Sunday talk show highlights, March 7, 2010

This Monday, once again, Meet The Press and This Week.

Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was the headliner on both shows, and once again, when the White House wants a certain message out there, one of their representatives headline Meet The Press and This Week. The only difference in the two interviews of Sebelius was the angle from which she was filmed. Right to left on Meet The Press, and left to right on This Week.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory once again tried to cut through the partisan pre-packaging by posing the following question to Senator Orrin Hatch (UT-R):

OK, Senator Hatch, you just heard Secretary Sebelius. So what’s going to happen here? Don’t just be partisan, be analytical. Is this victory, defeat on health care or something in between?

It didn’t really work, as the first line of Hatch’s answer was the following:

Well, it may be, it may be any one of those three, and it depends on whether they continue to abuse the rules.

The most memorable back-and-forth took place between Senator Hatch and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. (pictured above).

SEN. HATCH: In every case except two they were–they, they had bipartisan votes. In two of them–in 1993, Clinton’s bill, yeah, they got a reconciliation bill on a purely partisan vote that Congress changed to Republicans. The Republicans did the same thing in I think it was 2005, got a bill through just on a totally partisan vote, and it changed to Democrats. The fact of the matter is you can’t…

MR. DIONNE: Are you talking about bipartisanship or you talking about reconciliation?

SEN. HATCH: You can’t–no, wait, wait, wait.  You can’t…

MR. DIONNE: These were reconciliation bills…

SEN. HATCH: That was reconciliation.

MR. DIONNE: …that picked up one or two Democrats.

SEN. HATCH: You cannot ignore the fact that we’re talking about the first time in history, sweeping social legislation will be passed, if they get their way, by a totally partisan vote.  One-sixth of the American economy.  If we do that, Katy bar the door, I got to tell you.

MR. DIONNE: If the Republican Party were not sitting there being obstructionist–what Senator Hatch is saying is, if Republicans unite and say, “We won’t vote for this,” and you need bipartisanship, he’s saying Democrats can’t govern.  And if $1.7 trillion…

SEN. HATCH: Well, they can’t.

MR. DIONNE: …in tax cuts isn’t significant, I don’t know what is.

MR. GREGORY: All right, let, let me…

SEN. HATCH: One very…

MR. GREGORY: Hold on, hold on.

In short: catnip for political junkies like myself.

Former Tennessee Representative Harold Ford Jr. (D), who recently announced that he’s not challenging Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for the New York Senate spot, also appeared on the show. Gregory asked him the following question:

Harold, final, final point on this piece of it, which is doesn’t the president have a bigger problem if he doesn’t get the reform he’s after than on taking a hit politically for the process?

The second line of Ford’s response turned out to be the phrase of the show:

You’re right, results are more important than process. The only ideology a majority of Americans are concerned about right now is the result. Two, reconciliation is a rule that can be used and invoked in the Senate. If Democrats have the votes, they should move forward with it. What Senator Hatch is saying is very simple, that if you do that you run the risk of political backlash. When Democrats did it in ’93–it actually was the right thing when Clinton passed that ’93 budget, because it helped us grow. Republicans did it in 2005, and there are other examples. There might be a political switch. But what I hear E.J. saying is that that’s a risk that they’re going to have to take.

Later in the show, Senator Hatch said the following about Ford:

You know, I, I think if more Democrats were like Harold Ford, we wouldn’t have half the problems that we have today.

When Dionne got the word, he commented on Hatch’s endorsement by saying:

First of all, I think when Harold Ford goes back to Tennessee and runs for the Senate, he’s going to use that endorsement from Senator Hatch.

Ford felt the need to clarify, and stated that:

E.J., I’ll, I’ll–when I run again, it’ll be from New York, which is where I live.

On This Week, yet another guest host tried out George Stephanopoulos’ old seat. Matthew Dowd did an OK job, but he’s not my favorite among the ones who’ve given it a try (in addition to Matthew Dowd; Jake Tapper, Terry Moran, Barbara Walters, Jonathan Karl and Elizabeth Vargas). I must say I prefer the way Meet The Press handled the replacement of the late Tim Russert. Basically, Tom Brokaw hosted the show in the interim, and when the new host was announced, it was permanent.

In an interview following Dowd’s interview with Sebelius, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KT-R) revealed that he hears what he wants to hear from the American people:

The American people have been deeply involved in this debate. What did they see? They see a bill that cuts Medicare by half a trillion dollars, that raises taxes about half a trillion dollars, and that almost certainly will raise the cost of insurance for those on the individual market. They also see the way it was passe, the cornhusker kickback, the Louisiana purchase, the gator-aid behind closed doors. They look at this whole package, both in terms of the policy and the process, and they say they don’t want it.

This Sunday’s biggest mischaracterization? George Will claiming that Robert Reich views the American people as “dopes.”

As far as laughable moments go, the Roundtable erupted during a video of Senator Blanche Lincoln’s (AR-D) latest commercial. In the spot, the slogan “One Tough Lady” is shown on the screen while Senator Lincoln sits on the floor among kids tossing money around – while a voice-over touts her “no” votes in the Senate. If nothing else, I’ve finally seen the much talked about money that Republicans are talking about when they say the Democrats are “borrowing/stealing money from our grandchildren.”

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday?

I’ve already mentioned Ford’s “ideology of results,”  but there were a couple of memorable ones on This Week as well:

Donna Brazile:

Corruption is a bipartisan problem.

George Will:

Cognitive dissonance on a grand scale.

The winner: Harold Ford Jr. and his “ideology of results”:

The only ideology a majority of Americans are concerned about right now is the result.

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

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