TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Today Michael Bloomberg is here to hopefully not need to clear snow from the set, and also Rick Santorum is here, to convert Bloomberg to Christianity and maybe burn some witches or something.

Hello and good morning and Happy Easter to all of you who celebrate Easter (happy "have you noticed the strange prevalence of bunnies and marshmallow chicks lately" culmination day to the rest of you) and welcome to your Sunday Morning festival of snap judgments and quick reactions to the Sunday Morning Political Talk Shows stuffed into my TiVo. My name is Jason. As always, you are invited to leave comments and send emails, and perhaps follow me on Twitter, if you want. Let's just get this underway!


Today Michael Bloomberg is here to hopefully not need to clear snow from the set, and also Rick Santorum is here, to convert Bloomberg to Christianity and maybe burn some witches or something.

Chris Wallace: "We seem to be facing a perfect storm these days of economic problems and political stalemate. Who better to talk about it than our first guest, making his first appearance ever -- uggghh HHHYUGHHH! I'm choking!...the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg."

So many LULZ in that sentence, even without Wallace's larynx trying to make a break for it!

Wallace asks Bloomberg to put on his very successful businessman hat to ask about the S&P rating and how much trouble the economy is in, now that someone noticed that the economy is in trouble three years after it became obvious to everyone. Bloomberg says that we're not in "big trouble" but it could get bad! "It's a warning." A warning!? Wow. Something might happen to the economy that's bad, says Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg says it's great that people are arguing about Medicare, and that Paul Ryan deserves some credit, even "if I don't agree with most of the things or all of the things he said." Oh, and "both sides are right," because NO LABELS.

"Long term you have to grow your way out of problems, short term you need a tax code that is fair and understandable." And everyone wants the government stuff they want, so that's hard. Would he raise taxes on the wealthy? "Today, no." But he says that eventually, the rich will basically be taxed. For some reason, not today!

How well did Obama do "reaching across party lines?" Bloomberg says that basically Obama is doing the best he can, and is starting to get help from Bill Daley. He says that Obama needs to have more dinners and play golf with people and call them up on their wife's birthday and say, "Hey, I know you called my a socialist agitator whose religious faith isn't sincere and that I'm destroying the country and what not, but I heard it was your wife's birthday today, and I have two spare tickets to the National Symphony Orchestra I'm not some really sweet Groupons for Thai food."

(For those who don't know Washington, DC, one of the vagaries of L'Enfant's urban design is the mandate that there be a Thai food restaurant every five blocks.)

What about Donald Trump? Does Bloomie take Trump seriously? And what about the birtherism? Bloomberg says that the GOP is making a big mistake talking about birtherism -- though I think the majority of their voters are birthers, so it's probably just now known as "appealing to the base."

Oh, and by the way, Bloomberg really, really wants immigration reform. He's been trying to get Wallace to ask him about it! Finally, he does: "Isn't [what you want] amnesty?" Bloomberg says, "You can call it what you want," but no one should pretend that the problem has been solved or that current funding levels can support mass deportations.

"You can buy a social security card on the street for fifty bucks," he says. You can also buy looseys but don't smoke them in Central Park!

What does Bloomberg say to people who say that immigration scofflaws benefit? "I say, no, we benefit." "This country encouraged them to come here and we didn't stop let's find ways for them to contribute to society."

What's his thought about taking on municipal unions? Bloomberg says that he's already said that the problem municipalities face isn't with the unions. As to the fact that unions fund politicians that favor them, Bloomberg points out that there are greater numbers of people and greater amounts of money outside of the unions, so "that's a bogus issue."

"A union leader's job is to get the most money and the best working conditions they possibly can. That's what they're hired for. The government's job is to represent the people and be willing to pay what we need to pay to have a good workforce with work rules that make some sense," says Bloomberg, who also says he has no problem with collective bargaining. "That's the essence of democracy."

Is Bloomberg running for President? He says no. Someone in Brooklyn last night was all: "You'd make a good president!" Bloomberg said, "Ha, thanks, that's nice of you, but no." Then, thousands of other Brooklynites scowled and muttered vulgarities under their breath in Bloomberg's direction about the Atlantic Yards development.

And now, here's Rick Santorum, star of "So You Think You Can Dance, Well You Better Not Because You Will Go Straight To Hell If You Do Because Dancing Is Devilment, From The Devil."

Santorum supports the House Repubican budget and wants to start depriving seniors of Medicare with vouchers that don't keep up with inflation right now. That's at least kind of honest, in that he's not pandering to traditional GOP voters by telling them they don't have to not share in the sacrifice.

"Seniors are going to go out and get the policy that they want," Santorum says, presumably from soem insurance company that fundamentally does not understand the way insurance companies have done business for decades. "Oh," the CEO of this pretend company will say, "Now I see why everyone else drops people the minute they get sick! Otherwise this business would be one long set of bets that humans are immortal, or something! Oh, well, let's start a pager business!" (And then they are devoured by tigers.)

Santorum is still excited about seniors having "options" to choose plans that aren't Medicare. Most of those options involve a "Do not resuscitate" tattoo and composting.

Would Santorum hold the debt ceiling hostage for concessions? Well, what do you think? Would JESUS hold the debt ceiling hostage? Of course he would. (Santorum says that he would take the hostage, and then blame Obama for the hostage's death.)

Shorter Santorum: Bush's prescription drug problem was terrible, because of the Democrats, but I voted for it.

Wallace: "Do you think gays have any rights, or have any contractual benefits as partners?" Santorum says, "Well, sure, they have all kinds of contractual benefits," but we shouldn't commemorate them in public policy, because they aren't making babies.

"I don't know what you mean by rights," says Santorum, testing out a new slogan that wasn't written by a gay poet.

Wallace asks Santorum why anyone should take his candidacy seriously? Because of his "great track record." He beat many incumbents and won many elections. He only lost because Bush was unpopular. Bush ruined everything. And also the Democrats. And the gays!

Sunday panel time with Hume, Liasson, Kristol, and Williams. The Classic Panel!

So what about the drones in Libya? What are we doing with those. Hume sort of laughs and asthma-attacks his way through a editorial he read and basically bitches about how we stopped being the leader in this mission, and is "content to let failure be an option." Liasson says that what's happening now, in terms of NATO's work, isn't sufficient to the task of toppling Gadhafi.

So, boots on the ground? Kristol says, hey why not? Would it be such a big deal? He's sure that it wouldn't take that many boots. He's pretty sure that a "little more aggressiveness" could "win this." (Where will all these new troops come from? I mean, I'm sure the money will come from all the tax cuts we're giving to rich people, so I'm totally not worried about that.)

Williams wonders why the French and the Brits won't commit their own troops to the task. (Because they have John McCain pressuring us to send ours.)

Brit Hume doesn't know why Obama "can't muster anything other than a strong statement" about Assad in Syria. Obama should run onto the White House lawn and emit one, long, twenty minute primal scream and burn Assad in effigy. (Hume will say, "Well, humph, he couldn't muster up a half-hour of primal screaming? One effigy? LOL, BORED.)

Bill Kristol basically wants us to nation build Syria and Libya and Yemen, but also not have "mission creep."

More chatting. Now about gas prices. Williams says that there's no evidence of fraud and manipulation in what speculators are doing to gas, but it's necessary to say these things because of politics.

Wallace says that gas was selling at $1.84/gallon when Obama was sworn in? Who was getting those prices? That's pretty amazing. Please send me an email telling me where I can move, and whether or not it's actually in a big lake of gas, with the subject line, "HERE'S WHERE THE MAGICAL $1.84/GALLON GAS COULD BE HAD IN 2008."

Hume says that if the election were held today, a Republican would win. Williams says that the GOP hates their field. Hume says that many decades ago, the GOP hated their field, too. But the Rubiks cube and the movie "E.T." really changed everything! And now Hume and Williams are yelling at each other, about history.

Shorter Mara Liasson: My entire understanding of the economy and how humans are dealing with it stops at the the Potomac River. It drowns, if it attempts to cross it.

Shorter Bill Kristol: We need to invade Keynes and bomb him into submission.



On to the Passion of the Chris Matthews, because I want to watch something incredibly formulaic today.

Oh, wow. We are apparently going to be talking about British stuff today, like the royal wedding and David Cameron and Amy Pond, and is there anything the Queen can do to get BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA off BBC America? I mean, I like BSG, but it's not a BBC show. Make it stop!

The entire panel is British today! I'd have gone with John Lydon and Hugh Laurie and Freema Agyeman and Charlie Brooker, but Katty Kay and Gillian Tett and Andrew Sullivan and Matt Frei will have to do.

Uhm, so, what are we going to talk about? The Royal Wedding? Really? Okay. Chris Matthews says it will be a happy day that will allow Americans to take their minds off their troubles -- which are really crushing and killing people, right? -- to watch teevee as a couple of rich people finally get some attention focused on them. It is getting pretty Dickensian up in here.

Chris Matthews is impressed by the fact that Katty Kay knows how to use the word "perfidious."

Do the British people want Americans to be their friends? Kay says that it's popular to be disdainful of Americans, but "suggestions that the relationship isn't special" throws Brits into a tizzy. Frei says that the "special relationship" requires "genuine love" and "chemistry" and scented oils and long, long purple feathers brandished playfully over candlelights and satin. That's it, there you go, America, don't force it. Make this relationship special. Lie back, yo, and think of England.

"We Brits tend to swing from adulation to revulsion," says Frei, but it's not America's problem that they boil all of their food inside swine bladders and serve it with thymus glands.

Now they are talking about the Billy Bob Thornton scene from LOVE, ACTUALLY. Londoners apparently cheered when the Tony Blair character mildly rebuked the George Bush character for threatening to sexually assault a Downing Street secretary. "YES!" they cheered, "THAT PRETEND PRIME MINISTER MUTTERING BROMIDES ABOUT DAVID BECKHAM IS RIGHT!"

"If it's a marriage," Sullivan says, "Then the Brits are the gold diggers." WE WANT PRENUP! WE WANT PRENUP! (Says India.)

I am actually going to England in July. I imagine that I'm really doing grave harm to the reception I'm likely to receive, right?

Now Matthews is showing a clip from "The History Boys." Gads. I'll counter with this. (PLEASE DO NOT WATCH UNLESS YOU ENJOY AN ENDLESS SPEW OF COLORFUL VULGARITIES. Though if you do, this clip contains one important fact about the band known as The White Stripes.)

Sullivan is wearing his high school tie, for some reason.

Matthews wonders if Britain is becoming more like America. Frei says that in England, "you can make it if you have the money." So Britain is becoming more like America!!

Sullivan says that he was, as a young man, riven with class resentment, but was liberated from that in the United States (probably because he is now a member of the elite).

Now Matthews is showing the St. Crispins Day speech from Henry V. And now a clip from A Man For All Seasons! And one from The Young Victoria! The Kings Speech! This is how Matthews grapples with the world, through his Netflix queue.


No, he shows a clip from The Queen, and it's not even one of the nude scenes.

Seriously, that is what is happening on this show. And they haven't even talked about the royal wedding yet! Honestly, this show is just VERTIGO-INDUCING today.

The royals! They seem regal to Matthews. The British are getting more excited about the monarchy, too. Or, at least, per Tett, not as desirous of throwing them all into the Channel.

Sullivan says he is a "monarchist without allegiance" in that he embraces the "irrationality" of it all, but won't actually condone the beheading of Anne Boleyn.

Should Charles allow the younger couple to rule instead of Camilla and he? WHY HAS NO ONE DONE POLLS ON THIS? Why hasn't Sir Francis Luntz of Cockingham-On-Tyne done a focus group on this? But that is what this panel is shouting about at the moment.

Here are some things that Chris Matthews doesn't know. The British Royal Family are actually a bunch of Germans, says Frei. OMG! We need to see their birth certificates! Kay says that the White House is sensitive about the British being totally emo about the special relationship, and so when he goes to visit England again, he will be totally, totally nice to everyone, and get the region code of the DVDs right and junk. Tett says something substantive about the bond market. NOW IS NOT THE TIME, GILLIAN. And Andrew Sullivan talks about how when he was in college, and was told that he'd be staying in the "New Buildings," that he'd be in some "prefab" dorm, but luckily, all the "new" buildings were built a long time ago. Ha, yes, at UVa. we have the same joke about the Old and New Dorms and it's hilarious well into its fortieth telling. Har.

Matthews wants to know about things that Americans do that the British would never dream of doing. Being uniquely hung up about sex is one! Frei doesn't really answer. Kay says that British people don't think their politicians are all that. Tett says something about Easter. Sullivan says that Americans ask each other "What do you do?" and British people say, "Where are you from?"

So, both countries are filled with snobs. (But only one gave us The Clash.)


David Gregory leads off the show talking about how there is a "dark moon" in America (A DARK MOON!) because of "unemployment." Yes, I forgot the mention at the outset, some polls were done and people said that they were unhappy and this stunned the media like a thousand scorpion stings to the nuts! "Wow, people are unemployed! Why has no one been talking about this?" the media said. And maybe there was a tiny tug to actually go and meet an unemployed person or talk to a human in America. But it faded and everyone reverted to worrying about what this all means for someone-or-other's election hopes. NO WORRIES, THE ROYAL WEDDING WILL MAKE THE PLEBES HAPPY! Kate Middleton is WAY, WAY better than collective bargaining!

"First the budget battle, will it degenerate into a partisan fight?" SPOILER ALERT YES.

Standing in the way of my confident spoiler are Kent Conrad and Tom Coburn, and man, I don't know why more of you just aren't fleeing to Canada.

But first! John McCain is in Benghazi, personally leading the rebel forces to victory against Gadhafi, with the ewoks and droids! McCain says that they've got a kewl transitional government in Benghazi, but elsewhere things are "bloody" and people are "dead or dying." "This has the earmarks of being a stalemate," says McCain, checking off two of the three things he hates the most: earmarks and stalemates. (He would have gotten 300 POWER UPS and 50 EXTRA DUDES if he had worked the New York Times into that sentence.)

McCain says that he's glad to see "the Predator in the fight," by which I assume he means the drone of the same name, and not the pig-faced alien beastie from the 1980s. Though that would be sweet!

"Yeah, we got the Predator fighting in Tripoli...he's joined by the Alien. Kyle Reese is saving Sarah Connor and whatnot. Got Teen Wolf up in this situation also, cold dunkin' on these loyalist bitches. Couple of dudes over here are trying to create a sex-bot with their ataris and some 'weird science.' That's right. Got the whole Oingo Boingo discography settin' this off, we about to get straight NONSENSICAL in Ras Lanuf."

McCain basically says that NATO are totally useless, but does he want boots on the ground? No. Just airpower! Though Gadhafi is "hiding in houses," where planes can't see. But McCain says that we should recognize the rebels as the authorities and give them the funds we've frozen so that they can buy some military discpline from and end the stalemate, or something. And we need out airpower to take out Gadhafi's "television," so that he can no longer watch WILL AND GRACE in syndication.

"We need to be more helpful, but troops on the ground are out of the question," says McCain. Time for a game-changing quilting bee, or something!

Is McCain worried about the muddled mission? Sort of! Though muddled missions in Iraq and Afghanistan didn't really big him that much.

"Take Gadhafi out?" asks David Gregory, "How can you just say that?" Well, David, you begin with a media that just doesn't care about holding people accountable for the things they say. And a recognition that that sometimes, when a guy in Washington says "Let's take so and so out," that sometimes touches off a chain of events that leads to a twelve year-old kid to grow up to become a dead thing in a box six or seven years later.

McCain, of course, doesn't want us to leave Iraq entirely, because he's the last man in America who hasn't read of understood what the Status of Forces Agreement signed in 2008 says.

Could McCain back Donald Trump? "I congratulate him for getting all of the attention he's getting." Does he suspect Palin will get in? "I don't know...I'm still very grateful she was my running mate."

Here's Kent Conrad and Tom Coburn, taking their Gang Of Six game to the teevee! Do they have a deal? Conrad says that they've agreed to not discuss their negotiations, but they've made enormous progress and "intend to be relevant." Coburn says, "The country can't afford for us not to have an agreement."

But could Coburn support tax increases? Coburn says that they are talking about "dynamic effects" in tax reform that lead to increases in revenue, which would be "fine with him." Would he be violating his "Taxpayer Promise Pledge" though? Coburn asks, "What's more important David?" Your promise to uphold the Constitution or to a special interest group? (Basically, promises you make to the Club For Growth or whoever are actually NOT binding.)

Conrad says that revenue and spending have to be part of the equation. And he yells about tax scofflaws that run off to this shack in the Caymans and deprive the government of revenue. Also, there's a tax scam that involves European sewer systems? Wowee zowee.

Coburn says his problem with Obama is that you can't leave Medicare out of the reform equation. That's true! Whether or not it's preferable to voucherize it with coupons that diminish in value is debatable as an optimal solution. (Also, the Affordable Care Act is a thing that addresses the costs of Medicare.)

Conrad says that election year or no election year, someone has to talk about entitlements. I'll say this, there's typically so much chicken-nonsense over keeping your seat in Congress, props to anyone who actually is cool with doing what they feel is right at the risk of their Congressional career. (It's even better, of course, that the plan they come up with is something that's not complete mularkey, but it's obviously too early to judge what this Gang Of Six comes up with.)

Coburn suggests that not raising the debt limit would "not be catastrophic at all." That sort of runs counter to everything that economists say about the matter, including the Wall Street titans who told John Boehner, "Uhm, seriously, don't do that!"

Coburn doesn't "know the basis under which" Ensign resigned, and can't comment on it. Or won't. Anyway, Ensign says he wants to make like easy on his family, a position he finally switched to this week.

We will spend the next half hour of our lives paneling with Anita Dunn and Alex Castellanos and Eugene Robinson and David Brooks -- who will inevitably talk about how awesome Mitch Daniels or Tim Pawlenty are.

David Gregory actually mentions the fact that members of the House GOP have returned to their districts and taken a measure of town hall disapproval from constituents who don't want Medicare gutted. I would have bet that it wouldn't have been mentioned today and today, I would have lost the game of "My Meet The Press Expectations Are Never Very High."

Castellanos says that neither side is winning this debate and both sides are risking paying a political price, but hey, it sure looks to me like you want to be on the side that's not gutting Medicare.

Dunn says that America wants politicians in Washington to work together. That's probably true, but they routinely place a diminished importance on "TEH DEFICITZ" and instead, ask someone -- anyone -- to do something about unemployment.

David Brooks say that by putting forth a plan that he doesn't agree with or like very much, Paul Ryan, "took a step in the right direction." Pundits! So impressed with the forthrightness in which bad ideas are presented. "You know, when Paul Ryan suggested that America needed to strap me down and take a poop right in my mouth, I have to say, there were parts of that plan I didn't care for. But I think that he made us confront the question. And he certainly seemed determined! I think he's just very courageous in the way he's taking on my fecal-free word-hole."

Castellanos says that Obama has done a terrible thing by pitting the rich against the poor rhetorically, and no amount of corporate profits -- so high these days -- and willingess to be completely fang-free in terms of regulation will ever make up for the fact that he sort of hurt some rich peoples' feelings.

Now they are talking about the "debt limit" (except for Castellanos, who is standing up for the thin-skinned multimillionaires who just don't want to pay for "America"). Here's one of the only good things I've read about the debt ceiling, from Matt Miller:

Remember that great scene in the 1980 film classic, "The Shining," when the wife comes upon the typewriter of the Jack Nicholson character, who's supposed to have been working night and day for months on his novel? To her horror, she finds thousands of pages on which Jack has typed, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," formatted in countless, crazy ways. Suddenly his suspected madness becomes all too frighteningly real.

Well, debt limit mania has driven me to a similar frenzied state. If my wife came across my manuscript it would read, "The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit. The House Republican budget adds $6 trillion to the debt in the next decade yet the GOP is balking at raising the debt limit."

I thought about making this week's column that one sentence printed over and over 30 times. It would have been the opinion page equivalent of a Dada-esque protest against the inanity of the debate -- and a cry for every news outlet to focus on this simple, clarifying fact.

David Gregory puts up a chart that indicates that as gas prices go up, the President's approval rating goes down. In related news, when gas prices go up, ordinary people have less money for "food" and "shelter" and "medicine." (No one wonders about the approval ratings of people who turn down high-speed rail money?)

David Brooks has visited communities where natural gas is produced? Can he assess the salad bar situations in these areas?

Now everyone is talking about Donald Trump. Robinson says that "you can say he not a serious candidate." So let's say that! Donald Trump is not a serious candidate. That would be true if he actually wins the presidency.

Castellanos says that Trump may be like a "grenade rolled under Washington's door" (Why is there that much clearance under our door?) for now, but eventually you have accept the fact that Trump is "an unstable political figure." Brooks disagrees (what?) and says that Trump has "been around since the '80s" (That's a selling point? I mean, The Human League has been around since the '80s!) and he "stands for something -- success." Yes, who hasn't stopped to measure their success in "Trumps," the accepted unit of measurement.

"He has Trump University," says Brooks, "thousands of books and lectures." This is something I'm supposed to be impressed by? Because I have to tell you, the emotion that I feel, hearing that, is "pity."

Castellanos: "I think Trump is doing the Republicans a service." He is very right about that! But not in the way he thinks. Obama's numbers arent "going down" because Trump has launched some amazing critique of the president. But what has been diminished is the entirety of the discourse related to the 2012 GOP pre-primary field. If you are Tim Pawlenty, you relish every moment of this, because you are not a hothead imbecile, and when your non-hothead imbecile self officially gets into the race, and starts to stand on stages with Trump and debates them, they'll look so good!

Robinson says that Trump makes the other candidates look small. Come on, Eugene! Think about Mitt Romney having a debate with Donald Trump...on...well, on anything!

Remember when Michael Jordan played minor league baseball? Man, the media was SO INTO MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL when that happened! And Jordan was terrible at it! Just the worst! What we learned is that some kids who we've never heard of playing for minor league teams we didn't know existed were all so much better at baseball than the celebrity who brought all the attention to the matter.

David Brooks says that the White House Libya strategy is to bring down the Gadhafi regime through defections, and that's why the Predator drone has been deployed to the area, to help scare officials into abandoning the regime.

Next Sunday, Marco Rubio will be on the show, and David Gregory will ask him if he's running for President no less than three times.

Hooray, it's over! We can get on with our lives! If you'd like, you can flashback one year or so ago, when I used this occasion to liveblog the movie "Easter Parade." My wife suggested that this year I liveblog one of our favorite broadway shows, "Jesus Christ Superstar," but I think we can all agree that would have probably ended badly. Have a great day and a great week, okay?

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