TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning everyone, and welcome once again to your quickly-typed bang through the intellectual wasteland that is Sunday morning political television. My name is Jason, and as a reminder, this is going to be the last one of these things for a few weeks as I run off to the U.K. to maybe establish a few wiretaps and then drown in a complicated scandal. So, this particular edition is sort of the "season finale," with the "season premiere" being July 31. Look at it like that!

And heck, you know today we have no end of cliffhangers. John Boehner has rejected the "grand bargain" that would have solved the OMG OMG DEBT CEILING dispute that we shouldn't be having because it's an utterly quotidian bit of fiscal maintenance that never went remarked upon until everyone decided to exaggerate it's importance for political hostage-taking that should not be taking place while so many people are out of work and wondering when their lawmakers are going to stop wasting their time and turn their attention to the people who lack the big campaign donations...oh, that's probably why no one cares about them, now that I think about it.

Anyway, let's get on with this. As per usual, you should relax, open a bottle of rophypnol, dose your own morning coffee and forget that any of this is actually happening. Alternatively, you can leave a comment, send an email, or follow me on twitter, if that's your bag. The choice is yours! Choose wisely!


Bret Baier is here today, instead of Chris Wallace. So, exciting! Also exciting is the fact that we're not doing this "Grand Bargain" thingy, because the GOP just can't bear the thought of raising any revenue whatsoever. Let me summarize this:

So Boehner is now seeking a smaller package of cuts. And that stands to reason, because he's not serious about cutting in the first place. And by the way, this whole debt ceiling thing is like the movie SPEED, as written by Ionesco, where trying to stop the bomb from going off sets off the bomb, except there is no bomb, because Wall Street's already been told by John Boehner that they won't let default happen, and Wall Street has already said, "Cool, thanks, have your little melodrama and we will place the appropriate shorts as things wax and wane." And then, in another couple of years, a bomb finally does go off, and it's the economy, and we learn -- ha, ha! -- that it's the same sort of bomb that went off in 2008. "Yep," say major banks, "I guess that's what happens when we're allowed to go back to doing what we're doing!" And a few people say, "Really? Can't we send these people to jail this time?" but everyone else is like: "No, no, form up the hunting teams, because we're going after all of the last members of the teachers' unions, because they are responsible." And hundreds of Americans who were eight years old at the beginning of the Afghanistan War die there, the end.

Ha, some White House spokesperson says that we should try to "rise above the cynicism." No, we should find a way to MONETIZE it.

At any rate, Mitch McConnell is here. He's sad that the White House is insisting on some piddling tax increases. He calls them "big," but he's using the word "big" to stand in for, "in existence." Also he's mad that the government is trying to "take over the internet," through net neutrality, which prevents the internet from being a suck-fest.

"It's a terrible idea," he says, to raise taxes in a bad economy. (It will be a worse idea to do so when the economy is in good shape. But man, if the economy is ever in good shape again, I'll forgive McConnell for the first fifty times he says that.) McConnell is glad that Obama agreed to carve up New Deal programs. Baier jumps on this, and asks why don't the Republicans come to the table with a give of their own. McConnell falls back to "PUFF PUFF, THE ECONOMY IS BAD. GAH NO NEW TAXES." Baier asks, "What about shared sacrifice?" McConnell says, basically, that the private sector, after being bailed out by America a bunch of times, needs a leeetle bit more government subsidy, and then, McConnell is almost positive they'll start creating jobs again! Just a smidge more government money. (Ha, I forgot to mention that part of McConnell's earlier preamble was a litany of complaints about the government being "involved in the private sector." JUST GIVE THE PRIVATE SECTOR MONEY AND WALK AWAY!

McConnell says that there isn't time to do tax reform between now and the end of this dumb debt ceiling charade, but he hopes that they can get to it. Every lobbyist in DC hopes we can get to it, too!

Baier asks, what if there's not a deal, and for a moment McConnell's mainframe experiences an error, because, how can he put this: there will be a deal, but it's so important to pretend that there might not be. He eventually settles on "I'll have more to say about that later...there is always a contingency plan." Baier asks what it is, McConnell laughs and says "I'll let you know," because this is a good time to be "funny," you know? And then he says, "No one is talking about not raising the debt ceiling." And if I were President, I would call into this show this very minute and say, "Really? Then these talks are off. Stop wasting my time."

I'm pretty sure that there are people "talking about it," and Baier points out that Michele Bachmann is one. Hell, in her new ad, she says that she won't raise the debt ceiling.

Is he open to a piddling $150 billion in revenue increases? Basically, no. The economy just has to get better, by magic!

I sort of like how this is framed like the President personally requested Congress to raise the debt ceiling, for fun. The debt ceiling has to be raised because of all the spending this Congress has done over the past decade -- they are paying their own bill, for having done things like "not stop a costly war."

Oh, and McConnell is against this Somali terrorist being tried in New York City, because who knows? Maybe he'll get Casey Anthony's defense attorney? So, they should just be thrown in a gulag to rot.

Oh, for f--k's sake. I was JOKING about Casey Anthony. McConnell then LITERALLY CITED THAT CASE as a reason why we can't have a system of jurisprudence ever again. A THOUSAND GAHS.

Now here's Xavier Becerra, the vice chair of the House Democratic caucus. He says the "leaders need to get together to get things done." Is he happy that it's a smaller package? No, he's not happy about the way the debt ceiling has been tied to the issue of future fiscal policies, that the "full faith and credit" of the United States should not have been held hostage in this instance.

But does this just boil down to the fact that House Dems are upset that Obama put Social Security and Medicare "on the table?" Becerra says, that well, he was willing to put everything on the table, but then the GOp wouldn't put taxes "on the table." I think he doesn't understand how this empty-headed "on the table" game is played. See when people say, "on the table," the table is not literally a table. It's not even figuratively a table. The "table" is the Platonic idea of a table, floating in another existence entirely is. That's where the table is. You know how it's bed, bath, and beyond? Well this is the "beyond" part. Now, on that ideal table, we can put all sorts of things. We can put tax increases -- or the Platonic ideal of tax increases, anyway. And you see, by merely typing these words, and suggesting it, we've DONE it. Everyone can say it was done. So, the GOP response to Becerra will always be, "We put that on the table, and it made more sense to take it off. But it was on the table! We had the waiter send it back." But in the alternate reality where everything is an ephemeral concept and we all own five kittens that poop silver dollars, it was "on the table."

Table! Table! We are talking about the table, over and over. They don't talk about tables this much at Ikea!

Becerra says that changes need to be made to social security for "future generations," but points out the operative word is "future," and the debt ceiling is about past debt, money already spent. It has no impact, at all, to "future generations," and thus shouldn't be tied up in that.

Baier asks, "Isn't social security just a pile of IOUs?" And Becerra, I have to say, is pretty hilarious, because he whips out a five dollar bill and a fifty dollar savings bond and essentially tells Baier -- let's start a pile of IOUs with these things, because that is all they are, essentially. (Somewhere, Ron Paul is yelling about the gold standard.)

Baier changes the question to talk about how there are a lot of Baby Boomers out there, causing stress to the system, and maybe more Boomers should be signed up for trips to the center of the sun, who knows? Becerra basically stands on the position that everyone who's paid in to the system shouldn't get jerked around, but dude, everyone who paid into the social security system did so knowing they were giving money to old people so that the poverty of the elderly and disabled wasn't a drag on the economic fortunes of people who were healthy enough to remain productive. We need to stop treating Social Security like something we invest in for ourselves, because that's what makes the "lets privatize it and give Wall Street one gigantic payday, for fun!" argument easier to make. Fixing Social Security is a matter of arithmetic. Raise the income caps, or the retirement age, or both, and move on, to Medicare, which is waaaay more complicated, and really could end up killing us with costs.

I am not working for my own social security benefits! Someone younger than me is working for my social security benefits.

How does Becerra think this comes to an end? He thinks, basically, that some freak instance of intelligence might break out. Baier points out that Obama once voted to increase the debt ceiling. I don't understand Becerra's answer, it's just talking points reheated and re-served. But, wow, I guess it's one of those weird situation when you're a Senator one day, making hay about stuff the other party is doing and then you end up President and suddenly you realize some stuff is not so easy.

And now, Jim DeMint, and his "somehow" hair, is here. DeMint is not optimistic about the debt ceiling debate, and the government is "overbearing," and spending too much money. His particular form of hostage-taking involves Obama agreeing to a balanced budget amendment. He flat out does not agree with the premise that defaulting on the debt will cause any sort of calamity.

Boehner disagrees with that. DeMint says, whatever, I'm sure that there are contingencies. "We're not asking anyone to make radical cuts," says DeMint, and yes, you sort of have to understand that from his view of "radical" is much different from most people. "Dynamiting the Rayburn Office building" is probably just a touch over the "radical" line of what constitutes cutting government spending.

DeMint disagrees with McCain, who wants the balanced budget amendment to not be part of debt ceiling hostage taking. DeMint says, well, it's not really hostage taking, because he's not requesting it be implemented, he just wants to start a long multi-year process of implementing it. (This process, apparently, would not cause "uncertainty" in the markets, somehow, though just about everything else always does.)

DeMint: "A fifth grader can tell us: If the problem is debt, we have to stop spending more than we bring in." Most fifth graders, however, will tell you that the problem, at the moment, is that their moms and dads don't have jobs. (A few fifth graders will be smart enough to say, "Seems to me that the interest rates on Treasuries are so low right now that as long as we spent money productively, we stand a good chance at stimulating aggregate demand and create jobs. Or we simply fix a lot of infrastructure, to save future generations from having to pick up the bill for that." Then you ask that fifth grader if he or she wants to skip a grade, and they'll tell you, "F--k no! I can't risk getting out of college any sooner than I already am, because of the massive unemployment crisis.")

DeMint: "There are a lot of less expensive choices for Medicare that younger workers would take in a hurry." Well, they would take them, because as younger workers, they would be less expensive. But costs go up as you get old.

"A lot of them would like to keep their own health insurance when they retire," says DeMint, who appears to not be familiar with the concept of insurance companies dropping people for the pre-existing condition known as being "eventually not immortal."

DeMint says that he won't endorse anyone who won't sign on to his "Cut, Cap, and Balance" pledge. He tells Baier that he is not running for President himself. (Which makes sense, considering that he knows his own pledge makes "being president" pretty untenable in practical terms.)

Only a little bit of panelling, today, featuring Brit and Mara and Stephen Hayes and Juan.

Hume says the jobs report was a "game changer for the debt negotiations." Spoken like a true Beltway simp! (The jobs report was actually a reminder that Americans are in the midst of a massive and underreported crisis that the media and lawmakers are ignoring.)

Hayes disagrees with Boehner, who says that he and the White House have been discussing this "in good faith," on the premise that Obama had to know that the House wouldn't come behind tax increases. (That was the whole point of Boehner, but nevermind.) Hayes is basically here to be the guy who says that Obama is the one pushing the country to the brink. Williams is the guy who is here to say the opposite thing. And then Hume, Liasson and Hayes do their jobs, which is to treat Williams like an idiot and a chump. I used to feel bad about Williams getting treated in this fashion. "ABUSE JUAN" is written into the DNA of this show -- the perennial cuts to Brit Hume's gapes and the two-shot to a smirking Bill Kristol are part of the directorial language of undermining Williams, and as it happens, it's brilliantly done. But now Williams gets paid a lot of money to endure this treatment, so it can't really be called abuse anymore.

Oh, now we're going back to commercial. Well, to recap: everyone yelled at Juan Williams.

Now we are back, and we're still talking with this panel, about the debt ceiling? Great. Well, Hayes says that House Republicans may complicate things with a plan of their own...which they know Harry Reid won't go for! (And yet, I'm sure that Hayes will give those guys credit for acting in "good faith" even though they're violating his specific definition of "going against good faith," that he previously advanced.

I'm going to skip to the end. Three simps abuse Juan Williams, solve no problems, the end.


I realize that this is like going on vacation early, but so what!

Today's panel is Bob Woodward, Jamie Tarabay (who is a foreign correspondent, so I'm not sure why she's here to talk about horse-race politics), Andrea Mitchell, and Clarence Page.

SO, unemployment, according to this show is a "psychological problem for the country" and a "huge political burden for the president." That's a rather obtuse way of thinking about an unfolding, underreported, widespread deadly calamity that's happening to people you live with, but that's Sunday Morning Talk Show for you!

Anyway, Chris Matthews wonders if the Tea party intransigence on the debt ceiling has handed Obama a huge win. Huh? Oh, the thinking here is that "the middle of the country" will be so turned off by the Tea party that they'll turn out for Obama. I don't think that the vast middle of America has the mystical, stupid way of looking at the process of voting. They don't go into the voting booth and say, "Well, normally I'd vote my interests or my values, but that group of anger-bears are so mean to the President that I'm just going to lay that aside and vote for him for the heck of it." Also! I think the very fact that there is a "debt ceiling negotiation" at all is the CLEAREST example of a TEA PARTY victory, as they have moved the ol' Overton Window once again, to make things like giving massive subsidies to the wealthy while simultaneously scuttling progams that benefit poor seniors the new "acceptable position that reaches the center of America."

We'll see if any of these panelists say that, though! I'm guessing not.

Bob Woodward says that "this is a moment where Obama has to deliver." As opposed to all those other moments, where the president could just lay up in the cut, listening to Kool And The Gang on vinyl. Mitchell says that this is a big moment for Boehner and Pelosi, too. Who feels loved? Who gets listened too? It's too bad that so many people are being foreclosed upon, because it's hard to plug your teevee into nothing to watch this show. Page says that everyone is "playing out the clock," but that they are "down to core issues."

Matthews is like, Jamie, you are the new person, what do you think: are we becoming Greece? Are we risking being thought of as less awesome? Tarabay basically says that Washington looks at Greece and Iceland and wonders why they can't get their act together, and then they go back to acting like madcap fools, so yeah, the rest of the world views us the same way. "It just seems quite childish when you are on the other side of it."

Woodward: "I'm not sure the United States has been thought of as a grown-up for a long time."

Page points out that Wall Street is calm, as if they know this is mostly theatrics. (It is because GOP leaders assured Wall Street executives that they were about to embark on a series of theatrics, but not to worry about it, it was just for show.)

Everyone agrees that defaulting would be bad, though! But the way they define "bad" is no head-poundingly inane. Matthews worries that the world will "laugh at us." Woodward says, "It's not that the world would laugh at us, it's that the markets will react" badly. Actually, the "bad" part is when ordinary men and women and children die in poverty.

Now we'll talk about the unemployment numbers. OKAY, THANK GOD. Let's get into the real human suffering at the heart of this terrible disaster.

MATTHEWS: The unemployment rate is 9.2...


MATTHEWS: Reagan was re-elected with 7.2, what is your sense, is Obama electable at this rate?


Woodward says, sure, Obama is electable at this rate, he just needs to convince voters that the economy is stable.

Here's a real question that was asked on this show: "Does anyone win if we have this catastrophe?" (Andrea Mitchell assures that "Nobody is a winner.")

And now, Chris Matthews is showing old clips of Michele Bachmann talking to him on Hardball, about Obama's un-American views, and then some clips from the Daily Show.

(Looking at Jamie Tarabay, I'm pretty sure she regrets being a part of this.)

The show will go on, talking about Bachmann. Matthews says that there's a downside to the fact that Bachmann will vote against raising the debt ceiling. But that won't change the mind or bother any of her supporters at all.

I don't have any idea what Andrea Mitchell is talking about. She goes right from acknowledging the fact that people don't want their social security or Medicare benefits cut, to saying that Bachmann has the "pulse" on this, and that's why she will not raise the debt ceiling, and vote instead to plunge us into default.

I think that the way to get ahead in this punditry business is to make so little sense, that you risk being thought of as "unserious" if you manage to demonstrate any logic at all!

Matthews says that sometimes he wonders if David Brooks is "not really in tune with that base out there." David Brooks thinks that "ordinary Americans" are the people he meets at the Aspen Ideas Festival, so I can see why Matthews might suspect that. You could also draw that conclusion by "reading the things David Brooks writes" and "listening to the things David Brooks says."

Things Matthews doesn't know include the fact that "the ticket out of Afghanistan is training the Afghan army" but we aren't recruiting enough Pahstuns, so that looks like a bust. "Oh, that is the worst news," says Matthews.

Tarabay finally gets to say something, and she says that JSOC is "on a spending spree" right now, probably because they are the folks who killed bin Laden, and who's going to tell them no? MAKE IT RAIN, requests JSOC.

Hillary Clinton is reaching out to Somali militants so that some people can get fed. Page says that the Casey Anthony trial has spawned something called Caylee's law in response, and it's an unbelievably stupid overreaction.

Will Obama's "cool nature" work for him to get re-elected, Matthews asks. Woodward says that Obama will have to get "uncool" and show "passion." Tarabay says that he should stay cool and calm. Mitchell says his Rose Garden remarks were pretty terrible.

If you actually have the luxury of "playing it cool" in this crisis, well...lucky you.


Today, on Meet The Press, we have the twin calamity of Tim Geithner and Tim Pawlenty, and I realize now that the reason my father switched so many years ago from being "Tim" to being "T.K." was because he saw the future and realized that there was just no future for Tims, that Tims were just going to be the worst.

David Gregory thinks that Boehner's statement from twelve hours ago is "breaking news."

So, anyway, Tim Geithner is here to encourage people in Congress to "do something big," and that the "president is standing tough," in the way he'll be cutting programs that his base likes. Geithner calls for shared sacrifice, which are words that sound pretty weird coming out of his mouth, having read "Too Big To Fail."

Is the grand bargain still possible? Geithner says that they will try to get the "biggest deal" possible, for the short term and the long term. Gregory is worried that there might be some tax increases, though! Geithner insists that there needs to be "balance in the deal." (It won't be balanced, though: no one is talking about a 1:1 ratio, here.)

Will the President cut Medicare and Medicaid? Geithner won't answer. Gregory tries a few more times -- will you cut benefits? Will you means-test? Geithner says "I won't negotiate with you." This isn't a negotiation, though, it's an interview.

So, what about August 2nd, and the potential that the debt limit will have consequences. Geithner says, "We're not going to default, we'll meet our obligations," and he notes that Boehner has said he understood this. Geithner would know, because he talks to the same Wall Street figures that Boehner does. He says, however, that the longer we drag out the decision, the more it will rile financial markets. And on August 2nd, if COngress hasn't acted, Geithner will have to finance the debt, send checks out, with only the money on hand and the cash coming in. Refinancing our debt will cause credit ratings agencies downgrade us, and that touches off massive problems everywhere! (But Geithner again says that none of this is going to happen because everyone's said they will raise the debt ceiling. It's just important that everyone takes turns and gets to hold the gun and wave it around like an idiot, as long as no one fires it.)

Geithner says COngress has to act by the 2nd. "There's no legal option, there's no Constitutional option, there's no creative financial option."

Then he goes back to saying that he's very confident that no one will be stupid to not raise the debt ceiling.

This is kind of the way psychological abuse works: "I am pretty sure I won't punch you in the face, repeatedly. Surely you won't do something that makes me punch you in the face, over and over. If I were to punch you in the face, again and again, it would have terrible consequences for you! But I'm sure it won't come to that. Man, though, look at how meaty my fist is!"

Geithner says that this is really about "taking advantage of a moment" to do something big. So, if we raise the debt ceiling today, and THEN decide to do "something big," it will be spoiled? Because the "moment" will be lost? It's hard to believe that a nations' leaders talks about things in this fashion. It must, at some level, hurt.

Geithner says that the economy is going to strengthen, and the only reason that it's not better are things like bad weather in the United States and the disaster in Japan. You see, back when we started working on recovering, no one had any idea that anything bad would happen anywhere in the world! The fact that shit just didn't sail on, in a smooth festival of utter perfection and synchronicity, caught everyone off guard!

Gregory asks -- he is actually doing a fine job this morning so far -- how it came to pass that the President did not set the correct expectations for recover. What was the bad advice he got from him, from Larry Summers, et al.? Geithner says that he thinks that Obama is being "too hard on himself" and that everyone's been saying for a long time that the crisis would be rough going. Yeah, but: "Recovery Summer!" That was something you guys talked about! Last year! And you didn't say, "Oh, yeah, and next summer is going to be what we call 'The Summer of Bummer.' That's going to be awful! It's going to start with Anthony Weiner sending a picture of his penis to Twitter, and believe it or not, that's where the summer is going to peak, in terms of the good times!"

"When is recovery going to start feeling like recovery?"

"Oh, I think it's going to be a long time."

See you in Recover Summer 2023!

Will Geithner be leaving? He won't make news today, he says. He'll be sticking around "for the foreseeable future." So, that could be less than the entirety of Obama's first term? "Well," Geithner says, "Foreseeable is a complicated word."

It sure is!

Now, it's time for Tim Pawlenty.

If I were hosting this show, I'd open with this: "Good morning, Governor. You've seen the most recent jobs report. The economy is in bad shape, unemployment persistent or worsening, and our problems outside of the economic rut we're in aren't getting less complicated, either. Conditions in Afghanistan are tenuous, the Libya intervention has exposed new divisions. Given all that the country is going through right now, how is it even conceivable that I'm talking to YOU, of all people, right now? Have I lost my mind, or something?"

And now, an ever so brief chat with Chuck Todd and Eugene Robinson. Pawlenty is going hard at Bachmann. Bachmann is the candidate who can beat him in Iowa. He fails in Iowa, he fails period. But what about Sarah Palin, she's on the cover of Newsweek. Well, that's reason enough to write off whatever she is saying. She says she can win? Good. Todd is right that this is what she's saying so that she can quit. This is what candidates always say when they quit a race. "I could have won." Huckabee said it. I'm pretty sure Mitch Daniels said it. Freaky-deak Donald Trump said it. Chuck Todd nailed it.

Everyone seems to agree that the debt ceiling winds now favor the White House, because it's clear now that they were willing to risk more and upset the Democratic base to make a deal happen, but Eric Cantor did his whole "Let me undermine John Boehner thing," and it got cashed.

Okay. The USA-Brazil game is getting epic, so I'll skip the part of Meet The Press where they talk about twitter and what not.

That's that for a while, then. Thanks very much to all you who have turned this little liveblog into something of a community. It means a lot to me. When I think about the good things I have in my life, I try to remember that you all are a significant part of that, and deserve more thanks from me than I can possibly repay. So please accept my gratitude, you all are the best.

The Sunday Morning liveblog will return on July 31, 2011. Maybe everything in American politics will be fixed by then! I hope so. Have a great rest of July, everybody!