Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Tuesday, March 10, 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 10 to offer their analysis of the first weeks of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

A transcript follows.


Skins fan: Obama kinda reminds me of Dan Snyder. He throws around boatloads of cash but doesn't accomplish anything. They both skyrocketed to power largely due to circumstances beyond their control. Both have huge egos. Both surround themselves with sycophants who they'll happily throw under a bus to save their own skin.

Dan was loved by the Washington Post when he took over -- just like Obama. But even the Post hates Snyder now. Are we seeing Obama's future? Rich, powerful, and nearly universally despised for his failures and broken promises?

Tucker Carlson: I just hope the country does better than the Redskins.

Happy Tuesday. Thanks for having us as always.

Ana Marie Cox: Uhm, isn't this comparison being made before Obama's really even played a regular season game? Have you placed your bets for the next Super Bowl, too? If not, would you like to?

And hello everyone!


Washington, D.C.: As a Republican, I agree we should have federal funding for stem cell research... politics can't get in the way of science.

That being said... Democrats do it all the time with "manmade" global warming. Any scientist in the community who dares to assert that climate change is a natural happening, and that human's actions aren't the main cause... is positioned as an outcast and denied research grants, publication of papers, etc.

I want to see science and politics kept separate too... but Stem Cells are just one issue. Man made climate change is another one where we refused to have debate about it, because the Democrats and Left Wing groups have shut out discussion... and politics has overcome science that has shown we have hyped this catastrophe to historic proportions. There are other examples... like AIDS where we have hyped it and ignored science for politics. That is why we spend 200K in the US on research for each US life lost to AIDS, and only a few thousands for Prostate Cancer... which kills far more.

Why does the accusation only get made when conservatives/Republicans make the case against stem cells... while liberals/Democrats can continue to spout myths about manmade global warming, which is a fact, but not the catastrophe we are scared into believing?

Tucker Carlson: Politics can't get in the way of science? Of course they can, and sometimes should. (We don't let drug companies perform dangerous experiments on children, for example, despite the useful scientific data that might result.) Scientists aren't above the law. Nor, unfortunately, are they above political activism, something I wish more people understood.


Bizarro world: Me watch TV. Me see reporters say we have to make Wall Street happy, that Wall Street no like uncertainty. Me think this make perfect sense. Me wonder your thoughts.

Ana Marie Cox: Can I transfer my 401K to an investment company in "bizarro world"? It might be the only way I'll be able to afford to retire...

Tucker Carlson: I don't think the problem is uncertainty. I think Wall St. is now fairly certain where Obama stands on capitalism.


Democrats can continue to spout myths about manmade global warming: The trouble with having a vigorous debate on this is that scientists are overwhelmingly on one side. It's like having a debate on whether the earth is flat. On one side you have all the scientists and on the other you have this witch doctor from Borneo who says the earth is a plane on top of a very large turtle.

Ana Marie Cox: And just last week it snowed! So, there you go: Screw global warming, FEAR THE TURTLE.

Tucker Carlson: So anyone who disagrees with the dogma of the moment on global warming -- for instance that the Kyoto treaty would have significantly slowed the rise in temperatures -- is a flat earther or a witch doctor? I thought the essence of scientific inquiry was openness to divergent views and new evidence.


Fells Point, Md.: Is David Brooks so naive as to really think that Barack Obama was not the liberal that his autobiography and voting record indicated he was? Or was Brooks a willing dupe?

Tucker Carlson: In David's defense, I fell for it too. Yes, I talked to him and read his books and went to his speeches, and I knew on some level that Obama was a liberal true believer. On the other hand, he's charming as hell and seems so reasonable, not at all the sort of leftwing ideologue who, at the very moment when the entire country is running out of money, would spend billions of dollars on, say, a high speed rail line between Duluth and Minneapolis on the grounds that mass transit is morally preferable to driving. But it turns out that's exactly who he is. Silly me.

Ana Marie Cox: The leftwing ideologue who is keeping in place many of Bush's anti-terrorism techniques, continuing the practice of signing statements, and whose WH is run by the guy Jane Hamsher voted most likely to ruin the Democrat party? (Rahm. If you think Rahm is a liberal ideologue I have some leftwing bloggers to sell you.)

This isn't to say that his approach to the economic crisis isn't Keynesian in the extreme, but 1) That's the only model that's been shown to work in the past and 2) WE ARE 50 DAYS IN, PEOPLE. Not saying it's "too soon to judge." (It is NEVER too soon to judge. Ask my husband.) But it is too soon to make sweeping statements about the nature of his presidency.


where he stands: It's clear where Obama stands on capitalism. If you are a capitalist banker and you make a lot of stupid mistakes, you get a huge gift of taxpayer money as a reward for your incompetency.



Minneapolis: Hi Tucker and Ana -- Thanks for taking questions today. Maybe it's just me, but in some ways it seems like Obama can't win. He's doing too much, not doing enough, doing the wrong things... jeez, the guy has been in office for exactly 50 days! Where is this constant, minute to minute analysis coming from? Maybe I'm just blocking it, but I don't remember this happening with the last president. I know things are bad (my spouse has been looking for a job for almost six months now), but come on, let's just all take a deep breath and let the guy do his thing, at least for a little while. Feel free to tell me I'm being completely naive.

Tucker Carlson: Maybe I'm too close to it living in Washington, but I have the opposite impression. There hasn't been a president in my lifetime who has attempted to change so much in so short a time. Obama has proposed transforming the entire U.S. economy, and taking direct control of much of it. Seems to me that while we all ought to be hoping for his success, we should also be asking tough, detailed questions about what he's planning to do. And yet most of us aren't.

Ana Marie Cox: I don't think "letting him do his thing" (consistent with the checks and balances of the other branches of government) and "asking tough, detailed questions" are mutually exclusive.


scientific inquiry: Contrary to the earlier assertion, scientists whose research suggests that there is no man-made global warming are allowed to speak and present their findings at conferences, to editorial boards of scientific journals, and anyone else that will listen. Currently, the bulk of evidence falls on the other side of the argument. So, the majority of scientists working in the field don't agree with the minority reports. The jury is not still out as someone once said. They might be wrong and those arguing the other side are invited to prove that they are wrong. That's the beauty of science as it's exercised here, or was, until restrictions were placed on what was considered appropriate research.

Ana Marie Cox: And some of those scientists who argue against man-made global warming are even hired by the government! And allowed to influence policy!

Or, rather, they were.

Thanks for pointing out that there is no conspiracy to keep silent scientists positing the absence of man-made global warming. If anything, due to the OVERWHELMING evidence that it does exist, scientists arguing against it are given an incredibly disproportionate amount of attention.

And now I have to tell you that Tucker once told me he denies the existence of man-made global warming because he enjoys how angry it makes people. There's a saying about trolls somewhere that's related to this, if I could only remember it...

Tucker Carlson: I don't deny the existence of manmade global warming. I just don't believe for a second that anyone knows for certain the precise extent to which it is manmade rather than natural, and -- more to the point - how reversible it might be. Again, these things are not known for certain. We're guessing. Fine. But let's be honest about that. Let's not pretend we know things we don't. And let's definitely stop pretending that reducing greenhouse gases will be painless -- the source of millions of happy new "green jobs" and nothing else. Fighting global warming may be necessary, but it will come with a huge cost. Anyone who points that out is shouted down by so-called liberals as a shill for the energy industry, which strikes me as stupid and unfair because -- again -- it's true. .


Hampton Cove, Ala.: Are Cramer and Santelli the new Dixie Chicks? The brave who dared criticize a president? Yet, this time the media is going after the dissenters, while before they praised the Dixie Chicks. Is there anyone in the media who will scrutinize Obamonomics, or has Obamaganda taken over?

Ana Marie Cox: Yes, Cramer and Santelli are the new Dixie Chicks. Just uglier and less talented and with a much larger platform that they have yet to lose access to.

Please let me know when it is that they, like the Dixie Chicks, are banned from certain radio stations because those are the ones I will listen to.

Also: this question is hilarious. Thank you.


London, UK: I've been reading you, Ana, for quite a while and I know you love references to music.

So here's one for you. Joni Mitchell once said she was ashamed to be part of the music industry. Do you feel the same way about being part of the punditocracy?


Ana Marie Cox: Thanks for reading and glad you appreciate the references.

I guess I'd feel more ashamed of being a part of the punditocracy if I made more money off of it. As it is I'm just a cheap pundit date which is embarrassing enough.


I think Wall St. is now fairly certain where Obama stands on capitalism.: I think Wall St. got us into this mess to begin with by focusing on short-term, quarterly gains over long-term stability and fiscal strength.

I think any proposal to fix the economy that Wall St. reacts negatively to is probably a good thing. You don't ask the fox how to best secure the henhouse.

Tucker Carlson: I'm not defending the greed or short-term thinking -- in Congress or on Wall Street -- that got us here. But gloating over the Dow's decline? That strikes me as nihilistic.

Ana Marie Cox: Please, Tucker, direct me to where Obama "gloated" over the Dow's decline. Maybe a commenter can find the citation? Because, yeah, that would be distasteful, though I'm not sure even that alone counts as being anti-capitalist. Somewhere there's a handful of short-sellers who have REASON to gloat.


Seattle, Wash.: With so many policymakers quoting newspapers like the WaPo and NYT, does it worry anyone that so many newspapers are vanishing? What can we do out here to save the paper? I'm a software engineer and as geeky as anyone I know but I don't want to lose staples like books and newspapers -- as much as I love my iPod and BlackBerry, I don't want to trade one for the other, how about you?

Ana Marie Cox: The best think you can do is put your brain power to work at finding a business model for online media that would support the kind of shoe-leather reporting and foreign correspondents that, right now, only the Big Papers can afford (and not many of them at that).

The problem is not the medium the news comes on, but rather the kind of reporting that goes into it. Lawmakers will continue to cite the WaPo and the NYT long after their print editions are shelved (as long as they still exist), one just hopes that they're doing so because those papers still have the resources to be authoritative and not because said lawmakers own the thing.


Jacksonville, Fla.: If Republicans want to keep Democrats from pushing though legislation they deem too liberal maybe they should try the concept of winning more elections.

Also trying to "bring down the approval numbers" of the Democrats only works if you have some credibility of your own. And right now, the GOP on the Hill doesn't have any.

It only tells the public that the only ideas you can come up with are the ones the voters already rejected.

Tucker Carlson: Hard to argue with your first point. You want to run the country, you've got to get elected, and Republicans have certainly failed there. But just because most people (understandably) grew tired of Bush doesn't mean they voted for a wholesale federal takeover of the economy. I don't think they did. And even if you're not worried about Obama overreaching, I can promise you that a lot of smart Democrats are.

Ana Marie Cox: And hopefully those smart Democrats include some congressmen whose job it is to balance the power of the president so, honestly, I just can't get that worried. And in general, congressmen are some of the most conservative people in the country -- not by ideology, but by temperament -- they're not going to anything so radical that it risks their next race. That's not always good, but it should be comforting to people like Tucker.


Being honest about the extent of what we know: That is a statement that I fully support. As do all the legitimate scientists. In fact, a rigorous scientist will never say that we've "proven" anything. All we can do is fail to reject or reject the null hypothesis. Our analysis in the end depends on probabilities as in, we are 95 per cent sure that the true answer lies within this domain. Therefore there is a 5% chance that we are wrong. The 95% confidence interval is as close to a gold standard as we have in science and is the minimum standard for asserting a finding's significance.

Tucker Carlson: Agreed. Which is why you'll never hear me claim that global warming isn't real. What I object to is the religion that has grown up around it, the absolute, unquestioning faith that certain political responses to the phenomenon -- Kyoto, cap and trade -- are wise and necessary, and that anyone who disagrees is evil or dumb. (In other words, Al Gore's position.) That's not science. It's the opposite.


Cubefarm, D.C.: Tucker, you seem agitated today - is everything okay? Well, of course I mean besides the economy. And the wars. And if you include those you have to include the deficit. And the fact that no one is relaying a true long-term solution.

I am beginning to see your point. Never mind.

Tucker Carlson: I'm actually in a great mood. (It's March, not February!) I just sound grouchy when I type. Sorry.


Alexandria, Va.: Tucker Carlson: Scientists aren't above the law. Nor, unfortunately, are they above political activism, something I wish more people understood.


Tucker, please elaborate on this alarming statement. Why shouldn't scientists be political activists? We are highly educated about the particular issues that we are advocating.

Don't we want lobbyists to actually understand the issues they are advocating, instead of just repeating some talking points from the internet? Isn't core idea of lobbying that the lobbyist educate the lawmaker on issues so that the lawmaker can make a more informed decision? Or is that too pure an idea for cynical Washington?

Ana Marie Cox: Wow, Tucker is getting ALL the attention today. I'm a little jealous.

And by the way I think you get diabetes from sleeping on your back.


Washington, D.C.: Ben Bernanke just testified and argued that the roots of the current global economic downturn stem from global imbalances in trade and flows of capital in the late 1990s. Politically, will Republicans, like El Rushbo, now call this the "Clinton Recession"?

Ana Marie, you sure look like Kirsten Dunst's sister. Sure you're not related?

Ana Marie Cox: I don't know, but I'm sure the Obama administration would love it if they did.

And, no, we're not related except that I think she dated Jake Gyllenhaal once and I also find him yummy.


Dallas, Tex.: Why didn't Tucker ever question the cost of the Iraq War and the overcharges of KBR/Halliburton (or the electrocution deaths and the poisoning of the troops)? Why wasn't that questioned by the GOP?

Tucker Carlson: I've been adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq since I went there, in 2003. As for various government contractors who've made money on the war, sure, I'm ready to believe they've overcharged. I suspect most government contractors do. But is that really the point? If the worst thing that happened in Iraq was that Halliburton shareholders got rich, I'd be for it.


Spartanburg, S.C.: Tyler Perry and Winona Ryder are both in the new Star Trek movie! Why hasn't Obama worked to stop this?!!!

Ana Marie Cox: Now THAT is over-reaching.


New York, N.Y.: This question is for Mr. Carlson.

With all the buzz about you trying to stand up for the NY Times at the conservative event in DC last month, didn't full disclosure require you to be honest since there is a Carlson who writes for the Times? Is that person not a relative of yours or a wife or sister?

Do you think it would have been better to stand up for the Washington Post on the issue of getting names spelled correctly and reporting news fairly?

Tucker Carlson: There are Swedes everywhere, even in journalism. I don't happen to be related to that one, though I have written a fair amount for the Times myself. I didn't mention it because I didn't think of it.

As for defending the Post, not necessary. Everyone who reads it knows it's a great paper.


Had You Fooled?: Really, Tucker? In October, if someone asked you, "The banks are failing. If Obama is president, does he: a) let the banks fail or b) use taxpayer money to attempt recapitalization or otherwise intervene?" You would have said, "Obama seems like a reasonable person, so I think he'd let them fail." I don't buy this. What is it exactly that has you so shocked about his response?

Tucker Carlson: I can't see that Obama has done really anything at all to fix the banks (see Dave Smick's excellent op-ed in the Post today), so I'm not sure this is a good example.

What shocks me is Obama's eagerness to use this economic crisis to pass his grand (grandiose, really) social engineering programs. I think it's bad economics, bad social policy, and probably in the long run bad politics.

On that happy note, Ana and I will see you next Monday. Thanks for indulging us.


Alexandria, Va.: Ana, any truth to the rumor that you're joining the upcoming Dancing With the Stars, so you and Tucker can have one more thing in common?

Ana Marie Cox: Sadly, I have yet to be approached, even though I would do it in a flash -- or on pointe, or with taps, you name it. Yet Tucker and I do have other things in common!

We both enjoy these chats immensely, for one. And neither of us takes ourselves -- or each other -- that seriously. And we both appreciate your attention and participation. Lastly, we both look great in heels.

Thanks for all the terrific questions and see you next week -- I've got to go suppress some scientific data.


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