Today, there are budgets to be dithered over, and here to do the dithering are Senators Dick Durbin and Bob Corker -- perhaps setting up one of the more genial and reasonable discussions that we'll have on the matter this week. Not totally sure, but we'll see. Also, Fox News Sunday will have it's 6.397th "help the GOP rebrand" segment, with Matt Kibbe and Steve LaTourette. And then, their typically dull as dishwater panel discussion.
But first, budgets, grand bargains, charm offensives, and everything else that your Beltway critters have been doing that's not solving the massive unemployment crisis. What, we're on year five now, of the White House Press Corps not giving a tinned fig about joblessness in America? That's what happens when your political news is brought to you by a bunch of cloistered snobs, I guess!
But, guess what? I mean, really, hold on to your hats, here! The Senate Democrats and the House GOP each have a budget, and they are each different, which I don't think anyone saw coming. The GOP plan is all cuts. The Democratic plan is a mix of cuts and revenues. No one could have seen this coming!
And the President, as you may know, has expressed the desire to do a mix of spending cuts, revenues through the tax reform proposals of the Romney/Ryan campaign, and entitlement "reform" in the form of Medicare cuts and Chained CPI for Social Security.
So, the $64,000 question (not adjusted for inflation) goes to Corker -- will the Senate GOP accept revenue increases if it comes coupled with the entitlement reforms (which the Obama administration is trying to giftwrap for the GOP). Corker says that the GOP wants to see a "75-year plan on entitlements" and are happy to see tax reform, too, but the entitlements are the main thing they want to have. Wallace presses a little harder -- saying that the price for any deal on entitlements will necessarily come with revenues. Corker says that the "President is saying the right things" and yes, "we have the chance for a deal."
"I think Republicans, if they saw true entitlement reform, would be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenue," says Corker. Keep in mind that the average House Republican has a different point of view from Corker's (which is more typical of the Senate's GOP members, it seems). Where a Corker is genially predisposed to dealmaking and honoring the efforts of honest brokers, a House Republican hears that and says, "FIRE BURRRRRN. IT BURRRRRRRNNNN!!!" and then they strip to their knickers, cover themselves in mud, and run off for a puddle to lay supine in until their faces are not so inflammed.
Meanwhile, Dick Durbin says Corker "gave an honest and constructive answer" and it was in keeping with the work done in the Simpson-Bowles Commission, and takes that as a generally optimistic step toward a "grand bargain" that is a "balanced approach."
"I think that what Bob Corker just laid out is an approach that both parties can rally around," says Durbin.
Wallace makes sure that Durbin would accept structural changes to Medicare, and Durbin says that he's not down with the Paul Ryan Healthcare Funnybucks approach, but he's happy to reform entitlements so long as it's not "dismantling" disguised as "reform."
Durbin says that to his mind, job creation is the first priority and deficit reduction is the second priority, but just about nobody actually acts that way, and that includes Dick Durbin and Barack Obama and Bob Corker and everyone having themselves off behind closed doors while pretending they are creating a "Grand Bargain."
Corker gets around to singing his verse of "Kumbayah" to Dick Durbin about the chances of a Grand Bargain, blah blah.
"I've been at this for years," Durbin says, "and this is an excellent opportunity." He is insistent that Obama really wants to seriously talk with Republicans about it. Now we are talking about "seriousness." Corker, at least, is willing to actually define what constitutes "seriousness" for him, and it's when "the President actually uses the podium to explain to the American people that families are only paying one-third the cost of Medicare."
Bully Pulpit Theory is a hot load of horse-leavings, according to political science, and it doesn't change the structure of the deal that's on offer, so I don't know...we could have a week or so of this Romper Room, bull-pulpit mansplaining, which would probably deepen and widen the self-pleasure sessions of the Ron Fournier's of the world, or we could actually get down to brass tacks and fit the contours of the compromise without delay, or, optimally, everyone could join me in Adultland and we can backburner deficit panic until we're back at full employment -- and do everything we can to get there.
Will the Senate pass a continuing resolution? Durbin says that the CR has 99 amendments, and a Jay-Z joke aint one.
Wallace asks Durbin if his bipartisan immigration group has a timeframe on their plan. He says that they are making progress, and working hard on it every week. He says that they are dealing with border enforcement, the question of the path to legalization, et cetera. But he is very optimistic.
Corker is asked about North Korea and their recent saber rattling and the ramping up of missile defense platforms that have come in the wake of Pyongyang's recent round of cuckoo-lookoo nonsense. Corker says that in general, "most all of us applaud the efforts to beef up our defense on the West Coast." He does not consider the North Koreans a threat at the moment, and is hopeful that China understands the threat and will contribute productively to winding it down.
Rand Paul is the King of CPAC straw polls, but what does this mean for the future of the Republican party, if anything? Here to blather on and on about it until someone turns the camera off and decides to let advertisers sell some erectile dysfunction medicine, are Matt "Hipster Muttonchops" Kibbe and Steve "Beardie" LaTourette.
Wallace asks Beardie about the "40 to 50 chuckleheads" in the House GOP that were gumming up the works. Beardie says that he wasn't trying to paint all the Tea Party Reps with the same brush, just call out those who seemed "only interested in voting no and going home, and not governing." Beardie says that those Reps, rather than empowering John Boehner by giving him an opening bid in a negotiation, "sent him to the White House naked." Which, yeah, don't need that image in my head.
Hipster Chops says that you have to understand that "the only reason we're talking about a balanced budget and debt" is because of the Tea Party, and the whole point is to "stop playing this game." Presumably, "this game" means, enter into a period of negotiations. Beardie says, "that flies in the face of what we did in the 1990s" in which they balanced a budget. He says that his "difficulty with the Tea Party isn't the passion" they bring, it's the fact that "at the end of the day you have to govern," and just saying "no" reflexively is costing the country. To Beardie's mind, it's better to work out deals in which you get 60% of what you want.
Then we get a bit in the weeks. "You're getting a bit in the weeds, here," says Wallace.
Wallace asks Hipster Chops about his backing of both Rand Paul's drone filibuster and the sequestration cuts on the Pentagon and asks if that's being tough-minded on defense, and Chopsie says that you can be both budgetarily prudent and respectful of civil liberties while staying plenty vigilant on defense. He says that Paul's "willingness to challenge the status quo in both parties" is "a healthy thing." Also, a "trimming of defense" would be a "healthy thing." Things are healthy things.
Beardie says that there are definitely efficiencies to be grown and cuts to be made in the defense budget, but the sequestration was a "ham-handed" way of going about cutting the Pentagon budget, and you've got to find that "sweet spot." Maybe naked John Boehner can find it, while walking to the White House.
Beardie says that the Tea Party isn't adding to the dysfunction. He clearly doesn't believe that. I don't know why he's playing with kid gloves here. Beardie says that he doesn't have a problem with Hipster Chops' Tea Party Group, but other groups like it. But FreedomWorks is the biggest Tea Party group in town. The most corporate, anyway. Ahh, well. No fireworks, because Beardie is soft.
Chops obviously disagrees with any contention that does not put the Tea Party membership at the vanguard of the GOP. Beardie says that their vanguard has brought America a Democratic majority in the Senate -- with Sharon Angle, Richard Mourdock, and "the witch from Delaware" as their candidates.
What does everyone think about Karl Rove's "Conservative Victory Project?" Well, Beardie is going to start a similar super PAC of his own. Hipster Chops says that his faction is demonstrating that a LOT of his preferred candidates are "electable." Beardie says that he is against "litmus tests," but "if we want to be a national party, we have to look like America," and right now "we look like a bunch of White Guys from below the Mason-Dixon Line." The obvious comeback, for Chops, is to point out that he got Tim Scott and Ted Cruz into the Senate, so come again?
Beardie has a way of landing his darts on the dartboard, but you look at the lie and think, "Ugh, this isn't a particularly convincing guy." For instance, he doesn't understand why the GOP is so rivetingly against environmentalism and trade unionists -- that's an important point! But he's spent more time seemingly cowering from arguments with the guy sitting right next to him.
Ha, Hipster Chops does the exact comeback I suggested, only better -- reeling off Scott, Cruz, Rubio, Labrador, Justin Amash (white guy from the Northeast), et cetera.
This round goes to Chops. Sorry, Beardie, but you need to grow a pair.
Grab a milquetoast, time for a panel. This one has Bill Kristol, Nina Easton, Karl Rove, and Joe Trippi.
Kristol says that Rand Paul is out of step with the important contributions that the GOP has made to a strong national security, and Paul seems to be out-of-step with those traditions. He says that Paul is "running to the left" of the Obama administration, who he says is "retreating." But wasn't the issue drone attacks and kill lists? Ehhh, whatever.
Easton says that the "drone issue" and "war weariness" are two different issues, and she "does not see" where Rand Paul's war on drones "gets us," because drones are super-successful, right? (I think he was largely concerned with drawing a line and enshrining it in law -- American citizens not deemed an imminent threat were entitled to due process.) Easton says that the GOP should not worry about following Rand Paul -- it needs to stop talking like Todd Akin and get "more inclusive."
Which sets up Karl Rove, who supposedly feels the same way. Sarah Palin, meanwhile, is insulting Rove from the dais of CPAC, saying that the consultants who have been losing elections and insisting that they are nevertheless right should "buck up and run." The irony there, of course, is that Sarah Palin is the sine qua non of someone who thinks she knows what everyone should be doing, and yet she won't run for office herself.
Rove slags back, sort of: "I'm a volunteer and I don't take a dime with my work from American Crossroads and pay my own travel expenses out of my own pocket and I thought she was encouraging volunteer grassroots activity and I'm a volunteer. Second of all, look, I appreciate encouragement I ought to go home to Texas and run for office and, it would be news if I did to have her support. But I don't think I'm a good candidate -- a kind of balding, fat guy. And second, if I did run for office and win, I would serve out my term and I wouldn't leave office midterm."
Trippi says, "You've got wacko-birds, chuckleheads, and moss-covered and stale" and those are the three wings of the GOP right now. He says that he's seen this sort of internecine rancor in the Democratic party, and if that's any guide, then 2014 is going to be rough.
Rove says that he's not sure that many people are watching the rancor too closely. He says that Rand Paul smartly took advantage of a bad answer from Eric Holder, and that spawned the filibuster. He goes on to say that he's to the left of Obama on the issue of whether Anwar Al Awlaki should have been given a trial. "Virtually all Republicans would disagree with that."
Little more paneling, about North Korea's latest bit of warlike whimsy. Kristol is still all hurt inside over the fact that the Obama administration initially cancelled these weapons systems. He sees a laxness, that fuels a fear in him that Iran will be permitted to obtain a nuke without much resistance. Wallace points out that the Bush administration was plenty hem-and-haw over Pyongyang's nuclear testing, insisting they "would not accept" it and then sitting there, thumbs a-twiddle as North Korea did tests. Kristol sheepishly concedes the point to Wallace. "It's a bipartisan failing," he says.
Rove says that it's a painful lesson that North Korea does not do what you expect them to do. The policy of reunifying Korea is off the cards, he says, and we might have to re-examine that as a goal. He says that Obama misplayed his opportunity to displace the regime in Iran during the Green Revolution. As always, I'll point out that the reason the Green Revolutionaries weren't simply slaughtered en masse is because the United States kept their fingerprints off their movement. I don't know why so many people assume it would be best for the United States to get ham-handed there, and take actions that would have directly led to the mass murder of democratic moderates in Iran, but I strongly suspect that people just see Iranians as abstract concepts, mere ingredients in a mixture of America yawping it up and pretending they are Green Lantern. If many, many Iranians die at the hands of the regime that oppresses them, that's no different from eggs being broken to make omelettes.
Anyway, this show is over now. What's next? Oh, I am lazy, that's what's next.
THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW
I almost spelled "the Chris Mattress Show," which is probably a measure of how tired I am right now. So, what are the topics today? Uhm, hello? "Fifty Years ago, the Beatles shook up everything." And then there will be some Pope Talk.
Oh, it looks like I've made a terrible mistake.
Okay, this will all be discussed by Chuck Todd and Katty Kay and Kelly O'Donnell and Joe Klein. And again, they are going to be talking about the Beatles. Is there anyone in the wide world of sports who wants to hear what Joe Klein thinks about the Beatles? I feel like I am about to stare deeply into the insensate heart of the void, right now.
Chris Matthews just called the Beatles a "game changer." This is already starting out poorly.
Klein, who got his last growth spurt around the same time the Beatles were playing "Till There Was You" on the Ed Sullivan show, says that it was "an unbelievable moment" because you "suddenly had this group" than was "catchy" and "optimistic" and "insidious" (because of their hair). Matthews says that "this was the first time that children challenged their parents."
Todd says that the Beatles evolved from a band that came out of the gate with a bunch of positive jams and then, as they got popular and "saw more of the world" and got a little "cynical" all that stuff started to creep into their music. Take that, Robert Christgau!
Kay notes that the Beatles were the first British band to make it in the United States, prompting others to follow, almost as if there was a "British invasion," or something.
Kelly O'Donnell says that she's been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Humblebragger.
I'm sort of wondering when everyone will stop talking about "Please Please Me." It was a foundational rock record, but we sort of get it -- everyone on the panel likes those "happy" rock songs. I don't think that John Lydon or David Bowie are going to get similar anniversary episodes of the Chris Matthews Show dedicated to them.
Chuck Todd was a music major in college! I did not know that. Matthews asks him if he played an instrument, and he says he played the French horn. Good instrument! Todd says that it mattered to him that rock bands had some musical complexity. He goes on to say that he was a Queen fan as a result, but that all the British bands seemed to have some musical training.
Kay says that the Beatles has gotten enough of "Joe's wife" screaming at them and so they evolved their brand into a more psychedelic direction. Todd says that bands like the Rolling Stones didn't evolve in the same way, and the irony is that they are the band doing the "same schtick." Hey, now, Chuck, the blues aren't schtick.
It is Sunday and the Chris Matthews panel is listening to "Eleanor Rigby" and I really don't know what's going on, in America right now.
"That sound was so fascinating," says Matthews. Kay says she named one of her kids after "Hey, Jude," and shouts out the George Harrison-penned "Something." O'Donnell likes "Let It Be." Klein says his favorite album was "Revolver" and that "A Day In The Life" was probably their greatest song and greatest contribution to pop music in general. Okay, Joe, that is pretty good stuff, right there.
Chuck Todd, who likes "Helter Skelter," goes out on a limb and just comes out and says it, "They actually are kind of timeless." OH WE'LL SEE, CHUCK!
Okay, let's play rope-a-Pope with Francis, the new Holy Father of the Catholic Church. O'Donnell says that now the Church "has a Pontiff that's closely associated with the poor," which is interesting, but the "big issues with the Church will stay the same." Kay says that "in terms of political messaging," the new Pope was a smart move, and yes, she calls him a "Game Changer," too. Like the Beatles. And that time Jon Edwards schtupped his videographer.
Matthews mansplains the Church's stance on contraception, before Klein goes out on a limb and describes Francis as "truly righteous" and "spiritual," which is "important."
Everyone really brought their A-game to this discussion, is what I'm trying to related, with an arched eyebrow.
There are things Chris Matthews does not know, like how I accidentally almost typed "Chris Mattress," earlier today, and we all had a good laugh about it. Years from now, you will see me on the street, and say, "Hey, remember that time, that time you nearly typed 'Chris Mattress.'" And I will say, "Yes. I remember that time. Ha ha." And you will say, "Ha, ha. Crazy old world." And I will say, "Yes. Ha." And you will say, "Ha." And I will finally say, "So, could I please have some change so I can eat maybe a sandwich today," and you'll kick me in the nuts and we'll both move on with our lives.
For the time being, Chuck Todd tells Chris that his favorite song for the French Horn is "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Kay says that the number of people who have defined themselves as "strongly Catholic" have declined against gains for Protestants in the other direction (Anglicans are doing well, as well). O'Donnell says that some of Obama's senior aides will be keeping lines of communication open on the "Grand Bargain" front while Obama is out of the country, and that Senate Republicans have been the most positively inclined toward the effort. Klein says that Eric Shinseki should GTFO of the Veterans' Administration.
Are we moving toward war with Iran? Todd says Obama's recently set a red line, but extended, not shortened the time frame. Kay says that "we are further away" from a military confrontation than we were last summer and that the red line will probably be on weaponization and not enrichment. O'Donnell says that people are concerned that Iran may be further advanced down the road to weaponization than everyone thinks. Klein says that a war with Iran would be disastrous and ridiculous, and doesn't see why we can't contain Iran like the Soviet Union was contained. (That said, he thinks we're heading closer to war, not putting distance between us and it.)
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
Martha Raddatz will be filling in for George Stephanopoulos, who at least has been on his Sunday shift more times this month than I have, so I won't make fun! Are you ready for some John Boehner, though? WELL ARE YOU? Because we have to get through that before we get to CPAC and Pope stuff and North Korea.
Raddatz opens bt remarking that unlike, say, Bob Corker from before, or several members of the GOP Senate who have expressed positive sentiments, Boehner does not "seem particularly charmed." Outreach is "positive," sure. But Boehner wrote that he's "heard it all before" and it's "going to take more than dinner dates" to loosen up ol' John and get him to -- you know, accept Obama's offer, which is conservative policy on tax reform in exchange for conservative policy on entitlements and conservative policy on spending cuts.
"Were those dinners and meetings a good thing, or did it make no difference at all?" Boehner says, hey, "it's always a good thing to engage in more conversation" but the "bottom line, the president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people, we're not gonna get very far."
Boehner goes on to say that "If the president doesn't believe that the goal oughta be to balance the budget over the next ten years-- I don't-- not sure we're gonna get very far."
As Matt Yglesias points out, there is never really a need to "balance the budget" and there's no real way of assuring anyone that the budget will be balanced, anyway:
In general, the economy grows from year to year. That's especially true in nominal terms. So a continuous modest deficit is consistent with a scenario in which the burden of debt is always shrinking. You can see this most clearly in the post-World War II era. The U.S. borrowed enormous sums of money to fight the war, but by 1970 or so the debt-to-GDP ratio was extremely small. That's not because we ran surpluses in the '50s or '60s; it's because we ran small deficits and the Federal Reserve always acted quickly to prevent recessions from lingering to ensure a rapid return to full employment.
Something else to note is that politicians and journalists sometimes suffer from CBO blindness when talking about this kind of thing. Even if Congress passes a law that the CBO scores as leading to a $0 budget deficit in 2022, the odds of a $0 budget deficit arising in 2022 are extremely low. The 1999 budget surplus was not forecast in 1990, and the 2009 budget deficit was not forecast in 2000. Stuff happens. It's good to aim for fiscal sustainability and it's good to estimate fiscal needs over the medium term, but it's dumb to get too hung up on precise target points and the number zero.
This is the wrong time to be focused on the goal of enabling a particularly obsessive class of pundit/politician to have what amounts to ephemeral, good vibes about a twenty year budget projection when we could actually benefit from some effort to put people back to work, seeing as we are in the midst of a massive unemployment crisis, that one day it would be neat if we dealt with.
Raddatz asks about Boehner's "trust level" with the president, and Boehner says they have a "very good relationship" and they are "honest with each other" but they have to bridge some differences, which, again doesn't make sense considering that there's nothing at all from the Democratic party playbook in the budget deal that Obama is offering. It's all win-win-win from the traditional GOP playbook. The problem is (and this is not Boehner's choice, I actually give him credit!) that the House GOP is playing with the "STFU AND GTFO OBUMMER KENYAN MUSLIM BLARGLE-BARGY" playbook and if Obama comes out tomorrow for flossing between meals, mofeaux will be skulking around town with their teeth rotting out of the heads on principle.
Raddatz wants to be sure:
RADDATZ: So, do you trust President Obama?
And someone will probably throw a brick through John Boehner's windows.
Boehner goes on to admit that "We do not have an immediate debt crisis." Just a "looming" one. I think it would be great if we could acknowledge that the "immediate" crisis is "unemployment." But, no. Instead, "entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form and are gonna go bankrupt." Raise the income caps on Social Security contributions right now and we're halfway home.
Boehner describes Obama's desire for a "balanced" plan as being misnamed: "What's balanced about a budget that never gets to balance?" Well, recognizing that a "balanced budget" just provides certain people with good and happy fee-fees and doesn't really relate to economic reality is a good sign of a balanced mind, especially at a time when we really need a balanced approach to solving joblessness and income inequality, two things that a "balanced budget" can definitely take a back seat to.
Boehner just thinks, somehow, that "balanced budgets" create jobs. But it's the other way around. Full employment brings down the deficit, and brings the budget closer to balancing.
We need to put the horse in front of the cart, my dear, and not th'other way 'round.
Raddatz asks, "Is the grand bargain dead?" I wish! But Boehner says that "hope springs eternal." Raddatz points out that various Senators are open to new revenue, and the Democrats will agree to entitlement cuts if revenue is on the table, but Boehner is just, "The president got his tax hikes on January the 1st. The talk about raising revenue is over."
Raddatz briefly runs down the fact that all sorts of big entitlement program cuts are Boehner's for the taking, but Boehner is all, "Nuh-uh."
Raddatz moves on to a discussion of CPAC and the GOP in general:
RADDATZ: Let's move on to the Republican Party itself and-- and the CPAC conference this week. Two Republican Senators and possible presidential candidates spoke at CPAC, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Rand Paul. But they had very different messages about the current state of the GOP. Senator Rubio saying, "We don't need any new ideas. The idea is called America and it still works." And this is what Rand Paul had to say. RAND PAUL [VIDEO]: There is nothing conservative about bailing out Wall Street. Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The GOP of old has grown stale and moss covered. RADDATZ: Who's right? Has it grown stale and moss covered? BOEHNER: Listen, I think-- the issue with our party is pretty simple. There's nothin' wrong with the principles of our-- of our party. But Republicans have not done as an effective job as we should in terms of-- of talking about our principles in terms that average people can appreciate.
Raddatz asks about Rob Portman's change of heart on marriage equality (almost forgot that happened this week!) and Boehner says that Portman is a great guy, but as far as Boehner is concerned, marriage is between and man and a woman, selected at random, on a reality television show, because it's a sacrament, duh.
"I can't imagine that position would ever change," Boehner says.
Will gun safety legislation of any sort get through the House? Boehner promises only to make sure such legislation is reviewed. How does Boehner feel about the new Pope? He says that having a Pope from the Americas is "a giant step forward for the church" and that "Pope Francis is the right person to really bring reform to the church."
Okay, time to panel until we're limp from exhaustion, with George Will and Matt Dowd and Carly Fiorina and Xavier Becerra and Audie Cornish. You know, it's these typical "three Republican, one Democrat, two reporters" panels that are so terrible biased against the GOP. It's no wonder they are always so hurt in the face at what the mainstream media does to them.
We begin with TEH DEFICITZ. George Will says that when you call a "charm offensive" a "charm offensive" then it "loses some of it's charm." Hooray. Who cares. Meanwhile, there are now budgets to be evaluated, and Will has some feelings about them, and neither will be passed, in this lifetime. Fiorina agrees, and then does this whole soap opera thing where she moans about hoping that people realize that "pressure is building" to pass a budget deal. LOL, no. The "pressure" is on normal human Americans who cannot find jobs or pay their rent or buy food, Carly.
Nevertheless, if the GOP were more like Carly, we would have successfully passed a "grand bargain" and be ignoring the economic crisis, instead of the current ignoring the economic crisis in this grand-bargainless state.
Anyway, the panel discusses this for many more minutes. The way this numbskull discussion sustains itself in the popular discourse is the closest thing we have to a rhetorically-powered ouroboros.
We move on to CPAC. Fiorina says there is "way too much talk" about "rebranding" and that the American people don't care about this and she controversially says that politicians should "talk about things that work." "We should have a real conversation," says Fiorina, contributing to a fake one.
George Will likes Reagan. He also notes "the rise of the libertarian wing" of the party, about five years after everyone else noticed. Becerra says that CPAC presented a "party in disarray." Dowd says that he doesn't think "divisions are a bad thing" but that "CPAC is like the Land Before Time or the Flintstones...you have dinosaurs and people running for Grand Poobah of the Water Buffalo Society."
"I think CPAC's time has come and gone," says Dowd.
Rob Portman now supports marriage equality. What does everyone think about it? Will says "he will not be the last...opposition to gay marriage is dying." He says that opposition to gay marriage is not at the top of young conservatives' agendae and that's fine by him. It's fine by Dowd, too. Obviously, he's been on the vanguard of calling the opposition to marriage equality a bunch of bunk.
Fiorina thinks that people should just vote on the matter in the states and decide without politicians and judges horning into the matter. (Though, first, judges and pols need to resolve things like DOMA.)
Anyway, hooray for Rob Portman!
Dowd says that the election of Pope Francis is good for the Catholic Church's diversity and a hint at the possibility that the Church will make a stronger effort to focus on the poor, and become "a more humble church" in the meantime. (They will still probably lag behind Dowd on the issue of marriage equality, though!)
Okay, now there is a panel discussion with George Will and Madeleine Albright and Steven Hadley and General James Cartwright, so this must be a super-serious foreign policy panel, whoop-dee-doo.
Albright notes that Obama has gone to Israel, and there is a lot to discuss, with Israeli politicians and people. She contends that the President is "more popular" with the Israeli people than people think. Hadley says that it's super important that Obama say some magic words, to Israel, so that it conveys an alliance between America and Israel in ways that just giving them lots of money and weapons forever and ever and ever with no real strings attached just somehow fails to communicate.
Have the Israelis changed their mind on the timeline for bombing Iran since that time Netanyahu drew a line on a cartoon bomb at the United Nations and we all said, "that is some intellectual seriousness, right there," and Cartwright say, basically, oh, you know, stuff is all ambiguous, up in this piece. "Nobody knows where the timeline is," he says. He adds that the virtue of this trip is that it's not tied to a timeline or agenda and everyone can just go and "listen."
"It's a good time to listen, as well as talk," he says.
Will adds that the discussions probably won't wend in the direction of the Palestinian peace process -- Obama wants Iran to give the United States more time to act on Iran.
Albright says that "no one wants to abandon discussions or diplomacy" with Iran and that there's now burgeoning talk of "bilateral " discussions.
Moving to North Korea, Raddatz asks if we should be scared or alarmed. Cartwright says that the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang is alarming -- and we're just ramping up efforts to stay a few steps ahead. "It has clearly propelled the administration towards a shift in the missile defense program. It is a program that has been labeled as one that tends to pace the threat. In other words, don't build something until you need it." We may need it, hence, we're building it.
Representatives on the panel from the Bush and Clinton administration basically say, "Hey, we did what we could. Crazy old North Koreans, right?"
Will goes on a rant: "I would like to see struck from the language of our diplomacy 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable.' Last week, the following was said: "The United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state." Unless I'm missing something, it has been a nuclear state for more than half a decade. What does it mean? Obviously, we have a problem dealing with a regime that may be a little bit crazy because deterrence depends on the calculations on the other side. Stalin, for all of his defect,s was a rational calculator. We don't know if Iran is or this odd fellow who runs North Korea is rational and subject to deterrence."
Hey, that's Dennis Rodman's BFF you're talking about!
Anyway, we will probably also "go on the offense" on cyber attacks. "There are complicated legal issues," says Hadley. Ha, you think?
According to polls, the majority of Americans do not think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were worth fighting, and that is 100% correct, but let's hear what these people have to say about it. Hadley insists that we "have a government in Iraq that is not a threat to our security and is an ally in the war on terror," as long as you like, squint at it using your peripheral vision and not dwell too much on how pally they are with the Iranian regime, sure! That's all hotsy-totsy. (MEANWHILE OCCUPY SYRIA!!)
Will just says that if we'd known that there were no WMDs at the time we would not have waged war or planned an occupation. Of course, the whole WMD issue was sold to America with this thing called "deception," so what are you going to do.
Hadley insists that "we got something of value and we should protecting it and not squandering that enormous investment we made." Dude, the investment has already been squandered. It's actually a closed issue. Billions of dollars were pissed away in Iraq. Read "We Meant Well." That's the story of lighting money on fire, for thrill-kill kicks. Here's the incredibly true story about $8 billion that was wasted. This isn't a case where the jury is still out.
This Week concludes with Bob Woodruff doing a look-back on the Iraq War on it's ten year anniversary, and I recommend you just watch the whole thing when ABC News makes it available.