TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning everyone and welcome to this latest edition of your Sunday Morning liveblog of semi-coherent political yammerings. My name is Jason, and I have been through the Rally To Restore Sanity to the Rally To Get Panang Kai Delivered To Your Apartment to the Rally To Restore Wakefulness. I was gently goaded awake this morning by the sounds of the Marine Corps Marathon outside my window -- people cheering and ringing bells -- and realized, well, I guess I better get up to see what people are saying about these other ding-a-lings in their own electoral races.

We are almost at the end of this thing! Next week, we'll hear experts tell us what happened, and then the week after that, we begin 2012: The Presidentalanche! (And then I think a week after that, it will be Thanksgiving, and I will be on a Bloodbuzz New Jersey, and there will be no liveblog that week. (See how I give you something to be thankful for?)

[So many people still owe money, to the money, to the money they owe. Maybe we should talk about that on the teevee sometime?]

Anyway, let's begin! As always, you are welcome to leave comments, send emails, and if you want to get a feel for what it's like to follow me on Twitter, you don't have to die wondering.


Today, we're going to start off with Amanpour talking about the recent terrorist threat from Yemen with John Brennan. Right now, authorities have got a suspect in custody and the investigation is ongoing. Yemen "now surpasses any other country in the world" when it comes to levying terrorist threats against the United States and the West. We're reminded that now, we're doing training in Yemen, and have launched a fairly robust military campaign, but once again, we've got a shadowy figure, al-Awlaki, who we're struggling to run to ground. (Once we do, we're maybe going to have a chance to have an uncomfortable conversation about whether or not a U.S. President can order the assassination of an American, look forward to THAT.)

On to Brennan. He says that we "can't presume" there aren't other explosive packages on the wing, so it's an active threat that's still being investigated. The suspects in custody are a mother-daughter team that delivered the packages to UPS and FedEx locations in Sanaa. He says that the threat and the investigation is not limited to them. The bombmaker is "dangerous" and has significant training, and it seems to be similar to other threats.

Did the PETN explosives elude security measures at the outset, Brennan suggests this was the case, and says that it's another "adaptation of al Qaeda" that we have to get ahead of. He says that we are advantaged by a very multipronged intelligence network that gets information into the hands of the right authorities. (That will be the case until this system hiccups, anyway.) In this case, we were tipped off by Saudi authorities, of whom Brennan says, "Their actions really saved lives."

Brennan can't go into details about how the Saudis found out what they found out, but says it's a good example of the cooperation going on right now between the US and our foreign partners.

"We make adjustments as well," Brennan says, asserting that we've already adapted our security framework in the wake of this threat. It sounds to me like air cargo is going to get a new look. Brennan says that "we look at every piece of cargo as a potential threat.

While the packages were addressed to synagogues in Chicago, officials believe that the devices were intended to detonate en route.

Here's the $64,000 question: "Does this attack show al Qaeda is getting more sophisticated or less sophisticated?" Brennan says that it shows that there are trying to adopt new techniques to the moves we make to stay abreast of them. Al Qaeda, he says, remains "creative and innovative."

And now, politics! Democrats are bracing for doom, and bracing for losing the "change label." So we'll hear from Senators John Cornyn and Robert Menendez. I wonder what they'll say?

Cornyn says that the GOP will make headway in getting a Senate majority, but "it may take two cycles." Has the GOP given up on Joe Miller? Cornyn dodges that question, saying only that they are working on keeping Scott McAdams from winning. That's pretty bad news for Miller, who was very recently measuring drapes and joking about getting an apartment in DC.

Menendez notes that the GOP brand isn't exactly the best. Polls indicate that the Democrat brand fares better. Sounds to me, however, like voters think that they might be able to send some folks to DC to improve the GOP brand, while at the same time, Democratic voters aren't seeing the candidates that live up to what they admire about the Democratic Party itself.

Menendez says the election is about a choice between the "people who got us into the mess and people who want to move us forward." Cornyn says that it's an election about "spending and debt."

Amanpour says it all sounds like a recipe for gridlock, Cornyn disagrees. Menendez says that the Democrats have done all sorts of reaching out across the aisle from jump street.

Amanpour sort of blasts both men, for staging a "very specifics-free, substance-free, content-free election." Very true! At a time where we face a lot of tough programs, the men and women running for office who have presented themselves as stupid, whiny children have drowned out the voices of anyone trying to make some mature sense.

Amanpour asks Cornyn if the GOP will agree to raise taxes on the wealthy while preserving the tax cuts on the middle class. Cornyn says that we shouldn't raise taxes on anyone during a fragile economy. Of course, when the economy isn't fragile, he won't want to raise taxes on the wealthy then, either. (Luckily, he's got a lot of wealth-loving Democrats who will support the wealthy in this dark time. THE ECONOMY IS SO FRAGILE!)

Menendez notes that the extension will add $4 trillion to the deficits. "You can't talk about spending and being responsible about deficits and then spend $4 trillion."

Amanpour asks Cornyn about David Vitter's ad describing Charlie Melancon as an enabler of illegal immigrants. She suggests that it's a little beyond the pale in terms of its overt racism. Cornyn says, "I wish we had the time to show Melancon's ads about Vitter, they are very tough." Ha, yes, they are! Because David Vitter loves being chin deep in prostitutes! I wish we had the time to show those ads on the teevee, too, John.

Cornyn suggests that it's appropriate to discuss the issue, because it's an important issue. Really? It sort of looks like a cartoon issue, in that Vitter ad.

Panel time! This one features my employer and friend, Arianna Huffington, so, you know, full disclosure! Also today is George Will, Dick Armey, Cokie Roberts, Jonathan Karl, and Donna Brazile.

Will says that civility should not be construed as the absence of partisanship. That's something I agree with! I think though, that people who ply the trade of partisanship with responsibility aren't to feared but should be welcomed. They largely don't exist, though. Consider that cartoonish ad we just heard about -- not a serious take on illegal immigration at all:

Does that look like the work of a responsible person who happens to be on one side of a partisan debate? If Cornyn had said, "Yeah, we wanted to put up a really mean attack ad, and really stick it to Charlie Melancon," I would have said, "Okay. Mission accomplished." But he didn't say that! He said the ad raises serious issues of importance to Americans. Well, guess what, that's a really terrible way of inviting a conversation on issues. The Melancon ads are at least HONEST. All they purport to do is raise questions about Vitter's character. They don't pretend to be a curtain-raiser on a large, philosophical discussion on prostitution.

I know that both parties are now basically in favor of "winning elections" and against "losing elections," but they shouldn't pretend like their personal ambitions serve as adequate replacements for something we should all be rallying around, or an invitation to a larger dialogue about weighty matters.

Arianna points out that Stewart said that "animus" didn't mean everyone had to be enemies. Those points, though, were really directed at the world outside of politicians and media professionals. It was more directed at ordinary people, as a reminder that we can set a better example with each other, (and still have scorn for that dick who cuts us off in traffic). Brazile seems to grok this, noting that the rally seemed to her to be an opportunity for people who aren't claimed as fanatics on either side of the divide to show up and remind people they existed.

Does Dick Armey think that there's anything wrong with civility? No. It's worth pointing out that Armey, insofar as he's involved in the Tea Party, has a specific job there: his job is to tame and trim what extremes there are so that their energy can be extruded and formed into a marm that can best support the GOP establishment. The Tea Party may be riven with eliminationists -- people who literally don't want other people to exist, in America, anymore -- but there's also a lot of genuine concern over Wall Street's hold on Washington, over internal corruption, and generic "big government" stuff. Armey's job is the gradually assist in getting those folks into line with an establishment that wants to keep on doing those things -- but also really wants to have their votes.

Will says there's no ongoing "rebellion against experience," noting the coming election of several seasoned GOP senators. Armey does some hilarious anti-establishment posturing. Arianna and Cokie Roberts fall out in disagreement over what the election is a referendum on or not. Roberts is right that we hear the same excuses from the losers of elections, that this was a rejection of "someone or something else, not us." Arianna might be onto something about an overall rejection of institutions, though, if only because this year, we've consistently seen that "Americans Prefer Democrats But Will Vote Republican":

I've seen numbers like this all year. We may only be talking about them now, but this has been baked in since February. And this may be a reason the Democrats have made no headway this year with voters. They keep thinking, "But America likes us!"

Will says "Gridlock isn't an American problem, it's an American achievement." Why can't all you unemployed people and soldiers in endless foreign wars take some solace in that? THE SYSTEM IS WORKING SO BEAUTIFULLY!

Armey says that the "Democrat party" wants to "destroy America" by controlling the government.

Ha, now George Will is saying he's astonished that our longest, deadliest war has not arisen as an issue in this election. Why can't he learn to love the War in Afghanistan, as a grand American achievement, instead of treating it like an American problem?


Great. Now I get to endure Tim Kaine and Haley Barbour blabbing at each other, as David Gregory's hair wafts around in fascination. Will Tim Kaine bring some keychains for people? And isn't it sad that the GOP has to troop in Barbour to take the other side? They are really working hard to get us to forget all about Michael Steele.

Then we'll have Political Analysis Frappee, from the Michelle Norris and the Middle Aged White Guys Of Conventional Wisdom Mongery: the Gray Hair, The Wonk, The Empty Vessel, and the Goatee. I just can't wait! I surely hope I do not shuffle off this mortal coil until I've observed all of this!

We're going to begin with John Brennan, however. What's new since this morning? Well, the investigation is ongoing, they are presuming that additional devices are out there, AQAP continues to be "determined and dangerous." Gregory knows one or two things about AQAP, from Wikipedia, and so tells those things to Brennan. Brennan agrees that those are some good things to know (they are in Yemen, they were the same group behind Captain Crotchfire's Christmas attack).

Gregory points out that this attack was of a higher level of sophistication than the most recent attacks, setting up what would be a good question, "Is AQAP starting to get their feet back under them? Do we have them under control? The relative lack of seriousness of those last few attacks were seen as a diminishment in their capability, but can we still say that?" I might even bring up the question, "With this large threat coming from Yemen, does it still make sense to have such a large military presence and the direction of so much tax money in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda is a non-entity."

The best Gregory can muster is "How has al Qaeda evolved," and Brennan can give a very comfortable, pat answer about us keeping up with their adaptations, yadda yadda blah.

Now let's get terrorized by the party hacks!

BARBOUR: The election is a referendum on Obama, spending, unemployment, the Obama policies aren't working, we need an "economic growth agenda."

KAINE: The Democrats are going to hold both Houses, but that is not a "prediction." This is an election about a choice, not a referendum. The GOP has no policy ideas, they want to win back the White House, the Dems are the problem-solvers.

BARBOUR: We've made a lurch to the left, and now there will be a yank to the right. Hands on hips, knees in tight, pelvic thrusts that really drive you insay-ay-ay-ay-ane. We're a center-right nation, or at least a nation that drinks everytime someone says "center right." The House will go GOP, the Senate not.

Kaine once predicted that health care reform would give Dems a tailwind in the election. Guess what?

KAINE: Most Democrats are proud of having reformed health care! This is not at all a product of the fact that most Democrats have safe seats!

BARBOUR: The democrats are running from Obama and health care like "scalded dogs." This is the sort of hilarious stuff you can expect from me during the month or so I survive in the GOP presidential primary.

KAINE: If we turn out or voters we'll win, but this is coming from a DNC chair who once told Jon Stewart that he's almost visited 42 states. So, good luck with the almost-42 state strategy!

Side note: Is it too much to ask David Gregory to remember that the document the GOP made is called the "Pledge To America?" Not a "Contract," not a "Promise," not a "Blueprint."

BARBOUR: I'm going to sidestep your question about how the Federal government under the GOP will lead by talking about GOP governors are doing things. Cut spending! I've done it, in my state! Which is much different than running the Federal government.

KAINE: Will it get harder to work with the GOP after election day? Let's just say that as soon as we have more Republicans in the House and Senate, we'll have them just where we want them!


KAINE: No, the President will not face a primary challenge and will be the GOP nominee.


BARBOUR: Not telling.

Okay, I was actually hoping that was going to be a longer interview, if only to limit my exposure to the coming Michelle Norris And The Crap-Kings panel that's following hard upon. This has become my favorite part of watching Meet The Press -- pressing fast-forward on the TiVo and rooting for many, many commercials to speed by, as the green line starts expanding over the void that I know I'll have to stare into.

And we're back at the twenty-two minute mark! Drat! But it looks like Gregory is just going to shout poll numbers at us. So, here's my liveblog of that:

Then, David Gregory shouted poll numbers at us, briefly.

Chuck Todd is now here, to go "inside the numbers." Oh my God. He's actually doing it! Chuck Todd has transformed himself, before my very eyes, into a multidimensional being of pure dissolved mathematical theory. He is really merging, blending, and interspersing his being with numerals. He has literally become an astral projection, intersecting with the tiny and meticulous calibrations of the universe. It is an almost senual sight, watching Chuck Todd merge with the World of Abstract Mathematics, an almost Euclidean scene of cosmic sensuality as a loving Todd coaxes the normally silent thrum of the universe's gears into an orgiastic song of pure delight.

And now we get to this dreadful round table. See, I would have definitely ended this show on the sight of Chuck Todd dry-humping the celestium. Close with your money shot.

THE GRAY HAIR: Voters are preparing to say that they aren't happy. Who knew that joblessness and a terrible economy would be so unpopular. Grassroots rule, the establishment drools.

THE WONK: The House is going to go one way, but Democrats are doing better in the Senate, for some reason!

MICHELLE NORRIS: Lots of Democrats think that it would have been better to have those Rally To Restore Sanity types in their camp.

(Ha, yes. I wonder why they aren't?)

MICHELLE NORRIS: Everyone is angry. Not just at Obama, but Washington. Recovery seems like a "mirage...the pinch feels permanent." "One thing we don't catch here is that there is a certain degree of pragmatism among voters, they are results oriented right now...they are frustrated hearing candidates tearing each other down, and not talking about what they're going to do...that could swing around to both parties." Voter have expectations, and want results.

THE EMPTY VESSEL: People seem to be angry and politicians will have to respond to that fear.

THE GOATEE: The House can maybe be more polarized, and the Senate will have to be nicer, and so it will be the White House and the Senate against the House.

THE WONK: Yes. I agree there are a lot of very important races, that the media will be watching very closely. If the GOP wins a lot of races, they will have a good night. But if the Democrats hold some seats they don't expect to, it won't be so bad for them.

THE GOATEE: The race in Virginia, with Tom Perriello, has three people on the ballot. Did you know that? Isn't that neat? Three people! What a world.

DAVID GREGORY: I am going to just straight up read The Empty Vessel's book to everyone, for some reason.

THE GRAY HAIR: Some of Obama's most enthusiastic supporters from 2008 aren't so enthusiastic anymore, did you know?

DAVID GREGORY: Boy, Barack Obama told Jon Stewart, "Yes we can, but it's not going to happen overnight." That doesn't sound like the Obama the presidential candidate, does it?

Well, to be fair, please see the following:

Hartford, Connecticut, June 23, 2007:

These are some of the challenges that test our conscience - as Americans and people of faith. And meeting them won't be easy. There is real evil and hardship and pain and suffering in the world and we should be humble in our belief that we can eliminate them. But we shouldn't use our humility as an excuse for inaction. We shouldn't use the obstacles we face as an excuse for cynicism. We have to do what we can, knowing it's hard and not swinging from a naïve idealism to a bitter defeatism - but rather, accepting the fact that we're not going to solve every problem overnight, but we can still make a difference.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, October 8th, 2007:

Now, none of these steps will happen overnight. They will take time, they will take sacrifice, and they will take a sustained commitment from the American people. As President, I will lead this commitment. I will not be outlining these goals in my State of the Union and then walk away when they become too difficult. I will report to the American people every year on the State of our Energy Future, and let you know the progress we've made toward an 80% emissions reduction by 2050, toward replacing over a third of our oil consumption by 2030, and toward improving our energy efficiency 50% by 2030. I will also make America's energy security a fundamental tenet of our national security by preparing our military to deal with threats posed by climate change.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, October 29, 2007:

Coming together to meet this challenge won't be easy. It won't happen overnight. It will take restoring a sense of shared purpose in Washington and across this country. But if you put your trust in me - if you give me "your hand and your heart" - then that's exactly what I intend to do as your next President.

Greenville, South Carolina, January 22nd, 2008:

We know the road ahead will be difficult. None of the problems we face will be easy to solve and change will not happen overnight. It will take a new spirit of cooperation and sacrifice. It will require each of us to remind ourselves that we rise and fall as one nation; and that a country in which only a few prosper is antithetical to our ideals and our democracy. And it will take a President who can rally Americans of different views and backgrounds to this common cause.

North Dakota State Democratic Convention, April 4th, 2008:

We can do this as a country. It won't be easy. It won't happen overnight. And it'll take more than one election or one president. The change we need will take an entire nation that's ready to work for it, and fight for it, and most of all, believe in it.

Unity, New Hampshire, June 27th, 2008:

No matter where we've disagreed, these are the issues that have always united Senator Clinton and myself. They are the causes that unite as Democrats. And I believe that at this moment, they are the causes that can unite us as Americans. Because the choice in this election is not left versus right or liberal versus conservative - it is the past versus the future. And it is time for us to move toward that future together. I know it won't be easy. I know it won't happen overnight. I know that there will be many times where Americans disagree with each other.

Washington, D.C., September 27, 2008:

So yes, we have to lift up our struggling families. Yes, we have to solve this economic crisis. But we also have to look out for our middle class over the long run. Because while I know this economic crisis may affect my budget as President, I reject the idea that you can't build a strong middle class at a time when our economy is weak. Just the opposite - a strong middle class is the cornerstone of a strong economy. And building that middle class will be a cornerstone of my presidency. It won't be easy. It's not going to happen overnight. We know that we'll have to overcome our doubts and divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly reform a broken economy, and advance opportunity.

Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois, November 4, 2008:

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

THE EMPTY VESSEL: Obama needs to be seen as fighting for the American people. He should devour the still-beating hearts of his enemies, slaking his mighty thirst on their viscera. Or at the very least, listen to more emo

MICHELLE NORRIS: You know, there's something else he said that night, in that interview with Jon Stewart. He said, "There's a lot of things that the White House has accomplished that America does not know about." Which was also a damning statement in that he has not made his own case. Americans in some ways are adverse to complexity when it comes to politics. They want things that are easy to understand and the White House has not always done a good enough job of explaining even their accomplishments that they should be able to stand on.

MY WIFE: I think that there are more Americans capable of understanding complex things than you give them credit for.


THE GRAY HAIR: I went on the internet! And I was like, "Wow, what are all these political banner ads doing here?" THIS MUST BE A GAMECHANGER, THESE 'AD BANNERS.'

ME: Hooray, they are taking a commercial break. Let's see how much time we can use up!

Curses! Only four minutes.

GREGORY: OMGZ, FLORIDA! Isn't it wild that there are three people in the race, and two are going to lose, but maybe if one of the two drops out of the race then the other guy could win, and that was sort of what was going on with Bill Clinton, except that it didn't actually happen, and not the first scenario is going to bear out, but we're going to talk about it anyway because it's these weird, insider political things -- the spins of the interpersonal gears and the gamesmanship -- are the things that actually fascinate us, and if we ever stopped talking about it, as if it were an ongoing thing that told us something big about Politics even though as a story it's dead and done, we might notice that we're doing a terrible job actually documenting the struggles of ordinary people?

MICHELLE NORRIS: Well, it bothered black voters to a certain extent.

THE WONK: People outside of Florida don't really care about what's going on in Florida.

THE GRAY HAIR: Some of the older, sadder Republicans, like Mitch McConnell may not enjoy working with these new, crazy Republicans, who have made "rash promises." Also, I now surmise that Michele Bachmann may be, as it turns out, "kind of volatile." We'll keep you posted as we learn more!

THE EMPTY VESSEL: Some say that the President will be better off with the GOP in Congress, but you know what? Others say the opposite is true.

THE GOATEE: There will be a big fight over the budget. And the GOP may go more extreme. But look out! They may not go more extreme. Or they may go less extreme! Or they may not go less more unextreme.

THE GRAY HAIR: The President may opt to "play small ball" and let his opponents cook themselves in the juices of their own resentments and differences, a meal which you can enjoy right now at that restaurant ran by Norah O'Donnell's husband. It's called "Braised Shoulder of Pain in a shame and hurt feelings reduction."

MICHELLE NORRIS: Blue Dog Democrats are also in trouble with voters. Not for anything they did, of course!

THE EMPTY VESSEL: Obama promised to turn the GOP into a party that would happily hold hands and help have robust debates but ultimately reach accords and put America first, and the fact that he couldn't change their minds or dispositions with magic is flat out amazing to me. Also: LOOK AT THAT CLOUD, IT LOOKS LIKE A LION OR SOMETHING...A SAILBOAT -- NO, NO, A SHOE. THAT CLOUD LOOKS LIKE A SHOE!

THE GRAY HAIR: We're getting to the end of the show, so I'm going to mention the way, so we can check off that we talked about it a little, even if we found that crazy Florida senate race to be a more pressing concern for America!

THE WONK: Everyone hates everyone else, and everything is just the worst, forever.

THE GOATEE: The Democratic caucus that's left will be very liberal and very anti-war>

ME: Like all Democratic minorities are, until they actually become the majority, whereupon they wimp out of doing anything serious about the war, because what if the warmongers don't like them?

GADS. Another commercial break. A perilously short one, however.

THE GOATEE: I am ready to start dry-humping the math and geometry and trigonometry of the 2012 election, so we'll start doing that soon, America.

THE GRAY HAIR: I have gray hairs and so here are some Old People Things.

THE WONK: I'm going to say the same things about who will win and lose on Tuesday night that I've been saying all year.

APOLOGIES. For some reason, my plans to enjoy the coots of the McLaughlin Group yelling at each other, as a fun last dose of Sunday insanity, has not come to fruition because for whatever reason, my TiVo only recorded a single minute of it.

I must now wonder if my TiVo has achieved some level of sentience, and has decided that it will now take it upon itself to look our for my well-being. Let's hope so! I need to have some robot on my side, as we face the Rise of the Machines.

So, that will do it for this week. As a programming note, we'll be doing live-blogging and stuff on Election Night which is sure to be informative and enjoyable, so please consider stopping by Tuesday night. Have a great week!

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