Chris Wallace touches off today talking about the super new filibuster of Chuck Hagel, and here to explain the whole ten-day temper tantrum that some of the Senate Republicans felt they had to have while a war -- that, admittedly, they haven't really been paying close attention to lately, along with everyone else -- is raging in Afghanistan, is Senator Lindsey "Jowly Dave Foley" Graham.
Graham, demonstrating that there is tea weak enough to splash around in, has gone to the whole "2007 speech at Rutgers as remembered by a blogger who took some notes that were not word-for-word recollections," that included a statement, remembered by that blogger as "The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli's foreign minister's office." Graham doesn't even remember the half-remembered quote that Chuck Hagel is rumored to have said at Rutgers. And I have already taken a huge dump on this story, which appeared on the Washington Free Beacon, whose writers will admonish you if you take them seriously, and insist that you don't, so I feel bad for everyone who encountered Graham today, reeking of the bottom of some stank barrel.
"I think it would be breathtaking if he said that," says Graham, who is literally operating today on the whole, "Boy, it sure would be bad if Hagel did something terrible that I've no proof he's done!" and also seems to think that "adjunct to" means "controlled by" -- it is all a lot of weird raving, today.
Can Wallace bring any sense to this discussion? He does his best, asking Graham if all this fooferaw might "damage" Hagel in his ability to do his job. Graham says that he's worried about Hagel's foreign policy ideas, which he terms as "soft on Iran" and "hard on Israel," and he's really making this staunch conservative former colleague of his seem like a wild-eyed campus radical, all because he had the temerity to conclude, correctly, that the Iraq War was a trillion-dollar boondoggle. There are so many turds of the past being unearthed, thanks to Chuck Hagel.
Graham, hilariously, is willing to admit that Hagel has, at times answered questions to his satisfaction. Some of these dumb rumors, he's managed to put down. But Graham wants the sting of controversial things that did not happen to remain. "I'm glad he answered my question about a very disturbing comment he allegedly made," Graham says, of Hagel. He then goes on to call Hagel a "radical," which is a real insult to actual radicals.
Wallace is still making his WTF face at all of this, and asks if Hagel will continue to be blocked by Graham even after all these questions are answered. Graham sort of wants to have it both ways, suggesting that Hagel really deserves to be blocked, but then essentially suggesting that he won't be blocked in the end, despite it all. Graham is baffled that no Democrats want to join the filibuster, but I think it's just because they didn't seize on the occasion of this appointment as a reason to spray chemicals into paper bags and sniffing them back behind the loading dock.
Wallace asks Graham what the "single most important thing about Benghazi that he does not know after all these months," and the answer is basically, "Whatever will help Mitt Romney win the election." Yes, it is still about the Sunday Morning Susan Rice talking points, and the semantics involved. He is also amazed that an attack in the middle of the night half a world away was confusing in the least for any amount of time, everything should have definitely been explained five minutes after it happened.
Wallace asks after some FBI interviews with the survivors, and why they've not been submitted to Congress, seeking something of real substance to complain about. Graham says that the FBI has been saying that it's an "ongoing criminal investigation" -- and so the FBI doesn't want to release them. Which, unfortunately, is reasonable. But Graham is upset that "we're going back to the law enforcement model" of thwarting al Qaeda, instead of the military/treat-them-as-enemy-combatants model. The danger there is that the law enforcement method might actually be more effective. It's important to remember that Lindsey Graham is one of those people who is rooting more for himself to be right than he is actually rooting against al Qaeda, but Chuck Hagel is the "radical."
On drone-enabled targeted killing, Graham objects to Rand Paul's insistence that there are things called "habeas corpus" and "due process" and says "the worst thing in the world is for the courts to determine who we should target in the war on terror" -- he is referring to American citizens, I remind you. To Graham, none of the "kill list" policy applies to Americans here in America, but Brennan has pointedly refused to delineate a difference when he's been asked if there is one.
Benghazi has something to do with the sequester which has something to do with Benghazi, and everything literally has to do with the semantics and vocabulary words used when discussing the attack on the consulate.
Amazingly, we have a brief discussion of the actual painful part of the sequester -- the cuts due to kick in on the domestic side of the equation. Usually, these are ignored, completely. But Wallace asks Jowly Dave to respond to the coming cuts to Head Start and food inspections and small business loan guarantees, and Jowly Dave says that Obama was the guy who came up with the sequester -- which is a weird way of talking about something that Congress enthusiastically passed, and then fulsomely praised as a model of bipartisan cooperation that would change the culture of Congress.
No, he's really got no passionate defense of any of the things being cut on the domestic side, because he's happy to see the axe fall there, and he thinks the solution is to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and remove access to health care for millions of Americans and drive more families into deeper household debt because they end up in the hospital for medical conditions that could have been treated in advance and more cheaply had they been able to, the end. On to...Rand Paul, I guess.
Rand Paul, who delivered the Tea Party rebuttal, begins by softening up his fellow GOPers, today, professing a certain affection fro the sequester -- though he too, seems to think that this was something that Obama forced everyone to do. But Paul wants more, saying that the sequester merely reduces the rate of spending, instead of a spending cut.
I don't know if we'll get into it today, but Paul has borrowed an idea called the "penny plan," which is utter crazy nonsense -- like, makes the "9-9-9 Plan" look like the work of a genius -- which Paul either thinks is the benign, light cuts he advertised them as, or literally doesn't see the problem with the nonsense this plan would unleash on America. Here's Keth Rouda, explaining this in practical terms:
What begins as a 4.5% cut from forecasted spending in 2012 grows to become a 26% cut from the spending forecast for 2018. That will be a whopping $1.2 trillion cut in a single year. And, mind you, that massive 26% cut will be in the face of a population 25 million people larger than today. We can do a thought exercise on what is involved in cutting 26% from the 2018 budget by thinking about what we would have to do to cut 26% from the 2011 budget of $3.8 trillion. That comes to $988 billion. And, yes, all in one year.
For sake of an example, lets say conservatives got to whack their most hated federal programs and really remake the government the way they'd like it. I tried completely eliminating all Medicare spending, all unemployment compensation, all food and nutrition assistance (including both for women and families as well as the school lunch program), and all money spent on elementary, secondary, vocational, and higher education. I completely ended public housing and housing assistance. I zeroed out the foreign aid budget, eliminated all farm subsidies and all federally funded social services, and I got rid of all funding for pollution control and abatement. I, of course, ended all spending on consumer protections and worker health and safety. Then I closed down all of the national parks, eliminated all federal funding for regional development, and I stopped all energy regulation. For good measure, I ended the postal service too.
At that point I only had to cut $11 billion more, which I was able to do by killing off disaster relief.
Senator Paul's supporters might ask themselves why he hides the devastating 26% cuts that will be needed to make his innocent sounding 1% cuts happen.
Paul is correct, however, that the Obama administration has been unwilling to stipulate that the use of drones and the "kill list" in "targeted killings" is not something that is legally applicable to American citizens, in the United States. Paul says that it's "Americans on American soil" that deserve their day in court. Wallace says that he can't conceive of a scenario in which it would be necessary to kill an American citizen on American soil like that. But we are not supposed to wait to get with our pants caught down, judicially speaking -- we're supposed to establish legal limits. The construct of the mechanics of American political power are all about legal limitations. Paul is correct when he says that Brennan, and the Obama administration, refuse to set a limit. (Obama has said, publicly, that he "does not intend" to use it in that way. I'm sure that the Los Angeles Police Department didn't wake up last week with the "intention" to burn down someone's ski cabin -- but when push came to shove, that's what they did.)
Wallace tries to draw Paul into the brewing internecine war between Karl Rove/establishment GOP and the grassroots/conservative wing of the party. Paul is charitable, saying that elections are a free marketplace of competing people and ideas, and there's no reason to limit anyone. "Let's have open primaries and let people contribute on all sides," he says, diplomatically.
Moving to the State of the Union address, Paul says the Obama is "disingenuous" when he talks about deficit reduction, and roundly suggests that pursuing his agenda, in the main, is "slowing down the economy." Wallace asks if Obama has nevertheless managed to outflank the GOP, tying them to the rich while he defends the middle class. Paul says that is "empty" and wrong.
On immigration, Paul went pretty large in his SOTU rebuttal, saying that America should extend a blanket welcome to anyone who comes to these shores, ready to work and become an American. That doesn't really fly with the GOP's nativist rump. Today, he says that he accepts the overarching concept of immigration reform, and will support the bipartisan plan if Congress gets a report on border security to evaluate and sign off on. He says that he'll offer something specific in an amendment -- in which the reporting is periodic and repetitive. That may be redundant work, as I think that's already a component in the bipartisan plan.
Paul is unhappy with the White House's own bill, which is different from the bipartisan plan, because he believes it exists to simply sow divisions in the GOP. The stated intent behind it is to have a bill ready to go if Congress gets into its typical vapor lock, but who knows? Maybe Paul is right!
How serious is Paul about running for President in 2016? He says that he "would absolutely not run unless it was to win," but he's sure that the revival of the libertarian conservatives is on the wing, and that the party in its current form has very little future on the West Coast and Northeast. He won't make a decision about running for President until 2014, so set your alarm clocks.
Apparently the White House turned down Fox News today, and new Chief of Staff Denis McDonough will appear on all the other Sunday shows today except FNS, and Wallace has a sad about it, and I don't know...if it would have prevented Jowly Dave Foley from getting booked, that would have been worth it to me, but now, I guess, it's time for our first panel she-bang-bang, with Karl Rove and Bob Woodward and Kim Strassel and Juan Williams.
Stuff is all awkward for Rove, because the 2012 cycle made him look like a walking joke, and his new plan to spend money on candidates who don't sound like plastered gits is going over very poorly. Rove defends himself by saying, essentially, that he'll give anyone money who is smart enough to not enunciate their beliefs in a way that the media can hear and put in their news reports. He's not the enemy of the Tea Party, he insists! And not even Tea Party people who, say, think that women have magic uteruses that stop rapist sperm. You can totally believe that and use it for the basis of passing laws. As long as they never ever talk about it out loud in public, it's fine.
And it's awkward for Karl today, because so many people are larfing it up at him and he has to sit there and take it. Bob Woodward jokes that he's going to write a book called "Some People Never Go Away" and that there will be a whole chapter on Karl Rove, but hold on there Bob Woodward, you also have a staying power that I would rate as "Why, again?"
Anyway, jokes about the persistence of idiots in Washington, etc. Woodward thinks that the GOP is spending a lot of money on candidates, but they aren't legitimately connected, philosophically, to anything that's going on in America right now. He says that Rove's whole plan is reminiscent of a "Politburo" but Rove objects and says that he's participating in a free market of ideas. I sort of think that everyone in politics would naturally rather make decisions in the ol' smoke-filled room.
Strassel has a great way of explaining how the Senate GOP's ten day snit fit is great strategy, even though everyone knows in advance that Hagel is going to be confirmed. She would make a great cop, as Fugazi might say.
Williams is amazed that the Senate is willing to appear to be so "petty" in public, but pettiness is basically the Senate's default setting now, I don't know why he's so surprised.
Does Bob Woodward have a huge boner for Benghazi? To a certain extent, yes. "There are always unanswered questions in situations like that, but the Hagel confirmation is not the venue for that," he says, adding that Hagel is not going to withdraw. That said, he wonders if all of the twisting in the wind won't lead Democrats to eventually wonder why they all had to go to the mattresses over Chuck Hagel, when there are plenty of people who could have been on the shortlist for that position (including many Democrats). There remains a part of me that thinks that tapping Hagel had as much to do with provoking an insane reaction from the GOP as it did with putting someone at the Pentagon who Obama thought belonged there.
Woodward says that Jack Lew and Ralph Nabors came up with the sequester, but "everyone has their fingerprints on it." Also, the sequester is "stupid." I would say that the existence of the sequester is rooted in the failure of the men and women on the Simpson-Bowles Committee, which is rooted in the failure of Congress to do anything meaningful about the budget deficit besides yowl like stray cats in heat about it all the damned time.
I would have supported the "sequester," however, if instead of dropping an axe on the military/domestic budget, it dropped an axe on legislators' limbs, beginning with the members of the Super Committee, but eventually extending out to their colleagues, staffs, and families. The whole idea behind it was to put an incentive out there -- if you don't fix the problem, the American people will suffer. But Congress doesn't care about that! Future incentives should be based on doing harm to actual legislators, up to an including bodily harm.
For instance, I think anyone in Congress should be allowed to take recess any time they like so long as they're willing to receive a punch in the face before leaving. After that, God speed you, idiots.
Meanwhile, while I've been imagining these Steven King style ironic punishments, the panel has continued to talk about the sequester, but it wasn't even remotely interesting. "Well, I'm glad we solved that," says a disaffected Chris Wallace.
What's next? Oh, I think it's Face The Nation.
FACE THE NATION
Face The Nation is going to talk with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. I tell you, there's nothing that thrills the spirits more than a discussion with a White House Chief of Staff! If you are ever in a conversation with someone who truly finds the palace intrigue over White House Chiefs Of Staff to be interesting stuff, be careful -- you may in Hell. Even if you're not in Hell, you are still, almost certainly f@%#ed and wherever you are, you should escape.
Also Cory Booker and Haley Barbour will be here to jaw, generically, about politics and junk. And there will be discussion of Popes and meteors and lots of panel discussions.
Denis McDonough is cut from the cloth from which all of the finest Chiefs of Staff are cut -- he is a bland white guy who radiates "crushing, howling bore" from a distance of seventy-five feet, and he begins by proving himself to be one of those people who laughs a little to hard at your tiresome joke. This will be beige, at its lowest setting of intensity.
So, the sequester! "It appears to me that this is going to happen," says Schieffer, and that everyone has "given up on each other." This is where McDonough will probably offer some bland, soothing bromide about it. "We've not given up on this, Bob," he says, "And the reason we've not given up on this is because it will have a real impact on middle class families." He hopes that everyone will take a "balanced approach," et cetera.
"What are the two sides doing?" ask Schieffer, and McDonough assures him -- ASSURES HIM! -- that Obama delivered a State of the Union address, and that it was great! Schieffer asks if he can say definitively that Obama "will not let the sequester happen," and McDonough says that he is "doing everything in his power" to avoid it.
I mean, are these answers too exciting for you? I don't want anyone to pop an adrenal gland and end up in the hospital.
Anyway, McDonough becomes the 924th person to come on the Sunday shows and explain that it's just sort of silly that the GOP won't consider raising additional tax revenue considering the only method on the table is the one that formed the central plank of the Romney/Ryan tax plan.
McDonough wants there to be comprehensive immigration reform, in case you've not figured that out. And the President "will be prepared with their own plan if talks on Capitol Hill break down." He says that since those talks have not broken down, the President is fine with what's brewing up between Capitol Hill lawmakers. It's fairly clear that if this bipartisan Gang of Eight can get their plan through, he will sign the thing -- at least it sure seems that way? But we'll have to see, I guess!
Schieffer asks about whether or not the President participated in any discussions on Benghazi on the night of the attacks outside of the first briefing he received. McDonough, says that he doesn't recall the President being disengaged and that he was briefed throughout the night and carried out activities during that time which were coordinated with SECDEF Panetta and the Joint Chiefs. "We did everything we could that night, which was borne out by the Accountability Review Board (ARB)," McDonough says.
Schieffer cites that the appointments of Brennan and Hagel are specifically being held up over the semantics and words that Susan Rice was instructed to use on Sunday shows. Again, again, again -- I must profess that the fact that WORDS UTTERED ON THESE USELESS DAMN SHOWS have in ANY WAY formed the basis of a GOVERNING DECISION in America is as clear an example as I can point to of UTTERLY UNCURABLE AND HOPELESSLY FATAL INSTITUTIONAL DECLINE. We are, like, maybe six years away from pouring energy drinks on crops and being represented by reality television stars.
Naturally, McDonough just thinks it's terrible that all of these nominations are hung up at a time when there are all sorts of threats, and he believes that Congress has been adequately furnished with documents on the Benghazi attacks. In about ten days, all of it will be moot when Hagel is confirmed, anyway.
Now it's time to segue to a discussion of stuff with Haley Barbour and Cory Booker, for whatever reason.
Schieffer says that he can't get past the idea that the sequester is going to happen, and wants Barbour to help him figure it out. Why, I've no idea. Barbour is equipped with only talking points, so we hear once again that the sequester was the president's idea, and that only the military side of the sequester is actually bad, and that it's all about the President wanting to "raise taxes." I'll keep pointing out that the White House is definitely done with monkeying about with tax rates, and has simply moved on to Romney/Ryan tax reform to raise revenues, which the White House is happy to offset in revenue-neutral fashion.
As bad as the sequester is, it is not all bad, because maybe there is still a little bit of leverage that the GOP can squeeze out of it, but it all depends on whether or not they can get Obama fully on the hook over the matter, which is difficult when the GOP voted it into existence and had their most famous haircut, Paul Ryan, ostentatiously praise it in public.
So that's Haley Barbour for you, today -- a man who every Democrat in America is happy to see serving as the face of his party.
As for Booker, he says that he hopes that the sequester doesn't happen because of the terrible things on the domestic side of the cuts that no one ever seems to want to talk about -- so he spends some time talking about the cuts to education, crime-fighting, and small business. From there, it's stump speechery -- Booker calls for a return to "pragmatism in our politics" and praises the President for putting "tremendous cuts on the table" to replace the "blunt, brutal and blind" cuts of the sequester.
Schieffer brings up Lautenberg and asks if Booker will seek the Senate seat, and Booker frames it all as something he's exploring, and claims to have all his "focus" on the coming gubernatorial election. (How much he really has to "focus" on that if he's not actually running is a bit beyond me.)
Schieffer asks him, "But...you're not thinking about running for governor, are you?" Booker says no, no.
Schieffer switches back to Barbour, keeps asking about sequester and asks if the best that we can do is kick the can down the road a little farther. Barbour says that Boehner isn't thinking about doing that, and then goes on to angerbang about the lack of the Democratic budget, and basically lets it be known that having given up the gun on the debt ceiling, they will demagogue the hell out of the sequester deadline and the next continuing resolution vote. So, lots of fun dysfunction to come!
Now, Schieffer is going to talk to the Archbishop of Washington, DC, Donald Wuerl about the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and what happens next. In case you didn't know, there will be a Papal Conclave in early March, to choose a new Pope. It will really make March Madness very fun! Anyway, there is a pre-conclave conclave of Cardinals where everyone gets to know each other and talks about the coming conclave, and eventually a group of "particularly appealing candidates" will emerge. Then, the official Conclave starts, which Wuerl calls a "super-retreat." Everyone prays, quietly, and then there is a vote taken and depending on how the vote goes, there is smoke involved. And we're all supposed to watch for the smoke. Here is a brief guide to the smoke:
DARK SMOKE: The Cardinals are still deadlocked about what to do.
WHITE SMOKE: Hooray, new Pope!
REALLY DARK SMOKE: Smoke monster from LOST, everyone run!
GREY, AROMATIC SMOKE: Dude, you are smoking a joint and totally bogarting it. Pass it to the left, okay?
And eventually we have a new Pope!
Schieffer says that Washington is so terrible and dysfunctional that he now doubts that people will come together to fight meteorites that threaten to destroy the earth. He then goes on the elaborately mention the domestic side of the sequester, noting how "draconian" they are. I think that attention is shifting away from the military side to the more devastating domestic side, which is a good thing.
Let us now enjoy some light blather about foreign policy with David Ignatius and Margaret Brennan and Tom Ricks, here seen celebrating the greatest hits of Kansas:
But first, here's some guy from Time Magazine to talk about meteors. Should be be scared of these things? Are they a danger? Dude from Time Magazine says we are and we aren't, that the Earth has been "playing in traffic" for a long time, and there "aren't any objects out there any more" of the shape and size of that destroyed the dinosaurs. So, hooray, an inventory of infinite space has been taken and we won't go the way of the dinosaurs. That said, there are rocks that could hit that would be the equivalent of a multiple-Hiroshimas, which is something "we would like to avoid."
Spencer Ackerman has the definitive "how and when space is going to kill us and what to do about it" piece, so go read that. And then stop worrying about the things that could kill you that you have no control over! It's not a big deal. We all have to go some way. You had a pretty good run, I think we can all agree.
Schieffer worries that some nation might "pick up a rock on their radar" and fire a missile at it and touch off a missile exchange. That is not likely. Also, you will never, ever, ever hit an asteroid with a missile. Ricks says it's more rational to worry about "asteroid defense" turning into the next big "missile defense"-style boondoggle.'
Then Ignatius says "there's a meteor headed for the administration, and it's called Syria," and I missed whatever he said next because my groan was way too loud.
Brennan says that yes, Syria is going to be a big story, and we will see if John Kerry can implement his ideas and "change the calculus" in the region. The emphasis remains trying to keep Syria from falling into splintered shards, and fixing it diplomatically. Ricks sees Obama as an Eisenhower figure who wants to keep the United States from falling into anyone's foreign policy crises -- and that means no military intervention in Syria and a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ignatius says that he was "struck by" the fact that Obama remains committed to "counter-terrorism operations" in the Afghanistan theater, as well as "training the Afghan security forces." He contends that this is basically the mission right now, and it will nevertheless continue to require lots of U.S. troops to remain in the region.
Not much was said, in the SOTU, about Iran and North Korea. Brennan says that those negotiations remain behind closed doors -- Iran, in fact, is back at the bargaining table next week, though Brennen suggests that the Iranians won't get what they want -- the sanctions lifted -- any time soon. Schieffer says that the sanctions seems to not be slowing down Iran's nuclear ambitions, but Ricks says that what's slowing that down are things like "Stuxnet," the U.S.'s cyberwar mission. He adds that the Iranian people remain one of the world's most pro-U.S. demographics. (So maybe let's not bomb them.)
Is Chuck Hagel going to get confirmed? Ricks says if so, he'll be a weakened head of the Pentagon, and is largely concerned with the administrative abilities of the people Obama has nominated, not their policies. Ignatius says that "it has become an extremely partisan debate," in case you've been living under a rock. He agrees that Hagel will be a "signifcantly reduced" leader, after all is said and done. Brennan says that, on Benghazi, it's not clear that there is ANYTHING the administration can offer the Lindsey Grahams of the world that would actually satisfy them. Yeah, duh.
More paneling, this time with Michael Gerson and Amy Walter and John Dickerson, to talk about politics and junk.
Gerson says that "both sides" are responsible for the sequester, and that it is an "absurd way of doing budgeting...heartless, mindless, and brainless." Walter agrees and says that everyone seems to be resigned to the sequester happening and now it's just about blaming someone for the coming tragedies, which as she points out, may not roll out as immediately as everyone is suggesting. Dickerson says that there's still the hope that they can replace something terrible, with something bad, and the real bad news is that at the current pace, there's no hope for healthy economic growth until 2017. Everyone can hold out until then, right?
Anyway, everyone things that sequestration is going to happen. But the good news is that people also thing that comprehensive immigration reform could happen. But is there any threat that the existence of the White House's "in case Congress fails here is a back up plan" plan poses to the Congress' own plan? Probably! Congress is full of dumb, whiny babies. Gerson, though, points out that in the State of the Union, Obama stayed completely out of the way of Congress, but the fear remains, because of the leak of the back-up plan, and the aforementioned whiny-babiness of the aforementioned whiny babies.
Walter says that the GOP still has to work out their own issues on "immigration and other matters," and that doing so is what prevents them from falling into a demographic hole. She cautions, however, that the work isn't done -- reaching Hispanic voters -- merely by passing immigration reform. That just gets you in the room with Hispanic voters. From there, you have to deal with the fact that Hispanic voters give broad support to government services and programs.
Schieffer says that he thinks that the sequester will get triggered and there will be some after-the-fact mop up where they "kick the can down the road" and advance the matter a little bit in the debate over the continuing resolution, which sounds likely to me.
MEET THE PRESS
David Gregory is pretty excited to have Denis McDonough on the show today, because he loves bland people offering bland talking points on the issues of the day. His first question is "What is the key part of the goal for your job?" and naturally that elicits an answer that is basically, "You know, do a good job and stuff." The next question is, "Wow, when meteors hit Russia, that's stuff you have to talk about?" and McDonough says, yes, you have to talk about the meteors.
Does McDonough think that Chuck Hagel will emerge from this contentious nomination process as a "weakened secretary?" You would be surprised to learn that he doesn't. He extends an olive branch to McCain, saying that he's talked to the Arizona Senator and that even McCain thinks the process has been FUBAR and that when everyone's back from their most recent recess all of the contention will resolve itself and Hagel will be confirmed, which is actually probably what will happen, but I'm guessing that McCain will take that olive branch and set it on fire, in just a few minutes.
It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough does not have any concerns about Hagel's effectiveness. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough thinks that Congress has been adequately briefed on Benghazi. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough believes that the White House is making a set of profoundly decisive and wise set of "next steps" on Benghazi. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough thinks that the White House has managed the economy completely responsibly. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough thinks that the President's second term agenda is both intelligent and achievable. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough "sure hopes" the sequester does not happen. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough thinks the White House has a cogent and responsible plan to prevent it from happening. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough supports a "balanced" approach to cutting spending (alongside revenue increases through tax reform).
David Gregory, of course, sounds like all the other Beltway gits in fretting over "uncertainty," and is one of those people who readily admits that they find Tom Friedman is a credible opinion-haver. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough, ever the diplomat, says that Tom Friedman is awesome.
David Gregory also very much wants to slash earned benefit programs, and doesn't understand why Obama won't immediately proceed into a headlong panicked rush to be the first and best person to impoverish old people and create nice stacks of corpses on the edges of cities across America that presumably the rest of the country can use as fuel while they are not working at Amazon shipping warehouses. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough thinks that the President's current plan already address these matters adequately -- but the reall sadness of the deficit hack class is that he does not "make the tough choices," or, in other words, absolve the deficit hacks of the crime of continually yawping for further destitution.
Gregory is very concerned that the White House worked on their own immigration plan, to guard against the possibility that -- I don't know...Congress could once again cock up something that should be ridiculously easy. It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough is not worried about the face that the White House has done this. "We will be prepared if the bipartisan talks do not work," he says, and says that they are "aggressively supporting their efforts."
It will come as no surprise to learn that McDonough does not believe that gun safety legislation of the sort the President supports (whatever that is!) is a heavy lift or a difficult reach.
Then there is a question about the Pope, and what the Catholic Church needs in a new leader. McDonough doesn't want to wade into those waters, except for some bland bromides in support of the Catholic Church.
Really, really fascinating marm, that interview.
Okay, about forty minutes to freedom. To get there, I must swim through the fudge tunnel that is a panel discussion with Chris Matthews and Gavin Newsom and Alex Castellanos and Carly Fiorina as well as hear about all the things that are making John McCain angry today.
It would probably be best to just list those, so, here's what's bugging Grampa Flip-Flop this fine Sunday Morning.
1. Hagel attacked Bush mercilessly and even though McCain did his share of that, too, only he is allowed.
2. Hagel didn't like the "Surge," who is McCain's choice for the new Pope -- Pope Surge VII.
3. Hagel is still a "friend of his" so I guess he's mad at how awesome a friend he is, too.
4. Hagel is "to the left of Obama," in the opinion of the intellectually bankrupt nimrods who are the editors of the Washington Post.
5. He's mad that he once said Hagel would be a good Secretary of Defense, because it makes him look like an idiot chump.
6. He's mad about Senate procedure not proceeding just so.
7. Paragraph after paragraph of Ben-gargle-ghazi.
8. He's mad at Susan Rice, and the talking points, as always.
9. He warned everyone about the sequester so get off his lawn with your damned complaints.
10. What, the White House has their own immigration plan ready to go just in case the World's Greatest
Collection of Cock-Ups and Lackwits known as "the U.S. Congress" fail once again to accomplish what they've set out to do -- namely, something that's supported by the vast majority of Americans? Well McCain is mad about that too.
Hagel will be confirmed, McCain says, so this was all terrifically not pointless at all, yay, America.
Meanwhile, you can read about all of the Misadventures of Grampa Flip-Flop with regards to his position on Chuck Hagel, which may be completely different by this time tomorrow depending on from which direction the wind whistling through his cranial cavity is blowing.
Now back to the Newsom-Matthews-Castellanos-Fiorina fudge tunnel I mentioned that I had gotten myself stuck inside, to my lasting regrets.
Newsom seems to think that McCain just "summed up" the dysfunction in Washington, rather than "show up on teevee and present himself as the homunculus of the same concept, but he nevertheless thinks it's crazy that Hagel is having such a rough time getting confirmed. That's a lot of contrasting concepts that Newsom is apparently able to keep in his head at the same time.
Fiorina delivers much the same talking points as I've already heard today -- Obama created the sequester, Hagel is his own worst enemy, it was terrible for Obama to put a plan in place for immigration if the nimrods in Congress revert to their natural state of utter failure, etc.
Matthews thinks it can all work out, because reasons, shut up. You can marry the GOP's enforcement to the Democrats' egalitarianism and made a Reese's Peanut Butter cup that deliciously solves the immigration problem.
Castellanos says that "keeping the GOP polarized on immigration" is good political strategy for Obama but he seems to miss the thing where the GOP is polarized on immigration as a matter of course, and this is literally not something that Obama has any effect on or control over.
Fiorina is not impressed with Obama's stated economic plans, unsurprisingly. Matthews attempts to explain that with interest rates down, we can and should spend productively. Fiorina simultaneously agrees and disagrees.
Newsom says this stuff:
All of this just-- strikes a chord with me because it comes down to the lack of leadership period. We have leaders that aren't leading, they're quarreling. Alex said something, I think, very profound and significant. And he's right, that it's a depressing point you made. This notion that somehow we have to get permission because talk show hosts are saying, "Well, now it's okay." It's suggestive of the world we're living in. Sequestration almost certain. We're going to go over this new cliff, this manmade cliff.The short version is that he has a book on this topic, go buy it. Also, he is LITERALLY a talk-show host himself.
Castellanos says that "Republicans have been shocked" by Obama's Inaugural and State of the Union addresses, because they were boldly "liberal." Capturing it as "boldly liberal" is actually a weird way of looking at it. The President went right down a list of things that are wildly, insanely popular with the American people (sorry, idiots, I have charts!), and as usual, reporters and pundits are having a hell of a time trying to race after reality.
New rule: everytime David Gregory says he's read a Tom Friedman column, I skip through the next five minutes of conversation. That kills the rest of the panel discussion dead.
From here, we have David Gregory talking to Captain Mark Kelly, husband of Gabrielle Giffords and new activist for gun safetly legislation. Kelly says that the President's rhetorical crescendo on gun safety legislation was a powerful thing for he and his wife to witness, and believes that some of the longstanding ice on the issue is starting to thaw:
KELLY: But have you heard Senator McCain who was on earlier? I mean, he talked about universal background checks, and about how a bill, you know, that he could potentially support. So there is momentum. I mean, it's really clear that we need to do something and pass a universal background check. You know, since 1999, 1.7 million criminals-- have failed the background check. Now the problem is, they can now go down the street and buy a gun from a gun show at a gun show. And that's what's called the gun show loophole. We need to close that loophole. And Americans are demanding that we do something.
Kelly goes on to say that he hopes that he can play a role in tipping the scale away from the dominance of the NRA in this debate over gun policy.
DAVID GREGORY: But you've heard the N.R.A. say, "Look, this is going to be a lotta legal gun-- gun owners who are now on a registry that the federal government keeps track of." This is an anti-government issue. This is a fear of government overstepping its bounds. For a lotta people, it goes beyond guns.
MARK KELLY: Well, that's a point that they try to make. But there is no gun registry. I mean, nobody is proposing a gun registry. What we're proposing that-- that happens is, you know, I just-- I-- I just bought a gun in October. And I went through a very simple, five-minute background check. I'm sure some time, you know, Mr. LaPierre went through a background check before him buying a gun too. Now shouldn't criminals and the mentally ill be subject to a background check? I mean, shouldn't they? I mean, it-- it is-- you know, it's-- it's hard for me to understand why there's an organization like the N.R.A. that is currently making it easier for criminals and the mentally ill to have access to a firearm. That doesn't make any sense.In this effort, Kelly's greatest strength is the way he cuts against the paranoiac side of the politics. If you've a yen to just see guns banned outright, Kelly's not your guy. But if you want to see things perhaps bend back toward sensible, you could do a lot worse.
Kelly says that Gabrielle has a "lot of energy...maybe not as much energy as before...but she's in a good mood." And she's committed to this effort as well.
Gregory signs off after asking Kelly about the meteor that hit Russia, Kelly reminds everyone that there is a ton of stuff whizzing around space, and man, I don't know where you find the courage to go up into that terrifying void, I really do not.