Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Tuesday, March 3, 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 Tuesday, March 3 to offer their analysis of the first weeks of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

A transcript follows.


Bethesda, Md.: What to make of John Yoo? I don't know what scares me more: that he didn't believe his own analysis, but wrote the memos anyway to provide cover, or that he might really have believed what he wrote. Post-9/11 Memos Show More Bush-Era Legal Errors (Washington Post, March 3)

Ana Marie Cox: Those memos are pretty amazing. My favorite one, though, is the one from last October, where they basically say, NEVERMIIIIIND (Rosanne Rosanna Danna voice). "The 10/31/01 memorandum states several specific propositions that are either incorrect or highly questionable."

"Either incorrect or highly questionable" would be a good epitaph for the whole administration.

And with that, HELLO CLEVELAND! Good to be here.


Logan Circle: I'm still not over President Obama making false statements during his national address: that he's not a proponent of bigger government (which he has shown himself to be), that the stimulus package would not reward those who bought a house they couldn't afford (which it will), etc. I feel like I'm the only one not drinking the Kool-Aid. Help!

Tucker Carlson: Happy Tuesday!

I'm with you, Logan Circle. This administration has moved so far left so fast, I'm dizzy. I'm also beginning to doubt my own judgments about people. I honestly didn't think Obama would do this. Silly me.

On the other hand, in my defense, the administration is still pretending it's not doing what it's doing, so those of us who took the new president at his word can blame him as well as ourselves for failing to recognize his collectivist impulses. Maybe my favorite quote so far comes from this morning's Washington Post, which reports that the new Obama budget will require the federal government to hire up to 100,000 new employees (maybe more), virtually of them of course reliable Democratic voters. Here's the comment from the White House budget director: "It is premature to be making any assumptions about overall federal employment levels," Orszag said. "We have no desire to bloat bureaucracy -- indeed, just the opposite -- and the budget will not do that."

We don't intend to wind up with a bloated bureaucracy, therefore we won't wind up with a bloated bureaucracy? And people attacked Bush for his faith-based policies.


Houston, Texas: Is there a way to get a budget out there in the next year without any earmarks? Realistically.

Tucker Carlson: Nope. Realistically.

Ana Marie Cox: I think the best we can hope for is more transparency about them. Rahm and Obama, when they were in Congress, both posted the earmarks they requested on their websites. Would be nice if they forced their former colleagues to do the same.

Shame works, thank god.


College Park, Md.: I'm sure it's on your agenda, but I'd be interested in Tucker's take on his CPAC reception. I was taken aback at the hostility.

Tucker Carlson: After years in cable a few boos and some hissing doesn't rattle my cage. It's not like my feelings are easily hurt anymore. And I do think there were some in the audience who agreed with the point I was making, which is: Of course most of the mainstream media are liberal. This has been old news for 40 years. If conservatives don't like it -- and why would they? -- they ought to stop complaining and build their own accurate, comprehensive news organizations. Whining isn't enough. Plus it's unattractive.

Ana Marie Cox: First of all, you should know that there is no agenda for these talks. We come to them as unprepared as Joaquin Phoenix.

Second: Even if it was a minority of people in the room that agreed with Tucker's message, CPAC is BY NO MEANS representative of the Republican party. I think that many of the smart young staffers and operatives I know are aware that they can't move on with just a "don't believe the lies" message.


Gillette, Wyoming: Why are Republicans so scared of Rush? The man clearly is an entertainer. Michael Steele looked weak after his statement yesterday.

Ana Marie Cox: That's a really good question, Gillette. Rush (who I am sure is LOVING this) would point to his gazillion listeners -- then again, I am one of them, he has influenced me exactly zero times and I do not think so highly of myself that I must be unique. But even considering more typical (stereotypical?) listeners, he has not shown a consistent ability to wield political power. The one man Rush didn't want to get the nomination got it, and I think here I'm talking about both parties.

I think Steele's initial comments might have been inelegant, but they weren't wrong, and he was right to distance the PARTY from one guy. And apologizing right away? Hm.

That said, I do think attacking Rush risks looking like a cheap shot when it comes from Democrats -- only I can talk smack about my family or some such. What would be nice is if there were more Republican "entertainers" whose actual views didn't NEED to be denounced. (I nominate Tucker and Joe.)

Tucker Carlson: I agree: Everybody's wrong. The new, wildly popular president shouldn't be wasting his ammo on an AM radio host. He doesn't need to. It's undignified and it's politically stupid.

Michael Steele, meanwhile, is behaving like he's afraid of Limbaugh, and that's absurd too. Come on. Get some self-respect. If Steele has principled objections to what Limbaugh says on the air, state them. God knows the Republicans could use an internal debate over what they believe.

By the way, Steele in his apology/explanation to Politico, described himself as inarticulate. I'd have been happier if he'd outed himself as a daily pot smoker, since literally the last thing anyone needs is another Republican leader who can't explain himself.


Lakeland, Fla.: Is the Republican Noise Machine irretrievably broken? It had a bad buzz in the woofer in 2004 and now the tweeter is all tinny.

Ana Marie Cox: Are you sure it's not you? Have you been abusing prescription pain killers or anything?

I think this iteration of it (Rush/Rove/Fox) is sputtering but the noise machines of both parties are like punk rock: Once the superstars get old and tired, there's always someone practicing in his garage waiting for his chance to change the world. We (liberals/Ds) are just really lucky that there's a dynamic Chicago scene.*

*And I'm not talking Liz Phair.

Tucker Carlson: I'm a Grateful Dead fan, so I'm familiar with the complaint: I don't understand it! It's all just noise! Turn it off! (Also: Put that out, you can't smoke in here! Etc .)

But if you open your mind and listen carefully, you may hear the strains of something interesting beneath. Because it's not just noise. It's political debate, on both sides. And political debate is good, remember?


An Accurate Conservative Network indeed: The liberals whine about Fox, and the conservatives about MSNBC, but there is a corporate stooge network that no one is talking about that is more and more coming out of the closet as the reactionary voice of corporate republicanism, CNBC. Someone's gotta help the poor sods struggling by on more than $250,000 per year. So we need a labor network for balance now. This could go on indefinitely.

Ana Marie Cox: Think of it as a stimulus package for journalists!

Tucker Carlson: That's for sure. Any network that isn't collapsing has my full support and respect, no matter what they're saying.


Timing?: I always enjoy your chats, but it is disconcerting to find the time slot changing nearly every week. Any chance we can advocate for a set time slot -- or are the shifts related to the vagaries of your personal schedules? Yes! We agree! Next week the chat will be on Wednesday but after that you should usually find it Mondays at noon. Sorry we have been such a moving target lately. -- Elizabeth

Tucker Carlson: My apologies. After next week, my Yakuza full-body tattoo will be done (inking the final dragon Friday) and I'll be free at noon Mondays forever after. See you then.

Ana Marie Cox: You should see what he's shown breathing fire on.


Spartanburg, S.C.: Which convention has the bigger collection of freaks? CPAC or Daily Kos? (Please be sure to factor in Rush at his current weight.)

Ana Marie Cox: Having been to both, more than once (without hazard pay, even!) I can report that while the vast majority of attendees to both conventions are sane, just really passionate, it's CPAC where the speakers and panelist seem -- to me -- to be a twist of a screw close to unhinged.

Like, I know Ann Coulter is also an "entertainer" but a couple of years ago, one of her "jokes" was about regret over not SHOOTING THE PRESIDENT (Clinton, natch). And this year, one of the featured speakers declared himself skeptical about the president's (Obama's) ambitions, and noted "I still haven't seen his birth certificate." ( There was a whole panel on how global warming isn't happening. There is also lunacy at Yearly Kos -- I remember one "reproductive rights" panel that was gruesomely enthusiastic -- but there is no one even close to Ann Coulter.

Tucker Carlson: I've never been to Daily Kos (the guy who runs it -- Marcos something or other -- may be the single most pompous person I have ever met) but for the record let me say that I think global warming is a crock too.


Singapore: Obama likes comics; can he learn anything from Watchmen?

Ana Marie Cox: We can all learn something from the Watchmen. Personally, I hope he repeals the law against costumed vigilantes soon.

More seriously (tho not totally so), I think Cheney and Bush modeled their presidency on Ozymandias.


D.C.: Tucker, how do you know the new federal employees will all be "loyal Democratic voters"? The Bush administration already tried that and it didn't go very well.

Tucker Carlson: The overwhelming majority of career federal bureaucrats vote Democratic, and I can't imagine that's going to change.


Stimulus saved my job: As someone whose job was directly saved by stimulus money, and someone who believes in practical solutions, I'm grateful that this President has the intelligence to listen to his advisors and follow a path that is both legal and contrary to his own stated positions. That's a far cry from jingoistic political philosophy with no real relation to the world we live in.

Ana Marie Cox: Welcome to the chat, Speaker Pelosi!

Kidding aside, I'm glad to hear that you're one of the lucky ones, no matter how it came about.


Conservative McLoving: There's been a spate of articles about the hardships young conservatives now face in the dating world. Most recently, Meghan McCain wrote in the Daily Beast that her father's campaign had destroyed her personal life.

As two young, hip, fashionable politicos, what advice would you give young conservatives looking to score with the opposite sex?

Tucker Carlson: Pretend to be liberal. You can reveal the truth later, once you've made the sale.

Ana Marie Cox: I reject the premise that both of us are young, hip, or fashionable (tho two out of three ain't bad), but since we both have successfully found mates I guess we're as qualified as anyone to give advice on the matter. I would say do what I did: Leave Washington. Don't try to pick up girls at Heritage forums or political rallies. Learn enough about a subject that isn't politics so that you can go all night without mentioning a card-check/Harry Reid/TARP/bipartisanship. Get a dog.


Washington, D.C.: I might have to disagree that the Rush attacks coming from the White House are politically stupid. They would have been if Steele had not played into their hands by apologizing to Rush. I thought it was a very obvious calculated move to create more problems within the GOP and it worked. You had Steele calling himself the de facto leader of a party (actually, he's the leader) and then running to Rush with his tail between his legs. This makes us think there is no leadership or direction in the party...I just cannot believe Steele fell for it.

Ana Marie Cox: I hope this wasn't addressed to me, because I didn't mean to say that Dem attacks on Limbaugh are "politically stupid," just that they can backfire. I think this White House did it just right (by sticking to a specific quote and doing it without heat), and, yes, Steele played right into their hands. He also made it a week-long story, not a daylong one.

And Rush will do his best to keep it up all month.

Tucker Carlson: You make a very good point. Nobody ever went broke betting on the Republicans to do the dumb thing, and this time -- in the short term anyway -- it paid off for the White House.

On the other hand, this is elevated debate Obama has brought us? Whether Rush Limbaugh is a putz? I assumed you'd hoped for more when you voted for him.


Tampa, Fla.: Since FoxNews has by far the highest viewership in terms of cable news and they are decidedly not liberal, how does that line up with the whole "liberal mainstream media" meme? Is the Washington Times liberal? Is the Wall Street Journal liberal?

Tucker Carlson: OK. You've named three. Name five more. I dare you.


Avon, Colorado: Ana Marie's Tweets from the CPAC were quite entertaining, Tucker, do you have similar insights?

Tucker Carlson: I've never Tweeted. In fact, last week on this chat I belittled the idea of it, even insulting by implication those who do it (not Ana needless to say). But I've changed. Like Michael Steele to Rush, I'd like now to apologize to any Twitterer (Tweeter?) out there who may have been offended by my remarks. I don't think it's stupid and self-involved, and I shouldn't have suggested otherwise. In other words, when it comes to Twitter, I'm keeping my options open.

Ana Marie Cox: That's how it starts, Tucker. Maybe you'd like to try a Tweet from my account? The first one's free...


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: So the president has another pick with tax problems?

Doesn't Obama know anyone who pays his taxes? Almost all of my friends and colleagues do. Maybe Obama is looking for golden apples at the bottom of the barrel.

Thanks much. Registered Engineer in private practice

Tucker Carlson: It does sort of make you feel like an idiot for paying your taxes, doesn't it?


Santa Barbara, Calif.: I understand that events like CPAC are attended by the conservative faithfuls and designed to appeal to the hardcore base. But shouldn't some of the organizers be mindful of the image the event projects to the majority non-base? The independents and moderate liberals who are necessary for any electoral success down the road?

Ana Marie Cox: But independents and moderate liberals, kind of by definition, don't go to conferences. And if they're the featured speakers or panelists, hard-core folks won't pay to go see them at one. There goes your conference.

That said, this was by far not the wingnuttiest CPAC ever, and seeing Tucker and Joe on the bill, even if they got booed, made me think someone somewhere gets the point you're making. I don't think it's just a coincidence that the RNC spokesguy I was dealing with was REALLY EAGER to make sure I got my interview with sane-person Gov. Pawlenty.


Tampa, Fla.: Tucker, the Republican Noise Machine IS broken. It's not even a Rat Dog, much less a Phil+Friends. More like the old Battlestar Galactic kiddie show from the 70s, not the BSG of the present.

Tucker Carlson: Then it's definitely not Dark Star Orchestra, which (and, yes, I know it's technically a tribe band, but indulge me here) is the single best live act of any kind I have seen since Alpine Valley '87.


Boston: What's wrong with earmarks? Would you rather have some bureaucrat at the Department of Spending your Money making the decisions on where the budget should be spent?

Ana Marie Cox: McCain's point on this -- and one I've come to be sympathetic to -- is that, yes, the person in Department of Spending Your Money (that's, like, all of them, right?) should decide, because, presumably he's an expert of some sort and knows best how to apportion it. What's more, and I think this is his real goal, the decision to give the DSYM the money should be done in the open, via subcommittee and committee, so that, for example, Senators can hear testimony on air pollution in Iowa and thus won't sneeringly mock a bill just because it mentions manure.

As a McCain fan, I have to say that his Tweets about this (earmarks) have been sort of disappointing. His quick wit is suited to the medium but some of the things he's mocking deserve more than 140 characters. That said, PLEASE DON'T STOP TWEETING, SIR.


More on Rush: Frankly, I think that the whole Rush imbroglio is designed to reassure the Democrats that Republicans are stupid lemmings who have been removed from the political scene for all time. Those of us who are long-time Republicans understand that Rush is a vastly entertaining radio personality whose conservative views reflect one segment of our party. Trying to slime the Republicans with the "Rush brush" is about as stupid as trying to slime Obama with the "Ayers brush".

But it's OK with me if Democrats think that the Republicans are lost at sea. Make 2010 all that more attractive.

Ana Marie Cox: I am answering this question... er, comment in hopes that it will be the last time we discuss Rush here. (If only people had tired of Ayers as quickly!)

As a political junkie, I hope you're right about 2010. No one likes covering a blowout.

With that, farewell, chattererers. Thanks, as always, for making this possible. See you next week.


And political debate is good, remember? : Political Debate is Good again? Thank god.

For the past 8 years it's been "unAmerican," "unpatriotic," or made one a "terrorist sympathizer who should go to Canada if they hate it here so much."

I've noticed Fiscal Conservatism is important again, I'm glad to see that is the case - I've missed it.

What else can we expect to be "Good" again now that the GOP has lost power in the legislative & executive branches? Civil Rights? That would be nice, too...

Tucker Carlson: No political leader in America has publicly opposed "civil rights" in my lifetime, and I suspect none ever will. Other than that silly point, though, I think I agree with you. Republicans will have to eat a lot of crow before they are taken seriously again. But at least they're beginning to realize just how far off track they went during the Bush period. What a disaster, and not just for them. America really does need a vigorous, principled opposition party. It's scary when one party gets too powerful - a point I believe Democrats have been making for some time. Let's hope they stay consistent during the Obama years.

Thanks for everything. See you next week.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company