Posts Tagged ‘Jake Tapper’

Sunday talk show highlights, May 9, 2010

May 10, 2010

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

On Meet the Press, host David Gregory interviewed Attorney General Eric Holder, and asked him about the Times Square bomb plot in the context of racial profiling:

MR. GREGORY:  When, in this context, when is racial profiling illegal?

MR. HOLDER:  Well, I’m not sure–I don’t even talk about whether or not racial profiling is legal, I just don’t think racial profiling is a particularly good law enforcement tool.  If one focuses on particular groups, that necessarily means you’re taking law enforcement away from places where they probably ought to be. …

MR. GREGORY:  But what happened in this case?

MR. HOLDER:  Well…

MR. GREGORY:  Wasn’t it racial profiling that led us to ultimately get the most important piece of information from this guy, which was a telephone number that he uses in the plot because he was held aside from for a second screening earlier this year?

MR. HOLDER:  No.  What led us to him was good normal law enforcement. …

MR. GREGORY:  But where is the line, Mr. Attorney General?  Because, I mean, this is very complicated.  If you have U.S. citizens who are being used who are going back and forth to Pakistan–we are tracking people from Pakistan and Yemen for reasons that are relevant, that are germane to law enforcement not because they just happen to be Pakistani.  So where is the line when you talk about profiling?

MR. HOLDER:  Again, I don’t think that profiling is good law enforcement.

On a related topic, Gregory focused on the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the alleged mastermind behind 9/11:

MR. GREGORY:  … You announced that he would be in a civilian trial in New York.  And when you made that announcement back in November, this is what you said.

(Videotape, November 13, 2009) MR. HOLDER:  For over 200 years our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims.  Once again, we will ask our legal system in two venues to rise to that challenge.  I am confident that it will answer the call with fairness and with justice (End videotape).

MR. GREGORY:  Fairness and justice.  That same month you were asked what happens if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is acquitted, and this is what you said.

(Videotape, November 18, 2009) MR. HOLDER:  If there were the possibility that a trial was not successful, that would not mean that that person would be released into, into our country. That would–that is not a possibility (End videotape).

MR. GREGORY:  You said failure is not an option.  You said he will not be released.  And the broader criticism is, of you, that you say you believe in our civilian justice system.  And you said when you became attorney general that “I’m going to stick to those principles even when it’s hard.” And yet, with all the political pressure to be tough on terrorists, you said “I believe in the system” at the same time you appear to be rewriting the rules of that system, which, ultimately, critics say, can undermine the system.  Even with Shahzad, before he was charged, you held a press conference announcing that he had confessed.  Shouldn’t that be a concern to those who work with you and others who believe, as you say you do, in our civilian justice system?

MR. HOLDER:  Well, I believe in the civilian justice system.  I have certainly worked all my life in the civilian justice system.  I have confidence in the civilian justice system’s ability to handle these new threats that our country faces with regard to Shahzad, with regard to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  I think that we have conducted ourselves in a way that’s consistent with the best that is about our civilian justice system.  I don’t think that I have to take back anything that I have said in the past.  One of the things that we did with regard to that press conference was to get out there early to assure the American people generally and people in New York specifically that the person we thought was responsible for that attempted bombing was, in fact, in custody.

During the roundtable discussion, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. picked up on the issue:

This is a hard problem.  How do we protect ourselves and, at the same time, remain a nation rooted in liberty and law?  And we have faced this problem many times in our history going back to the Civil War, the two world wars, particularly World War I, the Cold War, and we haven’t always privileged liberty as a country.  And I think what you’re seeing in this debate is a kind of choice between a muddled approach–and I think the Obama administration has been muddled because it’s very complicated–vs. demagoguery, where anytime they seem to lean in any way toward civil liberties, somebody jumps on them.  But I tell you what scares me is the rise of less sophisticated forms of terror.  A car bomb is not flying a plane into a building, yet–you know, I spent time in Lebanon during the civil war there–car bombs are frightening.  We are very lucky, a combination of luck and skill of our police forces that we’ve stopped things so far.  But this would portend–I just pray these things don’t succeed because this really is terrorism by every definition.

Still on the topic of civil liberties, Dionne talked about the term “lawyered up”:

I just want to say I just hate this term “lawyered up.” Because if you are accused of a crime and you are innocent, you want a lawyer to defend your innocence.  And we totally forget that we have civil liberties protections not only to protect the guilty but to protect innocent people.  … “lawyered up” … is used over and over again to imply that any kind of use of normal judicial process, which is designed to protect innocence, sort of pushes us so far down the line that we forget why we have these protections in the first place. … I said right at the outset, protecting liberty and protecting ourselves, this is a tough matter when it comes to terrorism.  But we should not throw out our rights with … a term like “lawyered up.”

On the issue of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee (announced today, May 10: Elena Kagan), BBC World News’ Katty Kay had the following to say about Elena Kagan:

I think Elena Kagan is known as somebody who can lead and I think that is important to the White House as well at the moment.  She can sway opinions of other judges.  And, of course, Justice Kennedy as a swing judge is particularly important.  She has a fierce intellect.  She’s known actually, curiously, people from Harvard describe her similar terms to the way they described Obama that she’s known as a consensualist, somebody who can listen to different points of view and bring people together.  And I think in this divided court, that might be important for the White House as well.  The other thing is, if he is looking down the road and, perhaps, one of the women was to go, if he appointed another woman now, that still leaves him with two women on the court further down the road.

Turning to the upcoming midterm elections, Gregory focused on the Republican “primary” in Utah:

MR. GREGORY: We had a development yesterday that really makes you stand up and take notice.  Senator Bennett of Utah, a well-known conservative, been in the Senate for a number of years, is out in a primary in Utah.  He spoke to reporters afterward and was obviously emotional about it.

(Videotape, May 8, 2010) SEN. BOB BENNETT (R-UT):  The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic, and it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment.  …  I offer my congratulations, as I say, to whoever wins.  But I assure him he will not have any more loyal, dedicated, or efficient staff than I’ve had (End videotape).

MR. GREGORY:  David Brooks, a reliable conservative for 18 years, yet he proposed an alternative on health care and he voted for the bank bailout.

MR. BROOKS:  Right.  It is a damn outrage, to be honest.  I mean, this is a guy who was a very good senator, and he was a good senator for–and a good conservative, but a good conservative who was trying to get things done.  The Wyden-Bennett Bill, which he co-sponsored, if you took the healthcare economists in the country, they would probably be for that bill ideally.  It was a substantive, serious bill, a bipartisan bill, but with strong conservative and some liberal support.  So he did something sort of brave by working with Democrats, which more senators should do, and now they’ve been sent a big message, “Don’t do that.” The second thing is the TARP.  Nobody liked the TARP, but we were in a complete economic meltdown and sometimes you have to do terrible things.  And we’re in a much better economic place because of the TARP.  So he bravely cast a vote that nobody wanted to really cast, and now he’s losing his career over that.  And it’s just a damn outrage.

On This Week, host Jake Tapper also focused on the Times Square bomb plot, and played a video clip of Senator Lieberman’s (D-CT) reaction:

LIEBERMAN: If the president can authorize the killing of a United States citizen because he is fighting for a foreign terrorist organization, we can also have a law that allows the U.S. government to revoke … citizenship … of … American citizens who have cast their lot with terrorist organizations.

Terror scare + Lieberman = Politicization, much like former Senator Joe Biden’s characteristic of former N.Y. Governor Rudy Giuliani during a Democratic presidential primary debate in 2007: “Rudy Giuliani, I mean think about him, … there’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a word and 9/11. I mean there’s nothing else.”

On the topic of the Arizona immigration law, Tapper asked whether Attorney General Eric Holder thinks “Racist the Arizona immigration law is racist?”

HOLDER: Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea. I mean, I think we have to understand that the immigration problem that we have, illegal immigration problem that we have, is a national one, and a state-by-state solution to it is not the way in which we ought to go.

TAPPER: But your issue with it is not that it’s state-by-state. Your issue with it is that there are concerns that there might be racial profiling that takes place, right?

HOLDER: That is certainly one of the concerns that you have, that you’ll end up in a situation where people are racially profiled, and that could lead to a wedge drawn between certain communities and law enforcement, which leads to the problem of people in those communities not willing to interact with people in law enforcement, not willing to share information, not willing to be witnesses where law enforcement needs them. I think you have to think about the collateral consequences of such a law, understanding the frustration that people feel in Arizona. It’s one of the reasons why I think we have to have a national solution to this immigration problem.

TAPPER: Do you think it’s racist?

HOLDER: I don’t think it’s racist in its motivation. But I think the concern I have is how it will be perceived and how it perhaps could be enacted, how it could be carried out. I think we could potentially get on a slippery slope where people will be picked on because of how they look as opposed to what they have done, and that is I think something that we have to try to avoid at all costs.

Tapper then interviewed the already mentioned Giuliani, not surprisingly since he’s the man who pops up when the issue of terror and New York City is on the agenda.

TAPPER: Now, you’re a former U.S. attorney. If you had been in charge of this investigation, what would you do differently, if anything?

GIULIANI: Well, I would not have given him Miranda warnings after just a couple of hours of questioning. I would have instead declared him an enemy combatant, asked the president to do that, and at the same time, that would have given us the opportunity to question him for a much longer period of time. Whether it works in the case of Shahzad or it doesn’t, the reality is, the better policy is to give the intelligence agents who are going to question him the maximum amount of time to question him, to check out the credibility of what he’s saying.

I mean, I don’t know yet what the truth is here. We shouldn’t. I mean, I think too much has been leaked about this, and the administration has talked too much about it, because the more you talk about it, the more you warn people in the Taliban to go hide somewhere.

When I was a prosecutor and associate attorney general, the last thing in the world I wanted to do is to have the other side figure out, you know, the information we had before we had a chance to act on it. So the reality is just to get these guys to tell the truth and then to corroborate how much they’re saying and for them to remember, it’s going to take three, four, five days of questioning.

“America’s mayor”: Miranda rights isn’t the way to go. Wouldn’t think twice about declaring U.S. citizens as enemy combatants. The truth should be concealed. It’s okay to interrogate suspects for three, four, five days without reading them their rights. Bumper-sticker it up!

In a more measured tone, the Hoover Institute’s Shelby Steele talked about the ideology of “jihadism”:

TAPPER: Shelby, the ideology of Islamism still seems to be powerful even if the quality, the candidates of terrorists that the Pakistani Taliban and others are getting are not as good. The ideology seems just as strong. This guy, Faisal Shahzad, who we should say is innocent until proven guilty, lived in the United States and had not a bad life here.

STEELE: I think the ideology is the story. There’s a larger clash, I think in the world, between the third world, people who were formally oppressed and so forth, who coming into freedom experience that as shame and came in, really, into a sort of confrontation with their own inferiority, their sense of inferiority. And I think jihadism is an ideology that compensates for a sense of inferiority.

And that’s really its appeal. It has no real religious connection. These are not particularly religious people. But they’re people who, as they sort of move into modernity, fail or having a rough time making that kind of transition, and so therefore there’s this wonderful ideology based in the idea of killing people, of death, you know, if I put on the gun on the table now, I’m the most powerful man in the room. I’m not inferior anymore.

And … the grandiosity of administering death randomly is extremely attractive to people who had this inner sense that I’m just never going to make that move into modernity.

On the issue of the upcoming midterms, Tapper focused the last minutes of the show on the fate of Senator Bennett (R-UT):

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENNETT: The political atmosphere, obviously, has been toxic. And it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment. Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn’t have cast any of them any differently, even if I had known at the time they were going to cost me my career (END VIDEO CLIP).

George Will’s reaction:

This is an anti-Washington year. How do you get more Washington than a three-term senator who occupies the seat once held by his father, a four-term senator, who before that worked on the Senate staff and then as a lobbyist in Washington? He’s a wonderful man and a terrific senator, but the fact is, he’s going against terrific headwinds this year, and he cast three votes, TARP, stimulus, and an individual mandate for health care.

Now, you might like one, two or all three of those, but being opposed to them is not outside the mainstream of American political argument.

On State of the Union, host Candy Crowley started off by playing a video clip of Republicans’ reaction to the Times Square bomb plot:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one, for the second time, we were lucky. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being lucky can’t be our national security strategy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we were lucky and I think it was good police work. It was a combination of them both. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Yes, we’ve been lucky but luck is not an effective strategy for fighting the terrorist threat (END VIDEO CLIP).

Just for fun, I conducted a word count of the number of times the word ”luck” was uttered in the three shows: 22 times (Meet the Press 2, This Week 7, and State of the Union 13).

In her interview with Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, Crowley surprised me with her phrasing of this question:

Motivation; has Shahzad talked about that? Was it indeed drone attacks, the loss of civilian life as they seem to think some of these drones have done?

Wow. Just to be clear: Drone attacks DO KILL CIVILIANS. That’s a FACT. The question, however, is whether or not such attacks are warranted on a notion of achieving “the greater good.”

I also thought Crowley was sloppy in her questioning of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). As previously mentioned, the GOP talking point is that the Obama Administration was “lucky” in stopping the Times Square bomb plot suspect from leaving the country. One would thus think that Crowley wouldn’t play into this framing, but she certainly did:

Well Senator Shelby, that to me is the problem. It’s one thing if you have a grand conspiracy involving 12 people and three planes. It is another thing if you can get a single person and fund them and bring them into the U.S. and send them to a random mall or Times Square or whatever. Isn’t it really now down to a matter of luck or is there something in U.S. policy that can change, that will protect against this new threat?

In his reply, Shelby uttered the word “luck” or “lucky” 5 times. Crowley, on the other hand, actually uttered the word “luck” or “lucky” 3 times during the show…

On the topic of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Crowley wanted to know why Congress hasn’t done more to regulate the industry:

CROWLEY: First, to Senator Shelby, since you brought it up. It always gets down to this. Whether it is Wall Street or oil companies, Capitol Hill says, where were the regulators and why wasn’t there a regulation? But you all are in charge of the regulators, aren’t you? So can’t we ask, where was the U.S. Senate, where was the House of Representatives? Why didn’t they see this coming?

SHELBY: Well, we are not in charge of the regulators. We have oversight of the regulators. The Executive Branch is in charge of the regulators.

CROWLEY: But, you know, it doesn’t take much to see that it is possible that oil could leak when you’ve got an oil rig in the ocean. Couldn’t there have been hearings saying well exactly what sort of safety measures do you have? How do you know they are working? I mean, there weren’t those kind of hearings? Now we have 12 hearings coming up. But it is after the fact.

SHELBY: Candy, you make a good point.

Senator Nelson, in his response, said the following:

NELSON: Big oil wants its way. … Big oil has had its way among the regulators. There has been a cozy relationship between the regulators and MMS. You remember all those stories back in the mid part of this past decade. Sex parties, all kinds of trips.

CROWLEY: But shouldn’t Congress have some responsibility?

NELSON: You are doggone right, Candy. You are doggone right. That’s exactly right. And that’s what a number of us have been calling for. And we could never get to first base, because big oil would flex its muscle and call in its votes, and we could never get anything done. And tragically, it is going to take this disastrous oil spill to finally clamp down on them.

First mentioning lobbying and sex parties, and then saying Congress can never get to first base. Senator Nelson: New analogy please.

Lastly, in her interview with Chris Cillizza (Washington Post, author of The Fix blog) and Amy Walter (Editor-in-Chief of The Hotline blog), Crowley focused on the fate of Senator Bennett and the upcoming midterms:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic. And it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment (END VIDEO CLIP).

CROWLEY: In particular, his vote for TARP, his bank bailout.

CILLIZZA: You know, TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program – That one I think is what kind of crystallized it. There were a lot of other things. Health care, immigration, his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. None of those things sat well with conservative voters, but TARP has really become a touchstone. We can talk about in some of the other races too, Candy, but Kentucky, it is a touchstone. In Texas, the governor’s race, Rick Perry labeled Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison “Kay Bailout,” because she supported TARP. So it’s really, for fiscal conservatives, for the Tea Party movement, that’s become the rallying cry that the establishment — even the Republican establishment is broken.

WALTER: This wasn’t necessarily an ideological issue as much as it was a Washington issue, which goes to the TARP piece, number one. And number two, that Bennett was known as somebody who actually could work with the other side. The fact that he actually reached out to Ron Wyden on health care was considered by many of the folks in this room, you know, really a traitorous act.

And we also have to remember that this was 3,500 delegates. This was not the broad electorate here, and I think that really — when we sort of go through all the rubble of this election, what we’re going to come to the conclusion is that the primary process itself is responsible for all this polarization we see in politics. You cannot run, not even as a moderate, but even as somebody who is willing to say, you know what, maybe somebody has a good idea that’s on the other side. For that, you will lose.

On a related topic:

CROWLEY: So I mean with the polarization, are we looking at a Tea Party problem? Are we looking at a policy problem or are we looking at an incumbent problem?

WALTER: I think it is absolutely an incumbent problem. I sat down with a Democratic pollster the other day and said that’s really the issue. You cannot even underestimate the disgust that voters have with anything Washington.

CILLIZZA: There is a level of unrest that exists. They always say if you have rep, sen or gov before your name, regardless of what the latter is after, you are probably in trouble.

On the topic of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Cillizza had the following to say:

I would argue that everything that happens in politics has to do with campaigns. Some people would say that is a myopic view. I can assure you however in an even-numbered year like this one, this will be freighted with politics.

In the end, who had this Sunday’s most memorable phrase? Walter’s perspective on the primary process was good, and so was Cillizza’s “everything in politics has to do with campaigns.” Chris Cillizza also had the best one:

They always say if you have rep, sen or gov before your name, regardless of what the latter is after, you are probably in trouble.

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

Sunday talk show highlights, May 2, 2010

May 3, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press and This Week.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory was proud to show off the new set and announce that Meet The Press is now broadcasted in HD (the last renewal happened under host Tim Russert back in 1996).

In Gregory’s interview with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (former AZ governor, also on the SCOTUS short list), Gregory asked whether or not she thinks the Arizona immigration law “invites racial profiling”:

SEC’Y NAPOLITANO: I think it certainly could invite profiling. And, again, you know, as an Arizonan I think this law is the wrong way to go.

Gregory posed the same question to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

SEC’Y CLINTON: I don’t think there’s any doubt about that because, clearly, as I understand the way the law is being explained, if you’re a legal resident, you still have to carry papers. Well, how is a law enforcement official supposed to know?

Drawing a link between the three-party race in Great Britain at the moment and the Tea Party Movement, Gregory wanted to know “whether there’s a movement that could spread,” and whether Clinton could see “a third party becoming viable in the United States”:

SEC’Y CLINTON: Well, let’s see whether it’s viable in the U.K. I don’t know the answer to that. We had, in my lifetime, and certainly long before, viable third party candidates. We’ve had Ross Perot, John Anderson, you know, just within my voting history. I think there’s always room in a democracy for people to bring their views to the forefront. But I think one of the real strengths of our system has been our two-party approach, where each party may frustrate some of its own members because they, they do have a broad cross-section of voters and opinions. But, look, I’m going to be as interested in anybody in seeing what happens in the election in Great Britain.

Gregory also interviewed “Republican” Governor of Florida Charlie Crist, and he wanted him to explain his decision to run as an independent for the Senate seat left empty by George LeMieux (R):

MR. GREGORY: Just 35 days ago, during an interview on Fox News, you were categorical about this. The question was, “Are you willing to pledge right here, right now that you will run in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and not run as an independent?” Your response: “I’m running as a Republican.” Did you determine in those 35 days that the Republican Party had rejected you?

GOV. CRIST: I think the primary part of the Republican Party. The, primary Republicans, if you will. And what ensued in those 35 days was a lot of listening on my part, David. The next weekend was Easter weekend. My wife, Carol, and I went down to Useppa Island and had the opportunity to start listening to people around the state, whether in southwest Florida or in Miami or Jacksonville or my home of St. Petersburg, or in the Panhandle where I am today. And the consistent message that I got over and over and over again was that people were frustrated, they were tired of the gridlock, tired of the bickering in Washington, D.C., and that we needed a new way, a better path, if you will, and encouraged me to run independent and get to that November ballot so that the people of Florida, all the people of Florida, would have a much truer choice when it came to this race for the U.S. Senate.

MR. GREGORY: But, Governor, you were elected as a Republican. The Republicans of Florida know you best. And here is your standing in the polls, you’re now some 20 points behind Marco Rubio. What a change from back in October, when you had a pretty commanding lead over him. You say listen to the people. Have the people not spoken?

GOV. CRIST: Well, in a sense they have. But again, I would, I would emphasize that those are primary Republican voters. It’s very different from the November Republican or Democrats or independents. And I think what’s happening in our country is unfortunately there’s a lot of primary fear. And what I mean by that is, you know, I see people in Washington in the House or the Senate and they’re so concerned about being faced or challenged in a primary that they can’t speak their true sense, their free will. They feel kind of shackled, if you will, by what the primary voters might do. And I think what we need to have is a true, honest discussion about what democracy is supposed to be about. Let all the people have their say…

MR. GREGORY: All right.

GOV. CRIST: …give them a true choice, and that’s why I’m going to November.

MR. GREGORY: I was struck in an interview on Friday, you made a point by saying you’re not deserting the Republican Party. … If you are elected as a senator, will you caucus in the Senate with Republicans?

GOV. CRIST: I’ll caucus with the people of Florida. And, and as I said earlier this week, I’ll caucus with anybody who will help my fellow Floridians.

MR. GREGORY: But hold on, Governor. You have to make a choice when you’re in the Senate, Republicans or Democrats. Who do you caucus with? As a matter of business, you’d have to decide.

GOV. CRIST: Well, when I’m an independent, I’m going to do what I think is in the best interest of my people, and that’s my decision. And that’s what I’m going to do for Floridians. And that’s what people want. They don’t want you to say, look, you have to either go with Democrats or Republicans. You have to go with your gut and with your heart. That’s what this country needs now more than ever, and that’s why I’m running independent.

From an analytical perspective, Charlie Crist used some interesting terms: “Primary Republicans” and “November Republicans.” Now, what did Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) say about Crist’s decision to run as an Independent?

When he changed his mind, I changed my mind about him. I’m very disappointed by that. I mean, it really undermines the ability of people to participate in our politics. We’ve got a lot of alienated people in America right now. They want a place to have their say. So we say, “Come on in to our primary if you want to put a check and a balance on runaway government.” So he did, and now he says, “I’m not doing so well by the rules, so I’m going to go another direction.” That’s what primaries are for.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) described the events in the Florida Republican Senate primary as “an ideological litmus test.”

On a different note, Richardson referred to Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) as a “moderate” – and Pence felt the need to correct the record:

REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN): I’m still trying to recover being called a moderate by Governor Richardson.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

REP. PENCE: You know, I’m a, I’m a conservative.

MR. GREGORY: Something tells me he didn’t really mean that.

REP. PENCE: Yeah, I…

GOV. RICHARDSON: I was trying to be nice to you.

REP. PENCE:  Yeah, yeah, it was nice.

On the issue of Arizona’s immigration law, Gregory played a tape of one of President Obama’s jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner this weekend:

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Unfortunately, John McCain couldn’t make it. Recently he claimed that he had never identified himself as a maverick. And we all know what happens in Arizona when you don’t have ID. Adios, amigos.

Unsurprisingly, Mike Pence struck the holier-than-thou-tone:

REP. PENCE: Well, let’s be clear for a second. This is no laughing matter for the people of Arizona who have been profoundly affected by the fact that there’s nearly a half a million illegal immigrants and a rampant drug trade and human trafficking trade that’s been besetting. Phoenix, Arizona, is, is the kidnapping capital of the United States of America. I don’t know if this law is perfect, but I do know that it is wrong for officials in this government to throw stones at the people of Arizona as they’re trying to reassert the rule of law in the wake of the fact that this administration and this Congress have been systematically cutting funding to border security since the Democrats took control.

Lamar Alexander had something similar to say:

Instead of joking about the Arizona situation and suing Arizona, the president ought to work with the governor and secure the border. … That’s his job, he’s the commander-in-chief. It’s a federal responsibility. When the border’s secure, then we can deal with the people illegally here and how they become citizens or not.

On This Week,  the Roundtable discussed the fallout of the oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, and Bill Maher had the following to say:

MAHER: You know, he [President Obama] owns this issue now, because it was only a few weeks ago that he came out for offshore drilling. And I would say philosophically this is — you know, the problem, I think, a lot of people on the left have with this country and have for many years, is that there’s no one who really represents our point of view. There’s two parties who want to fight the war on terror with an army in Afghanistan. There’s two parties who want to drill offshore. Where is the other side on this? So, you know, I could certainly criticize oil companies, and I could criticize America in general for not attacking this problem in the ’70s. … But it is very disappointing, I think, for this president to be taking a position, as he had — and I guess he’s backpedaling now on it, I hope. I mean, I hope there’s a flip-flop I can believe in there. But…

TAPPER: There’s a slogan for you, flip-flops I can believe in.

MAHER: I could believe in that one, and I hope he does.

On the issue of the Arizona immigration law, the discussion got lively between the Reverend Al Sharpton and Bill Maher on the one side, and George Will on the other. In short, there is a lot of “CROSSTALK” in the transcript…

Trying to frame “show me your papers” as something unproblematic (though sell!), Will said the following:

To enter Mr. McDonnell’s Capitol building or to enter the House office building where Connie Mack works, you have to show a government-issued ID. I mean, this is synthetic hysteria by a herd of independent minds called our political class right now that has decided to stand up and worry about the Constitution being shredded by measures that have ample history of being sustained against constitutional challenges.

Sharpton’s response:

When you say, Mr. Will, that if you go to Mr. McDonnell’s building or Congressman Mack’s building, you have to show ID, that is the point. Everyone has to show ID. They do not have guards stand there and say, “Only you that I deem to be reasonably suspect because I think you come from a particular group that may be entering the building to do harm, we’re going to search you.” Everyone is searched.

This is not the case in the Arizona law. This is not the case of what’s going on in the raids with Sheriff Arpaio there. And this is not what we’re protesting. If everyone was subjected to that, like the buildings you referred to, there would be no cause for concern.

On the issue of racism, Bill Maher sparked off a back-and-forth with George Will with the following statement:

The government intrusion, you know, government power is something that really bothers conservatives, unless it’s directed toward people who aren’t white. You know, I mean, it does seem like there’s some of that going on there.

Will’s “interpretation”:

Now, Mr. Maher just said, if I heard him right, that conservatives basically are racists and they like government intrusion only against people who aren’t white.

Maher’s retort:

Let me defend myself. … I would never say — and I have never said, because it’s not true — that Republicans, all Republicans are racist. That would be silly and wrong. But nowadays, if you are racist, you’re probably a Republican. … And that is quite different.

… I’m not calling you a liar, but…

In the end, who had this Sunday’s most memorable phrase? George Will’s “this is synthetic hysteria by a herd of independent minds called our political class” was good, but Bill Maher had the best one:

I hope there’s a flip-flop I can believe in there.

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

Sunday talk show highlights, April 25, 2010

April 26, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press and This Week.

On Meet The Press, David Gregory hosted a debate between the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). On the topic of financial reform, Gregory posed the following question to Dodd: “So, Senator Dodd, the big question is do you have a deal?” And towards the end of his answer, Dodd stated the following:

Here we are 17 months after someone broke into our house, in effect, and robbed us; and we still haven’t even changed the locks on the doors, and we need to get it done.

On the prospects of passing the Dodd bill, Senator Shelby stated

not yet, but we’re getting there.

Focusing on the bill’s complicated and multilayered details, Gregory stated that people on Wall Street think that “a lot of senators and congressmen and women don’t understand … and yet they’re willing to just, because of this political atmosphere, pass sweeping regulation that could hurt competitiveness, that could send jobs overseas and all the, all the rest.” In short, Congress doesn’t know what’s in this bill, and they’re pushing it ahead just to score political points. Not surprisingly, Senator Dodd didn’t accept the premise:

David, I was born at night but not last night. With all due respect to those arguments, those are red herrings. We understand the complexity of it, that’s why we spent so long at this. Richard and I have spent the last two years basically, 39 months, going through hearings, working at this, listening to people, countless conversations with experts in the field. And there are some disagreements here. Not on “too big to fail.” We’re going to shut that down forever. We want consumers to get some protection. We’d like an early warning system so we don’t end up getting into trouble in the first place. And then making sure that no financial institution’s going to be unregulated in our country.

PolitiFact: Was Chris Dodd indeed born at night? Bring it on!

On the issue of immigration reform, Gregory focused on the newly passed and highly controversial Arizona immigration law and stated that immigration has now become “a front burner issue.” The New York Times’ David Brooks had the following to say:

First of all, I think this bill in Arizona is an invitation to abuse. You’re going to have the government making decisions on the basis of race. And at what level are they making these decisions? At the cop level, in the worst possible circumstances, when people are angry? It’s an invitation to sort of racial profiling and abuse. So I think it’s terrible. But the worst effect is happening back here because now we have the Democrats promising to have a comprehensive immigration bill before any of the preparatory work has been done, pushing aside a lot of other stuff, like cap and trade and energy. And why are they doing it? For purely political reasons because a lot of Democrats, including Harry Reid who is trying to get re-elected in Nevada, need to really fire up Latino voters to get them to come out to the polls.

On the same topic, Gregory mentioned the fact that Senator John McCain (who is in the middle of a tough primary campaign against former Congressman J.D. Hayworth) has voiced his support for the bill, leading to an exchange  between Gregory and Newsweek’s Editor-at-large Evan Thomas:

MR. GREGORY: And, Evan, look at the politics of this, Senator John McCain came out in support of the governor’s bill. This was the same Senator McCain who with Senator Kennedy fought for comprehensive immigration reform. It says something about the political mood and the landscape politically of the country.

MR. THOMAS: It makes me sad. I mean, McCain…

MR. GREGORY: He’s facing a tough primary fight, I understand.

MR. THOMAS: And I’m sympathetic for that, a politician’s got to get re-elected. But this was a guy who really knew how to get to the center and to reach across the aisle, and he came close a few years ago in getting this done. Now here he is pandering like crazy to get himself re-elected and endorsing a bad bill. People who know McCain are disappointed by him. I mean, you understand, he’s a politician, but really.

David Gregory then raised the issue of the growing anti-Washington mentality found across the country:

MR. GREGORY: A big question that I’ve been thinking about this week, whether it’s health care and its intervention into the economy, whether it’s economic stimulus or whether it’s financial regulation, it is about this debate between the role of government in society, in the economy, in our lives generally.

David Brooks, you have been thinking about this a lot and you wrote this in your column on Friday: “In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.” How’s that playing out?

MR. BROOKS: Not well, I don’t think. I don’t think it’s good for the country. You know, we had a bitterly divisive culture war for a bunch of years, then we had a bitterly divisive debate about Iraq. And I think a lot of people, including President Obama, were hoping we could get to other debates about opportunity, about productivity, about fiscal problems. And those would have been debates, which would have structured some bipartisan cooperation. But for whatever reason, we fall into a big government vs. small government debate. And this is like a social script that puts all the Republicans on the anti-government mode, very polarized; strengthens the libertarian, more polarized part of that party; puts the Democrats on a more “let’s use government to do this and that” mode. And so you get this intense polarization which we’ve seen over the past year. It also tends to help Republicans, by the way. But it’s created, not only an end to the polarization, but it’s magnified it, I think.

MR. GREGORY:  And in fact, you saw this week, Evan Thomas, Pew Research Center comes out with a poll that says just 25 percent expressed a favorable opinion of Congress, virtually unchanged from March, prior to the passage of the healthcare reform bill. And there was this from the Pew’s analysis: “Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems–including more government control over the economy–than there was when Barack Obama first took office. A lot of people think, “Government can’t get it done.  They’re broke and they can’t do things well.”

MR. THOMAS: And Obama, you would think he’d get some points for first he passes health care, looks like he’ll finance–pass financial reform. But he doesn’t. He sort of floats around low in the polls. People are really down on government. To me, it’s a deflection from the real issue, which is how we’re going to pay for government. That’s the big thing looming out there. That’s what we ought to be talking about. And, unfortunately, both sides have got to give on something because we’re going to–you can’t deal with it unless, one, you raise taxes, which people don’t like; and, two, you cut benefits. Both sides got to give. That’s what Obama needs to be talking about because that is the real challenge facing us.

On the topic of the future of the Republican Party, David Brooks had the following to say:

MR. BROOKS: Can I just say something about the Republican mounting strategy, which is people like me would like there to be centrist, like Governor Crist, people like that. But the center has so far proved unprincipled, and people like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have shown they’re principled. And when you’re disgusted by government, you congregate toward people like that. And so the evidence shows overwhelmingly, so far, that the further right the party gets, as long as they’re principled, the better they do. Has any party had a worse year than the Democrats have had politically this year? Democratic favorability rating has dropped 22 points in a year. The Democrats a year ago had an 11 point party idea advantage over the Republicans. All that’s gone. So the Republicans are surging at the point they’re moving to the right with people like Rubio. And so that’s where the data is. People like me would wish, you know, go for the middle. But the data supports the idea that people like Rubio are driving the party to victory.

Gregory jumped in:

Well, OK, but if your desire is for the center, where, to come back to your original point, is there a more centrist big government argument to make? In other words, does President Obama have to win the argument that government is actually helpful?

Gregory’s question led to the following exchange:

MR. BROOKS: Yeah. Well, he won election because he won independents. The tea party movement is like really big and sort of interesting, but the core movement in politics has been in the center. He’s lost independents. And so he has to go being sort of the way he was on Wall Street this week, which is a pragmatic intelligent guy who talks about the things Evan talked about, that we need to have these things on both sides. And if he can embody that, he personally will be able to recapture the suburban voter. Whether the Democratic Party in the House can do it I’m really doubtful.

MS. NORRIS: If the party moves, if the Republican Party, though, moves farther to the right, do they capture those voters that are in the middle?

MR. BROOKS: Well, I, personally I’m dubious.  But I’d love to see some evidence to suggest that the Republicans I sort of like would do well.  I don’t see any evidence of that.  I see the Rubios doing really well.

MR. THOMAS: But can the Rubio people ever get the 51 percent?

MR. BROOKS: Right.  I, I think the Republicans will do phenomenally well this year.

MR. THOMAS: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROOKS: But it would be tough to see a Rubio-type candidate winning in 2012.

MS. NORRIS: Mm-hmm.

MR. BROOKS: But remember, the politics of the country are unprecedented, the disgust is amazing, and so I think we’d be hesitant to predict something like that.

On This Week, the Roundtable dealt with the same set of issues. Focusing on the Dodd bill and whether or not it would end too-big-to-fail, George Will had the following to say:

No [it will not end too-big-to-fail], because that’s not the problem. We all sort of sympathize with Sherrod Brown and Senator Kaufman’s idea that if it’s too big to fail, it’s too big to exist. The problem is it’s not scale, it’s connectedness that poses so-called system risk. And what people are arguing about is whether or not they have accurately located risk to the entire system.

This is an unusual argument. Usually in Washington when there’s controversy about a bill, the two sides agree about what the bill does but not whether it ought to be done. In this case, there’s an argument about whether or not the bill will actually do what it sets out to do.

Both sides want to guarantee the obliteration of certain kinds of failed firms. They want the management to go and they want shareholder equity to disappear. So it’s a competition to see who can be most beastly to these bad companies. And the question is whether or not this happens.

On the topic of financial reform, host Jake Tapper put some numbers up on the screen showing the large donations given to Democrats and Republicans from the same sector that they’re now trying to reform:

TAPPER: The Center for Responsive Politics did a study of campaign contributions, and in this cycle, the finance, insurance and real estate sectors are giving much more to Democrats than to Republicans. $65 million to $51 million. Paul, do you think the Democratic Party is too close to Wall Street?

KRUGMAN: Well, it has been in the past for sure. No question that in the late ’90s, the Clinton team — some of whom are now in the administration — were way too close to Wall Street. They believed that these were wise men who knew what they were doing. And no, at this point, it’s the party in power, of course, is going to be getting a lot more contributions. It’s kind of — that’s not too surprising.

Let me say a couple of things here. Anyone who says we need to be bipartisan should bear in mind that for the last several weeks, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks is actually bailing out the banks. And basically, the argument boils down to saying that what we really need to do to deal with fires is abolish the fire department. Because then people will know that they can’t let their buildings burn in the first place, right? It’s incredible.

So anyone who says bipartisan, should say, you know, bipartisan doesn’t include the Senate minority leader. But, you know, I agree with George, actually, believe it or not. Too big to fail per se is not the problem. The Great Depression was made possible by the failure of the Bank of the United States, which despite its name, was a Bronx-based institution that was the 28th largest financial institution in the United States at the time, and yet brought the whole system down.

But what we are getting now in this bill is a way to have graceful failure of big institutions, right? We know how to deal with small banks. The FDIC seized seven banks last week that were on the verge of failing and let them, you know, liquidated them gracefully, but we don’t have a way of dealing with complex, you know, what we call shadow banking institutions like Lehman or Citigroup. And this bill would give you that.

So it would give you the ability to do for big, complicated financial institutions what we’ve been doing routinely for small ones, and that does — so it doesn’t end the too big, but it may deal with the fail bit.

On the topic of immigration reform, Tapper elaborated on the previously mentioned Arizona immigration law:

Let me start before we discuss this bill and what it actually does by going into one of the most controversial provisions in this new law, Arizona Senate bill 1070. “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official, where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, s reasonable attempt shall be made when practicable to determine the immigration status of the person.”

Paul Krugman’s perspective:

We have never put in enough money is basically what it comes down to enforce the border control. It’s not a deep issue of principle, it’s just a question of resources. People have been willing to talk tough about it but actually not willing to do reasonable stuff in terms of enforcement. And it’s going to be a problem. But what I want to go back to here is not just apartheid issues, but think about a different way.

We have these massive protests in this country about alleged authoritarian tendencies that we are going to have some kind of — inside the Obama/Hitler stuff — the idea that the government is encroaching too much in our lives.

And now all of the sudden, we have by pretty much the same people, demanding that we set up a system that will turn us into one of those apocryphal foreign authoritarian regimes where the police are saying hand over your papers, right? A world where you constantly have to prove who you are. And yes, it will be racial profiling but who knows what else? I mean, some people take me I look like President Lula of Brazil, so I might end up being pulled over when I’m on my morning walk, right?

Discussing the same topic, George Will, surprisingly, and in a slightly surreal moment, stated the following:

What the Arizona law does is make a state crime out of something that already is a crime, a federal crime. Now, the Arizona police — and I’ve spent time with the Phoenix Police Department — these are not bad people. These are professionals who are used to making the kind of difficult judgments. Suspicion of intoxicated driving, all kinds of judgments are constantly made by policemen. And I wouldn’t despair altogether their ability to do this in a professional way.

Comparing the upcoming immigration reform debate to the health care debate, Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated the following:

Let me say this about immigration reform, though. If we thought health care reform was divisive, this is going to be an all-out battle, and will even create fissures in the Democratic Party. That’s why Speaker Pelosi has said we will act, but only if the Senate acts first.

Tapper jumped in:

President Obama has been saying — pointing out that there were 11 Republican senators who supported immigration reform in 2007 when it failed, and suggesting that they need to support it now. I don’t think they’re going to support it, though.

… to which Krugman had the following to say:

Well, politically, though, this is one of those issues that cuts right through the middle of both parties. The Democrats, on the one hand, tend to be pro-labor, which means they are worried about immigration; on the other hand, it is the party that now gets most of the Hispanic votes, it’s the party that generally is for inclusiveness. So the Democrats are divided. Many of them divided within their own hearts. It’s an interesting thing, it’s not so much different wings of the party as each individual Democrat tends to be kind of torn about this.

Republicans are divided between the sort of cultural conservative wing, the preserve America as the way it is, and the business wing, which likes having inexpensive immigrant labor. So this is one heck of an issue. It’s deeply divisive among both parties, which is one reason not to rush it, to push it at the top of the agenda right now.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Evan Thomas’ “pandering like crazy” was good, but Paul Krugman had the best one:

Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been trying to stop reform with possibly the most dishonest argument ever made in the history of politics, which is the claim that having regulation of the banks is actually bailing out the banks.

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

Sunday talk show highlights, April 18, 2010

April 19, 2010

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

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory interviewed United States Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and Geithner had the following to say about President Obama’s governing style:

The President governs this way: You focus on doing the right thing. You let the politics take care of themselves. Now it’s not always gonna be popular. People are gonna fight you on these kind of things. But we’re gonna focus on doing the right thing.

Sure, President Obama – being the savvy politician that he is – isn’t really worried about the politics as long as he does the right thing in a midterm election year. More likely, Obama is focusing on doing what’s right in the eyes of the voters – and Wall Street reform is certainly such an issue.

Focusing on the raw politics, Gregory asked National Journal’s Ron Brownstein:

Who is winning? Politically? On the economy? Whether its regulation, whether it’s jobs, whether it’s stimulus, who’s winning? Republicans or Democrats in this election year?

And Brownstein answered:

Well, by and large, it feels as though Republicans are driving the argument. And, the construct that Republicans have made, is that what is impeding recovery is primarily big government. And to a large extent, they have succeeded in it.

You look at all the trend lines, Democratic advantage over Republicans on the economy, Obama approval on the economy, those are all declining. And this is rather striking after the largest failure of the market economy in 2008, probably since the Great Depression. Democrats I think have been losing control of the macro argument here, … and this financial regulation is a place where these two contending visions collide.

I think the Republican argument primarily is that more government intervention is the problem. And Democrats, I think, want to make the case that what led to this disaster was the hands off approach that the Republican Administration took, the Bush Administration, the low tax, low regulation approach that their agenda was built around, led to this. And I think you’re gonna see these contending both policy and political visions very clearly on display – if this bill comes to the Senate floor next week.

Turning to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Gregory prompted Blackburn to “make the case for why, as Ron suggests, the Republican Party is on the right side of this economic debate in this election year”, and Blackburn answered:

The reason the Republican Party is on the right side of this economic debate is simply this. The election is going to be about freedom, and the American People know that being dependent on the federal government for home loans, for your health care, for your education, for your jobs, even for the kind of light bulb that you want to put in the fixture, is not the aspirations of a free people. And because of that, we are on the right side of this argument.

The following exchange followed:

DAVID GREGORY: What did– hold on, Congresswoman. … What did freedom get the American People during … the financial collapse? Is that not a fair question about the limits of the free, capitalist system?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: We know that if you let free markets work, there is no expiration date on the free market. There is no expiration date on the American economy. What the American People do not like is the overreach of government–

DAVID GREGORY:  I’m sorry, Congresswoman, my question was what did the free market get us, what did freedom get us in the economic collapse? You had an absence of government regulation, and you had the free market running wild. Look what the result was.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: And you need more oversight. We all agree with that. And the financial bill that Senator Corker and them are working on would lead to more oversight. The Goldman charges that have come forward now, David, they have come forward under existing SEC rules. More oversight, which I have always been a proponent of–

DAVID GREGORY: Well, let me just move on for a sec….

Later in the discussion, Ron Brownstein focused on Blackburn’s statement that the midterm election “is going to be about freedom”:

When the Congresswoman said this election is going to be about liberty, there is probably about 40 percent of the electorate for whom this election is about liberty. And one of the things we know is that there is going to be a big turnout of conservatives, who are antagonized and animated by what the Obama Administration has been doing. But for most of the electorate, this election is going to be about results.

And that’s why even though I said that the Republicans have won the economic debate, I think over the past year there are more rounds left in this fight. What the Administration is hoping is that there will be enough good news of the sort that Secretary Geithner was talking about that by November they can make the case that, “Look, things have been tough, but we are beginning to move the economy in the right direction and do you want to go back?”

Because there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the policies that Republicans are advocating now and those that were implemented by George W. Bush, during his two terms that produced, you know, one quarter as many jobs as over the eight years as Clinton, and a decline in the median income over two terms of a President, which we haven’t seen for any other two-term President in modern times.

So, even though I think Republicans have … had the upper hand, the argument isn’t over. And there are beginning to be some positive economic signs that I think Obama is going to be able to marshal to argue that even if times are still tough, at least he has begun to turn the corner.

Focusing on the Tea Party movement, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) had the following to say:

[The] first thing that we have to define is what’s the Tea Party itself? If you say it’s the anger that people feel about the economy, et cetera, that’s giving the Tea Party too much credit. We had two recent Tea Party demonstrations in Washington. One a week before a health care vote, drew about 1,000 people. The tax day rally by the organizer’s own estimate was 1,500 people. If I organized a rally for stronger laws to protect puppies, I would get 100,000 people to Washington. So, I think the media has blown the Tea Party themselves out of proportion.

Has Governor Rendell been watching “Legally Blonde 2” lately?

On This Week, host Jake Tapper interviewed former President Bill Clinton, and large segments of the interview came across as an infomercial for the Clinton Global Initiative.

During the Roundtable, Tapper focused on a memo written in January by Republican message strategist Frank Luntz:

Republican pollster and message guru, Frank Luntz, wrote a memo in January in which he advised Republicans on how to tackle financial regulatory reform by saying, quote, “Public outrage about the bailout of the banks and Wall Street is a simmering time bomb set to go off on election day. To put it mildly, the public dislikes taxpayer bailouts of private companies. Actually, they hate it. Frankly, the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the big bank bailout.”

And here’s a montage of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

MCCONNELL: Endless taxpayer-funded bailouts… Bailout… Bailout… Bailout… Bailout… … endless taxpayer bailouts… Bailouts… Bailout Wall Street… Bailout… Bailout… Endless bailouts… Bailouts… Backdoor bailouts… Bailouts… Bailouts… Potential future bailouts…

Picking up the sword of truth – so to speak – Tapper stated that the $50 billion fund would not be funded by the taxpayers, but by the big banks, and Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt took it from there:

I’m amused by Mitch McConnell being this great anti-Wall Street populist. He was just up shaking the Wall Street money trees last week. You know, Mitch McConnell as an anti-Wall Street populist is about as credible as John Edwards heading a family values conference. I mean, this is a guy who’s voted with Wall Street every step of the way. This is just a Frank Luntz memo talking point.

On the same issue, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile had the following to say about Wall Street:

Wall Street is as popular as a root canal. And I think the Democrats can go out there and fight for transparency, accountability, and they can win this debate and pass this bill. And if the Republicans decide once again to delay and to put up more tactics to cherry-pick through the bill like health care, they will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

Turning to foreign policy, Tapper paraphrased Secretary Robert Gates – saying the United States does not have a long-term strategy for how to deal with Iran, and George Will had the following to say:

Our strategy is to hope that something that does not exist will do something unprecedented. What does not exist is the international community about which we talk, which is fiction, a rhetorical bewitcher of our intelligence. What it is supposed to do, this non-existent thing, is come up with sanctions that bite, that are going to change history and make nations come to heel. I don’t know when that has ever happened before. Furthermore, as you point out, it’s not even clear what we are saying is unacceptable. Is it unacceptable for them to test a nuclear weapon? What if they come a screwdriver turn away from assembling a weapon, as some other nations in the world probably are? So there’s a complete lack of clarity and realism.

Lastly, on State of the Union, host Candy Crowley interviewed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Talking about reforming Wall Street, McConnell turned to a phrase he’s been using a lot lately:

What we ought to do is get back to the table and have a bipartisan bill, which is what we don’t have at the moment. … I think we need to get back to the table and get it fixed.

On the same topic, Crowley played a video clip of President Obama attacking McConnell:

The leader of the Senate Republicans and the chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue. Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican leader came out against common-sense reforms that we have proposed.

In the exchange that followed, Crowley wanted to know about McConnell’s meeting with Wall Street executives, and why McConnell had been accompanied by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) – chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. McConnell, however, didn’t feel like answering the question, and so he consistently talked about small Kentucky bankers and main street instead:

I also met recently with the Kentucky bankers who are also opposed to this bill. The community banks, the little guys on main street. We’re all meeting with a lot of people.

Crowley tried to cut through:

Well, if the president is playing politics, you have to admit that it raises suspicions when you are meeting with Wall Street executives, as I take it you did, with Senator Cornyn, who raises money for Republican races. Doesn’t that sort of set you up for this sort of accusation? That you went in there with the fund-raiser to talk about, you know, we’ve got to fight this bill.

McConnell answered:

Candy, Candy, he is the one who is trying to politicize this issue. We are the ones who are trying to get it right. When the Kentucky bankers tell that this bill is a long way from being what we ought to pass, then it raises some concerns with me. And I think it does with all of our colleagues across the country who are hearing the same thing.

Evade, evade, evade.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Rendell’s ridicule of the number of people showing up at tea party rallies was good, and so was Hunt’s statement that “Mitch McConnell as an anti-Wall Street populist is about as credible as John Edwards heading a family values conference”, but once again, George Will had the best one:

Our strategy is to hope that something that does not exist will do something unprecedented. What does not exist is the international community about which we talk, which is fiction, a rhetorical bewitcher of our intelligence.

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

Colbert’s take on the Sunday talk shows

April 15, 2010

Stephen Colbert’s take on the Sunday talk shows?

A grown-up version of Saturday morning cartoons — only the cartoons have more productive debates.

And:

The whole appeal of the Sunday shows is that they’re like being a fly on the wall for the ultimate Washington insiders’ cocktail party, only instead of serving crab dipped canapé, they’re serving horse shit!

Lastly:

It’s about drama, OK? It’s about winning a battle. It’s two gladiators in one ring. One can choose the sword of truth, but the other one can choose the AK-47 of bullshit.

As a regular viewer of the Sunday talk shows I’ll admit that Colbert has some valid points, but on the other hand, his “criticism”/commentary can be aimed at politics in general. I mean, it’s not only on the Sunday talk shows that politicians evade or ignore questions, make up or confuse numbers or repeat their own talking points. That’s politics! And the Sunday talk shows are political theater at its best.

Watch the clip from “The Colbert Report” here. Priceless!

Sunday talk show highlights, April 11, 2010

April 12, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press and This Week. In short: The White House’s defend-President-Obama’s-Nuclear-posture-review-effort was headed by Secretaries Clinton and Gates, and the roundtables’ focused on the upcoming replacement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory played a videotape of President Obama talking about the desired qualities of his future Supreme Court nominee:

It will … be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

My first reaction was that Obama was talking about a nominee who would oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens’ United case since President Obama framed his opposition to that ruling in strikingly similar terms.

Now, who will Obama pick?

The shortlist includes about ten names, including the following: Judge Diane Wood (7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals), Elena Kagan (the solicitor general of the United States), Judge Merrick Garland (judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit) and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

My view? Take it away Tony Blankley (the conservative voice on KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center”): “I’m not sufficiently familiar to really discuss that intelligently.”

On the issue of Hamid Karzai’s latest statements, Gregory posed the following question to syndicated Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker:

Kathleen, you write in a column this morning about this complicated relationship with allies like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. And, again, you saw that exchange. What was noteworthy is a shift in the administration. Here you had the secretary of Defense and the secretary of State saying, “We’re not going to react to some of these things. We’re going to be more sympathetic toward Hamid Karzai. He’s the guy that we have to deal with.” That was, that was a significant change.

Parker answered:

Yeah, that was a shift as of right this minute, right? We’ve been pretty hard on him, and he is the guy that was elected and he is our man. We, we created Karzai. And he’s been under siege from everyone. I mean, Obama pretty much came out swinging during his campaign, and he’s had, you know, every European parliamentarian coming after him. Everybody is on Karzai’s back. And, and naturally, he’s going to react. This is the testosterone axis of the world, and you don’t insult a leader in public and then expect him to just sit back and take it.

David Gregory then turned the roundtable’s focus to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans last week:

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me go a little bit larger here and talk about presidential leadership and put it in the political context, because there is an opposition party, the Republicans, and they’re trying to figure out how to mount that opposition, as we are in an election year. And there was a gathering of Republicans that got a lot of attention, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. And you heard two prominent Republican voices, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, talking about how, again, Republicans position themselves to counter President Obama (videotape):

MR. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): What the left wants to do is say we’re the party of “no.” …  And so here’s what I want to ask you to encourage every candidate you know, every incumbent you know, every staff person you know, every consultant you know, I think we should decide that we’re going to be the party of “yes.”

MRS. SARAH PALIN: There is no shame in being the party of no if they’re proposing, the other side, proposing an idea that violates our values, violates our conscience, violates our Constitution. What’s wrong with being the party of no.  …  Or better said by the good governor of this state, he said, “The party of `no’? Nah, we’re the party of `Hell, no!'”

Gregory then asked The New York Times’ David Brooks to assess the GOP right now in terms “of mounting this challenge, figuring out where it’s going to be in 2010 and 2012”:

MR. BROOKS: You’re turning to the party of “maybe” over here. So this is a bad move for you. Listen, Palin is great TV. She’s really attractive. Gingrich is sort of great TV. He’s got a billion ideas, 600 of which are really good. But the fact is the, the Republican Party is not Palin and it’s not Gingrich. The Republican Party is Rob Portman, who’s running for senator in Ohio. It’s Mark Kirk, who’s running for, for senator in Illinois. It’s Governor Christie in New Jersey. These are the people who are actually governing. And I happen to feel we pay a little too much attention to people like Palin, who’s sort of a sub reality figure on some TV show. But these are the people that are actually running, and they’ve actually got it figured out.They’re against a lot of what Obama’s doing, but they’re the party of “yes.” They’ve got a whole series of policies.  Paul Ryan from Wisconsin has–can wonk your ear off. And so that’s the real party. Palin, the tea parties–listen, the tea party movement is a movement without a structure, without an organization. No, no party, no movement like that lasts.

On This Week, the Roundtable focused on Justice John Paul Stevens’ retirement, and George Will’s opening remarks emphasized the fact that the confirmations of Supreme Court nominees were much smoother and went much faster back in the good old days. Furthermore, and as host Jake Tapper pointed out, the confirmation of Justice Stevens was the last one that wasn’t televised.

Perhaps it was easier to be bipartisan when the voters weren’t watching?

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Tip of the hat to David Brooks for his description of Sarah Palin:

I happen to feel we pay a little too much attention to people like Palin, who’s sort of a sub reality figure on some TV show.

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

Postscript: Cokie Roberts mentioned the cartoon we picked as “Political Cartoon of the Week, April 4-10” when she described the upcoming debate on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

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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