Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, May 18, 2009; 12:00 PM

Tucker Carlson. Ana Marie Cox. He's conservative. She's liberal. They both write for The Daily Beast, he's a contributor to Fox News and she's a national correspondent for Air America Radio. They were online Monday, May 18 to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

A transcript follows.


Asheville, N.C.: What's the reason that the UN Convention Against Torture, to which we are a signatory, is being slighted in the local debate on that subject? How do you avoid a treaty commitment to prosecute for this when it is warranted?

Tucker Carlson: Short answer: Because it's a joke. Other signatories to CAT include Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan, and a lot of other places you stand a good chance of being tortured to death by the secret police. So like a lot the United Nations does, it doesn't mean much. Remember when Zimbabwe had a seat on the UN Commission on Human Rights?

Happy Monday, by the way.

Ana Marie Cox: So we're letting "Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan" set the standard for how UN conventions should be treated? HOT!

But I'm not going to let Tucker ruin this beautiful spring day.


Dayton, Ohio: Tucker and Ana, Since you both seem like honest reasonable people who disagree on some things, would you be willing to have a debate on Youtube or any other media specifically on abortion? It would be nice if someone actually had a real conversation about why each side feels the way they do without just shouting campaign slogans at each other. Thanks!

Tucker Carlson: But what if I enjoy shouting slogans?

Ana Marie Cox: I would welcome the chance to debate Tucker on this. I think we could probably have a good discussion about it without shouting (unless we felt like it!), but, having talked to Tucker about his pro-life evolution, I'm not we'd get very far. There are no holes in his argument, there is nothing I could say to change his mind. At best, we'd try to find some POLICIES we could agree on, that work toward the shared goal of reducing the number of abortions (is there anyone who really feels GREAT about the act itself?)... but at the end of the day, no one's mind would be changed.

Unless that's not your goal. In which case, LET THE SHOUTING OF SLOGANS COMMENCE!


London, Canada: Ana Marie:

Knowing your history with "Wonkette".

What is your view on the latest "Wonkette" view of Keith Olbermann?

Look at this.

Ana Marie Cox: I am answering this question only to say that I haven't read Wonkette in, literally, years and I'm not gonna start now. (It's like your kid left home and joined a cult--how much would you REALLY want to know.) So I only know what you're talking about third-hand which usually doesn't stop me but in this case I'll just say Keith's a big boy and I trust him to take care of whatever it is.


New York: I'm going to rob a bank and shoot the security guard on the way out, and when I get home cheat on my taxes and then beat my wife and children, but it's all okay: I told Nancy Pelosi about it first.

Tucker Carlson: Good plan. Did she try to stop you? Alert the authorities? Tell anyone at all about your plans? If not, she's an accessory to your crimes. So at least you'll have company in prison.


Annapolis, Md.: Last week during the WHCD, there was some debate about where the term "nerd prom" originated from. For years, this has been a term used by comic book nerds for the annual San Diego Comic Book Convention. My question is this: as a group, who is nerdier? Washington, D.C. media nerds or comic book nerds?

Tucker Carlson: The fashionable answer would be: One group wears thicker glasses, but basically they're equally nerdy.

But let's be honest: That's ridiculous. Nobody's dorkier than comic book nerds. Even reporters for Congress Daily.

Ana Marie Cox: I feel a little bad about the inadvertent (I swear, a friend mentioned it to me and then I, uhm...) lifting of #nerdprom. And because I KNOW Congress Daily reporters, well.. I think maybe we should consider them Nerd Prom East and Nerd Prom West? I, for one, would enjoy attending both. And I think you'd find a surprising amount of overlap in the interests of the groups.


Pickerington, Ohio: So what should happen to Maureen Dowd (remembering that Goeglein didn't last eight hours after his plagiarism was made public, although that was on a weekday)? Frankly I'm surprised that this doesn't happen more often.

Ana Marie Cox: The thing I don't understand about #MoDoh (as it's being called on the Twitter machine) is that apparently there are no hard and fast rules for columnists at the Times? Like, they can attribute or not, as they see fit? If a friend of mine says something really smart and I want to quote her, I can't really imagine just taking her words as my own -- even if she said she didn't want to be on the record. There are all sorts journalistic elisions you can use: "People say," "I've heard the argument," or, just, you know, "a friend of mine says."

What's more, I would hope that anyone who considers me a friend, once I told her that I planned on quoting her, would want to save me from embarrassment and admit the idea wasn't her own.

Anyway, nothing will happen to Maureen and she's actually writing (I guess?) some pretty good stuff these days.

Onto the next battle.

Tucker Carlson: It's true that nothing will happen to her. But the whole thing is an interesting window into how her column is created. I knew someone once who was on her call rotation. Every week, she'd call and collect amusing lines from him, which she'd invariably use without attribution. Every writer does this to some extent -- I've made a lot of money over the years stealing from my conversations with Matt Labash -- but she seems to do it more than most.


Las Cruces, N.M.: Torture seems to have joined the list of wedge issues that make the politico-media complex wheel spin.

Personally, I don't know what all the fuss is about. America and Americans, like all nations and people, have done unspeakable things when threatened. Is waterboarding and less morally questionable than firebombing German cities? Do you really think we didn't do similar things to Viet Cong in Vietnam with WH approval when LBJ was President?

It seems to me that the left really wants Bush to be reviled in history. HE IS THE WORST PRESIDENT IN HISTORY! Not really ... his is a failed presidency, but he isn't even the worst President in my lifetime.

Torture, if waterboarding is torture, will be used again. We should look at it like abortion... may it be legal (under certain conditions) and extremely rare. Whataya think?

Ana Marie Cox: Interesting attempt to draw a parallel, though I (Tucker probably won't) disagree. I think waterboarding/torture (or, you know, thing/thing) is more like, uhm, child abuse. It's gonna happen no matter what the law says about it, but moral people don't countenance it.

But, fwiw, I don't think it's much of a wedge issue: Americans are mostly okay with torture, under specific conditions. But most Americans have been wrong about stuff before.

Tucker Carlson: I certainly agree that majority approval is not proof of wisdom. At various times, most Americans have supported slavery and abortion. I also agree that while Bush's was a failed presidency in many respect, it's silly to call it the worst ever. (We won't even begin to have perspective on it for another decade.)

I'm not for torture, but you're right that a lot of the recent outrage does seem simplistic and childish.


Anonymous: "Good plan. Did she try to stop you? Alert the authorities?"

Um, Tucker, you can't alert the authorities when the authorities are the one committing the torture.

Tucker Carlson: The ultimate authority is the public. Pelosi could have held a press conference or called the New York Times. She didn't. She's complicit.


Boston: Any thoughts on Huntsman becoming an ambassador to China? I'm a little sorry because he was actually saying and trying to do some interesting things.

Tucker Carlson: Because he was a mildly liberal Mormon? Didn't strike me as that interesting.


Maybe Pelosi DID call the NYT: There were all kinds of stories about whether we were torturing, and what Bush was willing to do to keep us safe.

How do we know that Pelosi didn't leak some stuff to the media, "not for attribution?" It is a big step to risk a treason conviction.

Tucker Carlson: Not for attribution? She was the House minority leader. She doesn't need to leak on background. She's elected to stand up and tell the country what she thinks.


Wash, D.C.: How do you both think Obama did at Notre Dame yesterday? Do we move forward with a dialogue on abortion or did Obama just say what people at ND wanted to hear? Thanks.

Tucker Carlson: You can't have a real conversation about abortion if you're afraid to use the word.

Pro-choice? Pro-life? Those are slogans designed to obscure rather than illuminate.

The debate is about whether abortion ought to be legal, not about whether you respect "life," whatever that is, or whether you think people ought to have "choices," whatever those may be.

So let's call it what it is. That'd be a good first step. Obama, who's deeply interested in language, knows this but not surprisingly failed to mention it. Because despite yesterday's rhetoric, he's as hardened an ideologue on this issue as anyone who heckled him.


Arlington, Va.: Is anyone favored or doing better in the polls in the VA governor's race?

Ana Marie Cox: I'm not up on this entirely but, hey, tomorrow is the WaPo debate! Hosted by Chris Cillizza! Maybe there will be something decisive to come out of that.

Tucker Carlson: I'm rooting for Terry McAuliffe. I don't agree with virtually anything he says, but he's such a likable, energetic guy that he ought to get the nomination.


Leavenworth, Kansas: If Pelosi had called a press conference and spilled the beans about what she had been told in a CLASSIFIED BRIEFING, wouldn't she be in a Federal Penitentiary, petitioning Obama for a pardon right about now?

Tucker Carlson: That's one of the lamer excuses I've heard. So she didn't do anything to stop torture because if she had spoken up, the Bush administration would have put her in prison? Even though she was a sitting member of the opposition leadership at the time?

Pick a new talking point. That one's pathetic.


Toronto, CA: Given that this is President Obamas first meeting with the Israeli head of what can we expect from a first meeting? What are your thoughts on the diplomatic feeling out phase for these two leaders and their difference in approach to mideeast peace? Also can President Obama build on the Pope's urging for a two state sollution to ad pressure?

Tucker Carlson: Obama's smart. Bibi's probably smarter, and about three times as tough. I'll be amazed if Netanyahu doesn't walk away with a lot more than Obama planned to give.


dc: I know it was nice and bipartisan (the new PC) of Obama to pick a Republican to be ambassador to China, but how good is it for China?

The country is, to say the least, not big on religion. So we send someone who had once gone their on missions to convert their people to Mormonism? Might this offend the Chinese government?

Ana Marie Cox: I'm no China expert but I saw a good take on this that made sense to me on -- of all places -- the Corner: Just as China appears to the US to be a one-party country, so does the US appear to China. Meaning, I doubt if they see much daylight between the parties on the issues that important to them.

On a personal note: I met Huntsman when he was campaigning for McCain and he was one of the most humble, and charming politicians I've met. And his endorsement of McCain came at a time when everyone else was writing his obituary. He and his wife shared a brace of donuts with me at the Manchester airport once, waiting for a ride, because we were the only people there.


Boston: Can someone make sure we don't give the nuclear codes to Biden in case he decides to yuk it up on the D.C. dinner circuit with national secrets again? Next in line is Pelosi? Yikes, who is after that?

Ana Marie Cox: Yes, the only flaw in the Biden-as-VP strategy is that he might actually become president.

I do love him as VP, tho. As I've been telling people: The Clinton and Bush years saw the expansion of both the public and privates roles AND the power granted to the Vice presidency. By 2008, the office of VP had gained an unprecedented amount of respect. The Obama administration plans to change that.


DC: As a lapsed Catholic, I really don't get the dust-up about Obama speaking at Notre Dame? Both Presidents Bush also spoke there; is being pro-choice just considered a more damning character flaw than being pro-death penalty or pro-torture?

Ana Marie Cox: An almost totally fake controversy ginned up, I would guess, to make based conservative voters open their wallets. ND has had other pro-choice speakers and, probably far more, pro-death penalty speakers.

The school could decide to have only speakers whose beliefs are EXACTLY in line with Catholic cannon, but they'd have to eliminate a lot of options, probably including some members of the clergy.


Washington, D.C.: How far detached from reality do you think Nancy Pelosi is? Do you think that she walked away from her last press conference believing that she had convinced everybody that CIA had lied to her?

Ana Marie Cox: I think maybe so! But her face is really hard to read...


Princeton, N.J.: Hey, Tucker, have you looked up the work of Prof Alan Sager on drug companies' spending? (11% on R & D, 19% on profit, and 34% (!!) on marketing)?

Tucker Carlson: So the point is.... what? Companies shouldn't be allowed to make 19 percent profit? The government would do a better job developing and bringing to market new lifesaving drugs? I'm not sure I see your point.

Again, this is not a blanket defense of Pharma, but it is one of the most successful, innovative industries we have left in the United States. Why destroy it?


Hollywood: Is Sarah Palin getting really bad advice or is she just plain nuts? Why would she weigh in on the Miss California gay marriage question?

Ana Marie Cox: I reject your binary choices.

I know McCain staffers who will swear up, down and sideways that she's genuinely nuts.

("Then why did you put her on the ticket?" I ask, to which they say, "It seemed like a good idea at the time! And, look, the polling improved!" To which I say, "But you're glad you lost, then, since it prevented a crazy person being in the White House?" Then they say: "Let me think about that.)

But let's face it, she could ALSO be getting bad advice.


Black Mountain, N.C.: What inquiring minds will want to know, today, is if, to Republicans, merely electing a Democrat as president amounts to "criminalizing" what they do, too? How big a shield do they want, in other words, just so their policies aren't reversed?

Ana Marie Cox: Hey, looks to me like there aren't a whole lot of policies (of the ones Obama used to campaign on) being reversed!


Ana Marie Cox: And with that I must say goodbye. Thanks to Tucker, for being such a smart and gracious foil. (Congrats on the Fox gig!) Thanks to WP for allowing us this space for what is always a highlight of my week. And thanks to you, readers, without whom we'd be nothing.

Tucker Carlson: Less than nothing: We'd be typing into the abyss, with nobody to read it. So I echo Ana's thanks.

See you net Monday.


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