Archive for the ‘Sunday talk show highlights’ Category

Sunday talk show highlights, April 4, 2010

April 5, 2010

This Monday, Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation. In short: Easter break, cherry blossoms, and yellow ties. What else?

On Meet the Press, host David Gregory talked about the growing anger aimed at Washington, and posed the following question to Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT):

In this highly charged political atmosphere, where you’ve got so much passion, so much disagreement, this takes it, of course, to a different level. But we’re also operating in a recession and at a time where there’s a lot of anger at Washington. How has the nature of that threat escalated, in your view?

Lieberman answered:

Well, the threat has definitely escalated. And all the conditions that you mentioned, David, are there to encourage people. Look, I would say a word of caution to my colleagues in both political parties and, frankly, in the media. The level of discourse about our politics and about our country are so extreme and so incendiary that if you’re dealing with people who may, may not be clicking on all cylinders and, and may have vulnerabilities personally, there’s a danger that they’re going to do what this group of militia planned to do this week. I would not overstate this threat. It is not as significant as the global threat of Islamist extremism, but it is real.

Discussing the same topic, Gregory brought Tim McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombings into the debate in a question to Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security:

You know, people may forget, if you go back to the Oklahoma City bombings, Tim McVeigh first went to Waco not to protest the government’s role there, but to protest the Brady gun law. So this notion of the government doing things to you is a very powerful motivator to some.

Chertoff answered:

Well, you know, you always get fringe groups on both sides of the spectrum, going back, as you say, to Waco and Ruby Ridge in the early ’90s, and that culminated, of course, in the Oklahoma City bombing. And then that depressed this a little bit. But it always lurks in the background. And we see it also with some of the extreme anti-globalization and animal rights people on the left. So I think we’ve learned how to manage this. I agree with Senator Lieberman, this is not of the order of magnitude of what we see with global terrorism. But, look, the fact that people can get on the Internet, and they can see the tactics that are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan creates a risk that those will be copycatted here. And, frankly, we’ve seen that in Mexico. In northern Mexico, the criminal groups, which are not politically motivated, actually have adopted beheadings and other tactics of terrorism as part of pushing their agenda against President Calderon.

On a similar note, Gregory asked Time Magazine editor Richard Stengel about how President Obama is trying to make sense of the Tea Party Movement, and Stengel answered:

I think it’s hard. You know, there’s that great famous American bumper sticker, “I love my country, but I fear my government.” That’s what tea partiers are about. They’re mainly Republicans, but there’s this disenchantment in the land with government as a whole. The USA Today/Gallup poll the other day showed three-quarters of Americans are basically disenchanted with governmental institutions. They are plucking people from that. But the issue for Republicans and for Democrats, and for, and for Barack Obama in particular, is how do you lure back those independents? More and more people are identifying themselves as independents, and how do I, how do I bring them back in? And, and even to go back to your previous question, I mean, remember, you know, Mario Cuomo famously said, you know, “We campaign in poetry and we govern in prose.” He’s got to govern with a little bit more poetry, I think, to get some of those folks, too.

As I see it, Obama needs to show the American people that his number one priority is getting people back to work, and I think this should be done in prose, so to speak, but it wouldn’t hurt to sweeten the packaging with a little poetry.

Addressing the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, Gregory wanted to know where President Obama is politically after the passage of health care reform, and Remnick answered:

Well, anytime you have 10 percent unemployment, you’re not going to have soaring approval. Anytime the, the economy is troubled in many areas, you’re not going to have soaring approval ratings, despite the personal popularity of Barack Obama. I think, you know, he’s not in trouble, but he’s not going to be able to lift all Democratic votes in November. It’s going to be a tough road in November.

Remnick should’ve added: Although Obama isn’t in trouble at the movement, incumbent Democrats seeking re-election certainly are.

Having just released a book entitled ”The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama”, David Remnick had the following to say about Barack Obama’s performance as president:

He’s a man of the center left, but a deep pragmatist, and his, his style is conciliation, his style is to put his arms around as many people as possible and try to bring them into a compromise. We saw that at its apogee in the healthcare situation. But the question is, will it apply in some of these other big questions that you raise, like, like nuclear Iran? I don’t think putting your arms around Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to work, and he’s got to get the U.N. on board.

On This Week, host Jake Tapper conducted two dull interviews with Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan. During the Roundtable discussion, Tapper posed the following question to George Will:

George, the president says he’s encouraged by the job numbers. Are you?

Will’s answer:

He’s easily encouraged.

Will obviously went on to describe why the positive March job numbers aren’t really that good after all.

On the topic of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and bondage themed strip clubs (!), Matthew Dowd’s comments stood out:

You know, obviously, I’m not a rocket scientist, but when you have lesbian bondage strip club associated with your name, it’s never a good thing for anybody (Tapper added: In politics), unless you’re employed at the strip club. You know, the only difference between Democratic officials at a strip club and Republican officials at a strip club is Democratic officials say hi to each other.

Haha. OK, continue Mr. Dowd:

I think the problem is hypocrisy, is purely hypocrisy. It’s not the strip club and all that. It’s Republicans go out there and talk about fiscal responsibility and they talk about family values, and they have a party leader and party officials who go to a strip club, who are involved in this process, that say that their private actions or their actions of donors’ money does not match what their message is, and that’s the problem.

Robert Reich added:

Well, you know, there’s obviously a kind of an off- message problem here for the Republicans. And, Matt, when you talk about hypocrisy, yes, but hypocrisy is not exactly something new in this town.

On Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer abandoned his usual format and started off with a roundtable discussion. During that discussion, Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dryson talked about President Obama’s positioning on the right-left continuum:

On the one hand, he’s got to recognize that he’s governing all of America. And as a result of that he has to, you know, give in to, so to speak, and make concessions to conservative basis, not right wing, but conservative basis. And at the same time tact toward the middle as he’s done after winning a perceived left victory, although the left is laughing and guffawing, saying it’s not a left victory. But in realistic terms and realpolitik, the fact is that he got the health care through. Now he’s got to go back and let’s talk about, you know drilling on shores from the tip of Delaware down, you know, past a hundred and sixty-seven miles. So the reality is he’s trying to balance it out. He doesn’t want to give to the tea parties on the one hand, although, he can see some legitimate points and anger. At the same time he has to govern according to a vision for which he was called in to office.

That is to say reform health care, deal with the student loan, to deal with nonproliferation [with] Russia. I mean he had a heck of a week when you look at it in real terms. The guy had a great week and now he’s suffering polls that are declining. I think what it suggests is that is that it’s an up and down, it’s give and take. And I think Obama understands that. Though some of us who are progressives, some of us who are leaning toward the left wish that he might make more grand overtures in that fashion. The reality is he’s trying to govern through the middle. He’s taking a page out of the Clinton playbooks, so to speak.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Sadly, no one, but at least the following quote from Matthew Dowd made me laugh:

You know, the only difference between Democratic officials at a strip club and Republican officials at a strip club is Democratic officials say hi to each other.

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

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Sunday talk show highlights, March 28, 2010

March 29, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week, State of the Union and Fox News Sunday.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory interviewed Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). During the interview, Graham lost his connection with Washington twice, and Senator Schumer didn’t seem to mind:

Hey, I like the show this way. … It’s pretty good.

When Senator Graham got his audio back, he didn’t have any problems responding to Schumer’s talking points:

MR. GREGORY: But you, you have the floor here. You know what some of the discussion has been. What is your view?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, I do, I do. Well…

During his time on the air, Graham was able to voice his own talking points as well, and he managed to squeeze in the phrase ”ponzi scheme” – referring to the cost of the health care bill – four times.

During the roundtable discussion, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin had this to say about the signing of the health care bill:

I think the key thing that the legacy is not simply what this is going to do for the future but what it’s done, which you started on, to Obama’s leadership. You know, when LBJ got civil rights through in ’64, he said it felt so incredible inside to have done something that will make life better for millions of Americans. He said, ‘Now I’m going for voting rights. Now I’m going for Medicare.’ It emboldens a president. The fact that it was so tough in the Congress, and it became difficult, they’re in the trenches together, they’ve come out more unified, the Democrats. The party has its morale back up. Even the sense of the countries abroad, he’s a winner, he won something. I agree with you that the battle’s only begun, because the battle of public sentiment was never won by the Obama people. The Republicans won it with the ‘death panels,’ they won it maybe with falsehoods, but still the majority of the people still don’t feel good about this bill. So they still have a lot to do, I think, to compress their arguments and make sure that they reach the country. Lincoln once said … that ‘He who molds public sentiment is more important than he who passes laws.’ … That with public sentiment, everything’s possible. Without it, nothing is. Public sentiment still has to be won.

As Mark Twain once said: “Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.”

Moving along, the following exchange took place between Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Republican strategist Mike Murphy:

MR. SHRUM: … The Scott Brown era is the shortest era in the history of American politics, and he helped us pass the bill. Because once he got there, once he got there, the Democrats said, “We can’t ping-pong this back and forth between the Senate and the House. The House must pass the Senate bill, then we’ll fix it in reconciliation.”

MR. MURPHY: That was a freight train of disingenuous sound bites, and I can’t try to address them all.

MR. SHRUM: It was actually … the march of truth.

MR. MURPHY: It was baloney. I worked on the Romney healthcare bill, you didn’t. I know you don’t. Here’s my question for you.

MR. SHRUM: I do know the Romney healthcare bill. He helped write it with Senator Kennedy.

Flashback to the 1988 vice-presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle:

QUAYLE: … I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur.

BENTSEN: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

On a different note, Sarah Palin has been campaigning for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in his re-election bid against former Representative J.D. Hayworth, and in her appearance she tied herself, McCain and the Republican Party to the Tea Party movement:

And let me clear the air right now. We might as well call it like we see it, right, and not beat around the bush. In respect to the tea party movement, beautiful movement. You know what, everybody here today supporting John McCain, we are all a part of that tea party movement.

Palin’s statement led to the following remarks:

MR. GREGORY: Is that true? That’s probably what Republicans hope is true, that the tea party is part of the Republican Party.

MR. MEACHAM: I think perhaps that crowd, perhaps it was true there. … But I don’t think so. … You know, when you have these extreme, more vociferous and ferocious movements, it doesn’t always help. As Churchill once said in another context, ’It’s a good starter but it’s not a good finisher.’ And the way parties absorb these things–and we’ve seen it a thousand times; we’ve seen it with Wallace, we’ve seen it with Perot–is they take some part of the grievance, address it and press forward. I think we’re–you know, partly we’re built for argument. I mean, we–the system wasn’t created to really resolve much.

At the end of the show, host David Gregory gave a short history lesson to put Democrats’ prospects in the upcoming mid-terms into context:

Forty-five years ago in Washington there was another heated debate about providing health care to Americans. Despite vigorous Republican opposition, a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress passed sweeping reform. July 30th, 1965, the country’s largest ever expansion of public health care, the Medicare program, was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in Independence, Missouri, the hometown of President Harry Truman, who had fought for a national health insurance program 20 years prior. A year later, Republicans made some big gains in the midterm election due in large part to President Johnson’s unpopularity. The GOP netted 47 House seats.

On This Week, guest host Jake Tapper moderated a debate between Governors Haley Barbour (R-MS) and Ed Rendell (D-PA). In a question to Governor Barbour, Tapper stated that he didn’t want to “pick on Mississippi”, but then he did:

Studies indicate Mississippi is last in the nation when it comes to health care, when it comes to access, quality, costs and outcomes.Your state ranks worst in the country for obesity, hypertension, diabetes, adult physical inactivity, low weight birth babies. It has one of the highest rates of infant mortality.

Ouch.

Later on, Governor Barbour stated that he was surprised to find that the percentage in favor of the bill isn’t higher than it is, considering the “liberal media’s” biased coverage in the days following the passage of the health care bill:

And candidly, I am surprised that the numbers in the Washington Post poll weren’t better. I mean, since this thing passed last weekend, we have seen the longest wet kiss in political history given to the Obama administration by the liberal media elite, and every day that goes by, it gets sloppier.

During the Roundtable, George Will took a stab at Paul Krugman’s Nobel Prize by stating:

Paul’s prizes in economics, not practical Washington wisdom.

Discussing Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile stated that:

For the Democrats, I don’t think it hurts us at all to have Sarah Palin out there, whipping up the base, whipping up the tea parties. Stir up as much tea as you want. It’s producing a lot of coffee drinkers within the Democratic Party.

Switching shows, host Candy Crowley of CNN’s State of the Union focused on the aftermath of last Sunday’s tea party protest in Washington, D.C.:

SARAH PALIN: Hearing the news reports lately, kind of this ginned up controversy about us, common- sense conservatives, inciting violence because we happen to oppose some of the things in the Obama administration–

CROWLEY: FOX’s Sean Hannity had more than doubts.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: And this is denied by a lot of people. I am not seeing the videotape that confirms this yet. If anyone has it, send it to me, I want to see it, of racial slurs, anti- gay slurs being made at the tea party movement. Do we have any evidence that corroborates this at all?

CROWLEY: Two FOX reporters responded that they had seen no evidence. So we begin by trying to set the record straight. There is video. Watch Congressman Emanuel Cleaver as he approaches the man on the left. Cleaver confirms that this man spit on him. He confirms that this is the man whom Capitol Police detained. Cleaver chose not to press charges. From where they were positioned, CNN microphones did not pick up racial epithets.

As for anti-gay slurs, a CNN producer heard the word ‘faggot’ yelled at Barney Frank more than once in the House Longworth Building. The producer cannot say for sure whether it was coming from one person or more.

What to make of it? I find it astonishing that instead of simply denouncing the actions of a set of angry and hateful people, the talking heads over at Fox News and Sarah Palin (who is also a contributor to Fox News) have decided to go the usual route of attacking the “liberal media” by questioning their accounts. Come on. Attack the content of the health care bill all you want, but it shouldn’t be hard to simply denounce anyone uttering the N-word or “faggot”. The paranoid style in American politics is alive and kicking when reports of hateful remarks aren’t met with a backbone reflex to denounce, but with  questions of the truthfulness of the media’s account.

Over on Fox News Sunday,  host Chris Wallace moderated a debate touted as the “Florida Senate Showdown” between Florida Governor Charlie Crist and former Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio.

Wallace quoted the number of jobs created or saved by the stimulus money accepted by Governor Crist (87,000), to which Rubio replied the following:

If it’s bad for America, it can’t possibly be good for your state.

I guess if you think it’s bad for America to create or save jobs, it’s also bad for Florida to save or create jobs in Florida. Crist should’ve used those words against Rubio, but he didn’t.

Like Palin, Rubio has his own vision of the Tea Party Movement:

The Tea Party movement has been mischaracterized in the press as some sort of an organization. Tea Parties are where people go and what people do. It’s not what they are …, it is not an organization. It is a broad-based group of everyday Americans from all walks of life.

To summarize the debate: Crist would’ve voted for the stimulus, Rubio against it. Marco Rubio’s favorite Senator is Jim DeMint (R-SC), while Charlie Crist’s favorite Senators are John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Rubio has been endorsed by Mike Huckabee, Senator DeMint and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI). Crist has been endorsed by Senators McCain, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Crist opposes parts of the health care bill, while Rubio would repeal the whole thing.

The essence of Rubio’s message: We can’t trust Governor Crist to stand up to Barack Obama. The essence of Crist’s message: Rubio can’t be trusted – he won’t even reveal his tax returns! Also, “I’ll put Floridians first, that’s why I accepted the stimulus.”

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Shrum’s “Scott Brown era” was good, but the one that stuck was Governor Barbour’s “longest wet kiss in political history”:

Since this thing passed last weekend, we have seen the longest wet kiss in political history given to the Obama administration by the liberal media elite, and every day that goes by, it gets sloppier.

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

Happy Easter!

Sunday talk show highlights, March 21, 2010

March 22, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week and Face The Nation.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory read from an article by the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein that summed up the situation of the American health care system on the day of the historic vote in the House:

CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has projected that the Senate bill would raise enough revenue and sufficiently cut existing spending to both cover its costs and reduce the federal deficit in the near and long term. For fiscal hawks, that’s a powerful incentive for action. But equally compelling could be the price of inaction. If Obama’s plan fails, as President Clinton’s did, it’s likely that no president would attempt a seriously expand coverage for many years. The independent Medicare actuary has projected that under current trends the number of uninsured will increase by 10 million, to about 57 million, by 2019. Providing uncompensated care to so many uninsured people would further strain physicians and hospitals – and inflate premiums as those providers shift costs to their insured patients.

Later in the show, Gregory read a letter from RNC Chairman Michael Steele penned to its supporters, and followed up with a question to Steele:

MR. GREGORY: “After a year a pushing his radical socialist health care `reform’ experiment, Obama has just a few more days to wait to see” if “his number one priority” succeeded.  … “If Pelosi can successfully cajole, intimidate, coerce her Democrat majority into approving a bill the American people are against by a 3:1 margin, Obama and the rest of the radical Democrats in Washington will see their dream of government-run, government-rationed health care come true.” And, you know, critics of, of that kind of appeal with that sort of heavy rhetoric say this is a healthcare package that is more moderate than President Nixon actually put forward.

MR. STEELE:  Well, not the way the American people see it.

Facts are facts, no matter how the American people perceive them. Politicians, however, are masters of misrepresentation, and that’s why facts don’t always command the weight they deserve in political debates.

On a related note, NBC’s political director Chuck Todd – Washington’s foremost advocate of the goatee – talked about why Democrats and Republicans disagree on health care reform:

One thing I think we forget … on the issue of health care is that this actually gets at the philosophical divide between Democrats and Republicans. I’ve asked many a Republican and many a Democrat on this issue, is health care coverage a right or a privilege? And that divide in it, it is a philosophical divide. So, on this issue, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’re sitting here so polarized. It’s sort of the fundamental reason why somebody’s a Democrat, believing in a more activist government, or somebody’s a Republican, believing in keeping government smaller. … You know, when I was hearing the two party chairmen saying, “Well, maybe on immigration, maybe on energy they can come”–well, that’s because they, actually, are regional differences, this isn’t a philosophical divide. This is truly one of the great philosophical divides of American politics.

PBS’ Tavis Smiley also participated in the roundtable:

I’m not naive when I say this and know that I’m sitting in Washington this morning–the problem with Washington is that everything is about political calculation. It’s never about doing the right thing on behalf of the American people. It’s about, ‘Is this going to help me?  Is this going to hurt me? Does it help or hurt in my fundraising? Am I going to win or am I going to lose?’ LBJ did the right thing on civil rights because it was right for the country. You cannot become a transformational president, we cannot become transformational people if everything is about media, market, and political calculation; and that’s what’s wrong with these very graphs, that nobody’s getting to the heart of the fact that Americans are dying in this debate. We’ve never talked about even health disparities. I was in Chicago yesterday.  Thirty-two hundred black folk every year die in Chicago just because of health disparities. So it’s–we got to move beyond this–again, I’m not naive here, but we got to move beyond political calculation if we’re going to advance these big issues in America.

I’m sorry Mr. Smiley, but Washington will never truly move beyond political calculation. The political calculations simply aren’t favorable enough.

This Week was hosted by Jonathan Karl, and I’m pleased to announce that ABC News has finally reached a decision on George Stephanopoulos’ permanent replacement. Jake Tapper will host the show until CNN’s Christiane Amanpour takes over the hosting job in August (Politico has more).

The first part of the show featured a debate between Representatives John Larson (D-CT) and Eric Cantor (R-VA). Karl asked Larson whether or not the Democrats had enough votes in the House, and Larson’s reply signaled his confidence of a 216+ vote margin in the House:

We have the votes. We are going to make history today. Not since President Roosevelt passed Social Security, Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare, and today, Barack Obama will pass health care reform, demonstrating whose side we’re on.

Also touting the historic nature of the health care reform, Karl played a clip of President Obama’s speech to the Democratic caucus on Saturday March 20. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Obama stated that:

We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.

In the end, the Democrats “won” with the passage of the bill in the House, but in hindsight, if the bill hadn’t passed, the quote would have worked either way.

Moving along to the show’s biggest mischaracterization, courtesy of Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA):

What it is, Jonathan, it is about trying to attack the American ideal. That’s what’s going on with this bill.

In the end, the most memorable moment of the show came with the showdown between Karl Rove and David Plouffe. Attacking Rove and the Republican Party, Plouffe stated that:

Well, first of all, Karl, the Republicans have zero credibility, about as much credibility as the country of Greece does, to talk about fiscal responsibility.

Rove shot back:

For God’s sake, will you stop throwing around epithets and deal with the facts for once, David?

Later on in their heated exchange, Rove stated that

We will fight the election on this, and the Democrats will have significant losses in the House and Senate as a result of this bill.

Plouffe bounced back:

Well, listen, Karl and a lot of Republicans want to call the election all over. They ought to break out that ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner they put on the USS Abraham Lincoln, OK?

Oh snap.

During the roundtable discussion, George Will described his perception of the aftermath following the House vote:

Now, Democrats who will vote in the House today for this think they’re going to put it behind them. The odds are very good, after the reconciliation procedures are done in the Senate, that it will come back to the House, so we’re going to be wallowing in health care for a long time to come. And, finally, once this is passed, the American people will look at the health care system and say, ‘This is the system the Democrats wanted,’ so every complaint they have is going to be a complaint about Democrats.

On Face The Nation, host Bob Schieffer devoted the entire show to the House vote on the Senate bill, save his comment at the end of the show:

Finally today, Washington’s always been a one-story town. And for the last few weeks, months really, the story has been health care reform. It’s all we’ve been talking about around here, which is probably one reason, a rather important anniversary passed without much notice–March 19th. Ring a bell? Probably not. But March 19th was the seventh anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which began our longest war. The heavy new cycle was not the only reason it went unnoticed. We remember the wars and events that had an impact on our daily lives–December 7th or 9/11. But in the age of the all-volunteer military, few of us remember much about the war that had so little effect on our day-to-day lives, especially, a war where questions still exist over whether it should have been fought at all? The Iraq war was fought by one half of one percent of us. And unless we were part of that small group or had a relative who was, we went about our lives as usual most of the time–no draft. No new taxes. No changes. Not so for the small group who fought the war and their families. Ask them about the sacrifice, the death toll of nearly forty-four hundred Americans and the thousands more who were wounded. Now, that it is finally winding down, thousands of Americans are still there. And history will eventually decide if it was worth it all. While history decides, let us remember that whatever history’s verdict, the fate of those who died there or suffered life-altering injuries can never change. Good war or bad, for them it is the same. The war have may–may have had little impact on most of our lives, but we owe that small group of people.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Although he struggled in the debate with Karl Rove, David Plouffe was able to fire back with a couple of memorable lines. First and foremost:

Karl and a lot of Republicans want to call the election all over. They ought to break out that “Mission Accomplished” banner they put on the USS Abraham Lincoln, OK?

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

Sunday talk show highlights, March 14, 2010

March 15, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week, and State of the Union.

As I pointed out last Sunday, when the White House wants a certain message out there, one of their representatives headline Meet The Press and This Week. Last week it was Health & Human Services Secreteary Kathleen Sebelius. This week it was Obama’s Senior Adviser David Axelrod – who also headlined State of the Union.

Axelrod certainly had his talking points down, and his most repeated phrase was that the American people ”deserves an up or down vote on health care”, a line repeated on This Week by former Obama White House communications director Anita Dunn.

On Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw – the man with the deepest voice in television news – was sitting in for David Gregory. Brokaw started the interview with Axelrod by laying out the road ahead for passing health care reform:

First, the House will be voting on the Senate bill, which was approved in December.

The House will then also vote on a package of changes via reconciliation. That’s a procedure that they can get passed on a majority vote mostly to do with budget items.

The president then would sign the Senate health bill if it gets passed.

The Senate passes the House’s package of changes from reconciliation with a simple majority vote.

And then the president would sign the reconciliation bill.

In his interview with Karl Rove, Brokaw asked the following question on Rove’s perception of media bias:

You describe a Washington Post columnist as “snarky.” You complain kind of consistently–and people in your position have done this for a long, long time–about the press coverage. You’re now at Fox News. Do you think that Fox News is fair to President Obama?

Mr. Rove answered:

I think they–on the news side, absolutely. I think they’ve got first-rate individuals at the White House who do their job in as an objective, fair and balanced way.  Yeah, absolutely.

On a related topic, Brokaw’s discussion with New York Times’ columnists David Brooks and Tom Friedman focused on the phenomenon of so-called ”information cocoons”:

MR. BROKAW:  Let’s talk about this country and what’s going on here right now. You said to me over the weekend that you’re going to be spending more time looking at America because there’s so much going on at this time. Let’s share with our audience what David had to say recently about the political climate. “In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define [his modern brand of moderate progressivism] without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect.” Has the political culture been hijacked by the mechanics of the information technology?

MR. BROOKS: Well, I do think everything–everybody gets to pick their own reality these days. The–a lot of liberals think Obama’s been very weak and he’s not forceful enough. I think he’s been amazingly tenacious on Afghanistan, on health care, on education. Pretty tough guy, I think. A lot of conservatives think he’s a socialist, trying to turn us into Sweden. Give me a break! Is that what this health care is about? But people like that because they want all differences to be 180 degrees rather than 30 degrees. And so they get to pick that reality because it makes them feel good.

Brooks’ “information cocoons” can certainly be viewed as another product of The Opinionated Decade.

Switching shows, This Week was once again hosted by Jake Tapper, and he interviewed Senator Lindsey Graham (SC-R) after his interview with Axelrod. Commenting on that interview, Graham stated:

MR. GRAHAM: … The interview I just heard is spin, campaigning. I thought the campaigning was over. Are you trying to tell me and the American people that Scott Brown got elected campaigning against a Washington bill that really is just like the Massachusetts bill?

The American people are getting tired of this crap. No way in the world is what they did in Massachusetts like what we’re about to do in Washington. We didn’t cut Medicare — they didn’t cut Medicare when they passed the bill in Massachusetts. They didn’t raise $500 billion on the American people when they passed the bill in Massachusetts.

To suggest that Scott Brown is basically campaigning against the bill in Washington that is like the one in Massachusetts is complete spin. I’ve been in bipartisan deals, I was in the “gang of 14” to stop the Senate from blowing up when the Republicans wanted to change the rules and use the majority vote to get judges through.

If they do this, it’s going to poison the well for anything else they would like to achieve this year or thereafter.

On a lighter note, Tapper hinted at the Massa-saga by stating that he couldn’t “promise any tickle fights” in the introduction of the Roundtable.

During the Roundtable discussion, Tapper posed the following question to George Will:

George, Congressman, former Congressman Ray LaHood, who is now the transportation secretary, but was a Republican member of Congress, he has an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune saying — talking about why, as a member of the House, he would have voted for this bill, because this bill reduces the deficit and also brings down health care costs, and it will make insurance more affordable. Do you believe he would have voted for it as a Republican congressman?

Will responded:

Not a bit. It reduces the deficit because you have ten years of taxes and six years of benefits and other accounting gimmicks. You have said a moment ago essentially what Mr. Axelrod said there, which is, gosh, the American people like elements of this bill so let’s pass this bill. I like sauerkraut and I like ice cream. I don’t like sauerkraut ice cream. When you put this mish-mash together — the public has looked at it. Now, Nancy Pelosi said this week, we have to pass this bill so we can find out what’s in it. I think the American people already know what’s in it.

Anita Dunn and Jake Tapper responded to the sauerkraut ice cream comment:

DUNN: I’m not actually sure you ever tried sauerkraut ice cream and I’m not sure anybody has.

TAPPER: It is quite scrumptious.

DUNN: It could be very good.

One last thing stood out on This Week. It was on the topic of the so-called palace intrigue in the White House:

TAPPER: Speaking of the process argument, in the last few weeks, this town has been obsessed with this palace intrigue story of whether or not the fact that the bill has had such troubles getting passed, is the fault of the president’s advisers, whether David Axelrod, who was here earlier, or White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In fact, Rahm, if you look at the covers of the New York Times magazine and the New Republic, he is quite the cover boy. And Anita, having worked with these two men, Axelrod portrayed as something of the president’s liberal conscience, Emanuel portrayed as the pragmatic deal maker. Is this story of in-fighting and palace intrigue, is it fair?

DUNN: It’s a very overblown story. Are there disagreements among the president’s advisers? Of course. They’re human beings and everybody brings different things to the table.

But you know, David and Rahm, who are very old friends, are kind of like the Oscar and Felix of the White House. Right? They are different stylistically, but they’re not all that different when it comes to their approach. And where they are totally united is in their commitment to the president and what he wants to get done. So I think these stories, you know, when things — when White Houses hit a rough patch in this town, people go from being smart to being stupid in about a nanosecond. And I think that’s kind of where we are right now. I’ll put myself in the realms of the stupid right now, but the reality is that I think this is one of the more overblown stories you’re going to see.

ABC News’ Cokie Roberts joined in:

ROBERTS: You have White House intrigue stories when things are going badly. When things are going well, it’s a well-oiled machine and everything is, you know, and everyone is behaving well and all that. When things start to fall apart, you get these stories.

On State of the Union, host Candy Crawley’s interview with David Axelrod was followed by an interview with House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH-R). The majority of the interview focused on health care, and the essentials of Boehner’s approach are layed out in the following exchange:

CROWLEY: What’s the Republican role now on the House side? What is there left for you all to do?

BOEHNER: I’m doing everything I can to prevent this bill from becoming law. Plain and simple. We have offered our ideas.

CROWLEY: And what do you do?

BOEHNER: We’ve asked the president to sit down and work with us. They have refused all the way through the process. And–

CROWLEY: You had the summit.

BOEHNER: Oh, they had the summit. We offered our ideas.

CROWLEY: And he incorporated some, did he not?

BOEHNER: That — and — and took a couple of Republican bread crumbs and put them on top of their 2,700 page bill. That’s not good enough. And so while — what I’m doing is working with my colleagues to keep the American people engaged in this fight. I don’t have enough votes on my side of the aisle to stop the bill. But I, along with a majority of the American people who are opposed to this, can stop this bill. And we’re going to do everything we can to make it difficult for them, if not impossible to pass the bill.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Unlike most other Sunday’s, there weren’t many rhetorical flourishes to speak of (well, Boehner’s “Republican bread crumbs” was actually kind of good). However, George Will once again pulled one out of the hat:

You have said a moment ago essentially what Mr. Axelrod said there, which is, gosh, the American people like elements of this bill so let’s pass this bill. I like sauerkraut and I like ice cream. I don’t like sauerkraut ice cream.

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

Sunday talk show highlights, March 7, 2010

March 8, 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.

Sunday talk show highlights, Feb. 28, 2010

March 1, 2010

This Monday: Meet The Press and This Week (Apparently, my taste in Sunday talk shows follows the ratings [Meet The Press usually ranks first, and This Week second]. It might also be that I prefer the interview-followed-by-roundtable format, as opposed to the interview-followed by Bob Schieffer commentary on CBS’s Face The Nation).

Senator John McCain (AZ-R) headlined Meet The Press this Sunday, and he currently holds second place on the list of guests with the highest number of appearances on the show. Bob Dole tops the list with 63 appearances – nine more than McCain – while Joe Biden trails at third place with 44 appearances.  McCain seemed relaxed and smiled a lot, and he should’ve done more of that during the campaign (not that it would have mattered in the end).

During the lengthy discussion on health care, several numbers were tossed around, as the guests described the Democratic health care proposal. According to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-D), the plan will cover “31 million people.” Host David Gregory stated the Democratic proposal would cover “30 million” new people, whereas the Republican plan would cover 3 million currently uninsured Americans. National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, on the other hand, citing the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) number, placed the number at “33 million.”

In the end though, Representative Schultz did a bad job of defending and promoting the Democratic Party’s agenda. On top of that, Schultz’s constant interruptions were annoying, and it brought political bickering to a roundtable discussion that, more often than not, is characterized by its civilized debate environment.

On This Week, Elizabeth Vargas had her hosting début, making her the fifth ABC anchor to try out for the seat left empty by George Stephanopoulos when he left for Good Morning America (in addition to Jake Tapper, Terry Moran, Barbara Walters and Jonathan Karl). She did a good job, and I’d have no problems with her taking over the job permanently.

During the roundtable discussion, on the topic of the health care bill, The New York Times’ Paul Krugman demonstrated the authority that comes with being a Nobel laureate:

KRUGMAN: Look, let me explain what happens, because you actually have to read the CBO report. And what the CBO report tells you — in fairly elliptical language — is that what it will do, what the bill will do is bring a lot of people who are uninsured, who are currently young and therefore relatively low cost, into the risk pool, which will actually bring premiums down a little bit.

It will also have, however, let — lead a lot of people to get better insurance. It will lead a lot of people who are currently underinsured, who have insurance policies that are paper thin and don’t actually protect you in a crisis, will actually get those people up to having full coverage. That makes the average payments go up, but it does not mean that people who currently have good coverage under their policies will pay more for their — for their insurance. In fact, they’ll end up paying a little bit less.

Whatever George Will had to say at that point didn’t really matter.

Senator Lamar Alexander (TN-R), who held the Republicans’ opening remarks at last Thursday’s health care summit, followed his impressive appearance at Blair House with an impressive performance on This Week. Intriguingly, the failed candidate for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination framed the United States Senate as “the protector of minority rights”, instead of being the protector of small states – some of which voted for the president heading the current majority (such as Vermont and Delaware – both with 3 electoral votes – and  Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire – with 4 electoral votes).

The most memorable “back and forth” took place between George Will and Sam Donaldson:

DONALDSON: … The president has to drop his George B. McClellan mask and become Ulysses Grant. Be ruthless. That’s what a Franklin Roosevelt would have done. That’s what Harry Truman would have done.

When Will got the word, he replied:

WILL: … Sam, you want the president to be Ulysses Grant, who won the war by his wonderful indifference to his own casualties, and I think some members in the Senate and in the House would not approve of that.

Before I end, what was this week’s most memorable phrase? John McCain’s “unsavory deals” (repeated six times). If nothing else, the phrase stuck with me.

(Videotape) PRES. OBAMA:  Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore.  The election’s over.

SEN. McCAIN:  I, I, I–I’m reminded of that every day. …

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY:  What was your reaction to that moment?

SEN. McCAIN:  Well, look, the president said that the, the campaign is over. What I was saying to the president is that you–the mistake that has been made is assuming that with 60 votes in the Senate and overwhelming majority in the House, you can move legislation through which has to be bipartisan in nature. It has to be.  Every major reform has had bipartisan support.  And so what they ended up with is, in order to buy votes, they did these unsavory deals. They are unsavory.  To say that 800,000 people in Florida will be carved out from any reduction in a Medicare Advantage program–330,000 of my citizens in Arizona are Medicare Advantage enrollees. To … say that you’re going to put $100 million in for a hospital in Connecticut?  Look, these are unsavory deals. They were done behind closed doors, and it has been–look, I’d have town hall meetings all over the place in my state of Arizona.  People object to the process as much as they do to the product.

MR. GREGORY:  But, you know, Senator, the president…

SEN. McCAIN:  And policy cannot be made through an unsavory vote-buying process.

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

UPDATE: Regarding our phrase of the week, Stephen Colbert just tweeted this (Tuesday March 2):

mccain calls the deals in the healthcare bill unsavory, but some of that pork was exquisitely spiced and tender.

Sunday talk show highlights, Feb. 21, 2010

February 22, 2010

Every Sunday, I watch NBC’s Meet The Press and ABC’s This Week. Occasionally, I also watch either CBS’ Face The Nation or FOX News’ Fox News Sunday.

Every Monday, I’ll post my personal highlights from the shows I’ve watched. This Monday: Meet The Press and This Week.

On Meet The Press, it was the response to the following question from host David Gregory that stood out:

MR. GREGORY:  Evan Bayh, senator from Indiana, surprisingly decided he would not run for re-election this week.  And here’s what he said during one of his interviews. … “The extremes of both parties have to be willing to accept compromises from time to time to make some progress because some progress for the American people is better than nothing.  And all too often, recently, we’ve been getting nothing.” Congressmen, a little constructive engagement here, beyond the partisanship. What is going on?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN):  Well, I think what Evan Bayh was talking about was a Democratic Congress, and I agree with him very strongly that, under Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, Congress has been failing the American people.  The American people are tired of the borrowing, the spending, the bailouts, the takeovers.  But they’re also, David, I think tired of the, of the, the really “take-it-or-leave-it” approach the Democrats have taken.  I mean, it’s unthinkable that a massive healthcare bill, a massive energy bill was actually brought to the floor and the minority party was allowed one amendment on those bills.  I think people are tired of the backroom deals, I think they’re tired of the leadership the Democrats have brought to Capitol Hill, and I think that’s why, as Tim Pawlenty said, “I honestly believe the American people are going to take back the American Congress and put Republicans back in control this fall.”

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD):  David, let’s just flash back for a moment. The first nine months of the Obama administration, one of the most productive periods in recent legislative history, according to all independent outside observers, we passed an expansive children’s health care, paid for; we provided the opportunity for women to have their day in court on equal pay; we gave the FDA authority to protect our kids from tobacco use; we passed a very important public lands protection bill.  We passed a credit card billholders bill of rights.  We passed a whole lot of things.  Then we came to the healthcare debate.  Senator DeMint famously said, “We’re going to use this to break the president.  It’s going to be his Waterloo.” Just last week we had seven Republican senators, who had their names on a bill to create a deficit reduction commission, vote against it for purely partisan reasons.  There’s been a calculation by the Republican leadership that getting nothing done, to try and prevent the majority from working its will, as it did for the first nine months, is to their political advantage.  And there’s no other explanation for that vote we saw.

REP. PENCE:  There’s…

MR. GREGORY:  And here’s, here’s part of the problem, though.

REP. PENCE:  …been no calculation like that.

Message: Politics as usual.

On This Week, the Roundtable’s discussion about the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) stood out:

MORAN: And let me begin, George, with what we just saw, Glenn Beck, there, taking aim at the Republican Party, CPAC embracing the tea party movement, in a way. What does — what does it mean, this libertarian tea party streak coming into the movement conservatives, coming into the Republican Party?

WILL: … the energy, the intensity in American politics, right now, is on the right. And this is partly because a lot of the people who come to CPAC are college students. They’re young. And so there’s a bit of over-the-top rhetoric, as you would expect. And when you’re a year after a party has just lost the presidency, and you don’t have — the faces of the next generation aren’t clear, it’s the hour of the entertainer. And they had a lot of entertainers there.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile had a different view:

BRAZILE: … I didn’t watch too much of the CPAC. I didn’t want to get infected with the virus anger… (LAUGHTER) … given the blues that I’ve had over the past year.

Still on the topic of CPAC, Moran asked Will:

MORAN: … George, does it bother you at all that the John Birch Society is back inside the tent after Bill Buckley spent decades trying to run that wing of the party out?

WILL: It’s a big tent. And the tent is a circus imagery. And so you have a freak show side of it. But this is a trivial, infinitesimal, not-noticeable thing, other than by people eager to discredit the Republican Party.

During his CPAC speech this Saturday, Glenn Beck presented quite a different view of the big tent:

“We need a big tent. We need a big tent. Can we get a bigger tent? How can we get a big tent?” What is this the circus? America is not a clown show. America is not a circus. America is an idea. America is an idea that sets people free.

Before I end this short recap, who had the most memorable line this Sunday? Tip of the Hat to George Will:

With metronomic regularity, we go through these moments in Washington where we complain about the government being broken.

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


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