Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox: On Franken, Sanford, Muffins, Milbank and More

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Thursday, July 2, 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 will be online Thursday, July 2 at noon ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.


Ana Marie Cox: Greetings, all, Tucker. I will take your questions about Michael Jackson now. Oh, wait, OTHER STUFF HAPPENED? Gah.


Surf City, NC: The House of Representatives apparently had a moment of silence for Michael Jackson, the famous freak. What business is it of the House to spend time on the vastly overrated Jackson? Was the rise of Jackson a sign of the spiraling decadence of the American people?

Tucker Carlson: I'd say yes, of course, to your last question, except that I remember what happened when Diana died 12 years ago. Then-vice president Al Gore cleared his schedule to go to the British embassy, where he gushed about how she would be remembered as the "people's princess." Then the US Senate designated a "Day of Recognition" to honor her memory. I remember feeling like I was going to be sick, and that nobody else in the entire world agreed with me.

America's still decadent, but things have improved. Yes, CNN is devoting its entire schedule to worshipful retrospectives and breathless "updates" on Jackson, but at least a few people are wondering publicly if this isn't all a little out of proportion for a man who, among other things, slept with children. There's hope.

Happy Thursday by the way.


White Stone, VA: How did the words "socialist" and "fascist" become epithets that are to be avoided in polite discussion? It seems to me that these are legitimate words and that debate, speech, and thought are facilitated by their use.

Tucker Carlson: I've used them myself in my weaker moments, so I don't want to get too sanctimonious about it, but I think in general it's best to avoid words with historical baggage that heavy. It's hard to hear those words without thinking of the Soviets or the Nazis, and those are almost never fair comparisons to anything that happens in the United States, no matter how annoying.

Ana Marie Cox: Tucker speaks the truth. "Socialist" and "fascist" should be used to describe things that are ACTUALLY socialist or fascist.

I am, however, in favor of describing stupid ideas as "gay."


They should probably be called "DOMA."


Saint Paul, Minn.: Hi Tucker and Ana -- Thanks for taking questions today. My understanding is that Pres. Obama, if he wanted to, could suspend the discharge of personnel under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I thought I heard press secretary Robert Gibbs in an interview say that he is choosing not to get involved at this stage because to do so necessarily antagonize senior military who of course don't not favor repeal. What a big disappointment... shades of Clinton in 1993 knuckling under which resulted in the ridiculous policy we have now. Why do you think Obama, willing to go for big moves on everything else, is so risk averse when it comes to doing something about this issue?

Ana Marie Cox: I'm not sure Obama is actually willing to "go big" on anything. His apparent willingness to give away "the public option" on health care suggests a timidity that is disappointing, to say the least. Tragic, to say the most -- especially if you don't have health care.

And I don't think Gibbs said that about the president's unwillingness to antagonize the military -- but it is something I've heard. And it's crazy. He's the commander in chief. The boss. They do what he says or they get fired.

And I'll say it every time I get a chance: Every day that DADT is in place, this country is less safe than it could be.

Tucker Carlson: I have no idea if the country is less safe or not. But Obama certainly been a coward on the subject. Why isn't the Human Rights Campaign protesting outside the White House?


Raleigh NC: On a scale from 1-10, how do you rate the weirdness of Gov. Sanford's courtship of Evita via press conference?

Tucker Carlson: To paraphrase from Spinal Tap, that one went to 11.

Ana Marie Cox: It was weird and WEIRDLY COMPELLING. The guy has a future on tv. Has obviously already starred in "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here."


Long Island, N.Y.: Tucker

Now that he's now Sen. Franken, can you share with the readers the background for your animosity towards him?

You've basically say he'll be the most disliked member of the Senate - is it about his books or is it his personality (from what I saw during the campaign, he was somewhat restrained when compared to his radio/TV persona).

Did he take your favorite muffin from a green room catering table?

Tucker Carlson: He did in fact take my favorite muffin from the green room -- the last remaining chocolate chip in fact -- and what's worse, he ate it slowly in front of me. That is something I can never forgive.

Ana Marie Cox: I would happily give Tucker the muffin off my back.

He probably shouldn't eat it tho.


Mount Ranier, Wash.: Tucker, baby - you were spot on when you predicted that Al Franken would do everything in his power to get what he really wants. But your tip about Senate Dems being apprehensive about aligning themselves with his obnoxious, smarmy image....don't you think he'll be on his best behavior, at least for his first few months here?

Tucker Carlson: Probably. And I may be completely wrong. Campaigning changes people, and maybe Franken is a different person after the last couple of years.

But I doubt it. He's tough and pretty smart, but he doesn't work well with others. I predict friction.


Hilton Head Island, S.C.: I lived in The Netherlands and Ireland during the Lewinsky scandal and therefore it so neat to see the difference is how the coverage. The reporters could barely keep from laughing at what Puritians we all are...

Hypothetical situation: A politician spends five days with his mistress or he spends five days with a corporate lobbyist, which gets more press attention and calls for resignation?

Ana Marie Cox: It would depend on whether the mistress WAS a lobbyist.

Tucker Carlson: Laugh if you want, but that actually happens.


Washington, DC: I must be in the slow group, but I really don't know why I should care that the govenor of SC had an affair. What am I missing? Isn't this between him and his wife (who, btw, seems to have it together)?

Tucker Carlson: It isn't our business. And if Sanford had merely said that -- rather than giving a press conference that will haunt his boys on YouTube for the rest of their lives -- we'd all have been better off.


Orlando, Fla.: Should representatives who have received money from health care industry be allowed to vote on a health care reform bill? Lieberman has said he would vote against it regardless and he has received 1.8 million from the industry, is this almost like insider trading?

Ana Marie Cox: The current solution to this problem is for constituent to vote against representatives who vote according to how his contributers decree.

The other solution is to restrict campaigns to public funding. But Obama sort of put an end to that.

Tucker Carlson: There is no "health care industry." There are thousands of individual companies in the health care business, each with its own interests. And many of them are actually supporting Obama's plan, at least in its current form. So things may not be quite as simple as you imagine.


Cube built by the lowest bidder: After the events of this week, I am now a bitter bureaucrat. I have not been able to accomplish anything - not one single thing - because of the ever-increasing list of regulations, procedures, etc. And I can say with all honesty that it's getting worse. Now, every time I hear an Obama speach about the benefit of public servitude I want to throw something at the TV/radio.

So my questions are somewhat philosophical, but here they are: (1) Does Obama et al., actually know what it's like to work in one of these crazy agencies with all the obnoxious (and counterproductive) rules, and (2) if so, why would he want MORE of the same?

Tucker Carlson: As the son of a former federal employee, who spent many hours around the dinner table hearing stories like yours, I can't imagine. Either he has no idea how federal bureaucracies actually work (a possibility), or he's so blinded by ideology and so in debt to the public sector unions that he doesn't care. Both are depressing.

Let's reduce it to the most basic question of all: You need to send something of critical importance across the country. Do you use the Postal Service or FedEx? I've never met a single person who doesn't know the answer. So why would you want to expand the Postal Service?

Ana Marie Cox: I sympathize with your plight, Sir Cube. However, I am pretty sure FedEx has lots of rules and regulations as well. I don't think the solution to red tape is not to simply turn to private enterprise but to examine the red tape.

That said, I do think that Obama probably doesn't have a very good understanding of how these agencies work. And I think a "take your lawmaker to work" day for bureaucrats would probably do more to smooth out those processes and regulations than any amount of lobbying.


Ogdensville, N.Y.: An thoughts about Bill Clinton now holding a fundraiser for Carolyn Maloney's senatorial campaign? Didn't he do one for Kirsten Gillibrand too? Seems weird, right?

Tucker Carlson: Clinton's famously brilliant about politics, but I've noticed that almost nobody he supports for office actually wins. So I think we can write off Carolyn Maloney right now.

Also, have you ever talked to Carolyn Maloney? Such a total mediocrity it's hard to believe she's in congress. Voters may figure that out once she runs statewide.


Honolulu, Hawaii: What do you think about the Hawaii Legislature considering adding Obama's childhood apartment building, an undistinguished post-war Honolulu high rise, to the National Register of Historic Places?

Tucker Carlson: Pretty amusing. And also in keeping with our disturbing national tendency to confuse presidents with gods.

By the way, be sure to check out the Gerald Ford historic site next time you're in Grand Rapids.


DOMA?: What does that stand for? Dumb Or Mildly Asinine?

Ana Marie Cox: It's the "Defense of Marriage Act." Which is Dumb and Morbidly Asinine. Also does not defend marriage very well. (nb: Sanford.)


Winchester, Ky.: What did you think of the exchange between Helen Thomas and Robert Gibbs over the recent town-hall in Virginia and Nico Pitney?

Personally, it was a nauseating level of absolutist self-righteousness on the part of Helen Thomas.

Ana Marie Cox: I may get struck down for saying this, but I think that exchange (it's at the end this: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Briefing-by-Press-Secretary-Robert-Gibbs-IRS-Commissioner-Doug-Shulman-and-Secretary-of-Education-Arne-Duncan-6-24-09/, starting with "I've got a procedural question.") should put to rest the idea that Helen is some kind of symbol of speaking truth to power. She is, in the end, just another mainstream media reporter. I think her seat in the briefing room could probably be put to better use by, say, the Huffington Post.

Tucker Carlson: Ha! So Helen Thomas is no longer a hero? Will she have to give back all her First Woman awards? Can we stop calling her the Dean of the Washington Press Corps, and pretending she's a reporter rather than a fourth-rate columnist?

I hope so. It's been a long time coming. And it was so easy. All she had to do was criticize the Obama administration.


Springfield, Va.: Your own Howie Kurtz today wrote about the preponderance of minority, female reporters assigned to cover Michelle Obama. Imagine the reporting on Sarah Palin if she were covered by only pro-life, church-going, mothers who live in small towns? Between race-based media assignments, and the Post selling "nonconfrontational" access to its news room, I don't believe anything you print and will be cancelling my subscription. Have a nice 4th of July!

washingtonpost.com: Black Reporters on the Beat of Michelle Obama: Does Race Play a Role in Coverage?

Ana Marie Cox: But what about things we CHAT???

I thought that was an odd article by Howie -- I am pretty sure that the reporters he mentions are not SOLELY covering Michelle. Robin Givhan, for instance, covers FASHION and will probably be writing about every First Lady unlucky enough to fall into her gaze, so matter what color. And more than anything, that the presence of several black women among those who write about Michelle deserves comment says more about how few of them there are in the entire press corps than it does about who covers Michelle.

Again, weird article.

Tucker Carlson: Pretty corrupt, I agree. And the shallow, stupid, fawning coverage of Mrs. Obama reflects that.

But please don't cancel your subscription. Newspapers may be flawed, but without them we'd be in deeper trouble.


Dupont Circle: Has anyone leaked how much it would cost for a guest appearance in a Tucker & Ana Marie live chat? I know they've canceled the dinner at Weymouth's house but I was starting to think this pay-for-access stuff had potential.

Tucker Carlson: I never quote prices -- my agent keeps the numbers -- but there's no doubt we're available.


But I'm just not sure what you want is worth anything.


Sterling, Va.: Did either of you read John Bolton's article (Iran's Ticking Time Bomb) in today's post? Doesn't it make you all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that the Bush/Cheney neo-con, chicken-hawk, war-mongers are still flapping their lips like they know what they are talking about?

IMO, Diplomacy is a word that Mr. Bolton knows nothing about.

Anybody going to Congressional? Have a safe 4th.

Ana Marie Cox: I would feel better about that op-ed if I knew that he paid the Post to run it.


Wilton, Conn.: Thanks for the lively discussion. What is it with the Republican Party and Sarah Palin? All the chatter and noise reminds me of a food fight in a high school cafeteria.

Tucker Carlson: More like a gunfight in a high school cafeteria. It's awful for Republicans, and a reflection of just how at sea the party is. The sad thing is, this is precisely the moment when the country most needs a vigorous, principled opposition. Five years from now, we're all going to regret not having one, trust me.


RE: Presigods: See also: everything in D.C. named after Ronald Reagan. Blech.

Tucker Carlson: And the worst part is, some of those buildings (National Airport, for instance) were named after him while he was still alive.

It ought to be illegal to use public finds to name anything after a politician till 100 years after he dies.

Ana Marie Cox: Maybe we just shouldn't name stuff after politicians. I'm also for keeping them off my money.

Make it more like what we have on stamps -- that way it could even be collectible! Er, like it is now...


manhattan, ks: This question is for Tucker. If you want to send a postcard from Honolulu to Fargo, do you use the USPS or Federal Express?

Tucker Carlson: The post office. Because I don't really care about postcards.

But when I'm sending contracts, or documents to get a new passport, I pay the extra $15 bucks and go with a real company. It's worth it.


Sanford: It isn't a problem for a public official to have an affair. That is between the official and their spouse. However, when the official spends public money on the affair (embezzlement?), lies about it (perjury?) and tries to hide the evidence (obstructing justice?) it becomes a problem.

Despite what little reason we have for it, we are supposed to have faith and trust in our public officials. It's one thing to believe that we shouldn't trust them. It's another to be beaten over the head with proof that we shouldn't trust them. That's when they need to leave office--when they've so abused the public trust that we no longer believe that the person is even attempting to act in the public good ("Calling Mr. Blogojavich...your table is ready.")

Ana Marie Cox: Agreed. But I do think the coverage of most affairs tends to focus on the PG-13 aspects rather than the more fundamental (and important) issue of public trust.

That said, I've been trying to come up with a scenario in which a politician could have an affair and I'd be okay with it. If he doesn't use government money? Would he need to provide receipts?


Evanston, Ill.: Hey Ana and Tucker, I read Dana Milbank all the time so I am somewhat biased. He was an extremely dogged critic of the Bush administration and called them out frequently. However, whenever he writes a piece critical of Obama and company the left-wing blogosphere pretends like he is some sort of right-wing hit man. Their critique rings very hollow when they only object to criticism of their own side. The right-wing has the exact inverse relationship with Milbank.

Ana Marie Cox: Some of the criticism of Dana did devolve into "he's a right-wing hack," but I think the actual problem with Dana is that he's just kind of a hack. I mean that in the most complementary way possible, truly: He is a prolific and entertaining writer, but I can not detect an iota of an ideological core. I might like his writing better if I could.

He's very funny, and smart. I just never get the feeling that he actually cares about anything beyond getting some laughs -- usually mean ones -- out of it.

And my pot is really more of a charcoal color, not especially black.


New York: I don't understand the issue about Sanford's affair. Am I the only one more outraged that he left his state with no one in charge for days?

Tucker Carlson: I love South Carolina. Charming state, nice people. But I wish we'd stop pretending that Sanford's trip somehow endangered the state. What could possibly happen there over a span of five days that would desperately require his leadership? I'll bet South Carolina could go a year a or more without a governor and nobody would really notice. Might even improve the place.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.


Missoula, Montana: Cox: the correct usage is "ghey," not "gay."

Peace out, sister.

Ana Marie Cox: Thanks so much for the correction. Tangentially related: I saw a fantastic lecture this week on internet authenticity (yeah yeah) that included a lesson on the etymology of "Meh." I had always wondered where it got the "M" from and it turns out from a Melrose Place chatroom, which gives me more respect for Melrose Place fans than I have ever had for the show.

And with that, goodbye all. Goodbye, Tucker. Thank you call for coming and as usual I'm sorry we didn't get to more questions.

The customary tip is 20%.


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