Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, March 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, March 23 to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

A transcript follows.


Brunswick, Md.: What's more likely to happen, Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema giving four stars to a Cracker Barrel or the US ever having a budget surplus any time in the next century?

Tucker Carlson: Cracker Barrel's not bad actually. Ever had their pine tar potato? Fantastic. Plus, they serve pancakes at night.

Happy Monday. Thanks for having us back.


Dallas, Texas: Tucker, why don't you run for Congress?

Tucker Carlson: Three reasons:

I live in DC, so I literally can't, at least at this point. (For the record, I hope that doesn't change. This is a city, not a state.)

The news business is more fun.

Nobody would vote for me. Outside of rural Idaho, my ideas just aren't that popular. Lots of people claim to have libertarian sympathies, but when it comes right down to it (the moment where you oppose giving them federal money for something they want), they don't really mean it. I couldn't win an election for room parent here. Thanks for asking though.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Tucker... I recall that you used to invite Rachel Maddow on your MSNBC show when she was just "getting started". It was good TV as you and she would discuss issues (without a lot of yelling). I was wondering if you have ever been invited to go on her show? I used to really like how you two would debate ideas (unfortunately she, like most Cable Gabbers, rarely has guests on who disagree with her, and this makes for pretty boring TV in my opinion.) Anyway- Have you been invited to appear? And would you go IF invited?


Tucker Carlson: Haven't been invited, though I'd gladly go. I like Rachel a lot. She's smart as hell, as you can tell if you watch, and unlike a lot of people in television, she's a genuinely sweet person off the air. I'm glad she's succeeding.


Washington, D.C.: Will I be able to read this chat without fear of Battlestar Galactica spoilers? AMC's Twitter has been a dangerous place for us seeking to remain spoiler-free.

Ana Marie Cox: I hate to break this to you but it turns out IT'S THE NAME OF HIS CHILDHOOD SLED.

Just kidding. Also that was not fair. I think the only reveal I made was Roslin's employment of a screw-top white wine in a date.

And if you think that sounds dirty then you've been reading my Twitter feed too long.


D.C.: I will call their bluff that none of these "essential people" from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, etc. will leave if they lose their bonuses.

Where will they go to find another job in this economy? Fast food?

Tucker Carlson: As far as I know, the recently-former attorney general, Alberto Gonzalaes, is still unemployed, so you've got a point. It's a bad time to be looking for a job. Some of those guys would stay, bonuses or not.

It's still a terrible idea for Congress or the White House to meddle with private-section pay scales. For one thing, it amounts to a huge and scary expansion of federal power. If you loved Bush's wiretaps, you can applaud this. Otherwise, be afraid.

For another, moves like this will simply drive smart people (whom we need right now) offshore. Why start or run a business in the United States when the Congress could swoop in at any minute and start telling you how much you're allowed to make? When, if you do something politicians don't like, morons like Sen. Grassley can get up and announce that you and your employees ought to commit suicide? It's not worth the hassle. Talented people will relocate to Dubai or India or places where they don't have to deal with the intrusion. And the rest of us will be poorer for it.


Boonsboro, Md.: I am trying to come up with the best song title to describe the new Treasury plan to save the banks. My nomination is 'Money for Nothing' by Dire Straits, but I am not in tune with anything after 1999. Can we have a contest?

Tucker Carlson: I'll leave this one to Ana. I can't improve on yours.

Ana Marie Cox: Let's throw this one out to the peanut gallery. I am tempted to promote "That's Entertainment" as well.


Virginia, the Purple State!: Hello! And thanks for taking our questions. I like to think I am somewhat open-minded about our Presidents. There a somethings I liked about Bush, some things I didn't. Same with Obama...things I like, things I don't. Here is my observation. Obama is hardly gaffe proof. From comments about Nancy Reagan and fortune telling to comments about the Special Olympics, etc. Same thing with Biden, too. Like asking the guy in the wheelchair to stand up, and on and on... It seems to me the Press really gives Obama a pass on these. Had Bush done these things (and he did!) it would have had way more legs in the Press than Obama. Why is this? Thoughts?

Ana Marie Cox: Greetings! I will not challenge your self-described lack of bias but I must note, before continuing, that this is a classic "concern troll" sort of question. Mostly because I like introducing people to the concept of the "concern troll."

In any case: My somewhat more serious response is to slow down, you purple people eater, you! Obama still has that new president smell! While I do think he's getting off a tad easy about some of this stuff, let's remember that Bush had eight years and, you know, a war and stuff, of "minor" gaffes before people started hanging him in effigy every time he mispronounced nuke-u-ler.

Obama might continue to slip some things buy us for awhile longer, but I think it has less to do with anything particular to Obama than what was massively wrong with Bush. Once Obama falls from grace -- and I think he inevitably will -- we can return to the wonderful old tradition of getting a Drudge siren every time the President has a poor choice of words.

Or, uhm, wait....

Tucker Carlson: Short answer: Because the press decided early on (with some justification) that Bush was dumb. Obama, by contrast, (and despite rapidly mounting evidence) is presumed to be brilliant.

But let me be one of the few to defend Obama's Special Olympics "gaffe." First it was sort of funny, in a self-deprecating way, and I don't think we should ever discourage humor, even unsuccessful attempts at it. We don't have enough as it is.

Second, it was true. Special Olympians generally don't bowl as well as other people. That's why they're in the Special Olympics.

Before you hit send on that hate mail, know that I'm hardly attacking kids with special needs. I think we ought to cherish and protect them (for instance by ceasing to abort the vast majority of kids with Down Syndrome). But I also think we ought to let people make lame jokes if they want, and not jump down their throats in a frenzy of self-righteousness.


D.C. is a City: Actually, more of a city-state. Kind of like Singapore.

Tucker Carlson: The parking enforcement is like Singapore. Everything else is like Uzbekistan.


Hanover, N.H.: Song: "The Impossible Dream"

Ana Marie Cox: Heh. This thread reminds me that today my husband said that a friend suggested "Sunny Afternoon" to describe Obama's policies, keying in on "The tax man's taken all my dough," seeming to forget that the singer goes on to complain, "And I can't sail my yacht." All of which is to say that I think most execs would agree with the choice.


C'mon, Tucker: I'm opposed to federal intervention in a lot of things, but is it really a concern when someone starts a business that the business will collapse, be bailed out to the tune of billiions (pay cap would start at $5B of fed contributions) and then freeze pay on the highest paid execs.

If a company is getting $10B in bailout funds they have ceased to be a private enterprise. This is hardly something that an ordinary business needs to worry about.

Tucker Carlson: Exactly. Which is why we shouldn't be giving tax dollars to failing companies.

But if you think the (I'm sorry to say this: power hungry) Obama administration is going to draw the line at companies that received federal bailout money, read yesterday's New York Times (Page One, right-hand column) and get back to me.


Cambridge, Mass: Ana Marie,

How much do you miss swearing in blogs while we are all swirling down this economic hell hole?

Ana Marie Cox: I still swear! Just not as much in public because I try to be "legitimate" and whatnot. On the plus side: as the news business fails, all journalists will swear more.


From January: "I think Palin is the final Cylon, and that is exactly how much sense the season will make." You were wrong on the specific prediction but correct on the general one. The finale was great for one hour and utterly confusing for another.

Ana Marie Cox: I basically loved it, even the last hour, but of course I am still waiting to hear from Jonah Goldberg about how the whole thing actually validates the thinking behind invading Iraq.


Battlestar Galactica: Here's your spoiler, pal: you'll die alone, in costume.

Ana Marie Cox: How did you know what I'm wearing?


It's Not a Song...: But I think the J.G. Wentworth commercial is an appropriate tagline for the bank bailout: "It's my money, and I want it now!!!!"

Or perhaps that is more appropriate for the unconstitutional 90% tax on bonuses...

Ana Marie Cox: I love that ad. Its intertwined pathos and greed nearly surpass that of the "Cash4Gold" ads but both are, of course, dwarfed by the Snuggie onslaught.


Providence, R.I.: Tucker, okay, so if Bush wasn't dumb, what was he? And if Obama isn't brilliant, what is he? Thanks.

Tucker Carlson: I think the caricature of Bush wasn't far off, though he's not stupid so much as he's insecure and narrow-minded.

As for Obama, he ran a genuinely brilliant campaign -- so smart and subtle and resilient that I can hardly believe these are the same people now in charge of the White House. Every morning I read the paper with my jaw open (yes, mouth-breathing), aghast at their dumbness. Massive new taxes in the middle of a recession? Letting Pelosi write the stimulus bill? Pushing mindless federally-subsidized pork projects (light rail, windmills) at the very moment when we're literally out of money? It's been an awful first couple of months, not at all what I (even as someone who didn't vote for him) expected. What happened to all the smart people over there? It baffles me.


Bethesda: I can't believe you have driven me to defend Chuck Grassley, but here goes. His only point, however clumsily stated, was that in Japan, executives take personal responsibility for screw-ups. Yet here, we haven't seen one executive from the companies that wrecked the entire financial system stand up and say, "I screwed up, and I'm sorry." And we likely never will.

Ana Marie Cox: Gonna pull back the curtain on the majesty that is the WaPo chat: Unless Tucker answers a question before me, I don't know what he said. So I don't know what exactly he said about Chuck, but on principle I side with you, Bethesda. Grassley's bluntness is a national treasure and what makes him the Senate's most awesome Twitterer. I am not at all kidding.

Tucker Carlson: I'm definitely for senators who say interesting things, so I wouldn't want to encourage Grassley or any of the other 99 to start being thoughtful and therefore making our jobs harder. But as a general matter, pandering to the mob in the middle of a crisis is a reckless thing. Plus: Go kill yourself? Come on. Even by the standards of cable news rhetoric, that's a bit much.


Ottawa, Canada: With all these once-great businesses, is there any talk about fixing the ones who told everyone they were "great" businesses, the credit rating companies? Surely they should be culpable for something, like not properly doing their job.

On another note -- is it scary that Obama was more focused on Leno than he was on 60 Minutes?

Tucker Carlson: Leno's got a live audience. That makes a huge difference.


New York: Hi folks. I can't believe this 90% tax on AIG bonuses is going to fly. If it's passed, I'm sure it will end up in court for years. Does this really have a snowball's chance of becoming law? Thanks for the chat.

Ana Marie Cox: This is a great question. Because I think it MAY fly, unless someone can think of some kind of political cover for people to not vote for it. Or unless the AIG folks give their bonuses back. Ha-ha.

What would be interesting is if it passes and then Obama vetoes it, which would actually be kind of a smart play. He gets to look like the grown up, Congress gets to wave pitchforks without any danger of anyone getting stabbed.


Ellicott City, Md.: This might seem trivial with all our budget issues but, instead of an organic garden at the White House (probably weeded with my tax dollars), shouldn't the First Family buy from local (close by in Md. and Va.) farmers? Wouldn't that help the economy more? Thanks.

Ana Marie Cox: It may be trivial, but I'm a political journalist, so that's my beat. Also I think it's a good question, but I am hoping I don't think that because it's trivial.

In any case, if we're looking at this as simply "how much do you spend to get the carrot to the plate" issue, then I think you may be correct: Michelle taking the Metro to one of the local farmer's markets and buying veggies once a week would probably cost less than what it costs to dig the garden, buy the seeds, haul in some local kids for manual labor and force Rahm to pull weeds.

But it's NOT just about how much it costs to put the carrot on the plate. The garden is also a forum for teaching the Obama kids -- and, one assumes, the kids who watch them -- about personal responsibility and it's a way of underscoring the importance of knowing where what you eat comes from. What's more, if they keep it up, that garden will get cheaper and cheaper. Urban gardens can seem like a yuppie affectation but the dirty secret is that even a casually-tended garden will give you more vegetables than you really want. If more apartment-dwellers grew tomato plants I think, if nothing else, we'd have a rebellion against those cardboard ones that seem to populate most salad bars.

As it is, I predict that the WH garden will be like ours and they will be forced to give zucchini out to guests at state dinners.


Special O Bowling: The best part was that somebody found the S.O. bowling champion, whose response was essentially "Bring it, Beyotch." Much better than faux-outrage from people who have all (yes, me too) made jokes like that.

Ana Marie Cox: Agreed. I really hope Obama actually does bring the guy over for a few frames. It might put the whole thing in perspective for everyone.


Jacksonville, Fla.: So how many times do you think we'll see a Congressman who voted against the stimulus plan pose for a photo holding a gold painted shovel, wearing a hard hat, at the groundbreaking of a project paid for by the stimulus plan?

Tucker Carlson: Haven't seen one yet, but we doubtless will. Repulsive.

On the other hand, you've got to feel for politicians at the moment. There's an enormous market for free stuff from the government. The average person wants other people (preferably a despised minority, like smokers, CEOs, rich people in general) to pay his bills. As an elected official, you don't get a lot by arguing for restraint. So few do.


Chicago, Ill.: Gin House (as performed by Clapton live)

Ana Marie Cox: The caller did request songs from the modern era but...


Theme song: Unfortunately, "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse comes to mind.

Ana Marie Cox: We're getting closer...


Treasury Plan theme song: Leavin' on a Jet Plane



Gridiron Dinner: Were either of you in attendance? If so, any anecdotes to share? Even thought the First Couple didn't attend, surely there were other lofty types who showed up?

Ana Marie Cox: Those are the kinds of circles Tucker may move in but I spent Saturday night watching "I Am Omega" on SciFi. (watching more than usual now so I can stop watching when they change the name to "SyFy." Hoping however that CNBC will change it's name to "See-and-be-seen.")

Oh and "I am Omega" stars "the Chairman" from Iron Chef America. Scifi/foodie overlap FTW!

Tucker Carlson: I spent the evening drinking Fresca and eating a salami sandwich in Captiva, many miles away. But I'll bet it was fun. Those horrible Washington dinners everyone makes fun of always are.


Dark Building, somewhere: Tucker, why aren't you on Twitter like AMC?

between the two of you, covering a press conference would be a hoot.

Tucker Carlson: Partly on Ana's advice, I've actually signed up to do it, and have lots of people who are apparently "following" me. (Weird, weird, weird.) But so far I haven't written anything. A bad case of performance anxiety I guess.

Thanks for indulging us yet again. See you net Monday.


"Taxman": Duh..."If you try to breathe I'll tax the air..."

Ana Marie Cox: Maybe we should just admit that no one really sings about money in a wistful way anymore. They just rap about having it...


Iron Chef Kitchen: So Ana, when are you going on Iron chef as you promised was your goal this year?

Ana Marie Cox: As soon as they ask me. Seriously. If anyone knows any Food Network execs, please, well, first tell them that Paula Deen is a national health risk. Then tell them I would like to be on the show.


McLean, Va.: "literally out of money" As long as the Fed Reserve can create money, then the amount is not the issue. It's the value of our money that is under attack. The silver lining in this horrible dark cloud is that many people are getting an education in how things work.

Ana Marie Cox: And how much is silver going for these days?

On that cheery note, I must bid farewell. Thanks again for coming, for asking questions, and for making me feel like there's a purpose in life. I live to serve. And amuse. Mostly amuse.


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