Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

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Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, April 6, 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, April 6 at 12 noon ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

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Washington, D.C.: Tucker, on a more important note, do you have a favorite place to go fly fishing? Any recommendations for a good fishing vacation? Thanks.

Tucker Carlson: I fished the Snake in Jackson Hole the day before yesterday. Trudged a mile through the snow to get there, and while it's a beautiful river and I enjoyed myself, I didn't catch a single thing, not even a whitefish. So I can't recommend it the first week of April. Closer to home, the Potomac above Fletcher's Boathouse is terrific for smallmouth bass, while the water around National Airport is at times jumping with stripers and largemouth. My all-time favorite water in the world, though, is the Androscoggin River just east of Bethel, Maine. Thirty years ago, you'd put your life at risk by swimming in it. Now it's clean enough to drink and lovely and deserted and an all-around perfect fishery. I could go on, but I'll spare the 99 percent of readers who (understandably) don't care.

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Ana Marie Cox: HELLO CLEVELAND. Welcome to the interwebs, where nobody knows it's a dreary Monday in Washington. I hope everyone had a good weekend. Now, please, to the questions!

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Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: For Carlson and Cox.

Are you on Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? WhoKnowsWhat?

Are you happy thumbs and well-connected? Or do you just want to be a left-alone, largely out-of-it old fuddy duddy?

Tucker: The use of the word "left" above doesn't imply any socialist leanings. Relax.

For the record: I'm a 57-year-old liberal book reader and music devotee who values being left out of the mix.

Thanks much.

Ana Marie Cox: Tell me more about these "books" of which you speak.

Tucker Carlson: Yes, I'm on Facebook, but don't really understand it. Want to be my friend?

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Ben Israeli: Not too long ago Newt Gingrich said if North Korea launched their missile the U.S. should use their super secret laser to shoot it out of the sky before its electro-magnetic pulse neutralized our electrical grid. I thought this was crazy. Now reading today it seems that the missile North Korea shot was a failure. Is it safe to assume that the U.S. did use it's super laser to shoot this missile down? Or should I just rest on my previous assumption that Newt peddles crazy ideas?

Tucker Carlson: I don't know the actual answer, but here are the possible scenarios: The United States government possesses technology sophisticated enough to disable North Korean missiles in air, but has enough control over its own employees that nobody leaks this news. Or, North Korea, which is so backward and pathetic it cannot feed its own citizens, is unable to build missiles that work correctly.

Which do you think is more likely?

Happy Monday, by the way.

Ana Marie Cox: A third scenario: Rahm Emanuel stopped the missile WITH HIS MIND.

You decide which is more plausible.

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Capitol Hill: Can either of you please explain the obsession with Snuggies in this town?

And to push that point forward further - why is DC so desperately unfashionable?

Thanks!

Ana Marie Cox: I think the obsession with Snuggies probably extends beyond the Beltway: There was a distinctly non-political cartoon recently (the one with the old married couple and their cat and dog? I know, so specific) that used Snuggies as a storyline for almost a week. (One punchline observed 'You still have to wear something underneth.)

But there's a concrete reason why they might get mentioned more on DC political blogs and by DC political types: Snuggies are apparently targeted directly at MSNBC's daytime viewership. Srsly: Like 10 ads an hour.

There was an article recently explaining the upsurge in Snuggie/PedEgg-type ads on daytime (as opposed to late night) cable and as I recall the reason was that the economy sucks. So, you know, BREAKING.

As for why DC is so fashion-backward...might be because politics is one of the few industries where how good looking you are only matters if your the principal. Staffers, lobbyists, journalists... it's ALMOST merit-based. Almost.

Tucker Carlson: Have you ever seen one up close? I have. They're even lamer than they look on TV. I'm baffled.

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New York, N.Y.: Tucker, I hate to bring skeletons out of your closet, but have you completed abandoned your bow ties or do you still take one out every now and then when you are away from the cameras?

Tucker Carlson: You mean like a Chippendale routine late at night in my kitchen? Maybe.

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Fishing: When motoring back from a big sailboat regatta down at Quantico, we saw a number of fishing boats out at 3-6 am downriver on the Potomac, between Wilson Bridge and Quantico. Can't vouch for quality of the catch, but I've got to believe that it must have been worth being out on the river at that early an hour.

Tucker Carlson: It's always worth being on a river, at any hour. I've mdone fairly well done there, especially (when it's cold) by the water treatment plant.

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Ashland, Va.: President Washington worried that a two-party system, as started by a rivalry between Hamilton and Jefferson, would ruin our government. Do you believe the political system we have now is working or has it failed America? Right now, it seems both parties are alike and both only interested in keeping their rich patrons happy and themselves employed, regardless what the masses want.

Ana Marie Cox: It's possible for a political system to not be serving a country without either the system or the country "failing." I mean, despite all the terrible things out there, we're still working our way forward, no riots or concentration camps or wheelbarrows full of money (though I understand that's the back-up plan at the Fed).

And I agree that the leadership of the two parties sometimes seems out of touch and prone to perpetuating the system that keeps them in power.

BUT if the leadership of parties had their way, Hillary would have gotten the nomination, and she'd have faced Mitt Romney in the general. Neither McCain's nor Obama's success in the primaries is due to a populist revolt (Helllooo, President Paul!) but they are both examples of how voting apparently still matters.

Tucker Carlson: Ana's reply is so smart and true, I don't have much to add, except the obvious: Vigorous debate over bills produces wiser laws. It doesn't bother me when politicians argue about policy. It's when they agree (on the Iraq war, the bailout, the internment of the Japanese) that we're in trouble.

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Reston, Va.: So North Korea thumbs its nose at the world again, launching a multi-stage rocket, and our response is to try to get the UN to reaffirm sanctions that are already in place?

I bet Kim Jong Il is shaking in his boots.

Tucker Carlson: My favorite is Obama's claim that, because North Korea has the bomb, the United States somehow has a "moral responsibility" to get rid of its own nuclear weapons. Huh? Is now really the time for the reasonable people to disarm? Isn't a better lesson: Do all you can to prevent lunatic regimes from getting nukes?

Ana Marie Cox: I would argue that we have a moral responsibility to make progress toward nuclear disarmament pretty much no matter what, but that progress can't be made without paying attention to the other threats in the world, which is what Obama seems to be doing.

That said, I blame the South Park guys for making it impossible for me to ever be really afraid of Kim Jong Il.

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the one with the old married couple and their cat and dog? I know, so specific: That cartoon is Pickles...

Ana Marie Cox: THANK YOU. That's totally it. It's not particularly funny but reliably crotchety yet sweet. It's no PRICKLY CITY, I tell ya.

Which I read primarily as sociological research.

Oh and this is probably a good time to say that I am kind of a comics geek -- daily strips included -- and if you are, too, I HIGHLY recommend you check out "The Comics Curmudegon" at http://joshreads.com. You will never look at Mary Worth or Mark Train the same way again.

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Chicago: Has the President slipped into the role of referree between Wall Street elites and populist schlubs? Do you think the majority of Americans (populist schlubs, that is) would prefer a team member in this crisis rather than a referee? I do.

Ana Marie Cox: I think he's trying to avoid the role of referee and maybe be something more like The Populist Schlubs NUMBER ONE FAN -- quick to criticize the The Wall Street Plunderers, but unable to directly force a penalty on them. He'd much prefer Congress play referee -- taking on all the blame refs usually do and of course all of the credit. Because referees get lots of credit when things go well, right?

I like to think of him pulling out one of those big foam hands at the next press conference.

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global warming?: Here in Georgia, it's supposed to snow tomorrow. IN APRIL. Can you explain how this global warming is supposed to work? Because I'm confused.

Ana Marie Cox: OMG, you're right! The weather forecast for a specific day in Georgia totally overwhelms the work of hundreds of scientists over many decades! I CAN'T BELIEVE WE WERE SO FOOLED!

I'm going to take an individual trip to the grocery store for every single item we need in my neighbor's SUV to celebrate.

Tucker Carlson: Fair enough. On the other hand, if the planet is warming so quickly, when the hell is it going to warm up?

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Riverdale, NY : Tucker, first reports indicate that the shooters in Binghamton, Pittsburgh and Washington were all licensed to carry their weapons. What is the libertarian position on the Second Amendment, since if we greatly expanded and liberalized gun licensing, what daily level of gun violence would we be looking at?

Tucker Carlson: I'm no expert on libertarian doctrine, so how about a common sense answer: If all three murderers were licensed, then obviously gun licensing doesn't do a lot to prevent murderous rampages. Nor is there a positive correlation between gun ownership and violent crime. Virtually everyone in Wyoming and Northern Vermont has a gun, yet the murder rates in both places are negligible.

So maybe we ought to spend less time worrying about what tools killers use, and more time trying to figure out why they kill.

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Princeton, NJ: The parties agreed on the bailout? What! What? It was defeated the first time it came to a vote.

Tucker Carlson: There were indeed dissenters (and god bless them) but their objections were swept away by a wave of pro-bailout rhetoric from the leaders of both parties and the media. This is a disaster! Government must do something! All fashionable people made noises like that at the time, including the supposedly conservative George W. Bush. So groupthink carried the day, as it often does.

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Anonymous: I'd like to take exception to the Post story that said Spitzer's return to respectability is outraging conservatives. I'm a liberal and it outrages me. He's the worst kind of politician out there, and we cannot give him a pass. We're not the ones who chose to marry the guy -- we don't have to stick by him.

washingtonpost.com: Taking Amtrak, Hailing Cabs - Just Another Day For Eliot Spitzer

Ana Marie Cox: But, uhm, he's not an elected official now... If you don't want him to succeed as a private citizen, that's fine, but I don't see it as a civic imperative.

Tucker Carlson: Fine. I'm not saying I'd have him babysit my kids. I just wish there had been a similar level of outage when, as AG, he was threatening innocent people with jail in order to help his political career. It's a shame it took a hooker to make him unpopular.

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Vienna: Tucker, I highly agree with this: "Vigorous debate over bills produces wiser laws. It doesn't bother me when politicians argue about policy. It's when they agree (on the Iraq war, the bailout, the internment of the Japanese) that we're in trouble." I would add, though, that what prevents more of this from actually happening is when politicians dispense with their beliefs or previously firm convictions merely to argue against something they were previously for (i.e. GOP pols screaming about the size of the budget after rubber stamping the huge Bush budgets for 7 or 8 years, etc. There are many examples on both sides.

Tucker Carlson:

Amen. Which is why we need vigilant, objective media to keep track of who's voting for what and why. So as long as American newspapers stay healthy we'll be safe.

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Manchester, N.H.: Hillary vs. Romney -- who do you think would've won?

Ana Marie Cox: America would have lost.

Tucker Carlson: We may find out in 2012.

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Vienna, Va.: Ana, I spent a bit of time listening to you on Air America last week and thought you did a nice job. (I never listen to Air America but your twitter PR campaign convinced me to give a listen.)

I'm interested, though, in both your opinions as to why right wing/conservative talk radio is so much more popular and successful than left wing/liberal talk radio.

Ana Marie Cox: First, thanks. Six hours of live radio turned out to be really hard but also very fun, and I loved getting a chance to geek out about things like the census AND "Lost." (I was going to pimp the podcast URL but I can't seem to find it.)

The second part of your question is one that they've obviously thought about a lot at Air America but I want to be clear that I'm not speaking for them when I say that I think it has to do with what how liberals and conservatives see themselves in relation to their politics.

Conservatives embrace a mix of personality, entertainment, and politics. Liberals think of themselves as more serious than that -- but in the privacy of their cars, listening to Amy Goodman is exactly as much fun as traffic.

I'd be curious to hear Tucker's thoughts on this too...

Tucker Carlson: Amy Goodman freaks me out. I interviewed her once on a show I had. She was every bit as self-serious in the green room as she is on air. That's not easy to pull off.

If I were running Air America radio (and, weirdly, I'm not) I'd give every drive-time hour to Ana. I suspect that ultimately they will, at which point I'll listen.

Thanks for a fun hour. Sorry for the extended fly fishing talk. See you next Monday.

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


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