Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox: Waterboarding, Taxes, More

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Friday, April 24, 2009; 2:00 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 Friday, April 24 at 2 ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.


Ana Marie Cox: GREETINGS from a downtown Cosi, where the Raspberry Mojito Lemonade leaves much to be desired, including alcohol.

Sorry I'm late, now were were we?


Salt Lake City: WHY DO "THEY" KEEP MOVING YOU GUYS AROUND????? (Then again, maybe I just should be grateful you are still there in these days of newpaper cutbacks....)

Tucker Carlson: "They" would never do that. The Washington Post is probably the best organized, most orderly big city daily left in the United States. I had to leave town at the last moment on Monday, and Ana and the editors were kind enough to reschedule. Sorry about that. We'll be back next week, Monday at noon.

Happy Friday, by the way.


Tampa, Fla.: Does the Republican party really want to wear the label of being "pro torture"? Do they think that is a political winner for them next year?

Tucker Carlson: Depends who's being tortured.

Ana Marie Cox: There's something to be said for taking a stand that isn't a political winner, simply because it's the right thing to do. In torture, The GOP has a found an issue that is neither the right thing to do nor politically popular. So good luck with that.

For the record, I'd like to note that Dick Cheney is actually LESS POPULAR than torture itself, which suggests that people might be okay with HIM getting tortured. Not that it would eb the right thing to do.

Oh, but since he doesn't consider waterboarding torture...


Powhatan , Va.: The $100 billion in cabinet department savings...Success or PR bust?

I have to admit, I am laughing it off as a stunt. Sort of like my household being in financial trouble and me thinking it makes a statement by eliminating a 25 cent pack of gum.

Tucker Carlson: Until people starting laughing, I think the White House meant it seriously. It's enough to make you nervous if you think about it.

Ana Marie Cox: I think it was probably not even meant seriously, just cynically -- which probably should scare me more than it does, except that I'm so not surprised by it.


Why not?: Tucker, can you provide a rationalization for not pursuing legal action of some kind against those who initiated this torture program and perhaps even those who executed it? The Peggy Noonan "just walk away" defense is ludicrous. We hold people accountable for much less serious actions every day, yet for something like this, it's time to "look ahead," as the administration seems to be saying? Do you believe that?

Tucker Carlson: I'll all for punishing the guilty. But if we're going to do it in this case, we'll need to find out who they are. So let's find out exactly who knew the U.S. was or might be using torture, and hold them to account. I suspect you'll find that's a long list.


Springfield, Va.: Tucker, Are you okay with DHS considering you a potential terrorist as a result of being pro-life, pro 2nd amendment, and concerned about illegal immigration? Wait, I forgot, Napolitano said the DHS report had nothing to do with ideology.

Tucker Carlson: I've never doubted how the government felt about me, so it wasn't a surprise to learn I was right.


Mt. Rainier, Md.: If either of you were forced to make one person king/emperor of the country, and that person's sole task was to solve the country's economic troubles, who would it be? Who could do the best job at this? Why is this person not our treasury secretary (or is he?)

Tucker Carlson: You mean other than Erik Estrada? He did a pretty good job keeping California's highways safe, and only drew his gun once in the entire series. Not a bad record.

Other names that come to mind: Just about anyone who understands capitalism, who understands why it's unwise and immoral to give taxpayer dollars to private companies, and who would hesitate before building a nationwide light rail system at a time when we're broke. Shouldn't be too hard to find such a person.


Alexandria, Va.: Does Norm Coleman continue to draw a paycheck from the Senate while he's dragging this election through the courts? Does he have a Senate staff on payroll?

Tucker Carlson: Democrats looking for savings! My favorite new trend.


Port Arthur, Tex.: Ana Marie,

While I find the acts of torture committed under the Bush Administration atrocious, my fear is that if the Obama administration takes a hands-on approach in prosecuting anyone (which I believe should ideally happen) it might cost Obama the political capital he needs to pass major health care or climate change legislation? Is this not a concern? Talk me down, please. (cue that cool Rachel Maddow guitar riff)

Ana Marie Cox: I just answered a similar question but this one is so nicely phrased, it probably gives me a better shot at making my point clear: I think you have articulated the Obama administration position on this exactly.

My own view is that Obama hands on or off, we need to know what happened that allowed such a gross abuse of power to come to pass. Whether or not that ends in criminal prosecutions I'm a little more agnostic about than most liberals, but I firmly believe those responsible for torture need to be named and judged, if only in the court of public opinion.

I think this can happen without Obama being overtly involved, though I also think it's tragic that something as manifestly wrong as torture can hide behind the GOP's skirts. As it were.


Torture is partisan?: How did the issue of torture become a right/left partisan thing? It's a larger issue human morals and ethics, which many (including me) had thought had been cast aside long ago by ethical, modern nations. I agree with Andrew Sullivan: How can anybody say with a straight face that waterboarding a human being 183 times is not torture?

Tucker Carlson: It's obviously torture. But a more interesting question is: Did it work? Wouldn't necessarily justify it, but it would be nice to know.


Denial: A new study suggests that denial is the key to marital bliss. Perhaps it is also key to long-term governmental satisfaction, too.

Tucker Carlson: Marriage and government do indeed have a lot in common [insert vulgar joke here], but not that. If Congress is cheating on me, I want to know.

Ana Marie Cox: The thing about Congress is that divorce isn't even really an option, so you might as well know.


Burke, Va.: Did either of you read the Op Ed piece in the NYT yesterday from the former special FBI agent who came out against torture? Why isn't this insider account getting more traction? Also what are you guys planning on doing with this weekend, with the glorious weather and all? Happy weekend.

washingtonpost.com: My Tortured Decision

Tucker Carlson: I would much rather have read a Times op ed defending torture, simply because that's an argument I rarely hear.


St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Tucker and Ana -- This morning I turned on MSNBC and there was Liz Cheney, defending dad. What's going on here? What's next, a reality show featuring Dick, Lynne, and the grandkids that's all about how Grandpa just has to keep getting out there and reminding everyone about the disaster that was the last eight years? Seriously, who does he help (and hurt) by not going away, at least for a few months?


Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Tucker Carlson: So there's too much Cheney-defending on MSNBC these days?


No divorce from Congress: "The thing about Congress is that divorce isn't even really an option, so you might as well know."

(Shh, don't tell Texas.)

Carrying on the analogy, I wonder how much overlap there is between those who favor secession and those who advocate covenant marriage?

Tucker Carlson: Actually, the treaty in question doesn't provide for secession, just division into five separate states, so at that point it's really a matter of polygamy (which, for whatever it's worth, I support).

Ana Marie Cox: If we could somehow keep Austin I'd be actually fine to let the rest of Texas go. I don't think there's a really good marriage analogy for that but it'd be akin to the anatomically challenging advice once offered to Pat Leahy on the senate floor.


Re-Torture: To be honest Tucker, I'd say the question isn't "did it work?" but "was the only way?".

Most of the professional interigators have been saying the less harsh methods work fine without all the problems tourture brings.

It would be nice if Dick Cheney et al addressed that.

Tucker Carlson: It would be nice. In fact, I think we need a much larger, deeper discussion about why we haven't been hit again since 9/11. Everyone expected it to happen. It hasn't. Why? Effective policies? Dumb luck? Strikes me as an important question that's almost never asked.

Ana Marie Cox: I thought it was because we all have to take our shoes off in the airport.

More seriously: I think this conversation is being had, every day. And apparently some very smart people have decided that whatever the reason we've stayed relatively safe, it wasn't thanks to waterboarding anyone.


Galtville: AMC: does it disturb you in any way that the top 10 percent of income tax payers pay 55 percent of all income taxes? Liberal/Progressives believe in everyone paying their fair share until the bill arrives. Then its "send it to over to the rich guy" who takes care of it for everybody else.

Why shouldn't the bottom 90 percent be paying their fair share?

Ana Marie Cox: Actually it disturbs me not a bit. I don't know if you're familiar with the idea of a progressive income tax, but -- and I'll try to use small words here -- it exists to take into account that a "fair share" means something different if you make $500,000 a year than if you make $50,000 a year.

So you go Galt, you! ZOMG CLINTON ERA TAX RATES!!!!! Have fun in your Canada of the mind.

Tucker Carlson: It's actually more dramatic than that. The top one percent pays more in income taxes than the bottom 90 percent combined. So rich people keep the country afloat, along with other unpopular minorities like cigarette smokers. (Fat people are next, trust me. They're despised, so it's inevitable.)

You could make a case for a system like this (might makes right), but nobody bothers to. Instead we pretend we're all sharing the burden, which is a lie, though I suppose it makes us feel better.


Capitol Hill: Tucker, do you agree with Ana's op-ed about White House press corps?

washingtonpost.com: Why We Should Get Rid of the White House Press Corps

Tucker Carlson: Mostly, yes. If we're gong to exercise triage in the news business -- and unfortunately we are -- it does seem a misallocation of resources to send scores to reporters to the White House every day to pick up press releases. Probably just as effective to get them by e-mail.

Ana Marie Cox: And to go on foreign trips to get those same press releases. The president's recent trip to Europe cost $14,000 for each journalist in airfare alone. This, as papers around the country are shuttering investigative bureaus and shrinking arts coverage. We all know the value of solid investigative reporting, but I honestly would also rather have a lively book review section than first-person accounts of Obama's European press conferences.


Anonymous: "who would hesitate before building a nationwide light rail system at a time when we're broke. Shouldn't be too hard to find such a person." Ah, come on Tucker...if we weren't in a recession, you would say that it was a job for the private sector. Is there anything other than war and torture that you think the government can do?

Tucker Carlson: How about limiting government's role to the things government does well? Road paving comes to mind. Not many other things do.


"too much Cheney-defending on MSNBC these days? ": Much like your point about the NYT editorial on torture, perhaps MSNBC could have found someone with something a bit more newsworthy to offer than "daughter supports dad."

Ana Marie Cox: On the other hand: Given Cheney's abysmal approval ratings, I find the fact that anyone, including his daughter, still supports him to be pretty newsworthy.

Tucker Carlson: Also, it's occasionally useful to watch people on television you don't agree with.


Cleveland: I consider you both to be very fair - maybe not balanced at all times, but fair nonetheless. So, what grade would you give to Obama as he closes in on his first hundred days; and what would you have like to see from him instead of/in addition to what he has done?

Tucker Carlson: Restraint, humility, a sense of his own limitations and the limitations of federal power, respect for the people who foot the bill in this country.... I could go on and on, but it's Friday and I want to keep it light.


Arlington, Va.: Sarah Palin. Why do we still care?

Ana Marie Cox: Do we?


Minneapolis: Did either of you read George Will's screed against denim last week? What do you think; would he pass out if he saw that half our office arrived in shorts today?

washingtonpost.com: Demon Denim

Ana Marie Cox: To read that column would mean that I had even more time on my hands and even less to worry about than George Will.

I understand his column blowing the lid off of "the rock and roll music" next week is gonna be AWESOME.


Manhattan, Kan.: Hey Tucker, do you plan follow Brother Hannity's lead and offer yourself to be waterboarded for charity. If so, just say the word and I'll be the first to make a pledge.

Ana Marie Cox: I sort of jokingly volunteered to do this myself (be waterboarded), because it is just a manifestly insane thing to say -- but, upon reflection, what I'd like to do is be the first person to interview Hannity afterwards. Perhaps during.

Tucker Carlson: No thanks, though if you ever catch me plotting to blow up buildings in this country, be my guest. I promise I won't whine about it.


Madison, Wisc.: Greetings to both of you. I know you don't profess to be legal experts, but please humor me: Once Obama released the torture memos, he really didn't have the authority to limit their impact by foreclosing the possibility of future prosecutions. Isn't that up to the Justice Department? It seems it's up to Justice and Congress to sort out if there will be "truth hearings" or prosecutions.

Ana Marie Cox: Right-o, but he CAN say that his administration won't necessarily move for prosecutions themselves. I think Obama is less worried about prosecuting former officials than he is about having his fingerprints on their prosecution.

Of course, some responsibility for whatever happens is inevitable. I hope he sucks it up and lets the truth come out, no matter how difficult it might make things on the Hill. You can't stop terrible things from happening again if you DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.


SW Nebraska: Was the Obama administration glad to release the "torture memos" or were they forced to by the ACLU lawsuit? Is this an important distinction? Is ignoring the lawsuit a handy way for the Republicans to bash the administration for going after the Bush administration?

Ana Marie Cox: I think "glad" is probably an overstatement -- the politics of the release is tricky but the politics of fighting it all the way to the Supreme Court is even worse. In the end, they decided to take the hit in a controlled way, hoping, I think, that releasing them semi-voluntarily would make up for not wanting to prosecute... which hasn't worked out so well.

I don't think the Obama admin has looked particularly vindictive in this; Dick Cheney, on the other hand...


Arlington, Va.: Could President Obama face impeachment proceedings if the release of the memo detailing U.S. interrogation practices ends up causing tangible harm to our national security?

Ana Marie Cox: Ya know, Bush inflicted "tangible harm to our national security" BY TORTURING, and he didn't get impeached...


Cigarette taxes are fair: Hey, no one's holding a gun to smokers' heads forcing them to smoke. Anyone can quit, and plenty of folks have. This is a strictly voluntary tax, a self-inflicted fiscal wound.

Tucker Carlson: You'd better hope they never quit. Who'd pay for children's health insurance?

Have a happy, smoke-free weekend. See you Monday.


Ana Marie Cox: Okay, I'm out of here. Thanks again for a rewarding trip through the crazy world of what counts as news in Washington. Be nice to Tucker, and to small children and pets, all of which enrich our lives without ever understanding why. See you on Monday.


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