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ARCHIVES:  2006 - 2010
A fun, feisty and philosophical dialogue
among two leading independents as they
reviewed the week's top political news.
     
 

(June 27, 2010) I want to talk to you about the McChrystal story, about General McChrystal being relieved of his command in Afghanistan.  But, I want to stay on some comination of speculative and maybe even a dramaturgical level...

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(June 6, 2010) I thought it was interesting. Obviously, the centerpiece of the discussion was that no matter that in the history of Western civilization happiness is treated as the object towards which everything moves, as Aristotle observed, there is still little money, little effort, and few resources given to the achievement of happiness in our culture. It’s interesting to speculate as to why that would be so.

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Determinism Run Amok. (May 30, 2010)

There’s been a massive oil spill. There’s been a mobilization by BP and private industry and the scientific community under the auspices of the government to try to stop the leak. And, it seems to me the nub of the exchange between Axelrod and Matthews was this. Chris asked whether BP “can be trusted” to carry out this recovery effort, a question that comes complete with a whole set of negative political positions about the oil industry. They go back and forth. Finally, Axelrod says to him, ‘What would BP’s motivation be for not trying to solve this problem? They do not have a motivation for that.’ Chris doesn’t really have an answer. What he does say is ‘Well, what they had was a profit motive to go beyond their safety capability, to drill down 13,000 feet because their profit motive is the motive here. But they didn’t have the capacity to deal with what might go wrong.’ So Chris’ point is BP created a problem that they couldn’t handle and that’s what’s wrong with this situation. I guess the axiom that follows from that is We should never create problems that we can’t handle.

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American as Apple Pie. (May 16, 2010)

There's so much interest in the British elections....the thing that has sparked the greatest interest is that under the British system, given that the Tories didn’t win enough seats to set up a Tory government, a coalition government had to be created. That meant the Conservatives (popularly known as the Tories) had to make a deal with the much smaller Liberal Democrats – the Lib-Dems as they’re called. The Lib-Dems apparently considered the very strong overtures from the Labor Party, which lost power in this election. But, ultimately the Lib-Dems rejected those in favor of going with the Tories. What seems tantalizing about this is that a small, somewhat marginal player in the English political system became the kingmaker. That’s what grabs the attention.

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Horseradish and Capitalism . (May 2, 2010) Fred, here’s something that struck me in Charlie Rose’s discussion about the battle over financial regulation...that it was a discussion among insiders. You have financial journalists. You have the Wall Street guys. You have the government officials. And they all talk about the derivatives, the subprime mortgages and all that. They’re putting the whole conversation on TV, because they put everything on TV now, about what Goldman Sachs did. So, the context, if you want to use that term, is the outsiders’ anger at the insiders. But the outsider/insider tension isn’t being addressed by the discussion about reform. You just have the insiders working on trying to fix up the system that belongs to them. I’m sure they’ll come up with some approaches that will, for some time, mute the extreme excesses of investment banking. But it’s not as if you have any sense that the outsider/insider caste system is being called into question.

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LuLa, Hugo and the New Latin America. (April 18, 2010) Charlie Rose interviewed four analysts from different points on the political spectrum, but they all told a similar story. And the story, with different specifics for different countries, is that there’s now a greater political distance between Latin America and the United States than there has been for many decades...I’m wondering if this discussion about Latin America, however much it’s like discussions from 60 years ago, fills out the changing picture of where the U.S. is internationally.

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How Should Black Leaders Relate to a Black President?  A Controversy. (April 4, 2010) Fred, over the last month or so, there’s been a more edgy public debate within black political circles. Let me give you my characterization of that debate. Barack Obama is President of the United States. What should that mean for black people? And how should black leaders position themselves in relation to Obama?

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God, Dodd and Reform. (March 21, 2010) There’s a lot of “wordage” out there, certainly, and it’s all about regulatory reform. But there’s no talk about why it is that we have so many things that need to be regulated.

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Healthcare: The Final Act. (March 14, 2010) Obama and the Democrats seem confident that even with all the ups and downs, even with the continued ambivalence on the part of the American public about healthcare reform, that they’re going to A) get something done and B) that it’s going to be a net-positive at the political level for them.

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Who is Obama in 2010? (Feb. 28, 2010) Here’s the political backdrop to the Healthcare Summit. The Democrats in Congress decided that with the election of Obama and with their majority control in hand, they could use the healthcare issue to bury the Republican Party. They believed they had the votes, the public will and the momentum and they convinced Obama to go along with their play. And here we are, a year later and that’s not the picture. They might have the votes to pass it on a “reconciliation” strategy in the Senate, but far from having killed the Republicans, they’ve actually helped bring the Republicans back to life. What went wrong for the Democrats?

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Broken Government / Unscientific Psychology. (Feb. 21, 2010) There was something strangely similar for me about the political discussions that we watched on Hardball, Morning Joe and CNN’s Campbell Brown and the PBS NewsHour discussion about mental illness and the DSM-V. DSM stands for the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the diagnostic guide of the American Psychiatric Association. DSM-V is the proposed update of DSM-IV. I’m trying to think how to characterize the similarity. One word comes to mind…

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The Ross Perot/Ron Paul Solution. (Jan. 31, 2010) The Charlie Rose panel with John Podesta, Chrystia Freeland, David Brooks, Al Hunt and Jim Fallows discussed the State of the Union late into the night. Charlie was in London. It was 4:00 a.m. there while he was doing the show. And it was an interesting discussion. It focused on two interconnected issues. (1)The contradictory nature of the problems that have to be fixed on the economic side and (2)the inability of our government, as it’s currently – not just operating, but designed – to meet that challenge.

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America's Angry.  But Does that Bring Change? (Jan. 24, 2010)  In the Charlie Rose discussion about rebuilding Haiti, Pamela Cox from the World Bank said a number of things that I thought had a subtext. Though it was contained in a “forward looking” perspective – how the World Bank and other key financial institutions are mobilizing to help Haiti – the subtext was “I don’t know if we can do anything about this.” She talked about how the world community mobilizes, money comes pouring in, aid comes pouring in, and then she says, ‘But you have to ask: six months down the line, where is the sustained interest? We’ve been here before. There have been crises in Haiti before. The world community has responded before.’ She calls Haiti a “fragile state.” She says, ‘The question is: how do we pay for development? How do we cover the cost of development for Haiti if we constantly have to go back in to rebuild because, essentially, the infrastructure keeps collapsing for one reason or another?’ She and the World Bank don’t want to say We can’t get anywhere in Haiti. But I thought that was what she was saying.

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The Goldman Sachs. (Jan. 17, 2010)  There were two things that struck me in the interview that Charlie Rose did with Morgan Freeman, who plays Nelson Mandela in the movie. One was that Morgan Freeman talked about how, as an actor playing a living person, you can find the inner energy of that person. And he spent a fair amount of time with Mandela over the years getting to know him and discovering his “pulse” or his temperament. Freeman and Rose seemed to agree that Mandela’s contained, even quiet temperament, in addition to his political skills, enabled him to handle a very complicated and dangerous situation when Apartheid was dismantled and he became president of South Africa. The other thing that I found interesting, and this is what the movie is about, is how the World Cup was a turning point in post-Apartheid South Africa.

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The Independent Paralysis. (Jan. 10, 2010)  They say Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader, had a bad week. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd is not going to run for re-election. Harold Ford might challenge Kirsten Gillibrand in New York. Other Senate Democrats are retiring. The early January talk about 2010 is that the Democrats, who’ve had a 60 vote, filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate, are going to lose that. They won’t lose majority control, but they’ll lose practical control. Now the pundits are asking what happened.

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C'est La Vie. (Dec. 6, 2009)  Barack Obama is conflicted about Afghanistan and his Afghanistan policy. Many commentators said they saw that conflict in his West Point speech, and that in expressing that, he brought himself into line with where the American people are at on Afghanistan, which is conflicted. On the other hand, some said that this is contrary to what the history, tradition, and culture of America going to war or expanding war is supposed to be like, namely that you can’t be.

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So, You Think You Can Dance! Conversations on Bill T. Jones, Tom Friedman, Dancing and Thinking. (Nov. 29, 2009)  Art and politics, political theater. We watched a Lehrer Newshour piece on the dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones and some of the history of his work and his company.

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What the Outsiders See. (Nov. 15, 2009)  We watched Charlie Rose interview ... the whiz kids. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, who wrote “Freakonomics” and “SuperFreakonomics,” and Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers” and “Blink.” His latest book is called “What The Dog Saw.” All three are cultural commentators who are exploring aspects of the ways that we see and understand different phenomena. They’re trying to go up against some conventional wisdom.

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Independents, Organized. (Nov. 8, 2009)

Independents are the talk of the town. So, let’s talk about how independents are being talked about. The analysis of the vote on Tuesday is that the Democratic Party lost the independent vote.

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Is Obama a Conservative? (Oct. 31, 2009)

We watched a Charlie Rose interview with Sam Tanenhaus, who has written a new book titled “The Death of Conservatism,” in which he examines the history of intellectual thought in the conservative movement, and the history of conservatism in the Republican Party.

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Aristotle Contemplating Public Policy. (Oct. 18, 2009) Charlie Rose interviewed Michael Sandel, the Harvard political philosopher. You interviewed him years ago on the Fulani! Show and he’s been a prolific author on subjects having to do with democracy, civic life, and the need to reinvigorate a civil discourse.

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Giving Something to the "Bad" People. (Oct. 11, 2009) We watched a piece on the Lehrer NewsHour about the government response to some extreme youth violence in Chicago. The Attorney General Eric Holder and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education who is originally from Chicago, were there. Mayor Daley was there, who, by the way, looks so much like his father now. He didn’t used to when he was younger.

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Don't Follow Orders. (Oct. 4, 2009) We watched a Charlie Rose interview with Paul Volcker, chairman of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, about the state of the economy.

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Regulating King Kong. (Sept. 20, 2009) Let’s agree, in having our discussion, that we’re not economists, we’re not bankers, we’re not reporters who cover the financial sector, or anything like that. That said, the one-year anniversary of the failure of Lehman has become an official occasion to discuss the state of capitalism.

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Crackpot Theory. (Sept. 13, 2009) I want to ask you about what Mike Barnacle called his “crackpot theory” while interviewing Pat Buchanan and David Corn. His crackpot theory is that whenever you’re talking about significant structural change – like on the scale of what is being considered for health care – there’s an automatic resistance.

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Obama's Entanglements or So What if He Is a Socialist? (Sept. 6, 2009) We’ll start with what’s going on in Afghanistan, where we’re looking at escalating U.S. involvement. We’ve got 68,000 troops there and the talk is about deploying more. And, we just watched New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins live from Kabul and the situation looks very bad, very unstable. It’s a country at war, that situation doesn’t seem to be improving and any sense of popular political confidence in the central government, Karzai’s government, is eroding.

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A (Warmer) World of End-ism. (August 23, 2009) Here’s something I was thinking about while we were watching several interviews. Freeman Dyson, the noted physicist, protested to Charlie Rose about the media, in this case the New York Times. Dyson talked about a colleague of his, a fellow physicist. They have divergent views on global warming, apparently, but they’re also good friends. The New York Times wrote an article about them that painted them as mortal enemies…

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The Ant and the Grasshopper Revisited. (August 16, 2009) Here's what was offered on Charlie Rose as a metaphor for the two sides of the American personality by Kurt Andersen, author of a new book called "Reset." The ant stores food during spring and summer so that when the weather turns cold, the ant has something to eat and the grasshopper is an irresponsible partygoer who does nothging to protect himself for the future and then...

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Bill's Back. (August 9, 2009)  We watched a NewsHour segment on Iran about Ahmadinejad’s inauguration and the “show trials” in which the opposition leaders are recanting – under duress – their prior positions about the illegitimacy of the elections. Some Iranian experts in the U.S. mocked the regime for insisting that there had been meddling by the West in the protests.

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What's Next in Afghanistan? (August 2, 2009) 

We spent some time following the war story, the drawdown of American combat forces in Iraq while playing more of a support role to the Iraqi national army, combined with a build up in Afghanistan, building up troop levels and building up the strategic emphasis on U.S. policy in Afghanistan. I thought we might talk about that.

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Long Shots. (June 28, 2009)  We watched a series of shows as events continued to unfold in Iran. There are two topics being discussed. One is what is it that’s going on in Iran? And the other is how is Obama relating to those events?

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The Moral Core. (June 21, 2009) Newsweek ran a cover story titled “The Capitalist Manifesto,” with a lead essay by Fareed Zakaria. Basically, “The Capitalist Manifesto” says that it’s not capitalism that is in crisis, it’s finance that is in crisis, due to the unregulated/greedy/irresponsible behavior of the financial industry, all of which was legal. After laying out an overview of the crisis and the signs of seeming recovery, Zakaria concludes by saying that whatever your take on this crisis, over the last 30 years of globalism crises have occurred at a more frequent rate and that overall instability needs to be addressed. How?

 

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Surprises and Clutch Playing. (June 14, 2009)  Today we’re going to touch on health care, foreign policy, and capitalism. A few minor subjects! Let’s start with health care.

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On the Tarmac, on the Court, on the Ball. (June 7, 2009).We started with an interview that Chris Matthews did with Richard Wolffe, who has a new book out about Obama called “Renegade: The Making of a President.”

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Labor, Capital and Consistency. (May 24, 2009).  Let’s start with Andy Stern and the new labor movement...He’s a controversial figure in the labor movement and his controversy stems from the fact that he took a huge chunk of member unions out of the AFL-CIO and set up a separate federation.

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Unthinkable and Undecidable. (May 10, 2009). I want to start by asking you about some of the ideas that Charlie Rose discussed with Joshua Cooper Ramo, who wrote “The Age of the Unthinkable.” Essentially Cooper Ramo focuses on the disconnect between what he calls old ways of thinking and the very significant changes that have occurred in the world. He underscores the dangers inherent in that disconnect.

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Law and Disorder. (April 26, 2009).  I hate to torture you with the torture issue but I’m going to.

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Pirates, Policy and a Pooch. (April 19, 2009).  What do I know? To me, the pirates are in Pittsburgh. That’s all I know about pirates. I don’t know about pirates on the Horn of Africa.

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Obama's Model. (April 5, 2009)  Let’s talk first about the economy. The news reports are showing a 660,000 job loss from last month. There’s some haranguing going on in response to these figures: The stimulus package isn’t working, we’re going down the wrong road! We thought the economy was getting better, but this shows it’s getting worse. Tell me your thoughts about the latest statistics and the way that these things are being discussed.

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Bonus, Bubbles and Bangs. (March 22, 2009)  In discussing the bonuses and whether AIG broke the law, Obama observed that most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal and that we have to focus our attention on the kind of regulatory reform necessary to protect the interests of the American people. And, he commented that 40% of our recent economic growth has been in the financial sector and, as he put it, it turns out that that growth isn’t real. A lot of it was “on paper” and it evaporated. These are both devastating problems, but he was upbeat and confident. Were there things that struck you in Obama’s conversation with Leno?

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Fuzzballs and Foreign Policy (March 8, 2009) The story of the week was about Rush Limbaugh.

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Open Surge; Open Primaries (February 22, 2009) We watched a couple of discussions about partisanship, bipartisanship, post-partisanship. Chris Matthews interviewed Hendrik Hertzberg from The New Yorker who says, ‘Bipartisanship is a mindless category.’ He goes on to say it’s really a “stand in” for something else, for the American people wanting changes in the way that politics is done. So we start there. Is bipartisanship a “mindless category?”

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You Can't Get There From Here. (February 15, 2009)  We'll start in contemporary America, work our way back to Abraham Lincoln and then overseas to the Middle East. So, in the here and now, the economic stimulus bill passed in the House and the Senate. President Obama will sign it this week. It's an $800 billion package and there's controversy over what its impact is going to be and, to some degree, on the process of getting it passed. Some pundits are asking whether Obama put too much emphasis on bipartisanship. As one commentator said, 'The country sees Obama reaching out across the aisle to Republicans, and Americans feel good about that. They think that's the right thing to do. But,' they add, 'he got no return on that by and large.' The House vote was completely along party lines. Only three Senate Republicans voted for the package. So, as David Brooks said, in stylistic terms he did well because he reached out. But it didn't produce anything real, in terms of bipartisanship.

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The Rules of the Game. (February 8, 2009)  We watched a discussion between Mark Shields and David Brooks on the News Hour about the past weeks in Washington. The economic stimulus bill passed the House, but with no Republican support. It moved to the Senate. The bill is being re-written with politicking and negotiations and wheeling and dealing with a few Senate Republicans. A deal on a compromise bill was reached which shaves $60 billion off of the $900 billion package that was passed by the House. And the pundits are into what I would call microscopic analysis of the twists and turns and what it all means relative to Obama and the Obama presidency. Let me start with a broad question. Is there anything in the events of last week that surprised you in any way?

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Doing Nothing. (February 1, 2009)  We just watched Lee Hamilton, formerly the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, talk about the international situation on Charlie Rose. What can we do to leave behind a maximally stable situation in Iraq?

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Paradigm or Pause? (January 4, 2009)  We watched Chris Matthews on Hardball asking a series of what you might call "big questions." The biggest big question was: As we go into the new year, as Obama takes office, are we experiencing a paradigm shift or a "pause"? Is the country about to redefine government policy relative to the economy and the business sector? Is this akin to 1932 and the Roosevelt New Deal or is it something other than, to use his term, a "pause?" Pat Buchanan says: 'Here are some things that it is. It's a rejection of neo-conservatism. It's a rejection of war. And it's a rejection of the economic policies that brought about the biggest collapse since 1929. That much we know. Other than that, we don't really know.' How do you answer that question? Should we expect a paradigm shift or a pause?

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Out of Chaos. (December 21, 2008) Charlie Rose interviewed Henry Kissinger. Kissinger says that he sees opportunity in the current world crisis and made two basic points. One, he talked about the period right after the Second World War – 1945 to 1950 – as the most creative period in American foreign policy and in the construction of a new world system. He referenced the founding of NATO, the United Nations and the Marshall Plan. And Kissinger underscored that going into that period, the world was in chaos and there was a tremendous fear of destabilization following the war. Consequently, his point was that we should not make the mistake of thinking that being in a chaotic situation internationally means that new things can't get created in that context. The other point he makes is about "parallel interests" that now exist, particularly for Russia, China, India, Europe and the United States, all of whom have reasons to want a quiet international environment, because each country or region has so many domestic challenges that they want to be free to address those challenges without getting caught up in an overheated international conflict. Kissinger is not hugely optimistic, but is "moderately optimistic." So, let me start by asking you how you think about the broad issue of there being opportunity in crisis and chaos?

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Tragic Figures. (December 14, 2008) Let's start with the auto companies and the Detroit bailout. The Senate failed to reach an agreement, so the deal fell apart in Congress. The White House is going to make some kind of move. On the Lehrer NewsHour, David Brooks and Mark Shields got into a more heated fight than they typically do.

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Bail Out Philanthropy. (December 7, 2008) I'm going to start with the foreign policy story. Obama's put together his foreign policy team, including the holdover Robert Gates as Defense Secretary and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. By-and-large the appointments have been applauded by the establishment and critiqued to varying degrees by elements of the Left. The left critique is – well, if Obama is looking to change the mindset that took us to war in the first place, then where is the change in the mindset? They say they want what they're calling a "left perspective" on the foreign policy team. To what extent do you think Obama is adjusting to certain realities about how you govern and how do you suppose he is thinking about how to use that kind of team to introduce a new mindset?

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Team of Obamaists. (November 23, 2008)  The talk is about whether Obama's announced appointments signal that he's allowing Washington to change him rather than his being the one to change Washington. That's coupled with the idea that the team Obama is putting together is a sign that he is going to govern from the Center-Right. Tell me your thoughts about that conclusion.

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  The Fly Bottle. (November 16, 2008)  Paul Krugman, the economist, was on the Stephanopoulos panel. They were talking about the auto industry, about whether the government should bail out the Big Three automakers. The industry is about to go under. There are three million workers involved and Krugman says that if this were 1999, under more normal circumstances, he'd favor having the Big Three go into bankruptcy. This sets in motion a restructuring of the companies but allows them to continue to operate because they can access credit while they are in bankruptcy. But the problem now is that the credit markets are frozen and so bankruptcy is really not an option in this situation. And, of course, the credit markets being frozen is a function of the meltdown on Wall Street. So, you're basically left with only two options: Chapter 7, which is liquidation. Or a bailout. Then the "go for the bailout" argument runs up against the agitated response "Well, is this a free market economy or not?" The auto industry has refused to innovate. It's refused to create products to allow it to be competitive, etc. Where do you draw the line on the bailout process? That's the fly bottle that the American economy is stuck in. How do you think about working out of that? How does Obama think about working out of that? How do we, as a country, think about working out of that?

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  No Drama Obama. (November 9, 2008)  George Stephanopoulos asks his panel: 'What were the American people saying in electing Barack Obama?' George Will says the American people were saying, We don't like the competency level of the Bush administration. We want competent government in place that can deal with the issues that the country is facing. David Gergen says, 'Let's not forget that this was a cultural election and the election of Barack Obama was as much cultural as it was political. What the American people were signaling was an embrace of change, both politically, but also culturally.' Let me start by asking you the same question that Stephanopoulos put to his panel: What were the American people saying in electing Barack Obama?

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  Listen. (November 2, 2008)  A lot of predictions on the shows today. Guys and gals on Stephanopoulos calling it for Obama. The McLaughlin Group crowd posturing as equivocal on the outcome. Eleanor Clift says in one of the few intelligible moments in their discussion, since they basically screamed at each other for 28 minutes, 'Barack Obama came in as a transformational candidate and he transformed the electorate.' It was hard to hear, though, because The McLaughlin Group was literally hysterical.

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Colin Powell, Bronx Guy. (October 19, 2008)  I want to start with a characterization of where things might land after the election by Joe Scarborough on Meet the Press. Scarborough says this is not a 60/40 country, meaning not a 60% center-left vs. 40% center-right country, it's a 51/49 country, likely to break for the Democrats two weeks down the road.

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  What Crash? (October 12, 2008) There seems to be across the board agreement, to use James Baker's phrase, that 'This economic crisis is bigger than the private sector can take care of by itself.' At this point in the process, I'd call that a bit of an understatement.
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  Socialism! Help Me! (September 28, 2008) I want to start with Bill Clinton, interviewed by Tom Brokaw, in the midst of Clinton doing his Global Initiative Project. Brokaw asks him, is the economic crisis and the response to it a political game changer? And Clinton says, 'Yes, it could be.' How so?
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  The (Real) Bloomberg Story. (September 21, 2008) We saw three sets of issues under discussion simultaneously this morning. What happened to the financial markets and what should be done next? Who or what is to blame for the collapse? And, how do the events of the last ten days impact on the presidential race?

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  The Red/Blue Line. (August 31, 2008) Some of the Sunday talk is that through his vice presidential selection, John McCain became a maverick again because Sarah Palin's an unconventional choice, etc. But here's something that looks like a contradiction to me.

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It Won't Be Hillary. (August 24, 2008) Like everyone else, we should spend a couple of minutes talking about the Joe Biden selection.


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Tough Guys? (August 17, 2008) In the discussions about the presidential campaign, there were several references to being tough.

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Georgia on Their Mind(less). (August 10, 2008) George Will had some interesting things to say today. There was his commentary about the John Edwards affair. He tried to take the discussion in a slightly different direction ...

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A Commentary on a Commentary on Commentary on a ..... (August 3, 2008) A description of the current dynamic in the presidential race put forth by a number of panelists in the Stephanopoulos discussion, most notably David Gergen and Jake Tapper is this: The Republican Party, Bush, the Bush policies are entirely discredited in the minds of the American people.

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The Surge Trap. (July 27, 2008) Barack Obama was on Meet the Press from London, completing his week-long tour of Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, and points in the Middle East. The first "flashpoint" of interest was when Obama got into a debate with Brokaw about the improved situation on the ground in Iraq.

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Arnold and Donna. (July 16, 2008) There were two people on the talk shows this morning that I liked. One was Arnold Schwarzenegger, the other was Donna Brazile. I'm a fan of hers.

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Slick About Oil. (July 6, 2008) We saw Senator Joe Lieberman today on John McCain's behalf trying to minimize the differences between his candidate and Obama.

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I Liked the Mashed Potatoes. (June 29, 2008). A question that some progressives are concerned with is how to relate to Obama's candidacy. What do you think about how these progressives are talking about trying to ensure that Obama, if he wins the election, is attentive to a progressive agenda?

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A Brand New Brand. (June 22, 2008). Obama announced on Thursday that he is going to forego public financing in the general election.

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New Guard Politics. (June 8, 2008). This is the week that Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination and Hillary Clinton conceded, throwing her support, as expected, behind him. The talk shows today focused on different constituencies and sub-constituencies and how you get this one and how you get that one and so on. But there was surprisingly little discussion about the changes that the Democratic Party itself is going through.

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Where's the Latrine?... (June 1, 2008). The big news story today was the rules committee meeting that dealt with Florida and Michigan.

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The Rove View. (May 25, 2008). Today we heard from Karl Rove. He had a number of things to say about how he sees each side of the presidential contest.

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A Dirty Fight. (May 18, 2008). Let's start with the Peggy Noonan view on the Republicans which she discussed on Stephanopoulos today. She wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal with a Bob Dylan metaphor at the top of the piece. Describing the Democratic Party coming to the end of its nominating process she says Obama will be the nominee, the Democrats will come together and go forward, and the Democratic Party is being born. What's the Republican Party doing? Well, it's busy dying.

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The Almost Winners. (May 11, 2008). Today's topics included the continuing dynamics in the Democratic primary while acknowledging that the outcome is pretty clear. Barack Obama will be the nominee but there are questions about how Hillary stage manages her end game.

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The 60's Happened. (May 4, 2008). Barack Obama was Tim Russert's guest for the full hour on Meet the Press.

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Contexts, Normalcy and The Wright Stuff. (April 27, 2008). Congressman Artur Davis from Alabama was part of a "group debate" on the Stephanopoulos show.

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The "Good, Good, Good," the "Bad, Bad, Bad" and Jimmy Carter. (April 13, 2008). Let's jump in on the discussion about Obama's "elitism."

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Katrina (Not the Hurricane) Blows the Establishement Cool. (April 6, 2008). There was another round on how the Democratic nomination process is wrapping up.

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Beyond Boomers (March 30, 2008) It's time to get past the old battles of the 60s, to get past the political categories and allegiances defined by the baby boomer generation. So, says Matthews...

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Obama, Clinton and the "Deep Down." (March 23, 2008) I'd like to talk about how Barack Obama's speech on race is being talked about.

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Obama, Contexts, and Bailouts. (March 16, 2008) The Stephanopoulos panel discussed the controversy over Barack Obama's relationship to Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

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The Starter Isn't Always the Closer. (March 9, 2008) There are a series of cul de sacs that the Democrats are driving through right now and trying to figure out how to get out of.

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Sitting by the Phone. (March 2, 2008) Let's start with what somebody called the "closing arguments" of the race on the Democratic primary side.

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Keeping It Lofty. (Feb. 17, 2008) One way of describing the situation in the Democratic primaries is that a partnership between the voters and the Obama campaign team – an A team – has evolved to blow out all expectations..

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Broder's Caution. (Feb. 10, 2008) I was struck by David Broder's remark when Tim Russert said to him 'What do you see, what's the scenario?' in their discussion about how the super delegates are going to decide things on the Democratic side.

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Crossing Over. (Feb. 3, 2008) The consensus across the board about the last Democratic debate was that Hillary was at her most vulnerable and Obama was at his strongest in the discussion about the Iraq war.

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No Holding Back. (Jan 27, 2008) The win on Saturday night for Barack Obama in South Carolina was spectacular. A 2-1 margin over Clinton. Eighty percent of the black vote. Forty-two percent of independents. Twenty-five percent of the white vote.

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Bill Clinton Off the Leash. (Jan 20, 2008) On "Meet the Press" today Peggy Noonan says: 'It's close and it's undecided, but there is an important difference between the process that's going on in the Republican Party and the process that's going on in the Democratic Party.'

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Hillary Gets Real(ity). (Jan 13, 2008) Here's one thing that I take away from Hillary Clinton's presentation on "Meet the Press." She frames the campaign between herself and Barack Obama as a choice between "rhetoric and reality."

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Obama, McCain and the Paradigm Shift. There are two questions going into the New Hampshire primary. Will Obama do what he did in Iowa, meaning he not only wins it, but in the process he destroys the myth of invincibility surrounding Clinton?

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McCain's No Paradox. Here were a couple of things that interested me. The main refrain is about Obama and Clinton and "change" vs. "experience."

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Ron Paul and America's Sea Change. (Dec. 23, 2007) As the pollsters and analysts on Meet the Press put it, we're on the eve of the voting and there's no clear front runner on either side.

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Obama's Strategy Pays Off. (Dec. 17, 2007) The Chris Matthews crew discussed --what else -- Iowa. They talked about how Hillary appears to be losing momentum while Obama is surging. What's happened?

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Rudy the New Yorker (Dec. 11, 2007) Rudy Giuliani did an hour on "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert. Russert's strategy for the Giuliani appearance was to try to pursue concerns about his judgment and his character.

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"A Question About Logic" (Dec. 2, 2007) The latest polls on the presidential from Iowa show some slippage. What's being said by some analysts about Hillary Clinton is that the "inevitability strategy" is a good strategy-- until it stops working.

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"Are The Times They Are A-Changin?" The "Meet the Press" panel discussed the dynamics in the Democratic and Republican primaries. First up was the Democratic primary where the Iowa polls have Obama ahead, Clinton in second place and Edwards in third. Statistically it's a dead heat.

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"It's Not About Me." (Nov. 18, 2007) I'm going to start by asking you some questions about Hillary Clinton. "The Chris Matthews Show" had a discussion about the demonization of Hillary.

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Stop Talking. (Nov. 11, 2007) Barack Obama has had a good couple of weeks. At the Democratic Party debate in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner, came under fire from Obama and John Edwards, as well as Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

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1968 Redux? (Nov. 4, 2007) The roundtable on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" discussed the Democratic debate last week. It was pointed out that the debate showed "the core of Hillary's vulnerability."

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Winning, Voting and Ties. (Oct. 28, 2007) The big question on Chris Matthews was: can Obama catch up? The Clinton campaign's strategy from the start was to project inevitability, to bolster Hillary's position and to scare other people out of the race.

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"Duh"sville. (October 21, 2007) It's ten weeks until voting begins in the presidential primaries. Despite the departure of some candidates, like Republican Sam Brownback, and the arrival of some candidates, like comedian Steven Colbert, the two focal points of today's discussion were the contest between Obama and Hillary on the Democratic side and the contest between Giuliani and more traditional conservative Republicans on the other.

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Subliminal Messaging. (October 7, 2007) I wanted to begin with John Edwards and his current campaign strategy. Tim Russert just interviewed him on "Meet the Press."

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Greenspan Changes His Mind. (September 23, 2007) We just watched Alan Greenspan on "Meet the Press."

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Obama's Vacuum. (September 16, 2007) I'm going to give you a compressed characterization of the debate between John McCain and John Kerry on the war policy and ask for your thoughts.

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The Politics of Certitude. (September 9, 2007) General Petraeus came back from Iraq to testify before Congress and give his report on the status of the surge.

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Fred's In, John's Up. (September 2, 2007) Thompson's coming in (to the presidential race) and his hope is that he shakes up the race.


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Politics of the Absurd. (August 26, 2007) Senator John Warner has come forward with a proposal to begin a drawdown of American troops in Iraq.

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Karl Rove and the Dialectic of History. (August 19, 2007) Today was "Karl Rove Day" on the talk shows. Rove resigned his position as Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House last week.

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Fights, Comebacks and Asterisks. (August 12, 2007) "Meet the Press" featured a dialogue between Harold Ford, Jr. of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, billed as a debate between the centrist wing of the Democratic Party and the liberal wing of the party.

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Getting Past the Pros. (August 5, 2007) There were three views offered on the remarks Obama made about Pakistan in a speech he gave at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in D.C. this week.

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Is There a Big Bopper in the House? (July 29, 2007) The lead story on every show was the Hillary/Obama fight at the CNN/YouTube debate and the follow-up rounds in the days after the debate. This is one description of what the fight was about: New vs. Old, continuity vs. change, war vs. anti-war. How would you define what the fight's about?

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Check Your Analysandum. (July 15, 2007) John McCain's campaign was a topic, since there was a lot of news this week about changes in his staff.

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Gravel, Paul, Kucinich: Independent Voices. (July 8, 2007) We watched This Week with George Stephanopoulos," a departure from our usual line up. He did a feature segment on two insurgent candidates in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries: Ron Paul, the sitting Congressman from Texas, on the Republican side and Mike Gravel, former U.S. Senator from Alaska, on the Democratic side.

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Speed Limits. (July 1, 2007) There was discussion of the state of the Republican Party -- and the word is that it -- not good. Senator Richard Lugar withdrew his support for the president's policy in Iraq and was joined quickly by Senator John Warner.

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Bloomberg, The Icebreaker (June 24, 2007) There's a lot of Bloomberg fever out there...What do you think about the dialogue about nonpartisan politics, about Bloomberg becoming an independent and being a spokesperson for that kind of approach in politics and in government?

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What's Plan B ? (June 17, 2007) Washington is starting to prepare for the return from Iraq of General Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker (who was on Meet the Press") in September.

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Was He Used? "The Chris Matthews Show" had a segment about the immigration vote in Congress and the politics surrounding it. This issue is cast as very polarizing, and in many ways it is.

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Back to the Future. Michael Murphy, a Republican strategist on the Meet the Press" panel gave his capsule summary of the presidential election: If you win the future, you win the election."

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The Tier Machine. We watched New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on Meet the Press." Richardson is one of a number of second tier presidential candidates running in the Democratic primary.

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Apocalypse Now? Let's start with the Chris Matthews Show discussion about Mike Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel running as independents for the presidency and vice presidency.

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The Consequences. Let's talk about John McCain who was on "Meet the Press." His position on the war in Iraq is that we've got to focus on what he calls "the consequences of failure."

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The Unvarnished Truth? George Tenet, former CIA director, was on Meet the Press. Tim Russert tried to discover whether Tenet was an honest broker in the run up to the war or an enabler, someone who crossed over into politics, into marketing, into the business of selling the war to the American people, rather than being an objective analyst of the conditions in Iraq and Iraq's role if any -- in 9/11. Let me begin by asking you whether you accept that framing -- that bright line distinction between honest broker and enabler?

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The Year of the Vaccum. The McLaughlin Group pointed out the following statistic: 76% of Democrats are happy with the choices in the Democratic field and only 50% of Republicans are happy. They'd like to see some more candidates. What does that snapshot tell you about where we're at in the presidential race?

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Explaining Blacksburg. On "The Chris Matthews Show," the panelists put forward four basic explanations for the Blacksburg, Virginia shootings. Let me begin by asking you what your reactions are to these four different explanations.

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Broken Hearts, Broken Politics. Chris Matthews looks at the financial reports from the presidential candidates...and, of course, observes that Obama nearly matched Hillary in dollars raised and doubled her in terms of numbers of contributors -- 100,000 for him, 50,000 for her. Matthews then asked the following question: "Does this mean that the Democrats are not ready to commit to Hillary Clinton?"

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No Forgiveness. Charlie Rangel, a guest on "Meet the Press," says he encouraged Obama to run for president and told him you're talented, you're young, you're very bright, you have a lot to give and you'll always regret it if you do it -- grab the moment and run. And, Rangel is supporting Hillary Clinton .... Is this the move of an honest broker? Is this the move of a smart political player? Is it both?

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The Waiting Game. Last week the House voted 218 to 212 to impose a date for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Now the action goes to the Senate. What's your view of the congressional action on Iraq at this point? Is it important, is it not important?

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Decision Time. I'm going to start with Richard Perle, former chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, one of four panelists on "Meet the Press" discussing the war in Iraq. One would like to say he's the last of the neo-cons, but probably not. Tim Russert asked him 'Has the investment in Iraq been worth it,' and Perle says 'That's the wrong question. You can't ask that..."

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Topsy-Turvy Times. It's amazing, isn't it? I'm talking about the extremes to which the establishment will go to deny the existence of the independent movement. That's the obvious factor in all of this. The independent movement is more than a third of the electorate, yes?

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She's Vulnerable. The newest polls show the black vote starting to shift away from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. Chris Matthews made the point that this shift undercuts "the inevitability factor"--a major component of the Clinton strategy.

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Upturns, Downturns and Turnouts. I guess we have to start with the story that everybody in the political pundits' universe is talking about – the Clinton/Obama collision this week. I have a theory about it.

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Turning Point? John McLaughlin asked his panelists 'Is this the turning point in the war?' He's referring to the congressional votes this weekend. The House passed a resolution disapproving of the troop surge in Iraq. The Senate was not able to muster the votes, but came within four votes of doing so. Says McLaughlin, 'The tide is turning and this is the hinge moment.' Would you agree?

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Obama and the Zeitgeist. Barack Obama's candidacy is, potentially, a very big deal for the country. How could it not be very big for an African American man to be running for president? It's not an abstract political issue. It's something we're going to have to be attentive to, hour by hour. I think it's very complicated.

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The Moral Independence of the Independent Movement. We watched John Edwards on "Meet the Press." He made a lot out of having gone through a process of reflection on the war, that he's come out the other side, and that he's being honest with the American people. Tell me your reactions to him.

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They're In. And They're Off and Running. If I had to come up with some kind of "vest pocket" description of the shows today, I would say this: There are so many possibilities for the presidency, and so few possibilities for Iraq. That seems to be what the discussions were about.

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All Alone at the Top? Is George Bush alone at the top? That's a good question and hard to answer. I'll tell you why. Because he's certainly alone on Iraq and what he's done with this war. But today's "alone" is tomorrow's "deal."

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Presidents, Principles and Politics. Commemorations and discussions about President Gerald Ford were a focus point today, including Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon after Watergate.

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You Can Change Your Eggs...But. At one point in Tim Russert's interview with Newt Gingrich, who was discussing U.S. options in Iraq, Russert asked him something like "What does real change mean?"

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Changing Course in Iraq...and in America. It was Baker-Hamilton Day on the talk shows. James Baker laid out the following premise: 'We're not going to win militarily in Iraq. There has to be a political victory. How do you define a political victory? There has to be some kind of national reconciliation.' Let me start by asking - what's your reaction to his premise?

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Back to the Past, or Deconstructing Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger was on "Meet the Press." Here's some of his political approach: It doesn't matter what party you're from, it's all about the people. The reason we've been successful is that we don't look at issues as "Democrat" or "Republican" issues, we're doing the work of the people. Does that make him a new kind of politician?

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Continuing the End of History.Did independents gain greater political strength off of the results of the election? There's an old saying in politics: Power is what power does. If you don't exercise it, there is no power. Power as an abstraction means nothing. So the answer depends on what independents do.

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Independents are Controlling the Action. It was the independents that made the war the issue of the campaign. Where else did it come from? It didn't come from the Democrats. It didn't come from the Republicans. It came from the independent movement.

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Benchmarks or Stenchmarks: It's all a Matter of Semantics. If you listen to the pundits now, they want to make it sound like there are real differences between the two positions (on the war). But, obviously, there are not. Both parties supported the war. They supported all the appropriations. There never was much of a difference between them on this question and there still isn't.

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The Obama Drama. In addition to the war, another focus on this week's shows was the potential presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. Bob Novak commented that his popularity is a measure of the resistance within the Democratic Party to a Hillary Clinton candidacy.

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Bush Gets Taken to the Watershed. The Bush press conference announcing adjust-ments in his Iraq policy was a big topic this week. John McLaughlin called it a "water-shed."

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Moving On. ...the world is moving on. McLaughlin would say that third world (so-called) insurgencies are growing, that the creditability of the U.S. is decreasing, that the balance of power in the world is shifting, that the drive for self-determination in the Arab world and Africa and Latin America is strong.

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On the Road. Is there such a thing as American moral leadership or American moral standing that is being eroded?

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Selling the War. The strategy of moving the front of the war on terror to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to the Middle East and off of American soil has been successful. Still, Cheney has to defend the position that this makes us safer in the long-term.

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The Disconnect . The polls show a huge majority of the American people opposed to the war. . .it seems clear that overall confidence in governmental ability to handle the international situation is eroding, unraveling and weak.

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Bush's Folly. The political ground is certainly shifting and today's shows are a good indicator of that shift. It's all about recalibrating relative to the war; whether you're a politician who's up for re-election in this cycle, talk show pundit, or a presidential contender.

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It's Not a Hockey Game. General Barry McCaffrey said that in geopolitical, military and foreign policy terms, the comparison between Iraq and Vietnam is totally fallacious. Do you think that's the case?

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The Beat Goes Independent and Center-Left.There are two critical things happening.The country is going independent and within the independent movement, the question is, Is it going to be pro-war or anti-war?It's going to be anti-war. It's a center-left independent movement that's emerging.

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Condi, Castro and Connecticut. "What's going to happen on Tuesday up in CT? I don't know. If I have any prediction to make, it's that if Lamont wins on Tuesday, Lieberman will not run as an independent.

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The Men in White Coats. The neocons were effectively saying, 'We're the single superpower. We should make our play, and our play should be where it's in our greatest national interest...'

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Who is Coming to the Table?
Here are two different views of what's going on in the Middle East ...


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The Shadow Knows. Sunday, July 9, 2006. One of the big stories this week was Joe Lieberman's announcement that he's going to petition to run for re-election as an independent in Connecticut, in the event that he loses the Democratic Primary.
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Tim Russert, Trotskyite. Sunday, June 18, 2006. There are at least two conflicting opinions from the talk show pundits as to where the country is at on the Bush war policy...They are both stories about polls..

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We Declare. Sunday, June 11, 2006. "Meet the Press" devoted a segment to coverage of the YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas, which is the first annual convention of DailyKos, one of the major liberal political blogs

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Hans Blix for President. Sunday, June 4, 2006. There's an argument out there coming from a lot of places.... It goes like this. People are tired of the two extremes.

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Dr. Fred Newman

Get the Best of Talk/Talk

For years, Fred Newman and Jacqueline Salit--two leading activists and intellectuals within the independent political movement -- watched the political talk shows and discussed them over coffee. In early 2005, they began transcribing these conversations and distributing them to their friends and followers. Over the years, their "talk about the talk" developed into a popular weekly missive distributed via e-mail to tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Making (Non) Sense of an Irrational World is a compilation of some of their most popular and thought provoking discussions from the last five years. 

Obama's youthquake: Is the Senator Leading a Movement, or Just an Interesting Campaign?
Richard Halicks
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Obama's "movement" might still founder under the disciplined assault of Hillary Clinton's campaign. But until that time, it is powered in large part by the inexhaustible idealism of young American voters, who are turning out in extraordinary numbers in the Democratic primaries. In Georgia, for example, people 18 to 29 as a percentage of all voters increased from 11 percent in the 2004 primary to 17 percent last week. The increase was typical of other primary states, and in nearly all cases, the majority of that younger vote went to Obama.

           
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