Carlson and Cox: Rush Limbaugh, Single-Payer System, More

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, May 11, 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, May 11 at noon ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.


Wanda Sykes: What's all the fuss about? Isn't the comedian hired for the correspondents' dinner supposed to be controversial? Didn't Rush Limbaugh say he wanted Obama to fail? Okay, he doesn't want to destroy us all but still - what is all this fuss? When did all these conservatives become such whiners?

Ana Marie Cox: Greetings, Wanda-asker and everyone else! The only thing that's still hungover from Saturday's dinner for me is my hair. I hope you're all well.

AS FOR THE QUESTION: Actually, I'm not sure that the entertainment is "supposed to be" controversial -- n.b. Rich Little, Jay Leno. Newsmaking, sure but Sykes' putdowns were just kind of crude, right? I would have been much more impressed -- and it would have been really worthwhile -- had Wanda chosen her moment at the podium do something REALLY controversial: marry her partner (it's legal in DC, you may have heard).


Greene, NY: AMC,

Are you comfortable with the relationship between politicos, the media and the stars? Is it awkward on Monday morning, or is their sufficient distance to keep everything professional?

Ana Marie Cox: I am very comfortable with it; I would probably be even more comfortable if I could sit on Ed Westwick's lap.

I know it's traditional to bemoan the source/star/reporter tangle that happens at the WHCD (ONLY METAPHORICALLY, tho, dammit, tho with Chuck Bass I CERTAINLY TRIED) but, minus the stars, it's not like the two camps are in apartheid the rest of the year. The only difference is at the Dinner, we look better. And Chuck Bass is there.


Washington: Anybody who doesn't already realize that this offer by the health care industry is only ploy to lock the government into a legislated position that will ultimately be meaningless and counter to actual health care reform, well, I have a bridge to sell you.

Just like the all-PR, no-real-substance to the oil industry's claim to be pro-alternative energy, this offer is all about fostering a good front rather than looking to serious reform.

Here's the rule of thumb everyone should with half a brain should follow: Anything Pharma offers, you better think long and hard about their motives. I'm not swallowing this pill.

Ana Marie Cox: Certainly, the industry is trying to improve both its image and its service in order to preempt the government stepping in -- but does anyone think that will actually work? And, uhm, I thought the whole argument for a free market is that companies will provide good service on their own, because that's how you make a profit, right? Oh, wait...

Tucker Carlson: Anything Pharma wants is bad for the country? Sort of a reactionary position, don't you think?

It's not my job to defend the drug companies. On the other hand, it's hard to think of another industry that has saved more lives worldwide over the past 100 years. And most of those drugs were invented in America by Americans. Sounds like a success story to me.


Surf City, NC: A question for you both. Tucker, do the conservatives even know what they wish to conserve? Ana Marie, do progressives know where they are progressing to or is progressivism just a devotion to any and all new fads, trends and gimmicks?

Tucker Carlson: Great question, one that conservatives ought to be asking themselves, but probably aren't. At the core of conservatism is the belief (instinct, gut reaction) that change is scary and often bad. Conservatives are right about this. While there are times when it's needed, change is by its nature destructive. It's also too easy. As anyone who's ever unscrewed the back of a television set knows, it's simple and quick to take things apart, not so easy to build them. Anything worth having -- a career, a marriage, a society -- takes years of sustained effort to create. Conservatives understand this. Progressives don't. Unfortunately, this is a hard (sometimes impossible) argument to make in the middle of a crisis.

Don't just do something, stand there!

Not a winning slogan when terrorists attack or the economy tanks.

Ana Marie Cox: I am personally quite conservative, in the sense that I hate and fear change, so I'm not sure if I'm the best person to ask about what "progressives" want. It's helpful to note, however, that the idea of progressivism is not a fad -- at least by American standards -- it's lasted, like, whole years!


Arlington, VA: Sorry, Ana, but you got it wrong. Wanda could not have married her partner in DC. The City Council only voted to recognize marriages from other states. I'm curious about Tucker's take on this. If the law holds, I'll be legally married when I'm at work but not when I get home to Arlington.

Ana Marie Cox: Ack, right. Well she could have BEEN RECOGNIZED then. Still would have been very cool, tho, yes? Would at least have drawn attention to how the president is still anti-marriage equality even as the country is making, uhm, PROGRESS on it.

BTW, I would like to refer you all to my husband's account of the dinner, and to what we both agreed was the highlight of the evening:

Andrew Sullivan's husband, Aaron, a smart, funny actor whose healthy distance from DC officialdom is always an enormous relief at these gatherings, had brought along his mother, a retired school-bus driver from Michigan, as his date. Andrew introduced Aaron as his husband -- to Barbara Walters, of all people -- just as I was on the verge of introducing myself to Aaron's mom. Only when I extended my hand, I realized that she was crying. "So proud," she said a couple of times, and when she was able to talk more she added, "You know, he's had to fight so hard." Suddenly, I was tearing up, too -- next to that, you realize, meeting celebrities really is pretty [bleeping] meaningless.



Richmond, Va.: I love political bantering on all sides. Events like the Correspondents' Dinner are a much need light-heartedness in an overly serious world. However...I have to ask about the double standard. Had a Republican leaning group had someone making 9-11 jokes, don't you feel there would be HUGE backlash happening in the press right now?

Tucker Carlson: Happy Monday!

Yes, of course, there would have been a different response had the target been some prominent lefty. Obviously. But I still hate the post-game whining about how "inappropriate" Sykes' remarks were. In fact I hate the word "inappropriate." (What exactly does it mean anyway? It used to be only kindergarten teachers used it.) I'm for humor, inappropriate or not.

And because I am, it would have been nice to hear Sykes, who's a genius, say something genuinely funny, rather than use her routine to suck up to Obama, which is what in effect she did.


West Palm Beach, Fla.: Is Obama going to give the American people single-payer health care?

Tucker Carlson: That's the plan. I'd bet my house it'll happen in the next 10 years. Of course it will result in inferior care. It has every place it's been imposed without exception.

But here's the good news: Very rich people will still have access to the best treatment. While the rest of us are waiting 8 months for an MRI, or a year for a hip replacement, the wealthy will simply buy private medical care. It'll be a more equal system, in the way Cuba's is.

Ana Marie Cox: My dad is an actuarial science professor in Canada and the conceit that average consumers would see a decline in services under a single payer system DRIVES HIM CRAZY, as the experience of the vast majority of consumers that use some form of nationalized health care is improved infant mortality, improved treatment of chronic disease, improved use of preventative care and, you know, healthy people.

And, as you point out, the rich will be able to get whatever kind of care they want. Like now.


DC: Tucker, happy belated birthday.

I guess just a comment on Wanda Sykes. While I don't care for "death humor" I get why she "went there." What bothered me more was that she had a moment to call out Obama on DADT, or even marriage equality, and she did not. I know she does stand up on some of these topics, and knowing this act would draw a lot of attention, I really wish she had "used" her moment.

Tucker Carlson: I'm not quite 40 yet. But thanks. Enjoying my final days of vital youth.

I agree completely. Wanda Sykes is one of my favorite comedians, but also a coward.

Ana Marie Cox: We have reached that moment in the chat where I agree completely with Tucker.


On the other hand, it's hard to think of another industry that has saved more lives worldwide over the past 100 years. : Here's some facts, Tucker:

1. Practically all basic research on drugs is done at Univeristies and the Institues of Health financed by government dollars. Drug companies won't touch a drug unless somebody else has already show it is very promising.n

2. Drug companies spend 11% of their budget on research and development, 19% on profit (double the average of all industries) and 34% on marketing, the purpose of which is to get us to use drugs we do not need or to use new expensive drugs even when older cheaper ones do as well or better. (google Alan Sager for a longer discussion.)

Tucker Carlson: I don't know who writes your talking points, but I've seen them before. Two questions:

Are you suggesting the federal government is capable of, or ought to be in charge of, developing new drugs? Seriously?

And, can you name another major industry that spends more on R and D than Pharma?


David Ehrenstein, Los Angeles, Ca.: Rush Limbaugh relentlessly exploited my "Los Angeles Times" op-ed about White America's relationship to Barack Obama, turning into a cheap insult song. I couldn't be happier at the payback he gotten via the fabulous Wanda Sykes.

Tucker Carlson: Calling him a terrorist and hoping he dies is "payback"?

Wouldn't you have preferred something a little more elevated?


Evanston, Ill.: Who writes Obama's stand up material? The regular speechwriters or is it outsourced to Bill Maher's writers?

Ana Marie Cox: Heh. I think they farm some stuff out, but I had the great pleasure to hang out with one of Obama's young speechwriters (seriously, they're all pre-teens. Whole office empties out when Hannah Montana is in town.) and I cajoled him into identifying which jokes were his.

Of course I promised not to tell anyone. But they were some of the funny ones, really!


Dallas: Hi, Cheney is asked to pick between Limbaugh and Colin Powell, and Cheney picks Limbuagh...Colin Powell has served our country, Limbaugh serves Limbaugh? What do you think?

Tucker Carlson: I think Cheney doesn't like Colin Powell.

Ana Marie Cox: And I think that speaks well of Powell.


Washington, D.C.: I live in DC and work on the Hill, and even I'm sick of #nerdprom. What must the rest of the country feel like about the relentless chatter for one night of self-indulgent partying?

Tucker Carlson: I think the rest of the country hates us already. One more self-indulgent evening can't possibly lower our approval ratings.

Plus, parties are good, no matter where they're held or why.

Ana Marie Cox: Wait, there's only ONE night of self-indulgent partying? Or does is it only a party if other people are around?

More seriously: I don't know if "self-indulgent" is the right word for #nerdprom. Self-important, sure, but the level of indulgence is pitiful. I wish there was more.


Ridgefield, Wash.: Tucker: Are you not friends with Rachel Maddow anymore? Why did you stop wearing the bowtie?

Ana: Would you consider wearing a bowtie? Did people start taking you more seriously when you started getting a large twitter following, and how does that make you feel?

Ana Marie Cox: I would wear any tie worn by Chuck Bass, especially if he tied it for me.

Ana Marie Cox: Oh, AND: People take me seriously? Really? DRUDGE SIREN! YAY!

Tucker Carlson: I've got to agree with Ridgefield, Ana: I'd take your tweets more seriously if you wore a bow tie.


single-payer health care: Funny...I haven't seen or heard of that proposal from Obama or any serious congressional leaders.

Tucker Carlson: And you won't for several years, I'd guess. Too politically difficult. But we'll get there. As long as the main goal of health reform is universal coverage -- rather than superior care -- we'll arrive at a government-run, single-payer system.


Burke, Va.: Tucker:

Do you not think that Limbaugh bears any responsibility for painting a big honkin' target on his back, given the awful things that have come out of his mouth ("White House Dog" re: Amy Carter). There are a million examples. Why shouldn't he take a TINY fraction of what he dishes out every day?

Tucker Carlson: He should and does. In fact it helps Limbaugh when the left attacks him, by verifying in the minds of his listeners that he is indeed a big deal. So I'm not upset that Limbaugh's been hit too hard, and I'm pretty sure he's not either.

I just think it would be nice if satirists would tell the truth about people with actual power, like the president. But more than 100 days into this genuinely radical administration, they're still afraid. Pathetic.


Sotomayer: The anonymous quotes disparaging Judge Sotomayer are a bit disturbing. Of course under the cover of secrecy people say terribly negative things but would this not be true of just about anyone on the bench or in any other profession. Put your name on your words or be quiet. It just seems too easy and unprofessional to get a bunch of people to bash someone behind their back.

Tucker Carlson: I agree with you. Blind quotes are unfair (you can't face your accuser) and by their nature invite nastiness. The problem is, they're often true. And if your job as a journalist is to report the truth, sometimes you've got no choice but to use them. It always makes you want to take a shower afterwards though.


Arlington: Do Republicans really have no sense of humor? I laughed when I read the stuff Sykes said- because it was funny and should be taken as funny and nothing personal against the evil emperor.

Ana Marie Cox: Of course they do. They just also know the power of outrage to move their base. And, fwiw, I thought the Limbaugh stuff was -- setting offense aside -- just plain not funny. Lazy writing and an easy (and large!) target.

Tucker is obviously quite witty and our mutual friend Matt Labash (tho not a traditional R) is one of the funniest people I know. Sometimes even on purpose.

Tucker Carlson: You know that feeling when you're so hungover it hurts to move your eyes and you're o the verge of bursting into tears at any moment? That's how the Republicans are feeling right now. Not a funny time in the history of the party. But they'll recover.


St. Cloud, MN: Reading your comments, it is easy to form the view that although you certainly have opinions, neither of you has the expertise to comment knowlegeably about public policy. I hope I am mistaken.

Tucker Carlson: You are.


Burke, VA: I'm trying to come to grips with the notion that Wanda Sykes' comments about Rush Limbaugh were over some line. Rush Limbaugh says horrible things about the people with whom he disagrees every day. Wanda Sykes did NOT say those things about Orrin Hatch; she said them about Rush Limbaugh, a man who has contributed mightily to the coarsening of the political dialogue in this country.

Hasn't Limbaugh basically forfeited the right to be offended by almost ANYTHING?

P.S. AMC: My wife says it's OK if I sigh dreamily when you appear on Rachel Maddow's show.

Ana Marie Cox: I think they were "over the line" in the sense that I wouldn't have made them and, as I've said, they were not that funny. But, sure, Rush is a big boy and I doubt if he was HURT, feelings-wise, in any way. Not that this will keep him from making as much as he can from the incident.

And I am glad your wife is so understanding. Chris (my husband) actually stood next to me while I swooned in front of the frequently-mentioned Chuck Bass (who is, IRL, British -- ADORABLE ACCENT FTW!). To be fair, husband was in deep conversation with the guy's dad, so he may not have noticed me trying not to fall into the 21-year-old's arms.

Tucker Carlson: Who's Chuck Bass?

Ana Marie Cox: Uhm, this guy:


Mason, MI: How quickly does a new face in media become an old face these days? Do you fall behind forever if you don't learn to tweet and to do what's next?

Ana Marie Cox: I think the fact that Larry King has a (quite entertaining) Twitter feed is probably evidence for one argument or another but I'm not sure which.


The Wonders of Google: The Electronics industry spends 2.5 times what the drug industry does on R & D. R & D Expenditures by Industry Category

Tucker Carlson: That's an absolute number, not a percentage of total spending. And there's no comparison of R and D to marketing.

But even so your graph makes clear tat Pharma spends a relatively huge amount on research compared to every other sector.


the wealthy will simply buy private medical care: Tucker, they do this now. And in case you forgot: statistically, Cuba's health care blows us out of the water.

I am a childhood cancer survivor, I basically can't buy insurance on the "open" market, through no fault of my own (unless you want to blame me for my childhood error of getting cancer). I will always have to work for some company that provides coverage to employees and won't be starting my own business and improving the economy unless things change.

P.S. I recently made an appointment for a potential medical issue I am having. My appointment is for mid July. My dental appointment I made is for September. Good thing we don't ration care like those loser Socialists huh?

Ana Marie Cox: I love it when the chatters bring the FACTS. (

Statistics don't tell the whole story, of c -- I would not trade our system for theirs overnight, but they are startling.

Ana Marie Cox: And, of course, I wish you continued good health. Beating cancer is a challenge of the will as well as the body -- congratulations.


Former Arizonan: From various bits of evidence -- the latest being a plug from Bill Bennett, yesterday on CNN -- it's becoming clear that Jon Kyl will run for president in 2012. Can you think of any sensible reason why? Or at least an entertaining reason?

Tucker Carlson: It seems a stretch to me too. But I had breakfast with him once and can report he's a lot smarter than most senators, which is nice. And he's a genuine expert of western water issues. At this point, given where the GOP is, I wouldn't rule anyone out. Romney's running again, though, and you've got to think he's got a healthy head start.

Thanks for listening. See you next Monday.


Ana Marie Cox: And the hour FLEW by, didn't it? Thanks again to all that stopped by. This is my favorite thing that happens on a Monday and not just because I get to poke at Tucker. We are nothing without you.

Have a great week.


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