'This Week' Extra: The Roundtable's Post-Show Thoughts

'This Week' roundtable pundits offer their views after the program

ByABC News
April 22, 2012, 1:32 PM

NEW YORK, April 22, 2012— -- intro: Following the "This Week" roundtable today, we asked our roundtable participants to expand on their discussion. Here are their views.

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title: Keith Olbermann: Notes On An Envelope

text: Somebody told me once that it was always fine to take a few notes with you anywhere you went (anywhere, that is, except a school exam) provided they fit on either side of a regular legal-sized envelope. It was accordingly reassuring to see the regular panelists – who so graciously literally gave me a seat at the table this morning – polishing and then consulting their own notes. Moreover, it was a tribute to This Week's willingness to let us drill deeply into each issue that each of us must have left at least half of our prep work unused.

So, reading the unused side of my envelope, I would add here that as shocking and disturbing as the Secret Service and GSA scandals were, neither is necessarily surprising nor profound – and certainly not useful political fodder for anybody. The GSA, for one, has been corrupt for years. Washington forgets nothing faster than the last administration's scandals, so if and when you think of Jack Abramoff, you probably don't think of the GSA. But that's where he did much of his damage, particularly with his old buddy, the former GSA Chief of Staff David Safavian. Two years later, GSA chief Lurita Doan had to quit to avoid getting run out of town for violating the Hatch Act by manipulating the agency towards helping political candidates.

If you want things that specifically look more like this "What Happens In Vegas Stays In The News" nonsense, the GSA money-and-tawdriness mess looks a lot like similar ones in the Social Security Administration in early '09, and a year earlier in – remarkably – the Minerals Management Agency, which one would ordinarily consider to be as unlikely to corrupt as the Visiting Nurse Association.

George Stephanopoulos's interview of Senator Susan Collins and Congresswoman Corolyn Maloney underscored one unproven but logical conclusion upon which we expanded during the panel discussion. The Senator suggested she found it hard to believe that this was the first time something like this had happened on a Secret Service road trip, and I went a little further. To suggest that it was the first time is to believe that half a dozen, or ten, or twelve agents suddenly decided, all at once, that this trip to Colombia was the right time to abandon years of priest-like probity and boldly leap into a potential scandal so brazen and so unlike all the meticulously planned moves of their organization that it would come to light largely because an agent was fulfilling that old cliché about how you knew what someone was, you were now just arguing over the price.

I'm glad we addressed the new volley in the attempt to defend Governor Romney over the lingering and visceral story of Seamus, the dog on the hot car roof. But we didn't really get to my point about the tertiary level of the back-and-forth. The primary conservative defense of almost any charge against one of their key figures is to find something about a liberal that would fit the same Twitter hashtag. The problem comes when the rebuttal (President Obama's admission that as a boy of six or seven, he was fed dog meat in Indonesia) allows liberals to spiral the whole thing up to another level or – in this case – two levels.

Firstly, to agree that the kid version of Barack Obama ate dog once (or a dozen times, whatever it was) is to destroy the ever-popular contention that this man was, or is, a Muslim. That faith is stringent and proactive about its dietary laws. There's lots you can't eat, and dog is near the top of the list. When destructive memes – pushed by left or right – contradict each other, they reduce themselves to whiny silliness. This one gives the left easy access to another polo mallet with which to conk the right.

Secondly, there is this question of the provenance of the story. The pre-presidential Obama wrote of his dining history in 1995. The far right took umbrage in April 2012. And again, the next level in the back-and-forth is immediately created: You're objecting to this now? Not during the 2008 campaign? Not when he ran for Senate? Not when he ran for the Illinois state legislature? When exactly did you stop supporting dog-eating?

From the viewpoint of a desk with five reasonable and respectful commentators on one side and George gently prodding us from the other, the absurdity of all this is obvious. But it's important to note this sign that in the trenches the one-upmanship is now so automatic that one side on defense over Event "A" (Romney Strapped Dog To Car Roof) must retaliate with Parallel Event "B" (Obama Admits He Ate Dog Meat As Child) without stopping to think that it will suffer Blowback "C" (Right Admits Obama Can't Be A Muslim) and even Secondary Hashtag "D" (When Did You Stop Supporting Dog Eating).

Suddenly the political game of find-something-they-did-just-like-this begins to take on the shape of the apocryphal Doomsday Machine secretly installed by the Russian leader prior to the nuclear exchange in the dark humor classic "Dr. Strangelove." Retaliation is automatic and unthinking – and eventually becomes impossible to stop, even when it destroys both sides.

Lastly, it was a pleasure to talk baseball and our mutual reverence for the past with George Will, as we celebrated 100 years of Fenway Park in Boston and looked forward to the centennial of Wrigley Field (2014) and of its occupation by the Chicago Cubs (2016 – it was originally built for a team called the Chicago Whales in the long-defunct Federal League). But even here some of the notes on my envelope didn't make the show.

We were also intending to discuss the perfect game (27 batters faced, 27 retired) pitched Saturday by Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox. The accomplishment was not only spectacular on its own merits, but indicative. Between July 29, 1991 and July 22, 2009 there were four of these historic games pitched in baseball. Since July 22, 2009, there have been four more – and there should've been a fifth, but for an umpire's mistake.

This acceleration – and I'm sure George would've agreed with this – seems to be hard evidence of the end of the era of baseball batters inflated by PED's: performance enhancing drugs. Hard swingers whose hand-to-eye coordination and strength are suddenly reduced to normal levels are going to miss a lot of pitches and pop up others they would've pounded for base hits just a few seasons ago.

And Mr. Humber's performance adds to one of those bizarre incongruities that make baseball so endlessly fascinating. He was originally a member of the New York Mets, who in their 50-year history, have never had one of their pitchers throw a no-hitter or perfect game. However, Humber's gem Saturday was the thirteenth thrown by pitchers whom the Mets got rid of, and the foremost of those was obviously Nolan Ryan, who fired seven no-hitters.

And with that, the notes on the envelope have served their secondary purpose. Thanks for watching – and for reading.

quicklist: 2title: Peggy Noonan: VP Advice, Maturity, And Chuck Colson's Conversion

text: Here are some stairway thoughts – the thoughts you have after the show about what you really meant to say or should have said better.

1. The GOP is always at its worst when it tries to be hip, when it tries to go with the values of the moment and of the media, when it starts talking about how a vice presidential contender pops off the screen. That isn't even hip, it's old, like something a hack screenwriter would write when he's trying to capture the essential emptiness of the Republican Party. My advice to Mitt Romney as he considers vice presidential candidates? Don't be cute, don't try to electrify, don't find an attractive and dramatic newcomer. Be sober and serious and pick someone of both accomplishment and promise, someone who isn't looking at the federal budget for the first time or thinking about America's role and purpose in the world for the first time. And apart from the obvious reasons, a perhaps practical bit of advice: After the past decade America quietly hungers for grown-ups.

2. The GSA scandal is like no other in that it involves so many people who were so open about what they were doing. It wasn't secret and hidden. Old-fashioned scandal: you shake down the government in private. New scandal fashion: you shake down the government in public. My question: where did all the partiers in Vegas pick up the attitude that what they were doing was acceptable or legitimate?

3. Tom Wolfe, in "Bonfire of the Vanities," a book still as important to our times as Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" was to his, wrote of Sherman McCoy's wife, the Park Avenue socialite who dressed like a teenager. She didn't want anyone to think her mature, she wanted to be ever young. I think this is part of the GSA/Secret Service story, a growing refusal on the part of people to accept maturity, which is a boring old thing. No one wants to be the elder, to be the person who insists on standards. But society can't live without elders.

4. I meant to speak of Chuck Colson. He was a bad man who became a good man. He was at the center of Watergate, was one of its driving forces. But then he experienced a religious conversion, confessed all and went to prison. He wrote a great American classic, the personal and political memoir "Born Again." When he got out of jail he gave the rest of his life, almost four decades, to helping people almost nobody cares about, prisoners and their families. He became mature, an elder, a leader. And he wasn't really a good man, he was a great one.

Peggy Noonan is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

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title: Donna Brazile: Secret Service Scandal Should Not Bring Partisan Witch-Hunt

text: Like most taxpayers, I am appalled by the Secret Service scandal. These are supposed to be the best of the best, the people who would, literally, take a bullet for the president. When they travel abroad, they are not supposed to be "the ugly Americans." We all have frailties, but when they succumb to theirs so flagrantly, it raises the question of "who guards the guardians."

As a Democrat, I'm concerned that with the scandals in the Secret Service and the GSA, there will be more of a sense that the government consists of self-serving individuals, not servants of the common good. The Republicans are so anxious to tie the Secret Service scandal to President Obama, they're off on an erotic fishing expedition.

There is some degree of scandal in every administration, but what matters is that we have a prompt, fair, rigorous investigation and correction. And that's what we have. This can't turn into a partisan witch-hunt of "who is sleeping with whom." Where will it stop?

Donna Brazile is a political strategist and ABC News contributor.

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title: Matthew Dowd: On Lowering Gas Prices, Honesty Is The Best Policy

text: A part of the conversation on today's "This Week" roundtable asked what a president can do to lower gas prices. Everyone on both sides of the aisle has ideas and answers on what can be done. But the real answer is that a president and the federal government can't do much to lower gas prices – or even to create jobs, which is an even bigger issue.

We have had candidate after candidate tell the American public year in and year out that they can solve their issues or fix some problem, whether it is gas prices or anything else. When the problem isn't fixed, the leader either says we need to do more, or that the opposing party is at fault for blocking their solution.

The end result is that Americans lose more faith and trust in leaders for making a promise with few results. So instead of making more promises, leaders should be more forthcoming with the public about what they can actually achieve. Begin to restore the trust of the public by speaking frankly and directly.

What can a president do? The most powerful thing a leader can do is to help restore confidence in their own leadership, and potentially impact the American psyche in a positive way. Motivate the country, not by policy solutions or legislation, but by telling us the truth and then conveying a vision to get us to where we all want to go. Not some dream of the Garden of Eden, but a place where things aren't perfect but we can have a better life.

And it is time for our leaders to tell each of us that the only real way to change the world is to change our own world individually first. If a president started showing us that by his own words and behavior – beginning with direct honesty – then maybe it will give us the strength in our own lives to make the changes we need to make.

Matthew Dowd is a political strategist and ABC News political analyst.