TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Well, hello, there, everyone and welcome to yet another edition of your speedily-typed chronicle of what is happening or has happened (depending on your point of view) on this Sunday morning's political chat shows. My name is Jason. I sure hope this election isn't getting too substantive now, for all of you, as the great oracle warned might happen when sage genius and deeply-parted haircut Paul Ryan joined our already teeming cast of characters, with him bringing Seriousness and the Real Issues. And, you know, last week we had Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani join the "narrative" which is truly a sign of serious American statesmanship a-brewing, and not at all an indication that we've wandered off the midway to a sweaty tent where grown men wrestle mules to win the hearts of other mules and/or obtain enough money for a box of chicken nuggets or some Gold Bond powder. We should definitely, definitely expect the discourse to remain amazing and stop worrying about jobs and stuff!

Anyway, I feel like I'm already spoiling the intense substance that a bunch of campaign surrogates are going to dispense, like slightly past-the-sell-by-date soft-serve frogurt, into our already open mouths, so let's just get on with it, immediately. As always, you should feel free to greet each other warmly in the comments, or send me an email (and no, I have no idea if they've fixed the iPhone problem yet, but let me know so I can tell them, okay?). You may also follow me on Twitter. And as I've done for the past few weeks, I have set up my Rebel Mouse page to take you to some fun and diverting and informative reads while you are waiting for more liveblog.


Robert Gibbs and Ed Gillespie are going to be yelling at each other, about Medicare and taxes, and there will also be a panel, and so much substance that after we devour it we should be able to seamlessly pass an Oxford English Dictionary through our bowels.

Paul Ryan went to this super duper Republican retirement community called the Villages yesterday, with his mother, and man, Paul Ryan's momma's so fat, that when she sits around the house, she really sits around the house in great comfort, knowing that she's not going to be affected by the conversion of the Medicare program to the new Ryan Fun Buck system where twenty Medicare vouchers and $10.99 buy you a Godfather's Pizza. Ryan, of course, if keeping up with the whole, "Obamacare raided Medicare to the tune of $700 billion" line, that I'd thought had been sort of put to death during the GOP debates, considering those few that brought it up got a tut-tut and an eyeroll, but apparently not!

A bit of background here: Obama’s Affordable Care Act Medicare cuts reduce how much the program pays hospitals, private insurers and other providers. The $716 billion in savings helped free up funds to pay for other health programs, like the expansion of insurance to 32 million Americans.

That was the primary purpose, at least. There was also a really important side effect: The health care law extended the solvency of Medicare’s Trust Fund. If the program pays hospitals less, each dollar stretches a little bit further. Earlier this year, the independent Medicare Board of Trustees estimated that with these cuts the trust fund would remain solvent through 2024.

Without those cuts, however, the budget gets a little tighter. Medicare keeps paying providers at the same rates it does now, but each dollar buys less. And that means, according to these trustees, that the trust fund would no longer be able to cover Medicare’s costs as soon as 2016.

Again, it seems we've decided to go back in time, as a media, and pretend like we didn't know all of this in the first place, because it now adds exciting drama to the race.

Anyway, Gibbs point out that the Obama administration has extended the life of the trust fund for eight years -- which normally we'd be saying, "Come on, that's not exactly something to write home about except his opponent is not taking the position that Medicare should get it's life extended more, they are saying, "Hey, let's go at this program hammer and tongs and as soon as the elderly who will cast votes for me have done so, we'll dismantle it for the rest." And so, people who want to preserve Medicare are left cheerleading, "Woo! Eight whole years of solvency!"

Gibbs reiterates that the "$716 billion cut" was the elimination of subsidies that were inefficiently grinding gears and leading to higher costs, and it allowed them to bring in more recipients while strengthening the program's base.

What about the rising costs to providers, though -- many of whom are facing the prospect of bailing on the program, and hamper access. Gibbs says that this won't happen if they streamline the process to encourage providers to make better use of preventative care -- that the inefficient providers are the ones facing their own demise. This puts the onus, however, on providers, as Wallace points out. The stopgap, of course, is the IPAB -- a board of medical professionals that Gibbs characterizes as effective and Wallace characterizes as "unelected and unaccountable."

Gibbs points out that Ryan does not roll back these plans in his budget -- as Wallace points out, Ryan's argument is that he has to account for those changes in his baseline. Gibbs disagrees with that.

More fighting between Wallace and Gibbs on the matter of providers, Gibbs continues to maintain that the providers who are going to be unprofitable are the ones who are bent on providing inefficient care -- constantly admitting and readmitting patients for the same ailment. There is an understandable philosophical breakdown here, because Ed Gillespie is likely to contend that the government cannot intervene in private business, the Gibbs argument is obviously, "Sure the government can when private businesses are bollixing a program in which they are partners."

Democrats should, perhaps, figure by now that they aren't going to exactly ride Medicare to an easy win in November, as they maybe thought they would?

What about that request for Romney's tax returns? Gibbs says that his returns have everything to do with tax policy and tax reform. "If Romney proposes to lead us through tax reform," Gibbs says, then the people deserve to see the points at which Romney's "reforms" might be motivated by self-interest.

Wallace is all, OH YEAH, well why don't you guys hold more news conferences and why are you keeping documents under executive privilege? Gibbs says that Obama has done lots of local teevee interviews and other radio interviews and has met with reporters from local papers. Wallace says, WHAT ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS?

Well, in general, if you are running a campaign where the goal is to reach swing voters in key states, you go and you meet with local reporters, because they are going to do a better job asking and informing about the actual issues. The White House Press Corps? Oh, man...those guys. I mean, they are nice people and they mean well and some are really whip smart, and I more blame the White House Press Room which I think is over an active swamp or a bunch of radon? Because it's normally sentient people come into that room and soon you are wondering how they button their pants. I mean, Ed Henry, last week, asked if Joe Biden was going to remain on the ticket!

What the White House Press Corps is really, really good at is taking a snatch of a President's words, pretending they don't know what it means, and then creating a whole dumb news story around it. So, if you are the president, and you are running for re-election, you try to avoid those guys. The irony here is that with a few exceptions (like Obama submitting to an interview with People Magazine), he's actually doing interviews with hungrier, better-informed reporters -- they just aren't as celebrated as those in the White House Press Corps.

I'll remind you that probably the best possible time to run a secret mission to whack Osama bin Laden is during the same weekend the entire White House Press Corps is getting drunk and celebrating each other's amazingness at a big lavish party. It's almost too easy.

Ha! This Joe Biden gaffe is a perfect example! Joe Biden is talking about how Romney and Ryan will undercut the administration's financial regulations, and all anyone wants to talk about is the fact that he used the word "chains" and there happened to be black people in the room.

The super substantive discussion we should have on that matter is about financial sector regulation! What would Romney and Ryan do, specifically, to limit taxpayer exposure to the sociopaths on Wall Street, who are still doing crazy nonsense like London Whaling themselves to death? And if we were really, truly bent on having a serious, adult discussion about this, Romney/Ryan wouldn't hit back at Obama by pointing out that Biden used the word "chains." They'd be saying things like: "Your foreclosure programs have been a bust. You wasted years before making critical appointments to the Fed Board of governors. Your economic team is a gaggle of clapped out Wall Street creatures, how dare you suggest we're somehow different."

And if you wanted to call B.S. on everyone you'd point out that Dodd-Frank doesn't actually do much more but make modest pokes at the status quo ante and that none of the aforementioned sociopaths have been thrown into a deep hole in the earth where they cannot destroy anyone's lives further.

But I digress. CHAINS. We definitely, as a nation, need to settle that. Let's just horsewhip Joe Biden on the steps of the Old Executive Office Building until old women start weeping and calling out, "That's enough! We are satisfied!"

Gibbs mentions that Obama has been on the stump, talking about the issues, but if he really wants to bend this back around, he should say, "Go read all those interviews you just made fun of, Chris. See if they don't speak to a substantive race."

Ed Gillespie is here, now, to drop his diss track. Wallace asks about the whole "cuts to Medicare" that actually greatly benefit Medicare. What is Romney going to do? Gillespie says he'll "reform" it, in unspecified way, but trust him it'll be totally sustainable, and it won't affect current voters...I mean seniors, sorry.

Wallace notes that it doesn't quite add up, so Gillespie says that Romney will also push up the eligibility age (which Obama would have already done if he'd managed to secure the "grand bargain" with Boehner). Wallace goes on to point out that the CBO has noted that recipients, under the Ryan Fun Bucks program, would end up bearing a larger part of the costs of Medicare than they ordinarily would. Gillespie says that everything the CBO says is based on "assumptions" and that there would definitely be a bevy of free market solutions all competing to have the business of insuring and caring for people who are close to death.

Wallace reiterates the contention that Medicare recipients would bear a larger cost, and Gillespie just gives up and says, "Well, we reject that." I suppose he's right -- eventually, those Ryan Fun Bucks get so worthless that people wouldn't just be bearing a larger cost, they'd be bearing the whole thing.

One of the ways this is funny to me: if you were a Republican voter, a die-hard true believer, wouldn't you be really disappointed if the GOP did not try to end Medicare? I mean, I sort of thought that was the whole point of joining up with the party -- enthusiasm for getting rid of Great Society entitlement programs.

Oh, we're talking about jobs! Apparently, Romney and Ryan would do some vague jobs stuff, that will totally work. But really, he's mad about those "Medicare cuts." "That debate is good for us," says Gillespie. What would be good for the country, of course, is a discussion about the current crisis.

Romney tax returns time, now Wallace sort of wants to know about them, but it's not like Gillespie knows much about them. He's not sure when Romney will finalize his most recent tax returns, either. Eventually. It will be awesome. Wallace wants to know when this will be. October 15 is the deadline for the IRS, but Gillespie thinks they will be released ahead of that deadline.

The Obama campaign contends that the Romney tax plan is an unpaid tax benefit for the wealthy -- Wallace notes that the plan does benefit people who have capital gains, as it eliminates capital gains taxes. Gillespie says, well, it eliminates capital gains taxes on everyone making less than $200K a year too, which is great news for that cohort of taxpayers who weren't paying much in capital gains taxes anyway! Oh, man! Why don't you guys tell everyone living in Anacostia that they're getting a tax break on their yachts? That will create SO MANY JOBS. In the HILARITY sector!

Now we get to the part where Gillespie says that Romney is actually running on Romney's proposals, which he hasn't made clear yet, and not Ryan's proposals, about which much is known -- though people should continue to be enthusiastic about Ryan being on the ticket!

Wallace asks if Romney can really make Joe Biden an "issue in this campaign." He says that Biden "makes himself an issue." (Why Gillespie is reinforcing this is a mystery! He should be talking about what a formidable debate opponent Biden will be.)

To underscore my point on the local press versus the celebrity press, here's Dave Weigel explaining how the Oskaloosa Herald did better journalism than CBS News last week. A lot of times, "dodging" the White House Press Corps means that you're actually playing the game at a more difficult setting.

Okay, panel time, with Bill Kristol and Joe Trippi and Karl Rove and Evan Bayh, who I think lobbies for one or more of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse, almost certainly Pestilence. Karl Rove gets Bill Kristol to put on a Carnac the Magnificent turban, which probably pleases Alex Pareene greatly.

Anyway, Kristol is really happy that Ryan is on the ticket, because now it feels like a "movement" and less like a bumbling campaign at which everyone is yelling, "BRING ME ANDREA SAUL! WE MUST BURN THE WITCH, FOR SAYING GOOD THINGS ABOUT ROMNEYCARE."

Trippi agrees that the race is getting more important. Rove is glad that the GOP has revived the old, thought-to-be-dead-and-gone "Medicare cuts" line. Bayh thinks that the Medicate debate will be played to a draw, because the debate will cause "everyone's eyes to glaze over" and eventually remember that the Democrats are generically, more amenable to preserving Medicare. That's great, Evan, what the debate really needed is someone to say, "Don't worry, the voters are so dumb they'll get bored and just react, in Pavlovian fashion, to what they've long been told." And that's why you are out of politics.

Kristol, naturally, disagrees, and says that Medicare is a debate that the Ryan Campaign can win. Trippi notes that the endgame for the GOP ticket is Obamacare repealed entirely, replaced with nothing, and Medicare back on the road to insolvency. As we mentioned in this week's Speculatron wrap-up, the whole point of restoring those "cuts" is that it puts the Medicare system back into crisis. It's a lot harder to shift to the Ryan Fun Buck program if you're resolving the solvency problem.

Rove's electoral map is actually pretty good, though he's got too many "lean Obama" states that should be solid. Too many "lean Romney" states, too, for that matter. There's no reason that Texas should be anything but solid Romney. In general, the complicated part of this for the incumbent is that he needs Colorado and Iowa if he's not going to win Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. And if Ryan puts Wisconsin in play, then you really have to throw the whole "Romney has a narrow path out the window."

If you aren't a resident in one of those states, by the way, then you probably aren't aware of all the terrible campaign ads that are out there, destroying everyone's soul. Be thankful about this!

Anyway, the panel has opinions on the electoral map. None of them are particularly interesting. Obama is well-liked but the economy is terrible. Romney has passed on the "referendum" argument, but the Democrats are pretty overconfident that they can beat Ryan. Obama's coffers will be skint a lot sooner than Romney's will, but incumbency has its advantages. It's going to be a close race. It could even be an interesting one, but probably not.


Chuck Todd is hosting the show this week, and cold-chilling with our own Howard Fineman, Kelly O'Donnell, Helene Cooper, and Major Garrett. What are we talking about today, guys?

Okay, Paul Ryan. And Romney's problem in getting he and his partner's story straight, in terms of whose plans are going to be followed. Also there was a whiteboard, because people love attending management briefing sessions on the stump. Plus tax returns, specifically, do Romney's tax returns simply contain the ancient sigils that will be used to unleash Cthulhu upon the world, on every blank?

Howard says that the Obama camp is going to just keep on trying to get their hands on those tax returns and paint Romney as a guy who doesn't understand Main Street, where everyone longs to gaze, longingly at tax returns. But Romney won't budge! Should they have given more information? Garrett says that Romney thinks it's a distraction but the people don't find it to be a distraction, and so it's about who gets to decide what is a distraction for who and then he just uses the word "distraction" about seventeen more times for fun.

But, Garrett says, the Democrats have decided that "whatever the truth is, it's worse than having this protracted discussion."

Cooper agrees, noting that it's just weird that Romney just doesn't step up and settle the issue -- if it's just more of the same ornate shelters and low rates -- just come right out and claim Harry Reid's scalp and take yourself home a lovely set of parting gifts, like a week of media narrative wins. Romney, of course, has already teased that he's totally sure he's paying a staggeringly low rate, so what's the harm now?

But, we move off tax returns, and onto the whole, "Everyone is sad that the campaign is so negative!" Man, Romney has totally changed! Once upon a time was he was all, "'Politics ain't beanbags.'' or "this ain't the bean bag,” or "Politics ain't bean bags and I know it's going to get tough" or “There's no question that politics ain't bean bags," but now he's basically all, "THERE ARE TOO MANY BEAN BAGS, STOP YOU'RE BEING MEAN!"

Howard rates the situation as "faux outrage" because, PLEASE, Romney was straight up gutter-slinging the muck all during the primaries. Garrett says that it's more about keeping the Obama campaign from taking back the high road -- but he's sacrificing the economic argument everytime he complains about the tenor and tone of the campaign. This has never been truer -- while Romney is not talking about unemployment, he's losing. (Which is why it's a little strange he wants to now debate a bunch of long-term policies that they could have always just snuck through if he'd gotten elected, sparing the entitlement-slashers a debate on their ideas.)

Romney is, at this point, and according to Todd, receiving just a point's worth of "bounce" for putting Ryan on the ticket. I'd withhold a judgement on that, though, until some later polls weigh in! I expect Ryan to deliver a bounce this week.

What does everyone else think? O'Donnell says that Ryan will be a net plus because Ryan makes Romney a better candidate and actually likes talking about issues. Howard says that Ryan means you are not talking about the economy, and so Romney is losing ground. Cooper says that everyone is battling for independent voters at this point, and Ryan doesn't appeal to them. Garrett says that Ryan provides both a demographic disadvantage and raises a bunch of issues that are more helpful to Obama, so he's a narrow loss. Todd says that it could go either way, but don't forget about Florida! (STOP ASSUMING THAT FLORIDA IS GOING TO VOTE A CERTAIN WAY BECAUSE IT HAS SOME FAMOUS ELDERLY PEOPLE.)

I am going to say...ehhh, Kelly O'Donnell wins.

Now there is going to be a colloquy on Obama and beers. He apparently home brews. I have friends who home brew. I find it tedious. Also, I don't really want to keep a bunch of jugs and tubes and yeast around my place. So, I'll just "home-drink." Good luck, though, to everyone! Anyway, the point is that Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy, was a famous lush. So let's learn some "stuff" from his example, okay?

Now, we are talking about a focus group in which people were asked, "If Barack Obama was a car, what kind of car would he be and why?" Okay...I honestly don't know why we are talking about this. Complete loss! Maybe last night, when I slept, literally everything else that could have been talked about, like, called in sick this morning. "Sorry, pundit shows," said every other topic, worthy of consideration by humans, "I'm just not feeling up to getting out of bed. Yeah, sorry, gonna totally try to sleep it off." And now every single topic for discussion is at Perry's, having brunch, and here I am, watching people talk about what car Obama would be, if he was a car.

Anyway, people said Volve because they are safe, or Mercedes because you have to spend and spend and spend, and one person said "the Ford Unfocus" because Obama is "teh suxxors" but, come on, isn't there a real sucky car you can bring up and use here, like a Yugo or a Vauxhall Catbox or something? Have to sully the good name of the Ford Focus? (Actually, I don't know a single person who drives a Ford Focus. Does the care, like, undergo a lot of national security leaks at 50,000 miles or something?)

Anyway, Howard says that Obama is like a Detroit Chrysler, because of the auto bailout. Helene Cooper says that he is a Saab, because he's definitely a European car, but hey, Sweden actually weathered the recession. (Also, Saab's are "born from jets," which admittedly I do not understand, but man the Birthers would have a field day if Obama was born from jets!)

Garrett says that Obama is a bad-ass, bulletproof limousine, probably because he caught a preview screening of COSMOPOLIS.

The conversation doesn't get much more interesting from there. Thanks for calling in sick today, every other thing we could possibly be talking about!

Next week: what kitchen utensil is the Senate? I'm going with a cocktail muddler! Major Garrett will say, "something awful, from a David Cronenberg movie."

Another focus group was asked to use a meteorological term to rate the condition of the economy and the answers ranged from "fog" to "clouds" to "tides" to "stormy" to "tsunami" to "earthquake" to "mega-kryptonite volcano with a chance of Mothra-canes and bloodhail." WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

O'Donnell says it means that the economy is bad and like the weather, you can't change it. Garrett says the question is whether voters think which candidate is giving people a raincoat and which one is shoving them out into the storm. But we need another focus group to determine that. Then we can have a focus group to describe what candidate will have waiting for people when they come in from the rain -- hot cocoa? Soup? David Cronenberg movies?

Here are things we don't know. Howard says that the DoJ has a "big decision on its hands" as to whether to indict Sheldon Adelson for money-laundering. Cooper says that the Obama campaign was excited to use a Seamus joke, because they are all from the second grade. O'Donnell says the Romney campaign is already planning for their transition, should they win.

Four years ago, the Obama campaign got keelhauled in the press for doing the same thing. People said it was presumptuous. It wasn't. It's the responsible thing to do. It's okay then, for people to point out this hypocrisy, but trust me, the Romney camp is right to be figuring out the transition ahead of time, should they win.

Garrett says that the GOP will use "you didn't build that" as a theme at both conventions. (There will be "travelling hecklers" in Charlotte, because swing state voters love nothing more that clowns who use cheap theatrics.)

This week's exciting question is whether or not the Clintons or the Bushes whose children reascend to the political heights. Everyone says it will be the Bushes, except Todd, who says Hillary Clinton will run in 2016, but that's a trick answer to the question.

Anyway, that's that. Stuff about cars, and junk.


Okay, so, Jake Tapper is here today...I am sure that George Stephanopoulos is taking a "well deserved day off," except that's like EVERY OTHER WEEK. I seriously want someone to just say, "Yeah, George Stephanopoulos isn't here. He's a fancy morning news ponce, now, and when he wakes up on Sundays and he's just not feeling it, cuticle-wise, he's like, 'Feh, I'm going back to bed.' and then WE HAVE TO SUIT UP and do this show. We are thinking about framing him for some sort of crime. Can any of you help with that? UGH, THIS EFFING GUY."

Well, at the very least Jake Tapper makes it clear that Stephanopoulos has the morning off, but it is not well-deserved.

Anyway, Kevin Madden and Stephanie Cutter will be here, to do the surrogate yelling thing only it will be slightly more mean than it is when it's Gibbs and Gillespie who eventually have to get along at cocktail parties.

Madden promises that Romney and Ryan are running on a "shared vision" on tax reform that would do a whole lot more than just limit Romney's tax rate to negligible -- it would for instance, lower the capital gains taxes on millions of Americans who do not qualify for capital gains taxes. That's awesome! An end to all the tax penalties for all the saffron we serve in Faberge eggs is surely in the offing as well!

Cutter says that it's "incredulous" because independent analysts have said that Romney's tax cuts will be paid for by the middle class. She says that the Obama campaign has plans to help the middle class, too. And they are, you know, really something else, whatever they are!

Madden says that all that is bunk because job creators, Cutter says, "I don't know what you're talking about but I'll assume you are talking about something I can easily zing you on, so there."

Tapper points out that Obama made three references to Seamus on the stump, which sort of proves my point that the White House Press Corps has extracted only the finest, grass-fed, hand-crafted, slow-poured bullcrap from those Iowa appearances and that whatever was actually said about wind energy tax credits (a complicated, interesting issue, that isn't as reducible to left-versus-right shenanigans as you might thing) just gets tossed in the bin. Stephanie Cutter basically says this, while making the "Mikayla Maroney is not impressed" face.

Madden says that his campaign is talking about issues and Joe Biden is talking about CHAINS, OMG. (Again, that was a discussion of financial regulatory reform.) And he's mad at Obama for talking about his favorite chili. (I'll reconcede that while engaging local news agencies provides, on balance, more substance, there are, obviously, exceptions.)

Tapper shows a video litany of Romney being really pointlessly negative and divisive, so I suppose he needs to take all that back to Chicago. And while both campaigns are taking their crap back to Chicago, could they pick me up at Midway and take me to Evanston? I'd appreciate it.

Anyway, Cutter/Madden thinks the other campaign is just awful and their own campaign is totally decent and substantive. Glad we are airing this.

Rudy Giuliani complained about Biden, and for some reason, people were interested in what he had to say.

Cutter ensures everyone that Joe Biden is not some sort of unmanageble madman, but what if he was, dude? Has anyone given any thought to just unleashing Biden, and like, have this kooky Drunken Master of politics Jackie Channing up the place, relentlessly? (Yes, I know the irony is that Biden is a teetotaler, but that doesn't have to stop him.)

Oh, I know I'm going nowhere with this: Stephanie and Kevin are just two Sterny No-Fun McGees.

What will these two have to say about Obama "raiding" Medicare? Madden is going to dodge Jake Tapper's question and hilariously go on to claim that be adding back the wasteful stuff that was taken out to make the program more solvent, Romney will achieve...more solvence. Through ancient magicks.

Tapper asks Cutter to explain how it was that when she was asked about Joe Soptic -- the protagonist of that Obama campaign ad (technically a super PAC ad, but we no longer pretend that super PACs are not coordinating with campaigns, they are and they do) that asserted, basically, that Romney and Bain Capital killed a woman, dead, with cancer -- she claimed to not know anything about Soptic, when in fact she was on a conference call where Soptic himself told this story. Cutter says that "she didn't know the facts" and "only recently learned about the hysteria about that ad." But now she has all sorts of opinions about it, which I'd share with you if she had simply given Jake the honest answer to his question, which was, "Oh, Jake, yes, when I said I didn't know anything about Joe Soptic I was totally, totally lying, like a big old liar from the Land of Lie-Diddly-Lie-Dee-Dee."

Tapper asks Madden about this OPSEC ad, which, screw it, we'll say was coordinated up with the Romney campaign, because the only way to fight all the dark money and attendant horse manure is for someone to stand up and just cast aspersions on everyone and everything. OPSEC's hysterical ad is just filled with dudes who are angry as hell that Osama bin Laden is dead and the Obama White House gets the credit, spitting their precious, foofy fee-fees through gritted teeth and tears, and the whole thing is led by a Birther goober-loon.

Madden says, "Oh I haven't seen this particular ad," because like Stephanie Cutter, he is a howling, reprehensible liar. Honestly, all these campaign surrogate scumbags who are like -- "Oh, we didn't see this widespread viral video that everyone is talking about, you know we are by pure happenstance never in the room when it's on a computer screen or a teevee and wow, we are just totally blindsided by you even asking us a question about this, how could I have possibly known or gathered the mental or moral resources to have an opinion on it, gee golly gosh!" -- hopefully, they are all, bit by bit, purchasing their souls some sort of time-share in some Stygian tar-swamp.

Ugh, if you see those two on the street, bravely call them liars to their faces for me, and for America.

Now we are going to have a roundtable discussion on whether or not America can even be saved, financially, or if we are heading toward bankruptcy and foraging in the wilderness for grubs and game. Hopefully not the latter, because unless humanity needs a guy around to tell dick jokes for survival, my skill set is more of a burden and I'll probably volunteer to just take one for the team and throw myself into an onrushing grizzly bear so that we might survive. Long may the bards sing of me, "That dick-joke blogging dude sure was a heroic snack, for bears."

Anyway, the panel featured Kim Strassel, Pat Toomey, Grover Norquist, Austan Goolsbee, Chris Van Hollen, and Neil Barofsky, whose book, BAILOUT, describes in great detail just how awful everyone is and why nothing has been done to improve your lives in the post-crash years.

So, can we fix the nation's finances without cutting entitlements? Strassel says no, we can't. And that's that, sorry, final!

So, what about Medicare? Will Paul Ryan's Medicate plan work? Pat Toomey says it totally will, because private sector insurers are itching to sign up lots of old people, because presumably they've all forgotten about their business model, which involves "shorting immortality." Van Hollen says it totally won't, because it of the whole "voucher that declines in value as costs go up."

So, be shocked America -- Democrats like the Democratic plan and Republicans like the Republican plan, and getting this amazing fact out there redeems the efforts of everyone who built the electrical grid.

Goolsbee notes, that if you allow "cream-skimming," it will destroy the insurance market and it will blow up Medicare.

Barofsky just doesn't straight up get why we're having a discussion on the long-term future of an entitlement program when the middle-class is currently being driven headlong into grueling poverty, noting that cutting some of these programs at the present moment will just result in a lot of people dying. "We are on the brink of third-world nation status."

Norquist says that "that's what people said about Clinton's welfare reform and they were wrong." Barofsky attempts to counter that the economy wasn't in complete tatters at the time, but is drowned out because Goolsbee and Strassel want to hack away at Medicare, and why not, neither of them are going to die anytime soon, from misery.

Can we fix the nations's finances without raising taxes? Tapper goes on a long spoiler alert, telling people that Grover Norquist is going to say no. It is deemed interesting that the Bushes -- Jeb and George H.W. -- both disagree.

Tapper asks Toomey if he was breaking his own commitment to Norquist by putting "revenues on the table" during the Super Committee -- and, I don't understand why we are playing gotcha with this trivial part of the Super Committee's dealings? How does it help the current situation to have Toomey explain this?

Toomey just says we can totally fix everything without raising taxes. Van Hollen complains that Romney's trickle-down economic theories have been reality-tested and are reality-losers.

Tapper, having just established that Norquist is opposed to raising taxes in any instance, nevertheless tries to get him to support such a thing, and for several minutes, Norquist resists, precisely as predicted, so that was fun and important.

Strassel and Van Hollen and Goolsbee fight over small business taxes, and Strassel sort of picks that moment to play Calvinball with the definition of "small business." Barofsky finally notes that it's not realistic to expect taxes to stay at these current historically low levels if they want to get the budget in balance, but that -- again -- raising taxes is an irresponsible thing to do while the middle class is two steps away from being ground up into chunks of meat.

Same question as the first, only now we're asking if we can cut defense, and not entitlements. Tapper points out that while Leon Panetta has agreed that the defense budget has to play a role, the sequester-trigger will cut too deeply. The discussion basically leads one to believe that the whole Super Committee gimmick, where everyone pretended that Congresscritters could be pressured into doing something because the ramifications of doing nothing would be more severe was a stupid idea, because first you need Congresscritters who are willing to admit that ultimately, they bear some responsibility for things that go wrong, and that's just not what people in Congress do.

Now there's a long colloquy on why the Supercommittee failed, but all you need to know about that is that the Supercommittee failed as soon as the Supercommittee was created. If Congress had enough non-cowards to make a quorum, there would not be a need for some stupid, exotic, decision-making mechanism -- we'd just use the effing decision-making mechanism that the effing Constitution designed for us to use.

We go to commercial, and then there's like, five more minutes of pure, mountain-grown partisan hackery and blame-assigning. But everyone's totally optimistic, because their partisan hackery may be in ascendance, who knows!

The only pessimist is Barofsky, who says, "we're not going to have a grand bargain, you can tell just from this debate just how highly politicized things have become." That's a very diplomatic of saying what I would say: "Well, I'm optimistic that if we print the things that my fellow co-panelists have said on absorbent enough paper, I could easily wipe my ass for a month." Neither does he think that the country is doomed, because ultimately we'll transcend the utter uselessness of our leaders and just solve things ourselves.

Probably, anyway! Maybe we can lure all of our legislators and their lobbyist friends into a woodchipper? Someone look into that. The possibility, I mean. Not a woodchipper.

Well, that brings us to the end of another one of these things. Sorry to everyone who's iPods and iPads and Adroid apps weren't getting you to this liveblog. I promise I keep telling people about this problems, and if they are resolvable, they shall be resolved. In the meantime, as Winston Churchill might say, "KEEP CALM AND USE SAFARI."

Finally, a programming note -- we will not have a liveblog the next two Sundays because of the Republican and Democratic conventions. We shall return on September 9. Everyone stay away from the edge of the fiscal cliff until then, okay?