TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog of the political chat shows you're hopefully not watching, opting instead to remain in bed, swaddled in blankets, coziedly nooked with loved ones, in celebration of the fact that the mirthless reign of Daylight Savings has once again ended for another year. Why won't Barack Obama end its tyranny? Or at least force the elderly, sun-drenched Arizonans to participate in it with the rest of us? A "GAH!" on the House of Daylight Savings.

Anyhoo, my name is Jason and I shall sleep when I'm dead, a condition I usually start hoping for around 9:45. I hope everyone had a nice Halloween. I sure did! My wife and I went as a joke from FUTURAMA -- recently returned visitors to the brain-slug planet. She crocheted the slugs and then all that was left to do was occasionally stare blankly at people and say things like:

"Those teabagger people make a lot of sense and aren't whiny twits, AT ALL?"

Or: "Maryland drivers may be the best in the United States, maybe the world."

Or: "I think Randy Scheunemann has some really important foreign policy insights."

Or: "Who wants to go to Lauriol Plaza."

You get the idea. Lots of great costumes, but I was disappointed I didn't see the following:

--Sexy White House Visitor Logs
--Sexy Janet Napolitano
--Sexy Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger
--Sexy Prematurely Awarded Nobel Sex Prize For Sexiness
--headless Dan Snyder (would have settled for the real thing)
--sexy "What? UVA lost to Duke in football? I want to kill myself!"
--Sexy Brit Hume
--"Twilight" Bob Schieffer

But, look, I guess you can't have everything. Anyway, you know the drill: leave a comment, or send an email, or follow me, later, on Twitter. And now, here's everyone's favorite:


Rush Limbaugh is, appropriately for Halloween, the guest today. I know this because I subscribe to Fox's online videos in my RSS feed and I got this preview:

And truly, freedom has not produced a bigger one than Rush Limbaugh!

I love how Rush is "speaking out!" Like he's fought to have a forum for his views. Anyway, this is going to be some morning! Anyway: he thinks Obama has turned America into a hotbed of radical leadership. Denial of liberty! Attacks on freedom! Obama is immature! America is unsafe! And it's all through, I guess, the timid, incrementalist legislation he supports is going to be super radical!

Anyway, Rush doesn't read Stanley McChrystal, apparently, and he thinks that Obama doesn't care about America, and is cynical to the core, and he doesn't seem to understand what the White House press pool does when they travel to places, like Dover.

Rush Limbaugh has seen George Bush cry! That's sort of newsy? Chris Wallace is actually more or less coming off like Van Jones or something, in this interview, as Rush bleats his wild-eyed ravings. It's weird! This interview is as hilarious as it is boring! I mean, I can hardly keep up with Rush's statements, but none are interesting enough for me to go back and rewind. He hates Obama and loves war, and thinks that Democrats are simps and wants money.

Health care? Rush thinks they government wants to create a public option to control everyone's body and mind. "BIGGEST SNATCH OF FREEDOM." Rush wants to insure people with the stimulus money, and Benadryl. "These are dark days, for America," he says.

Anyway, his first question to Obama would be "Why are you doing this, why do you hate America?" What does the GOP lack? Rush says it's an unwillingness to be a "Reagan conservative" and the lack of leadership. Rush's idea of "big tent" is a narrow idea that everyone has to suck down wholeheartedly or get bent (he thinks that Limbaughism is that attractive idea).

Well, if you want to hear Rush to talk about his intimacy issues, get out of bed right now, people!

It sounds to me like wherever he turned for rehab merely tapped the deep wellspring of his sociopathy to save his life, from drugs. So, now, Rush thinks he's too amazing for drugs, and still lives by himself in a Florida compound with cats.

Also, Rush didn't get to be the owner of the Saint Louis Rams, and not to get contrarian on everyone, but I don't think it would have killed anyone if this guy had ended up the part owner of the Rams. I mean, it's not like he could sully the memory of Georgia Frontiere or something. I mean, Dan Snyder is still the worst owner in football even if a nation of Limbaugh clones takes over the NFC West. Plus, he'd have to spend time away from his radio career and with the people he hates the most: successful black people. Plus: it's the Rams, people. THE RAMS. I think that all told, Limbaugh being the part-owner of that franchise would have been appropriately Sartrian.

Wow! This interview has lasted twenty-two minutes! Anyway, he thinks Joe Biden is "pompous" and Sarah Palin is "ready to be President." But this is "not an endorsement!" He predicts an "eruption at the ballot box" in 2010. I think there'll be the typical historical trend against the party in power in the off-year, tied mainly to the under-performing job market. But what's enviable about Rush's position is that reality doesn't and won't have to rise up to back up his views.

Much more of that interview on some blog that Chris Wallace writes, or something.

Today's idiotic "WHY ISN'T THE STUFF YOU HAVEN"T WRITTEN YET ON THE WEBSITE" email is from Tayla. Tayla? Are you out there? Hit refresh. Read. Wait a few minutes. Hit refresh again. I am writing as fast as I can, but I can't write about stuff that hasn't happened yet!

Anyway. Election? I think Hoffman, Corzine, and McDonnell will win. What does it mean for the White House? Not nothing? But the media will overblow it for, like, a fortnight, because campaign analysis is shiny.

Panel time! Juan Williams looks like he's ready for a morning of ritual abuse!

The health care bill! Brit Hume hates it, I guess? But he predicts a close vote, a likely win. Liasson says, "This is the House of Representatives." Also: "It's raining outside." And: "It will get dark early, tonight, when the sun goes down." Bill Kristol of course hates the bill, like grim death, and compares it to the distribution of the swine flu vaccine, because GOD KNOWS THE PRIVATE SECTOR WOULD HAVE DONE BETTER . Juan Williams says that it's a matter of the "private manufacturers not living up to expectations," and that it doesn't compare to, say, Hurricane Katrina.

Has everyone been overblowing the negative effects of the public option? Hume says, "It's possible." And then he goes on to overblow the negative effects of the public option. He also insists that the deficit neutral bill will end up not being deficit neutral, for reasons steeped more in paranoia than substance. Liasson says that public support for the public option will be trumped by the need for sixty votes, and that the idea in the Senate is to let the public option "die an honorable death." She doesn't seem to grasp that as independent voters see less and less boldness from the Democrats on health care, they are planning to withhold their votes from those Democrats more and more.

Abdullah Abdullah has taken his sweet-ass double name and gone home from the Afghan election, leaving the country to Karzai. Hume says, "OMGZ, the taint, the TAINT!" But still, Obama should BOMB REPEAT BOMB REPEAT BOMB. Anyway. Juan Williams is all, OH BRIT WE HAVE BEEN SUCKING IN AFGHANISTAN FOREVER NOW. And Wallace has to change subject before Williams can finish making his point.

Liasson says the NY-23 race is exemplary of the rift in the conservative party. And yet, in Virginia, there's something else entirely going on? WHAT IF HUGE ANSWERS CANNOT BE DISTILLED FROM THREE RACES THAT ONLY 2% OF THE COUNTRY IS PAYING ATTENTION TO? WHAT THEN? WHAT?! This is like the political media version of the genital mutilation scene from Lars Von Trier's Antichrist.

Okay! Time for Vinegar Joe! I am going to make some more coffee, so, Tayla, if you're still out there, keep hitting refresh!


So, in advance of this Lieberman appearance, I'll just say that it would be hard to improve upon Alex Pareene's take on the matter. (It often is!)

We all know that Vinegar Joe Lieberman is a sanctimonious, thin-skinned, self-satisfied monster. And a pious, amoral scumbag. And a narcissistic, deluded underminer who represents everything that is wrong with the United States Senate. And a war-mongering, concern-trolling religious zealot. And, generally, a bastard. And probably a racist. But why would this weasel-human hybrid who is actually literally slowly receding into his own asshole a little bit every day suddenly pipe up on health care reform with a position at odds with most Connecticut residents and a vast majority of the Democrats he claims to represent?

Because no one had been paying attention to him! (And also because he is owned by the various insurance companies of Connecticut. Like he is literally Aetna's personal offensive Jeff Dunham puppet. Well, they have to share him with AIPAC.)

This is the thing, Joe. The opt-out public option is a conservative compromise. It is a compromise from a non-opt-out public option, which is a compromise from a non-opt-out public option tied to Medicare rates, which is a compromise from a non-opt-out public option tied to Medicare rates and open to everyone, which is a compromise from single-payer. You would like a further compromise, to "no health care reform, at all, unless the Democrats all kneel down and blow me, as I will demand they do whenever they might need my vote, from now until I finally decide to caucus with the Republicans, which will only happen if the Republicans take the majority and the Democrats stop blowing me periodically."

And, obviously, his literal, stated objections to the bill are not based in any way on reality.

Oh! Let's check in with that reality, by the way! Take it away, Jonathan Chait:

...look at Lieberman's reason for why he now says he'll vote to sustain a GOP filibuster of health care reform:

"We're trying to do too much at once," Lieberman said. "To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. I don't think we need it now."

Lieberman added that he'd vote against a public option plan "even with an opt-out because it still creates a whole new government entitlement program for which taxpayers will be on the line."

It literally makes no sense whatsoever. A public plan does not provide a new entitlement. It just doesn't. It's a different form of providing an entitlement. Nor is it more expensive. In fact, the stronger versions of the public plan would cost less money. Lieberman is just babbling nonsense here.

It's also worth emphasizing that while only the House-style public option will save a lot of money, even the relatively weak public option from the Reid draft would save money relative to doing what Lieberman wants. He's talking about filibustering a deficit-reducing bill in order to try to remove a cost-reducing provision, and doing so on grounds of fiscal probity. It's ludicrous, and the political reporters covering him need to point this out.

And away we go!

Bob Schieffer is wearing a tie made from Joseph's amazing technicolor dreamcoat today! Also, Axelrod! And Afghanistan! And Joe Lieberman, who wants LOLSURGEOMGZ!

So, what's going on, now that there won't be a run-off election? Will this effect the timing of the Afghanistan escalation? Axelrod paints the matter as Abdullah Squared "exercising his rights to withdraw." Polls, apparently, state that he was likely to be defeated. I'm sure that there's no science for exact that Afghanistan polling, other than maybe Aleutian rocket telemetry. Anyway, Axelrod does not want al Qaeda to return to Afghanistan and that Obama is going through a methodical process of decision making.

Schieffer wants Axelrod to respond to Rush Limbaugh, which makes me wonder if he was short of questions this morning? Axelrod basically won't dignify Rush with an answer, or an answer to the followup, other than to say that the NY-23 race indicates that moderates aren't welcome in the GOP. "It's a surreal day when you're getting lectures on humility from Rush Limbaugh." Doesn't Axelrod understand that it was Limbaugh's brave decision to jettison humility entirely that allowed him to stop being a pillhead? Now he gets high, mainlining pure ego, with the cat that's become his life companion. "He's an entertainer, we have to run the country."

On healthcare, Axelrod won't say what the president will or will not sign, other then to offer some boilerplate encouragement for a public option, and a vague certainty that "some form of" the public option will remain in the bill.

Anyway, here's the world's leading sufferer of McCain Stockholm Syndrome, Joe Lieberman. "The public option will hurt our economy," he says. And it "came out of nowhere!" Why can't we just make healthcare insurance more affordable, with Magicks? Too fast, too soon, not enough fiscal probity, so he'll filibuster, after not filibustering.

And now he's claiming that it's the creation of an entitlement. It's the people who want the public option, in his opinion, that are risking health care reform...NOT HIM! Of course, most people want the public option.

Schieffer rope-a-dopes Lieberman into saying "the truth is nothing [by which he means no health care reform at all] is better than the public option." There is no ground to stand on, there, with regards to a sane outlook on the nation's fiscal soundness, I'm sorry. If he had some magic beans, that he claimed would fix everything, it would be insane but at least you'd have to say, "Well, Lieberman is staking these magic beans that dropped from his anus as the better choice." Saying that doing nothing is a better option is just crazy, because the status quo situation is unsustainable and entropic. And when you consider the fact that he opposes the more robust public option approaches that save even more money and reduce even more costs, that Joe's not trying to push it in the sane direction, but actually gut it, then it all but demands the Senate Sergeant at Arms to perform a ritual trepanning. Either release the cerebral pressure that's keeping him from just admitting he's Bill Kristol's personal Mini-Me, or complete the lobotomy that nature started.

Lieberman says that no one has said anything about the possibility that the House's public option might charge higher premiums than the private insurers. All that really does is demonstrate that fears that the public option might not kill off private insurers, and that what it might actually do is simply provide a means of obtaining health care for those who can't obtain it. What's the point of a cheap private option you're not allowed to join? Anyway, Lieberman is dumb -- people have discussed it, they just haven't stooped to attempting the same idiotic, demagogic thrustings. Ezra Klein:

To translate some of that back into English, the public plan will pay prices equivalent to those of private insurers and may save a bit of money on administrative efficiencies. But because the public option is, well, public, it won't want to do the unpopular things that insurers do to save money, like manage care or aggressively review treatments. It also, presumably, won't try to drive out the sick or the unhealthy. That means the public option will spend more, and could, over time, develop a reputation as a good home for bad health risks, which would mean its average premium will increase because its average member will cost more. The public option will be a good deal for these relatively sick people, but the presence of sick people will make it look like a bad deal to everyone else, which could in turn make it a bad deal for everyone else.

The nightmare scenario, then, is that private insurers cotton onto this and accelerate the process, implicitly or explicitly guiding bad risks to the public option. In theory, the exchanges are risk-adjusted, and the public option will be given more money if it ends up with bad risks, but it's hard to say how that will function in practice.


This, in sum, is why I'm pessimistic on the chances for the public option to substantially affect the insurance market. Pricing power was always the biggest piece, but when that was lost those many months ago, expectations for the public option never really changed. That was necessary for keeping people excited, but I worry it's going to leave folks disappointed with the policy, and thus skeptical of public insurance more generally, which would be unfounded.

That isn't to say that the public option can't still do some real good, as I argue here. But there's also a chance for it to become a real disaster. The most important factor here will be the strength of the risk adjustment in the exchanges, so keep an eye on that.

What Lieberman should be doing to fix this is fighting to make the public option more appropriately robust by giving it pricing advantages. But that assumes that he has the capacity for consideration outside his own self-interests, which he doesn't.

Anyway, Joe sued the insurance companies one time! How can you think that all that money they give him means anything to him? It doesn't! It's just money! Anyway, the American people will be on the hook for the public option if it runs a deficit! The same way it's on the hook for pointless wars, that need more troops, now! NOW! LOLSURGE! PRETEND IT COSTS NO MONEY!

Anyway, here's what's important. Joe Lieberman got to be on the teevee today, so American is a better place now. Who else is on the teevee today? TIM GEITHNER, GAH.


OKAY. News for everyone. The correct pronunciation of David Plouffe's last name is PLUFF. Not PLOOF. So, woo: my biggest question of the entire weekend has been answered. (Second question: Will I have time to swing by the liquor store this afternoon?)

WOO the GDP is up by a teeny bit! Is it time to head to the Champagne Room and get Paul Volcker a "nothing personal, buddy" themed lap dance? Geithner says the growth was broad-based. WE GOT GROWTH RESTARTED! YES! Pay no attention to the extent to which cash-for-clunkers distorted those figures.

"A lot of damage was caused by this crisis," Geithner says, in the back of his mind planning to thwart the sort of oversight and regulation that will prevent future crises.

Is the growth sustainable? Geithner says, "It will be." People say it's more stable! Animal spirits are perking up. But people are not consuming? Geithner says, "WHATEVS, consumers are confident because I say they are."

"The banking system is more stable than it was...a year ago," Geithner says. Banks are confident because capital is returning (by "returning" I think he means to say, "delivered from the treasury, in wheelbarrows, to Wall Street"). Are people lending though? Geithner seems to believe they are.


Geithner says the "pace of job loss" is slowing, which is what you hang your hat on at this point. I hope he's right. When 1 in 6 Americans are un- or underemployed, it's impossible to not have a visceral feel for this crisis, even if you have a job to go to everyday.

Ryan Avent, who did not go out last night dressed as "Slutty Slight Third Quarter Uptick In GDP," as I had hoped he would, says:

What really concerns me is that even if the American economy were able to sustain a 3.5% growth rate over a period of several years, the labour market picture would continue to be very, very ugly. Paul Krugman posts a chart:

And he notes that 3.5% growth has historically meant only a slow decline in unemployment. To get to the point where the unemployment rate is falling by a percentage point per year, the economy needs to expand at a near 6% pace over the course of twelve months.

And consider this: the last time the unemployment rate hit its current level was during the recession of 1981-1982 (during which the unemployment rate actually peaked at 10.8% during the final quarter of the recession). Here are the quarterly growth rates for the six quarters immediately following the end of that recession: 5.1%, 9.3%, 8.1%, 8.5%, 8.0%, 7.1%. And at the end of that period, the unemployment rate was still above 7%. For the last recession, which ended in the fourth quarter of 2001, quarterly growth in the next six quarters looked like this: 3.5%, 2.1%, 2.0%, 0.1%, 1.6%, 3.2%.

Essentially, we are looking at a situation in which, absent some significant and surprise change in the economic outlook, American unemployment will remain near 10% through the end of 2010, at least.

Fun! Next Halloween we can all trick or treat as "Slutty Empty Promises Of Tim Geithner," maybe! Of course, now, Geithner admits that unemployment could "hit double digits." But shouldn't the bank stress tests, which assumed 8.5% unemployment, be redone?

Geithner says that no additional stimulus is needed, but that Congress extending programs like unemployment coverage. HINT: They should extend COBRA as well, so people don't die!

Now David Gregory is going to pretend that the problem of fiscal deficits began on inauguration day and have continued from there. No kidding! He actually puts a graphic up on the screen, pretending this. And I'm sort of tuning him out as a result. Will I have time to swing by the liquor store? I wonder...

David Gregory: "Will there be a heavy burden on the middle class?" Remember, David Gregory believes himself to be a member of "the middle class."

David Gregory goes on the stump, promoting the idea that it's okay for taxpayers to give money to bank executives for gigantic bonuses, for failure: "What if the people who are capable of stabilizing those companies and make them proftable again leave, undermining the effort for these firms to pay the government back?" This is what is called a FALSE CHOICE. David Gregory is great at this! Basically, the premise is mis-founded. The people currently in line to have their bonuses regulated at these seven companies, by Ken Feinberg, are not being who made companies stable and profitable. It would be great if they all left. Far from undermining these firms, it would create a vacuum into which new leaders, willing to be compensated by meritorious decisions that actually do create stability and profitability, might step.

Geithner insists that Feinberg has found the correct balance. Gregory is terribly concerned that the people who nearly destroyed the economy might take their immense talents for cocking up the world somewhere else.

Gregory now shifts to a naked criticism of Goldman Sachs and their risk-taking, as if that squares with his earlier position on executive compensation. Even when he's asking tough questions, it's hard to have faith in Gregory: it's like the change in wind direction, rustling into the void between his ears, triggers a different set of mental processes. Any moment now, the wind will change direction, and in the Meet The Press studios, the prevailing westerly blows in the direction of protecting the wealthy from taxes. They should consider changing the name of this show to MEET A HOLOGRAM OF JACK DONAGHY.

Now here's David Plouffe, talking about his book. SPOILER ALERT: Obama won some kind of election, or something!

To think that Evan Bayh came that close to being Vice president! Had that choice been made, it would have more aptly telegraphed the hyper-timid incrementalist approach to health care reform!

Plouffe, as someone who was not in favor of Hillary becoming veep, praises the "footprint" she leaves "around the world," and says that when she travels, he gets much less interested in what the media at home is saying. My standards for not being interested in the media are much lower.

Plouffe thought Sarah Palin was a terrible choice to be Vice President. THIS JUST IN! He sells the NY-23 race as a branded-by-Palin, "pied piper" of the GOP situation. He's seriously overblowing that. Most GOP candidates still want nothing to do with Palin. In this case, Palin was actually a late bandwagon jumper where Hoffman is concerned. I'd love to see numbers on people who were motivated to vote in that race by Palin. My guess is it will be few and far between. I think that Plouffe is making a mistake if he's counting on Sarah Palin showing up in 2012 as the accidental ally to Obama's re-election hopes!

Plouffe and Gregory briefly discuss the "war on Fox," boringly so, and hit at Dick Cheney, not by name, for the "dithering" comment.

Plouffe says that Obama has "absolutely not" failed to live up to his promises. THAT WAS SO OUT OF BLUE! GLAD THAT WAS ON TEEVEE!

Now Plouffe is basically launching into a very nice sounding campaign speech. He is very clearly PRO-WANTING TO DO GOOD THINGS and ANTI-WANTING DICK CHENEY TO BE IN CHARGE OF EVERYTHING. This is all, again, unexpected and riveting television.

Plouffe is happy to have gotten so many young people involved in politics. SEE THAT THEY DO NOT GROW UP TO BE CYNICS, Mr. PLOUFFE.

OH, LORDY. There's still twenty minutes more of this show?

So now, we have author John Krakauer, Andrea Mitchell, and Jim Miklaszewski, or "Coach M." as he is known at Duke University, to talk about Afghanistan.

Miklaszewski says that Obama is "keeping his own counsel" but continues to reach out for options. Obama is not yet ready to LOLSURGE. Gregory wants to know if maybe we can DOUBLEPLUSLOLSURGE? Because why not? Why not simply shove a giant knot of human flesh out fo a plane over Kandahar, and hope it lands on some bad guys?

Andrea Mitchell says that Abdullah Squared was literally told to follow the example of Al Gore: drop out of contention, let the other guy win the disputed election, and live to fight another day. I guess we should look forward to Abdullah Squared's forthcoming Oscar-winning documentary.

Gregory is literally doing to gotcha thing with other authors. "Before we get to your book, John Krakauer, how do you respond to what Marcus Luttrell said in his book about Afghanistan. As a followup, I'll ask you to respond to the symbolism on display in the Tess Of The D'Ubervilles.

I am right now, more fascinated by the curious buoyancy of Andrea Mitchell's hair, than the words she is saying. Sorry. Is that a weave? It's fascinating.

Krakauer, bless him, makes wave by rejecting the premise that anything short of what I call The Full Kagan is a "half-measure" that would be deadly. "There is a whole range of options," he notes.

And now, no one's saying anything interesting again.

Back to Krakauer, who slams McChrystal for covering up Pat Tillman's death by friendly-fire. "He...said he didn't read a hugely important document, about the most famous soldier in the military. He didn't read it carefully enough to notice that it talked about enemy fire instead of friendly fire? That's preposterous, that's not believable."

And like that, we have an abrupt end to MEET THE PRESS, because we wouldn't want anything provocative to happen!

Well, this was certainly the Sunday Morning you expected just shy of Halloween. Limbaugh, Lieberman, Geithner! I'm just sad that I missed George Stephanopoulos' interview with PESTILENCE, this morning. Have a great week!