TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

So, what's brewing up on Fox News Sunday? Fiscal cliff bullroar and Syrian chemical weapons, a classic combination. Here today to jabber about this stuff until they are blue in the face are Chuck Schumer and Bob Corker, plus Ambassador Michael Oren, and also a panel.

Happy Sunday, and welcome once again to another edition of your liveblog of the Sunday Morning political chat shows and frustration index. My name is Jason, and today it looks like we shall continue to get all flushed in the face about the so-called "fiscal cliff," and the grand bargains that both sides are trying to reach, so everyone can go home for the holidays and forget about the fact that they've ignored the short term economic emergencies in America for several years now. Hey, but at least the rich editors of the Washington Post can wake up on Christmas Day, maybe, feeling good enough about the 75-year budget baseline, or something.

Speaking of being away for the upcoming holiday, this is a distant early warning to everyone that this liveblog will be unmanned on December 23, 2012, so that I can give myself the Christmas gift of not watching idiots on Sunday shows. You all should do the same, though if you celebrate Hannukkah, you should do this right now. We will return on December 30, which will be the last liveblog of 2012, a year that I am amazed we all somehow made it through.

Okay then! As usual, you all should feel free to cavort in the comments, drop me a line if you like, or follow me on the Tweet Thingy. And if you find yourself getting bored, waiting for me to populate this blog with words, you may avail yourself of the articles I have posted on my Rebel Mouse page, which today features stories from Ana Marie Cox and Dan Froomkin, a piece on weird Communist architecture, and the story of how the greatest Christmas song that was ever sung came to be. Y'all do that stuff, and I'll watch these shows so you do not have to.


So, what's brewing up on Fox News Sunday? Fiscal cliff bullroar and Syrian chemical weapons, a classic combination. Here today to jabber about this stuff until they are blue in the face are Chuck Schumer and Bob Corker, plus Ambassador Michael Oren, and also a panel.

Plus Chris Wallace's lovely dog died, or something? That's no good, man! Now I'm really sad! Chris Wallace! Always remember that Will Rogers said: "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."

Okay, we are not going to dwell anymore on dead pets. Luckily we have Chuck Schumer and Bob Corker to alter the mood entirely.

We are "now just twenty-three days from the brink," Wallace says, which is really not helping to keep pretending that we are literally on or near a cliff. It will be fun, to watch everyone fail to calm down over the next three weeks.

But can Schumer and Corker help us? Probably not. Corker says that "something is gonna happen" and "I hope it's large enough," all of which sounds like he's gonna lose his virginity on prom night. For whatever reason, Corker says that his party is "trying to leverage the President into doing something great for our nation," which is a weird way of saying, "we would like to impoverish some old people," but he's hopeful that Obama will "see the light." And to a certain extent, I actually imagine he will, but probably not as much as Corker et al., want.

Schumer is asked, "What's the compromise?" He says that "standing in the way is revenues, particularly the top rate." That said, he's pretty sure that a deal is in the offing, because enough conservative legislators have "seen the light," and they are joined by business leaders, and he figures everyone else will come to cave, in the fullness of time.

So, can we broker a deal right here, today, on the teevee? Corker says, "We don't have a lot of cards on the tax issue," and he says that he sees the merit of giving up the tax increase and, in so doing, regaining the leverage on spending. This is, actually, from the GOP's perspective, the best option they have -- if they give in early on taxes, they will be able to bring Obama much farther on spending cuts. There just seems to be enough anti-realists in their House caucus to prevent this happening -- all of which could put us "over the cliff" on 1/1/2013, and from there, the GOP loses most of their remaining leverage entirely.

It is pretty hilarious that everyone is totally hung up on a miniscule tax increase that was the norm just two decades ago. Anyway, Schumer says, "We will not negotiate against ourselves."

"It's a shame that we're not just sitting down and solving this," says Corker, who should have said that before the Senate Deficit Commission and the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Super Committee and the Debt Ceiling Loony Bin Hostage Taking Fiasco. Because there were hundreds and hundreds of days that Senator Corker could have personally advanced this ball, and instead decided to moo and chew cud with the gutless herd on Capitol Hill.

Speaking of the Crazyfaced Near Destruction Of The Global Economy That Nearly Occurred Because The GOP Legislators Suddenly Decided That They Would Not Raise The Debt Ceiling As Needed, isn't it time we got rid of this stupid "debt ceiling" thing anyway, because it's a) a terrible metaphor like the fiscal cliff (lots of people believe that "raising the debt ceiling" means "giving everyone the allowance to go further into debt" when it really means "professing a public promise to actually pay for the legislation we passed into law many years ago" and b) is a ridiculous, formal ritual, literally like kissing the Blarney Stone or something, that never ever actually needs to happen, especially now that an entire political party has gotten the taste for the meth that comes from nearly destroying the entire global economy for thrill-kill kicks! At some point, this will actually happen -- there will be enough fiscal serial killers elected who are collectively willing to make a skin suit out of prosperity.

Naturally, Corker doesn't want to part with debt ceiling leverage, because he sees it as critical to getting where he wants on spening. But that is irresponsible leverage to wield. It's like carrying plutonium into a bar mitzvah. Schumer, on the other hand, would willingly give up the power, because he'll get what he wants out of the "fiscal cliff" deal, and that's not a principled position on the matter either, but he thinks it will nevertheless go away. I don't think it will! And that's scary, because the gun you see on Act One always goes off in Act Five.

Now Wallace is showing Schumer a clip in which he touts the wisdom of the Senate's ability to "slow things down," in order to ask him where that spirit has gone, now that Schumer is in favor of filibuster reform. Schumer says that nothing has changed, because the filibuster is now being overused and used on trivial things. Here's some ammo he just handed conservative pundits, however: he says that health care reform should not have passed with 51 votes, because it needed 60. And actually, Chuck, it didn't. Basic civics teaches us that 51 to 49 equals Senate passage, and only dumb Beltway wanks who worship the memory of David Broder think otherwise.

Wallace points out, immediately, that the health care reform vote eventually required a budget reconciliation vote, that passed on 51 votes, over Schumer's objection. Stupid, stupid, Chuck Schumer. Bone up on what actually happened before you make weird (and incorrect) pronouncements.

Corker thinks that Susan Rice is a "political operative" that Obama will not actually nominate to the State Department, but hedges on whether she'd pass the Senate. Schumer says that if Rice is nominated, the GOP can prove that they aren't a bunch of howler monkeys by voting against her but NOT filibustering her.

Corker, initially referred to Rice as "Secretary Rice," probably because he remembers Condoleezza Rice, who went on teevee many years ago, tasked with the mission of telling a bunch of lies to get us all into a needless and expensive war for thrill-kill kicks. "Aw, come on, give her a break," Republicans said, when she was nominated to run the State Department. A lot has changed! (Back then, the GOP used to say, "Of course we will raise the debt ceiling a bunch of times for you, Mr. President, sir!")

So, in Syria, the Assad regime is maybe going to use chemical weapons, and unlike bullets or bombs or fire or grenades, there's something about the way bodies are destroyed and the spark of life sucked from human beings when it's done with chemicals that our government officials find utterly gauche, and if Assad and his thug pals decide to use those particular weapons, and not merely continue to tear flesh from bone with fire and lead...well, then, we might end up shaking our tiny fists at Syria more vigorously! Or, alternatively, we may have to put "boots on the ground," which is a metaphor for "sending the children of less affluent families to die in foreign countries."

Ha, of course, none of that would stip Assad from using sarin gas on the Syrian people, because Assad is a fuddy rucking psychopath.

Anyway, Michael Oren says that these weapons, falling into the hands of Hezbollah, would be a "game-changer" for Israel. Because we need to apply election year horse race terms to this crisis. It doesn't make me question anyone's seriousness at all.

Does Oren worry about the power vacuum that could open up if Assad is deposed, and the answer is no, Israel has, for a long while, agitated for Assad's deposition. "If he goes now, we would view that as a positive development," and jihadists filling the space, to his analysis, wouldn't be as bad a situation.

Oren similarly says that Israel has an interest in a stable, peaceful, democratic Egypt, but they won't get meddlesome with their internal politics -- they merely hope things resolve, and professes some basic level of confidence in Mohammed Morsi's eventually coming around to play a part in a stable Egypt. (According to the news today, by the way, "Morsi has agreed to rescind the near-absolute power he had granted himself."

Wallace and Oren talk about settlements:

WALLACE: Immediately after the Palestinians, a week or so ago, were voted non-member observer status as a state, non-member observer status in the u.n., Netanyahu said, you'll go ahead for plans, just plans at this point, for a settlement on the West Bank called E-1...the project which the Obama administration says would drive a wedge into the heart of the Palestinian West Bank, possibly cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and my question is, will Israel develop that little chunk, E-1, or are you using that as a bargaining chip, to say to the Palestinians, look, you made trouble for us in the UN and international bodies, and, this is what we may do. If you don't, maybe we won't.

OREN: The map is a little misleading. the yellow chunk there is actually a suburb, and, 40,000 Israelis live there. It is about -- less than two miles stretch of barren desert road from the suburb to Jerusalem. E-1 is the road. and we have to worry about a situation in the future where the suburb could be cut off from Jerusalem. you see on the map it doesn't cut off the West Bank, you can get from Ramallah in the north, Bethlehem in the south by going around E-1 and if there is true peace, the problem is solved by a cloverleaf or tunnel going beneath the road that links the suburb with Jerusalem. But, you said it best, it was the way the Israeli government set down a marker. The Palestinians violate their agreements with us and with the United States by going unilaterally to the UN to declare a state. All of our agreements say, there is no alternative to direct talks between us and the Palestinians. we are still ready to have the talks, ready to have them today if they join us at the table. If not, we are going to have to take measures that will enable us to defend ourselves and our citizens in the future.

WALLACE: Well, I want to button up the issue with E-1. you know, you put your spin on it and the US talked about it driving a wedge into the West Bank and making it more difficult to have a viable contiguous state. The question is, is Israel necessarily going to build on E-1? Or are you saying it depends?

OREN: It is a preliminary stage that was announced, last week. It could take years to fulfill that. Let's see if the Palestinians come back to the negotiating table. I want to reiterate, we are ready to negotiate today, here in Washington, Ramallah, Jerusalem, to work out the core issues between us and one issue is Jerusalem, and the question of settlements, which are part of the territorial issue, for us and we are willing to talk about all of it.

And now, we'll panel with Bill Kristol and Kirsten Powers and Kimberly Strassel and Juan Williams, beginning with marriage equality cases in the Supreme Court. Kristol thinks that the Court will be modest and decide the DOMA case narrowly. Similarly, he thinks that if Supreme Court ultimately makes marriage equality legal in California, they will do so in a way that limits it to California. Powers agrees -- she and Wallace seem to be concerned that a broad Court ruling could actually fuel a backlash that halts the emerging support for marriage equality.

Strassel agrees with that, and says that when people are given the chance to decide the matter at the ballot box, they are happier -- and as you see the trend is not flowing in the favor of marriage equality. Williams says that his read of the marriage equality advocated who are supporting these legal efforts seem to be "backing off" from a grand, broad ruling.

Powers says that support for marriage equality seemed to "snowball" after the African-American churchgoing community softened in their stance against it. I typically reject the notion that the President of the United States has magical bully pulpit powers that can alter the political trajectory of the nation with a single speech or public pronouncement, but those who believe the Presidency confers these magic powers will be throwing Obama's statement in support of marriage equality in my face for a long time to come. I can't say they are wrong, either!

Also, it seems to me like everyone on this panel is at least nominally in support of marriage equality? That's kind of a sign of the times, too.

Fiscal cliff anyone? Strassel doesn't think the jobs numbers are strong enough to give Obama any leverage on the talks, and she is just "astonished" in general that Obama doesn't cave fully on the negotiations. As Jonathan Chait points out, Strassel is a loud fiscal cliff crybaby. Williams, on the other hand, notes that the GOP is getting realistic, and are slowly sidling up to the point where they give in on the tax issue. He also notes that giving in and cutting a deal makes great sense politically for the GOP -- it's mutually assured problem-crushing for both sides. Kristol advocates for getting past the tax rate issue as quickly as possible -- which makes sense for the GOP, as it restores some leverage to their side.

Strassel says that the GOP doesn't want to deal because they don't want "their fingerprints on the negative economic impact" that would ensue. The good news, there, is that we are already having a terrible economy, and there's no reason to worry about what happens twenty years out with budget baselines today. Also, if they are so concerned with not having their fingerprints on economic calamity, then they should stop molesting the debt ceiling.


Okay, well, more "fiscal cliff" nonsense, with Debbie Stabenow, Raul Grijalva, Tom Coburn, and Jeb Hensarling on hand to get George Stephanopoulos all hot and bothered. He is already pretty agitated over the "fiscal cliff" in his voice-over narration. Two weeks from now, when there is no deal, he will probably be buck naked and covered in calf's blood, calling on Cthulhu to cleanse the fiscal cliff with fire and pain.

So, we're gonna basically have a bunch of roundtable discussions today, first with blundering lawmakers, then with blithering pundits, and hopefully they will be able to serve erectile dysfunction ads against all of this.

Hensarling says that Obama is being all "my way or the highway" and it's just crazy how after Obama won the election he even asked for more! It's nuts! It's like he thinks elections have consequences, or something. He goes on to sound very much unlike all these Republicans that we've been told are preparing to cave on taxes. He even hints at the old "we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem" that just failed to win an election.

Coburn is actually closer to the President on taxes, but he wants a significant deal to come along with this -- and that includes big spending cuts that reduce the clout of our "bondholders in China." These means massive cuts to earned benefits like Medicare. He also puts Social Security in the mix, because "everybody will have to experience some discomfort." Well, Social Security is not something that even needs to be discusses in terms of the fiscal cliff, but if we're talking about making it more secure, and if we're allowing that "everyone needs to feel some discomfort" and we're going to actually put our money where our mouth is on the need to have the "courage to make the tough choices," then let's remove all the income caps on Social Security contributions, spread around the "discomfort" and, VOILA -- problem solved, literally forever.

Coburn probably wants to do something much more complicated and stupid and ineffective.

Stabenow says that her side has "already agreed to $1 trillion in spending reductions" and "already agreed to over $700 billion in spending reductions on Medicare, starting by cutting overpayments to insurance companies" and the only thing that needs to happen is the tax rates issue needs to be resolved by restoring the Clinton-era rates on top-earners. Grijalva agrees, and also notes that we are actually in the midst of a crisis of insufficient aggregate demand:

GRIJALVA: When I talk to the business folk in my district, the guy who sells furniture up the street, and neighborhoods that were hit hard by this recession, they're not asking, "Oh, what's going to be my tax rate? Or what's the tax situation?" They're looking for customers.

Hensarling says "Well, I must admit, I didn't know the president could surprise me once again, but to say that he no longer wants to have a debt ceiling -- in other words, we no longer need even a speed bump on the -- on the highway to bankruptcy -- I mean, let's look at Greece. Greece has been very adept at increasing their debt ceiling." That's almost completely incorrect. The "debt ceiling" is not a "speed bump" that slows you on the way to bankruptcy. It's a promise to continue to pay for the things you long ago promised to pay for. When you announce to the world that you'll renege, that brings on default. When the United States defaults, it wrecks the global economy. And LOL comparisons to Greece; it's 2012, do try to keep up.

Grijalva says he's glad that the White House is not negotiating with itself, but in the end I think that he might have to actually swallow some cuts to earned benefit programs that Obama authentically supports. Though holding the line at this point in time probably assures that those cuts are closer to what Obama wants, as opposed to what the GOP wants.

Nevertheless, previous Republican Congressional majorities in recent history would have probably looked at the deals Obama is willing to make on these things and thought to themselves, "My word! Is President Obama coming on to me? Is it my birthday, or something?"

Now here is George Will and Paul Krugman and Matt Dowd and James Carville and Mary Matalin, to discuss this matter even further, reminding me that life is short and that when I am breathing my last, I probably will deeply regret all the hours I spent watching these things, but then I will be comforted in the knowledge that I'll no longer have to, in fact, maybe I'll get a special afterlife dispensation to haunt the set of Meet The Press and just poltergeist the daylights out of that place. So, as usual, ruminations on mortality sort of yield a mixed bag of emotions for me.

CAN THE FISCAL CLIFF BE AVERTED?! Will says that it's "conceptually" possible, which is great? "We're dealing here with splittable differences, like numbers," he says, and says that the real problem "isn't the divisions, it's the consensus...that we should have an ever-more generous welfare state, and not pay for it."

Krugman disagrees: "I think part of the problem is the Republicans are unable to actually make concrete proposals. If you actually look, all that talk we just heard about, you know, deficits and China and Greece, which is all nonsense, but all that talk about how we need to deal with this and ask, what is the Republican Party currently proposing? What have they actually put on the table? They put down some numbers, but what specifics? And if you look at all of things that they've concretely mentioned, all of their actual proposed spending cuts, on, you know, raising the Medicare age, cutting the price index for Social Security, it's about $300 billion...what they've actually put on the table is almost nothing. All of the rest is just big talk. So how is the president supposed to negotiate with people who say, 'Here's my demands. By the way, I can't give you any specifics. Just make me happy?'"

Matalin says that Krugman is being "completely mendacious," and goes on, "The Republicans have offered in theory and in specificity, for instance, to raise revenues, capping various deductions, not eliminating, but capping them, which the CBO says would raise $1.7 trillion over 10 years."

Krugman points out, "That doesn't work." He explains, "That kills charitable deductions. It hits the middle class hard." Matalin yawps, "Are you an economist or a polemicist." But she's the one making a polemic case! Her husband takes Krugman's side: "When you say you want to close loopholes, that does not count. You have to tell us which ones. Just a generic thing, to say, we're going to close loopholes, are you going to close charitable? Are you going to close home mortgage? Are you going to close state and local deductions (inaudible) sales rate and local finance? What is it that you're going to do?"

Krugman says that Hensarling made him mad when he said that the White House didn't offer specific cuts, noting that their offer included detailed cuts to providers in Medicare. He and Matalin fall out again:

MATALIN: ... Professor, if you cut a provider, that doesn't cut the beneficiary? Is that an economic reality?

KRUGMAN: No, it doesn't, actually.

MATALIN: If you cut provider, you're going to cut with a beneficiary.

KRUGMAN: Not true. Not true in this case.

Two things about this.

1). Yes, I'm afraid that you cannot actually make cuts on the provider side without their being some impact on beneficiaries. About all you can say is that you've not gone at the beenficiaries with a machete.

2). What is Matalin arguing here? She is in favor of much larger cuts to beneficiaries. So why is pretending to be aggrieved on their behalf? Her position is, literally, "Paul Krugman, you want to impact Medicare beneficiaries way, way less severely than I do!" I think Paul Krugman would totally accept the terms of that argument.

All of that sort of reminds me of that time George Allen was running against Jim Webb for the Virginia Senate seat, and Allen tried to make hay out of Webb's lack of progressive thought on women in the military. He really jabbed and jabbed at Webb over that! And, hey, he was technically correct -- Webb wasn't the most progressive guy in terms of women participating in the military! But it wasn't like George Allen was going to be a champion for that cause, either.

"You are, in some limited way, as bad as I am on this issue," is the sort of dumb argument you hear nominal grown ups making on these stupid Sunday shows.

Dowd reckons that the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations just proves that Washington has bankrupt values and is filled with people who don't stand for anything. Tell me something I don't know!

Will takes up for the Ryan budget, and Krugman has to point out that the Ryan Budget is actually high-toned vapor masquerading as math. Will objects by saying that Krugman says that everyone he disagrees with is a "is a knave or corrupt or a corrupt knave." But that doesn't change the fact that Ryan's budget is full of hot gas. (And who said Paul Ryan was corrupt? He might just be stupid!)

Matalin complains that Obama has been "wasting week after week after week" just to "be able to blame the Republicans politically for this." I'll grant her that it often seems like Obama cares more about beating the other side in a grand political game than he does about enacting policies that actually benefit normal human Americans. Don't get me wrong! I think he's happy to enact those policies and benefit people! But those are the pleasing side-effects of Obama-stuff. I think that the point to his "transformative" ambitions have to do with altering the political terrain in ways that benefit his party. To a certain extent, it would be irresponsible to not try to do that, while in power, but the large loser here has been any effort to ameliorate the current, ongoing, economic crisis, now in its fourth year.

Oh, sweet nutclusters of human misery, we are not going to talk about the 2016 elections are we?

No, we are going to talk about marriage equality and the Supreme Court. Will says that the election results could alter the Supreme Court's thinking, unless it doesn't:

WILL: This decision by the Supreme Court came 31 days after an Election Day in which three states for the first time endorsed same-sex marriage at the ballot box -- never happened before -- Maine, Maryland, and the state of Washington. Now, the question is, how will that influence the court? It could make them say it's not necessary for us to go here. They don't want to do what they did with abortion. The country was having a constructive accommodation on abortion, liberalizing abortion laws. The court yanked the subject out of democratic discourse and embittered the argument. They may say we don't want to do that, we can just let the democracy take care of this. On the other hand, they could say it's now safe to look at this because there is something like an emerging consensus.

"Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying," Will says, "It's old people." Very true! Though it may be coming to certain states faster than others. Via James Kwak at Baseline Scenario, here's a snapshot of the country's attitudes toward gay marriage, by age and state, courtesy of a study by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips entitled, "Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness".

Carville notes that even the Church of Latter Day Saints is thinking about maybe not being as wildly hostile to marriage equality. Matalin says, "There are important constitutional, biological, theological, ontological questions relative to homosexual marriage, but people who live in the real world say the greatest threat to civil order is heterosexuals who don't get married and are making babies." Uhm, okay. I think that people in growing numbers are just sort of embarrassed that their forebears thought that keeping gays from getting married was a matter of national concern.

Dowd says that the trickle of support for marriage equality is just becoming a flood:

DOWD: My son went in the Army. They asked him -- 10 years before, they'd ask everybody to raise that hands, 300 guys raise their hand, who's for gay -- who's for gays in the military? Eighty percent of the troops said we're opposed to gays in the military. When he got in, five or six years later, 80 percent said they were for gays in the military. It had changed that much and that quick. To me, we still -- you still have to know there's a huge group of folks in this country that believe this issue is not ready to be settled nationally, and they're over 35, they go to church regularly, they still view marriage as traditional and all that, but in the end, this issue, five years from now is even going to be more settled, 10 years from now is going to be more settled.

I'm always going to wonder if opposition to gays in the military was largely a product of peace. It seems to me that our current wars are so hopeless and terrible that those participating in them will gladly accept the comfort and sympathy of anyone who wants to participate alongside them, if not outright play a role in saving their lives overseas. Seems to me that the moment you can be grateful to a gay man or woman for saving your life, it's a mere hop-skip to saying, "Marry whoever you want."

DeMint is leaving the Senate. Matalin cheers it, saying, "These guys have big ideas and they have big frameworks, and he, as a conservative, as a constitutionalist, that was a brilliant move, a good move for us, a brilliant move for him."

Krugman is not so sure: "I mean, this is somebody who has no -- you know, no sense that he's a researcher or an academic, anything like that. This is sort of taking the think out of the think-tank, right? This is -- this is turning into a purely political institution."

"Turning into a political institution?" I think the moment the Heritage Foundation started rabidly slavering in anger over the health care policy they created and which Mitt Romney used to get invited into the echelon of "people made of Presidential timber," is the moment where that transformation became complete. Picking DeMint is not going to change a thing.

Carville snarks about how Dick Armey's departure from FreedomWorks brought with it an $8 million payday, and suggests that he is "in the wrong business." Well, you could have it worse! You could be recapping Sunday morning panel roundtable quips in a blog, or something!

Now we are going to talk about 2016, and the GOP "rebooting" itself, using a couple of speeches by Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio as a jumping off place. Krugman suggests that the only changes that the GOP is enunciating is wrapping the same-old-same-old in a new wrapper: "I thought that what was really striking about both speeches was that they were both saying, "We need to reach out to lower-income working Americans, and the way we do that is by explaining to them really carefully that tax cuts for the rich are actually good for them." I mean, it was -- there were no substantive policy changes in either speech."

Dowd says that the GOP has to pointedly "run against Washington and run against Wall Street" and authentically start doing more for the middle class. Buy the Republican lawmaker in your life a copy of Ross Douthat/Reihan Salam's 2009 book, I guess!

Matalin disagrees and says that Ryan and Rubio are avatars of "policies that have been reflected in huge successes, in Indiana and Wisconsin." So, the difference between she and Dowd is that Dowd thinks inmproving the position of the middle class is an imperative, while Matalin thinks hollowing out the middle class and creating a massive under-society that works at an Amazon shipping facility is "a huge success."

Will says, "I will know the Republican Party is on the way back when they have the good sense to come out for breaking up the largest banks." I'm okay with that! So is Dowd.

Carville thinks Hillary should run for President, and that the next GOP nominee needs to beat someone decent in a primary, instead of beating Herman Cain. There is general enthusiasm for Hillary running. Dowd says that what she does will alter a lot of thinking, on both sides, as to who runs and who doesn't, but he reckons that other female candidates will emerge from the heap as well. George Will is bullish on Kirsten Gillibrand in particular and I think he's going to prove to be correct. But I'll always wonder how far Gabrielle Giffords may have gotten, had it not been for psychopath who cut short her career. (Maybe. I mean, we live in pretty interesting times.)


Okay, time for me to atone for the wrong I've done in this world by watching MEET THE PRESS. As you might have guessed, fiscal cliffery and deal midwifery is the lead topic. We'll endure blather first from Kevin McCarthy and Dick Durbin, then a discussion of "who wins and who loses," by which Gregory means "Republicans or Democrats" and not "nornal human Americans." It is never ever about normal human Americans. It is always about the partisan telenovela.

Gads, plus I have to sit through Newt Gingrich and Lawrence O'Donnell? I might overdose on preening pomposity today. Let us get through this as expediently as possible.

First, Gregory wants to talk about Syria, and the chemical weapons red line that Obama has thrown down. Richard Engel, who I wish would just stay for the whole hour, says that the Assad regime is only escalating his attacks, and the rebels are very concerned about chemical weapons being used, because they essentially have no protection from it, and won't know what to do if they are subjected to those sorts of attacks.

Engel points out that it's not like the Assad regime has restrained itself according to the White House's desires. The White House said, "Don't attack civilians" and lo, they attacked civilians.

Jeffrey Goldberg and Helene Cooper are here to talk about it, also. Goldberg says that whether or not it's a real "red line" is to be determined, and the rebels have been killed plenty effectively already by conventional weapons and that the only real "Obama doctrine" is "passivity." Cooper says that the largest concern is what Syria becomes if it cracks up completely -- the estimation is "worse than Iraq" -- especially in terms of the capacity for widespread sectarian atrocity.

It seems unlikely that we can "invade Syria," unless there is a magical supply of soldiers not currently bogged down in Afghanistan that I don't know about. Also, we will probably need to have a pretty robust economy, right?

One thing is certain, nobody currently wrapped up debt panic has connected the dots marked "long, stupid wars" and "massive deficits." Which is weird because there those two dots are, just lying right next to each other!

Now Dick Durbin and Kevin McCarthy will unleash their chemical weapons of blather upon my teevee. What's to say about this? McCarthy doesn't want to raise rates without spending cuts, and he's not satisfied with Obama's response to the requests they've pretended to make, and the policies they put forward that cost them the election. He wants to close loopholes, and not raise rates. This is all stuff that has been on out teevee before.

Speaking of, Durbin wants to restore the Clinton era rates and doesn't want to do tax reform that hurts the middle class. Gregory points out that Obama has said that he'd be willing to raise revenues by closing the loopholes, so why raise rates. Why not do both?

Durbin gamely tries to remind Gregory that "Simpson Bowles" began from the baseline that assumes the Bush tax cuts, in toto, have gone bye-bye. It is probably a losing cause.

McCarthy: "It is a spending problem, it is not a revenue problem." Drink!

Gregory points out that lots of GOP members are preparing to cave on the tax rate issue. This is all part of the kabuki, though. The GOP members who come on teevee broadcast their desire to hold the line, while behind the scenes, they are preparing to give in -- that keeps their base from going bonkers over their unwillingness to fight on the tax issue. (Again: if they give in on taxes, they gain back lots of leverage on the spending side of this debate.)

Durbin gamely tries to point out that McCarthy's concerns about taxing small businesses is badly overstated, It is probably a losing cause.

He goes on to point out that his concern over raising the Medicare retirement age is largely with low income elderly who have to wait additional years for health benefits to kick in. Of course, this is something that Obamacare addresses. Durbin points out that the GOP's ambitions involve killing Obamacare, too, but I think we've no reason to think that the President is going to do anything other than veto those attempts.

Will there be a GOP civil war over taxes? McCarthy says that the GOP has already given in on the revenue, through loopholes and deductions, et cetera. He then invokes "Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan," and...I mean, life is too short.

Gregory is like, "Do you really think Obama wants to go over the fiscal cliff?" Durbin says of course not. But I for one, welcome going over the cliff! It will only upset all the worst people in Washington (including David Gregory, it seems).

On marriage equality, Durbin says it is "part of America's future," very enthusiastically. McCarthy doesn't show the same enthusiasm, but neither is he enthusiastically hostile to the idea of marriage equality. Progress!

Durbin says that Susan Rice can get confirmed by the Senate, but he's been given no indication that such a nomination is in the offing.

Let's panel to oblivion! Julianna Goldman, Bob Woodward, and Helene Cooper join zeppelin fuel producers Newt Gingrich and Lawrence O'Donnell at the table. (Goldman interviewed Obama for Bloomberg News last week.)

Gingrich says that "the President won" and "has a clear simple position" and a "veto pen," so either we "go over the cliff" or the GOP concedes to the President. O'Donnell immediately invites a completely irrelevant and utterly tendentious fight over their past conflicts, when Gingrich was speaker. Why? Why on earth? All Gingrich did was essentially say something that should totally satisfy O'Donnell. BUT OMG SOMEBODY'S EGO GOT BRUISED IN THE 1990s. Meanwhile, lots of Americans are currently unemployed, and there's a huge economic crisis, so take you fight to PORTLANDIA, windbags.

Goldman, usefully sums up what Obama is looking to do right now: "hardball in the short term, flexible in the long term." Cooper avers: "They are so much cockier now, in the White House," as opposed to 2011.

O'Donnell reminds us that the "fiscal cliff" is a result of laws that the GOP agreed to, and says that the genius of Obama is that he put this together. I mean, maybe? I'm not a "Star Trek chess" guy, and what if the Super Committee had been successful? On second thought, there was really no way that might have happened.

More discussion now, on who gets the blame if we go over the fiscal cliff. Polls say that the GOP loses, Bob Woodward says that the President, eventually, loses. Woodward points out that the Treasury has some flexibility to prevent the crisis from kicking in on the other side, and wow, remember that this is all really over the sudden idea that making some minor tax rate changes is somehow difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult.

Also, what happens if we "go over" the "fiscal cliff" and it turns out to be a minor economic inconvenience and not a massive recession? (Bob Woodward will still be taken seriously, is the answer.)

There is some discussion about the marriage equality issue. O'Donnell says that even if today's SCOTUS proves to be hostile to marriage equality, those who are in law school now will eventually become the lawyers and judges that correct that mistake.

Now we will talk about 2016. Woodward thinks that Hillary Clinton is in a strong position to run. Gregory notes that someone at a cocktail party he attended or something thinks she's definitely running. The panel takes up the matter of 2016 with such vigor that I can't legitimately believe that they are all that concerned about the fiscal cliff.

You know those Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio speeches that George Stephanopoulos saw? Well, rest assured, David Gregory saw them too. They were really significant to him. They were also significant to Gingrich. He says that running against Hillary Clinton, with Bill and Barack as opening acts, would be like trying to win the Superbowl. (But two teams always sign up to try the win the Superbowl, I thought? Has there ever been an instance where one team that gets to play in the Superbowl has said, "Wow, this is too hard, forget it!")

Gregory theorizes that "Chris Christie is a popular politician right now," and Helene Cooper says that confirmation is that Christie has appeared on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show in recent weeks. So has Jason Sudeikis, by the way. So vote for Jason Sudeikis for President.

Okay, well, let's "leave it there" and get on with the rest of our Sunday. I hope everyone has a great day and a terrific week. We'll probably be back here raving about the fiscal cliff next week, too, so you have that to look forward to, I guess!

[Your Sunday morning liveblog returns on December 16. Between now and then, I'll have plenty of fun things to read on my Rebel Mouse page, so please feel free to visit and indulge.]

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