TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Hello good morning, welcome, to nothing much! This is your Sunday Morning Liveblog of political prattle, and my name is Jason, and I have to warn you at the outset that the typical wonkiness and definition-bending of the word "liveblog" that typically happens in this space may be much worse today, because my TiVo is shot and it's busted in such a way that makes television watching a real ordeal. I'm going to cross my fingers that it manages to not crap the bed for a few hours. I have a workaround if it fails, but it will be slow and horrible. No worries! All of this will be fixed by next week, people assure me! Which almost inevitably means it won't. Ha, ha! Modern life in America! Where no one cares about you, at all.

That's why I will try to faithfully provide whatever the hell I've been faithfully providing in this space no matter what terrible things happen. And then I will go back to bed, or something? Who knows. I hope one day these shows are just hour-long shots of bunny rabbits, copulating. I'm pretty sure I won't have to liveblog that!

Anyway, as usual, email comment follow me on Twitter, three hours and this is over. What: John McCain is on this morning? First thing? Well, great. The first fifteen minutes is always the hardest.


OKay, so, yes, the President Of Sunday Morning John McCain is here to carve up whatever is left of his identity to beat J.D. Hayworth. Plus, Ray Odierno, and the standard issue panel.

But also: Eyjafjallajökull! Eyjafjallajökull is basically brutally beating the whole world, with ash!

Speaking of holes of ash, here's John McCain, parallel universe overlord. He says that we don't have a "coherent policy" toward Iran, and need to place sanctions, and pull triggers, on sanctions. Sanctions! Not bombs! (But also bombs.) And the Russian and Chinese need to be "embarrassed?" With Twitpics of them in compromising positions.

Actually, that is McCain's whole plan: to post YouTubes of the demonstrators in Iran getting cracked down upon, and "make them famous" like he famously makes the earmarkers famous, on Twitter. Then, I guess after we see pictures of the demonstrators -- never been done before, by the way -- we unleash a series of sanctions that will fall most heavily on the demonstrators. That will show...somebody?

McCain wants us to "stand up for the people" there. Yes, it's our historic dislike of the Iranian freedom fighters that has been keeping them down.

McCain reacts to Obama pointing out that he cut nearly everybody's taxes, and you're welcome, Tea Party weirdies, by the way, by saying that "taxes have gone up and they are going up and we all know that." McCain says Obama is secretly burned badly by the tea partiers and needs to be more like Ronald Reagan and smile at his critics. That's from Senator Thin-Skin, of Arizona.

McCain is against the value-added tax, in case you didn't know already, saying it's European and backdoor. He's not sure that there's any serious movement toward one, but he keeps hearing people -- himself, probably -- "talking about it," so he's on a "pre-emptive strike" against a thing that actually might just go away now if he stopped wandering around his Senate office, mumbling about it.

McCain, who thinks Fannie and Freddie were a major catalyst in the financial collapse, needs to be part of FinReg, and is concerned about the Fed having a prominent position in the aftermath. Interestingly, here he calls for a lot of government involvement and a lot of Federal oversight and basically seems to edge right up to reinstating Glass-Steagall? "Let bankers do the traditional banking of lending money and having them be backed by the Federal government and the FDIC. People want to engage in all this other stuff we've been reading about, just don't have the taxpayers involved, let them take their own risk."

Wallace asks what's going to happen when the FinReg bill comes to the floor and the GOP looks like they are backing Wall Street. McCain basically says uhm, Frank Luntz told me to lie to you...is this working...uhm...we need "Too Big To Fail" to end.

Naturally, the problem here is that the Senate minority is taking their marching orders straight from the people who want to get bailed out, forever. McCain talks disparagingly of Goldman-Sachs "playing the double game," but he's doing so too.

That would be a very substantive way of slamming a ruler across his snout, but instead we're going to let Wallace litigate the whole "I never called myself a Maverick" matter that the interwebs and the Daily Show took care of WEEKS AGO. Oh, look! John McCain is being supercilious and dodgy! Hey, he's not really answering the question. Oh, no! He's got a new spin to put on this, and everything. WAR HERO! Leave Britney alone!

McCain is confident that he will win, and says that Hayworth's support of pork-barrel spending means he is not a true conservative. He's not worried about anti-incumbent anger, either. Is he worried about the fact that he dropped a humiliating ad on Hayworth that made Hayworth look like he was bonkers, only to see the polls tighten? Don't know. Wallace didn't ask.

Now, here's General Ray Odierno. Is he worried about the political disarray, in Iraq? He thinks it will take some time for the government to form but is confident in the Iraqi Defense Forces.

Will a government without Sunnis bring about a return to sectarian violence? Odierno says that "the conversation going on today" is about maintaining the involvement of all the major sectarian blocs, and is confident that inclusion will remain the order of the day. He goes on to say that withdrawal will continue to proceed according to the pace that it has been on, which he says is "appropriate." He characterizes the current mission as a "transition force" that will conduct "stability operations." That means: support of the defense forces, training, help to reconstruction teams, and "partnered counter-terrorism operations" with the Iraqis.

Is al Qaeda in Iraq a re-emerging threats? Odierno says, no, they are "significantly degraded." They are "still capable of conducting attacks" and there will still be "bad days ahead of us," but al Qaeda remains deeply unpopular with the populace.

Odierno reiterates that withdrawal is proceeding on target and on pace and in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement. Speaking of! This is where Chris Wallace wonders hopefully if we might re-negotiate that, so we can stay forever? Odierno shoots that down, saying that only the Iraqis can seek a change to the SoFA and that the U.S. has no interest in altering it otherwise. Sorry to everyone who wants to stay in Iraq forever!

Would Odierno like to single-handedly lead an attack on Iran? Pretty please? "Chris, I do not think that is necessary."

As for all that, Odierno-gets-a-new-job stuff, Odierno says that it all, at this point, "speculation," and that no one has talked to him about anything. He's proud to serve with the soldiers in Iraq, and excited by the opportunities that are happening there.

Okay, panel time! Standard configuration of Hume, Liasson, Kristol and Williams.

Hume says that the Tea Partiers are worried about spending, especially the stimulus package, which I guess kept too many people in jobs, and stole bodies from their ranks?

Wallace asks: "Is it good politics to mock the tea partiers?" Uhm. In another five years, the Tea Partiers will be a prominent butt of jokes on "I Love The Aughts" so, look at it this way: mock them today, and be thought of as an early adopter! But these people are Bill Kristol's new best friend, and he's terribly upset on their behalf. Williams and Liasson point out that all Obama was saying is that he cut their taxes, and that maybe he shouldn't be yelled at as if he had.

That's when Hume gets all crazy with the false equivalence. THOSE ANTI-WAR PROTESTORS! THEIR SIGNS WERE MEAN! THEY HURT PEOPLE'S FEELINGS. And nobody said one word about how awful they were. Naturally, if Hume really believes in the equivalence, he'd just decry the tea partiers as being of the same ilk as the anti-war protestors. Instead, his basic argument is: I believe that mean signs are a great wrong, unless I derive an advantage from those mean signs, thus, I will speak out only in the one instance, and fret myself in to high-garter-popping dudgeon in the latter. The best Hume can say is that both sides are guilty of his way of thinking, which to my mind moots the entire discussion!

Of course, if you want to make a comparison, you can do so on the merits ("there is actual communist-fascist-Maoist tyranny happening here in America" versus "there are no weapons of mass destruction and this war is pointless and is making things worse) except the merits seem to be a bit one-sided. We can also evaluate the two on the basis of what side was more racist and threatened more lawmakers and cut more gas lines in people's private residences. Or we can compare the two in terms of citizen involvement -- OH NO WE CAN'T, because the anti=war protests were a lot better attended.

Anyway, I try to not get too bent out of shape about all this! Unemployment is really high! People's loved ones and family and friends are out of work. It's hard to feel in control of your own lives or be able to consider a future in those circumstances. AND SO EVERYONES EVER-LOOSENING GRIP! ON THE COMMONEST COURTESIES HAS SLIPPED!

But, hey: panels of political talk shows of America, get your chit chat about tea parties on while you can. Pet rocks! This is the pet rocks of politics. Secessionist pet rocks that draw Hitler mustaches on everyone. Of course Bill Kristol thinks that they terrify "the left" and that they have "disabled Obama's agenda," except that I'm pretty sure i remember that health care reform passed?

Williams is really worked up about how wrong the Tea Party people are: that they think Obama is socialist and doesn't like white people. I want to sort of hold him in my arms and say, "Calm down! Calm down! This is a perilously tiny portion of the population that have always represented a sunk cost to the political figures you support. This will pass. There, there. Calm down, Juan Williams. Does somebody have a cold compress? Or some weed? Bill Kristol, are you holding? You must have some powerful stuff, for your face to be frozen like that. Okay, Juan, it's going to be okay."

Oh, mighty Eyjafjallajökull! Please deliver me from this panel! But it seems I'm to endure more of it. Let's listen to discussion of FinReg, with NPR battling some Frank Luntz marionettes. Hume is mad at the $50 billion fund (that I think is gone from the bill, now) because it will be the mechanism that bails out banks.

Right, Frank Luntz marionette! Hume is either stupid or he is lying or maybe both. If you could have bailed out AIG or Lehman for $50 billion, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A REALLY GREAT DEAL and based upon the money that WAS spent to do so, you'd have taken that as a straight up, take-it-and-God-be-with-you bailout in a heartbeat. But in actuality, the $50 billion fund was not meant as bailout money...it's the COST OF THE FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS. It's the DEATH PANEL, to borrow a phrase. And the banks themselves were to have paid into it as insurance that they could bear the cost of their own death throes. Not only was it not a "permanent bailout tool," it was a tool whose absence NOW INCREASES THE LIKELIHOOD AND OVERALL ATTRACTIVENESS OF BAILOUTS.

This is what the major banks told Republicans to say about this, by the way, because they do not want the possibilities of taxpayer bailouts to ever end!

Liasson says the fund is a red herring that probably will be taken out. Wallace briefly provides some actual information on this. She notes that the critique from the left is that the bill is not tough enough, but that this is not the argument the GOP is making. (Uhm, DUH, because their argument is that the Wall Street banks should be allowed to do what they want, because that is what they asked for when they gave them all that campaign money. Later you will hear from Bill Clinton talking about the bad advice that Larry Summers gave him, which is easy for him to say now considering Larry Summers no longer needs to serve Clinton as "a major conduit for campaign cash.")

Kristol, who has never ever mounted an argument that didn't naturally assume that Americans are simpleminded, now thinks its terrible that the Democrats are treating the Americans as simpleminded by making a stark case against Wall Street.

Kristol suggests that maybe the GOP should contemplate "breaking up the big banks," and Liasson is basically flabbergasted.

And now Williams and Kristol are angry about sheep, or something? It's hard to follow, and all of their arguments are basically about livestock.

Hume says that the Democrats love the Value-Added Tax, but it's toxic, politically. It's also something that Paul Volcker mentioned in passing, one day, that isn't a part of any serious policy debate. Liasson does her best to point out what a total non-starter the idea is.

That's the magic of the Beltway media. If you happen to mention a thing in public, be wary! Within twenty-four hours, you will hear about how hard you made love to that thing and how much you want to have that thing's babies. Give me back my filet-o-fish!

Gah, this is over, now. One third done and the TiVo hasn't pooped its own pants, yay.


Jake Tapper and Bill Clinton! It's like it's the late 1990's again and everyone had jobs and Jake was at Salon! Now, they are cold-chilling at the University of Miami, and talking politics.

So, Clinton says that people should be more careful with their words. Rush Limbaugh says that with those remarks, Clinton had "set the stage" for future violence and that any acts of violence in the future would be on his head. Asked to respond, Clinton very calmly murmurs, "That doesn't make any sense." Clinton says he saw parallels between the time of the Oklahoma City bombing and now, where militias in Idaho say they will provide support if Idaho secedes. That doesn't make any sense, either.

Jake asks if this year reminds him of 1994, and Clinton says, "A little bit." Clinton says that people haven't felt the benefits of the health care bill, and that's a factor, but he's of the opinion that while the GOP is poised to make gains, there won't be anything on the order of a Republican takeover. It's well-nigh impossible for the GOP to take back the Senate, but the House is a different story entirely.

Of course, the worst possible outcome for the GOP would be taking back the Senate, wouldn't it? They can't seriously want to do that. Give up their superminority? Seems to me that would be a big mistake.

During this time, Clinton's been talking about raising chickens on urban gardens. Basically, the Clinton Global Initiative is trying to get corporate donors to provide philanthropic investments, and they are way into microcredits now, it's all probably available on the CGI's website. The basic thrust is that CGI keeps coming up with ways to make philanthropy profitable.

CLINTON: If you look at Pfizer, it's a good example. People who have Tuberculosis and AIDS are very ill. The traditional Tuberculosis treatment combined with the AIDS drugs makes them so sick they can't function. Pfizer is the only company in the world with a drug that allows them to function normally. So I said to them, "Why are you becoming our first big pharmaceutical partner? Why are you giving me this 60 percent reduction?"

And the president said, "Because I realize that by fighting the generic trend to lower drug cost, we were trying to get a huge percentage of only 15 percent of the population of the world. I decided we should go to the other 85 percent."

When all these generic drug companies changed their strategy, they were still charging a lot of money because their payment was uncertain, and they were -- had a few customers, so they had to have a big profit margin. I just asked them to change their business model. Now they have a low profit margin, but they have many, many more customers in certain payments. When Wal-Mart convinced its supply chain to cut the packaging by 5 percent, they changed the business model. It had the global warming effect of taking 211,000 trucks off the road but it also cut the supply chain cost $3 billion a year. So you've got to -- you have to find ways to argue that in the end, being philanthropic, being large-minded, being compassionate is also, in an interdependent world, good economics.

This is all the sort of thing that Clinton dreamed up while he and Bob Dole were being held prisoner by Kang and Kodos. Upwards, not downwards. Forwards, not upwards. And walways twirling, TWIRLING!

On to matters of the Supreme Court, and what advice Clinton would give Obama, besides not being the biggest fairytale in the world, man! Clinton doesn't think that the Senate will ultimately bring a filibuster. Clinton says that Obama should give the Court what it's most lacking. He says that Obama will nominate someone who fits in the "progressive block." "We've seen the hard way in the Citizens United case and campaign finance and in Bush v. Gore, during the most bizarre rulings in the history of the Supreme Court and I think one of the five worst, what the consequences of that are."

He does caution that Obama should not "intentionally pick a fight" with the Senate. BUT IT'S SO MUCH FUN!

Clinton goes on: "Now one thing I think he should think about is have we gotten -- have we gone too far in this process that assuming only judges can be elected? That somehow you're not qualified if you weren't a judge. Some of the best justices in the Supreme Court in history have been non-judges, people that - as Hugo Black once famously said, had been sheriffs and county judges, people that have seen how the lofty decisions of the Supreme Court affect the ordinary lives of Americans." SOUNDS LIKE EMPATHY, OH NOES.

Clinton begs off at being a Justice himself, saying that he's old, and that it'd be better to have someone in their forties or fifties. Plus, he likes doing what he is doing now. Plus he was once, you know, DISBARRED! So, unless you want the confirmation hearing sponsored by the E! network, no.

Hillary "would be great at it," he says, but she's not interested in it either.

Tapper brings up FinReg, so here's the part you've already heard before.

CLINTON: Well, I think on the derivatives - before the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, it had been breached. There was already a total merger practically of commercial and investment banking, and really the main thing that the Glass-Steagall Act did was to give us some power to regulate it - the repeal.

And also to give old fashion traditional banks in all over America the right to take an investment interest if they wanted to forestall bankruptcy. Sadly none of them did that. Mostly it was just the continued blurring of the lines, but only about a third of all the money loaned today is loaned through traditional banking channels and that was well underway before that legislation was signed. So I don't feel the same way about that.

I think what happened was the SEC and the whole regulatory apparatus after I left office was just let go. I think if Arthur Levitt had been on the job at the SEC, my last SEC commissioner, an enormous percentage of what we've been through in the last eight or nine years would not have happened.

I feel very strongly about it. I think it's important to have vigorous oversight. Now, on derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take it, because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them.

And they don't need any extra protection, and any extra transparency. The money they're putting up guarantees them transparency. And the flaw in that argument was that first of all sometimes people with a lot of money make stupid decisions and make it without transparency.

And secondly, the most important flaw was even if less than 1 percent of the total investment community is involved in derivative exchanges. So much money was involved that if they went bad, they could affect a 100 percent of the investments, and indeed a 100 percent of the citizens in countries not investors, and I was wrong about that. I've said that all along. Now, I think if I had tried to regulate them because the Republicans were the majority in the Congress, they would have stopped it. But I wish I should have been caught trying. I mean, that was a mistake I made.

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will have our life's savings wiped out, by AIG!

Tapper asks if Obama should put a mideast peace plan on the table, and man, does Clinton want to dance around that issue. But, eventually, he switches gears and gives it up:

CLINTON: Half of the energy coming out of all this organization and money-raising for terror comes out of the allegations around the unresolved Palestinian issue. If there were a Palestinian state working in partnership, with the policies Mr. Fayyad's following on the West Bank, it would be a whole different world.

All the Arabs would identify with Israel. They'd have a political and economic partnership. The whole economic basis in the Middle East would shift from oil to ideas. Look at what the Saudi Arabians are doing -- building six new towns. The -- the UAE wins the international competition for the clean energy agency. And they're going to build a carbon neutral city in the UAE. And nobody thinks about this.

Dubai is the only country with huge amounts of imported workers that's actually passed legislation to give these immigrant workers a better deal in the Middle East. And they've got women in the government. They have a joint public-private decision making process. Nobody knows anything about it. Why? Because of the Palestinian-Israeli thing.

On health care, Clinton is proud of the fact that he set the stage for health care reform, but that the obstacles in the 1990s were too high. "Once I saw William Kristol's memo to Bob Dole, I realized we never had a chance. Because we couldn't pass it without five or six Republicans. They -- they -- I had an obstacle President Obama didn't have. They had an absolute, clear filibuster number."

Wow! Has Eyjafjallajökull been in the headline of this liveblog for a while now? Eyjafjallajökull! It's everywhere! And I still cannot pronounce it! But I love to type it: Eyjafjallajökull!

Okay, so, now, it's panel time with George Will and Al Hunt and Kimberley Strassel and Donna Brazile.

What about this whole "looking outside the judiciary" for a SCOTUS nominee? Is that good advice? Will says that it used to be traditional advice, back inthe 19th century, but then everyone started wearing denim pants and the only way to tell a stone rube from a potential SCOTUS caliber legal mind was to see if they had a degree from an Ivy League intitution. But before that, you could maybe get someone from the University of Virginia, aka "The Public Ivy." (That's something we UVa. alums like to say and/or cling to, like bourbon.)

Actually, Earl Warren ruined everything, for everyone, and then it was judges forevermore.

What about this whole, "Everyone should calm down and stop yelling nonsense at each other." Strassel says that Tea Partiers are rankled by the "double standard" that exists between them and the anti-war protests. But shouldn't they just be happy by the fact that unlike the anti-war protestors, the media covers the Tea Partiers, and even suggest that they have a consequential position in American politics? I think they should take all the lavish media attention, and maybe shut up about double standards!

Al Hunt says that Clinton is "slowly coming back," so maybe he can be President again, soon? I mean, I am reliably informed by the Tea Partiers, through their constant media attention, that the Constitution is being shredded, right?

"Moral hazard exists when the incentives are for perverse behavior," says George Will, making it sound a lot less dirty than you'd think? But then it's not George Will who's liveblogging this from atop a pile of Bangladeshi Sex Rafts.

Ha! Jake Tapper mentions the Luntz memo strategy, and then tosses to a montage of Mitch McConnell saying the word "bailout" over and over. ATTENTION, BEN CRAW: someone at ABC News is biting your style!

Back to the show: nice touch. Brazile quips that this is maybe what Stephen Colbert was talking about when he said truth could be created out of repetition. But is it the case that the bill fosters bailouts? Strassel seems to think so, but she cites the aforementioned $50 billion bank funded funeral fund as something that should be considered permanent bailouts. Forgive me, but I reckon that "making it so your bank ceases to exist, in life" is not the same thing as "animating your zombie corpse, with money."

I'm going to pass the mic to Pat Garofalo: "Neither the financial reform bill passed by the House of Representatives last year nor the one moving through the Senate makes bailouts "permanent." In fact, both include a resolution authority, aimed at unwinding systemically risky financial firms, and funded by assessments on the biggest firms themselves. It lays out a process for identifying whether a firm is too systemically entangled for traditional bankruptcy and, if so, putting it into an FDIC-style receivership. It is the opposite of the ad hoc approach to which the government was limited in 2008."

Al Hunt disagrees with Strassel. "Mitch McConnell as an anti-Wall Street populist is about as credible as John Edwards heading the Family Values conference." Hunt suspects that there are problems with the bill (it's plenty reasonable to say so, I'm glad that the FinReg places a high premium on not re-enacting bailout mania, but I am more concerned with a law that prevents the failure in the first place), but that the bailout permanence is "just a Frank Luntz memo talking point." He adds that he was only slightly bullish on this bill passing before this week, but that the Goldman Sachs fraud filing "is the clincher."

Tapper and Hunt then do a fine job unpacking and explaining what's exactly going on here. They will hopefully post a video of this soon, and I will include it. I mention it in brief because THIS WEEK! They are the show that TAKES THE TIME TO PATIENTLY EXPLAIN THINGS TO YOU ON SUNDAYS!

For want of an analogy that helps it make sense, here's Annie Lowrey.

Strassel says that the current law wouldn't prevent this fraud from happening. Which, to Strassel, is a reason to just not do regulation. To Al Hunt, it's one of the areas that needs to be improved in the bill: "Simple requirement of transparency" he says, would have exposed Goldman's involvment in the double game to the other investors who got screwed.

Will says that at the "end of the day there is going to be a bill with seventy votes."

Next up, we have SecDef Robert Gates, apparently sounding the alarm that a new strategy with Iran is needed, to head off their nuclear capability. From today's Times:

Officials familiar with the memo's contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.

One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as "a wake-up call." But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran's nuclear program.

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: "On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don't announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn't mean we don't have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies -- we do."

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon -- fuel, designs and detonators -- but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

In that case, Iran could remain a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty while becoming what strategists call a "virtual" nuclear weapons state.

According to several officials, the memorandum also calls for new thinking about how the United States might contain Iran's power if it decided to produce a weapon, and how to deal with the possibility that fuel or weapons could be obtained by one of the terrorist groups Iran has supported, which officials said they considered to be a less-likely possibility.

Will says that the only extant strategy is to "hope that something that doesn't exist does something unprecedented," by which he means the international community will sanction Iran. Hunt doesn't think China will come around to putting the strong sanctions in place, but says that there are no good options. Kim Strassel suggests that we are actually more hostile to Israel than Iran, and really, that's when I press the button, because WE DO NOT GIVE IRAN THE SORT OF MONEY WE GIVE ISRAEL. BILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS, I AM AFRAID. Citigroup money! Israel is Bailout Nation. Sorry, just not going to listen to this, "Obama's trying to be Iran's BFF and is rogering Israel over the back of a couch."


Okay, I will now burn off several decades of purgatory by watching David Gregory interview Tim Geithner.

Hey, so, Goldman Sachs! What do you think about all that, Tim? "I can't comment." But he does have a bunch of talking points about how great the FinReg reform bill is. Isn't Goldman Sachs a good case for FinReg? Geithner says: "Why would you need a case like this? You've had eight and a half million Americans lose their jobs. You had millions of Americans lose their house. Tens of thousands of businesses fail. Worst financial crisis in generations. That is a powerful case for reform. And, again, that's why I'm so confident we're gonna see Americans come together and pass reform."

Yes, and also Goldman Sachs are fraudster succubi. Allow the people who will never work again, in their lives, this one quarter-pound of flesh, please!

Gregory asks, "Doesn't this feed what America really resents about how Wall Street is operating?" This, too, Geithner won't comment on, except to say that everything is going to be fine from now on, you'll see: "You want a system that acts preemptively to prevent these things from happening. You don't want a system where have the government clean up the mess later. The best way to protect Americans from these things happening is to put a stronger system in place where people were able to act ahead of the storm. Ahead of the abuse. Ahead of the crisis."

Well, since Geithner just wants to talk about how awesome the bill is...

GREGORY: And so, at the heart of financial reforms, new rules for Wall Street. Can you guarantee that these rules guarantee no more bailouts?

GEITHNER: What we can guarantee is if Congress joins with the President in passing the reforms we've proposed, reforms that passed the House. Now working their way through the Senate. Then taxpayers will not be on the hook for bailing out these large institutions from their mistakes in the future.

GREGORY: Who will be then?

GEITHNER: Well, the banks are gonna be on the hook for paying the cost of any future crisis. That's a simple basic proposition.

Gregory asks if it's true that the big firms are just going to assume the government will step in and save them, to which Geithner says "Of course," but, in fairness, it's pretty clear he's imagining that in terms of the status quo, which he contends will change once regulation is in place. In the meanwhile, they also need to reform other matters, like preventing firms from getting overleveraged and ending the dark market for derivatives.

"We have to stop and tell people what a derivative is," Gregory says. Here's me, many bad haircuts ago, and the much smarter and more aesthetically presentable Julie Satow, to do just that:

Okay, back to Tim and David. Geithner says that going forward, firms must be able to fend for themselves -- which I assume means that they must be adequately capitalized -- and that "government assistance" in the future will mean putting the firm into receivership, wiping out shareholders, and winding it down.

GEITHNER: We dismember it. We sell it off so it cannot exist again to make those kind of mistakes in the future. And we'll make sure while we're doing that the taxpayer themselves are not exposed to a penny of loss.


All right! Financial regulatory reform never sounded so angular!

Geithner is confident about all of this: "I spent a lot of time with Republicans over the last several months and the last few weeks, even last week, end of last week. And I believe that we are very close on this. That we agree on the vast bulk of the things necessary to end too big to fail....Now we're not together on everything. I think on derivatives and on consumer protection, we're still some ways apart. And we may not get there. But on too big to fail, on making sure we protect the taxpayer, I think we're very close and we're in broad agreement."

Can he name a Republican that's ready to go on this? No, he can not. Still, he is confident! Maybe we just need to sit in a closet for seven weeks, heavily petting Chuck Grassley?

Geithner, having seen both sides of the economic collapse (I think there's really only one side?) says that "absolutely" new rules for Wall Street will prevent Wall Street from taking the same sort of risk and exposing taxpayers to the downside. "There's no politics in this. This is not a partisan thing. This is a basic proposition," Geithner says.

Oh, in case you haven't already ever heard this from a single member of the Obama administration in the past twelve months: "These are very encouraging signs...But, you know, we have to deal in reality too. And the reality still is is that this crisis caused a huge amount of damage. It's gonna take a long time to heal that damage. Americans are still facing enormous pressure, enormous financial challenge. And we're gonna keep working to make sure we're healing what was broken, reinforcing this recovery and we've got some work to do still."

Geithner goes on to say that the economy is creating jobs again. He says that last month there were 160,000 jobs created, which went to no one I know, but hey, at least were almost but not quite really keeping pace with the baseline number of jobs we need to create each month anyway, excepting all the jobs that were wiped out, and the jobs that aren't coming back, and the -- WELL LOOK 160,000 IS A BIG NUMBER, ANYWAY.

Unemployment will remain "unacceptably high" for a while longer but at least won't be "double-plus-unaccepatbly high," or "unacceptably higher," or "everyone is just straight up running in the streets with their duodenums exploding."

Then Gregory and Geithner have a Samuel Beckett play about the housing market, the official transcript looks like this:


--will help the--

--but --


--well, you're--

Help people

--trying to now get-- get-- lenders to reduce the principal for people because you have-- and this was always the warning about a mortgage-- remodification. That people redefault.


And end up getting foreclosed on.

I am entering that in the Humana Festival of New American Plays, starring my friend Casie Platt as Tim Geithner and a beanbag chair with eyebrows as David Gregory. It will be at least as good as anything Neil LaBute has done.

Nevertheless, I hope it doesn't surprise you to learn that the MASSIVE UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS may be a huge factor in driving up future foreclosures. HOPE YOUR MIND ISN'T TOO BLOWN OVER THAT. Also "our biggest challenge is growth." And not the type of growth that occurs when you lay off half your workforce and say to the rest, "Wow, will you be next? Guess you should work harder!"

BUT THE DEBT IS A PROBLEM THAT IS REAL TO DAVID GREGOREE! WHY WILL NO ONE STOP THE TURRIBLE DEBTS? Tim says, well, we cut taxes and we spent to stimulate the economy and have set deficit targets and we have a commission thingy, and then it's back to the Humana Play Festival!


--taking us back to where--

--but is it--


--enough? First of all, he-- he is cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans. He's also raising taxes. The Bush tax cuts will expire. There're tax hikes-- included in-- in the healthcare reform. Look if Pete Domenici --

Well, health--

--doesn't achieve--

--healthcare reform--


--healthcare reform is enormously important and will be enormously important and effective in helping bring down the long-term deficits.

Well, okay. But there're some-- there's debate about-- even though that's certainly--

No, but--

--the assertion about--

No, but the--

--how it was passed.

--again, the-- in our country we turn to the independent--



What about a gas tax! Geithner says, "That's not something I can talk about today." And then Gregory asks about the effing Tea Partiers. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THESE IRRATIONAL YOBBOS AND THEIR HITLER MUSTACHES AND INCOHERENT YAMMERINGS? Geithner actually gives the query a better answer than it deserves: " We've been through eight years where people saidd deficits don't matter, we can pass huge tax cuts, pass huge new programs without paying for them. That debate has changed fundamentally. Now you don't hear people say anymore, "Deficits don't matter." You don't hear people saying that we can pass enormous expansion of government without paying for it. That's an important change."

Oh, this last panel is going to be a dooze, with Ed Rendell and marsha Blackburn and Jose Diaz Balart and Ron Brownstein.

"I want to talk about this left-right political divide over the economy," Gregory says, killing the soul of America forever.

Blackburn says America is tired of bailouts! And Frank Luntz told her to lie and say that the FinReg bill will make them permanent. Her lying is so intense that evern Gregory almost stops her! But she goes right on, pretending as if her body cavity was not stuffed in all directions by Wall Street lobbyists with campaign cash, on the hopes that repeating Frank Luntz memos would carry the day. Rendell basically shuts this down, but wow, someone just needs to tell Marsha Blackburn that she is lying scum! And the scum lies totally obscure a rational critique of the bill. But since a rational critique of the bill would lead to an effective bill -- the outcome the GOP has been paid to not want -- we have the Luntz stuff.

It's pretty futile to fight! You know Erin Burnett threw a guy off CNBC for referring to Jim Cramer as a shallow moron? Why can't Blackburn be picked up by the nose and tossed into the street?

Anyway, I lost the thread of this AMAZING panel and now they are talking about something else, that doesn't sound anymore exciting than listening to me put my forehead through every window in my apartment.

Gregory's next move is to set up a conversation about "Who is winning politically, on the economy." And that's the problem with this whole sodding crapulent enterprise on Sunday. Actual people are getting their asses handed to them by this economy, and all David Gregory cares about is assessing how hard it will be for a bunch of goddamned millionaires to retain their seats in COngress. OH NOES, WILL THEY BE MILLIONAIRE LEGISLATORS, OR JUST MILLIONAIRES WHO SIT IDLE ON CORPORATE BOARDS AND THINKTANKS AND LAW FIRMS FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. And then David Brooks tells me, "Well those people all work much, much harder than the guys who clean all of the office buildings at night and who move furniture and deliver food and drive buses. And then, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? My hands are somehow wrapped around David Brooks' neck, and I appear to preventing him from properly respiring? And now I am being savagely beaten by police, for some reason?

See: somehow, I am the bad guy in all of this! Anyway, like I said, on Sunday's I am burning off purgatory. I will spend my afternoons in the afterlife coming up with awesomely rhymed dick jokes about David Gregory with Alexander Pope and Biggie.

But! I! Digress! Republicans are "driving the argument." If only "the argument" was something that made people well, and healthy, and better off.

Gah, twenty-six minutes of this nonsense left! Now we've gotten to the part where David Gregory picks a random newspaper clipping and reads it aloud.

Rendell is talking about how the Obama administration has done a good job targeting tax cuts to job creation. Blackburn says, "The election is going to be about freedom." OH, GOD, WHAT? Seriously? Lightbulbs? "There is no expiration date on the free market." Oh, not even Alan Greenspan believes that anymore! "But you need more oversight," she says. What? At last Gregory realizes that this woman is fountain of pure babblicious goop.

So, instead, we skip to today's stock question about the Tea Parties, including a poll from Politico that essentially established that they are, at best, very politically motivated, and actually, quite utterly bonkers. (And again, they are a sunk cost to Democratic politicians, who have only themselves to blame if they've not sufficiently enthused the type of voter who traditionally pose the same sunk cost to the GOP.)

And the discussion of this teensy percentage of disgruntled Americans goes on, until Balart finally takes the reins of this show LIKE A BOSS and takes the discussion to immigration reform. See, unlike the Tea party, Hispanics represent an enduring bloc of voters who are energized by substance and who grow more refined in the argument-making year after year. Balart puts everyone on blast -- he criticizes the Obama administration for not coming through on promises made to Hispanic voters. He hammers the GOP for embracing too many people who "trash Hispanics." It's firm and smart and it's a critique based upon the needs and lives of actual people and Balart is a Golden God for doing his best to suddenly and without warning MAKE THIS SHOW INTERESTING!

Gregory says, "But my point about immigration reform..." BUT HE NEVER MENTIONED IMMIGRATION REFORM? He didn't breathe one word about immigration reform! HOW COULD HE HAVE "A POINT" ABOUT IT?

Wait, is that it? Oh, yes. Of course, Meet The Press likes to take ten minutes at the end of each show with a segment that's supposed to remind us that this show wasn't an embarrassing shitshow of stumbling stupidity. And so, this show used to talk about the moon landing, I guess? And now I wish it would die in space, silently screaming into a void of its own making.

Hey, my TiVo actually made it. Go figure it would record the most horrible shows I have to watch all week, and make me sweat over whether I am going to get the new LOST or DOCTOR WHO or 30 ROCK. I am going to get along while the getting along is good. We'll see you next Sunday, for more of this self-torture and strenuous exercise. I hope everyone has a great week!