TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Hi everyone! How you doing? Welcome once again to your Sunday Morning liveblog of the political chit-chat shows. My name is Jason, and how come the lot of you haven't demanded apologies of me, yet? That is the hot new, "in" thing to do, in politics, these days! Just straight up demand apologies from people! Like, Luke Russert needs to totally demand an apology from Martin Bashir from that time that Bashir asked Luke Russert to actually use his brain for thinkin' and reasonin', 'stead of just usin' it to cold spit back what other politicians had said to him, ending in a sad, tired expense of spirit and waste of shame.

Speaking of sad, tired expenses of spirit and wastes of shame, here is today's liveblog. As always, you are encouraged to throw a Sunday morning fiesta in the comment streams, send me your hopes, dreams, wants, needs, complaints and deeply held grievances to me in an email, and live vicariously through my cynical pessimism on Twitter. I apologize in advance for everything.


Our summer of guest hosts continues with Brit Hume stepping in to glower at viewers in the place of Chris Wallace. He welcomes two governors, both Republican, to yell about how awful the Affordable Care Act -- Terry Branstad of Iowa and shiny-domed cartoon grifter Rick Scott of Florida. The Sunshine State is enjoying a renaissance under Scott, if by "renaissance" you are referring to "a period of time when people caught tuberculosis en masse."

Also Karl Rove and Joe Trippi are here to yell at each other. Trippi is credited with redefining campaign strategy for the internet age, whatever that means. He had a hotmail account, or something?

Anyway, here's Terry Branstad and Grifty McFraudsalot. Terry Branstad is not a fan of the proposed state waivers to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which are a bit beyond my Sunday morning brain to explain in detail but essentially erode some of the stringent welfare-to-work requirements at the state level by allowing states to opt out of some reporting requirements. The GOP, obviously, hates it. It is seen by some to be strange politics, in that Democrats have used welfare reform as a backstop against criticism for a long time. That said, the Clinton-era welfare reform program wasn't designed to work in a lengthy economic/unemployment crisis, so it's not THAT surprising that it's getting tweaked. Because we are in a lengthy economic crisis, don't forget.

Anyway, Branstad says that this is "gutting" the welfare reform. He contends that these waivers are illegal, and on that score, he is likely correct.

Hume points out that no one has "eliminated a work requirement" and that the change just brings the state more flexibility. That is probably the brilliance of this move from a procedural standpoint -- the federal government doesn't do anything but add slack to the leash. Branstad would like more slack in the Medicare/Medicaid leash, himself.

Meanwhile, Grifter King Scott agrees with Terry Branstad. "Personal responsibility is very important," he says. Indeed, now Floridians are personally responsible for avoiding the consumption.

Hume restates the sticky point: the change allows him to set the work-to-welfare requirements however he'd like. (The fact that Rick Scott, who wasted tons of tax dollars on a quixotic drug-testing scheme, would be given MORE freedom to tinker about with TANF is reason enough to oppose the Obama administration's decision.) Scott says, "Sure, I just wish they'd do that on everything." Every time Rick Scott gets a block grant, an angel gets punched in the face.

Moving to Medicaid. Hume points out that the Roberts Court, in their health care decision, gives the states more flexibility on Medicaid. Branstad would rather talk about how awful the Federal government is in even having Medicaid. Branstad says that Iowa is embarking on a "public-private partnership" to promote hippy-dippy "wellness" stuff in lieu of actually providing health care. Hopefully this will make Iowans bulletproof, immune to disease, and immortal!

Then there is, like, a ten minute shot of a confused Branstad with his mouth hanging open.

Will he expand his Medicaid rolls? Branstad says, "I don't want to embark on something that's not affordable."

Rick Scott says Medicaid is "just another Federal program that will run out of money" like Medicare did when Rick Scott fraudulently bilked the system, earning himself a record-setting fine for felony Rick Scottishness. I'm sorry, did I say "Rick Scottishness?" I meant "fraud." The two terms are interchangeable.

Scott says that Florida is going to a "state-wide managed care program," and if the rampant TB is any sign, I imagine that this program will be "managed" in some very surprising ways.

Moving to the horsey race. Obama and Romney are close in the polls. But in Florida, unemployment is high, and Obama only just won it in 2008. So why is he doing so well in Florida? Scott says that the unemployment isn't that bad in Florida, but that the winner will be the guy with the right jobs plan. Scott says that guy is Romney. Also, he is doing everything he can to kick Democratic voters off the rolls in Florida, by giving them tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, Iowa is totally kicking ass, as far as unemployment rate goes, and Obama is ahead of Romney in the polls there, too. But it's still pretty close, which means that maybe the unemployment rate as an electoral determinant isn't all it's cracked up to be? Branstad points out that Obama won Iowa big last time, but he thinks that lots of Iowa independent voters feel "betrayed." Also, Branstad doesn't find Obama to be enough like Reagan.

Hume asks if the unemployment rate in Iowa helps Obama, and Branstad objects to this notion, saying that it helps Republicans. (Which makes sense -- he is a Republican.) He says that Iowa and Wisconsin and Indiana are outpacing Illinois, and that's all the proof you need that the GOP's ideas work. It is somewhat odd that Romney doesn't use this argument more -- but I think that's a factor of having a fraught relationship with the economy where you have to root against recovery. Both Branstad and Scott have gotten crossed up with Romney over the candidate's desire to not have their states' economic successes touted publicly.

Branstad is mad at Obama for attacking Romney. I mean, how dare he even run against Romney? We, as media figures, need to have the courage to tell Obama, "Hey, now! Mitt Romney is off-limits, buddy!"

Hooray, Karl Rove and Joe Trippi are here to "kick some science" and "drop some knowledge" about politics.

The Bain attacks: are they having an impact? And is the Romney campaign "wise to be holding back" on counterattacks? The answers to these questions are yes, and maybe. "Maybe" because Romney's ability to crank out ads in the latter stage of the campaign will be staggering in an undefinable way. But it's more conventionally a "no," because in politics, you never want your opponent to successfully define you, and that's what Obama has done so far.

But, you know, if Romney has enough money to subliminally beam attack ads into our dreams, then, whatever, he'll probably be okay.

Rove, of course, doesn't think the attacks have had any impact at all, citing the national polls. Hume isn't too convinced. Rove, however, is correct in that we're in a low-participation period of the election season, and that it will matter more in the fall, when people tune back in.

Trippi points out that it's too soon to know how the events of the past few days will show up in polls. He's nevertheless pretty gobsmacked at Romney's unwillingness to do simple things like disclose his tax returns, and start to clear up the air of mystery over Romney's past. He points out that for the time being, the "pro-active" party in the discussion is the media, who are slowly piecing out the picture that Romney, for whatever reason, doesn't want to be seen.

Rove is left making arguments against Obama's attacks that are based upon the preliminary findings of factcheckers. But as Jonathan Chait -- who was inclined against the picture that Team Obama Re-Elect was painting -- pointed out, "Numerous revelations...cast severe doubt on Romney's claim to have abandoned any role with Bain in 1999. I'll reevaluate again soon, but as of now it looks like the rigid distinction between Bain's work before his leave of absence and after -- the distinction that forms the basis of all the fact-checkers' judgments that Obama's ad is false -- has crumbled."

Now, did the Obama campaign know that eventually, there would be all these revelations, and they would come off a little better making the arguments they elected to make? That's a question that won't be answered any time soon. Perhaps they did. Chances are, however, they attacked with all the intention of playing fast and loose with the facts, only to catch a lucky break after the fact. I'd give them the old "tsk-tsk," were it not for the fact that the Romney campaign established the rules governing ads a long time ago, and according to the Romney Rules, lying in campaign advertisements is not just acceptable, it is expected and, indeed, welcomed.

“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.”

Back to our discussion. Rove agrees with Trippi that Romney was caught flat-footed by the attacks, but it's outrageous that the Obama administration is suggesting that Romney engaged in "felonious activity." Of course, when the Obama campaign makes that point, they're just restating the precise standard set up by Rove's beloved fact-checkers.

Rove says that this is just "gutter politics" that's totally divisive and will cost Obama independent voters, which is something that Rove could not possibly believe, as the prima donna manufacturer of gutter political attacks.

Rove: "The President is not the candidate of 2008." Sorry, Karl, but you're wrong. In 2008, Obama was a negative campaigner, full stop.

It is really fun watching Karl Rove pretend to offended by tactics that aren't from the Marquis of Queensbury rulebook, however. His garter-belt budget must have gone way, way up in recent months.

Now Hume is asking some long and complicated question, the thread of which I've completely lost. Rover disagrees with it, whatever it was.

Trippi returns to being dumbstruck by the Romney camp's unwillingness to participate in some of the basic tasks of a political campaign, like releasing a lot of tax returns and defining himself as a candidate. Of course, all of this is costing Obama a lot of money, early. Trippi notes that Obama is going to have to compete in more states than he'd prefer.

That said, Trippi says, "I think that we might look back on this week as the moment where things started to go wrong for Romney."

Rove isn't even bothering to give political analysis of any kind, at this point. He is just really mad at the Obama campaign, for daring to make election year arguments of any kind. This naturally leads Hume to start treating Rove as he perhaps should have been treated from the beginning -- not as an observer, but as a heavily-invested participant in the Romney campaign. Hume asks Rove, "What are you going to do?" That's the only question worth asking Rove at this point. Rove responds, "You ought to turn on your television more."

Rove basically guarantees that Obama will be outspent by Romney. Hume notes that Rove's CrossroadsGPS doesn't seem to want to do anything but run the same sort of negative ads that he's bashing Obama for running. Rove essentially gives away the game, saying that Romney will be running all the positive ads himself and that Crossroads will be doing the negative ads. And we, I guess, pretend that Crossroads and Romney are "not coordinating" with each other.

Trippi notes that the Democrats aren't nearly up to the same level of super PAC spending. This is because big Democrat donors find it all to be unseemly and gauche and impolite. As a friend of mine said to me recently, "You really have to admire the GOP's disciplined will-to-power." Yes. You really do!

Sticking with the horsey-race, Hume brings out the panel, which today will be Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes joining Hume in ridiculing Juan Williams, as Jeff Zeleny makes neutral observations.

We begin with the Veepstakes, which are shinier than ever. Kristol says that "really senior people" on the campaign "don't know" who Romney is going to pick. Zeleny says that "one of the upsides" of making an early pick is to get some additional campaign trail assistance early -- and for the moment, the Romney campaign is getting "outflanked" by Obama, whose campaign is holding multiple events on a daily basis.

Of course, as Zeleny points out, the thing about not knowing the identity of Romney's running mate is that it's a lingering little box of excitement that keeps everyone affirmatively invested in his campaign's daily deliberations. I'd add that when you have many possible contenders, each one of those contenders is a great campaign surrogate. Once the VP is selected, interest in the also-rans tends to wane.

But Romney isn't doing that great a job using all the possible selections as a surrogate army. I'm fairly surprised by this, actually.

Barnes thinks that if Romney picks a VP before going on his big foreign trip, it will drown out the coverage of his big foreign trip. But, couldn't his running mate do all the campaigning here in America, while he is overseas? Obama went abroad at this point in the 2008 campaign, and the impact of that trip on the election was negligible. It's weird that Romney is following that same path.

Anyway, Portman and Pawlenty remain the top two possibilities. Zeleny also thinks we should consider Paul Ryan as a possibility. Kristol agrees with that, and adds Chris Christie, Condi Rice, and Marco Rubio. For the umpteenth time: Why on earth would Paul Ryan opt to become vice-president when he can wield his considerable influence from his safe seat in the House?

Barnes says that Romney is a "cautious guy" and consequently is not likely to pick an "exciting" running mate. He also throws shade on the Ryan pick, pointing out that Romney does not want the "concervative House budget to be an issue in the campaign" and if Ryan is the running mate, it will be "the big issue." Barnes is 100% correct.

Williams holds out the possibility of a Kelly Ayotte pick. Of all the left-field picks I've heard, Ayotte makes the most sense.

It's hard to believe that this show is still going on, but it continues. Williams says that Romney has made the mistake of allowing the Obama team to define him as an out-of-touch, outsourcey plutocrat, and is compounding the problem by not releasing his tax returns. (Probably Romney's tax returns document the island hidey-hole where Romney is holding Amelia Earhart captive, or something.)

Barnes: "I don't know what Romney's been doing."

Well, as Zeleny points out, he's been giving interviews. Zeleny cites Neil Cavuto: "If you're responding, you're losing." Zeleny thought that Romney was going to use the forum as a way of getting above the fray, but instead he demanded an apology, which is weird, considering the title of Romney's book is "No Apology."

Kristol says that Romney needs to "give a big speech about capitalism." The problem with Romney's big speeches is that PowerPoint plays too big a role in them.

Williams suggests that there's some reason why Romney won't release his taxes. Hume stipulates that it's not likely that anything illegal is going on in those returns. I'd agree with Hume on that score -- the chance that Romney's done some amount of outright illegal tax cheating is very low. As Williams points out, Romney's problem is likely to be a clash of themes -- as he notes, Romney's slogan is "bet on America."

Kristol says that Obama responded to the Jeremiah Wright controversy by making a big speech, and the big speech worked. (Kristol, to his credit, cops to the fact that he is making a "weird analogy.")

"If the rest of the country believes that running Bain Capital is a bad thing," Kristol says, "then Romney is not going to win the election, because that's what he spent most of his life doing." Romney, he says, has to "defend the core" of his life experience.


Everyone who has been forced into hosting duties at ABC has a deserved week off, as we return once again to George Stephanopoulos hosting the show. (Hereafter referred to as "GS," because I hate spelling long names.)

GS notes that everything is "going at hyperspeed" in the campaign and that Obama has already spent $100 million on campaign ads, "most of them going after Mitt Romney." He seems surprised by this, as if Obama should also be "going after" other people, who aren't running for President? WHOA, GUYS! President Obama's attack ad on meningitis was just BRUTAL.

Anyway, Rahm Emanuel is here, to go all CHICAGO MACHINE on us this morning. Emanuel says that Obama will not be apologizing. Just like Chicago, man! Obama is a icicle falling into your face from the top of the Willis Tower, y'all. This is how we roll on Wacker Drive, cold not apologizing for nothin'!

Rahm says that as president, you can't have a sign on your desk that says, "Gone Fishing." Which is why Gone Fishing had to change his name to Millard Fillmore. It was not much of an improvement.

Does Rahm believe that Romney has committed a felony? He says that the law is the law and that's all that Stephanie Cutter was saying when she raised that point. Either the filing that Romney made with the SEC is honest and his financial disclosure is not, or vice versa, Rahm says. It's worth pointing out, again, that it's just factcheckers that have raised the whole "felony" question here. Not "people with extensive legal experience." So, remember that all this "felony" stuff could just be whistling past the graveyard. The point is, factcheckers opened that door and now the Obama campaign has walked through it. The point is not: Romney is going to spend time in jail.

Ha, Rahm says forget Stephanie Cutter, what is Romney going to do when he is confronted by China or Vladimir Putin? "Is he going to whine?...Stop whining." It is weird, that Romney is acting all emo about politics and demanding apologies, considering he says, all the time, that "Politics is something something beanbag, shut up, gah!"

Rahm is mad that Romney has only released one year of tax returns, after giving the McCain campaign twenty years of tax documentation. There is a Sarah Palin joke here, to be made, and Rahm makes it.

Rahm reckons that the calculus is that Romney would rather be attacked for not being transparent than suffer what would come if he released as many years as his papa, George Romney, did. Emanuel does more filleting: he says that what we do know about Romney's taxes places Mitt well outside the mainstream middle-class experience, and thus Romney is very out-of-touch, etc.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone that Rahm Emanuel made a ridiculous amount of money working for and on behalf of hedge funds, and went on to return to politics in the Obama administration, where he consistently counseled the President to make cautious tweaks the the status quo, as opposed to broad reforms of say, health care, know...the financial system.

Anyway, for the time being, Rahm Emanuel is terribly opposed to Mitt Romney's financial shenanigans! I would sort of love for GS to roll up on Rahm and say, "LOL, MAGNETAR," right now, but that would probably be too much "journalism" for ABC News to handle right now.

Rahm defends the stimulus by saying that he used stimulus money to open facilities in Chicago...which is not the sort of defense you'd expect a stimulus defender to make, right? "Through my political connections, I secured plenty of stimulus cash for my constituents!"

Now Kelly Ayotte is here. I'm guessing that she won't note the attendant ironies of a rich hedge fund crony assailing Romney for being out of touch with the middle class, because her political career is just starting out and she'd like to keep all of those sell-out opportunities alive for herself as well.

Ayotte does say that Mitt Romney has "addressed these attacks" and the attacks are "false and misleading," and the real issue that Obama promised to be positive and "inspirational" and here he is, criticizing his political opponent, as if his political opponent was some sort of "opponent," in "politics," or something crazy, like that!

GS throws Alabama Governor Robert Bentley -- who thinks Romney should just release the tax returns already -- in Ayotte's face, and piles on with Haley Barbour, who thinks the same thing. Ayotte explains that Romney's tax returns are so astoundingly beautiful and perfect that to examine even a single line-item would be like staring into the face of God -- a confrontation with such a divine level of purity and excellence that it would blast the frail human body to cinders instantaneously.

That's what I wish she would say, anyway, because I'm bored and am now willing to hand out points for creativity.

Instead she says that Romney's done what he has to do under the law, and that's that. She goes on to say that the real issue is that Americans are focused on their own economic predicament and that Obama is out-of-touch if he thinks that his biggest failing was "not telling his story well enough."

GS reasserts the various GOP voices who are concerned about Romney's tax returns. Ayotte, like a trooper, immediately brings it back to the economy and what she perceives as Obama's failed policies. She makes a tiny overstep by suggesting that pending cuts to the Pentagon are among these policies -- those Pentagon cuts will be triggered according to an agreement that the GOP and the Democrats jointly made when they formed the Super Committee.

GS won't let Bain Capital go, and starts tossing documents and forms on the screen that testify to the fact that Romney continues to have "active involvement in the company" past the date he claims to have left. Ayotte replies by saying, "Duh, come on, he was working so hard on the Olympics during that time." GS asks how she can explain away the document? Ayotte says that the "issue has been addressed" and repeats, "He had to have been working sixteen hours a day on those Olympics! You saw what he did, with those Olympics?" Yes, he got a lot of taxpayer money from the Federal government, for the Olympics.

"He couldn't have been doing both at the same time!" Ayotte says. Isn't being able to handle two big jobs at the same time one of the things you look for in a President, though? Surely we are not stupid enough to believe that running the Salt Lake City Olympics is a more Herculean task than running the country. I think that this whole, "Romney is innocent because he's a terrible multitasker" argument is not the best way Romney's surrogates could be defining him.

GS won't let it go, again. Ayotte says, again, that the issue has been addressed, but the Obama campaign is allowed to discuss it if they want to. The thing is, they want to. And they will keep discussing it.

GS cites the numbers that are hurting Romney right now -- and they've nothing to do with Bain. By a large margin, voters who are "most concerned about the next four years" prefer Obama to Romney. This is mainly being caused by Romney's unwillingness to put forth some sort of specific agenda that clues voters in to where he'd like to take the country in the next four years.

Ayotte says that she's pretty sure that Romney has a "bold agenda" that fits all of her low-tax/low-deficit bromides. Romney could really, really cut into that polling gap if he'd risk being specific.

Ayotte says that Condi Rice would be a fine choice for running mate. That's the last question. If you're following at home, about 80% of that interview was Ayotte parrying various Bain Capital attacks, with one question on the Veepstakes. That means the Romney campaign's "Get Matt Drudge to spoon out a Veepstakes scoop to change the conversation" gambit was a failure.

Okay, let's get to roundtabling. Apparently, everyone is going to sound off on the U.S. Olympic team's uniforms today, which were made in China like every effing thing in America. You have to love issues like these. Everyone is SO OUTRAGED that the long-term manufacturing policies they've supported and the problems that no one had tried to solve has resulted in the U.S. Olympic team wearing kits that were made overseas. "BLAH SHOUT YELLFACE," says every lawmaker, who now do not have the time to solve the problem before the Olympics, and who will forget that they were so hot and bothered by this soon after the torch is extinguished in London.

Meanwhile, maybe in two years' time, the next U.S. Team will get to wear some crap that was made in the United States, but it won't represent a change to the policies that led to these things being manufactured in China, it will simply be an example of taking the fewest steps required to avoid the current awkwardness.

The athletes, and their uniforms, are not even remotely as embarrassing to this nation as all the dumb, sad whiners who are carping about it, who seem to think that this is someone else's fault. Go catch a javelin, losers.

Today's roundtable will be Matt Dowd and Donna Brazile and James Carville and Mary Matalin and George Will.

Will says that Mitt Romney is "losing" the current battle "in a big way." He's flabbergasted that Romney doesn't just disclose what needs to be disclosed, and makes a good point that Romney's had four years to get his house in order. Romney, per will, has done "nothing illegal...but lots that's impolitic." And he's had years to avoid this. Will points out that the party has nominated someone from the financial sector "at a time when the financial sector has a bad odor." Everyone has had ample time to avoid this, in other words.

Matalin disagrees that this is a big problem for Romney. To her mind, it's a mid-year "distraction" that Obama has had to spend a lot of money to present. Carville disagrees with that: "Bain is going to be a net loser for Romney...he's clearly lost this argument and he needs to get out of it."

Dowd says that the irony here is that "neither candidate wants to run on their record," but concedes that at the moment, Obama benefits from the favor of thise focused on the future. He says that his fear, however, is that the election will be so perilously close that we'll end up, in either case, with a President with "no mandate and no vision."

Dowd attributes Romney's unwillingness to release his tax returns to simple "arrogance." He thinks he shouldn't have to answer for that stuff, so he won't. Will dings Romney with his own words -- he's released "all that the law requires" and all that is necessary to give people "something of an idea" as to how Romney is set up financially.

Brazile says that if she were advising Romney, she'd tell him to "stop whining," get Bain to open up everything, and release all his tax returns. Matalin, on the other hand, continues to maintain that all of the facts are on Romney's side. GS disputes this, citing other documents. Matalin calls that a distraction as well, but shifts to a broader argument about outsourcing.

Will comes back on Matalin, saying that Romney gave the McCain campaign 23 years of tax returns. Matalin's best response is to say, "would releasing 23 years of tax returns create any jobs."

Dowd says that sure, Obama is making this argument and raising this case because he doesn't have a good record to run on as an incumbent, but it's still a rather pointed example of karma rebounding on Romney in a big way -- everything that Obama's doing to Romney now is stuff that Mitt did to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum a few months ago.

Carville notes an irony: the cash-strapped Democratic Super-PACs that are winning the message war against the much better-funded Republican ones. Will follows on by saying that if you have a superior product, you do not need to spend as much money on advertising. He points out that no amount of money and advertising helped the Edsel. Did he just compare Mitt Romney to an Edsel? I think so. That's both hilarious and an interesting admission from Will.

Matalin says, of Condi Rice, that Rice would be an excellent vice-president, but she 100% does not want the job. Carville says, "If you believe that Rice is going to be a Republican vice-president, then you believe Obama was born in Kenya." Actually, those two groups are pretty mutually exclusive, but, whatever, LAUGH LINE.

Dowd says that Romney needs a specific, "much more limited" plan, so that independent voters can start to have a conversation about it. "I'd take that 59 point plan and throw it out" in favor of a "three-or-five point plan." Will says that "it's harder" to do the distilling -- he cites an old joke: "Sorry for the long letter, I didn't have the time to write a short one."

Matalin objects, saying that Romney has a "very specific, twenty-first century" plans on his website, and he'll be great at the debate, so why is everyone worrying?

Will posits that we're reaching peak campaign money, and that dollars spent on campaigns now have a declining marginal utility. I think that this maybe applies to big national presidential campaigns, but downticket, tall dollars still matter. And I think we're learning that super PAC money is probably best spent at the primary level. That's where Citizens United has the greatest potential to be disruptive.

Now, they are talking about the Penn State scandal. Brazile calls it a "sad episode," and Carville says it is "gut wrenching." Carville says that the NCAA should not impose the "death penalty" on Penn State, however.

Will, God bless him, says what needs to be said: "We have grafted a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry onto higher education, it is inherently discordant with the mission of the university, it is inherently corrupting." That's 100% true. And the argument for imposing the death penalty on Penn State is precisely tied to that corruption -- these men, who swept these crimes under the rug, availed themselves of an outsized influence to do so, and they inherently believed that they were entitled to be the sole arbiter of justice.

Carville's argument, that the "death penatly" would "punish" students on the Penn State football team is utter bunk. Penn State University has every resource at their disposal to allow those students to profit and thrive at Penn State University because Penn State University can offer them multiple avenues of academic enrichment and provide an enormous boost to those students' future earning power in the job market. And that what Penn State University is required to do for those students. The football playing is gravy. It's profitable gravy, which is why THOSE STUDENTS ARE GETTING THEIR HIGHLY PROFITABLE EDUCATION FOR FREE.

If we say, "Those students would be punished if there was no football for them to play," then we are sort of giving away the effing game, aren't we.

Anyway, there's plenty of grass in Happy Valley. Let 'em play football to their heart's content!

Dowd compares the PSU matter to the Catholic Church's similar history of misprision of felony. But he loses me when he argues that PSU should not be punished because they aren't the only instituion with a problem. Sure! But hey, here's Alexander Hamilton for you:

It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation.


Gads, people, I am so sorry that it's taking me so long to liveblog things today. Let's see if we can dispense with Meet The Press in a timely fashion.

Don't worry, we will be covering the same topics in the same way. Today's yelly campaign surrogates will be Ed Gillespie. I think that he'll conclude that Romney's done nothing wrong and that Obama's attacks are baseless and divisive. But if that's not enough, we'll have Dick Durbin and John Kyl shouting at each other. And then a panel discussion on "the Veepstakes" because shiny-shiny.

Okay, I am going to try to forget that I have a TiVo and liveblog this "old-school" or "Cajun-style."

So, hey, these Bain attacks! They just aren't going away, from our lives, any time soon. But Ed Gillespie is going to do his best. Hey, and happily David Gregory is using our website for one of his "gotcha" moments. (Here is Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis on the matter.)

Gillespie says that Romney took a leave of absence from Bain to run the Olympics, and during that time he totally did not make "day-to-day decisions" for the company, and was not "responsible for management."

Gregory asks if Romney "stands by the decisions Bain made during that time." The answer should be "Yes." Because why not? Intead, Gillespie says that Romney "never went back" to Bain, and thus "retroactively retired." This is a total dodge. And the very next thing Gillespie says, "Look, Bain was a good company..." sort of belies this. If Bain is a "good company" then when you are asked if you stand with Bain on the business decisions they made during your leave of absence, you say, "Hell, yes!" You do not say, "Oh, I decided that what I actually did was retroactively retired."

Gregory continues to ask if Romney "stands behind Bain's decision," and Gillespie continues to pretend to not understand the question. Romney CLEARLY thinks there's nothing wrong with what Bain did, and as Matt Yglesias points out, there's really no doubt that Obama does either:

Lost in the shuffle here is the question of what it is Romney is denying he's responsible for. Stipulate that Romney somehow had nothing to do with running a company of which he was the CEO and sole shareholder. Does he think, in retrospect, that his subordinates did something wrong by offshoring jobs? Clearly he didn't, which highlights the absurdity of his claims not to have been responsible. It's true that he wasn't running the country on a day-to-day basis, but he really was titular CEO and had Bain been doing something he deemed outrageous he could and should have stepped in to stop them. But he doesn't believe that. And what's more, all indications are that Barack Obama also doesn't think Bain was doing anything wrong. As president he's made no moves to make it illegal for companies to shift production work abroad and has publicly associated himself with a wide range of American firms—from GE to Apple and beyond—who've done just that to varying extents. And we all remember what happened to Obama's promise to renegotiate NAFTA after taking office, right?

So Gregory asks Gillespie if Romney has an objection to these business practices, and Gillespie, hilariously, refuses to answer, other than to say that CEOs should be free to make the decisions they want to make. No one is saying otherwise.

Gregory takes one last stab at it, and Gillespie dodges the question one last time. It was a good run for Gregory! He ends it by asking a question about the Olympic uniforms, which is the softest of balls that Gregory could possibly lob. Gillespie would love to talk about Olympic uniforms all day long, which is why you shouldn't be asking those questions.

Gregory shifts to firmer footing: tax returns. Gillespie says that Romney is adhering to the standard that McCain and Kerry adhered to as candidates. The McCain comparison works -- he only disclosed two years of returns. But John Kerry released twenty years worth of returns. Why lie about this? If McCain is your standard, then awesome: good case. Why bring in Kerry, incorrectly? Why continue to do so months after it was pointed out that this contention is incorrect? It boggles the mind! Either Ed Gillespie is a moron who cannot read, or he is lying. In any event, it's UTTERLY UNNECESSARY TO THE CASE GILLESPIE WANTS TO MAKE. So why continue to make it?

It's like Gillespie wants the John Kerry thing to be true so badly that he won't stop saying it, not ever. Grow up, dude!

Gillespie brings up the issue of transparency and Obama's recent executive privilege claims, to which Gregory responds, "Well that's a separate issue that I won't get into today." Well, it was worth a try.

Onward, then, to Dick Durbin and John Kyl, and their sure-to-be exciting discussion.

So, what does Dick Durbin think about all this Bain stuff? He says that Romney's documentation is totally "confusing" and the bottom line is that Romney is "running away from his record at Bain like a scalded cat." Romney, he says, can "clear the air" by disclosing the same information that every other candidate has disclosed. Hold on, now. Let's keep in mind that whatever Romney is embarrassed about in terms of Bain Capital, it's not the same thing as whatever he's reluctant to display with the tax returns. That's important to note, because I don't think Romney can affirmatively settle the Bain issue with disclosure, like he can with his taxes.

Also, we shouldn't conflate the two issues. Gregory, to his credit, puts a stop to that.

So, what does Jon Kyl think about all this Bain stuff? He says that Ed Gillespie is right and Obama is lying, and the point is that the real problem is that Obama's policies lead to outsourcing. Gregory says, come on, Obama didn't invent outsourcing, and anyway, are you saying that you object to the business practice? Kyl won't answer it, despite the fact that he clearly objects to the practice as it's played out during the Obama administration.

Durbin counters by saying that Bain's practices clearly embarrass Romney, and he challenges Kyl to pass the Democrats' planned legislation to use tax incentives to encourage an end to outsourcing and offshoring. I'm guessing Kyl won't do that. I'm also guessing that the legislation Durbin is referring to, if passed, will not lead to some magical end to outsourcing.

Moving to taxes. Durbin says that despite the fact that Obama inveighed against raising taxes in 2010, he is now "drawing the line in the right way" now. Okay, then! We should probably remember that Obama would have signed an end to the Bush-era tax cuts to the top 2% of earners into law in 2010 if the Democrats hadn't punted. But the Democrats punted. It was one of the dumbest things I've ever witnessed.

Gregory ends by asking Durbin about what's going on with Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., and Durbin says he doesn't have any idea what's happening. He does say that Mark Kirk has set a good standard by being up-front and honest about his health challenges, and recommends that path for Jackson.

Sweet sassy molassey, it is 2:30 and I'm still watching Meet The Press? This is a failed Sunday. Let's cut to the panel discussion.

Mike Murphy says that Obama is "cynical" and "small-ball" and has no record to run on. Hillary Rosen says that Romney's business experience is comparable to Herbert Hoover and he doesn't have a record to run on either. She adds that Dick Durbin was totally right.

Gregory: "The reality is that in politics, everything gets politicized." That's like a zen koan, right there.

Bob Woodward thinks his fellow Postie, Glen Kessler, is awesome, and who reads SEC documents, anyway? That said, he thinks Romney needs to up the transparency.

Oh, Grover Norquist is here today, too? Cool. Norquist says Obama is terrible and doesn't want people to examine his record.

Gregory reads a POLITICO article aloud, to the panel.

Ben Jealous is there, and he thinks that Obama should talk more about job creation, and Romney should talk about his economic plan. Gregory says, "That is important." Rosen smartly jumps in and asserts that Obama has done a better job articulating a plan than Romney has. She sort of meedles Mike Murphy, about whether he would be giving this sort of advice to Romney. Murphy says, "I'm not in the trivia business, I'm in the relieving-Americans-of-their-economic-pain business." I like Murphy a lot, but that's total bullcrap -- he's a lifetime campaign consultant who massages messaging and gives advice to candidates on what to say and how to say it, and none of that does jack-apple-diddly toward "relieving Americans' economic pain." His job is to offer excuses and platitudes to get Americans to forget their pain!

"Where is the plan?" asks Bob Woodward. "It's there!" yells Norquist. Gregory says, "Washington has profound ideological differences."

Ben Jealous says that when Romney came to the NAACP, the NAACP was expecting a "Jack Kemp speech" that indicated Romney had spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the audience's lives and possessed of a desire to address them as equals. That's what Jack Kemp totally did, and his fellow Republicans always treated him like a joke for having done so.

George Romney, it should be noted, went even further than Kemp. He strapped on his shoes and walked the streets of America's inner cities, talking to the people that lived there and consistently trying to mount the case that they were underserved. He was treated worse then Kemp by his GOP colleagues for having done so.

I am including George Romney's son in that.

Everyone agrees that Romney needs to have a plan. We are stuck in roundtable reruns, and have been stuck there for the past month.

Gregory says that he is reading Robert Caro's new LBJ biography. Why is he telling us this? Oh, because we are now talking about "beach reading." While I was at the beach I read Joseph Stiglitz's THE PRICE OF INEQUALITY and was instantly saddened that he was frozen out of Obama's White House in favor of Larry Summers. I also loved Matthew Quirk's THE 500 because he proceeds from the premise that a common con-man is made of considerably firmer moral fiber than any of the whorish sell-outs that actually wield power in Washington, which is absolutely 100% correct. I also read Ariel Leve's 2010 memoir IT COULD BE WORSE, YOU COULD BE ME, and Sheila McClear's memoir THE LAST OF THE LIVE NUDE GIRLS and Jon Methven's hilarious debut novel (I think it's a debut novel, anyway), THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING.

Yes, I sort of over-do the reading thing, at the beach.

Okay, that's that for me. Sorry this took so long, today, for some reason. And I'm sorry to everyone who emailed me saying that the liveblog failed to show up at all. I've no idea what caused this to happen, but hopefully, we'll get it fixed.

Have a good week, everyone!