Transition Edition with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
MSNBC Political Correspondent; Time Magazine Blogger
Tuesday, December 9, 2008; 2:00 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, Dec. 9 to dissect and debate the latest political developments in this post-election, pre-inauguration liminal time.

A transcript follows.


Ana Marie Cox: Hi all, a little late getting started due to breaking news, caffeine withdrawal, etc. But keep those questions coming!


London: Re arrest: Is is just me, or is not seem that pay for play is the norm in politics?

Tucker Carlson: Good afternoon. In a word: yes. It's normal for people, especially politicians, to expect rewards in return for favors. What's unusual is finding someone willing to express it in the way Blagojevich apparently did. Yes, he's a creep, but we knew that from watching years of his public statements. Today's fresh news: He's a drooling moron. Seriously. Only a man with an IQ under 90 would say out loud the things he did. My favorite quote, courtesy of The Smoking Gun:

"In a November 11 conversation, Blagojevich remarked that he knew Obama wanted Valerie Jarrett, a longtime confidante, to succeed him, "but they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F--- them."

Good for Obama. On the other hand, it'll be interesting to see if Obama's office cooperated with the feds in this. He must have known Blago was openly corrupt. I'd heard all about it, and I live hundreds of miles away.

Ana Marie Cox: I will have to simply reply with my SECOND favorite quote, which does at least go to the 90 point IQ point: "You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody's listening, the whole world is listening." Uh-huh.


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: The last Illinois governor (George Ryan) is a crook housed in federal prison. The current Illinois governor just got indicted this morning.

Will the next Illinois governor join these two in prison? And if so, how long will Ryan have to wait before they can form a bridge foursome composed solely of Illinois governors?

Finally, is there something in the DNA of Illinois governors that makes these men woefully unlucky and just plain stupid?

"The fault dear Brutus.."

Thanks much.

Ana Marie Cox: Since they are -- as far as I know -- unrelated, I think you'd have to conclude that it's something in the water, not in the genes. And then we have to hope it's gov's mansion and not Springfield, because you-know-who DID spend a lot of time in Springfield.

When I heard the news, I immediately thought of Obama's response to Brokaw about gaming out who might get Clinton's seat. He said something like, "I'm not going to get involved in NY politics, I've got Illinois politics to worry about." But, now, gosh, if you had to choose...

Lastly: FITZ for Senate! Or gov! Or, you know, MY PERSONAL BOY TOY.

Tucker Carlson: I've got a longtime policy of agreeing with Ana, but I'll draw the line here. Patrick Fitzgerald is the most self-righteous zealot I've seen since Al Gore, exactly the last guy we ought to reward with more power. Though I do agree he's handsome.


Washington, D.C.: Dear Tucker and Ana Marie: I know the Blagojevich arrest is the big news now, as it should be, but I want to ask your opinion of Caroline Kennedy as New York senator. I've watched her for a few years now host the Kennedy Center Honors -- this is all in her father's name -- and more recently talk about Obama. She seems to have about as much spark as a hibernating bear in the middle of January. How could anyone seriously consider her for senator? Please tell me that nobody is seriously considering her.

Tucker Carlson: I've never interviewed Caroline Kennedy. I'm sure she's a fine person. But why should she be appointed to the U.S. Senate? Because her family's famous? Doesn't strike me as a very sound reason. And it's especially odd coming from a party that opposes aristocracy. But as long as we're handing out high paying federal jobs on the basis of bloodline, how about Amy Carter for Small Business Administration?

Ana Marie Cox: Her appointment would, I think, undermine the message of "change" if not "hope," because, you know, I've always "hoped" I could get a job I was unqualified for, too!

Then again, more seriously, it's not like being a Senator is something you need to train for years for. Look at POTUS-elect. However, it's one thing for the nation (or state) to collectively decide that someone's experience, though scant, is enough. It's another thing for a governor to do so. I think appointments should err on the side of stability and experience. Let the people be the ones to gamble, if they want to.


Burlington, Vt.: Why won't Gore join the Obama administration? Does he honestly think he'd be able to achieve as much success on the environment and energy on the sidelines?

Tucker Carlson: Gore's done pretty well in the private sector, and he's wise to stay there. He's fine in small doses, but people tend to despise him after a while. He's just too pompous, too much of a true believer in whatever god he happens to be worshipping at the moment. He always goes too far. As long as he limits his public appearances to speeches at prestigious awards dinners, he'll remain popular. I suspect he's finally learned this about himself.

Ana Marie Cox: Self-knowledge often comes at high price, and I would guess Gore is done paying.

That's a sort of obscure way of saying I agree with Tucker, though I am more fond of Gore than he is. (For instance, I don't think he's pompous, just awkward. Which is endearing... in low doses.)


Alexandria, Va.: How soon do you think the new administration will address the housing mess? In particular, lowering interest rates to 4.5 percent in order to entice new home buyers to step into the market?

Tucker Carlson: Artificially low rates are the main reason we're in this mess in the first plce.

Ana Marie Cox: I thought the problem was that people were losing houses they already (tried to) own, not that people needed to get new ones...

If he's serious about a vast "works project"-type initiative, couldn't general economic stability help ease other, related crises? I of course look forward to his hiring unemployed pundits as part of this mission.


Chevy Chase, Md.: It's hilarious watching Right Wing Republicans try to smear Obama now -- first he wasn't born in this country. Oops, then he WAS born in this country, but his father held dual citizenship, so he's not eligible to be prez; now it's the Blagojevich scandal. What next, he abducted Caylee Anthony? He caused the real estate meltdown (have they tried that one yet)? I think the religious right wingers (RRWs) have to calm down and get over it. I've had to put up with Bush/Cheney and their incompetence of the last 8 years, so the RRWs now have their turn. Oh, and yes, I am a registered Republican. So there.

Ana Marie Cox: Kathleen Parker, is that you?

Just kidding. (Kathleen, if it is you, you owe me a drink!)

We've talked about this nearly every week here on the transition edition show, and given the attention paid to these complaints (of secular-y Rs about RWRs) by the MSM, it's tempting to believe that a massive cleavage is upon us, or them, and not the good kind.

And while evangelicals are, I think, facing shift in demographics which will mean SOMETHING to the GOP, it seems to me that most of the ridiculousness/conspiracy theorizing is less a function of religiousity than plain ol' crazypants extremism... the kind that comes out to play pretty much anytime one side loses an election. Which is to say, always.


Fitz: I LIKE my prosecutors to be self-righteous zealots. What's the alternative, ethically wishy-washy and lazy?

Tucker Carlson: Measured, deliberative, wise. People who appreciate the power they've been given and wield it with restraint. People who understand the human cost of prosecutions. People who refuse to hold grudges or grandstand for political gain. People without higher political aspirations. There's nothing scarier than a reckless prosecutor.

Ana Marie Cox: I don't see what about the Blago prosecution was reckless; if anything they held back. And if you're talking Libby, well, tell it to the jury, who seemed to find Fitz pretty darn wise. And, fwiw, I don't think Fitzgerald actually aspires to higher office. At least I have never heard of it -- though I'm sure there are those trying to convince him otherwise.


Fitz as Boy Toy?: "Handsome?" Really? Ana, seriously, he looks like the kind of guy you'd never get to go home with you because he'd be too busy quibbling over the tip at the restaurant...

Ana Marie Cox: That would be after he investigated the procurement practices of the restaurant to make sure the "fresh-baked bread" had, indeed, seen the inside of an oven within the federally mandated period that defines "fresh-baked."

What can I say? I like slide-rule types. And his press conferences make clear that though he takes RULES seriously, he does not take himself so much so.

Tucker Carlson: Just a guess, but I suspect the handcuffs and subpoena power also play a role in his appeal.


Ottawa, Canada: Tucker, On Morning Joe this week, I thought you and Mike Barnicle were going to come to blows. Thank goodness it was only a satellite feed -- but my wife and I were hoping it could go on and on.

Do you and Mike really dislike each other that much or is it just the politics talking?

Tucker Carlson: Dislike each other? Mike's one of my favorite people, on television or off. Terrific guy in every way. We just disagree about whether FDR ended the depression or prolonged it. (Seems obvious to me that Pearl Harbor ended it.) Sorry that wasn't clear. I probably shouldn't do morning TV. I have trouble controlling my facial expressions at that hour.


Mumbai, India: Bill Clinton's second term was effectively over when the Lewinsky scandal broke out. Is it possible that Obama's efficacy as a president would be negatively affected by this scandal (even if it is ultimately proven that he has nothing to do with this, at a later date)

Note: I was just hoping that Obama's term(s) would be free of scandal, but lo and behold, he has indeed 'hit the ground running'! (Although, there is NOTHING in the complaint which says that he has any role whatsoever. But, in politics, there is always 'guilt by association'.)

Tucker Carlson: Obama will continue to get the benefit of every doubt from the press, and from most Americans. He comes off well in the documents released so far -- refusing to reward Blago with the senate appointment is a good sign -- and I hope that continues. I don't want to think our new president is corrupt even before he's inaugurated. Though at some point, I would like to hear him explain why he allowed Rezko to buy that lot next to his house in Hyde Park. That's always struck me as sleazy.

Ana Marie Cox: Here we are agreeing again, yay! I hate it when we fight, Tucker...

I, too, think Obama comes off as relatively clean in this. (Though considering how dirty the dirty are, it's faint praise.) What's more, this eats up just a small portion of that vast political capital I was talking about early. The fundamentals of his economy are strong.


Raleigh, N.C.: I've been pretty immune to Obamawesomeness, because I tend to be more logical about politics, not emotional. But given all the deeply troubling news over the last couple of months, I find myself drawn to putting all my hopes about fixing America into Obama, because "the system" seems overwhelmed right now. I suspect a lot of Americans are on the same journey as me. How might that impact Obama's presidency?

Ana Marie Cox: It gives him political capital that Bush could only -- and I think did -- dream about. If Obama wanted privatize Social Security -- or launch a Mars colony or get rid of the college bowl system or adopt a NON-SHELTER PET -- now would be the time to do it.

This worries me just a bit. He is neither a savior or a celebrity -- and this is the thing I wonder if Obamaniacs remember -- he WORKS FOR US. Yes, I'm hopeful he can set things straight or, dead God, even meet that very low bar of adequately competent governance. But there's only so much slack that should be cut.


Re: Caroline Kennedy: Tucker, while I tend to agree with you regarding her lack of qualifications for the post, on the other hand I think, "So we should leave it to the professionals, like Gov. Palin, the last two governors of Illinois, Michelle Bachman, Larry Craig, the congressman from Louisiana with the cash in the freezer..."

Tucker Carlson: It's not that she doesn't have enough experience in government -- though running the largest organization in human history is complicated, so I do think that's a problem -- it's that her only real qualification appears to be her last name. Haven't we spent eight years complaining that Bush never would have been elected without his father? Seems like there's a lesson there.

Ana Marie Cox: One thing Obama COULD do with his appointments and advice along these lines, by the way, would be make clear that being "qualified" for a government job does not mean having experience in government. I would be more disposed to a Kennedy appointment if she had experience running anything big and complicated.

I think I'm agreeing with Tucker here but don't hold me to it.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: Do you think Blagojevich and Ryan will be able to build their own Team of Rivals on the inside?

Ana Marie Cox: I see a John Grisham sequel in the making!

And I'm guessing they will both need more powerful friends than they are themselves at the moment.


Montreal: Why do you hate Gore so much? Is it an unpleasant reminder of how big time media hacks so badly failed the American people in 2000 by concocting stories about Gore as a 'serial fabricator,' keeping the race to remain close enough for the Supreme Court to award it to this unprecedented incompetent? You're not good enough to eat Gore's carbon footprint.

Tucker Carlson: We get of a lot of unpleasant emails here, but I have to say, Gore's carbon footprint is an especially repulsive image. For whatever it's worth, I never lost sleep over Gore's fibbing in 2000. Lots of politicians do that. It's annoying, but hardly a moral crime. Gore's problem is his total lack of restraint or perspective. Like Stalin a former theology student, he's an extremist by nature (the opposite of Bill Clinton, by the way). According to Gore, his opponents aren't just mistaken or wrong, they're immoral, maybe evil. What an awful way to see the world. You want to give as guy like that more power? Not me.


N.J.: Do you think the first lady should get some a salary of some sort? It's a demanding job. Plus the FL has to give up her life for four years!

Tucker Carlson: You mean living rent-free in the equivalent of the penthouse suite at the Four Seasons isn't enough? How about complimentary car service, complete with roadblocks at all red lights, 24 hours a day? Unlimited foreign travel on your own 747? A private box at the Kennedy Center? Etc... Seems like pretty good compensation for a job with no duties.

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'd take that job.


Arlington, Va.: I've worked in D.C. for almost two decades, in the civil service and on the Hill, and this Blagojevich thing has me flabbergasted, even feeling naïve. I've never seen anything like it in my personal experience and I can't decide what is more astonishing, the pure sliminess of it or the sheer stupidity. What are these guys on?

It certainly is no help to us who really do try to do public service. I've seen lots of human failings, but nothing criminal like this. If true, I hope they nail him to the wall.

Ana Marie Cox: Maybe I just watch too much "Law and Order," but I'm gonna go with being flabbergasted by the stupidity. If the crooks on TV were this stupid, the "drama" on TNT would SOL.

But as far as dimming the hopes/reputations of those in public service: well, this is one of those times you hope that people's takeaway is less "Blagojevich did horrible things" than "he got caught doing them." And pretty quickly, I think.

Tucker Carlson: I'm with you: I've been in Washington on and off since 1985, and I've never seen a transcript like that one. In real life, people don't talk that way, though I guess they do in Chicago.


Alexandria, Va.: Is it me, or will Hillary and Nicholas Sarkozy not get on? I mean ignoring his hyperactive personality and penchant for showboating, I know he said something along the lines of "I knew my advisers were wrong when they thought Hillary would win, I saw Obama winning from the beginning". Ouch. I foresee a frosty relationship.

Ana Marie Cox: I think if there is any woman in the world that functions fine in a "frosty relationship" -- and, indeed, can make one ultimately work -- it is Hillary.

Tucker Carlson: Such a brilliant answer, I'm raising my glass of club soda in silent salute.


Elmwood Park, N.J.: We need a counter-term for Reagan Democrats for the Kathleen Parkers of this world who have been scared straight by GW Bush, or who at least are fed up with the religious zealots who have brought on this disaster. Blue Dog Republicans? Centrist Conservatives? Ron Paulicrats?

Tucker Carlson: I don't think it's a question of hating religious people -- Ron Paul, for example, is the son of a minister and a faithful church-goer -- but of rejecting the sort of phony populism and Joe-the-Plumber dumbness that many in the GOP have embraced lately.

Ana Marie Cox: I think Tucker's right that it's not anti-religiousness per se, but I also think it is always fun to name new sub categories of already sort of artificial tropes! "Paulites" has a nice ironic twist, but I am always in favor of bringing adorable animals into the mix.


Oogedy, Md.: Not that I care much about Norm Coleman, but what Al Franken is trying to pull in Minnesota is repulsive. Are the Senate democrats going to go along with his scam? Even Arlen Specter and the two ladies from Maine might filibuster sitting loser Franken.

Tucker Carlson: I agree completely. Franken will do anything to win, therefore he will.


Leno: What do you two think about Leno five nights a week before the late news?

Tucker Carlson: Pretty smart, I think, though a shocking insult to Conan. He must be really upset about it.

Ana Marie Cox: Except that I'm not convinced Leno's show will succeed. I've never thought of his show as "appointment viewing," or as something worth Tivoing. You catch it if it's on when you're around. I doubt if people will make it a point to be around.

And we all know how well variety programs do these days!


Montreal: What's wrong with former theology students? You sound like you're talking about the self-righteous Woodrow Wilson, by the way, and I would agree with that. I don't see any factual substance in your statements about Gore, which sound like right wing talking points.

Tucker Carlson: I don't think there are right-wing talking points any more. Republicans are too disorganized. And in any case, I was never invited on the calls when they did exist. I've come to my conclusions on Gore honestly, by interviewing him and watching him in action. The next time Gore does an interview, watch carefully. You'll see what I mean.

And I apologize for not including Wilson in my list of self-righteous zealots. He's at the top of the roster.


New York, N.Y.: I like how the Treasury can sell bonds to someone at nearly no interest. This literally is how the wealthy hid their money under their mattresses.

Tucker Carlson: I don't get that. Why don't they just literally hide it under their mattresses?


New York: Is it true that they are trying to get a Bush presidential pardon for Gov. Ryan and, well, why?

Tucker Carlson: I suspect Blago may have wrecked that for him.


Bronx, N.Y.: "self-righteous zealot." Isn't that code for "dedicated prosecutor"? In this case, it looks like Fitzgerald took pains not to tarnish anyone that the governor talked about, since this clown was so delusional that he even saw himself as presidential timber. That's indicative of prosecutorial restraint on his part, and in spite of your evident jealousy over his clean-cut good looks, Fitzy didn't overcharge Libby or concoct anything against other people to shake them down, unlike some of the U.S. Attorneys who played ball with the loyal Bushies. The prosecution of Libby was no scandal; the railroading of Seligman clearly was.

Ana Marie Cox: I'm just trying replying to this to 1. Agree with the first part of you post and 2. Tell you that Tucker has no reason to be jealous, blessed as he is with matinee idol looks AND charm.

That said, he doesn't carry handcuffs nor can order anyone to be handcuffed, as far as I know. Ergo: Less sexy than Fitz.

Sorry, Tucker.

Tucker Carlson: My cuffs are lined with mink, but as far as I'm concerned they qualify.


Northville, N.Y.: You know, if I had 250Gs to donate to the esteemed governor of Illinois, the heck with the Senate seat; I want to be manager of the Cubs.

Ana Marie Cox: Hard to say which job offers the most opportunities for humiliation, no?

Tucker Carlson: Except that one's guaranteed for six years and comes with a driver.


Ana Marie Cox: That's it for me... As always, it's been a pleasure. Thanks to Tucker and to WP and we'll see you next week!

Tucker Carlson: And me too. It's 3:00 PM, time to hit the showers. Until next week.


Tampa, Fla.: Scale of 1-10. How would each of you rate:

Obama's appointments so far? Bush's final days in office? Blagojevich's quotes in the affidavit?

Tucker Carlson: In order:

8 (more sensible than expected)

1 (pathetic, and also boring)

10 (made my day)

Ana Marie Cox: 8: Sensible, sure.

2: Surprising humility if still lame and, you know, a war criminal.

10: Awesome in their idiocy


Chicago: If you know you are under federal investigation and you discuss illegal acts over the telephone, should you be impeached for ethical breaches or for stupidity?

Ana Marie Cox: The stupid usually find their own punishment, and if it was a federal offense then I doubt we could fill the House.

_______________________ Please come back to Live Discussions at 3:30 today to chat with Alan Greenblatt from Governing Magazine about the Blagojevich indictment.


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