Transition Edition with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

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Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Daily Beast Contributors
Wednesday, January 7, 2009; 2:00 PM

Conservative MSNBC political correspondent and Daily Beast contributor Tucker Carlson and liberal Daily Beast contributor Ana Marie Cox were online Wednesday, Jan. 7 to dissect and debate the latest political developments in this post-election, pre-inauguration liminal time.

A transcript follows.

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Ana Marie Cox: Greetings from the Joe Biden car of Amtrak's Acela. Good to be here. I will have to pop out early as we arrive at Union Station at 3. But until then, WE SHALL JOUST.

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Washington, D.C.: Were other African Americans offered the job before Burris, but had the pride to turn it down? Does he really think he can overcome the debasement of accepting this tainted appointment and win a full term in 2 years? This defines wanting (and attaining office) in the worst way. To a GOP licking its wounds from 11/4, this whole farce must be like The Sting -- "It's not enough, but it's close."

Tucker Carlson: Greetings from rainy D.C. Burris himself made a pretty good point about this at a press conference the other day: If anything Blagojevich touches is tainted, are the laws he signed as governor still valid? Of course they are. That's not a defense of Burris -- he's a pretty cynical guy, I think -- but the fact is that Blago has the right to appoint him. And by the way, holding office is self-authenticating. Two years from now, Burris will seem like a real senator.

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Princeton, N.J.: Ana -

You sort of called it on the toolbag front; who do you see as the next viable nominee for Commerce? Rendell? I know a Republican is the Lt. Gov, and he'd be loath to turn over the reins of state gov. to the GOP, but it could be the next best choice.

Ana Marie Cox: I would enjoy seeing Rendell at Commerce (he's like Chris Matthews in his blustery but endearing obnoxiousness) and it's be an interesting play in what is unfolding to be a very chilly if not cold war between Obama and Clinton (currently on display with Obama's selection of Panetta's CIA as a foil to Clinton's State). I confess my sources in the transition team amount to the guy that occasionally answers my IMs so I don't have real information. However, based on the Gupta pick, I wonder if Suze Orman is free...

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Washington, D.C.: All six candidates for RNC chair named Ronald Reagan the greatest Republican president (even over Lincoln). Tucker, what do you make of the Republican Party's seemingly excessive personal fixation on Reagan? We can argue in partisan terms over the quality of his presidency, but the recent accolades for him seem wildly disproportionate. I mean, can anyone seriously argue that Reagan is the greatest American ever, greater than Lincoln/Washington/Franklin/MLK? Isn't this cult of personality around Reagan a mask for the dearth of new ideas in the current GOP?

Tucker Carlson: Nicely put. All cults of personalities exist to hide the hollowness of the movements that create them. You knew the Soviets had given up on ideas when they enbalmed Lenin -- not that that's a fair comparison. But, yes, Reagan worship is taking the place of thinking in the Republican Party right now. And by the way, something similar is also going on with Obama in the Democratic Party.

Ana Marie Cox: This is obviously Tucker's question but I'm thankful he gave me a chance to respond. I was at the debate where the RNC hopefuls were asked this question and the speed with which they answered the question was almost as disturbing as the unanimity. It's one thing to truly believe that Reagan is the greatest Republican president for reasons that you've given thought to, it's another thing to just say his name because -- as moderator Grover Norquist put it -- it's the "right answer."

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Wye Mills, Md.: Can Republicans expect John McCain and his valet Lindsay Graham to fight the liberal excesses to come or knife Republicans and conservatives in the back? And with South Carolina afflicting John McCain as 2008 Republican presidential candidate and Lindsay Graham as senator, can we count Katon Dawson out as next RNC chairman?

Ana Marie Cox: You can count Dawson out as RNC chair because it has finally become unacceptable for a high-profile Republican to be a member of an all-white country club. Yay, progress!

As for whether McCain and "Lindsay, my boy" will fight "liberal excesses," it depends on what type of excess you mean. On spending? I think so. While they are cautiously supporting bailouts/stimulus, McCain's commitment to fiscal conservatism is probably his most reliable ideological compass point. (And Lindsay will pretty much do whatever McCain does.) If you think "liberal excesses" might run to social issues, I think that's a little more murky. While they both check all the right social conservative boxes, I know they both are just personally uncomfortable with federal government encroachment into private or, as they will put it publicly, state matters McCain opposed the Marriage Amendment on those grounds.

But that's probably not what you were asking.

Tucker Carlson: I think Ana's exactly right. I'd just add that McCain's second most reliable ideological compass point is his hatred of other Republicans. He despises them. So whatever he can do to wreck their day, you can be sure he'll do it.

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Seattle, Wash.: Please discuss the perception that Burris was picked less on his own merits, but more on his ability to p*ss off Democrats.

Tucker Carlson: The "perception"? It's a board-certified fact. There is literally no other explanation. He's a living practical joke. Beautiful.

Ana Marie Cox: I've been framing it as a poker play and not a practical joke but I guess it works either way. It was a BRILLIANT move on Blagojevich's part to effectively double cross Washington Democrats and, for that matter, Fitzgerald. People will talk about it for decades to come.

That said: I think he'll be seated, I think he'll be arm wrestled out of running in 2010 no matter what he says now. And, heck, even if he does run: The guy hasn't won a primary in his life. Let him run.

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Ellicott City, Md.: Roland Burris said today that former President Jimmy Carter has wished him well for the Senate seat. The pictures released of the Presidents meeting at the White House today have former President Carter looking as if he would rather be be somewhere else. Will Carter's endorsement help Burris at all? Also, has President Carter issued a statement on the recent Hamas-Israeli conflict? Which gets back to -- does Carter really like anyone and can that help or hurt Burris? Thanks.

Tucker Carlson: One of the great semi-secrets in Washington is, virtually everyone dislikes Jimmy Carter. Republicans dislike him because, in addition to being a poor president, he's also surprisingly partisan and nasty. Many Democrats remember how much trouble he caused the Clinton administration, constantly popping up in foreign capitals during conflicts to confuse matters. And of course virtually everyone who supports Israel is still annoyed by his last book, So, no, his endorsement doesn't help.

Ana Marie Cox: I don't travel in exactly the same circles as Tucker, so I'm in the dark about who likes and doesn't like who. But from the outside, Jimmy Carter is clearly the outlier ex-president in both his personality and what he's chosen to do with his post-White House career, which I personally admire him for.

That said, no, the endorsement won't help Burris but at this point it doesn't need to. Senate Dems just want this to be over.

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Detroit, Mich.: Honestly -- for the first time in our history, Americans have elected the first African American president. Yet, the Congressional Black Caucus is now playing the race card accusing Democratic members of the Senate of being racists by not sitting Roland Burris? This is beyond ridiculous and started with the biggest hypocrite of all, Bobby Rush. In 2004, he had the opportunity to support an African American to the Senate. Instead of supporting Barack Obama, he chose his white opponent, Blair Hull. This isn't O.J.

Tucker Carlson: If Bobby Rush were white, we'd all say out loud what everyone who watches him knows: He's a race-baiter and a bigot. But he's not, so we have to pretend he's a legitimate figure.

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Spartanburg, S.C.: Betwen Rahm and Barack, I think this administration is bringing sexy back. Oh, and Sanjay too. Agreed?

Ana Marie Cox: Yum!

Tucker Carlson: Rahm's on the sexy list? Come on. Hot coffee, cold shower, pull it together.

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Boston, Mass.: With the Gupta pick, do you think David Horowitz at Commerce?

Tucker Carlson: Wolf Blitzer at Defense. Miles O'Brien at NASA. John King at State. You could really go on forever. But let's not let the joking obscure the most central point here: People are now being plucked from cable news to run the government. I support that.

Ana Marie Cox: Tucker for Secretary of Funny!

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Anonymous: Acela? All that money to get there 20 minutes earlier? Next time take the Chinatown bus. That would make for a fun chat

Ana Marie Cox: I'm actually pulling in in about five so it's 25 minutes early and, sadly, I must depart as well.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: I wish to please ask a question to Mr. Carlson (and Ms. Cox is free to also respond.). I saw you on MSNBC and I agree that a national health care system will increase government spending. Yet, how much would it increase costs to consumers? Are there national health insurance plans that could reduce costs to consumers, especially if, to be candid, government inefficiency can be found to be less costly than current health care administrative costs?

Tucker Carlson: With all respect, you've answered your own question: Increased government spending amouunts to an increased cost to consumers, since in the end consumers are the only source of government revenue.

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Seattle, Wash.: When the media discusses the Panetta issue, it's almost always in terms of politics (bumps in the road of transition, etc). They may sometimes bring up the substantive issue of Panetta's qualifications (thanks to DiFi). But the basic fact that, as of now, high-level experience in the CIA means high-level experience approving torture gets very short-shrift from the media. What are your thoughts on the tension btwn wanting someone in that position with CIA experience and wanting someone with a moral compass that points away from torture? And will we ever get the media to take moral issues, such as torture, seriously?

Tucker Carlson: I think the press has covered the torture question pretty extensively, as it should. It's important. But is it more important than gathering information that might prevent another 9-11? Probably not. I'm all for morally-upright civil servants. But if forced to choose, I'd much rather hire an immoral bureaucrat who knows how to do the job effectively.

Ana Marie Cox: Before I go: That's a nice turn of phrase but "immoral bureaucrats" who "do the job effectively" just makes me think of Nazis.

And... DRINK!

See you next week.

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William F. and Patricia Buckley: Vanity Fair did a fascinating story about the years when the Buckleys reigned as the charmed and charming power couple during the more erudite, civilized era of the Republican Party. Is there anyone on the horizon of their caliber?

Tucker Carlson: You've never been to a dinner party at my house. We do takeout and jug wine, and nobody can play the harpsicord or speak French, but basically it's the same.

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Frustrated in Texas: As a black man, I am frustrated by the Burris situation in the Senate. I am discouraged that Bobby Rush, a former Panther would pull the "race card" in a situation that is clearly one where the appointer is (or should be) the focus of the ire. The objections are not based upon race and Burris should not have accepted the appointment. I see Burris as a fading politico in Illinois who saw one last chance at the brass ring and did not care from whom he got it, and Blago took advantage of it and him. If I were Burris, I would be embarrassed and would have never accepted the appointment. The only alternative here seems to be to allow Burris the seat and remove Blago as soon as possible if the evidence against him warrants such an action.

Ana Marie Cox: All very well said. The few black politicos I've talked with (there are not, as you know, that many) feel it as well but in varying degrees, and my gut feeling -- you might know better -- is that the degree of frustration is related directly to age/generation (not, as far as my non-random sample can tell, ideology). Older folks are more righteous about preserving the "black seat" (or at least have sympathy for the idea), younger ones put it almost exactly as you have.

As to Burris personally: He's clearly not embarrassed but maybe when he loses his primary race he will be.

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Greenville, SC: Did you hear Pajamas Media is sending Joe the Plumber to Gaza as a reporter for ten days? The right wing blogosphere is crazy.

Tucker Carlson: Is that really true? If so, I'm not sure how to take it. If they're sending him in an ironic way -- Hunter Thompson at the 72 convention -- brilliant. If they're serious, pathetic.

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Dr. Gupta: Please advise whether he has to wear that goofy suit from Pirates of Penzance that Dr. Koop liked so much.

Tucker Carlson: The Cap'n Crunch outfit? Of course. That's the whole appeal of the gig.

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Falls Church, Va.: What would happen if Vice President Cheney, who also serves as the President of the Senate, were to decide to swear Burris into the Senate?

Tucker Carlson: You'd have one of the great photographs of all-time, on par with the famous Nixon-Elvis shot.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Any connection between Sen. Feinstein's hurt feelings about not being consulted over Panetta and her public statement saying she couldn't see a good reason not to seat Burris? It seems like her way of flexing her muscles and asserting power.

Ana Marie Cox: That's an interesting hypothesis. I have no first-hand knowledge of the matter but it's the kind of thing that's surprisingly common on the Hill. The true irony of the refusal to seat Burris is that his crazy-pants posturing, enormous self-regard, and sense of entitlement are not too far out of place among his would-be colleagues.

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Chicago, Illinois: Hey Tucker, Last week, on the Dennis Miller Show, you said it was your last week at MSNBC. Sad :( Where is your next destination? Print? I actually remember Hitchens saying you should return to print a while back. But print is dying almost as fast as the financial sector. Headline News? Radio? Sabbatical?

Tucker Carlson: I'm actually typing this from a lounge chair outside my villa at Amanyara in the Turks and Caicos, if that gives you some idea. If I'd known how great life could be after cable news, I would have stormed off the Crossfire set six years ago and not come back.

Speaking of, I've got a hot stone massage at 3. Time to fire up the golf cart. Thanks for a good time. See you next week.

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