Honestly, there are so few nuggets of genuine wisdom in Washington that watching the Sunday talk-show hackery is a form of psychological torture. If only I could afford to throw a brick through my television! The only one who ever seems to
January 23, 2011

Honestly, there are so few nuggets of genuine wisdom in Washington that watching the Sunday talk-show hackery is a form of psychological torture. If only I could afford to throw a brick through my television! The only one who ever seems to notice the real stories behind the stage sets and dramatic speeches is Krugman, and no one listens to him but us DFHs.

Instead, we can sit back and listen to the Villagers explain that attacking the deficit is the biggest priority, that Obama has been governing from the left and not the center-right, and thank God he's back to the "center" (which is actually the right), and that the country voted for the Republicans because they wanted even more right-wing policies, not because they were frustrated by an administration who seemed to put their needs last.

Are we all clear now?

Here's the roundtable discussion from This Week with Christiane Amanpour:

AMANPOUR: That was President Obama delivering last year's State of the Union address. Welcome back. Joined again by our roundtable.

George, I know that you have a great, great regard for watching the State of the Union on television.

WILL: A, they're overrated. The next morning, the country is still a complex continental country with muscular interests (ph) and politics is its own momentum.

Between Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson, no one delivered this in person. They sent their report to Congress in writing. But now we've turned this into this panorama in which -- in an interminable speech, every president, regardless of party, tries to stroke every erogenous zone in electorate.

AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness.

WILL: And it becomes a political pep rally, to use the phrase of Chief Justice Roberts last year. If it's going to be a pep rally, with the president's supporters or whatever party standing up and braying approval, and histrionic pouting on the part of the other, then it's no place for the judiciary, it's no place for the uniformed military, and it's no place for non-adolescent legislators.

BRAZILE: It's a once-a-year opportunity to talk to the American people to remind us who we are and where we're going. This is an opportunity for the president to use scripture to give us a vision, because the Bible says, without a vision, a people will perish, and we didn't have that over the last...


AMANPOUR: So what is the vision? Because now or never.

BRAZILE: It's about jobs. It's about rebuilding America, making America competitive and strong again, and taking care of all our issues, both on the domestic front, as well as international.

DOWD: To me, the State of the Union -- and I'll agree in part with George and disagree in part with George on this -- they don't affect the American public. If you look at like approval numbers going into State of the Unions over the last 35 years and coming out, they do not move the numbers. Even Ronald Reagan, who was lauded as one of the best communicators in the history of this country, never moved the American public.

Barack Obama, another great speaker, did very well in Tucson. In last year's State of the Union, didn't move the numbers. But what is important I think in this is for him to continue to connect the dots with the audience in the Capitol and the people that surround people in the Capitol that he is going to keep doing what he's been doing since Election Day.

It's not the event in itself that matters, but it's how -- the cumulative effect of it. And if he continues to, one, talk about jobs and the economy, and then tie to it an increase in making our discourse better and talking to each other across party lines, if he does those two things, he will continue to rise in the polls.

AMANPOUR: There's been some preview of what he's going to say. What does he need to say to inspire confidence in the economy?

KRUGMAN: Oh, I don't think there's anything much he can do that will inspire confidence. I mean, what he's doing in the lead in is, is using this competitiveness, which is actually a tired old buzzword. But it's -- what he appears to be doing is signaling that he's not going to go for the full-out Republican agenda of slashing spending. He's actually going to make a case for more public investment.

And we're just -- you know, I think the main thing right now is what we're not hearing. We're not hearing him signing on to cuts in Social Security, which was something that was being floated for a while.

But, you know, and actually the whole thing -- that is -- political event, actually, doesn't matter. But it's an event that forces the president to signal what he's -- where he's going.

AMANPOUR: George, you talked about the braying and the pouting. And, obviously, there's been a huge amount of -- of -- of attention to the seating plan. Do you think the seating plan, which Democrats sit next to which Republican, and the new tone of civility is going to make a difference, going to last?

WILL: Well, if it, again, drains the pep rally aspect out of it, this will be fine. But as Matt says, the whole event does not matter.

AMANPOUR: Expect that...

KRUGMAN: I've got to say...


KRUGMAN: ... the juvenility of U.S. politics in this past year or so has just been amazing. And -- and, you know, I think about the fact that so much of this talk about Obama having an anti-business agenda has been just because, "Well, he doesn't treat us with enough respect." I never thought that "Ma, he's looking at me funny" would be a political rallying cry.

AMANPOUR: Well, when you say that -- but, look, and I keep repeating this, because I find it extraordinary, given the polarization of the debate. The vast majority of the American people say that they want -- the vast majority, Democrats and Republicans, up to 83 percent, that they want the president and the White House and the Congress to work together on these big issues. Is that -- will they heed the voice of the people?

DOWD: Well, it's interesting, Christiane, because the American public's been sending that signal for many years in a row. They sent it during Clinton's presidency...

AMANPOUR: So why doesn't anybody listen?

DOWD: They said it -- because it's much easier in the polarized nature of a lot of the -- of Congress and how it operates and the media, which sort of has a tendency to cede it to the people on the far left and the far right that can yell at each other. I do think it's a good thing that maybe some of them are going to sit together, though it kind of reminds me of my daughter's second-grade class. She doesn't like somebody this; we're going to seat them together and maybe they're going to get along. But in the end, I think it's a good step.

BRAZILE: Look, senators represent their states, representatives their districts. The president represents the entire country. An -- this is an opportunity to talk above the heads of the politicians to the American people to give them some confidence about the future.

AMANPOUR: Thank you all very much. We're out of time. And the roundtable will continue in the green room at abcnews.com/thisweek, where you can also find our fact checks in conjunction with PolitiFact.

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