Transition Edition with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Tuesday, November 25, 2008; 2:30 PM
Conservative MSNBC political correspondent and Daily Beast contributor Tucker Carlson and liberal Time Magazine blogger and Daily Beast contributor Ana Marie Cox were online Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 2:30 p.m. ET to dissect and debate the latest political developments in this post-election, pre-inauguration liminal time.
The transcript follows.
Ana Marie Cox: Greetings from the Home Office. I am now taking applications.
Williamsburg: Tucker: Did your former "Spin Room" co-host Bill Press cut some pay-for-play deals with local restaurants for mentions? He seemed to mention an awful lot of eateries back in the day...
Tucker Carlson: We never took a dime from advertisers, or at least I didn't. Probably should have. I'm wiser now.
Williamsburg, Val.: Tim Robbins once said in an interview with InStyle magazine (in 2004) of all places that you should kiss his posterior. Any comment?
Tucker Carlson: That I should? I missed that (and every) issue of InStyle. The weird thing is, I've had dinner with him since then. He couldn't have been nicer. Coward.
Memphis, Tenn.: Ana, seriously your comment on Countdown last week that you wanted to "eat" Rahm Emanuel was funny but I don't think Tucker got it. Happy Thanksgiving y'all!
Ana Marie Cox: Well, I am pretty sure the guy interviewing me (David Shuster) didn't get the joke -- or that he didn't get that I was actually trying to be funny... or maybe I wasn't funny -- but I don't know what Tucker made of it at all. Those that didn't catch the segment can view it here: Sarah Palin's turkey bloodbath (Countdown with Keith Olbermann)
For the record, however, I didn't say I wanted to eat him. I said I wanted to see him on a plate with side of stuffing "because he is delicious."
Tucker Carlson: Rahm strikes me as a bitter entree, but I guess I'm no gourmand.
Washington, D.C.: I'm a federal contractor with 20 years of experience. In that time I have not been very politically active, except with my checkbook and a MyObama.com account. I applied for positions with the transition team. I've got all the bona fides one should need, including 15 years of revolutionary projects and Al Gore Hammer Awards. My my only political contacts are Clintonites, also frozen out. I'm 40 years old and rusty at this. What can I do to prove myself to Jim Messina?
Ana Marie Cox: There are a few questions along these lines -- and if they came with your names, I'd be happy to pass all of them along -- but this one seems to lay out the problem most effectively: NO ONE KNOWS WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THOSE APPLICATIONS at Change.gov. Seriously, I have a question in to the transition team trying to find out. I mean, 300K is a lot of resumes to check, so I don't doubt there's got to be some kind of electronic filter they're using, but if so what is it? And if someone is rejected automatically, do they get to appeal? And if you make it to the next stage, well, what is that stage?
It has the feel of some wild scam, along the lines of internet "contests" that turn out to steal your passwords or something. But what more could Obama want from us? He has our Presidency, our cash and our love! Perhaps he is having some trouble getting money out of Nigeria.
Ana Marie Cox: All of which is to say: I have no idea how to help you. But I'm also not convinced that your Clintonite connections can't help! Does "Foggy Bottom" count as "frozen out"?
Tucker Carlson: Applying on line strikes me as an odd and inefficient system (which, by the way, the Bush administration started in 2000). But my impression of all administrations is that nobody gets a significant job without knowing someone. I'll bet your Clinton friends can help. I've been impressed by how willing the Obama people have been to include them.
Maryland: OK, so I want your job. Your chat is delayed for an hour and you start with nonsensical fluff instead of real punditry. Nice going and where do I sign up?
washingtonpost.com: Actually, in their defense, 2:30 p.m. was the scheduled time for today. Can't speak to the fluff or punditry charge.
Ana Marie Cox: Feel free to ask a substantive question! Or you can just hurl invective and taunt. I know we make that look easy, too.
Tucker Carlson: I'll send you twenty bucks if you can define the difference between "nonsensical fluff" and "real punditry."
2012: Mr. Carlson: Just curious, is there anything President Obama could do to earn your vote in 2012?
Tucker Carlson: If he acknowledged how cruel and awful abortion is -- and stopped taking money from people who commit it -- he'd do a lot to win me over.
Washington, D.C.: Tucker - do you imagine that libertarian and/or moderate Republican pundits will be in higher demand with Obama and increased Democratic majorities in Congress? Or will increased Democratic majorities make anything but Fox News-like conservative pundits extinct?
Tucker Carlson: Television does not reward those with unpopular views. People imagine that viewers tune in to hear vigorous debates. They don't. They watch to hear their own views read back to them more eloquently. So the more liberal the country gets, the fewer opportunities for conservatives on television.
The internet is a different story. Liberals run almost all the most vigorous and popular sites. That will change soon, and I plan to help.
Nashville, Tenn.: If you could get a seat at Obama's presser, which would you choose: Sox or Cubs?
Ana Marie Cox: CUBS! Husband would be massively disappointed in anything else. In fact might invent grounds for divorce. [Here's what we're talking about: Obama team sweeps news media into Cubs-Sox rivalry (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 25)
Anyone know where a picture of the set-up might be?]
Tucker Carlson: I vehemently agree.
Reston, Va.: I know President-elect Obama wants to model his administration after President Lincoln (Team of Rivals). But where is the wisdom in choosing someone as your Secretary of State who, "got it wrong on the single most important foreign policy decision of our time," to use the President-elect's words? I know that the Secretary of State will follow the direction of the President, but if that one decision makes a person a failure at foreign policy...
Tucker Carlson: That's a fair question, and one that I assume/hope Obama will answer at some point. On the other hand, I always thought the foreign policy differences between Obama and Hillary were overblown in the first place. They believe basically the same things. She's clever, tough as hell and a remarkably hard worker. Those are qualities I'd want in a secretary of state.
Ana Marie Cox: I agree with Tucker on this and would add that by putting her at State -- giving her a high profile position, where she will be required to deliver Obama's message -- he's probably neutralized any thoughts she might have had about a primary challenge.
Also, you said "team of rivals"! Drink!
State College, Pa.: What do you guys make of the accusations that the administration staff picks that have been announced by the Obama Transitional Team are not representative enough? I.e. not enough women, Latinos, etc.
Tucker Carlson: If there's one good thing to come out of Obama's election I hope it's that we all become less race conscious, not more. Does any serious person really care what color the people running treasury or defense are? I can't imagine it.
Ana Marie Cox: I guess if I were Latino, I'd be a little disappointed that Richardson is the guy representing me (the man is a massive tool and clearly a slut for federal jobs) but other than that I hope Tucker's right.
Washington, D.C.: TC and AMC: We keep on getting stories about media bias in favor of Obama over McCain. But we don't hear any stories of media bias in favor of the Tampa Bay Rays over the Washington Nationals, because everyone understands that the Rays were great while the Nats were dreadful. Why isn't the same equally obvious for Obama and McCain?
Tucker Carlson: There are a couple of obvious differences, starting with the fact that the Rays can't send us to war or nationalize the auto industry. I do agree that by any measure Obama ran a better campaign than McCain, but that's no reason to give him pass after pass, as the press did.
Ana Marie Cox: In fact, a lot of the press seemed to be about what an awesome campaign Obama was running, rather than about the skills/qualification/thinking of the man who will now have the power to send us to war or nationalize the auto industry. So while I agree with Tucker that your metaphor SHOULDN'T be the right one for talking about a campaign, I think that in fact it wound up being a lot sports journalism -- but with less balance.
Fairfax, Va.: Wow, Tucker, nice abortion comment re: Obama. So all he has to do is COMPLETELY agree with you, and you'll ponder respecting him more?
Would you like a pony, too?
Tucker Carlson: I already respect Obama. And I never expect anyone to agree with me completely. My own views are changing all the time. But I don't think it's too much to ask for someone as smart and thoughtful as Obama to acknowledge the obvious. He can't for political reasons, and I don't respect that.
Williamsburg: Ana: Why did McCain get all aggro on Elizabeth Bumiller on the campaign plane that time? And why did he turn on his natural allies -- the press -- during the campaign when it took a lifetime to gain your comfort?
Ana Marie Cox: Oh, goodie, a question from someone living in a cave! Kidding! I miss the election, too, sometimes.
1. If you think that is McCain "aggro," you must have a very happy and untroubled life. That was McCain in "snippy" mode, as Gore might call it, and while it is probably the most angry he ever got in front of the press, I just didn't think it was that big a deal -- or that revealing. Have you met Elizabeth?
(I kid again. Elizabeth is an amazing hard worker and a good influence on most of us.)
2. It does not take a lifetime to earn the love the press corps. It takes remarkably little, really. A scratch behind the ear, some candy, a well-placed leak... McCain could get all the journo-love he wanted (and more!) if he so much as winked at us again. The thing is, I don't think he will.
New York, N.Y.: What's the story behind Chuck Todd's hot tub mother that you were referring to, Ana?
Ana Marie Cox: On Morning Joe yesterday, Chuckie T revealed that the Todd family business is, in fact, hot tub installation. (Apparently they're in a bit of a slowdown right now, go figure.) As Lawrence O'Donnell said: "It implies a level of hedonism one does not normally associate with the Todd family." I, for one, just thinks this means that O'Donnell doesn't know Chuck very well. Or at least clearly hasn't hot tubbed with him.
Uganda: Ana: What's with Governor Palin and animals?
Ana Marie Cox: You know, I am probably a lonely defender of Palin on the Great Turkey Massacre, in that the sort of small-scale turkey production that was going on in the background is actually more humane than massive factory-scale turkey farming. That said: Aerial hunting? Because humans don't already have enough of an advantage over WOLVES? It does not seem sporting.
Reston, Va.: Hi, could either of you please explain to me what "center-right" country actually means? I hear it mentioned in the abstract, but I'm really perplexed by the reality of it.
Tucker Carlson: It doesn't actually mean anything, in that "center-right" isn't a defined ideology or world-view. It is instead an instinct that most Americans share: Against radical change, for gradual changes to the status quo.
Ana Marie Cox: That sounds about right... as it were. Of the many ironies this election spotlighted, it is that when Americans say they want "change," what they really want is "a return to the status quo," which makes total sense: when the current situation is FUBAR, status quo is a welcome change. Just getting government un-FUBARed is going to be a tall order, and about all the change most people want.
Personally, I hope that he moves on from that and manages to get buy in from the public to do Big Things (integrating the military, some form of nationalized health care, etc.).
Brooklyn: Tucker: Is Alan Greenspan's public wavering on laissez faire economics cause for national moment of libertarian introspection?
Tucker Carlson: I think most libertarians are rethinking their assumptions about Alan Greenspan, not their belief in the laws of the market.
Brooklyn: Ana and Tucker: Will Bill Clinton's international dealings hurt Hillary in her Senate confirmation hearings?
Tucker Carlson: They're so embarrassing, I'll bet you no one brings them up.
Ana Marie Cox: It COULD be why there's been this disconnect between rumors and official announcements. I've heard that Clinton is being very cooperative about the vetting, with the attitude that "I'm not going to be the one that screws this up." Perhaps he's learned something from the primaries.
No money from people who "commit" abortion: ... that could make the female-donor questionnaires a lot more interesting, I'll grant you that.
Really, Tucker, have you thought this through?
Tucker Carlson: Yep. I was pro-choice till I thought about it.
Fairfax, Va.: Hey Fairfax - Obama didn't promise ponies - just unicorns!
Ana Marie Cox: And, apparently, abortions! Lots and lots of abortions!
Tucker Carlson: Actually, he did: "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do."
Transition question: I like the new name!
I was wondering about each of your impressions so far about this transition. My observations are that Pres-elect Obama is very confident, and very self-assured. I also get the impression he means business, that is he's not putzing around and/or treading water. But I'm more interested in each of your observations.
Ana Marie Cox: My God, is he looking smooth or what? I think the reason he keeps reminding us that there's only one president at a time is that otherwise Dick Cheney would start showing up to the transition HQ for work.
And for a candidate who got famous based on soaring rhetoric, his press conferences have shown a different side of his skills -- he's been serious, down to earth, more specific and yet collegial as well. So far, there's none of the sense that the conferences are hostile enemy territory, as Bush treated them. Of course, this probably because of the reporters there voted for him.
Alexandria, Va.: Future prediction: Claire McCaskill has all the political skills to become a future Senate Majority Leader if she sticks around. Agree, disagree?
Tucker Carlson: I agree absolutely. I look forward to the day. She's much more appealing -- decent, reasonable, calm -- that Harry Reid.
Yonkers, N.Y.: It says here that Paul Krugman got invited to the White House, where the Nobel Prize winners were congratulated, and he shook G.W.'s hand, which is quite a giggle, if you've read Krugman's columns in the last eight years. Is there anyone's hand you guys wouldn't shake on general principles? Alan Colmes? Katherine Harris?
Tucker Carlson: I can't think of anyone whose hand I wouldn't shake, both because politeness never implies agreement, and because I love being surprised. I've met countless people I thought I'd despise and instead wound up liking them. It's a great feeling. I know Alan Colmes and Katherine Harris, by the way, and like them both.
Ana Marie Cox: I have an answer but I am legally bound not to reveal it.
But mostly I agree with Tucker -- the people I detest are usually people I actually know and have reason to detest. Hating people you don't know is sort of a waste of energy. And there is, yes, always a chance that you'll be pleasantly surprised. My husband and many of my liberal friends couldn't get their heads around that I am friends with -- and like and respect -- the Evil Rove Protege Steve Schmidt, but I just felt like their attitude would mean missing out on getting to know a guy who is actually quite sweet, wonderful, funny and smart.
Obama Administration: I'm a little put off by the appointment of former Clinton people and the use of such people in the transition team efforts (because it's highly likely those people will also get appointments) by the Obama team.
For someone running on 'change' and wanting a changing of the guard in Washington, this isn't exactly the way to do it. How do you think his actions are going over with people who don't even work with Washington/don't understand how it works? Or are people just willing to give him a free pass because he's not Bush (or Republican)?
For the record, I didn't vote for either candidate, so it's not like I'm a McCain voter who has a beef with Obama.
Tucker Carlson: I didn't vote for Obama either -- one of the six percent in DC who didn't -- but I have to say I'm impressed by the number of Clinton people he has hired. It's evidence of an appealing open-mindedness I think. Running the government is complicated. It helps to have people who've done it before. So I'm all for Beltway insiders.
Miami, Fla.: Does anyone know if Hillary Clinton has REALLY been offered the job of Secretary of State -- or has that just become the accepted wisdom? How do unsubstantiated things become accepted wisdom?
Tucker Carlson: Best question of the day. Of course we have no real idea what Obama has said to Hillary. But we do know that Hillary's people have told the press she's been offered the job, thereby ensuring she will be. She's boxed him in brilliantly, which by itself proves she's likely to be an effective diplomat.
Ana Marie Cox: I agree and will add: this is Hillary at work, I think, not Bill. Though Bill is happy to go along with the plan, I suspect he wishes that she had kept her own options open.
Woodbridge, Va.: Ana and Tucker, I am fed up to here with pundits from both political parties telling us what the election "really" means: that the US is still basically a center-right party (GOP) or has now become a center-left party (Dems). Seems to me they are both only half right, that a majority of Americans are usually always in the moderate center somewhere, occasionally leaning left on social issues and right on fiscal and statist issues. In general we think government should stay out of our lives and has no right to tell us whom we can legally marry, etc. On the other hand, we want and need a government strong enough to do things only government can do (end slavery, end segregation, help us through economic crisis, etc.). As for you two, who are on the sensible and sane ends of your respective political wings, what say you?
Ana Marie Cox: Well, thanks for the implied compliment, I think. I do suspect that in Tucker and myself the WP has found two of the most self-hating pundits in Washington ... or at least the most self-critical, especially when it comes to the profession as whole. I have never thought the role of the pundit is to figure out what things "really mean," but rather to add context and further information about what, quite clearly, has happened.
I think you've pretty accurately described the country, too, and to the extent it has ever been otherwise, it's only in reaction to extreme crisis or -- and this is, totally sincere here, why I love my country -- a result of the gradual creeping forward of liberty. We tend to extend freedom over time, which makes us awesome. Go team America!
Tucker Carlson: I couldn't despise myself more. On bring-your-father-to-work day at my children's school, I pretend I'm a lobbyist.
New York, N.Y.: Who will be the most shocking pick for a cabinet member?
Tucker Carlson: Hard to top Hillary Clinton. I'd also be shocked if he picked an actual Republican.
Bush: Tucker there are many people that think Bush will be considered one of the worst presidents in history up there with Buchanan and Peirce. What do you think? Will history vindicate our President?
Tucker Carlson: Nobody will ever top Woodrow Wilson for badness, but Bush is up there I think (mostly because he aped Wilson). On the other hand, no one can maintain that level of unpopularity forever (e.g., Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter). There will never be a George W. Bush International Airport, but he won't be as hated 40 years from now.
Social Secretary: Please explain what this position is and what it involves. On the surface a Harvard MBA seems like a pretty huge qualification to be a social secretary but I am sure there is far more to the job than the title implies.
Speaking of misleading names the National Bureau of Economic Research Dating Committee, as we have all learned, is not a place to find hot economists but rather a place to learn when the poop has officially hit the fan.
Ana Marie Cox: Such bad news about the Dating Committee! Back to Hannidate for you, buster!
As for the Social Secretary: Considering what a hot ticket the Obama White House will likely turn out to be, a Harvard MBA is probably a good idea. I mean, the excel spread sheets and competing interests alone..
Seattle: At the recent governor's conference, Sarah Palin said that God had decided that it was not time for she and John McCain to win. Does that mean God supported Obama?
Ana Marie Cox: Well, he is his son.
Tucker Carlson: I can't improve on that. Too great. Thanks for having us today. Have a terrific Thanksgiving.
Fox News: With the departure of Alan Colmes, who will Fox News point to when defending their claims of being fair and balanced?
Tucker Carlson: I'm casting my vote for Ana.
Raleigh, N.C.: Good afternoon. Have either of you started freaking out about the economy yet? If so, what put you over the edge? If not, what are you waiting for?
Tucker Carlson: It's gotten me out of bed early every day this month. I'm worried. On the other hand, I'm not in control of the economy. Nobody is.
Atlanta, Ga.: Hey Tucker, I'm a big fan of yours and I have two questions. First, what are your thoughts on Governor Mark Sanford? Do you think he'll run in 2012 and if so, could he win? Second, what's going on with the game show? I am looking forward to it, but there seems to be no news on it.
Tucker Carlson: Sanford's the real thing, I think. I bet he runs in 2012.
As for the game show, watching people lose huge sums of money suddenly seems less entertaining. But it's in the can and will air at some point.
Giving Thanks: What will the two of you being giving thanks for this year?
Ana Marie Cox: I am thankful for my handsome regular chat partner (Husband) and also for Tucker -- this is, in fact, a job that I would envy if I did not have it, and if I did not know how little it paid.
Of c, I'm kidding again because in these hard times, all paychecks are truly something to be thankful for.
And I am thankful to you, dear readers, for without you this would be awfully boring. And also pointless. Even more so, I mean. (KIDDING. REALLY.)
Have a happy Thanksgiving and see you next week.
Tucker Carlson: Let me join my voice to Ana's in a chorus of thanksgiving. Thanks.
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