"The president tries to change the subject to the economy," says Chris Wallace, indicating that his show and probably the others will try to change the subject to the economy, which they understand as something that shapes the electoral futures of affluent politicians, as opposed to a system that knits up all human Americans into its unraveling skein.
You can probably read Alex Pareene's takedown of Chris Cillizza and Dana Milbank for a preview of that this day is going to be like. Obama's economic speeches will be the centerpiece for commentary today. They will be declared to be old, "nothing new," "re-runs," -- because everything is like a season of TRUEBLOOD to these gits, who don't recognize a series of ongoing problems in the real world that affect lives beyond this bubble. Probably, there will be a collection of sighs from the dullest people on the planet this morning, dimly and dumbly lamenting the absence of "fresh ideas" despite the fact that they've not had an original thought in years. Then, somehow, all of these people will be allowed to continue having these careers, presumably because they'd be a danger to themselves or others if they couldn't keep doing so.
Anyway, Jack Lew will explain what the administration wants to do, and the hilarious Senator Mike Lee, who wants to default the global economy because of Obamacare, and is already starting to lose what little support he had, will be here to whine and cry about that. Then, we'll have some dick jokes with Anthony Weiner.
But first, let's have some helpless flapping of arms over the economy.
Wallace interviewed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew -- who, to be honest, does not seem like he is an amalgam of terrible personality quirks stuffed inside a skin-sack with tufts of hair glued to his head, like Time Geithner was -- about the economy. Lew says that the economic push is a serious one -- at least as serious as one can be when a huge portion of the Congress is on bath salts 19 hours a day (and fundraising the other five). We need to build a future for the middle class, Lew says, suggesting that actually keeping a middle class, and not going to an all-favela society, is the preference.
Lew says that he thinks that most people, on both sides of the aisle, believe in infrastructure and education, and I'm not sure he knows all the same people I see, sputtering through their bloodstained teeth on C-SPAN. But he's hopeful!
Wallace, not so much, because we have the terrible sequestration now, and a looming cray-cray crackup crisis in the form of another debt ceiling hostage. Lew points out that the deficit is falling extremely rapidly, and the "consensus in the world community is that we need more growth." Wallace suggests that Lew's opponents want to cut taxes and let big banks and polluters run wild, and Lew gamely suggests that this doesn't work.
Lew also says that the President won't sign a partial repeal of the sequester, that favors defense spending cuts that doesn't roll back the savage domestic spending cuts. Which is not the same thing as "the President won't cut spending," Lew says.
The sequester should be fully repealed right now.
Lew wants Congress to meet and finish its work, and that includes raising the debt ceiling, and notes that "default is not an option and can not be an option." I do not think that Wallace disagrees, but since he is a bloodsport reporter, not a "figure out what's best for human Americans" journalist, he discusses the matter in a way that normalizes the psychosis, and makes this hostage taking seem like a reasonable thing to do.
The Obama White House, sadly, really encouraged the notion that the debt ceiling was an occasion for deal-brokering, and that was a mistake. A huge one. Now they've fallen back on saying that they expect a clean debt ceiling rise, no ifs or ands or buts, and that's the responsible, western-civilized way of doing things. But he should have not moved from that promontory!
Wallace asks Lew if Obama thinks the IRS situation is a phony scandal. Lew says that the President thinks that what the IRS was doing was a mistake and they've done what needs to be done to fix it. "There was a problem, the problem has been addressed," says Lew. He says that there was "equal opportunity bad judgment" in terms of targeting groups. Wallace wants the split hairs over the numbers, but Lew keeps him on task, noting that the people responsible have all been relieved of their duties.
Lew does what he can to explain to Wallace what "evidence" is, and how it works, and we move to a question about his signature, which is weird, and he's made it less weird because it's going on money now.
LOL, Utah Senator Mike Lee is referred to as a "leading Republican," I guess because he has used "leadership" to "lead" one-third of the Senators who briefly supported his plan to destroy the global economy because he doesn't want Americans to have healthcare to abandon that plan. Dude was booked a little prematurely, folks! Let's watch Wallace salvage this.
Lee thinks that as far as the IRS investigation goes, "you have to ask the people who were affected by it, how they feel about it." If legal matters are now suddenly run in accordance with people's feelings, that's new. Lew was wrong, then, to suggest that evidence is important -- clearly we must be governed by whoever has the strongest fee-fees and the loudest whines.
Lee is also against spending money on infrastructure or education, and he thinks that the best way to help the middle class is to take away their health care. Wallace asks about the sequestration, and whether or not the GOP is trying to bail out the Pentagon at the expense of the domestic losses. He points out the two best reasons yet to repeal the sequester tomorrow -- getting rid of it adds 900,000 jobs to the economy, and adds 0.7% in growth next year. It is really a slam-dunk case.
Lee is willing to admit that the sequester is "problematic," but the only problem he's willing to see is the military cuts, which still leaves the military the envy of the universe, in terms of how well funded it is.
So basically, yes, Mike Lee supports a military bailout at the expense of 900,000 jobs for normal human Americans and a tidy goose to growth.
What about his plan to destroy the economy because of Obamacare? Full sails ahead, it seems. Lee is aggrieved that the employer mandate, which would have been simply taken out of the law if we had adult lawmakers, because it doesn't really affect the law except for throwing an annoyance at a teensy percentage of small business owners, isn't being implemented and has decided that is tantamount to "selective enforcement of the law." Mind you, if you are a Utahn and you had questions about the law, and the benefits you were entitled to, I'm quite sure that Lee's office would selectively opt to not help you save money or get decent health care.
Wallace points out that he can believe what he likes, but there isn't any realistic path ahead that results in Obamacare getting defunded. Lee says, "Look, we all know that the government is going to get funded, the only question is whether the government gets funded with Obamacare or without it." Okay, let's have government funding and the Affordable Care Act and move on.
Some Republicans are happy to say that Mike Lee is a huge idiot. Representative Tom Cole (R-Okla.) says that Lee is essentially throwing a "temper tantrum," and Wallace points out that he's losing support, and that one of his Senate colleagues has accurately termed Lee's gambit, "one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard."
Lee says, "This is about Washington hurting the American people." Keep in mind that his plan, to push us into default over this, hurts the American people way worse than a program that keeps them healthy and alive and out of crippling household debt.
Lee says that he is going to treat all the people who are calling his stupid idea stupid and referring to him as stupid for being stupid as if they were complimenting him. I offer him my compliments then!
Okay, let's have some panel blather with Brit Hume and Amy Walter and Nina Easton and Juan Williams.
We begin in Egypt. Hume calls it a "regular mess" and says that the White House is taking the right course by treating the relative coup d'etat-ness as ambiguous. (Once you call it a coup, there are legal entanglements that preclude us from sending aid.) Walter says that cutting off that aid would, indeed, further destabilize the region, rankle Israel, and cost us money in the short term.
Wallace puts on his obvious hat and points out that, boy howdy, it sure seemed like Morsi was really terrible but on the other hand, he was democratically elected, and man...what a bad scene, dude...but what is Obama doing about it. I know, I've been wondering why Obama hasn't put on his sorcerer's hat and cast the "fix Egypt after many decades of autocratic rule" spell, yet, either. Easton grabs the obvious hat and says that wow, dude, all that violence on the street is totally ungood, man! Wow! Shucks! Darn. Hoo boy. She thinks that the "foreign aid" should be used as "leverage." (At that point, it sort of stops being "aid!")
Williams says that some people have angrily made it clear that they want the reinstatement of a "government that was failing," and for a second I have to remember that he's not talking about America.
What does Hume think about the Amash-Conyers bill, and the overall rift on the GOP side over liberty and security -- now being seen in pre-2016 sparring between Rand Paul and Chris Christie. (Which is somehow surprising for people! That Chris Christie and Rand Paul might have different views on things.)
Christie says that Rand Paul should bring his "esoteric debates" to the widows and orphans of September 11th, and have them in front of them, because it "would be harder." You know, not to take up for Paul here, and much love to 9/11 widows and orphans, but it's 2013 and I think it's just time we said that we're going to go ahead and have policy debates and not let widows and orphans have some sort of weird veto power over them, okay? There are limits, let's learn what they are and move on.
Hume says, "this is a battle that is real" and "it's been going on for a long time" and the GOP "is going to have to have this out." Walter points out that the Tea Party wing is decidedly with Rand Paul on this.
Now we'll talk about these idiots, Anthony Weiner, and San Diego mayor Bob Filner -- who may be even creepier, because he thinks that he will be cured after two weeks of therapy. Should they drop out of politics, though? Hume says, "Well, if the people of New York accept him as their mayor, it would really be something."
As I keep saying, New Yorkers as a rule pick pretty terrible people to be their mayor, Weiner would actually fit in okay.
Walter suggests that Weiner likes getting the bad attention, when no attention is the alternative. This makes Hume uncomfortable. Hume makes me uncomfortable.
I guess we're all on board with the whole creepy people are creepy thing.
Nina Easton, by the way, has finally noticed stagnating wages. She says that the "president's policies have not helped the middle class." That's a pretty harsh judgment for policies that have not actually been enacted yet, because of Congress. Williams tries to point this out, saying that the GOP has made "austerity the order of the day." Ehhh, if Obama had gotten his way on his "grand bargain" with Boehner, it would have been plenty austere.
The real good news is that there's been no grand bargain. All this "scandalettes" that we've had? The one really good thing they've done for America is that they've poisoned the well for Grand Bargain and America should at least celebrate that.
Classic Juan Williams: "Balloons are real. But if you fill 'em with hot air and pop 'em..." He stops, believing he just made an awesome metaphor that made sense to people.
THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
George Stephanopoulos is going to stay in his lane, and lead with Anthony Weiner, and talk to someone from the ABC show "Scandal?" I don't think I am going to watch that.
Anyway, there is "news" today. Anthony Weiner's campaign manager has quit, and people are still talking about his penis. Okay, so that's actually "quasi-news."
There is also news on the NSA front. Seriously? If there is news on the NSA story, WHY DID YOU LEAD WITH ANTHONY WEINER, when the only news about Anthony Weiner is "People are still talking about his schlong." Honestly, it's like small children produce these news shows.
At issue this morning is claim made by Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who brought several specific aspects of the NSA's domestic surveillance program to light, that he could "wiretap anyone" from the comfort of his desk. This was a claim that intelligence officials denied, but Glenn Greenwald has some new reporting on the matter:
The way that I know exactly what analysts have the capability to do when spying on Americans is the story I’ve been working on for the last month that we’re publishing this week very clearly sets forth what these programs are, that NSA analysts, low-level ones, not just ones who work for the NSA but private contractors like Mr. Snowden, are able to do. The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years. And what these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things. It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst. There are legal constraints for how you can spy on Americans. You can’t target them without going to the FISA court, but these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. It’s an incredibly powerful and invasive tool, exactly of the type that Mr. Snowden described, and NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I just said.
Stephanopoulos asks if there was any evidence that this was done. Greenwald points out that there was an ABC News report on the matter: "There was a report actually by your network, ABC News and Brian Ross, from several years ago, where NSA analysts, low-level ones, got caught eavesdropping on the telephone conversations between soldiers and their girlfriends who were stationed in Iraq and America."
Okay, but is there anything that doesn't involved Brian Ross? Because that dude is sketchy. "There have been reports in the New York Times that the NSA has wildly exceeded the scope of the legal limits that the law allows. There are all sorts of admissions, including this week in a letter to Senator Wyden by James Clapper, that the NSA has exceeded even the legal authority that it acknowledges it has, and they write it off to inadvertent keystrokes or technological confusion."
Greenwald says that Snowden is "actually happy that there is no news coming out of Russia, because that allows the focus to be where he wants it to be, which is on the revelations about what the NSA is doing," and not on him.
Actually, sadly, the focus has been on Anthony Weiner.
Okay, here are Dick Durbin and Saxby Chambliss, to talk about penises, probably.
Stephanopoulos asks Chambliss if it would surprise him if it turns out that "low level officials have that kind of capability to read e-mails, internet traffic, listen to phone calls." Chambliss says that "it wouldn't just surprise me, it would shock me."
CHAMBLISS: I was back out at NSA just last week, spent a couple hours out there with high and low level NSA officials. And what I have been assured of is that there is no capability at NSA for anyone without a court order to listen to any telephone conversation or to monitor any e-mail. In fact we don't monitor e-mails, that's what kind of assures me that what the reporting is is not correct, because no e-mails are monitored now. They used to be, but that stopped two or three years ago. So I feel confident that there may have been some abuse, but if it was it was pure accidental.
Ha, yes, probably just an accident! Anyway, Durbin says that the debate on the Amash-Conyers bill was "amazing" and it was a "sign of a healthy democracy." He says that he thinks that the "sentiment for oversight" of these programs is growing and that he supports that notion.
DURBIN: I really believe that we should limit this meta data collection. The notion that we're going to collect all of the phone records of everyone in an area code on the off chance someone in that area code may be a suspect at a later time goes way too far. And there should be another step here, these FISA courts, there should be a real court proceeding. In this case, it's fixed in a way, it's loaded. There's only one case coming before the FISA, the government's case. Let's have an advocate for someone standing up for civil liberties to speak up about the privacy of Americans when they make each of these decisions. And let's release some of the transcripts, redacted, carefully redacted so that people understand the debate that's going on in these FISA courts.
Sounds good to me. Chambliss is not willing to go that far, but even he admits that some more transparency is necessary. He says that Durbin's prescription may "jeopardize the program," but the burden should be on the NSA to demonstrate precisely how, and to let critics address/solve those problems, then to just take their stupid word for it and move on.
We switch to Egypt. Durbin says it is a "delicate time" and the ongoing unrest is not helpful, in terms of fostering a clear and democratic path forward. "We should make it clear in Egypt, as we made it clear in Libya and in Syria, that firing on your own people is unacceptable by any government."
Or we'll do what? The one time we did something -- go to war with Libya -- lawmakers ended up having panicky convulsions when there were four American casualties. It was somehow a "scandal" that four Americans died in a war that America was having. And we're not doing all that much in Syria other than arming al Qaeda fighters and hoping for the best!
Chambliss says that events in Egypt prove that "going from a dictatorship to a democracy is very, very hard." He adds, without a trace of irony: "They have been our ally for decades. And here all of a sudden we are seeing a move in the right direction, a move towards democracy." Ha, yes, here we are, all of a sudden, caught holding the bag for the dictatorship we supported.
Anyway he agress that things are delicate. Like little teacups.
After ABC News shows off the fact that they have an intern with Final Cut Pro skills, we get Jack Lew back to infotain us about what the Treasury is doing about the economy and what not.
George wants to know if we are heading for a government shutdown. Lew cautions against having one. That doesn't really answer the question. George says that he understands that the White House doesn't WANT to have a government shutdown, but what is the president going to do about Congressional gridlock. The honest answer, here, is "nothing." The gridlock exists only because President Barack Obama is in the White House. The only way to resolve the gridlock is for someone the Bath Salts Caucus likes to take over as President or for people to vote out the Bath Salts Caucus. There aren't magic words that will resolve the gridlock, any more than there are magic words that will keep your neighborhood teenage sociopath from setting your pets on fire if they get out of the house.
Jack Lew sounds a lot like Will Forte, vocally, actually.
There is some discussion on the debt ceiling. Lew is fairly confident that everyone will come together in a bipartisan way and figure it out. He wants the discussion to be more about the foundation they are building, and less about abstract numbers and targets. George wants to know how the logjam will be busted through. Lew continues to very diplomatically talk up both sides as adults and speak optimistically about the days ahead.
Now, here's the problem with all of this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is the bottom line, excuse me, still the same, the President is not going to negotiate over the debt limit? And if that's the case, aren't we headed for the showdown you fear?
LEW: You know, George, I think that, uh, a lot of people watched, uh, 2011 and learned from it, that it was a big mistake. I think that the leaders learned from that that that's not a good way to do business. Congress has to act on this. They're going to have to figure out a path to do it.
What's really dumb about this is that George Stephanopoulos USED TO WORK FOR A PRESIDENT and so he knows DAMN WELL that not raising the debt ceiling is a big mistake and that refusing to negotiate over it is actually the RESPONSIBLE THING TO DO. Why is he then, going out of his way to normalize the behavior of the hostage takers? When the shoe is on the other foot, he'd never suggest any of the things that he is suggesting. And this is stupid -- Stephanopoulos has certified expertise in this matter, but he's got to take that expertise out behind the barn, shoot it in the face till it's dead, and then return to the studio, dumbed down and blinded by the shiny lights of the bloodsport.
If he was hired by ABC News for his unique perspective, shouldn't he be fired for his steadfast refusal to apply that perspective?
Lew won't comment on the Larry Summers-Janet Yellen battle for Fed Chair. He won't greenlight a Federal bailout of Detroit, "I think Detroit is going to have to work with its creditors on this." He says that there are a bunch of programs that the Federal government uses to send small amounts of aid to places like Detroit, and they'll keep doing so, but there's no pan-galactic gargle bailout in the offing for Detroit, like there was for all those incompetent banks.
The panel roundtable is here now, and with it comes George Will and Peggy Noonan (who has finally been released from whatever basement she's been trapped in, we still don't know if she, like, FELL in the basement or was abducted), gigantic foreheaded Steve Rattner, and Katrina VandenHeuvel (who we abbreviate as KVH to spare us the number of times I have to spell VandenHeuvel, and thus, the number of times I misspell it as "Vendenheuval" which is apparently what my fingers want to do for some reason.)
Will says that he thinks that the GOP understands that the debt ceiling is a weak lever. He disputes the notion that previous battles over the debt ceiling hampered the recovery, though.
KVH says that if the GOP hadn't been the "wrecking crew" they've been for the past four years, if they'd only held to their political form, we'd have implemented a lot more of what Obama's been seeking to do, economically. She credits these battles for honing the populist voices of some Democratic lawmakers who previously had very weak ones, but I'm not sure that's going to help people get jobs.
Peggy Noonan, who thinks that Obama has magic whispers that compel IRS agents to spy on people, thinks that Obama's speeches are too long and repeating the same things and that people aren't "leaning forward and listening" anymore. (Noonan's big problem as a writer is that she ascribes her behavior and fee-fees to the American people, which is why prior to the Election in 2012, she was convinced that the thrilling feeling she received seeing Romney yard signs was absolutely being felt across the nation.)
Will and KVH fall out a little bit, KVH explains that she was really criticizing the current set of Republican lawmakers for their obstinancy, noting again that Republicans of virtually all previous vintages would have taken a lot of the Obama White House's bargains, helped tweak and shape laws, and gotten behind simple growth notions like infrastructure improvements.
Noonan muses that it's a funny thing but it's almost as if the Obama White House, at some point, decided that the Republicans were recalcitrant and you couldn't make a deal with them. Actually, one of Obama's big problems is that it took him several years too long to arrive at that conclusion.
"You've got to try to make it work," says Noonan. Again, could we have seven people deeply addicted to meth dispatched to Noonan's New York City home? She's just got to try to make it work.
KVH picks up on a previous point, noting that she feels like Obama waited too long to give up on the dead-enders. Will complains that when Obama says that he talks to GOP lawmakers, he knows that there are a lot who want to make deals but don't because of their fellow caucus-members or constituents. He takes that to mean that Obama wants Republicans to simply agree foursquare with his policy perscriptives, but pointedly, that's actually never what he's been about as President. This is the guy who wants to giftwrap chained CPI because it's been on the GOP's Amazon wishlist forever, and they won't take it.
KVH says that cross-partisan bargaining and compromise is actually very fun, and that she's enjoyed those occasions where she and Will have come to agreement, and further nots that the Amash-Conyers bill was a matter that brought factions together AND brought the best out of everyone, debating all sides.
We briefly touch on Detroit, and the most striking part of the discussion is that George Will just basically wants Detroiters to stew in their own filth, because they are "culturally" unfit to be part of civilization.
It's weird to look at Steve Rattner as the lonely voice of humanity, but, I guess someone needs to do it: "So what do you want to do, do you want to leave them sitting in exactly the situation you just described, or in the spirit of America trying to help people who are less fortunate, whether their victims of natural disasters or their own ignorance or whatever, do you want to reach out and try to help them and try to reinvent Detroit for not a lot of money. We're talking about a couple billion dollars here, this is small potatoes in the great scheme of life, or else you have your scenario, just leave them all sit with feral dogs for the rest of their lives?"
Will wants them to be slowly devoured by feral dogs, yes. Was that not clear? The thought gives him kicks below the waistline, sunshine.
"They don't have a fiscal problem," Will says, "they have a cultural collapse." This is pure, "I've been studying the issue from my perspectiveless vantage," yes. But the salient point here is that when Will describes you as having collapsed culturally, he means that you are no longer even human. Detroit is a city of Morlocks, to Will, and Rattner's notion that you can "invest" in them is just silly.
Now there is a "crisis management expert" on the panel. She says that Anthony Weiner has "a lot of problems." Man, this is just great goddamn journalism, right here.
Noonan, on Weiner: "It all seems to be quite mad." Smart take.
Anyway, Rattner is pretty sure that New Yorkers aren't going to give Weiner more than 5-10%. KVH feels the same way I do: it's terrible that Weiner coverage has distracted so much attention from the real scandals in New York City, which she describes as the "metastasizing inequality" in the city, and that De Blasio is the best candidate in the race for mayor. That is all correct. The top two priorities for the next New York Mayor is to roll back Ray Kelly's ineffective and discriminatory policing and develop more affordable housing stock so that families of modest means and service sector employees can afford to live in the city again.
There is a lot more talk about Weiner, and Filner, and little bit of Spitzer. Filner is basically a mega-creep, Spitzer has probably managed the best "comeback," and much of the rest of it is not interesting.
George Will and Jeremy Schaap are going to talk about baseball, and steroids now? Great. I'm going to delete THIS WEEK and move on.
MEET THE PRESS
Sometimes I wonder if my life would be better if MEET THE PRESS was the first show I watched on Sunday, instead of the last. But then I think what would happen is that it would just sap my willpower sooner, and I'd stop liveblogging earlier, then I already do. I guess there's no real solution. Anyway, MEET THE PRESS is on and they will talk about stuff and Harold Ford, Jr. is involved somehow because the producers of this show have all the taste and sensibility of something I picked off the sole of my shoe last night.
Meet The Press makes note of continuing clashes in Egypt, too. They've no new news on it, other than that they are happening.
Now moving to the economy, which is something that happens to elite politicians and imperils the ability to win elections, on occasion. David Gregory talked to Jack Lew. That was what everyone wanted to do this week, I guess. Lew tells Gregory the same thing he's told everyone -- "We shouldn't do that again," he says, referring to debt-limit hostage taking.
Gregory says that there is a budget strategy being worked out by the White House, one that the Washington Post seems to believe "could lead to a government shutdown if Republicans continue to demand deeper spending cuts." It's sort of incumbent on everyone in the media to remind people that when Republicans don't get the deep cuts they want, what they are supposed to do is have this thing called a "campaign," where they make what's known as a "case" to these people we call "voters," and if they convince these voters that their case is sound, they will elect more GOP representatives, and in so doing, perhaps get to pass laws that hew more closely to the budget lines the GOP prefers. That is how that gets done.
It's also incumbent on everyone in the media that trying to get your way by putting America's credit in default and torpedoing the global economy is a psychotic pursuit. A government shutdown would be less harmful than a debt ceiling default, but also stupid. Go get the votes in elections that you need, and go from there. If you've not the votes, then you get to compromise.
Gregory is making this all sound as if it's the White House that has driven this matter "to the brink." He actually says this a couple of times. I don't understand why Gregory doesn't get contemporary politics. This stuff isn't hard to understand. Obama's proposals are so MOR that they have two yellow stripes on them. They aren't pushing things to the brink.
There really isn't a whiff of evidence that Gregory lives in the world sometimes.
Lew does his best, "This isn't about brinksmanship, who wins and who loses--" but Gregory persists. He really seems to think that the White House is driving to the brink! To suggest that we NOT DEFAULT, and that we KEEP THE GOVERNMENT OPEN AND RUNNING, is to David Gregory's mind "DRIVING TO THE BRINK."
There are times when I wonder what it's like to walk around inside David Gregory's head. I imagine it's all herds of downer cows leaking lye and strychnine from their tits and deleted scenes from THE CONJURING running against a brick wall.
Gregory brings up the "Grand Bargain." Dude! It's dead, and it's irrelevant, because long term health care costs are trending downward and if anything we're shredding the budget too fast! But just so you know, Davey! The "grand bargain" was all worked out by Obama and Boehner, and it was Eric Cantor that killed it.
Lew says that the "grand bargain" is just some wafty bullshit that people in Washington care about, and normal human Americans don't spend anytime thinking about. Lew is making a strong bid to win my affections today. (I'm sure he'll find a way to screw it up, though.)
Sometimes, Jack Lew REALLY sounds like Will Forte! By the way, Will Forte would make an excellent host for Meet The Press.
Gregory reads a surprising editorial from the Wall Street Journal which criticizes Obama for policies that have benefitted the rich more than the middle class. Indeedy, this is true! As Emmanuel Saez found:
From 2009 to 2011, average real income per family grew modestly by 1.7% but the gains were very uneven. Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Hence, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery. From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% income will likely surge, due to booming stock-prices, as well as re-timing of income to avoid the higher 2013 top tax rates. Bottom 99% will likely grow much more modestly than top 1% incomes from 2011 to 2012.
This suggests that the Great Recession has only depressed top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s.
So the editorial makes an excellent and accurate point, about stuff that we've known about for a very long time. What is surprising about this is that the Wall Street Journal is pretending to disapprove of this. Surely the Wall Street Journal's editor's DREAMED of the top 1% earning 121% of the recovery, after the crash.
David Gregory also read an article about poor people in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on food stamps. This is a pretty amazing moment. I don't expect to hear Meet The Press talk about poor people for another year or so.
Gregory wants to know how Lew and Obama will move the poor off of these government assistance programs. Someone should explain to Gregory that we have an unemployment crisis in which there are four workers for every job opening, the unemployed are being discriminated against by employers with open positions, and we have this dumb thing called "sequestration" that needs to be repealed because it's inhibiting job growth. Also, the House GOP won't do things like fund infrastructure projects. But we could actually get people off food stamps and such if we ameliorated these problems. After all, many of these people were not on government assistance prior to the 2008 crash.
Alternatively, we can keep the sequestration in place, not fund these programs, and we solve the unemployment crisis through thousands and thousands of people dying.
Lew makes me LOL a little bit when he says that the U.S.'s recovery was much better than many nations -- true, I guess, if you look at say, Great Britain, where they implemented the full range of austerity policies and paid a heavy price for it. But I was just in Toronto, and I have to tell you, I'd all but forgotten what it's like to be in a city in an industrialized nation that's flush with cash and developing like gangbusters. It's also weird being in a city, whose residents do not vomit in their own mouths when you make them think of bankers.
"So you would not describe this recovery as anemic?" Gregory asks. Lew says the "core of the economy" is growing. I guess that's like when the core of an apple grows?
They talk about the IRS scandal, good time for a fast forward.
Oh, I'd hoped we were going to commercial, but no, here's Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) instead.
I'm going to try to get through the rest of the show without fast-forwarding. Suffice it to day, Rogers says that Egypt is complicated, but that the Morsi government was doing a lot of very undemocratic things, and that the Egyptian people and the military were right to try to shut that whole thing down, legitimately or not.
Gregory moves on to Amash-Conyers, a bill that we can presume he's against, based upon the fact that he's generically against the journalism that led us to this point. He notes that General Michael Hayden has said that the future of national security is trade off -- the NSA will have to be a little bit less effective to be a little bit more transparent. The good news, of course, is that there's no evidence that what the NSA is doing is effective, and naturally I feel bad for all the people who are going to die or who have already died because of the opportunity cost that the NSA incurred by collecting or searching my metadata, which didn't help advance the cause of "security."
Rogers says that he's frustrated by a lot of bad security policy ideas with...well, he never says with what. So, don't use collision next time! Then there is a lot of word salad, until he finally sort of kind of backs up the NSA, without specifically explaining why the NSA can't provide security in a system that ensures civil liberty and decent oversight.
Rogers says, "there are so many protections." But the best protection is being able to have a public debate on the matter, of which we've had one. But things are trending in the right direction, and we're not going to end up defunding the security state entirely.
Finally, there is a discussion about Snowden, and whether or not he is still a "threat." Rogers says it's important that he comes back -- and I guess we are pretending that he had "avenues" available to him as a "whistleblower" that he didn't take. I think that the "avenues" to which Rogers refers all end with me not knowing more facts about the surveillance state, and avenues that don't lead to me knowing more are, to my estimation, inadequate.
Now there is a panel discussion on Anthony Weiner, or something, so that Meet The Press can have a discussion pitched to the grade level of their producers and guests.
David Gregory says that the Anthony Weiner-themed New Yorker cover is the "picture that tells a thousand words" but for whatever reason we are going to have that thousand-word discussion anyway.
David Axelrod says that he's limited in what he can say because Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife, is a "friend" and I guess "friendship" is what you call the relationship between a White House insider and a high-ranking State Department employee who used her agency clout to facilitate a lucrative contracting/consulting business on the side. That said, he thinks that Weiner is "not going to be the next mayor of New York" and is a "waste of time and space" and should "go away."
It's worth pointing out that this panel is Gregory, Axelrod, Maria Bartiromo, Mike Murphy, and Harold Ford, Jr., and they are all not that much better human beings than Anthony Weiner, to be honest with you. This is the jackal herd feasting on their slowest member.
Ha, ha! Actually, it probably won't come up at this panel discussion but Bartiromo has actually been very famously proven to be dumber than Weiner. (Bartiromo's position, as stated on this show, is that the next mayor of New York City has to make feathering Wall Street's nest a priority, with a favorable regulatory environment.) I don't think there's anyone on this panel, actually, who would favor a NYC mayor that pursued policies that put normal human New Yorkers in homes.
Harold Ford says that if he truly cares about the middle class, than Weiner should not run. The neat symmetry here is that the best thing that Ford has done for middle class New Yorkers is not run to be their mayor, so I'd say he speaks from experience.
God, everyone really has a lot to say about Weiner. Axelrod says that Weiner is delusional and should go away, in case you missed it five minutes ago when he said so the first time.
Now Christine Quinn, who I imagine would be almost as shitty a mayor as Weiner, will make the case for having a slightly less shitty person run New York City. That case? "What's going on here is beyond unfortunate because New York City is the greatest city in the world and we need to re-engage New Yorkers and blah blah blah...stump speech."
But is he disqualified as a candidate? Quinn spends about ninety words finally coming to a "Yes, he is disqualified." Gregory isn't totally satisfied with her answer, so he asks her again, and she says that she won't answer that question directly, and then she DOES answer the question directly, and then she does more stump speech.
Gregory actually asks her why Quinn supports stop-and-frisk, and the answer is that she is terrible, basically! Ha, ha, just kidding. No, she says that stop-and-frisk is awesome, it's just not been used correctly, and as soon as it's under her management, minorities are pretty much going to LOVE being stopped and frisked. Maybe stop and frisk will come with a happy ending, during the Quinn administration? No, she says that under her administration, stops will go down, and you will see only "quality stops" that "keep us safe."
Ha, okay! And now Quinn is gone and everyone is talking about Weiner again. Mike Murphy also doesn't like Weiner.
Oh, good, we are going to "switch gears" and "talk about the economy." Here is a video about running New York City:
What does everyone think about economy stuff! Bartiromo says that there will be a fight on the economy. She expects it. Wow. That's really going out on a limb! A fight over the economy and economic priorities? Between the Obama administration and House Republicans? I guess it could happen.
Mike Murphy says that unemployment is out of control and that Washington is stuck. Damn we are just jumping off with the crazy hot analysis.
Murphy says that there are some House Democrats who are "every bit as fierce" as the House Republicans are, but they don't get any attention. Yeah, wow. Wonder why that is? It's almost as if the GOP controls the House, and holds the power, and that being in the "minority of the minority" doesn't carry with it any special clout. But I don't know, man. I just have my high school civics class to fall back on here. I didn't go to pundit school and major in gasbagging.
Axelrod disagrees with Murphy. He defends Obama for helping the financial services industry recover, which "was not popular with his base." Ha, no it wasn't. And by the way, it was you and me that helped that recovery, with $9+ trillion of our money. I think that what's not that popular with the base is the fact that those who sit atop the dizzying heights of that industry took home that aforementionsed 121% share of the recovery.
Murphy criticizes Obama for "campaigning." A few minutes ago he was urging Obama to "move into the middle." So when Obama is convincing people to do the stuff that Murphy likes, it is shrewd politics and when he's not he is "campaigning" and it's gauche and unseemly.
The talking sack of ulcerous ichor doing business as "Harold Ford, Jr." says that he loves the Keystone Pipeline, and that Obama should "give the Republicans something on the long term stuff." Did he miss the whole Chained CPI thing?
Axelrod tells Ford that he's being an idiot and Ford, whose default setting is cloying obsequiousness, whines that he and Axelrod are "on the same team."
Mike Murphy begs Obama to turn into Green Lantern, and use his power ring to force his will upon all of the roadblocks. Axelrod reiterates the fact that when Obama offered up all sorts of Chained CPI/entitlement reform, Republicans wouldn't play ball
I wish Axelrod had remembered this Ezra Klein post: "This is why Obama can’t make a deal with Republicans."
In it, Klein discusses how he'd previously argued that maybe what was inhibiting "grand bargains" was just very poor communication -- maybe the Republicans just didn't know what people like I knew: that Obama was totally offering a lot of entitlement reform...real "move to the center stuff." Frankly, it was real "move to the Republican Study Group" stuff, but I digress.
Jonathan Chait greeted that with a line from Upton Sinclair: "It is impossible to make a man understand something if his livelihood depends on not understanding it."
Chait went on to predict: better communication or more information was not going to change these Republicans' minds. Moving to the center would "almost certainly wouldn’t make a difference," because the GOP "would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something" that made all the effort moot.
What happened soon after is that Chait's thesis was proven in real time:
Mike Murphy is one of the top political consultants in the Republican Party. He’s been a top strategist for Mitt Romney, John McCain, Jeb Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many other Republicans. He’s also, as his client list would suggest, from the party’s more pragmatic, even moderate, wing. Over the past few years, as he’s transitioned into doing more punditry, he’s emerged as an invaluable guide to what reasonable Republicans think of the rightward lurch in the GOP.
On Feb. 13, Murphy wrote in Time that “six magic words can unlock the door to the votes inside the Republican fortress: Some beneficiaries pay more and chained CPI, budgetary code for slightly lowering benefit increases over time.” The only problem? Obama has said all these words.
And John Harwood, on Twitter, endeavored to explain that very fact to Murphy. Ezra wrote that Murphy responded: .
Murphy responded by suggesting that sure, Obama has called for more means-testing in Medicare, but he’s not put chained CPI — CCPI, if you’re hamstrung by Twitter’s 140-character limit — on the board.
Murphy, puzzlingly, also insisted that the White House had "refuse[d] CCPI as part of [the] fiscal cliff deal."
Obama never refused chained CPI as part of a cliff deal. In fact, he did the opposite: He endorsed it as part of a cliff deal, and he’s kept endorsing it, as his sequestration plan clearly says, since the cliff deal fell apart. This was quickly pointed out to Murphy on Twitter, at which point, he promptly proved Chait’s thesis correct.
Sure did! From there, Murphy tweeted, "his CCPI is small beans gimmick; only with big new revenue [increase] and no [increase] in Medicare age [eligibility]," and approvingly retweeted someone else, saying "[Republicans] also don't trust him."
So let’s back up. Murphy’s initial view was that to unlock GOP votes for a budget deal, Obama just needed to endorse chained CPI and more means-testing in Medicare. Then it was pointed out that Obama has endorsed means-testing in Medicare, so Murphy wondered why he didn’t endorse chained CPI as part of a deal. Then it was pointed out that Obama did endorse chained CPI, at which point Murphy called chained CPI “a gimmick,” and said Obama had to endorse raising the Medicare age, drop his demands for more revenue as part of a deal and earn back the GOP’s trust.
Recall what Chait said would happen if the Republican legislator in my column was forced to react to the fact that Obama has endorsed chained CPI: “He would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something.” Check, check, and check.
So, that's what's literally going on here. Klein went on to note that when Murphy finally articulated a point of view on the matter, it was that "if Obama wants a deal, he needs to drop all of his demands and just agree to what the GOP wants to do."
So, when Murphy makes it sound like Obama's problem is that he is a liberal President who just hasn't moved to the middle, remember that he really means to say is that Obama's problem is that he is not a conservative Republican.