Gregg will instead walk the earth, fighting crime and making love to the American Buffalo. This is really going to throw the census off, big time, with all the Judd Gregg-Buffalo hybrids walking around. One day, of course, David Axelrod will run a great campaign to elect the first Judd Gregg-Buffalo hybrid president, who will bellow promises such as "BUUUHHHHLOOOOOGGGGAAHHH" and "FREEEEEEEEEN!" You can just imagine how effed up the economy will be during that election.

Buffalo-Gregg will narrowly defeat Meghan McCain for the presidency. Meghan will run on the platform: "THIS WILL FINALLY MAKE MY DAD NOTICE ME."

Jason: You know who I feel bad for? The people who read my liveblog expecting earnest analysis or a basic recapping of what was literally said. I never know what to say to these people! Any suggestions? Feel free to get me lots of trouble, if you want!

Ana Marie: oh god i have the same probllem! i usually just try to recommend other people who might do that kind of thing

Jason: They are always like: "It would be really valuable if you could just tell us what was said."

Ana Marie: that is what, you know, the teevee is for?

Yay! Your weekly dose of Chris Blakely:

Since Bill Kristol is not returning to write his weekly OP / ED at the New York Times (a moment of silence, please), technically, I guess one could argue he is unemployed. As such, our favorite NeoCon is in dire need of a stimulus -- or at the very least, a real job. It would appear that Kristol may be lobbying to be the Democratic National Chairman with all of the free advice he offered up to the Democrats today on FOX News Sunday. Generally speaking, any political advice Kristol delivers always begins with the obligatory obeisance to the legendary Ronald Reagan. If only Obama could be more like Ronald Reagan, he could split the GOP like an atom and send them into oblivion. See, with Kristol it is all about political agenda. The needs of the country and its citizens are always secondary to political agenda. With "deep thinkers" like Kristol, I am at a loss to explain why Washington DC is so partisan.

Gail Z. emails in, passing along Frank Rich's great column from today. Ana Marie points out that you can now follow Frank Rich on Twitter, so go do that!

Linda T. writes:

I'm thinking about the auto industry prosecuting people for war crimes and am LMFAO. You're in fine form this morning. I credit your wife, Valentine's Day (they don't call it "VD" for nothing), and those hot toddies you imbibed last night. Well, something was hot, right?

I wish that was true! My wife is staying in bed this morning because she was very sickypoo last night. And I spent the night at an art gallery working to raise money for the theatre I work for (I gave out lots of gift bags, and told people information about our silent auction items, most of which may have been true.) Then there was lots of cleaning up, until midnight! And then, the standing around, waiting for trucks to arrive. YES, IT WAS TOTALLY SEXY. Anyway, we hope to "do" Valentine's today, if she's feeling better. It will involve chocolate, presecco, and FROST/NIXON. It's going to be interesting!

PANEL TIME, with Eugene Robinson, Kim Strassel, Roger Simon, and Ron Brownstein.

Jason: Let's say I want to be able to watch Roger Simon on teevee, and take him seriously. What do I do.

Ana Marie: that is like a Zen koan

Anyway, today we feature ATTACK OF THE COLUMNISTS, on MEET THE PRESS!

GREGORY: WHO IS THE WINNERZ? That's how this works! We determine the narrow victories of various political forces, and we don't care much about the rest of America.

ANN SELTZER, pollster: [interrupting] "It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."

ROBINSON: Obama is the winner, because we have Stimpy, and Stimpy loves us! Plus: so fast! Wow! Neat!

GREGORY: Frank Rich says that despite the struggles, Obama is still popular. MUST BE FACEBOOK OR SOMETHING?

ANN SELTZER, pollster: [interrupting] "It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."

BROWNSTEIN: This bill was the presidency in a box! You know, like the box with Gweneth Paltrow's head in it at the end of Se7en? We are seeing a fundmental change in our political system, I guess! Obama will have to redefine what it means to be bipartisan.

ME: Or he can, you know, rejigger the census, and make the two factions even shriller than they are now!

SIMON: People didn't vote for bipartisanship. They voted for the end of gridlock.

ME: Wow. That's actually very astute and counter-conventional!

SIMON: It was not a bad thing for Obama to get his hand slapped away. Maybe next time, it'll be a tickle, or a feather, or a leather glove.

GREGORY: What do you think, new woman?

STRASSEL: The GOP is going to deal with the bipartisan question by showing Obama the love, and the Democratic faction on the Hill the door. Of course, they will also probably try to fight for ideological concessions.

ANN SELTZER, pollster: [interrupting] "It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."

GREGORY: Eugene Robinson. You said some stuff in a column this week.

ROBINSON: That's right.




ROBINSON: I don't think...


ROBINSON: "Uh...yeah...I'm sticking with [what I said in my column.]"

BROWNSTEIN: "Thirty-six of the Republicans voted for an alternative that would have cut taxes over the next decade by 2.5 trillion, reduce the top marginal rate to 25%. For John McCain to talk about - who voted for that alternative!... - to talk about generational theft...I mean, pot meet kettle." Anyway, they can keep that up, but whatever, THE 2008 ELECTION HAPPENED.

STRASSEL: Oh, but the American people love those tax cuts! They blame the GOP for spending!

ANN SELTZER, pollster: [interrupting] "It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, duh, Obama will have to be convincing on fiscal discipline, but PLEASE.

STRASSEL: Yeah, well, the GOP isn't in charge anymore.

ME: It's like maybe there's a reason for that, or something.

GREGORY: I need the Chinese to service me, and also our debt.

SIMON: Now is not the time for deficit hawkery!


VOICE OF WISDOM: It will end badly. He'll just talk some foamy pantsload about how awesome Sarah Palin is, and suddenly you'll be angry at each other.

ME: What do you recommend?

VOICE OF WISDOM: I don't know. Roofie yourself, maybe?

ME: That's sort of what this liveblog is, every week. A Roofie for my mind.

VOICE OF WISDOM: You realize that you are now having a circular conversation with yourself, reinforcing a central set of values you already have through a false construct, right?

ME: Yes. It's called, "being inside the Beltway."

STRASSEL: All of Obama's big headaches are coming from his own party!

ME: OH FOR THE HALCYON DAYS OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION. The way they laid prostrate before any number of bad ideas! God, that was an efficient way to run the country.

SIMON: We can't keep rewarding banks for making stupendously terrible decisions and using taxpayer money on nonsense!

GREGORY: BUT SURELY AT SOME POINT, ALL THIS STICKING UP FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE BECOMES A BAD THING, RIGHT? We have to get the country moving again! Maybe those huge compensation packages are the key to everything!

ANN SELTZER, pollster: [interrupting] "It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."

ROBINSON: You have make these huge giveaways politically palatable.


BROWNSTEIN: Somehow, the gap in trust between Wall Street and Main Street must be closed, and so that means passing off some of this austerity to the people who brought this on themselves.

STRASSEL: But will the stress tests have finality? Or will the banks get treated like the auto industry. Come get some money, dick around, and then come back for more, for eternity?

GREGORY: Maybe the government will never get this money back.

SIMON: That's what Joe Biden says!

GREGORY: How will we know when the economy is working again?

ROBINSON: It will be based largely on perception. If people are confident, the confidence will resonate in the economy.

GREGORY: Are Americans prepared for bold action.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. By the way, it's all about finding the glorious center! The two sides in Congress must find the nougaty center of their caucuses. The president must find the center of the country.

ANN SELTZER, pollster: [interrupting] "It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."

ME: I think that rather than more Spelunkin' For Centrism, all those people you just named should just find the best policy possible. I mean, Ben Nelson urged the bill toward the center, but not because it would make the best possible policy. He just thought it would be prettier. When your doctor tells you you need 20cc of antivenom to counteract the cobra bites all over your torso, you do that. You don't listen to Ben Nelson when he tells you, "Well, you'd probably get more votes if you only took 10cc of that serum, so do that. Don't worry! The way you feet and face are starting to numb? THAT'S THE SWEET SWEET FEEL OF BIPARTISANSHIP."


ANN SELTZER, pollster: [interrupting] "It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."

David Gregory tweets: "And I thought Kim Strassel did well. Trying for some new young voices on the program."

Jason: yes.

Ana Marie: oh jesus

Jason: new, young people from the WSJ editorial board!

Ana Marie: god

Jason: Could you imagine Gregory in a room of actual new blood? If this was like a panel of say: Ezra, Reihan, Yglesias, Dave Weigel.

Ana Marie: i think he cry in the corner. "BUT THIS IS NOT THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM I ORDERED!!"


Ana Marie: or, say, he interviewed some people who had lost their jobs


Ana Marie: BRING ME THE PANDAS! Pandas totally solve INCREDIBLE CRISIS OF BIPARTISANSHIP by, you know, being black and white.

Jason: GREGORY: "BUT SORRY. All of this populism may lead to some sort of fundamental shift, in which the rules that have governed my coverage of this town no longer apply. And then, I will have to paint my face and form a MIGHTY CLAN OF FIRESTEALERS. Me and Betsy Fischer will be like those hairless zombies from I AM LEGEND. Cold killin' Will Smith's dog and shit!"

Ana Marie: laughing out loud

Ana Marie: oh sorry red pandas not black and white. red pandas part of the problem. black and white pandas on panel ponder the issue of red pandas passing stimulus without them.

Jason: Too true.

Ana Marie: nice. i like how we got both pandas and zombies in. DC in a nutshell, really.

Emailer Brad G. offers up some suggestions for fans of the band The New Pronographers:

Tulsa (not from Tulsa; if you like the NPs, you'll dig this)
The Dutchess and the Duke (dead-on early Stones by young Seattle-ites)
The Felice Brothers (please tell me you've heard of them)
Dexateens (from AL, but in a smart, post-Muscle Shoals way)
Okkervil River (assuming you know this band, but just in case)
Loomer (Toronto alt-countryish; how is this band not more well known?)
Patty Hurst Shifter (great band name and a very good band; they have a myspace page)

I can totally vouch for the greatness of the Felice Brothers, the Dexateens, and Okkervil River, who may be the best live act in America. And yes, I want this to become a music blog, now!

Yes, I think with that, we have definitively came to the end. Have a Happy Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, everyone!