Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, February 23, 2009; 12:00 PM

Tucker Carlson. Ana Marie Cox. He's conservative. She's liberal. They both write for The Daily Beast, and she's a national correspondent for Air America Radio. They were online Monday, February 23 to offer their analysis of the first weeks of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

A transcript follows.


Ana Marie Cox: Hello! Sorry I'm late. Delayed by the hassle of trying to get online from the WH briefing room and also hands are frozen from interviewing governors in the cold.


Glenwood, Md.: Tucker, in your opinion is there anyone in the GOP dugout who can step up and become a real threat to Mr. Obama in the next election? Thanks.

Tucker Carlson: Happy Monday! Thanks for having us as always.

Not at this point. There are a couple of pretty impressive Republicans left out there -- Mark Sanford of South Carolina is the first to spring to mind -- but they don't have a chance at the moment. Republicans lost control of the government for a reason: They're discredited. In order to come back, they'll need to decide on a coherent governing philosophy. But more than anything, Obama will have to screw up badly. Nobody likes to admit it, but electoral politics is basically about loathing. Until large numbers of people despise someone, his opponents don't really have a chance. There would have been no 1994 for Republicans without Bill Clinton's 1993. Last fall's Democratic sweep would have been impossible without Bush. Etc. I'm not rooting for Obama to fail but, again, he'll need to before any Republican can hope to beat him in 2012.


Portland, Ore.: Just because you part your hair and your politics on opposing sides, how do we really know that "Carlson" and "Cox" are not the same person; part of the vast Liberal Media Conspiracy plot, if you will?

Tucker Carlson: That's the beauty of the internet: You'll have to take our word for it.

Ana Marie Cox: Being the same person might not advance the Vast Liberal Conspiracy plot very much but it would explain why Gov. Crist seemed to find me so fascinating just now.


Farragut West: Tucker -- where have you been? We haven't seen you around D.C. lately...

Tucker Carlson: Happily ensconced in my neighborhood in Northwest. I just discovered a good new restaurant on MacArthur Blvd. near my house, so I don't go downtown for lunch as much anymore, though I am going today after this. But thanks for noticing.


Boston: Every day last week, on every Washington Post political chat, someone would post the equivalent of this:

'I pay my mortgage on time, live in a home I can afford, drive a used car, pay off my credit card, etc. Where is MY bailout? Why do MY taxes have to pay for irresponsible people?'

Well, I also live within my means in a modest home, drive an 11-year old car, don't charge things I can't pay for that month... and I am pleased and proud to help others less fortunate by supporting the President's stimulus plan.

Jeez, people! This is part of what government is for!

Take a breath and be grateful you had either the good luck, good sense, or good timing to avoid financial disaster... and it is probably some combination of all. There were lots of forces that led to people getting in over the heads financially outside of their personal responsibility. Just be grateful it isn't you, and do your bit to help.

Tucker Carlson: If this were a theological debate, you'd be taking the Calvinist position. As an Episcopalian, I don't buy it. Financial stability isn't just a matter of fate, or good luck. Some people work hard and save. Others try to game the system and max out their credit cards to buy things they can't afford. I'm not saying that everyone who's in financial trouble deserves it, nor am I gloating over the humiliation of those who have earned their bankruptcies. But I do think it's unfair to claim that people who did the right thing ought to be forced to take responsibility for people who didn't. We should be rewarding sensible behavior, not punishing it.

Ana Marie Cox: And those people who live next door to the "non-sensible," whose homes are devalued because their neighbor's house was foreclosed on? What is the Episcopalian position on that? And I do assume the devaluation has nothing to do with people nailing complaints on anyone's door.


More Haley Barbour please!: A porkster gov from a porkster state that has benefited from the porkiest of Republican Senators for decades yet remains the poorest of the poor, most uneducated of the uneducated and he's worried about losing jobs?

Please: how can much longer can the south remain so economically and politically illiterate while being so easily manipulated by religious hypocrites whose business buddies and major donors who get richer and richer while they soak up all that pork at the trough meanwhile their citizens are among the poorest, unhealthiest, most uninsured of any industrialized nation -- in fact on par with many third world countries?

(I say that as a white person with a college degree (and Phi Beta Kappa key) who was born in Mississippi and has returned to a part of the South that still votes against their own economic interests because they're so gullible and emotionally hysterical about 'social' issues.)

Tucker: how much longer can the Republicans milk that cow?

(Oh yeah, guess I answered my own question: as long as they keep their citizens poor and uneducated, I guess the answer is FOREVER isn't it?)

Tucker Carlson: If I had fried catfish filet for every time someone at a dinner party in Washington repeated the same mindless cliches about voting patterns in the South, I'd have to buy new pants. Southern voters are stupid! Badly educated! Racist! Hostage to silly religious prejudices! Etc! Etc!

Maybe they vote Republican because arrogant, narrow-minded liberals like you patronize them. Ever consider that?

Ana Marie Cox: I won't disagree with you but I do like the idea of catfish everytime someone in D.C. uttered a Southern voting pattern cliche. That said, you do realize that the South stayed poor and uneducated for years and years under many Democratic governors, right?


Chicago, Ill.: Ana and Tucker: Love your pieces here.

There's a lot of talk about the Republicans winning Obama's former seat if Burris resigns and there's a special election. That's not likely to happen (especially the Burris stepping-away part), even if the Republican candidate is Mark Kirk.

First, the Republican Party in Illinois is as discredited in Illinois as is the Democratic Party, if not more so, so that part of the equation is a push. The national Republican brand is a drag here anyway, so I think party label hurts Republicans on balance here.

Second, the prognosticators seem to give Mark Kirk the edge among potential R candidates. That might have worked better if he'd been more independent of Bush during that last administration. Any D candidate will tie MK tightly to GWB - his voting record enables that anchoring. And his recent vote against the stimulus package is not going to help him with voters in Illinois, who probably favored the package - right or wrong - like the majority of voters everywhere.

Third, Illinois is as blue a State as there is.

So, the Rs might win here, but it's going to require an extremely attractive R and extremely unattractive D to get an R over the hump here.

Ana Marie Cox: I have nothing to add to this very sensible take on the situation except to add that THE WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING ROOM IS VERY COLD SOMEONE SHUT THE DOOR.


Chicago, Illinois: Why did Sarah Palin force Bristol to do an interview with Greta? I say forced because at one point Bristol claims she wants to be an advocate for abstinence (which sounded extremely canned) but then says abstinence is unrealistic (which sounded extremely candid). Sarah Palin shouldn't keep exploiting her family.

Tucker Carlson: I have to say, I agree completely.

Ana Marie Cox: I think a good life plan for Bristol may be to just never do what her mother says. It's worked so far.


Anonymous: Three of four Americans are "somewhat" scared about the nation's financial situation. My local (Republican) paper columnist says the President needs to smile more (but avoid smirking). From a PR standpoint what emotional stance will do the most good in tomorrow night's big speech?

Ana Marie Cox: I like Rahm's smirk but I think Obama's expression of impassioned reticence will soothe the nation's ghastly grimace.

Tucker Carlson: I enjoy -- and will always defend -- a good smirk, though I realize I'm virtually alone in this. I assume the president will go for gravely-concerned-but-in-control. They usually do. From a PR standpoint, though, his best move would be to explain, in language everyone can understand, how precisely government is going to rescue the economy. I pay fairly close attention and I still don't understand it.


Feel better now Tucker?: I guess name-calling is a great way to avoid the real issue which is the hypocrisy and political game playing by Barbour and the Southern Governors of poor states isn't it?

Besides did you miss the part about how I LIVE HERE -- do you? So you know MORE about what daily life in the south is like, huh?

Tucker Carlson: I wasn't defending Barbour, or any southern governor. And I'm glad you live there, but that's not the point. The point is, you can't have a rational conversation about politics if your starting assumption is: Everyone who disagrees with me is crazy or stupid. And that's clearly your starting assumption.


Monknash, Wales: Why is it journos took so long to embrace Twitter and now seem to use it to post "look at me" pieces on how cool they are for using it rather than using the tool to establish a real dialogue? Is not media in trouble precisely because of its 1-way (I have something to say so listen up!) communication flow and seeming arrogance/diffidence coming back to the sender? Anchors Oblige Public's Craving for Tweets by Howard Kurtz (Washington Post, Feb. 23)

Tucker Carlson: I talk for a living, but honestly, I just don't have enough to say to justify a Twitter account.

Ana Marie Cox: The past week's eruption of "journotwits" has been amusing for many reasons (primarily because it confirms pretty much every suspicion I've had about Mike Allen. almost.) but also to see the famous-for-DC struggle with how to use the medium. David Gregory, of all people, seems to be trying the hardest to actually have a back and forth with his "followers."

That said, I am not sure if Twitter is genuinely two-way, and I think that's why I like it.


Surf City, N.C.: Who's a more obnoxious moral posturer, Attorney General Eric Holder or Sean Penn?

Tucker Carlson: Holder could put you in jail, so he'd be my pick. And actually I sort of like Penn. Obviously I disagree with his politics, but I had dinner with him once and had a great time. Engaging guy.

As for Holder, he said the other day that on racial issues, this is a nation of cowards. Everyone's afraid to tell the truth. Can't disagree with that. But I wonder how he'd respond if, say, a prominent Republican senator decided to tell the truth about affirmative action, that's it's unfair and racist. Would he welcome those observations as courageous? Or denounce them as bigoted? It would be fascinating to find out.

Ana Marie Cox: It seems to me that neither of them are posturers -- they walk the walk of their talk -- and I am not sure if they're obnoxious. I would definitely rather have dinner with Penn, though.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Predictions for how Michael Steele will fare as RNC head?

Ana Marie Cox: OFF THE HOOK, indeed.

Tucker Carlson: Steele said it best himself, in an interview with the New York Times: "We want to convey that the modern-day G.O.P. looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

I have no idea what that means, but it sounds zany.


religious positions on the bailout: I'm Jewish so I just feel guilt about the bailout. My neighbor is a Buddist and she's like "whatever". My brother is an agnostic and is not quite sure what to feel about the bailout.

Ana Marie Cox: I understand that Jindal is anything but an atheist but he seems to think the bailout doesn't exist.

Tucker Carlson: I'm Protestant, so I'd be happy to meet you for a cocktail to discuss it.


Stimulati, ON: I have to commend Governor Mark Sanford for his principled and ideologically consistent stance against taking federal stimulus money for South Carolina. It will be so interesting to see how people will survive in a state with such high unemployment and a minimal social safety net. In fact, I can't recall a bolder experiment in social Darwinism in recent history. In your opinion, is this, in the words of the new RNC chairman Michael Steele, "beyond cutting edge"?

Tucker Carlson: That's the beauty of having 50 different states: People get to vote with their feet, or moving vans. If people don't like Sanford's "experiment" they'll move, or stop coming to the state. According to the census, that hasn't happened yet. The population of South Carolina seems to be growing briskly.

Ana Marie Cox: Simply growing the population may in fact explain why Sanford thinks his play will work. Midterms are going to be SO INTERESTING.


Churchville, Va.: Do you believe the Republicans in the Senate and House and the Republican Governors who oppose President Obama's economic policies have economic advisors superior to the team advising the President?

Ana Marie Cox: I know they definitely have inferior POLITICAL advisors.


RE: Your Response to Boston: You say "As an Episcopalian, I don't buy it." But are you aware of the Episcopal Church Convention Resolution Number 2003-D040, the title of which is "Reaffirm Commitment to Provide Affordable Housing for the Poor" ( Among other related things, this resolution encourages federal, state and local governments to ensure adequate funding of housing assistance programs to address the growing gap between the number of affordable housing units available and the number of renter households in the bottom quartile of income in this nation. Note that this Resolution says nothing about sensible behavior.

Tucker Carlson: My god. The last thing I need is another reminder of how annoying the smug, overfed leadership of Episcopal Church is. But now that you mentioned it, instead of forming committees to write resolutions demanding that someone else provide free things for the poor, shouldn't the church be doing that itself? Isn't that the whole point?


D.C.: Holder spoke the truth, and he didn't say white people are cowards on the subject of race... he said we all are. I applaud him saying it, and appreciate that someone (aside from just Barack Obama) can find a way to have a high minded discourse on matters of race in this country. And that means including the variety of white perspectives/views.

Tucker Carlson: Amen. I'm totally for it. I just doubt that Holder is interested in hearing views that violate polite society's speech codes on the subject. But maybe I'm wrong. I hope so.


Soon it won't be NYC: Okay Tucker (and Ana), as an Alabaman who moved to the northeast and plans on moving back soon, I would like to re-ask this question with 100% less patronizing contempt for my Southern compatriates.

Do you think any success with the stimulus package will give fiscally centrist/liberal Dems like Rep. Artur Davis a chance to make gains in the South? Do you think any of this is going to come back and haunt the anti-stim Republicans?

I think this would be a great opportunity for Southern dems to demonstrate what real live bottom-up fiscal populism looks like.

Charlie Crist is singing all the right notes on his support of it "FOR THE PEOPLE!," while Governors Jindal and Barbour seem to be forgetting that unemployed people vote, and most of them would probably love to NOT need the extra money the stimulus package is supposed to give them.

Tucker Carlson: Artur Davis is an impressive guy, the future (I hope) of what Democrats in the South will look like. But in order to win statewide in a place like Alabama, Democrats are going to have to give a little bit on those dreaded social issues, particularly abortion.

Ana Marie Cox: I like me some Crist. He and Pawlenty are, I think, making some very smart plays in this game. I know Pawlenty isn't Southern, but he and Crist to me, should be what the Rs look like in the future.


Alexandria, Va.: Tucker: Any thoughts on Eric Cantor as a national-level leader? He may be a bit junior right now, but he seems to have a pretty sensible conservative instinct, a calm temperament, and some recent attention as a possible McCain running mate. Also, does Governor Jindal's well-publicized religious-right affiliation jeopardize any national aspirations?

Ana Marie Cox: Sorry to jump in on Tucker's q, but since I HAPPEN TO HAVE AN OPINION (when do I not?): My understanding from the McCain team is that the only person who was considering Cantor for VP was Cantor. So there's that.

BUT -- and not unrelated -- as important than his "conservative instinct" and temperament, he seems to have shown himself to be pretty masterful at DC inside-politics. Though I think the GOP House unanimity on stimpak was STUPID, it was also a very impressive display of discipline. Which matters around here.

Tucker Carlson: No question about it: Cantor's the master of the inside game, and also smart and appealing. He'll be around a long time.


This Chat...: ... always reaffirms my belief that, for the most part, convervatives think liberals are wrong, while liberals think conservatives are stupid.

Thank you.

Tucker Carlson: Generally that's true, I've noticed, though when we have lunch Ana pretends to think I'm smart. Which I appreciate.

Thanks for everything today. See you next week.


Ana Marie Cox: Sorry this chat's a little short. I am right now this instant in the East Room waiting for the president. Yeah, me! See you next week and thanks, as usual, for the awesome questions.


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