Squawking Heads: Everything You Missed in the Sunday Morning Political Talk Shows

Politics Features Donald Trump
Squawking Heads: Everything You Missed in the Sunday Morning Political Talk Shows

Reince Priebus swears everything is going so well and he’s best friends with Steve Bannon and no, you’re being a jerk, jerk! on three different major networks; everyone is pissed the president has declared the media to be an “enemy” of the people; and no one can decide just how upset we’re supposed to be about Russia. I spent my Sunday morning brunch time watching the political talk shows so you didn’t have to. Let me chew up five straight hours of obfuscating and grandstanding and baby bird it back to you!

What Happened?

Oh my god, if this Sunday’s performance is any indication, it’s officially safe to say that our government is not running like the well-oiled machine Trump says it is. The Republican party is absolutely all over the place. Typically on the Sunday morning shows, administrations will send out surrogates and staff to present a unified message. It’s sometimes difficult to glean any new information from these interviews as they’re about 90% reiterating rehearsed statements ad nauseam. That was decidedly not the case this weekend.

John McCain is following his conscience, which means going completely against the Trump administration. Lindsey Graham seems excited by the opportunity to scold literally everyone in the world. Devin Nunes had one shot to make it seem like the Republicans had their shit together and he blew it. It’s a miracle Rand Paul could sit upright for so long, what with the fact that his spine is actually made of overcooked spaghetti noodles. And then there’s Reince. Poor Reince, who had a complete meltdown over the course of his three appearances.

John McCain, who has recently been conforming to his party’s worst impulses, reclaimed his maverick status with a speech this weekend at the Munich Security Conference. In his speech, McCain reminded the public that one of the first things dictators do as they scramble for complete power is abolish the free and independent press. Mere months ago, this would have seem an impossibility in the United States. Yet after the president tweeted on Friday that the press is “the enemy of the American People,” an American dictatorial regime cutting off air to the free press suddenly seemed much more realistic.

“I hate the press. I hate you especially,” McCain joked to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. “But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”

Lindsey Graham, also speaking from Munich, backed McCain up, saying “the backbone of democracy is a free press and an independent judiciary. And they are worth fighting and dying for.”

While McCain stuck mostly to supporting the press and their right to free speech, Graham couldn’t not pass up the chance to give the press a hefty dose of southern condescension.

“I think the coverage against President Trump has been almost to the point of being hysterical,” Graham said directly to the press corps. “Y’all need to do some self-evaluation, in my view.”

That said, Graham definitely doesn’t believe the reports of Russian interference are “hysterical.” While members of the Trump administration are tripping over themselves acting like Russia isn’t really that bad and everyone who says otherwise is just a big ole square, Graham said he and McCain are moving forward with a bill to sanction Russia for its role in the 2016 presidential election.

Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is very excited that people are finally taking the threat from Russia seriously. He’s been talking about Russia for years and he would like you to know that people were very rude to him about it for awhile. But now, now he’s having the last laugh as Congress is full of “Russia hawks,” as he’s christened them. Russia is a huge issue and he’s going to investigate every lead brought to—wait, what? What’s that? Will he be investigating Michael Flynn? Nope, no probably not. Michael Flynn was just a guy doing his job, doesn’t seem like any funny business has happened over here. None whatsoever. That said, Nunes is sure all the leaks from inside the administration are actually coming from supporters of President Obama who are “burrowed in, perhaps all throughout the government.” Those definitely need to be taken care of, but investigating Michael Flynn would sort of be like a witch hunt so he’ll take a pass on that one for now.

Sycophants with funny names, Reince Priebus and Rand Paul, spent their mornings swearing up and down that nothing is wrong anywhere at all except America’s newsrooms and John McCain’s brain. Everything at the White House is incredible. Everyone loves Steve Bannon and definitely knows where the light switches are. The media is full of lying, stupid, dumb assholes who want nothing more than to paint our supreme leader in an unflattering light. Also, no one should look at Russia at all. Russia doesn’t matter. Leave Russia alone.

Thank goodness Rand Paul has that noodle spine, otherwise there’s no way he would have been able to contort himself into the shapes necessary to support every single thing Donald Trump has said this week. When Donald Trump claimed there was a terrorist attack in Sweden this weekend, Rand said, he probably was talking about something that happened last year, because it’s very easy to confuse months and years and terrorist attacks and European nations. It’s literally impossible to vet people from war-torn countries because how could they possibly have paperwork when they’re all in bombed out hovels? So Trump’s immigration reform was pretty a-ok with Rand as well. Even when confronted with a video of himself from just last January saying that Trump was crazy and power hungry, Paul managed to weasel his way out of criticizing the president.

Priebus, doing the lion’s share of the work by appearing on three shows, doesn’t seem to be able to figure out which angle of attack he wants to take. Fighting wars on every front, Priebus ultimately spent most of his morning arguing, with varying degrees of success, with members of the media about whether they were the enemy of the American people.

On Meet the Press, he calmly explained that every president all the way back to Thomas Jefferson has had issues with the press. That doesn’t mean, Priebus claimed, that the president doesn’t believe in the First Amendment though. He just wants accountability! Who doesn’t want accountability?

He took a slightly different approach on Face the Nation, deploying an “I am rubber, you are glue” attack. Host John Dickerson asked what Priebus thought about John McCain’s claim that the public would “be alarmed by the [administration’s] growing inability and even unwillingness to separate truth from lies.” Priebus replied, “Well, I think that is a good criticism of the media.” Dickerson somewhat slowly explained that McCain wasn’t talking about the media, causing Priebus to snap back, “I get it, John. I understand the question.” He then went on a several minute long tear about how the media is the one with the problem separating truth from lies and it’s so frustrating that no one talks about all the good stuff they’re doing. Reince Priebus just wants you to shut up about that dumb Russia stuff!

Fox News, former safe harbor for conservatives, proved Priebus’ biggest hurdle. Host Chris Wallace seemed personally offended by Trump’s “enemy” comment and mercilessly went at Priebus. For a pretty good idea of the tenor of the whole interview, check out this exchange between the two men.

WALLACE: Reince, I get the fact that you don’t like some stories…You say that the intelligence community says that there were no contacts between anyone in the Trump campaign, any associate of Mr. Trump and anybody involved as a Russian agent as to the campaign and collusion in the campaign with Russia? Is that what you’re saying?

PRIEBUS: Yes, they’ve told me—absolutely. They have made it very clear that that story in The New York Times is complete garbage. And, quite frankly, they use different words than that, OK?

WALLACE: Who is it that said that?

PRIEBUS: And then when I read back—

WALLACE: Who is it that said that?

PRIEBUS: I’m not going to tell you. I can’t tell you that.

WALLACE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Reince. You just complained about unnamed sources, you are using an unnamed source.

PRIEBUS: Well, because I didn’t ask for approval to use their name. But I will tell you this, when I say top level people, I mean top level people, OK?

Any time you end a sentence with a petulant “OK?” it’s safe to say everything is not “ok.”

Like any high school girl who finds herself on the losing end of a war of words, Priebus then started casting about for someone, anyone, who was shittier than he was. Oh you think I’m mean, well Allie has been telling everyone you’re a fatty.

Wallace brought up the fact that even though they had an adversarial relationship, Barack Obama and his administration had never sought to control Fox News’ output.

“Let me tell you something,” Priebus replied. “He said a lot of things about Fox News, Chris. I thought you ought to go check the tape. He blamed you for a lot of things. And I’m surprised, as someone from Fox, that you forget all of the shots that he took…”

Don’t you remember how Allie said you were so fat? I would never say that. I said some other stuff but that stuff definitely isn’t as bad as when Allie said you were a fatty to everyone, OK?

Wallace cut him off, acknowledging that Obama “took shots,” but never of this nature. The interview devolved into a mess of cross-talking and righteous indignation from both men.

From these performances, it’s clear the Republicans need to get their house in order. Even when they’re nominally fighting for the same thing, everyone is coming at the issue from a different angle, serving a different master. I guess this is what happens when the de facto leader of your party is an insane person with barely disguised contempt for the party he’s supposed to represent.

I hope after he was finished with his interviews that someone gave Reince a xanax and let him take a big boy nap at Mar-a-Lago.

Odds and Ends

— “For example, World War I, World War II, immigration came to a grinding halt in our country during these wars. And the question I ask is if someone wants to come from Aleppo tomorrow, how do you know who they are? There is almost nothing left in Aleppo. I don’t know that there is paperwork. I don’t know that you can ask people in Syria, where there is a dysfunctional government, to give you legitimate paperwork on people.” Rand Paul has clearly not seen @Stl_manifest or he’d know that the public probably wouldn’t appreciate him looking to WWII for immigration reform inspiration.

— “My view is what he did wasn’t illegal, like many other people have said, but it was the fact that he wasn’t straight or honest. And I just found it hard to believe that you would have a conversation with the Russian ambassador and not remember it. So either way, either you don’t remember or you weren’t honest, either way, it was an unsustainable place to be, and the president made a decisive decision to ask for his resignation, and he got it.” Reince Priebus doesn’t think Mike Flynn did anything wrong per se, he just wasn’t totally not wrong enough, you know?

— “My wife once told me: ‘John, you’re the father of Ohio. Act like it.’” John Kasich remains an unrepentant weirdo and I would like everyone to know it.

— I like Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey:
“You can’t get [Russia] back into the international order if there’s a wink or a nod that says don’t worry about the sanctions.” Sen. Robert Menendez is a smart man. Good on you, New Jersey.

“I know that the president is focused on talking about the lying press, but he should worry about those in his national security apparatus that lied to him,” Menendez said and then kicked a table over for emphasis.

“Look, I hope that that sentiment that the president has may be the only heartfelt element of his immigration policy,” Menendez said of Trump’s stated love of children and dedication to not exporting those who are in the U.S. via the DREAM Act. Then Robert Menedez slapped the boom mic down onto the ground, said “Menendez out.”

Big fan of Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey.


I’m counting the hours until I get to sit alone in my bedroom with a bottle of André and some generic brand orange juice screaming at the sweaty white men trying to gaslight the country on my TV!

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