TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to your liveblog of the Sunday Morning Politically Themed Charlie Foxtrots that you are wisely sleeping through.

Good morning and welcome to your liveblog of the Sunday Morning Politically Themed Charlie Foxtrots that you are wisely sleeping through. My name is Jason. Strange morning! Some of you readers are probably well aware of a recent uptick in emails I've received over the past few weeks, in which people write me during the morning complain that they cannot yet read summaries of events that have not yet occurred. It's been more than a little strange. But this email is the strangest:

Dear Jason:

I represent a contingent of your fans abroad, who have come to depend on your liveblog as our resource to watch the Sunday talk shows. We just wanted to recognize you for the liveblog you are going to write on Sunday, October 11 as the finest liveblog of the year. It's insights and use of stray, capitalized phrases represents the best in liveblogging, or it will, as soon as it happens, we are certain.

Are you sure about that seventeenth paragraph, though? Oh well, even still, tis a marvel. And it will finally bring about a lasting Middle East peace.


Bjorn Hammerskorsson
A Norwegiany Person

How nice! Of course, this presents a unique problem. Should I liveblog my ass off in order to live up to the potential of what some guy from Scandinavia said about me? Or should I just say, "Screw it!" and coast?

Well, that's today's lame opening! Send emails or leave comments or follow me on Twitter. Let's start with:


Somehow, Steve Wynn is going to be on a panel about the jobless recovery. "You can still cash your remaining paychecks at any of my fine resorts!" And Liz Cheney is here to remind us all that this is the opposite of church, and that our souls really are in peril, watching this crap.

Anyway, jobless recovery! Unemployment is the metric Fox and others have discovered now that their blessed Dow is back up around 10K. It would have been lovely to have fought this battle back when it began, but, hey, Chris Wallace gets to compete for the zombie kill of the week like everyone else.

Anyway, Jennifer Granholm reminds us all that Michigan is completely craphouse, but they are going to start building cool new magic batteries, and that's good news. Mitch Daniels says he spent his money fastest, but so what? Government spending is TEH SUXXORS. Steve Wynn is indulging us all in a strange and slow Joe Lieberman imitation, or something. Anyway, he wanted the government to just stop collecting taxes, which would have led to job creation, in his opinion. Mark Zandi says that the unemployment level is heading to 10.5% in all likelihood, but that the stimulus package has assured that the unemployment numbers would not be vastly worse.

Jennifer Granholm makes the pitch for the extension of unemployment benefits, because there aren't "jobs on the backside." Daniels backs Wynn on ceasing tax collection and spending freezes and extending the moribund economy into the future, forever.

Zandi says that the current stimulus has features that should be extended to 2010: unemployment benefits, assistance to state governments, housing credits. "The idea behind the stimulus," he says, was to provide the catalyst to growth, and it's succeeded. Wynn, however, has a slowly worded belief that it's time for people to stop listening to economists and start listening to throaty casino owners, and their astounding oversimplifications. Create jobs and we'll give your business $40,000! Please? Maybe? Please? Zandi clearly wants to jump in, but instead, Wallace tosses it to Granholm and Daniels. Wallace isn't doing a good job at recognizing who is disputing whose point.

Mitch Daniel's nickname is "The Blade?" I didn't know he hunted vampires. Anyway, Steve Wynn wants the government closed down entirely, for it's "obstacables." Jennifer Granholm disputes that, but thoughtfully so, which is not what the moment calls for. Wynn backs down to a position: "BUT JOBS ARE GOOD!" Granholm agrees with that. What a weirdo! Zandi says that "at times of crisis" it's necessary for the government to support the economy, and that it's "done a pretty good job." What no one seems to want to say, of course, is that the economic meltdown happened in the first place because the government just allowed the private sector to run amok.

Anyway, now Wynn is claiming to be a health care expert, and threatening to lay off workers if he doesn't get his way from the government. "Fix health care when the economy is healthy!" But it's not like support comes for it then, either. ALL ECONOMIC CONDITIONS DEMAND TAX CUTS. ALL ECONOMIC CONDITIONS DEMAND THE RETENTION OF OUR BAD HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.

Steve Wynn thinks these are complicated subjects, like the line on the Broncos game.

Meanwhile, Panel Time! Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize, for albatrosses! Liz Cheney says that it's premature, but that maybe he can send the mother of a fallen American soldier to Oslo to participate in what she calls a "farce." She is concerned somehow, that Obama does not believe in "American dominance," whatever the hell that is. Juan Williams offers that it is a repudiation of Bush-Cheney foreign policy of pointless bellicosity which then leads to failed military strategies. Bill Kristol calls it an "anti-American" award, that should have been refused, but that the second-best thing to do is to go to Oslo and give a "pro-American" speech on American exceptionalism. Exceptional fast-food and exceptional dance moves. And Nina Easton thinks it will hurt him, political, because pundits say it will hurt him, like Nina Easton, who just did so.

I think we can all agree that this was a bizarre turn of events, though! Liz Cheney says that we are appeasing Iran, and that he has nothing to show for any of the efforts that have been made, Juan Williams points out that the U.S. has already garnered significant partnerships in opposing Iran.

Now the panel is going to tell the President how to fight wars! Are Kristol and Cheney going to recuse themselves on the grounds that they have been historically wrong? Of course not! That's not how this works. Not that you're left with much war expertise in the form of Nina Easton and Juan Williams.

Kristol doesn't believe that the war is going in any other direction than a counterinsurgency strategy and the escalation in troop levels. Chris Wallace, now that he's heard that the top request was actually 60,000 troops, is drooling over the possibility of even more people he doesn't know and who form only faintly glowing abstractions in his mind's eye putting themselves in harms way. Nina Easton says Obama, "seems to want to win the war but doesn't seem to want to sell it." Maybe that's a good thing. How did "selling the war" make it better. I'm willing to give a reality-based, "it is what it is" approach a try.

But whatever, the entire panel falls out over something or other, with Juan Williams suggesting that the parents of soldiers deserve to know why they're kids are fighting, and somehow, this is a point to be argued. Honestly, I'm a little nonplussed by that whole panel. I really thought it would be interestingly provocative. But it seems that no one's heart was really in it. Or maybe my heart wasn't in it? Or maybe this is all Norway's fault. That's it: we'll blame Norway. Plus my head and stomach hurt.

Okay, moving on.


But first, some Chris Blakely! HIS HEART IS IN IT, TO WIN IT.

You know this country has too many people on unemployment when Las Vegas's own Steve Wynn is featured on a FOX News Sunday panel addressing and assessing U.S. fiscal policy. I guess not enough Americans are making the trek to Las Vegas to give Steve their unemployment checks! "The House Always Wins," until unemployment reaches an unacceptable level.

And then we are blessed with the regular FOX Sunday News panel - the way things are going in this country, the first woman president of the U.S. won't be Sarah Palin, it will be Liz Cheney: Dick Cheney in drag!!! Of course, FOX News is doing everything in its power to make that one a reality! Liz Cheney is on the longest pre-book tour (for Daddy's forthcoming treatise) I have ever seen.

Chris Matthews wants to know "when Obama will deliver the presidency he promised." IT USUALLY TAKES JUST A COUPLE OF WEEKS, I KNOW. John Oliver has a great line in his stand-up: "When will President Obama deliver on all the change we made him promise us?" He should really sit in for Bob Woodward on this show, one of these days.

Oh, wow. He is apparently going to take on David Letterman today. Anyway, Gloria Borger, Clarence Page, Andrea Mitchell and David Ignatius joins him.

Meanwhile, people are so critical, for some reason? David Ignatius says that the White House calls health care reform a "must win." Which means they'll declare anything a victory. It will, in Ignatius' opinion, provide an "afterburner" to his presidency, and make it awesome. Whether or not the health care reform actually helps a single American is entirely beside the point to people like David Ignatius.

And now, for the 75,623rd restaging of the debate entitled: "Should The President Have Worked on Just One Thing, So We Could Criticize Him For His Inattention To All The Other Things; or, Should The President Have Worked On All The Things, So We Could Criticize Him For Not Solving A Single Thing ["Single Thing" to be determined at whim during the editorial meeting before this show and it shall change week to week depending on our mood]." Andrea Mitchell says: yes. Gloria Borger says: yes, but even more yessy.

Chris Matthews: comb your hair!

Will the Nobel Peace Prize help? Clarence Page says it's weird that he received it, and it will "bolster the negative support he's getting from the right." BOLSTER THE NEGATIVE SUPPORT? This is how we are talking now, on the teevee? Obama really does need to do more to diminish the positive hatred.

David Ignatius: "I think that the President's advisors want to make sure they get [Afghanistan] right." One would hope so. He notes that Obama has taken the "extreme" option of total withdrawal off the table. Ignatius names Biden as the author of that, which lead Matthews and Borger to correct him, because Biden's not been pushing withdrawal.

Matthews is complaining that the "netroots" seem to have demands on the Obama presidency -- as if the right isn't demanding that 40,000 troops be sent to Afghanistan, crimony! I agree that no one should have divined pulling out of Afghanistan as a campaign promise. But when Gloria Borger says, "He never uttered the word public option, either," she is just being titanically stupid. He didn't say there wouldn't be a government-offered option in a health insurance exchange either. What Borger doesn't seem to be able to understand here is that the progressive caucus voluntarily took single-payer off the table because they were told the line would be drawn at "public option." They don't want to now give that ground away, too, and no one in a similar sort of negotiation would.


Why does Chris Matthews believe that Obama has somehow left what he wants in health care undefined? HERE, DUMBASS: you can download it as a .PDF. Now, what's undefined is whether or not he will, in the end, go to the mat for what he wants, and refuse to accept a lesser set of ideas. That's a point that everyone can argue. But what he specifically wants should not be in doubt, and only makes you look dotty to pretend otherwise.

Anyway, the panel agrees that JUST SIGNING ANY HEALTH CARE BILL=Transformational presidency. This is also stupid. Presidents sign bills all the time. They are talking about the signing of a bill being transformative and historical in terms of Obama's political future, but I think it would be sort of NEATO MCGEE if maybe we thought about the transformations that are needed for the nation at large.

The breaking news, by the way, is that Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya has won the 2009 Chicago Marathon -- but isn't it too soon? Has he really done enough to deserve it? I'm questioning everything today!

Matthews wants to know if "scandals are harder to come by these days," and if maybe late night hosts' scandals are less important than other persons' scandals. No and yes, move on? No: because late night hosts play a "surrogate role" according to Matthews. Borger says that the issue is "did he make a toxic work environment" and "will we find him funny anymore." Andrea Mitchell says she got emails from women citing how men always seem to get away with this, because when sex scandals break, women look to Andrea Mitchell for answers. Matthews says "Letterman is a bit of a cad," and that "blackmail is still a major crime," so I think we've just tremendously advanced news and information and understanding today.

Things Chris doesn't know. Borger says Snowe will sign the health care bill because it will have a public option trigger, not a public option implied. Page says Duncan will make school violence a national priority. Mitchell says Hillary Clinton is meeting in Zurich on Iran. Ignatius says that the White House is close to a deal where all of Iran's uranium gets removed from Iran for enrichment elsewhere.

The big question is whether Obama will earn the Nobel Peace Prize he's won. Borger says yes, with Hillary's help. Page says yes. Mitchell says yes, not in the Middle East, but in Iran. Ignatius says yes, in Norwegian. Okay, well, if Obama turns the world into a festering warhole, I for one am really going to rub this panel's faces in it!


First, here's Paul, from Mount Pleasant, Michigan:

I thought you might enjoy a craptastic stat tidbit I heard on local news just a day or two ago that actually grabbed my attention, though it carried no surprise for me:

Evidently, the Detroit unemployment rate has reached 29%. That's only made more impressive by the fact that Detroit has lost half its population in the last 15 years as well (meaning, if high school math isn't failing me now, that there is currently only enough employment for 1/3 of the Detroit population that remained stable from around the 50s through the early 90s, right?).

Hey! Maybe we haven't hit a high water mark like some that happened during the Great Depression (I understand Harlem reached a 50% unemployment rate around 1933, though the national average was closer to something around 25% across the period), but we're closing in.

Yes we can! Yes we can!

So, of course, some of the Republican experts from this state (Pete Hoekstra and Dave Camp come to mind) think the path to recovery is... tax cuts! Yippee! Of course that will work! Except for that whole thing that unemployment equals a 100% reduction in taxes anyway.

For more on the geography of unemployment, click here, and watch as America basically implodes!

Meanwhile, time for some heavy duty warblogging. The topic: OMGZSURGELOLOMGZ! With Carl Levin, Lindsey Graham, retired general and perenially undisclosed-by-NBC propagandist Barry McCaffrey, and retired general Richard Myers.

Gregory says that there is a request for "more troops" on the president's desk, that's actually a request for a lot of things, not that David Gregory -- or anyone in the media, frankly -- is smart enough to have read this request. Had they done so, they'd know it actually said things like:

[I]t must be made clear: new resources are not the crux. To succeed, ISAF [the NATO command in Afghanistan] requires a new approach -- with a significant magnitude of change -- in addition to a proper level of resourcing. ISAF must restore confidence in the near-term through renewed commitment, intellectual energy and visible progress.

Gregory wants to know why Obama doesn't just say "Yes" when McChrystal asks him for 40,000 more troops, and the answer is -- quite LITERALLY -- that McChrystal didn't ask for that. SEE ABOVE. That's what McChrystal asked for. Levin says that the President has to take more than just McChrystal's opinion into account.

Gregory: "But doesn't it flow: war of necessity, massive counter insurgency strategy...handpicked guy goes in there, expert on COIN, and says I need at least 40,000 more troops, doesn't it flow that the answer would be yes?" No. Because again, the "expert" in COIN -- this is not a fact that Gregory has obtained through independent analysis, by the way, it's something a producer told him to say about McChrystal -- has said that RESOURCES ARE NOT THE CRUX.

While we're FLOWING, maybe someone on this panel would be so good as to FLOW ME UP an explanation of how the 40,000 additional troops will be used. Because right now, it seems like an article of faith that this magic number of troops will somehow win positive-sum outcomes through...I don't know....SHIT THEY LEARNED AT HOGWARTS? See. This is where you'd prefer a general to say, "Hey, we just had an election go south, we're having trouble outcompeting the Taliban on governance, we probably need additional resources, but what we really need is a new approach with a significant magnitude of change." OH WAIT. WE ACTUALLY DO HAVE A GENERAL SAYING THAT.

Levin finally gets around to the part where McChrystal didn't actually say the things Gregory wants to believe he said, and that the general wanted the White House to deliberate carefully on the matter as well.

Jowly Dave Foley, on the other hand, wants to LOLSURGE some combat troops, but at least he has a specific intention in mind: protect the to-be-trained Afghan forces as they receive their training. See, that's okay with me. At least it's not "let's just drop all the troops on Afghanistan, from a very great height."

McCaffrey says that Levin has set up the argument correctly: the debate point is not 40,000 or fight. It's about having a plan ahead of time. That said, McCaffrey says a short-term escalation in troops is vitally necessary. Myers doesn't think it has to be U.S. troops. Levin thinks it should be Afghan troops. Levin also seems to think we should work for a "Sons of Iraq" style "awakening" in Afghanistan -- that's the one thing that no one's been able to convince me is importable from the Iraq War to Afghanistan.

Graham acknowledges that the governance is bad, but when Gregory calls him out for wanting to send more troops to an area where the host nation governance is under a cloud and where the insurgents are outcompeting our efforts to provide for health and welfare of the populace, Graham makes it pretty clear that he believes that good government will arise from more U.S. troops being embedded with Afghan forces. I think he's taken a very skewed lesson from Iraq. The legitimacy of Iraq's government took it's strongest step when it got us to agree to a withdrawal timetable.

Graham says that the White House is not showing weakness by taking their time to make a decision, but it's pretty clear that there's only one decision he can make to avoid at least Jowly Dave's criticisms: and that's "plussing-up" the troops.

Myers says that it's not just about LOLSURGINGZ, that there needs to be economic development and political growth. But Gregory basically calls him out for taking his eyes off the ball in Afghanistan in order to fight in Iraq. Myers says, "Well that's not implicit in anything we ever did." And, yet, LO: it came to pass that resources weer diverted to Iraq, and YEAH, from Afghanistan there cameth a giant whiffing sound, and VERILY, those who said we had defeated the Taliban -- which was, like, EVERYONE -- were proven wrong, and WOW, David Gregory is giving Myers LUKEWARM HELL over it, many many many many years too late.

How many decades should we expect to stay in Afghanistan? Graham says that the length of deployment isn't the issue, casualties are, and that the U.S. has troops in Germany and Japan to this day. Of course, when I hear that, I think: "Wow. When we're talking about transforming Afghanistan into Germany, that's going to take a few centuries, right?" Wouldn't it be faster to just HYPNOTIZE THE TALIBAN INTO THINKING THEY ARE GERMANS? Okay! When I snap my fingers, y'all will really be way into sausage and dirndls! That might only take a few decades.

I also think: "Why do we have to have troops in Japan?"

Graham says, "I think Iraq did effect Afghanistan," thus winning the Nobel Prize for Understatement.

Levin says no timelines, no deadlines. Graham predicts that following McChrystal's plan will yield results in two years. A MERE FOUR FRIEDMAN UNITS. McCaffrey says, UHM YOU SHOULD ACTUALLY START LOWERING EXPECTATIONS.

Meanwhile, Obama says he will end Don't Ask Don't Tell. Levin says that it's possible, but he'll need buy in from the military. Myers agrees that's the process that must be followed. Myers goes on to take issue with Levin in that there are gays in the military, serving, they just aren't allowed to say they are gay. Levin then looks at the camera and gives a very pointed blink-take. McCaffrey thinks the policy needs to be changed, and he says that Congress should change it, and that the military will have to accept it. Lindsey Graham thinks that Don't Ask Don't Tell should be ended for a "reason" not because of a campaign promise. What that means, exactly, I don't know. Here's a reason: it's titanically stupid and it hurts national security to keep kicking gays out of the military. Now, run along, Mr. Graham.

Jowly Dave says that if Obama turns around Afghanistan and prevents Iran from going nuclear, he'll build a bookcase for the president to place the Nobel Prize. He'll probably build some Swedish, allen-wrenched pressboard crap, though.

Anyway, PANEL TIME with Paul Gigot, Ron Brownstein, Bob Woodward and Katty Kay. Let's talk about the POLITICS OF WAR! Bob Woodward says that the White House is having long meetings about the war and that Obama is listening to all parties, in advance of a "giant decision" on strategy. Gregory seems to be mystified that the public has opinions on the matter. HOW ADORABLE THAT NON EVERYONE WANTS TO BE LOLSURGING.

Gregory is confused: but the President had a strategy in March? DID NO ONE TELL DAVID GREGORY ABOUT THE WHOLE "AFGHAN ELECTION" THING?

Brownstein says that consensus seems to be forming around the idea that the Taliban should not be allowed to regain governance in Afghanistan, which would lead to al Qaeda bases. Katty Kay says that it's a "false choice" to say that it's either McChrystal or Biden, 40,000 troops or none.

Gregory and Woodward are sharing a major breakthrough together: the war in Afghanistan seems to have been under-resourced because we went to war in Iraq. BREAKING! DEVELOPING!

Paul Gigot wants to know why the Obama administration is still deciding on what to do after he decided what to do back in March. Katty Kay breaks the news that there was a CROOKED ELECTION IN AFGHANISTAN since then. Gigot looks terribly, terribly confused.

Brownstein adds a layer or two on important caveat on overall American dissatisfaction with the Afghanistan war: first, Vietnam went on for years and years after Americans began registering their dissatisfaction with the war. Second, Americans still discern a stronger and more vital interest in Afghanistan than they did in Iraq.

Seemingly apropos of nothing, Gregory says, "When my children wake me up in the morning they say they want a whipped-cream waffle. When Obama's children wake him up they say that he's won the Nobel Peace Prize. So, it's a little bit of a difference." WHAT? Is that supposed to be, what, exactly? Class resentment? "You know there are big differences between the leader of the free world and we mere millionaire entertainers. I'VE GOT WAFFLES TO WORRY ABOUT." Elsewhere, kids wake up their mom in the morning, wondering whether or not their dad got blown to bits in the war overnight.

Katty Kay says that plenty of European leftists were just as confused and weirded out by the Nobel prize decision, so stop saying that it's a weird strain of European wishful thinking. So far, that's the only bit of commentary that isn't just a repetition of something you've heard a million times over already.

OKAY. I sort of wish everyone had just shut up and let Katty Kay, the European on this panel, actually talk about whether Europeans would help fight in Afghanistan.

Bob Woodward has somehow spun unemployment anxiety into a situation where Obama can make everything better just by being super-decisive in Afghanistan. Paul Gigot seems to think that employer anxiety stems mainly from the fact that Washington is making all sorts of legislative decisions, and not because a bunch of banks and finance firms made the economy crater.

Kay says that jobs will be the key issue in the 2010 elections, a point with which Brownstein concurs.

Meet The Press concludes today by offering viewers a moment of Robert McNamara, which really just makes my Sunday so free of anxiety.

Anyway, at the very least, we have shown the moon that we are capable of bombing it this week, so, upside, I guess.

Have a great week! I hope that all of you win awards that you may, at some point in the future, deserve.