Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox: Abortion, Affirmative Action, More

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, June 1, 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, June 1 at noon ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.


Dallas: Ana, if Tucker was a daiquiri, what flavor would he be?

Ana Marie Cox: And a good Monday afternoon to you as well! Tucker is more like a mojito than a daiquiri, I think: tart but cool, disarmingly sweet, with lots of grit at the bottom.


Alabama: Tucker, have you now watched or read the remarks of Alito since they were brought to your attention on Fox yesterday? If so, wanna explain the difference?

Tucker Carlson: Of all the talking points partisans are instructed to repeat during nomination fights, this is among the all-time lamest: Alito did it too. First of all, it's false. Alito never claimed that growing up Italian made him a better judge than, say, your average black woman. But even if he had some something that stupid (and I would have opposed seating him if he had) what's the point? That Obama has nominated someone every bit as mediocre as Bush did? Not much of a defense.

Sotomayor said something stupid. It might just be easier to apologize for it.

Happy Monday by the way.


Columbus, Ohio: What is the consensus among journalists on what will be the final outcome of the Minn. recount fight? How long before Franken takes his seat??

Ana Marie Cox: Sen. Klobuchar has said "by the time they're swimming in the lakes," which I assume, in Minn., is sometime in August.

I think the consensus is that Franken will get the seat, it's just a matter of how long. With Specter's switch, I don't think Dems feel the same urgency they used to and are content to let Coleman spend himself into the ground.

Tucker Carlson: Nobody who knows Franken doubts he'll prevail. He wants the job more than anyone has ever wanted anything.

Do his fellow Democrats really want to serve with him in the Senate? I wish there was some way to poll the question. I'll bet he'd get less than 30 percent.


Washington, D.C.: Tucker, what do you feel would be a good line of questions to ask Judge Sonia Sotomayor, that would help Senators vote no on her conformation?

Tucker Carlson: I'd ask her to explain her position on affirmative action. In 20 years of listening to the conversation, I have never heard a single person defend it in plain language.


Singapore: For Ana Marie: What has been the biggest disappointment with the Obama administration thus far?

Ana Marie Cox: There are actually quite a few, it's hard to pick THE most disappointing: continued detention without trial, state secrets and signing statements, caving to Blue Dogs on stimpak... but, in terms of how many people are effected combined with its impact on national security, PLUS the ease with which he could accomplish it SHOULD HE TRY: I gotta say, his refusal to actively work on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

We're losing heroes, Arabic translators, and everyday servicemen and women who could help make our country safe over a policy that Obama could stop the implementation of (if not reverse completely) with the stroke of a pen.

I have a lot to say about this subject, actually, AND AM WRITING A PIECE ON IT. So I'll let you know when it's up.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: Why hasn't the GQ article about Rummy including Biblical verse in his White House briefings gotten more play?

washingtonpost.com: Draper: And He Shall Be Judged

Tucker Carlson: You may have been out of the country that week. It was everywhere.

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, I gotta say it was high on the chat topic list in DC when it came out -- as many of Draper's articles get to be.


Reston, Va.: Hoping you could clear something up for me:

During the previous administration, the media was full of stories stating that allowing the Big Three to enter into bankruptcy would bring about an economic catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen. Now we have both Chrysler and GM entering bankruptcy protection, but I don't see the "doom and gloom" stories.

What happened during those few months that made bankruptcy an acceptable option? Certainly more than just a simple change in administration, no?

(and no, I'm not buying the "well, people were in a greater state of panic back then" meme.)

Ana Marie Cox: I'm curious as to what Tucker thinks of this -- I had accepted the "ZOMG THE JOBS THE JOBS" thinking but my fairly liberal, but business professor, dad was in town this weekend and he said that bankruptcy should be how we handle ANY company that is failing. Dumb, badly run companies should fail -- within a structure, so that TEH JOBS are safe -- and good ones should perhaps get some help.

This makes so much sense to me I'm afraid to question it. COULD POLITICS BE A FACTOR?????

Tucker Carlson: I'm on your dad's side. I've never understood why any private company ought to get tax dollars to stay afloat. If the government can't bail out every failing business -- and it can't -- it seems unfair to bail out any.

And that's just on the level of principle. On the practical side, the federal government is the last organization you'd want running a business.


Anonymous: Ana, you see this administration up close. What does it feel like? Give me an image I can understand. Is it "West Wing"? Or is it "24"?

Ana Marie Cox: Honestly, sometimes it feels a little more like "Sports Night": While they're facing serious issues with seriousness, the day-to-day atmosphere has a bouncy, zinger-filled, no-girls-allowed treehouse vibe. This is not to say they're sexist, it's just a kind of joyously clubby thing that sometimes can feel more traditional than you'd expect from liberal Dems. I have not had the luck (whether it be good or bad) to be around at a time of real crisis, when I imagine people walk around dimly lit hallways and fret more.


New York, N.Y.: Tucker - as a follow up to your statement regarding affirmative action, I'm wondering what your opinion is of Federal contracting set asides for disadvantaged groups - minorities, women, service disabled veterans (or even small businesses).

Tucker Carlson: I think they're totally unfair, and I think most people (those who aren't getting rich from them anyway) would agree after taking a close look at the programs. Affirmative action is a crude racial spoils system that breeds resentment and inefficiency. It's also pretty straightforward discrimination. Government shouldn't punish people because of the color of their skin. Yet it does, and that's wrong.


Sigh...: Mr, Carlson, sigh. After I just commended you for being civil, you now call one of Judge Sotomayor's comments "stupid." Just as the right did with Pastor Wright, you all are taking her quote out of context. She was merely saying that having experienced discrimination herself, that she would have a better perspective on discrimination than white males. She NEVER said she was "better" than white males.

Ana Marie Cox: I'm gonna defend Tucker's right to call her comment "stupid," if only because I think we can all agree that her life would be easier if she had made her point using a different set of words. Words more like yours, Sigh.

That said, I do think what you say here IS what she meant, and the only criticism she deserves for not being especially far-sighted in how her words might be interpreted. Which is, when you think about it, an important skill in a judge.

Tucker Carlson: Have you read her comments? I have, and in context. She said that her "physiology" as a Latina gave her wisdom superior to that of the average white man. Which means....what? Latinas have bigger brains?

I think "stupid" was a charitable description, since it suggests her wording was unintentional. If that's precisely what she meant to say, she's a racist kook and ought to step down from the bench right now. But I'm giving her every benefit of every doubt.


Anonymous: Over the past few years, Bill O'Reilly has made the following comments about Dr. Tiller:

- He "destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000."

- He's guilty of "Nazi stuff,"

- a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida

- "This is the kind of stuff that happened in Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union"

- "operating a death mill"

- "has blood on his hands"

- "executing babies about to be born

Tucker, I'm not saying Billo wanted some kook to kill him, but isn't this playing with fire? Is there some quote by Olberman or any other liberal commentator that even comes close? Who has the craziest of the liberal left murdered lately?

Tucker Carlson: Every one of those descriptions of Tiller is objectively true. I sincerely think it's appalling that he was murdered. But Tiller was a monster, no doubt.


Not Affinarmative: As a minority woman, I too hate AA for a different reason: everyone assumes that's how I made it to my current position. In fact, I have never once - not once - identified my race on an application (gender is a little more difficult to hide, obviously), even when applying for graduate programs in a highly technical area. But now, when the topic comes up I always receive the side glance, which is frustrating. I worked very hard to get here, but yet this program seems to diminish that.

Tucker Carlson: I'm not a minority woman, so I can't strictly speaking put myself in your position. But I understand your frustration. I think it would drive me completely crazy.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Tucker if it makes you feel better, I work for a small disabled veteran owned company (that really is small and owned by a disabled veteran) and I can tell you the big companies have figured out how to circumvent the rules and effectively no contracts are set aside for us.

Tucker Carlson: Well of course they have. That's the other problem with the system: It's completely, utterly corrupt. Ask anyone who owns a business with more than 20 employees.


Glenville, NY: In light of the Tiller homicide and issues surrounding it, where do we draw the line between hate speech and political commentary? How much responsibility do pundits bear for what can be seen as inflammatory comments?

Ana Marie Cox: If you believe that words matter -- and, uhm, as a writer, I do -- you have to buy into SOME DEGREE of responsibility or connection between speech that promotes a certain world view and actions that are in line with that world view.

That said, I don't believe in hate crimes legislation and I don't hold O'Reilly responsible for Tiller's murder. Do I think he should reconsider his rhetoric, and do I think he should FEEL GUILTY? Yes. I know I would. I don't think the state has a role in punishing him, however. And if Bill decides that he believes so strongly in his rhetoric that he can live with a guilty conscience, well, other people don't have a right to stop him from talking but I would hope that people (like, say, Fox) took away the enormous platform he has to talk from.

Re: hate crimes: I've just always believed that murder is murder, and the levels we've already assigned to it (from manslaughter on up) are adequate to punish murders committed for any specific reason. A person killed in cold blood because he's gay is no more dead than a person killed in cold blood because he's in the way of someone's idea of success.

Tucker Carlson: In addition to being objectively wrong -- you don't get to kill people you disagree with -- Tiller's murder is certain to spur abortion advocates in Congress to attempt to further criminalize the debate (the FACE Act, clearly unconstitutional, was the first attempt). I wouldn't be surprised at all to see abortionists added to the list of protected classes.


Anonymous: Tucker, clarification please.

You say Tiller was a monster, but then say he shouldn't have been murdered. So what is your stance on what should be done to monsters?

Tucker Carlson: Tiller's murder was a crime, legally and morally. I'm not even sort of defending or trying to justify it.

But that doesn't make Tiller himself a good person. He wasn't.


West Palm Beach, FL: Do you think Dick Cheney will actually come out in favor of equal marraige? Why or why not? Will the universe implode if he does?

Tucker Carlson: He sort of already has. "I think freedom means freedom for everyone" was his line as I remember. It wouldn't shock me if he went all the way at some point. He's gotten pretty outspoken lately, in case you haven't noticed.

Thanks for everything today. See you next week.


San Francisco: Back tracking on campaign promises on military trials, DADT and transparency all seem to me to be moves made to appease the Right in preparation of moving healthcare reform through. But realistically how much support can President Obama count on from the "Party of No" when it seems like they are less concerned with saying no to ideas based on merit rather than the party affiliation of the person who presented the idea? And why is the voting public not more morally outraged about this? Shouldn't we be demanding that promises made be kept, and that our public officials actually act according to our best interests and not their party affiliation?

Ana Marie Cox: Ha-ha, you sound like someone who lives in San Francisco!

More seriously, I assume you also believe that the voting public should be "morally outraged" by OBAMA not keeping his promises, and acting in our best interests, right? Or does he get a "health care reform free pass"? I don't think he should, as it encourages the exact kind of thinking you're criticizing among Rs. But I am pretty idealistic about these things, hence my constant state of disappointment.


Philadelphia: Do either of you believe that there is "one most qualified person" to replace Souter? Come on, there has to be atleat a dozen or more and Sotomayor is definitely one of them.

Ana Marie Cox: I am not up enough on the nation's judges to say for sure that Sotomayor is even among the dozen most qualified BUT, having paid attention to other SCOTUS nominees, she sure seems to meet the level of qualifications as any of her colleagues.

And I don't think serious critics of her are questioning her qualifications. Her "temperament," sure, and whether or not her uterus stays in one place like it should but not her qualifications.


New York, NY: Why has the media neglected to ask Obama how he feels about his support of a filibuster against the Alito nomination? His calls to avoid "politics of old" during his weekly radio address ring very hollow to me unless he is willing to apologize for his position on Alito.

Ana Marie Cox: I imagine this will be a topic at today's briefing.

But I don't think his calls to avoid "the politics of old" ring HOLLOW, they just ring self-serving. I think we've simply left the era when judges can be confirmed without paying attention to ideology. I don't think that's such a bad thing, however, and I sort of wish the Dems would just admit it and move on.


Capitol Hill: Friend in town from NY was shocked no fun places to hang out on Capitol Hill to spot the powerful. Is there someplace I'm overlooking?

Ana Marie Cox: Well, there are fun places to hang out (Wonderland Ballroom, Bar Pilar, Pharmacy Bar, etc) and there are places to spot the powerful (Charlie Palmer Steak, The Palm, Capital Grille, Johnny's on the Half Shell). New York has some places that are both, it's just that in DC you really have to choose...


Chattanooga, Tenn.: Tucker, your disdain for Franken apparently knows no bounds. Aside from ideology, I'm curious as to why?

Tucker Carlson: It's distain mixed with admiration. He's a talented guy who's had an unusually interesting career. Running for senate's a bold move, and I definitely give him credit for toughness. But he's also obsessive and hard to deal with personally, and really, really self-righteous. You'll see what I mean when he takes office.


Baltimore: Bailing out GM and Chrysler: I think you have to remember that the Bush administration initiated the GM bailout in the middle of what seemed to be an international economic meltdown in the late Summer of '08. With matters seemingly so perilous, I believe the Bush administration was right (hard for this Democrat to say), because so much of economic stability depends on public confidence. Now the Obama administration is learning the true meaning of that old British saying, "In for a penny, in for a pound." (Or in this case, "In for $50 billion, in for $500 billion.")

Ana Marie Cox: I think this is explanation that the original questioner dismissed as the "well, people were in a greater state of panic back then" meme that he "did not buy."

I can believe there's something to that "meme," as you explain here, but I do wonder if we'd be better off if Bush had found a way to let GM/Chrysler down easy -- maybe a bankruptcy by any other name? The problem seems to be that people don't trust the idea of a structured bankruptcy, not that a bailout was itself a superior solution.


Ana Marie Cox: I don't want to get in the way of Tucker's dialog with our shared audience at the moment, mostly because I respect Tucker's personal views on abortion and know that his comments about Tiller are come to honestly -- if someone believes that abortion is murder, someone like Tiller would necessarily seem reprehensible. There are no good parallels, but I think there's weight to the one a lot of young pro-life conservatives I know use: Would you ask an abolitionist to think more charitably about a slaveowner? You can ask a pro-life person to believe in the essential humanity of someone like Tiller, you can expect a pro-life person to honor Tiller's "right to live," but you can't reasonably expect any kind of sympathy.

Nothing, however, justifies a citizen's cold-blooded murder of someone he disagrees with, no matter what level of moral outrage that disagreement reaches. And Tiller's murder -- at his church, in front of friends and family -- is itself such a moral outrage that I think it's set back the pro-life movement at least several years, if not a decade.

I know I don't feel a whole lot of sympathy for them right now.

Oh, and on that cheerful note! Have a good week. Be well, be grateful, be safe.


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