MEDIA

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Oh, hello there! Remember this? Your Sunday Morning, quickly-typed, snap-judgment infused semi-live blog of the terrible political chat shows? Well, my name is Jason and it, along with me, has returned from vacation. Did you miss me? Were you happy I was gone? Either way, I'm so, so sorry.

For the past two weeks of Sundays, your trusted liveblogger has been on vacation in the United Kingdom, doing things like "overdosing on quaintness" and "looking for the M4." I spent ten days in the U.K. -- some of them in England, a few in Wales, most of them at Heathrow Airport standing in lines -- and while that's not nearly enough time to make a thorough cultural inventory in order to make substantive comparisons, I was able to discern a few differences between the United States and the Home of Pipp-ahhh Middleton.

The most glaring difference of course, was the weather. My God! Did you all know that some people on Earth spend the summer not being made to feel like their faces have been swaddled in damp athletic socks straight from Dante's Inferno? It's true. I actually wore coats!

But most importantly, from what I gather, in the U.K., they do not have a "debt ceiling." Or if they do, they do not have "morons" maintaining that debt ceiling. Or if they do, their lawmakers aren't the "Second Rate Traveling Geek Show Circuit" brand of morons that our lawmakers are. They seem, over there, to be capable of having a few conversations in public, in which they do not piss themselves.

It was a pretty naive belief that this whole debt ceiling fiasco would have ended while I was away, I know. There are reasons for that. First: nothing whatsoever is at stake! Both sides of the debate have privately assured Wall Street that in the end, it will be raised and we'll avoid default. So there's actually no hostage being held. There is a danger that their act might be so convincing that a credit downgrade occurs, but my concern there is that the last things I remember having pristine ratings were the very derivatives that turned out to be stuffed with horsemeat and bilgewater. If America is rated AAA, I don't believe it. Ever been to Las Vegas? That place is definitely the "mezzanine tranche" of this great nation.

But I digress! What are these debt ceiling negotiations, anyway? Who knows! But it's very clear that somehow it's been decided that the only way to "win" the negotiations is to lose the negotiations. In this hostage crisis, the masked gunman keep passing the guns to the captives, demanding to be shot.

It was impossible to not remember this last Friday, when John Boehner was carrying on in the well of the House of Representatives, yelling like an angry drunk, as if the neighborhood kids had batted a baseball through his bay window. Boehner gave a wondrously melodramatic performance, that at times came close to convincing me that he almost believed something was at stake. (The fact that an hour later, the House was back to naming post offices after their cronies was a dead giveaway that this wasn't the case.)

But the thing is, for the past month, all anyone at the White House has been trying to do is declare John Boehner the winner and hand him a trophy. All anyone has been trying to do is tell him, "Here! Have the greatest Republican legislative victory in recent memory. Sign your name into the book of legend!" And Boehner has defiantly said, "No! I don't want to win!" Joe Scarborough warned us that Boehner was lazy. But who knew he was also an ingrate?

What can you do? How is the country supposed to function if the Democrats can't do what they do best, i.e. "surrender?"

I also had to laugh when I heard that the White House was looking to give Obama a "Jed Bartlett moment," referring to the pretend Democratic president from teevee's The West Wing. Here's a pro-tip, White House strategists! The "Jed Bartlett moment" you were looking for happened about two months ago. That's when you should have gone to the gates in front of the White House, and hung up a sign that read, "IF YOU DON'T HAVE A CLEAN BILL FOR ME TO SIGN THAT RAISES THE DEBT CEILING, THEN TURN AROUND AND GO THE F**K ON HOME."

At any rate, this has a few more days to go before the magical deal that everyone hates is wrought and we lapse back into a government that works 24-7 to get re-elected and zero hours trying to solve the massive unemployment crisis. In the meantime, you just know that this particular day of political talk shows is going to be the shallowest and most insufferable one in recent memory. As always, you should feel free to leave your teevee off, leave a comment, or send an email. You can also follow me on twitter, if you, for some reason, want my real-time, emo reactions to world events and Project Runway episodes.

Gah, let's get on with it.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

Bret Baier is here, because not even Chris Wallace can pretend anymore. Gene Sperling is here, to talk about the economy. Then Dick Durbin will yell at celebrated American liar Jon "Not Intended To Be A Factual Statement (NITBAFS)" Kyl, who will probably tell America untruths and then attempt to "revise and extend" his remarks. Also, Kevin McCarthy, will add his prattle to what's already turning into a seven-layer dip of uselessness.

Ha! In light of the new, terrible GDP figures (which come with new, terrible revisions of past terrible GDP figures!), they will also ask a panel: "Have the debt ceiling negotiations have made the economy worse?" and "Will their resolution make the economy better?" Hmmm! Tough question! What happens when you're in the middle of an unemployment calamity, and all the lawmakers are dry-humping each other in Kabuki makeup, and finally everyone achieves release? You get the answers "Yes" and "No" to the two underlying questions.

So, Baier says that "significant progress" has been made toward a "deal." Goody. Guess what! It involves more special committees! When lawmakers just give up, they form committees. And then they get re-elected, somehow! You know how much better our government would be if we made "suggesting we form a special committee" a criminal offense?

Anyway, Sperling says the White House wants to make spending cuts, and then cut some more from entitlements, and then have "something that forces all of us to get our work done." (Like a "conscience?")

Reid wants this commission and Obama supports it, so there are the Democrats outsourcing the responsibility for making tough choices about the future. (Also, I can't keep track of whether "trigger" and "enforcement mechanism" mean the same thing or are, in fact, two different things, as their names -- and the rules of physics -- suggest.

Sperling says that the White House will "brief the American people on what will happen if we do not raise the debt ceiling by the deadline." Isn't that all the White House has been doing, for months? Sperling says, "I don't know how much harder this President could have tried to get a bipartisan deal." I am sympathetic, in some ways to this. As Sperling points out, the President had a plan -- it did not sit well with anyone who enjoys programs that keep old, poor people from having to crawl off into the woods to die -- but it existed and it included $4 billion in cuts and included entitlement reform and, if I recall correctly, a path forward on tax reform as well. So, when Boehner yammered on and on about there being no "White House plan," Boehner was lying.

(Boehner's real problem with Obama's plan is that it went much further than the GOP's own plan. Remember, the goal, in this debate, is not to achieve an outcome, it's to lose and blame the other side. So when Obama's debt reduction plan upped the ante, the GOP had to find fault with it, because the last thing they want are actual serious cuts to spending -- they need to preserve that issue in perpetuity to win elections. By the way, the White House knew this, which is why they made the offer in the first place. Remember: this is a debate in which both sides are trying to out-insincere each other!)

Also, when you hear Boehner whine about the White House getting a "blank check," remember that the only person who's offered that is Mitch McConnell!

Meanwhile, GDP grew at 1.3%, and the Q1 figure was rated down to an anemic 0.4. Sperling says that this shows that Obama inherited the worst six months of growth ever, and the hole was deeper than anyone knew. (This means that the stimulus package, which should have been bigger in any event, DEFINITELY should have been bigger.)

Meanwhile, here's a fun one-act play called, "How Sweden Got It's Growth Back," based on the true story.

Dramatis Personae:
SWEDISH LAWMAKER
SECOND SWEDISH LAWMAKER

Scene One. Two lawmakers enter, and greet one another cordially.

SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Hellö, guy! I tell yöu, this ecönömy is nöt gööd, right? Wöw!

SECOND SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Töö right! Even thöugh yöu are my pölitical öppönent, I agree that the ecönömy is frustrating!

SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Say, guy! I knöw that we disagree ön a löt öf things, but I bet we can böth agree that Sweden's cöntinued existence is sömething we löök förward tö.

SECOND SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Right again, friend! I sure like the way Sweden has resölutely existed.

SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Maybe we can put aside öur differences, and help Sweden cöntinue tö exist!

SECOND SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Fantastic, and when we've döne that, then we can gö back tö fighting with each öther över the things that have histörically mattered tö us.

SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Yes! That wöuld be terrific. Ace of Base!

SECOND SWEDISH LAWMAKER: Let's dö that, then! Lisbeth Salander!

Scene two. They do this.

Fin.

Anyway, Sperling is "not worried we are going to have a double dip recession," but says it's incumbent on everyone to do what they can do to prevent it. So, we can still have a double-dip, but it will be Someone Else's Fault.

Now, here's Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy says that we've come a long way, from the insane idea that we just raise the debt ceiling like we always do, to a state where we're going to make a lot of spending cuts that any old legislator could have proposed and gotten co-sponsors and submitted to a debate on any day in their lives, and all we needed to do was pretend to wave guns in each others' faces and tell the American people Booga-boo campfire ghost stories about "Woooo! Default!!" McCarthy is selling what could only be called, "extreme and comical governmental dysfunction" as a model that we should repeat over and over again.

(He also seems to believe that "investing" in things can be achieved by having no money to invest. A FOX chyron says that McCarthy has an MBA from CSU-Bakersfield. This does not speak well of that university's MBA program. My feeling is that had McCarthy gone to a top tier MBA program, he would have swiftly been encouraged to find something else to do with his life, and someone in the admissions office would have been sacked.)

Baier asks McCarthy to respond to a Wall Street Journal editorial that accuses the House GOP of acting like children, and McCarthy comes back with, "I believe in America. I believe in this country."

It's not a hallmark of adulthood to say, "Clap your hands and Tinkerbell lives!"

Following that, McCarthy reads aloud the first few chapters of the "John Boehner slash-fic" he's been working on, at Pietanza.

"I think we're going to make real change in Washington," McCarthy says. And he's right! Just wait until the next Republican president tries to raise the debt ceiling! He or she will be in for a rude surprise! (McCarthy will still stamp his wittle footies and complain, of course.)

Dick Durbin and Senator NITBAFS will yell at each other, now. Durbin says that things are moving forward and no one wants to default. NITBAFS agrees and says it's too bad that we ended up getting so close to the August 2nd date. (Hey, he could have presented a clean debt ceiling bill any day this summer, and STILL been able to have a debate over spending cuts and entitlement reform. Never forget that!)

Durbin says that the "trigger" is the "enforcement mechanism."

"If you are serious about long term deficit reduction, put everything on the table," says Durbin. If you are playing at home, drink. It's hard to believe that is today's first iteration of "THE TABLE."

Naturally, Senator NITBAFS doesn't want defense cuts "on the table." Then he repeats what McCarthy already said! "Think about how far we've come, two months ago the president wanted a clean debt ceiling bill...blah blah blah." So, that's all talking points. I love me some message discipline, but you need to learn to not repeat the same monologue five minutes later on the same show.

"Do you think Americans will have crisis fatigue?" asks Baier. Hey, chief, you know what, Americans have "dealing with an unemployment crisis fatigue." They aren't sitting at home, BORED by the pathetic ministrations of Beltway lawmakers, they are struggling to FEED themselves. To translate the question into Real Talk, "Do you think the Beltway media will have crisis fatigue?"

Why hasn't the Democratic party passed a budget? As Durbin notes, it's the same reason "Cut, Cap, and Balance" didn't make it through the Senate -- "sixty votes." (Your historic filibusterers of yore, stamped their wittle footies and complained, by the way!)

Baier says that there are a lot of people who perceive the spending cuts only coming about because of the debt ceiling -- that without tying one to the other, you don't have an outcome. Durbin says, well. that's pretty bad. And it is! But that's how it's going to be, from now on. There needed to be one side in this debate that resolutely said, "No. This is money you've long committed to paying, Congress. Send up a clean debt ceiling bill or go jump in a river." There wasn't one, and now the bell cannot be unrung.

John McCain yammered about the Tea Party, being hobbits, or something related to either Tolkien or classic rock. Senator NITBAFS says that the Tea Party is being no more unserious than Obama was when he voted against raising the debt ceiling, so there.

Then he repeats McCarthy's talking points a second time. Senator NITBAFS is looking forward to legislative business being conducted solely through pretend hostage negotiations. (He will, of course, stamp his wittle footies and complain the first time he finds himself on the wrong side.)

Will there be a deal? Durbin says he can't answer. NITBAFS says only that they'll be examining the details over the next couple of days.

Panel time, at last, with Bill Kristol and Charles Lane and Stephen Hayes forming the troika that will spend the next twenty minutes belittling Juan Williams. Kristol says that the GOP should "not oversell" the AMAZING legislative victory that they've long been destined to achieve, because it's not a great deal, in his opinion. Hayes is worried that the triggers that are the enforcement mechanisms might come in the form of defense cuts, and that there are legislators who might find that more unpalatable than defaulting and pitching the world into an economic crisis. Hayes cannot possibly be serious about that. If that's true -- and mind you, we'll recall that both sides have privately assured Wall Street that this melodrama will end before default happens -- then those legislators need to be identified, removed from office, and placed in an autoclave to see if we can identify the chemical compound that causes such mental deficiencies.

How about those GDP revisions? Kristol says that he doesn't believe the economy is going to pick up because the debt ceiling matter is resolved -- he hopes so, but doesn't think it will happen -- but if it fails to do so, it will be Obama's fault, somehow. (Remember, what Obama is doing, policy-wise, is giving the GOP everything they want, so it will be technically Obama's fault, I guess, but it will also demonstrate that the economic shocks of massive cuts in spending were back for recovery.

Everyone's poll numbers are in the tank, Williams says, and Stephen Hayes belittles him. Williams maintains that Obama has had sufficient time and opportunity for the effect of his economic policies to be submitted to a judgment, but that it's just not the case that he took a great economy and wrecked it. Which is fair, and fortunately, we go to commercial before everyone can start making fun of Williams.

Horsey-race time! Williams says that most of the GOP 2012ers are "playing to their base." (Though Huntsman, who has embraced Boehner's plan, is not, because he doesn't have a base.) Hayes seems to think it's remarkable that Democrats are trying to shift blame for the performance of the economy, as if that was a tactic that had never been used before. Lane says that Bachmann's statement on the debt ceiling was the height of "unseriousness." Good job getting to that low-hanging fruit, Charles. Here's a hint, though: it's also Tim Pawlenty's position.

Meanwhile, Bill Kristol wants Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio to run for President and Vice President, because he doesn't have much of a fundamental understanding of the politics of officeholding (Rubio has been in office for a few months, Ryan wields a vast amount of power and influence from an easy-to-defend House seat), and because he's uniquely snowed by speeches, and thinks they translate to governing. (He is apparently enamored of a Rubio speech where the Senator wonders aloud where the president's debt ceiling/spending cuts plan is, a moment that actually makes one wonder if Rubio is so dense that he missed that whole $4 trillion plan that included entitlement reform.)

Anyway, the show appropriately concludes with a screensaver of Obama and Boehner and Reid and McConnell blathering on and on and on.

FACE THE NATION

Today, Bob Schieffer will talk to Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, who will yell at each other about this pretend crisis they've agreed to have so they can ignore the unemployment crisis.

I realize I haven't talked about what the terms of the "deal" are. That is because they are very stupid! But per Schieffer, who is thankfully an ace at synthesizing on a Sunday, here they are:

--The Debt ceiling would be extended through 2012, hooray.
--It cuts $3 trillion in spending, probably from programs that benefit people other than the recipients of all that tax cut largesse.
--Congress could have debated those cuts at anytime in the past, present, or future, without pretending to stage a hostage crisis, but then they would have had to actually take responsibility for making decisions.
--Actually, there will only REALLY be $1 trillion in cuts.
--There will be a "Super Committee" that will decide on other cuts.
--A "SUPER COMMITTEE."
--Yes, we are government by children.
--Anyway, what will happen is that committee will fail to come to an agreement on cuts, or, in the unlikely event that they do, they will fail to get their cuts passed.
--There will be a trigger, though, that makes huge defense cuts if no one acts.
--Congress will find a way to stop it from happening.
--Everyone will shrug and say they did the best job they could.
--The "deal" will end no wars, nor will it address the unemployment crisis, nor will it address the widening income inequality gap.

Anyway, there's a summary of the great deal that will end this fake crisis. McConnell says, guess what:

"We've come a long way, back in April, Obama wanted a clean debt ceiling bill...blah blah blah, today's song from the Talking Point hymnal."

I'll wait until Mitch says something I've not already adequately liveblogged.

McConnell says that all he's wanted to do is "get as much spending reduction as we can get from a COngress we don't control." If that's the case, he should have taken the White House plan, which cut more and created no new fake super committees, from comic books.

Speaking of, what is the deal with that? Will the Super Committee be able to suggest revenue increases? McConnell says that it will have broad power to do entitlement reform and tax reform.

"This is not another commission," McConnell says, of this other commission. He never stipulates whether it will be empowered to consider revenue increases, or if it will hew to the GOP's Book Of Magical Economic Thinking.

If the Super Committee works, I vote we get rid of everyone who is not "super." Or we rename Congress, "The House Of Loser Crapstacks."

Will the Tea Party go for this new deal? Can he get enough Republicans on board? McConnell says that there will be people in both parties who don't like the deal, but there will be enough Senate votes. He points out that he and Boehner will "have to get Democratic votes." (One of the problems is, as soon as a group of Democrats agree to something, a group of Republicans jump off.)

The Wall Street Journal called the Senate GOP "debt limit hobbits," and look, I feel like we need to step in and stop all of this hobbit defamation. (Though John Kerry is still Treebeard.)

McConnell says that America is a "country of robust political debate," and that nothing that anyone is saying about each other is as bad as the stuff that Hamilton and Adams and Jefferson and the other founders used to say about each other. That's true, I guess, in some respects. But at the same time, those men actually accomplished something in their lives -- a key distinction from our current lawmakers.

Now here's Chuck Schumer. Is he as optimistic as Mister Mitch? Schumer says he's feeling better this morning than he did before. Why did he ever feel bad, though? He understands that lawmakers told Wall Street that there wouldn't be a default, right? I though Schumer was in the loop on important matters.

Schumer is excited about the Super Committee. He will ensure to debate revenue increases. He will keep entitlement programs in tact. So, yes, the Super Committee will not solve things.

These "triggers" are comical, by the way. As Chuck Schumer describes it, failure to act on the Super Committee's proclamations will result in things happening that both parties will hate. Defense cuts will occur! Entitlements will get slashed. As I've said again and again, we can look forward to a future in which hostage-taking becomes normative for our system of governance. It sounds to me that what is being proposed here, in terms of Super Committees and painful triggers, is that Congress has decided the best thing for the nation is for everyone to submit themselves to a state of play that closely resembles any of the movies of the "SAW" franchise.

It's all so adult! Much better than actually standing up and making policy proposals and debating them and holding votes. Congress is saying that they cannot even perform their basic responsibilities without the help of newfangled external encouragements.

Oh, wow. They haven't even determined the trigger, yet! Schumer says that Democrats will insist that the trigger should be equal. No Medicare benefit cuts in the trigger, for example! But that's what the GOP would view as real pain for Democrats. And Democrats will probably insist on defense cuts, which are anathema to the GOP. So either the debate will bog down, inexorably, over this trigger, or in the end, the trigger will only amount to maybe a fart in the face.

Or maybe the Dems will rediscover their talent for capitulation. Per Schumer: "Democrats have shown throught this debate a willingness to compromise. The mirror image of what they want in this debate -- no revenue -- we should say 'No cuts.' And we don't do that." (You should try doing that, though, Chuck! It's what your base wants. Just try it once, and see what happens! Because the GOP just sticks together, more or less, and it seems to really work for them. There's a reason that everyone imagines that this debt ceiling nonsense will be resolved with massive cuts, but nobody believes there will be any revenue increases.)

Schieffer notes that the Washington Post reported that the White House doesn't know how to "portray Obama."

"Here's a free tip to the president's aides," Schieffer says, "How this president is regarded will depend on how this crisis comes out. Good policy always trumps bad public relations, and the best P.R. can't trump bad policy. Whether or not the President is sleeping well won't be a factor in his re-election."

I agree with the last part, but I think that Bob Schieffer could probably stand to take a deeper look at the modern public relations industry. Getting money out of politics would be good policy! P.R. tells us that the "Citizens United" decision is good for "free speech." if the best P.R. couldn't trump bad policy, then most of the P.R. industry would have gone out of business.

MEET THE PRESS

David Gregory says that this is the "Final Showdown" over the debt ceiling. Wow. David Gregory gets politics fundamentally wrong in his very first sentence. I think that's a record for him. This is by no means the "final showdown" over the debt ceiling. This is the first of many showdowns. Per Matt Yglesias:

I actually think that whatever the contours of the deal, at this point the biggest damage is to the overall system of government. Obama has successfully transformed massive debt ceiling hostage taking from an act of breathtakingly irresponsible brinksmanship into a proven effective negotiating tactic. Suppose he gets re-elected in 2012. What’s he going to do when this issue recurs in 2013? Every time the president’s party has fewer than 60 votes in the Senate, we may face a recurrence of this crisis.

That bold sentence? Learn it by heart. That's your new reality. We won't default on the money we owe. Again, this was a pretend crisis from jump street. Everyone who needed to be assured that default wasn't going to happen got that assurance. Instead, what we've defaulted on is any hope of rescuing a non-dysfunctional system of governance from the carnival of human wreckage that currently presides over our lives.

Now I'm going to try to watch this show, after two Sundays of detox! David Plouffe is here. So is John Thune and Claire McCaskill. And a panel featuring Tom Brokaw and Jennifer Granholm and Jim Cramer (Jesus!) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).

Ha, okay, based on Chuck Todd's reporting, what's happening with this Super Committee is getting clearer:

1. The Super Committee has to find a way of getting some $2 trillion in cuts suggested and put before Congress.
2. If the Super Committee fails, or if it succeeds and Congress fails to enact their recommendations, TRIGGER!
3. Trigger: an across the board cut!

Therefore: the GOP members of the Super Committee will have every incentive to bog down, and the GOP members of Congress will have every incentive to bog down as well. Yes: they'll have to potentially face cuts to Defense spending. But the allure of a blind hatchet, gutting Medicare with one swing would be well worth that sacrifice. And besides, cuts at Defense are easy to restore. Much harder than Medicare. The GOP can just say, "The Democrats are soft on terrorists," and capitulation follows hard-upon, with the media giving tacit approval, because: THE TROOPS! If the Dems try to get people panicked about cuts to Medicare, every teevee shows lights up with the "Medi-SCARE" talking point.

So that's how all of this is going to work. No wonder we're so "close to a deal." This play began wil Obama saying, "I want to hand the GOP a giant legislative victory," and now, in the 5th act, it seems like the GOP might finally accept it.

(Ha, there could be a "temporary extension" any way, because "some Democrats" don't like the terms. Ya think?)

David Plouffe is here now. He's enthusiastic about the Super Committee. I wonder if, back in 2008, when he was running the Obama campaign, he ever dreamed of a day where they'd create a "Super Committee" that performs the basic functions of Congress?

Plouffe: "This debt ceiling cloud has harmed our economy. Why on earth would we want to go through this again?"

Well, David, you realize that we are going to go through this again. And again. And again and again and again! Why on earth does he think that this stops here? (It resolves the matter until 2012 is over and done, which probably gives away the game: the White House policy is "Whatever gets us re-elected," no matter how it harms the nation going forward.)

The trigger, he says, would have to be "something the country could live with," but unpleasant enough to "compel lawmakers to act." Does anyone weigh the meaning of the words they say before they speak anymore?

Gregory points out that the president's deficit commission was a failure, and that "nobody is making the hard choices." "What's healthy about this debate?" he asks. Plouffe says only that the President is "committed to finishing the job." But voters want him to finish the job of solving the unemployment crisis!

The best way, Plouffe says, to assure "investors," is to solve this "debt ceiling problem." Dude, YOU ALREADY TOLD INVESTORS THAT YOU AREN'T GOING TO DEFAULT IN ANY EVENT. Resolving this fake crisis will not lead to any material economic benefit.

What about the 14th Amendment? Will the White House invoke it? Plouffe says no. "There is no off-ramp...the only way out of this is for Congress to act that the Republicans to compromise." (By "compromise," he means, "be willing to take the historic legislative victory we want to give you.")

Is the Obama recovery a bust? Plouffe says no, the revisions mean that the economy Obama inherited was even worse than anyone thought at the time. Which is neato-keen, if we're talking about economic indicators. I think that anecdotally speaking, basically everyone agreed that the economy was in the shitter.

Does Plouffe think a third party is a viable alternative in the 2012 race? I can't believe that is a question that Gregory is asking. There are no viable third parties on hand. Those that suggest it, like Tom Friedman, are imagining a third party that would claim the same, corporate-money territory as the two we already have. "No Labels" is a brainless outfit dedicated to whining about how they don't like everyone's tone. America could probably stand to have a political party that represents the interests of the numerous people who live on the razor's edge of personal economic ruin, and the middle class who struggles mightily just to get by. I promise, when such a party forms, in America, I will let you all know.

Now Claire McCaskill and John Thune will yell at each other.

What will Thune agree to? No revenue increases, massive spending cuts, and an entitlement reform that won't have his fingerprints on it. He's also, down the line, in favor of what's known as "revenue-neutral tax reform." I am fond of reminding people that "revenue-neutral tax reform" is the same as "cake-neutral baking." If you do not want a positive outcome, there's no point in even doing the work. Know where all the best revenue-neutral tax reform gets done these days? In comas.

What will McCaskill agree to? No entitlement cuts. "They have voted to keep giving taxpayer checks to big oil, while they've voted to convert the Medicare system to vouchers. Now that doesn't compute for us. How can you be more willing to push money, public money, to the most profitable corporations in the history of the world, at the same time you're willing to dismantle Medicare?"

Gregory counters by saying that everyone agrees that entitlement spending has "been a ticking time bomb" since the 1960s. Really? SHOW YOUR WORK, DAVID. That sounds like a canard.

Anyway, Thune says you can't put our fiscal house in order without addressing entitlements, and says that we need a "balanced approach." (By "balanced approach," he means, gut entitlements and give rich people tax cuts.

Both agree that the "trigger" is a good idea as long as everyone hurts. McCaskill is willing to submit MediCare to an auto-da-fe as long as Defense cuts are in there as well. (I imagine that Thune is willing to submit Medicare to an auto-da-fe, full stop.

David Gregory takes a moment to plug the programming of NBC News. (The show is apparently called, "Brian Williams and Harry Reid Sit Uncomfortably Close To One Another On A Tiny Couch, For Some Reason.")

Thune says that "this is a broader philosophical debate between" the two parties. But instead of taking steps to save the nation and its citizens from calamity and ruin and later returning to their traditional debate, having earned the right to continue it by demonstrating a passion for coming together and preserving the nation's core strength, that "broad philosophical debate" will now play itself out, forever more, in the form of reckless and dysfunctional hostage-taking.

McCaskill says: "Well, I hope that more Americans realize that what we have to have is more volume from the moderate middle."

Ha. Yes. Of course. Let's recall that this week, everyone is discussing those GDP revisions. You know, the ones that indicate the economy was in even worse shape than anyone thought? Back then, the White House was sensibly trying to do something counter-cyclical, and stimulate the economy. What was coming from the voice of the moderate middle? Well, "sensible moderate" Senator Ben Nelson was saying, "Let's limit the effectiveness of the stimulus package!" And lo, so it came to pass that the stimulus package was weakened. What we need to hear from the moderate middle, more than anything else, is a loud and sincere apology for being the primary driver behind America not emerging into something that more closely resembles recovery. The moderate middle needs to understand that there is a reason so many of them no longer hold office.

John Thune is not running for President. He won't rule out being someone's V.P. Another Meet The Press journalistic coup.

Anyway, it's Panel Time, with Brokaw, Granholm, Cramer, and Labrador.

Jim Cramer says that the government owes money to people! Everyone wants to know what's going to happen! "The range of worry is so staggering!" Yeah, man, remember how in the final scenes of INCEPTION things looked dire for Leonardo DiCaprio? He could have fallen into limbo, permanently! But maybe it was all just a dream, who knows! Anyway, if you're Jim Cramer, you can pretend there's something at stake here.

Brokaw evidently can't: he compared it to that time freshman year where he had to "pull an all-nighter." OH NO, DID YOU "DEFAULT?" "My freshman year in college was a disaster," Brokaw says. So, what's at stake? America might only be able to become a celebrity news anchor and best-selling author.

David Gregory has the interview skills of a mop, covered in lead:

GREGORY: (To Labrador) Do you feel vindicated that you've stuck to principles? Or are you aptly criticized for failing to recognize what you and your colleagues are doing that leads to the political default that Tom was talking about?

Raul, I was wondering if you could answer this question: Are you AMAZING? Or would you say that you are actually TERRIBLE?

(SPOILER ALERT: Labrador tells Gregory that he's awesome. "The reason we have $15 trillion in debt is not because I was in Congress for the last 30 years, because of the people who have been here. And we came to Washington to change the way business was done.")

Labrador seems to think it's scandalous that the "only distinction" between John Boehner and Harry Reid's bill were the triggers. But that's quite a distinction! Boehner's trigger was, "Let's do all of this again in six months." Reid is at least, "Let's do this forever, but wait until 2013 to get endlessly bogged down in our own patheticness."

LABRADOR: If he were to have had enough Democrats who would have voted with John Boehner, that's would have passed on Monday, and we wouldn't be at moment of crisis that we're in right now.

And if Harry Reid had enough Pegasuses (Pegasi?), there would be more people taking magical airborne horsey-rides!

GRANHOLM: But now what we're doing is, it is so irresponsible. So I mean the president will accept the deal as it's been outlined.

Thanks, Jennifer! For a minute there, I was starting to wonder if MEET THE PRESS had somehow accidentally booked a panelist who might advocate for the preservation of some core set of Democratic Party principles. Can we compound this, Mr. Brokaw?

BROKAW: This is not just a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. The whole country was in on this to get us to this stage. Hell, we were in a huge spending binge in this country. Everybody was along for the ride for a long, long time.

President Bush started a war on a credit card. It's been on for ten years. We have prescription drug benefits for the seniors that are not paid for. SEC wasn't looking at what was happening on Wall Street. Democrats were pushing house ownership for people who didn't really deserve and shouldn't be buying house. At the same time, they were not willing to step up on reforming Medicare and on Medicaid and Soc Security.

The country itself, they were spending money like crazy, and they got used to have to Washington take care of whatever they needed. So now we're at a stage where I think the country has to come together, David, and say, "This is a critical passage." And we are, Democrats are going to have to step up on social entitlements and reforming them.

Republicans started some wars. Republicans passed a terrible prescription drug benefit package. Republican appointees to the SEC missed a terrible economic scandal-calamity. Republicans were also the ones pushing home ownership, because demographically speaking, home owners tend to be more conservative. It was actually a Republican president who coined the term "ownership society." BUT WE PIN THAT ON DEMOCRATS AND THEN FAULT THEM FOR FAILING TO "STEP UP ON ENTITLEMENTS."

I'm sorry, but that's a joke! (I'd be much more inclined to faulting the Democrats for the continuation of the wars, frankly, because they are the ones who run on a platform of ending them and then do nothing to follow-through on that promise.

The point is that MEET THE PRESS is just a clapped-out, demented advocate of gutting entitlements and balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.

Jim Cramer takes this to the next stage of ridiculousness: "Now we are talking about a recession. This is the first time it's been on the table. This is a recession caused by government. It is not caused by business people. They want to build. They want to lend. They want to do anything possible to avoid this recession."

It does not get falser than that! "Now" we are talking about a recession? And it was caused by government? The word government is the equivalent of the word "American taxpayer." Did the American taxpayer cause the recession? Or did the American taxpayer, in fact, bail out a bunch of banks, to the tune of trillions of dollars, only some of which (the TARP proceeds, not the Federal Reserve booty) have been repaid. But this is how Jim Cramer thinks: he believes that Wall Street has somehow done America a solid.

Gregory, however, accuses the American people of "sending mixed messages," and Labrador says, "Yes, this makes it very hard to govern." So, all these messes we're in are really your fault, America! Why haven't you apologized, to MEET THE PRESS?

I am happy that Labrador at least brought up the fact that G.E. got away with paying no taxes, seeing as how Jim Cramer just did that pathetic company man act.

Ha, ha. Brokaw hits Labrador on the fact that Idaho gets back $1.28 for every dollar they send to Washington. Labrador says he'd be willing to give up the difference because Idaho would be able to "start controlling their own destiny." Yes, how much liberty was Idaho denied, every year that got to have more money!

None of this is helping America! But I take any time the MTP panelists make life hard on one another as a Pyrrhic victory.

Now David Gregory is back to touting Social Security as the reason for every ill that was visited upon the nation.

GREGORY: "I mean Republicans spent a lot of money on wars in the last decade..." THROWAWAY LINE OF THE WEEK. Give that a #gregoryshrug hashtag on Twitter.

Labrador and Granholm are no fighting over Michigan. Gregory is reading a Peggy Noonan column to Jim Cramer aloud on the teevee. Cramer says Obama scared Wall Street, and "caused the panic," by pointing out how hard it was for ordinary Americans to live their lives. #empireindecline.

And now, I think that Labrador is making the 14th Amendment argument for the White House? Or something? Anyway, he's made that Obama won't promise that Social Security recipients and soldier will continue to get paid if we default. Which seems weird! It's sort of a consequence of having no money, not being able to pay people. At how many convenience stores in Idaho has Raul Labrador bounced a check?

And now we've reached the moment of the show where the show recaps the show in order to assert that the show has been worth watching this entire time. TiVo, delete.

Well, that brings an end to today's liveblog. Hopefully next week, we will be here, and not instead foraging for canned food as a part of an armed gang of post-apocalyptic conditions in Defaultistan. Though if we are, we now know from Meet The Press' esteemed panel that we have no one to blame but ourselves! Toodle-oo!

[The Sunday Morning liveblog of these terrible political chat shows returns next Sunday. In the meanwhile, here's Splitsider's guide to Britain's panel shows. Some lucky version of me gets to liveblog episodes of NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS.]