TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and Happy Mother's Day and welcome to your Sunday morning liveblog. Please say hello to your mother for me! Or, if you prefer, convey these sentiments:

Today is the day after the White House Correspondents' Dinner, so our interlocutors - and many of our interviewees, much be experiencing the effects of an evening of drinking and whoring. Nevertheless, one must relish their dread dedication, and the unholy way they refuse to take a Sunday off. Not us though! We are going to take a Sunday in August off this year, come rain or come shine, so that I can take a vacation! Last week, you readers were asked to weigh in on some long range planning, and since then, my inbox has swelled with guest live-blogger suggestions. Please continue to send those in an email with the subject ""OMGZ HOW WILL WE CONTEND WITH THIS DREADFUL VACATION IN AUGUST." Next week, we shall begin weighing those possibilities.

Anyway, back to today. These shows are the only things standing in the way of my STAR TREK tickets, so let's get this started. As always, please feel free to leave exciting comments, send provocative emails, or to follow me on Twitter, like someone who needs more periodic snarky commentary on quotidian events in their lives. Time for Fox News Sunday, which, given the holiday, appropriately feels like it's gonna be a mofeaux.


General David Petraeus is going to start of Mother's Day by hopefully ensuring that Pakistani nukes won't kill us. And FINALLY people are interested in torture now that they can bring Nancy Pelosi down with it!

But, Petraeus, rolling COIN in the Swat Velley. What is going on? Petraeus says that the Taliban offensive has unified the Pakistani leaders and factions - "galvanized" is the word he uses. But are they following anti-Taliban strategy, or fighting a different version of the fight with India? Petraeus says that the major players understand that it requires a "whole government" approach, and that the moment requires different resources.

Petraeus says that he believes that while the Taliban represents an existential threat, that confidence is high that the nuclear weapons are secured. Wallace wonders how those two things jibe with each other, and asks for a guarantee. Petraeus basically offers a tautology - Pakistan must stave off an existential threat, and, as a result, the staving shall keep the nukes secure. This is a variation on "we cannot fail, so we shall not fail." O-kay!

Who bears responsibility for civilian deaths in Western Afghanistan? Petraeus says that an engagement with the Taliban, who had already killed a number of civilians, turned into a massive firefight. The whole thing is being jointly investigated, in tandem with the Karzai government. Petraeus says he remains concerned of any instance where tactics might undermine the strategic goals.

Petraeus is roundly supportive of the force structure increases that Obama has arranged for Afghanstan and the Robert Gates budget that will allow for that pivot.

Wallace asks if the Iraqi government are screwing the pooch, where our great lessons in Western Democracy are concerned. Petraeus says he is satisfied with what the Iraqis are doing, says the government is making sure the Sons of Iraq get paid, and that incidences of attacks remain down. BUT! "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is re-emerging - and we should "expect" that to happen.

What about troops remaining in Baghdad and Mosul, past the deadline? Petraeus says that the forces that will remain after the deadlines will be "liaisons," not combat forces.

Is Obama's approach to Iran totally wussified, or is there evidence of moderation? Petraeus says there may be a drop in the weapons, flowing into Iraq, but that it's an ongoing process, and the "weeks and months" ahead will offer signs of whether its working or not. This will allow Thomas Friedman to write a billion more columns where he talks about the "super effing important next three months in Iran, which are the most eye-tinglingly important three month period in the history of calendars." And then, Friedman's milky nipples explode.

Hey, it's Newt Gingrich! IDEA MAN. Tell us of this monster, Pelosi. Gingrich says she has a lot of explaining to do! And she must tell the truth! But, he says, there is a "much deeper issue." OOOH! YES! YOU MEAN THE IMMORAL SCUMBAGGERY OF TORTURE ITSELF? No: the horrible monstrous Democrats who "defend terrorists." And the Bush people, who MAKE TERRIBLE WARS ON THEM. And yet, strategically speaking, the terrorists just kept right on beating Bush like a drum!

And the Obama administration is like MCCARTHY RIDES AGAIN! With the torture prosecutions, that probably aren't happening. And, WHAT? I thought Newt LOVED him some Joe McCarthy? MAYBE IT'S EUGENE MCCARTHY. Or Andrew McCarthy?

OMG! Too much crazy to keep up with! Newt is like, HOW DARE WE SUGGEST WE COULD EVER PUT PEOPLE IN A JAIL ON AMERICAN SOIL. He says it's "welfare for terrorists." This is about two years shy of the GOP saying, "GITMO's not so bad, y'all! TWO KINDS OF FRUITS!" Gingrich thinks that being imprisoned in Leavenworth is tantamount to being invited "into American society."

Wallace, unexpectedly, brings up the Uighurs who were snapped up and detained at GITMO, who aren't terrorists, but that cannot be returned to China safely. "Why is that our problem?" Gingrich wonders. UHM? Because we IMPRISONED THEM? Gingrich thinks it's insane to expect taxpayers to pay for prisoners, who become American citizens, MAGICALLY, if they get lawyers to file so much as an amicus brief. THE TAXPAYERS ARE ON THE HOOK WHEN THEY ARE PUT IN PRISONS, THOUGH. Getting their cases settled is the first step to getting them off the taxpayer hook.

Gingrich, of course, hates the Obama spending plan, unless its spending on stuff Gingrich likes, and in this case, he is helping to advance some education reform initiatives with Sharpton and Bloomberg.

So hard to keep up with Gingrich: he thinks that Jindal is awesome and that Obama is a "radical pro-abortion president" and that he won't speak for the Vatican except that he sort of just did and that Americans don't want to pay taxes (but doesn't seem to understand that there's been a big tax cut) and there, my word, thank God, that's over. I probably missed like, SEVEN GREAT IDEAS THAT WILL LEAD THE GOP TO VICTORY IN 1952.

Why is Gingrich always on teevee on Sundays, talking about his awesome conversion to Catholicism? MAYBE GO TO MASS, IDEA BOY?

Panel time! How big a problem for Nancy Pelosi is the torture? Kristol says it's a big problem! It's probably only a big problem for those of us who want her to get behind getting the truth out. Kristol is only worked up about this part of the torture program, and Liasson suggests, basically, that now that Pelosi's involved, maybe everyone can get past this whole "let's punish torturers" thing and get back to our happy inside the Beltway lives. But I live inside the Beltway! With my wife and cats! I want all these people gone and I don't care what political party they are from. I just don't want to walk down the same street with these howlingly immoral people!

Anyway, Kristol is very proud of Guantanamo Bay, and its magic terrorist imprisoning powers, and the Dementors that guard its walls from lawyers, and human rights, and habeas corpus. He's excited to defend its honor. Juan Williams says that these vestiges of fearmongering are a spasm of karma laundering for the Bush legacy.

Now they are back to calling torture "enhanced interrogation techniques." Wallace asks is we should really forswear torture, because what if we get an exciting new prisoner who has never been waterboarded, for information. To me, this is like asking: "Should we forswear the worst counter-terrorist tactics in our arsenal, or should we continue to get useless intelligence to spend all kinds of money and manhours pursuing, like effing idiots?"

Meanwhile: stress tests. Panelist Kimberley Strassel passes off exposition for analysis, mostly, and hones in on a couple specific instances of temporary job hires as stuff that's not focused on long-term growth. Like the census. Of course, the hope is that census employees will remain employed through the bad economy.

Williams says home sales are rebounding and that lending is starting again, two claims I might bleat out on a piccolo rather than a trumpet, especially the "lending is starting again." I mean, we are lending a lot of money to every bank in the world, if you are counting that.

Kristol delves into the cult of the Dow, and at least admits that having blamed Obama for the Dow downturn, now allows that those critics are "hoisted on their own petard." Liasson namechecks Animal Spirits, but astutely notes that there are a ton of long term concerns that will override this one happy week in our post-stress test lives.

Juan Williams says that bailouts could go on and on and on! Probably not for newspapers though!

Well, having gone in for the FULL GINGRICH, I may as well go all in and drink deeply of some DICK CHENEY. This is like THROWBACK SUNDAY, or something. Let me dig out my Soundgarden CD's and stuff!


OOOH. Dick Cheney is "speaking out!" He only had eight years to state his demands, but instead he hid out in his blurred out redoubt, shooting his friends in the face. Finally, he gets a chance to say what's on his mind!

Schieffer asks him why he's all RAAARRRHHH! when his nominal boss is cold-chillin' up in Dallas. "The issues that are at stake here are important!" He describes the Obama administration as something that "came to power" as if it weren't part of a process that all Americans participated in because of issues at stake that THEY FELT were important.

Cheney thinks that he put into place "very good policies that worked." And they did! If by "worked" you mean things like: let al Qaeda flourish, let Iran flourish, let Iran run the show in Iraq, let Hamas and Israel descend into madness, pave the way for a regime in Israel hostile to the two-state solution that America has been trying to push toward, letting Pakistan descend into chaos, I could go on and on! OH YES, almost forgot: TWAS A GLOBAL JIHADIST BOOM TIME. So thanks, Dick!

But waaah. We won't torture anymore! And Dick Cheney has pretended to demand the pretend memos that prove that torture was awesome, forever. "I had them in my files, at one time." I WOULD LIKE TO SEE ALL YOUR FILES, DICK.

Schieffer asks if there is a single iota of specifics he can mention from those memos, that he personally saw, and that were in his files, that he pulled out on occasion, and pleasured himself with, for many years, in a post-9.11 world. Cheney basically says, THEY ARE IN THE MEMOS. So, no. He has no specifics.

What about the idea that employing these tactics weakens security? "Then you have to say we are prepared to sacrifice American lives," Dick Cheney says, apparently unaware that we maintain a large armed forces of men who are prepared to sacrifice their lives to protect a country that was founded by people who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for nothing more than a set of governing principles and a different vision of democracy and moral authority.

Cheney admits that Bush: "Basically authorized the program."

Does he have any regrets, Schieffer asks, asserting that "the country was different." COME ON, BOB. Crisis doesn't mean we abandon our principles. It should mean we take them up in earnest! Cheney says he has no regrets. And he talks about how much we now know about al Qaeda as a result of all their work. Of course, it's hard to square Cheney's bragging about the awesome job of learning about al Qaeda and how they applied that knowledge, which was to allow al Qaeda the chance to reconstitute, rebuild, find safe haven, leading to today--where they are threatening to destabilize Pakistan and maybe grab themselves some nukes. What did Cheney learn, exactly?

"If I don't speak out, then where do we find ourselves?...There won't be anyone to tell the truth!" Cheney says. Schieffer asks if he'd go under oath, and Cheney basically says, WELL PROBABLY NOT.

Schieffer asks if we could secure Pakistan's nukes if the country falls apart. HOW WOULD CHENEY KNOW? Cheney says he trusts Petraeus. This is man who's never known anything but tautology and heart disease.

Now he's asking about air attacks in Afghanistan. AGAIN. This is a retired man. Why are we asking him? Cheney says: Afghanistan is hard to operate in, the Taliban came to power there, we can't allow the country to fall into the wrong hands, success is Afghanistan not constituting a threat to the U.S. THIS ISN'T INSIGHT! This is the back cover of the paperback edition of "LET'S GO: CLUSTERFUCK."

Cheney keeps up the NIMBYism. "I don't know any Congressional district that will take" the GITMO prisoners. But they took other prisoners! Those Congressional districts have already done the process of thinking that through, I'm afraid. Anyone of them who doubt now they can run a prison need to speak up at length. Anyway, it's sort of insane. We are really quite innovative in our whole Imprisoning-People Industry.

Naturally, Cheney bitches about KSM's lawyer, and the whole damned system of jurisprudence, that imagines a legal system conducted outside of star chambers, by hangmen, with a respect for the authority of citizens.

Schieffer asks about whether moderates should expect to find a home in the party. Cheney says that they can join up, but not expect the party to listen to them or endorse their ideas. Asked to pick between Rush Limbaugh and Colin Powell, Cheney throws Powell under the bus, saying he'd pick Rush and his political vision, and that he'd assumed Powell had already left the Republican Party. Schieffer says that these comments will "make news," and that's sad.

Let's reflect on the fact that Dick Cheney thinks that the GOP needs LESS OF GENERAL COLIN POWELL, and more of people WHO THINK EATING DIJON MUSTARD is grounds for sane and salient political criticism. Indeed. Let's have more NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY out of the men and women who caterwaul about mustard. Because surely, that's the level of seriousness required to secure the nation.

OH, YES! Bob Schieffer lays the smackdown on David Souter for dissing Washington, DC. "I take that he won't miss Washington, but my guess is that Washington will hardly miss him." Bravo! Seriously, David Souter can go back to his New Hampshire shack, tout-suite.


Friend of the Liveblog Chris Blakely is here!

So, if I am subpoenaed to testify under oath, like Dick Cheney can I say, "I'd have to think about it?"

Hey, Mr. former VP, you are either telling the truth or you are not. Moreover, if you really believe what you are saying, one would think you would relish the chance, under oath, to deliver your message.

Surely, Cheney is familiar with pleading the fifth. Maybe the only part of the Constitution he wouldn't revise.

Here's some stuff we missed on THIS WEEK:

On GITMO closing:

STEPHANOPOULOS: This - I'm just a little confused on that because Secretary Gates did say a couple of things when he testified this week. He did say that some would have to be brought into the United States. He said there's this problem of 50 to 100 detainees who can't be tried and can't be released and we're going to have to find a way. In fact, the Pentagon is looking into building a prison. You're saying now you've already made the threshold decision that some detainees are going to have to come to the United States.

JONES: Well, if you're going to ask other to take some, you're going to have to figure out how you're going to have to do that and that's where we are right now. No decision has been taken as to exactly how to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Because this has become so thorny - the president wants to close Guantanamo by the January deadline. Are you open to extending that deadline? This has turned out to be quite a difficult decision to implement.

JONES: Well, the - again, the very discussions on these issues and how to do this are currently on the table at the White House. We are coming up on the 20 May deadline for a decision so there will be some announcements made in the near future but no decision has been taken yet.

Why is this a "thorny" issue? Why must GS pretend that it's weird, locking people up in a prison that's not GITMO? It's no wonder the GOP felt like the environment supported the idea that they could pass a Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act. It's like passing the Keep American Teeth Cavity Free Act!

McCain on "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this issue of "don't ask, don't tell"? It's now been bedeviling the military for 15, 16 years right now. Growing support to reform the policy. More than 100 members of Congress say it should be reformed. Former chairman of the joint chiefs, General Shalikashvili, have said it should be reformed. Where are you on that today and how would you reform the policy if at all?

MCCAIN: Again, I've said for months, I will be glad to have a thorough review of the policy by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their recommendations. You might recall it was General Powell who weighed in back early on in the Clinton administration that said we need to have this policy and it's been successful. We now have the best-trained, best-equipped, most professional military in the history of this country in my view.

I would like a fuller explanation about how superior training, equipment, and professionalism depends on a portion of the participants walking around, PRETENDING TO NOT BE GAY. The idea that maintaining an illusion of heterosexuality somehow makes equipment better seems totally daffy to me.

Anyway, Meet the Press.

David Gregory's introduction to today's show does not hold much promise:

"The president calls it the most dangerous place in the world, the front line in the war on terror is now the rugged frontier lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's where al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban have come back with a vengeance in the years after 9/11, and where the White House has decided to surge and additional 20,000 troops."


Anyway, David Gregory talked to some foreign leaders! Asif al Zardari told him that the Taliban was a threat to the world. "An existential threat?" David Gregory asks, proud of learning this new word, existential. Lots of odd and meaningless question follow. "Is it America's war or Pakistan's war?" "We have both come together," al Zardari says. Gregory says, "It sounds like you think it's more America's responsibility." Trust me, IT SOUNDED NOTHING LIKE THAT.

Gregory brings up Howard Berman's criticism - the lack of a long-range, understandable strategy. Al-Zardari says that his contention is that "Democracy is the answer." As in, NOT FURTHER MILITARY COUPS. Naturally, this is sort fo Berman's point - Democracy in this case needs to prove itself, with functionality. Zardari talks a very good game on how long-term policies diminish the drives that power insurgents. But, the military aspect, are they ready to roll up and make important short term gains? As in, tamping down the immediate threats? This is fair of Gregory to ask, and really, "democracy" in Pakistan hangs on a tenuous thread at all times.

What about deal-making in the Swat Valley? Talking the Taliban down from hostility in exchange for the allowance to govern under Islamic law. Al-Zardari says this is "incorrect" and that it had nothing to do with the implementation of Sharia law in toto - and by implication, I guess, "at all," as far as al-Zardari is concerned. And yet, he lays the whole deal off on the Pakistani parliament. So, at least the grand tradition of buck-passing is alive and well in this democracy. Hey! It's an institution, okay?

"I thought it would not work," al Zardari says. Gregory asks if it was "abdication." Al-Zardari says, "No, it was not abdication...I think the Taliban are not rational people." Uhm...i understand that the exchange we call "abdication" requires two rational partners, but man, BURYING THE LEDE HERE, aren't you?

Hey, are we close to the collapse of the Pakistani state? David Kilcullen thinks so. Al-Zardari says, "He's had other predictions wrong before, no...but we do have a problem, a monster created by all of us that we forgot to make a cure for."

"The world needs to understand that this is the new challenge of the 21st Century, the new war, and we are in it together," al-Zardari says, leading Gregory to inquire over whether Pakistan is committed to their part in fighting that war, citing Dexter Filkins September 2008 NYT article, wondering "Whose side is Pakistan really on?" Al-Zardari says, "Let's face it, we need much more help, we brought democracy back, it's a young democracy, aid it."

Gregory keeps after whether the post-9/11 reality in Pakistan was a process of taking US aid while privately supporting the terrorists. "You tell me," al-Zardari says, "I was in prison by the same dictator you were supporting." Gregory says, "But you know well that your military and your intelligence services still have the same sympathies." Zardari denies this.

Then there's this exchange:

GREGORY: Are you adding to your nuclear stockpile?

AL-ZARDARI: I don't think so, no.

GREGORY: Do you know?

AL-ZARDARI: Even if I did, I wasn't going to tell you.

Uhm, JUST TELL US THAT YOU KNOW, one way or the other.

He goes on to suggest that US aid should not come with conditionalities, because that's not how "allies" should treat each other. I'd suggest that maybe some hoops need to be jumped through before we get up to "ally" status.

Al-Zardari says he has a "strong feeling" that Osama bin Laden has shuffled off this mortal coil.

So, Hamid Karzai time! But people, if you read one liveblog comment today, check out Rapid Ray's side by side comparison of Colin Powell and Rush Limbaugh. Well done!

Let's face it, Karzai can rock some bold colors.

But, hey, it's not all about Karzai's awesome fashion sense, there's substance, too, I guess. "Is [the troop increase] too little, too late," Gregory asks. Karzai says that together they defeated the Taliban and al Qaeda in "a month and a half," but that subsequent regional assistance did not arrive, and so these forces resurged. So, this is a strange definition of "defeated." I guess "defeated" means, NOT DEFEATED. Anyway, he says it's never too late, but that at some point in the past, an opportunity may have been missed to put the Taliban and al Qaeda to bed. I WONDER WHAT HE MIGHT BE REFERRING TOO.

Meanwhile, I guess David Gregory spent all week reading old Dexter Filkins articles, because he's throwing up more GOTCHA quotes from his old articles, this one from The New Republic. Filkins calls the Afghan state a "weak and pathetic thing." Karzai says those are "strong, wrong words." Karzai notes that Afghanstan has paved roads, health services, more students in universities and studying abroad, etc.

In June 2003, though, Karzai said the Taliban were dunzo. Gregory asks if he was wrong. Karzai says, no, the Taliban are no longer the government. Merely a violent and deadly threat (and not an existential threat!).

What about applying COIN to the Taliban? Peeling off "persuadables" and marginalizing the ones that won't play ball? Karzai agrees with Obama's process, insisting that lots of people in the Taliban cohort are there out of need, fear, poverty and other circumstances that could be alleviated. One thing that no one talks about, though, is Afghanistan capable welcoming back people who once exerted violence on their fellows, even if done out of fear or need? Afghans have got to live together, after all.

Gregory cites Karzai's criticism of civilian casualties and asks if Karzai's core political message is an anti-American one. Karzai says no. He says the Afghans are pro-American, sacrificing gravely and fighting on the front lines for America in the battle against terror. "The war on terrorism is not in the Afghan villages, and not in the Afghan homes. Respect that." He says that these casualties undermine support for the war on terror and for America. He says that Afghans cannot be expected to support the U.S. if their children keep dying in military circumstances, and that morally, for the war on terror to succeed in Afghanistan, everyone needs to be on a higher platform.

Gregory asks if he means to say that America has not met this moral standard. Karzai says, "The U.S. has not met that standard in Afghanistan."

Gregory asks, "Are you suggesting that the United States is waging an immoral war in Afghanistan?" Right away, I'm thinking, NO THAT'S NOT WHAT HE SAID. Karzai says, "No, it's not an immoral war. It's a standard that we are other words, are we the same as the terrorists, are we the same as the bad guys, or are we standing on a much higher moral platform. Are we better human beings or not. We must be better human beings in order for us to tell the people that those guys are wrong, and we are better, and we must show it in our practice. And that practice should be extreme care for civilians, and for civilians to see us as different from the terrorists."

Karzai says that the Afghan people remain with their government and with the US, but that there are limits.

Gregory: "One thing that fuels the insurgency is the poppycrop." OMG! My new favorite word is poppycrop!

Gregory signs off with a question about Afghanistan's marital rape law, will it be reviewed and repealed? Karzai says it has been reviewed and amended and redrafted. Karzai says that everything has to go through Parliament, and that's now it's done, but like Gregory, I'm looking for Karzai to, you know, MAYBE GET UP ON A HIGH MORAL PLATFORM so that my NON-MARITAL RAPING PEOPLE CAN FEEL LIKE WE CAN WORK WITH THIS GUY. Gregory eventually browbeats him into promising that it will be repealed and it was embarrassing and that "absolutely" it is illegal for a man to rape his wife in Afghanistan.

Steve Coll and Andrea Mitchell in the studio to discuss this stuff. Coll says it's important that Americans to pay attention to Af-Pak because it's the "locus of terrorist groups" and has a nuclear arsenal. He says that the Obama administration is not placing a "bet," but responding to situation which they have no choice but to act on.

Mitchell says that the most striking thing about the two leaders is how "delusional" they are. Coll notes that both were incapable of enunciating a "forward looking idea" about how to secure their nations. Karzai: entirely dependent on U.S. help and for the U.S. to hew to a specific quality of leadership. Zardari, he gives props for his cancer metaphor, but that the slow growth of a nascent democracy is not enough to beat back an immediate threat from Taliban. Coll calls them both "detatched."

Coll says stability must be achieved, and that the realistic goal of containing al Qaeda and the Taliban must be pursued, and that this might help the people in that region to imagine a future. And by realistic, he means, "contained, marginalized, and reduced to a nuisance." "They aren't going to be eradicated, wiped out like a poppycrop." FAVORITE NEW WORD!

Does the public have the stomach for a long fight? Coll says that the public needs to deepen their understanding of the necessity of the fight.

And the rest is Obama making Rahm jokes.

OK. So, that's it. Loose nukes, delusional and detatched foreign leaders, Newt Gingrich still having cameras pointed at him...if this Sunday has taught us anything it's that WE SHOULD ALL CALL OUR MOMS RIGHT NOW. To do anything less would be a load of poppycrop! Have a great Sunday!