Chatology: Digesting the Sunday Spew
Citizens of Wonketteville, fear not. As we promised, your beloved Wonkette Emerita, Ana Marie Cox, will be making regular appearances in these pages. Last week, she liveblogged the SOTU. This week, she drops the science of "Chatology: Digesting the Sunday Spew," a weekly round-up of the Sunday shows that will typically appear each Monday. (This week's installment was held up for various technical reasons that we won't bore you with -- oh, and the Super Bowl had something to do with it too.)
And now, without further ado, Ana Marie Cox.
AMC: We worried that this was too late in the day for a recap of the Sunday shows, but, hell, you're still watching that GoDaddy.com ad, anyway, aren't you? [Ed. note: This was drafted on Super Bowl Sunday, in case you haven't figured that out.]
Guest Ginsburg Rating: Deputy director of national intelligence Michael Hayden gets a 2 out of 4, showing up on both "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday." Rep. John Boehner ties, guesting on "FNS" and "Meet the Press."
What Everyone's Talking About:
1. NSA wiretap program. All the shows hit it except for "Chris Matthews," but he tapes on Friday afternoon and you know, this hasn�t really been in the news and no one knew the hearings were coming and plus he�s got to have time for his self-indulgent commentary at the end, so he�'s excused.
2. John Boehner's election as House Republican leader. Again, 4 of 5 shows and again Matthews marching to a different beat.
3. SOTU detritus was hit by everyone but NSA and Boehner got more focus, so we're dropping its ranking to three.
4. The "cartoon controversy," which always sounds like it should be about Bill O'Reilly but it's not. Played on everyone but Matthews (perhaps he doesn't want to compete with "Hardball") and "Face the Nation." (This is the story they all should have led with).
One hit wonders: "This Week" on girls' self esteem (you go!), "FNS" on the surgeon general, "Chris Matthews" on �Brokeback Mountain� (apparently you can tell a lot about a country by the popular movie it produces), and "Face the Nation" on Nixon and outhouses. No shit.
Quotes to live by: Mehlman says Hillary Clinton "seems to have a lot of anger" (especially around the issue of infidelity); Hayden pleads, "I can't tell you how much I'd like to go into the operational details of this� (he also can'�t tell us how much he�d like to kill us if he did tell us); Boehner brags, "I have 11 brothers and sisters and my father owned a bar" (and don�t forget those 11 kids can still kick your weedy anchorman ass); Andrew Sullivan pines for "big daddy government" (preferably in leather).
There were no appearances by Joe Biden. Could someone call his house?
Comprehensive, even exhaustive, summary of yesterday's non-sports-related showboating after the jump.
This Week, ABC
Ken Mehlman gets grilled on new poll numbers showing preference for Democrats in double digits on every issue but �who would you rather have in the Republican party, Republicans or Democrats?� "We're a party of reform," he says. After five years, right. Sure.
Ken Mehlman's upper lip is to Republicans what Tim Kaine's eyebrows are to Democrats.
Of individual retirement savings accounts Mehlman says, "That's an example of something that maybe doesn't make the 'Crossfire' set but the fact is it would really change the lives of the American people." Memo to Ken: Most things aren't making the "Crossfire" set these days. Someone give that man a new CNN schedule.
Tim rolls a clip of Chuck Hagel fuming about the politicization of national security. Mehlman's been practicing for this one: "I think that national security is too important for partisanship and I hope that as a result, Democrats who previously supported the PATRIOT Act will not go along with what Harry Reid said, which is we killed the PATRIOT Act." Massive mindfuck! The solution to partisanship is for there to be one party! This is followed by litany of "pre-9/11� mindsets, including objecting to wiretaps. "We welcome questions being raised." They just won't answer them. Recapitulation of the argument that wiretaps could have prevented 9/11.
Some chatter about lobbying and earmark reform in the House, but Mehlman says "we're not going to tell the House how to conduct their business." Mostly because they don't listen.
And the talk turns to Hillary. "I don't think the American people elect angry candidates... she seems to have a lot of anger," he says, raising eyebrows and then whispering, "I think Aunt Flo is visiting if you know what I mean."
Michael Hayden, architect of the NSA wiretap program and deputy director of national intelligence. He also plays Topher Grace's dad on "That 70s Show."
George Stephanopoulos wants Hayden to "help people understand" what this program is... pleads for a metaphor (perhaps something about a wild pitch, dust, and an umpire?). He asks several hypothetical questions the circumstances under which the NSA to eavesdrop on him personally (what a diva!) ... Hayden claims that NSA doesn't have the "time, the resources, the linguists" to spy on innocent civilians. Is this supposed to make us feel safer? "It's not that we respect your civil liberties, it's that we're understaffed." Not exactly an argument for renewing the Patriot Act.
George gets his metaphor: "To use a silly sports metaphor, they're going to be playing closer to the line"
Hayden, exasperated, says "I can't tell you how much I'd like to go into the operational details of this." He'd like to tell us how much he'd like to tell us but then he'd have to tell us that he'd have to kill us. Have you heard the one about how this program would have prevented 9/11? Hayden also says that "Even after the president's authorization, if Osama bin Laden, as a hypothetical, crossed the bridge and now he's in, now he's in Niagara Falls, New York, and he calls Pittsburgh, I still can't cover him." None of these defenses are very reassuring.
He does pick Steelers to win.
George dubs the Cokie, Sam, and George roundtable "classic"! I'm always wary of any panel in which George Will makes the most sense, though it looks like he�s shellacked down his hair to keep it fromescaping. Obviously, Sam Donaldson's already has.
Sam and Cokie think Boehner doesn't represent change, Professor Will gets out a chalkboard to explain how Boehner will stop earmarks. Actually no blackboard, just moves finger around on table.
Discussion of the "cartoon controversy" -- labeled here "cartoon clash" -- Donaldson defends original running of them but says of reprinting... we can all agree of rioting, "it's an over-reaction." D�oh.
Superbowl self-fluffing interview with Dominique Dawes (who looks very Condi these days), promoting an ad about girls's self-esteem. I suspect Dove might be involved somehow.
"Sunday Funnies" heavy on the Daily Show.
Fox News Sunday
First up: NSA surveillance... Hey, wait a minute: HAYDEN is here too! "Rare appearance," my ass. Chris Wallace grills Hayden on WP article that has the program yielding few suspects... surprisingly, Hayden is "not going to get into the fine print." The man's job is to not say anything, doesn't seem like much of "get." The point of interviewing him is....?
Wallace asks if congressmen expressed reservations. "I can't remember anything specific like that." Again, the main argument for not to being concerned about the program appears to be its own incompetence.
"We're being very candid with that with how we give our estimative products to our customers." "There's a higher tolerance for he said/ she said." "I won't go there, Chris." Hayden talks like a gay Successories representative.
Another joke about "using all your intelligence assets" to predict the Superbowl winner. Steelers. If he had wiretapping authority 6 years ago, the Steelers would have won by now.
Boehner in studio with Wallace. His eyes are sparkly and he talks like a grammar school principal. "If we're able to address the anxieties that they're feeling, we'll do better in November." Salmon pink tie matches his tan.
He thinks some proposed bans on bad behavior are "childish" in that they treat members like children. Then the members should stop eating paste paid for by expensive lobbyists.
When Wallace asks about Boehner's own fondness for privately financed junkets, Boehner starts smacking around his lips and moving his mouth like he's working on a jawbreaker in there. He has to take these trips in order to go see nuclear reactors in Spain. Wallace proposes that Boehner is more of a chamber of commerce Republican than social conservative.... "I have 11 brothers and sisters and my father owned a bar." Good enough for me.
Medicare is mentioned. Boehner says implementation was "horrendous."
Official Fox Question Others Were Too Afraid to Ask .... "How do you keep that tan?"
Panel time with the usual suspects: Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Juan Williams and Bill Kristol
Brit Hume out of the gate with an interesting spin on SOTU's lack of impressive programs or plans: "It would be a bad sign for if in the sixth year of his presidency, he still had massive programs to unveil." I sort of agree, if only because I don't like his programs.
OMG WHAT IS MARA LIASSON WEARING!?! It's like boucle jacket with hemophilia... My eyes! My eyes!
Bill Kristol's adorable self-deprecation of the day: "the president seems to be doing okay without my input." Medicare prescription drug benefit not corruption could be the thing that costs the Republicans.
Williams hammers on absence of Katrina from SOTU.
Brit Hume makes me sleepy.... snnnnzzzzz..... ooop. Here we go: Points out that Delay "made the house work," seems doubtful that Boehner will.
Cartoon controversy: Fox, of course, shows the offending illustrations... Bill Kristol does a tick tock of the story then says he thinks the radical Muslims are "winning" (not in area of public opinion but in terms of volume)... Juan Williams drops Bono's name into an answer about hoping he personally doesn't offend any Muslims. Hume calls it a "disgrace." Everyone pats each other's back about how we don't behave this way when we're offended... Which raises the excellent question: Why is this a topic for chat shows? Is anyone taking the side that riots are defensible?
Segue to the "other" cartoon controversy of the week -- Tom Toles's "Dr. Rumsfeld" bit. Mara congratulates the joint chiefs for just writing a letter and not threatening to behead him. Kristol defends Toles! "It was meant to be an attack on Donald Rumsfeld not the soldier," albeit "an unfair attack."
Power Player of the week is Dr. Richard Carmona ... our seventeenth surgeon general. Yeah, I had no idea either. Supports banning all tobacco products. Is not a Republican but an "independent." Calls stem cell research the "Fort Knox of science." Does not seem to have been vetted by the administration.
Panelists are David Gregory, Michell Norris, Andrew Sullivan, some blonde lady... ah, Kathleen Parker. Columnist.
Matthews focuses on deficit busting aspects of the SOTU, then speculates about �the reality we all live":
Matthews: David Gregory, is the president really convinced his fiscalI'm not sure if Matthews shares the reality we all live, but fair enough.
proposals, his foreign policy, all adds up to the reality we all live?
Gregory: No, I don't think it's the reality we all live.
Gregory tie watch: Silver with some kind of geometric daisy-like dots.
Why is Michelle Norris dressed like an elf?
Andrew Sullivan: Bush "hasn't been a conservative for five years."
Refers to "big daddy government." Projecting?
Gregory says Bush wants to use big government to "impact change." Use of "impact" as a verb makes my teeth cringe. As if his tie and his href="http://wonkette.com/politics/david-gregory-dancing- queen-117970.php">dancing weren't enough to not take him seriously.
Hamas/regime change in Iran... Matthews still very concerned about Bush's statements being "backed up by reality." Clearly, Chris only recently made the "reality connection" recently.
People on this show lean forward and point a lot. Gregory: "Palestinians either want a state (point) or don't want a state (point).... I do think (point) there's a legitimate shot here (point)."
Andrew Sullivan taps his feet as he talks, which sort of makes him look like he's dancing in his seat. As it were. Am I not paying attention to what they're saying? Huh?
"Addicted to oil" discussion
Matthews meter! Will the Bush presidency be a failure or a success? Nine for failure, Sullivan is one of them and Matthews asks why. "Are you trying to nail me, Chris?" Hmm-mmm.
Matthews: "Reporters who hang around the White House everyday, what do they think? Is he a winner or a loser?" Gregory: "Oh, the overriding feeling is that he's losing." At least he's not wearing that tie.
Clip of Rudy Giuliani talking God. Sullivan thinks it�s for real, saying that you can be secular and religious. Matthews exclaims that Andrew is both too! also he's "Gay, conservative, Republican! you got everything going for you!" Maybe Chris is trying to nail Sullivan.
Southern blonde lady says Rudy is popular in the south. Chris: "That's music to my ears... I think that too." Matthews trying to nail Rudy! Matthews meter weighs on Rudy. Forgot to pay attention to result.
Now the section of the program where Matthews is told things he doesn't know. Most of it not really worth knowing. Let Chris concentrate on nailing people. Michelle Norris says "Munich" will be shut out from Oscars.
Outgoing segment appears to be Matthews simply listing movie titles. Makes striking argument that popular movies can be read as commentary on contemporary concerns.
Meet the Press
Boehner here too, with same tie. Still can't shake feeling that he will announce lunch menu. Tim leads questioning with stack of Republican politicos bemoaning corruption and Iraq and corruption in Iraq. Boehner responds by saying that democracy in Iraq will cure all. Perhaps if they get to elect our representatives.
Iran is a concern but Boehner dodges the question of whether we can fight a two front Iran/q war.
Student loan cuts and interest rate discussion. Boehner responds in detail and sounds confident -- says that loans weren't actually cut, that it was Democrats who wanted to ditch a fixed rate. Perhaps now he will gives us lunch menu.
Earmarks criticism elicits claim that he's never personally benefited from them, but is against eliminating them. Lobbying/corruption/travel... throws "childish" quote around again. Advocates transparency over bans... says that there's disagreement about what the reform would be but that they all want reform. Russert�'s embarrassing infographic of the day shows the ongressman's travel itinerary: Spas, golf courses in Scotland and Arizona. Says Tim: "Those aren't exactly global hotspots."
Boehner's get-out-of-hard-question free card is thrown down. Apparently he has eleven brothers and sisters and his father owned a bar. Tim presses, Boehner finally admits "these industry meetings are held in nice places." Other big admission of the interview: Handing out checks from tobacco PACs on the House floor was "a big mistake." And the surprises keep coming: "I think Tom Delay is innocent."
He explains that while he got money from Abramoff-represented tribes, "Jack Abramoff didn't like me." Might make a good campaign slogan.
Arlen Specter segment. Re: NSA, Specter points out that the authorization of use of force act doesn't mention electronic surveillance. It must have been written in invisible ink! Argues that the administration's concerns that the program will be compromised if they talk too much about it can't be taken seriously until Congress knows more about it.
FISA issue, says Specter, is "big big big." He's concerned that Bush hasn't presented the NSA program to the FISA court. Says the court doesn't leak and are experts in the area; "if they said it was okay, I think that would be very comforting to the American people." It would be nice if the only people with enough knowledge to judge the program weren't all Bush staffers.
Will Specter subpoena administration records or officials? He'll consider it. Fine. Refuse to engage in Sunday show showboating. Be process oriented and reasonable. Specter: the anti-Biden. He also isn't going to comment on whether the NYT broke the law in reporting on the program; grants that reporters might cross a line in doing national security reporting but it would have to be a pretty extreme circumstances.
Brownstein and Harwood on the panel. It's the graying white male Washington reporters covering the pundit spectrum from brown suits to black suits.
Harwood has a lovely orange tie. Brownstein doesn't see a full-scale confrontation with WH over NSA program, will likely be decided in the Supreme Court. Of public's doubts in Iraq, Harwood notes that "all those victory signs [behind Bush at rallies] may have had the opposite effect than the president intended." In that we are now losing? No: In that people now think, "Oh, okay, we won? Then why are we still there?" They ask good questions, these American people.
Brownstein bobs slightly in his seat whenever he's listening to Harwood. It's like a full body nod. "Reform always disappoints" he says of lobbying scandals, notes that as the party that controls all three branches of government, scandal is basically Republican problem. Don't go too far out on that limb, Ron.
SOTU energy recap (no oil addiction soundbite!) has the flip-flop on where we're getting our oil. Brownstein thinks the real issue is how much the president's proposal will actually get into our everyday lives. Harwood says something about how he doesn't think Congress takes Bush�s oil reforms seriously and then I got distracted by his use of the metaphor "It's more like Jerome Bettis up the middle." (Where's Andrew Sullivan when you need him?) Oh but we're back with this: Bush is reaching out to Dems because he wants to "unplug some of the electricity to the polarization in Washington." Nice.
Face the Nation
Bob Schiefffer sounds mildly cranky but bored. Jeff Sessions and Pat Leahy talking about tomorrow's hearings. Mike Allen gets props for an "advance look" at Gonzales's testimony, including the assertion that even asking questions about the NSA program might prevent the government from preventing the next 9/11 attack. (Now where have I heard that before?) A brilliant rhetorical strategy, if not a legal one. Leahy tries to jimmy his talking point -- "we're all against the terrorists" -- into every sentence of his response.
Baby-faced Sessions ("The Littlest Senator") gets a question that's not so much a softball as set up on a tee: "What is the best argument you can make about why the President should have this authority?" You have to be THIS HIGH to answer that question.
Sessions basically goes with "because we're at war," and goes on to list the things you can do during a war that you can't normally, including how soldiers "can kill the enemy without a Miranda warning." I believe the Senator is unclear on the concept of a Miranda warning: "You have the right to remain silent," indeed.
Leahy denies that the administration fully briefed Congressional leaders and asked if they should change the law, with Congress rejecting the idea because "it might tip off the enemy." Leahy points out that the administration doesn't seem shy about discussing it in public now. Also asks us to consider "how stupid do you think Al Qaeda is?" Surely, says Leahy, they must realize that if they pick up the phone and say "This is al Qaeda's 800 number, we'd like to
recruit somebody," they'll be found out. That would also be a really bad recruiting strategy. Stick with the virgins.
Sessions explains that some on Congress get "top, top, top secret briefings." Super double-secret top briefings.
Leahy says that the WH has gotten changes in FISA whenever they've asked for them. Seems to think the "proof is in the pudding." Who is the pudding in that metaphor? What flavor is it?
On the WH turning over documents to help in hearing testimony: Sessions denies that it's a situation that rises to the level of needing such things turn over.
Panel with David Brooks and Karen Tumulty. Straight into NSA hearings. Tumulty notes that Americans are easy when it comes to giving up civil liberties, and that Democrats will have a tough time getting traction.
Schieffer says people just tend to think the government is spying on someone besides them. David Brooks doesn't care if it's legal or not legal right now, let's make it legal from here on out. Schieffer then calls Brooks a "civil libertarian." My head hurts.
Re: NSA, Brooks says "People accept corruption if you're addressing their needs." Head really pounding now.
Brooks refers to "some of the secret sessions I had this week" (!) and uses patented Blue
Schieffer's "final word" is on his first Presidential interview, in which he stood in a receiving line and asked Nixon if he would be getting "in house or out of house advisers." "They'll be outhouse advisers," said Nixon. Later, they made it to the big house. You listening, Patrick Fitzgerald?