Hello and good morning and happy holidays and welcome to our special Sunday before Christmas version of your Sunday morning liveblog of conventional wisdom mouthing and roundtable fights to the death. My name is Jason. Today, we have a special treat, by request from readers who enjoyed what we did last Easter. More on that later! First we have shows to watch: the proper Sunday ones.
In the meanwhile, let's enjoy the anticipation of what's to come. Here's a hint:
I am not satisfied with the conduct of this division. Some of you men are under the impression having been at Anzio entitles you not to wear neckties. Well you're wrong. Neckties will be worn in this area!
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
Okay, sorry about that, folks. Ever so brief internet outage.
Today on FNS, we have talk about START, DADT, and other lame duck things that aren't acronyms. Plus Bob McDonnell will talk about health care. Also, a panel, of "experts."
But first, here's Dick Durbin and Jon Kyl, to talk about all the legislation that's getting considered in the lame duck period. And because Jon Stewart has shamed the media into covering it, Wallace begins by asking Kyl if he'll pass the 9/11 first responders bill that the Senate keeps crapping themselves on. Kyl says that he doesn't know, and perhaps glides a little close to a bad sound byte when he says, "My early response is that I'm skeptical about the bill." (Also: "It's a lot of money." You know, withdrawal from Afghanistan, then, for the savings.)
Anyway: KYL's EARLY RESPONSE TO EARLY RESPONDERS: "I'm Skeptical." RUN WITH THAT, PEOPLE.
Durbin says that the responders should not have their backs turned on. It's early, and I guess I'm going to be ending a lot of sentences with prepositions. Durbin is tired of the non-stop filibusters and the delays, but he is pretty sure that the 9/11 bill will pass.
Wallace plays Kyl's "disrespecting Christmas" remarks, and then the Daily Show's panel of first responders reaction to it. Ha, ha! Wallace asks, "Why can't they have peace of mind?" and Kyl suggests that what matters is that there is a process that's important to make the bill work. You know, the sort of process that he's helped obstruct! And this is pretty rich:
Referring to the first responders on the Daily Show, Kyl says, "It's one thing to make an emotional appeal, to say we need to care for somebody who did something good. It's another thing to do something in a sensible way." I'm sorry, pardon my French, but, hey, asshole: THE WHOLE POINT OF JON STEWART'S CRITICISM IS THAT YOU MOFEAUX USED 9/!! FOR A MULTITUDE OF "EMOTIONAL APPEALS." Y'ALL USED THOSE RESPONDERS AS PROPS. TIME TO PAY.
"All of this could have been done earlier," Kyl says, having been a part of the reason it wasn't.
Kyl says that as far as "Don't Ask Don't Tell," he will follow the advice of the few people left to cherrypick for an opinion on leaving the policy in place. Anyway, it's a moot point now: DADT is repealed. As Durbin says, the Senate did some justice yesterday.
On to the START treaty. Durbin says that there are 67 votes for the re-ratification, and they've had time to have the discussion. And after demanding all kinds of time for amendments, they've ended up only debating two amendments. Meanwhile, Kyl wants to change the preamble to the treaty, which would kill the treaty.
Kyl then basically goes on a long monologue about how having to actually work as a Senator makes him sad, and that he deserves some more time off, because passing legislation and making tough choices is really taxing. Can't Arizona's voters find a Senate candidate just like Jon Kyl, who actually wants to work reasonably hard? You guys HAVE to send this guy to Washington every year? There's no one else in the whole state? I'll take someone just as conservative as Kyl, just maybe someone who sees the job as something you actually have to apply an effort to.
I mean, Durbin works pretty hard, and he goes home and has to be Chuck Schumer's roommate!
Now here's Governor Bob McDonnell, to yell about Obamacare. Obviously, he thinks that Jodge Hudson is the first person who "got it right," in declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional, and that health care reform is in "a fair amount of trouble." And it could be! The truth is it could all come down to how good Anthony Kennedy is feeling about his breakfast the morning it comes to the Supreme Court.
McDonnell is asking that the case be fast-tracked -- not because of politics, at all! -- right to the Supreme Court, where the Justice Department wants to take it through the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Also, depressingly, we learn today that McDonnell pronounced the word "arbiter" as "ar-BYTE-er." I am fast tracking my palm to my face!
What about the uninsured in Virginia? Well, if you are McDonnell, you first deny that they exist. And then, something something free market solutions! Maybe some "across state lines" stuff? That's a talking point? And then he just says that everyone's getting health care right now, from magical tree people.
I sort of think that the Wyden/Brown should get as much consideration on these shows as this legal eagling does. A fair hearing, at least? On the teevee? Because if the state of Virginia has a health care innovation that squares the circle, health-care wise, let's put them to the test.
Adam Serwer's has a good piece on this issue:
The conservative argument against the individual mandate, a tax levied on people who avoid buying health insurance, is as powerful as it is simplistic: If the federal government can force you to buy health insurance, then it can make you do anything. It's a critique liberals need to answer more forcefully. The problem is that the policy argument for the individual mandate -- that the only way a universal health-insurance scheme works is with a federal mandate -- is closely related to the constitutional argument.
"The idea behind limited and enumerated powers is that the federal government can act when there's a genuinely federal problem," explains Yale law professor Jack Balkin. On the policy side, "what we're asking is whether [health-care insurance] is a genuinely federal problem. And the constitutional question is whether it's a genuinely federal problem."
"Liberals should take a page from the Tea Partiers and wave their pocket Constitutions around and ask, what part of regulating commerce between the states don't you understand?" Balkin says. "What part of tax and provide for the general welfare don't you understand?"
Panel time with Bill Kristol and Mara Liasson and Kevin Madden and Juan Williams. Give it up for the lame duck! Bill Kristol seems to be taking the repeal of DADT well, noting the change of public opinion. Liasson thinks that the issue has been well-studied and well-prepared for and the change is probably going to go down without as much friction as people might think.
Elsewhere, the omnibus spending bill died, because of the Tea Party, and earmarks. Madden notes, correctly, that it sets up the House GOP well, to make spending cuts. Whatever they do will still need the support of Harry Reid and fourteen Democratic Senators, though! (Also, with no earmarks, I think it gives the executive branch more leeway to apportion appropriations, but I could be wrong on that.) What no one's talking about, is that it puts HCR more firmly in the crosshairs (but again, that's what the Democrats in the Senate are for).
Sounds like a lot of work for John Boehner!
Liasson says there's enough votes for the 9/11 responders bill, and Madden agrees. Madden says that "what was once a New York issue could become a national issue." Because the Daily Show made it one, through the power of shame! Williams thinks that START is going to survive, but he laments the end of the DREAM act. To Williams mind, the DREAM act would have helped some great kids that do not scare him when they get on airplanes with him.
Bill Kristol is mad at Juan Williams for liking the DREAM act, and so Williams is mad at Kristol for being mad at him. They yell, Williams argues, and the Fox team cuts away to Kristol smirking at Williams. But it's okay, because Williams gets $2 million to be put through that, now.
Oh, wait! There's still some wind in these bags? Very well. Political fallout! Is Obama on the comeback? Has this been an awesome couple of weeks for him, or what? Liasson thinks he's had some great weeks lately. Madden says "Don't confuse a moment with a trend."
"I think we would all agree that Mitch McConnell was a big winner." Enjoy the last few days of him being important. Seriously! If the White House can take a step away from the legislature, they can get removed from the sticky process that no one likes -- and that has garnered the lowest approval ratings ever -- and make it Boehner and Reid's problem to enact a legislative agenda.
Bill Kristol is obviously happy that liberals are sad over the tax cut deal. Of course, it's not sadness, it's the recognition of what the deal actually constitutes in terms of its practical impact on actual people. Peter Feld sums this up nicely:
This is how the oligarchy buys off the public with misinformation. You get a small tax cut -- which was never in question btw -- and the wealthy get a much huger one that must be financed by borrowing from China, and which will not be repaid by the wealthy. It will be paid by the middle class and (mostly) their children. And the debt crisis those tax cuts for the wealthy will hasten will weaken the Social Security and Medicare that are supposed to take care of you in your later years. The right has never accepted these programs and still wants to wipe them out, they just took a giant leap down that road.
If you're far from rich, you are the loser in this deal by a whopping margin. You just got creamed. If it makes you feel better to believe that the pittance in tax cuts you got mean you came out ahead, when you're actually holding the bag for the full $900b package that mostly went to people who don't need it and won't spend it, go ahead.
But some people you sort of like might win some elections! Isn't that the most important thing?
THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR
Today, Amanpour will talk about all this stuff with John Kerry and Dick Lugar. Plus, we're going to talk about Afghanistan, for once! And paneling with George Will and Donna Brazile, along with two of my reporters Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Chrystia Freeland. Plus there's a segment on Guatemala and an interview with Rajiv Shah of USAID. Plus a tap break! Jesus. So much show!
But, okay, first, lame duck Congress, they voted on things, and it's like: WOW, DID YOU GUYS EVER VOTE ON SOME THINGS!
On DADT, John Kerry is happy that gay soldiers will no longer have to live a lie to serve their country, and the repeal serves equality. Why didn't Lugar join in? Because he went looking for someone -- ANYONE -- who would tell him that repeal is a bad thing, and once he found that guy he clung to him so tightly, so passionately, as if to say, "DO YOU REALLY WANT TO ASK ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON HERE, BETWEEN ME AND THIS MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT? BECAUSE I PROMISE IT WILL DISTURB YOU."
Kerry and Lugar believe that the START treaty will pass, because it's so heteronormative.
Kerry says that the general in charge of the missile defense system has said uneqivocally that the treaty does not impact our missile defense capacity in any way, shape, or form, and the language in the preamble is not binding or restrictive. Lugar says that it's important to have people "on the ground" in Russia, doing nuclear inspections, and building on the relationship brings their influence and investment into a number of vital non-proliferation debates -- such as in North Korea.
Can anything more be done to get Pakistan to step up border security and security in the tribal regions? Lugar seems to think that just about every effort that can be brought to bear on Pakistan is maxed out.
John Kerry doesn't seem to think that the outing of the CIA station chief in Pakistan will be "a big setback." Uhm, really? He goes on to say that we need to stop having public debates over what Pakistan is doing wrong and how the United States is struggling in our relationship with them. Gosh, you know...sorry! When you hear about the connections between the Pakistani ISI and al Qaeda, you know, it makes a person sort of want to have a public debate about it! But, you know, whatever! Get your quagmire on! I'll shut up!
Okay, well, that's enough from Treebeard and Howdy-Doody (credit to Ana Marie and Carol, respectively, for the nicknames). We move to the panel!
How long will the GOP stay with the war in Afghanistan? Will says that Obama has been waging the war with "vigor," but after ten years, we're achieving little more than small gains that are 'fragile and reversible." (He didn't answer the question, but okay.) Chandrasekaran says that Afghanistan is lagging behind in building "the basic framework" of a stable state.
Freeland points out that we've "grown accustomed to separating" foreign policy from discussions of the "domestic economy"...but guess what? At some point, the U.S. domestic economy debate is going to have to become a factor in the debates over the war. Let's remind: the War in Afghanistan is very expensive! It's not deficit neutral.
Christiane then shows video of Jonathan Karl totally rolling John Cornyn on earmark hypocrisy.
Donna brazile seems to think that the fight over the omnibus will force the GOP to the table to finally talk about "the revenue problem." Freeland says that it's probably going to be more battling, less coming together. Will says that there will be some Democrats will cross the aisle to support spending cuts. Chandrasekaran says that against this backdrop, Obama will probably come off looking better in the eyes of voters.
Will says that the Omnibus, the tax cut deal, and the ruling in Virginia on HCR makes for a bad weel for Obama. Brazile says that the Virginia ruling is super-duper bogus and won't stand, but if START joins DADT as something that gets passed, Obama will have had a good week. (Meanwhile, lots of people still don't have jobs, and it's Christmas. So...)
Speaking of Afghanistan, Chandrasekaran says that "out on the deserts of Afghanistan," DADT repeal "isn't that big of a deal." Brazile says it's a "great day for the country, we've joined the civilized world." Will says that once you give the Marines an order to take a hill, they take a hill, and in this case, the "hill" is just doing the same job they've always done with their gay comrades. Freeland agrees that implementing this should not be a big deal.
Amanpour turns her attention to the problems of global malnutrition, a hammer that's falling very heavily on children age two and younger. She cites Doctors Without Borders' Susan Sheppard -- right now, our aid to regions experiencing widespread malnourishment is required to include a sizable proportion of food that's grown in the United States. This seems very reasonable. But what's getting omitted from the packages are the nutrients that come from proper dairy supplements -- they've been removed, and should get back in. UN funded programs provide MREs that contain milk powder.
Right now, Guatemala is one of the places that's affected by this crisis. And as Amanpour points out, children are not starving to death there, they are simply lacking adequate nutrition. The growth of children is stunted, and significantly so. And along with the obvious stunting in height comes stunting in mental capacity and immune system sufficiency.
It's a very interesting segment, I hope ABC makes the whole thing available. Here in the United States, we probably take nutrition for granted -- our at-risk populations can avail themselves of programs like WIC that can help ameliorate the problems of malnutrition. And let's face it, most of us eat a lot of crap and somehow manage to adequately nourish ourselves, by accident. In places like Guatemala, we have people eating adequately, in terms of filling their stomachs, but the gaps in nutrition are really glaring. This segment shows a lot of examples.
Rajiv Shah from USAID is now in the studio. So...why can't USAID put the milk powder back in their MREs? Shah says, blah blah, we're leading, and we're helping to make change, blah blah. Amanpour just wants to know "what you are doing, now." Well, Shah says that USAID has a program called "Feed The Future" that promotes the local growing of food that provides the adequate nutrients needed for children ages 2 and younger. Shah insists that they've made a ton of changes, and are no longer wasting money shipping crap all over the world, and that they are "absolutely improving the nutritive quality of food aid."
In Guatemala, he says that they've achieved a "28% reduction in stunting among the cohort they've studied" in the past two years, and he believes that it is a "solvable problem."
Does U.S. law need to change? Shah says that they've changed a lot of the regulation and processes, and have started to garner the results everyone is seeking. "Feed The Future" also does a lot of agricultural development assistance, and that this will play huge role in changing the nutrition deficits on the ground, and in a permanent direction. Amanpour says, "We'll be watching."
Okay! Let's move on to the last thing we're liveblogging today.
MEET THE PRESS
Ha, ha. Kidding.
Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye
Ha, yes. It's Christmastime, and there's no need to be afraid, because at Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shame, or something? Remember that: barkeeps who always toss me out of their establishments on Christmas Eve for "being all emo" and "demanding a bowl full of bacon" -- we are all trying to BANISH SHAME. And so today, we're going to liveblog the story about a couple of guys who use singing and dancing to make it snow at a resort in Vermont, and also get romantic with pretty ladies who also sing and dance and are the focus of romantic mishaps.
Also, this movie was the first motion picture filmed in VISTAVISION. Remember how game changing VISTAVISION was? It was the iPad of its day! Straight up blowing minds! VISTAVISION!
Anyway, let's commence! (Hopefully most of you like fun, and pointlessness, and wholesale, frivolous abuses of this important media platform I have somehow been accorded, against the prevailing notions of common sense and decency!)
We open on Christmas Eve in 1944, and Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are personally fighting on the European front of World War Two with weaponzied soft-shoe dancing. They are under the command of General Waverly, who is a big fan of the dancing, and merriment, and Christmas. But he's being replaced by a total jerkwad who thinks that the U.S. soldiers should be actually winning the war against the Nazis. It's a tough call, between two proud traditions. But we can laugh at this because we know we won the war, thanks to the Inglourious Basterds, who weren't so much the singing and dancing types.
Bombs are literally going off in the distance as Bing and Danny sing their strangely well-produced dances and high production value songs. Crosby sings "White Christmas" accompanied by a music box, that is the loudest and best amplified music box in the world. It was shipped to the front, because the Pentagon will appropriate money for just about any damn thing. It probably cost taxpayers several million dollars, to send a music box to Germany. But we were worried about the strategic music box gap, and to this day, we are racing against the Chinese to deploy weaponized AutoTune, shorty.
Anyway, it's a testament to how awful the German snipers were, that they couldn't just kill Bing Crosby dead for standing on a lit stage, dancing around.
Okay, Bing plays Bob Wallace and Danny plays Phil Davis. So we'll start calling them by those names. General Waverly is leaving combat duty, and everyone is sad, BECAUSE HE LETS THEM SING AND DANCE INSTEAD OF SLOGGING AROUND TRENCHES AND GETTING KILLED.
Anyway, everyone is obviously sad that this unit will changing, and so they sing about how they will follow General Waverly into the dark.
[NOT THE ACTUAL SONG.]
Anyway, now that their two hour musical revue from the middle of World War Two is over, they finally take enemy fire. Very comical and easy to survive enemy fire. Davis saves Wallace's life from a collapsing building, and the end result is that Davis guilts Wallace into producing a show with him as a partner. I should have mentioned that Wallace is, like, a famous singing and dancing star. SORRY ABOUT THAT.
Anyway. The war ends, and the big news, per the headlines in the lamestream media, is that HOLY NUTS WE WON THE WAR AND ARE AWESOME, followed by GUYS, GUYS, OMGZ BOB WALLACE IS GOING TO DO A SHOW WITH SOME DUDE YOU NEVER HEARD OF!
Anyway, their act is awesome, and why shouldn't it be? It's the only song and dance team that wasn't killed, by Germans, with guns. We have a five minute montage covering two years of Wallace and Davis being amazing, singing standards and touring the country, at a time where everyone wore flat brimmed hats. It's also a time where an entire show could play gigs all over the country for two years and be in the frontpages of VARIETY continually and yet still need a gig at Radio City Music Hall to really break out.
Meanwhile, Davis has been trying to get Wallace laid, like crazy. Wallace is miserable and unhappy, per Davis, probably because of PTSD from fighting the Nazis and responding to the continual horror of war by saying, "GUYS! GUYS! LET'S SING SONGS! PLEASE? GOD CAN WE SING 'BLUE SKY' AGAIN."
Back then, there wasn't therapy and dopamine re-uptake inhibitors, and so men erased the horrific images from their minds by dancing at bistros and having sex with women. IF ONLY THESE TWO MEN COULD COMBINE THEIR PASSIONS!! Well, as it happens, they are going to spend "their last two hours in Florida" evaluating a "sister act." NO. NOT THE WHOOPI GOLDBERG MOVIE ABOUT NUNS. It's a show that will end up featuring Rosemary Clooney (Betty) and Vera Ellen (Judy). They are the sisters of someone that Bob and Phil knew in the war, "a dog-faced" mess sergeant who probably got that way after his face was his by German mortars, because of the production of "BABES IN ARMS" that Bob staged on the beaches during the Normandy invasion.
PLOT CONTRIVANCES MAY OR MAY NOT ENSUE.
Anyway, the sisters are totally stoked to hear that Wallace and Davis are seeing their show, after which they will mansplain musical theatre to them. You should know that Judy is younger and more impulsive, and Betty is more of the caretaker of this loose band of Hayneses, forced to perform on stage to help their brother, with the hideous face.
Anyway, Betty and Judy sing their famous song, about sisters.
This song establishes the SEXX LAWS of the rest of the show, where Phil ends up being way into Judy and Bob ends up being way into Betty. For the purposes of establishing their sexual territories, there is an extended period of time where the two men ogle the two ladies and they perform. The funny thing is that Betty and Judy literally stand on the stage, taking teensy steps and halfheartedly shaking a fan behind their heads as the orchestra vamps for what seems like forever. For the purposes of this movie, the moment works, but if you were actually AT THIS SHOW, in real life, you would probably be exclaiming, "Could someone mansplain to these ladies that this is really weird to look at?"
There is a meet-cute. They don't really do much mansplaining. It turns out that the whole letter from the brother was actually sent by Judy. Betty reveals this, and she and Bob have an argument over cynicism in the musical theatre industry. Meanwhile, you look at Vera Ellen's waistline and wonder is maybe the best advice you could give her would be to eat a cookie. But she and Phil are getting along great, and they escape to this awesome veranda that no one else happened to be sitting on despite its awesomeness, and they sing a song about dancing, to spectral vocal accompaniment.
[NOT THE ACTUAL SONG]
Meanwhile, Bob and Betty are fighting, but of course we're supposed to see their terrible antipathy for one another as a clear sign that they will soon be up to their necks in love with each other.
Anyway, Betty interrupts Judy, because their show is actually still going on? What? They just broke for dinner and drinks and quick veranda dance while the audience is sitting there wondering, "Is the show over? Is this part of the show? Did Harold Pinter write this, or something? Why is the chorus accompanying an offstage dance number?"
But it doesn't matter, because the sheriff is here to arrest these ladies, for skipping out on the rent? THESE LADIES ARE GANGSTA. Anyway, Phil wants to help them, because these complicated relationships should really include being fugitives from whatever they call "justice" in Florida. The ladies lam it, with the train tickets that Phil and Bob were going to use. Phil tells Betty that it was Bob's idea, but it wasn't!
Anyway, they have to stall the sheriff, so Bob and Phil perform a drag lip-sync to "Sisters," and it does not damage their brand in any way!
And that's how South Beach came to be founded!
Because people in movies are idiots, the sheriff mistakes them for women. Bob and Phil flee to a back alley behind the theatre, where a cab just happens to be waiting, because that's what cabbies do -- hang out in remote locations, hoping that fares fleeing from justice happen to run by.
Bob and Phil get on the train, but they have to buy new tickets and ride in the club car, because Betty and Judy have their tickets. Bob susses out that Phil gave away the tickets, and is really cross, until he gets some sugar from the grateful criminal ladies. They all sit in the club car and talk about Vermont, where the ladies are set to perform a musical version of Bernie Sanders filibuster, called, "THIS WILL TAKE HOURS BUT IT'S ACTUALLY VERY IMPORTANT."
They sing a song about snow! Judy is "longing to ski," which on Craigslist means she wants to do a lot of cocaine.
Anyway, they come to Vermont, having managed to avoid experiencing the terrible on-train privation and depression that Stephen Tschida experienced.
Terrible news, though! There's no snow in Vermont, because of global climate change. This is terrible, because Vermont's whole draw is snow. It's a snow-based economy and now that there's no snow, there won't be any audiences for the weird show these four will spontaneously create, because actors back then didn't need to rehearse or plan or choreograph things.
But it turns out that this terrible snow-less resort is owner and run by the same General Waverly who let Bob and Phil dance around Verdun when they should have been killing Nazis. He wants everyone to stay and sing and dance some more, in this empty hotel in Tropical Vermont.
Anyway, we find out that Waverly's decision to open this terrible resort was about as smart as letting people dance around World War II, and the hotel is in big trouble. So they surmise that they'll solve everything by maybe performing their huge hit show in Vermont. Pretty soon, Vermont is swarming with people who thought they'd be spending Christmas in New York City. (Also, many of them thought that they'd have some time off, with their families?)
Anyway, HUBBUB OF ACTIVITY as people practice the show that they've ostensibly been performing for months as if they've never done it before.
REMEMBER, THIS IS ALL HAPPENING IN VISTAVISION.
There is a song, about minstrel shows, which thankfully does not involve blackface, or overt racism. There is some talk about dentally abusing dogs. People back then were VERY edgy, I'm afraid!
Anyway, things are going so well! There's no snow in Vermont, and there may not be an audience for this show of disgruntled NYC transplants, and there's probably a third act romantic misunderstanding on the way that will momentarily fracture all of these new relationships, but everyone is losing themselves in this ornate number that recalls vaudeville and Vera Ellen is tossed around like a rag doll.
Bob and Betty bond over a contrived problem with the tempo of the last song. They seem destined to start having sexytime very soon.
Anyway, Judy tries to convince Betty to get some sandwiches and milk before going to sleep because she hears it helps you sleep. Betty takes one look at Judy and says, "Yeah, there's no way you've been eating sandwiches and buttermilk, ever." But eventually, she drives Betty down to the kitchen after making it clear that she will be annoying until she agrees to leave.
Naturally, Bob is there waiting for her. They have a meet cute, and Bob sings a song about going to sleep.
[NOT THE ACTUAL SONG.]
Anyway, Betty is very moved by the fact that they're all embarked on this crazy plan to save this resort in snowless Vermont. So she and Bob kissyface, as Phil and Judy watch from the window. Yep! Everything's going perfect, in this snowless hellscape.
Anyway, Waverly is hoping that maybe the U.S. military will spare him from his terrible life as a failed innkeeper by letting him go back to war. But he gets a letter from the "War Department," and it says, basically, "Suck it, old man! We have robot drones and young, poor people fighting our wars now. Why do you think we want some guy who let his soldiers sing and dance around? Are you serious?" Waverly is crushed that he has to keep running his terrible hotel, and goes off to play horseshoes and have a massive existential breakdown.
Bob has a plan, though! And it involves getting more people to stop what they are doing with there lives and come to Vermont to this blighted resort that Winter mocks. In this case, he's going to go on the teevee and beg the soldiers from Waverly's unit to come to Vermont and spend money on him and help him to not feel bad about not getting to go off and fight in the Army anymore. It's a brilliant plan, because back then, they'd just let any old hobo on the teevee to beg people to do things.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
While Bob is waiting to be put through to "Ed Harrison from the teevee," Phil dances a number called "Choreography," that makes fun of how pretentious everyone in the theatre had been getting. (NOT THE ACTUAL SONG.) Anyway, that's when Bob Fosse travels back in time and starts kicking Danny Kaye's ass. It's epic.
Anyway, here's what goes wrong. Bob talks to Ed about helping out Waverly and this terrible hotel. The housekeeper -- who we've established eavesdrops on the phonecalls -- overhears the part where it sounds like they are going to make a big and gaudy commercialized spectacle of the whole thing. She hangs up the phone right before Bob says, no, "we're not going to exploit the General's hard luck." But it's too late! THIS IS MUSICAL THEATRE, and we have to have at least one plot point that would be avoided if everyone could just sit down and COMMUNICATE with each other instead of constantly bursting into song and dance numbers.
Naturally, the next person the housekeeper bumps into is Betty, and she makes Bob out to be a total dickhead who's out to commercially exploit the whole thing. Phil comes in, and mistakenly confirms all of the mislaid impressions that Betty's head is stuffed with. It's a mess! Why, Bob is actually doing something that Betty would LOVE. But she doesn't know that, and so she goes and meets up with Bob. And instead of having the confrontation she NEEDS TO HAVE, where the truth comes out into the open, she mounts this massive campaign of passive-aggressive nonsense. They fight, Bob is confused, and it ends up with Betty refusing to sing a song.
That whole thing was very complicated to explain, so I'm going to cut through everything and just tell you that somehow, this all ends up with Phil agreeing to temporarily pretend to be engaged to Judy, because they think it will spur Betty and Bob to also get engaged. There's a lot about the way people thought back then that I just don't understand.
They use these romantic entanglements to reprise the song about dancing, and try to get Bob and Betty to interact with each other. It doesn't work! People need to communicate with each other! It's the bedrock of healthy relationships.
So now Judy and Phil mount their pretend engagement. So, whatever! This is nothing that another layer of lies couldn't hurt.
Anyway, it doesn't really work. Betty is sad, but it's partially her fault, because she hasn't directly confronted Bob about what she thinks he's done, but really hasn't. It's partially Bob's fault, because he is always mansplaining stuff to people, and it gets tiresome. But it's really the housekeepers fault. She needs to be publicly shamed.
Anyway, somehow, Betty gets her own show in New York? It was really that easy to break into showbiz back then! She leaves. Bob is confused. Everyone is sad! The tone is just right for a lengthy tap break!
(But for reals, Vera Ellen is amazing.)
Anyway, Judy finds out that Betty's beat it, and left for New York. Good communication skills!
Finally, Bob and Phil and Judy have it out about the matchmaking and the fake engagement. Everyone is even sadder! Bob goes off to New York (apparently there was high speed rail back then) to try to fix everything with Betty, and to do his teevee plan to get people to come to Vermont Lovecraftian terrorscape of warmth and grass to see some singing and dancing. THIS IS ALL IN VISTAVISION.
Anyway, it's taken Betty the length of an afternoon to get a whole show together, and she reluctantly sings a song about "love" not "doing right by her" and her "one love affair that didn't get anywhere," that's really about Bob is a jerk.
[NOT THE ACTUAL SONG]
Betty and Bob re-meet cute, at her amazing show that she just got off the ground. Bob explains that Phil and Judy's engagement is a fake, because he thinks that's the real reason she split. It's not! She thinks that the teevee thing is a sour, commericialized shitshow! And right then, Harrison comes in to summon him and bring him to the teevee. That's how they did things back then! The era's version of Jeff Zucker would come drive you to the Today Show.
Anyway, now Phil has to prevent Waverly from listening to the Ed Harrison Show, so he doesn't hear about the surprise Bob and Phil have planned to bring people to Vermont. Phil pretends to have an injured leg, to lure him away from the teevee, as Bob sings a song about how useless old generals need to be helped for their terrible financial decisions.
[NOT THE ACTUAL SONG]
Anyway, Bob makes his pitch to get all these vets to come to Vermont to serve as a Relief Program to General Waverly's Troubled Asset. (What they should have been doing was taking out credit derivatives on snow futures, but you know, GLASS STEAGALL, sorry, boys.)
Betty finally hears that all of this was not the commercialized piece of dreck she had been led to believe it was, and that it was actually an act of pure kindness. She will probably end her highly successful, one day old hit show, and return to Vermont, to kill the housekeeper in revenge.
Lo and behold, Bob sang a song on the teevee and suddenly all sorts of people are coming to Vermont for Christmas. Somehow, they manage to sneak the singingest, dancingest, drawing-the-enemy-firingest unit in the U.S. Army into a snowless Vermont resort without attracting Waverly's attention. They further conspire to get Waverly into his uniform, and when he appears, everyone stands at attention and it's very, very sweet, and IT'S OKAY TO GET A LITTLE MOVED, HERE, OKAY? OKAY? *sobs a little*
The men sing "We'll Follow The Old Man," and it's awesome. Waverly goes through a little faux authoritarianism, yelling at them for failing to wear ties, but he is so, so happy and it's so so nice! John McCain momentarily bursts into the room, demanding that all the singing and dancing soldiers get discharged from the armed services immediately, but Waverly kicks his disgraceful ass as everyone laughs and jeers at the sad old man who cashiered his principles out of political expedience.
Everyone sings "Gee, I Wish I Was Back In The Army," a song about a bygone age where we didn't have massive stop-loss problems.
[NOT THE ACTUAL SONG]
SPOILER ALERT: It snows! The local economy is saved!
You'll never, ever guess what song they sing next!
Close, but no!
I mean, what a relief, right! The musical has been about traditional Vermont precipitation, and not the Aryan supremacy movement!
Anyway, obstacles removed, everyone is now in love and happy. The Haynes sisters are now basically with the loves of their lives. This terrible resort has been saved! It's finally snowing in New England! Musical theatre is more popular than ever. Don't Ask Don't Tell is on its inexorable march to being repealed -- and also enacted! But eventually repealed.
And late that night, after all the children were nestled snug in their beds, dreaming of sugarplums and what not, Betty would quietly enter the housekeeper's bedroom and choke her out with a garrotte, and subsequently disposing of her body in Lake Memphremagog.
Merry Christmas everyone! This liveblog returns January 2, 2011. See you next year!
[More liveblog is on the way! Please be patient and hit refresh in a few minutes.]