Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox: Birthers, Canada, Insurance, More

Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, August 3, 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 Media. They were online Monday, Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.


Toronto: I'm been struck lately by how easy it is to fool Americans: the birther movement, Obama planning to euthanize seniors, the gummint getting between patients and their doctors (as if insurance industry bureaucrats don't already do that), not realizing that Medicare is a government program, widespread ignorance about health care in other industrialized countries and so on. Is the potential failure to reform the health care system really a failure of the education system?

Tucker Carlson: Dear Toronto,

Sounds like you're paying disturbingly close attention to American politics. Here it is the only month of the year when you don't have to snowshoe to work, but instead of getting outside and enjoying the mosquitos, you're glued to MSNBC. Please get a life and stop stalking us.

Happy Monday by the way.


New York City: Ana,

Can MSNBC give you a show simulcasting you tweeting?

Ana Marie Cox: That would be kind of ideal, though not as interesting as the show where you watch Ed Shultz's paint dry.

Sorry I'm late to the party. Hope everyone was well entertained by Tucker in the five minutes it took me to get from Union Station to a place that did not have tourists in it.


Santa Monica, Calif.: Tucker and Ana,

Why don't more people focus on the ridiculous bonuses Wall Street is receiving currently?

Ten percent of Americans don't have jobs, and these speculators made tremendous capital gains due to zero interest loans from taxpayers.

Tucker Carlson: Yet another reason the bailout was one of the dumbest things any administration has ever done.

Ana Marie Cox: As far as I know, people are paying attention. Someone n Santa Monica just asked me about them! The question is whether people blame Wall Street for the bonuses, in which case, uhm, nothing! Or if they truly think the bailout is itself the cause of the bonuses, in which case I swear we already elected a socialist so I don't know what...


Chicago: Tucker,

True or False: Sarah Palin is the knuckleballer of American contemporary politics.


Tucker Carlson: I'm not big on baseball metaphors, but since you started it, I see her more as Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Ana Marie Cox: But have you seen her stiletto-heel boots? Yowsa.


Ana Marie Cox: I just want to say that I encourage the involvement of our neighbors to the North in American political discussions. (HI DAD!)


Washington, DC: The whole celebrity journalist thing sort of fascinates me. How often do you get approached by fans (or people who don't like you, but still read/watch you)? Do you sign autographs? Do people try and draw you into policy conversations to explain why you're wrong about something? Do you mostly wish people would leave you alone and go back to hassling the Real World kids?

Ana Marie Cox: I assume this question is for Tucker but I do appreciate him taking the time to explain to me why I am wrong about things!

Tucker Carlson: It's a huge problem. In fact I was complaining about it just this morning to one of my servants (the man who dresses me, I think), who made an excellent point: When the crowds of autograph seekers get too thick -- preventing me, say, from entering the "celebrities only" entrance of my club -- why not use my gold-tipped cane to beat them back? I can't imagine why I hadn't thought of it before, but I'm glad he did.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: Why so snotty to Toronto when they pose such a fair question? Milbank has already been appointed Snark Czar.

Tucker Carlson: Not snotty. Stern, yet compassionate. That's how I always interact with Canada. A lot of Americans think they're being nice when they indulge Canadians, listening patiently to their views on politics and other complicated adult subjects. Personally I think that's cruel. Far better to be firm and direct, the way you would be with a five-year-old who smears catsup on the wall: No, that's not art; please clean it up. They'll thank you for it in the end.


Read My Lips: During the campaign (and after he was sworn in), I cringed every time Barack Obama pledged that people making less than $250,000 wouldn't see their taxes increase at all. Now Geithner and Summers are saying "not so fast...we may need middle class tax hikes."

If they do raise taxes on the middle class, will this be as big an issue for Obama as it was for Bush Sr.? Or will the media support what will most likely be the administration's "we didn't know it would be this bad" meme?

Tucker Carlson: Will the press give Obama a pass if he raises taxes more than he said he would? Let's see. Would the press give him a pass if, despite running an entire campaign on withdrawing American troops from Iraq, he didn't actually do it? What if he escalated the war in Afghanistan for no clear reason? Or went back on his promise to support campaign finance reform by not taking federal matching funds? Would you the press give him a pass then? You see the point.

Of course the media will roll over for him. That's what we do.

Ana Marie Cox: Careful with that "we," Tucker! I mean, I'm rolling over for him like Harry Reid and an insurance lobbyist, but you are certainly not.

And by that I mean I prepared to accept the proposition that higher taxes may, in fact, be the proper solution to a crisis that we are still discovering the complete contours of. Everyone knows that And, clearly, the economic crisis is in its last throes.

In all seriousness: I LOVE the Iraq/bailout metaphor, but I really want to see the memos and papers that outline so precisely what's happening now in the financial sector the way so many experts described what would happen in Iraq. Where are they? Who's the Thomas Ricks of this story?


Marriottsville, Md.: Are we ever going to stop the government's role (by way of lobbyist) in preserving high-margin business models in the face change? Where is it writ that because your business model could generate high profit margins in the past, you are entitled to such profits in perpetuity? See the recording industry, the wireless industry, Wall Street, the health-insurance industry, etc.

Tucker Carlson: I'd love to hear an explanation of why government ought to be involved in regulating any private-sector company's profits, either to preserve them or limit them.

Ana Marie Cox: Well, the EXISTENCE of government sort of gets them "involved" in regulating profits (ask, uhm, anyone, right?), so I guess my argument is that I am FOR the existence of government; life otherwise being nasty, brutish, and short.

To the questioner, however, I will say that the approach of the insurance company lobbyists is sort of refreshingly direct! Not even the recording industry just said, "WE SHOULD MAKE WHAT WE USED TO."

Now feel like the solution to all these things is "Medster."


Seattle: So, Tucker, then staving off a second Great Depression was a BAD thing?

Tucker Carlson: If you could prove that Obama's bailout prevented another depression, I'd be for it -- just as, if you could show that the invasion of Iraq kept America from being attacked again, I would have supported it. But you can't, in either case. What we do know is that the bailout was tremendously expensive and unfair, using tax dollars to help certain favored groups over others. So if it's a choice between doing something that's clearly wrong but possibly helpful, and doing nothing at all, I'll always choose the latter.

Ana Marie Cox: I renew my plea for someone who can show me the "OH NOES" papers and reports that are to the bailout what the reports Ricks cites in "Fiasco" are to Iraq.


San Diego: What political capital can the GOP gain by supporting Big Insurance? Insurance companies are hated more bankers and lawyers.

Ana Marie Cox: Top political donors to Congressional races, plus Dem/GOP ratio.

1Lawyers/Law Firms $11,727,275 85%/15%

2Retired $7,046,58656%/44%

3Health Professionals $6,229,50463%/37%

4Real Estate $5,278,04364%/36%

5Securities/Invest $4,717,56775%/25%

6Lobbyists $4,418,68270%/30%

7Bldg Trade Unions $3,994,72090%/10%

8Insurance $3,933,75757%/43%

10Misc Finance $2,598,44461%/38%

11Business Services $2,546,34572%/28%

They're all pretty close, but I can't help but noticed what one of the closest splits is. Coincidence? (from http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/mems.php)

Tucker Carlson: Democrats get 85 percent of the money lawyers give? Wow. Worse than I realized. And pretty embarrassing.


government run health care: On Friday, NY Democrat Representative, Anthony Weiner introduced an ammendment to get the US government out of the government-administered/government-run health care. The amendment came in the markup of the House Energy and Commerce committee hearings.

He had a nice chart to compare with the byzantine, multi-box, multi-colored chart that the GOP has been pushing.

He offered the members of the committee, where the GOP regularly spouts off agains "government run" health care, the opportunity to vote their strongly held philosophical beliefs -- to vote the government out of health care by eliminating Medicare.

His ammendment failed, 44 to zero.

My question -- what is needed to get rid of the hypocrisy where Congress claims "against government run health care" but "for Medicare"?

And a follow-up -- what percentage of the US population enrolled in Medicare do you estimate is unaware that their Medicare is a government-run health care program?

The YouTube can be seen here:

Ana Marie Cox: That was a nice stunt, but, clearly, not super-effective and I can't honestly believe anyone thought it would be. But I'm sure it makes some people feel really righteous about their beliefs! Which is the point of politics, right?


Another Obama pass: What about the "pass" given to Obama on repealing DADT?

Ana Marie Cox: Every day our military enforces DADT, we are less safe than we could -- and should -- be.


Salinas, Calif.: It was hard not to notice that Michele Malkin landed two high profile network spots this past week (other than her usual contribution to the alternate reality that is Fox News): an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show and a chair at George Stephanopoulos's Round Table to coincide with the release of her latest book (which shall remain unnamed).

Up to this point, Malkin has been to rational political discourse as car bombs are to Baghdad. So, I'm a little curious as to why, all of a sudden, a commentator from the extreme fringe gets several big time media looks right out of the blue. Exactly what kind of traction are publishers able to bring to bear in getting their pundit clients placed on network "news" programs?

I could see a cross-promotional thing between her corporate publisher and a sister media outlet, but not both NBC AND ABC. Baring that, it's hard to believe that Lauer and Stephanopoulos would be clueless as to what Malkin brings to the dance (despite Lauer's eye-rolling). What's your take? M.M. as the new ratings swizzle stick?

Ana Marie Cox: As an opinionator myself, it's difficult for me to begrudge a gig to anyone who also makes a living talking about what other people have said. And, as long as we're talking about low bars, Michelle Malkin is no Glenn Beck. She's smaller, for one thing. And she's better looking. All in all, less likely to start (and win) a wrestling match with Matt Lauer, although more people would watch that than one between him and Glenn Beck.

And I believe I've answered the question.

HAPPY MONDAY, all. It's a beautiful day here in the nation's capital. Hope everyone is well.


Atlanta: Seriously? I'd really rather have the insurance company between me and my health care than the government. At least I can leave my job, get a new insurance company, appeal to someone who cares (whoever's paying the premium).

With the government? Who do I appeal to? How do I get them out? How do I change the system?

Certainly, insurance companies aren't ideal, but I don't think the government is the answer.

Tucker Carlson: You can fire your insurance company if you want. Not so with your government. Also, insurance companies don't have guns and the power to use them.

Ana Marie Cox: Rats, Tucker has foiled Rahm's plans to enroll citizens in Medicare by the point of a gun YET AGAIN.


Richmond, Va: Tucker, Something confuses me about modern conservatism. On the one hand they disavow government intervention and regulation on financial issues and things like guns. On the other hand they seem almost pro police state in every other way. Could you explain why there is this disconnect.Thanks for your thoughts.

Tucker Carlson: Not all conservatives are like that, but you've got a point, and it bothers me too. Some of it is a hangover from the late-60s and 70s, when the people throwing bottles at cops (and waving NVA flags) were lefties. There was a conservative reaction against this. Add basic conservative instincts (for order and tidiness, against change for its own sake) and you wound up with general support for the police on the right. Fine. But a police state is another thing, and it seems to be me we ought to be vigilant in guarding against that. More people died at the hands of their own governments in the 20th century than all other causes combined. It's worth being worried about it.


Ashland, Va.: President Obama has been in office a little more than 6 months. To date, I'm disappointed with him. He starts many projects but finishes none of them. We're still in Iraq and now sending more troops to Afghanistan when it seems they don't want us there. Sec. Geithner has indicated there may be a tax increase on the middle class because health care will drive up the deficit.

It seems simple to me -- get out of the Middle East and use that money for health care.

On top of this, he's done nothing about "don't ask/don't tell" -- as Commander in Chief he should be able to order the change, but he doesn't want to.

And, finally, him stepping into the Gates/Crowley mess did more to divide the races than have us all come together.

Quite frankly, he's all talk and he seems to love being on TV or before an audience to get applause. Baring a miracle, I can't see voting for him again in 2012. If the GOP doesn't run a good moderate candidate, I'll just stay home.

Ana Marie Cox: Whoa, that IS simple. Uhm, maybe... a little too simple? MAYBE?

In other news: Every day our military enforces DADT is another day we are less safe than we could be.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: OBAMA'S BAILOUT????? A little revisionist history, eh Tucker? Unless he took office last September and just decided not to tell anyone.

Tucker Carlson: Bush did the first one, and he'll have to live with that legacy (and many others). But it was Obama who torqued it up to 11 with the very piece of legislation he signed. He did it. Sorry.


Maryland Liberal: I'm a liberal, but I have to wonder if the whole "birther" thing is really 1/2 of the Republican party, or are some commentators (Keith, you there?) using a few fringe lunatics to tarnish the whole party?

Ana Marie Cox: I don't think fully half believe that the president is somehow illegitimately there, but I think it's clear that something like half WANT to believe that. (See Andy McCarthy's crazy piece in NRO, which only recently was quite proud to run a prominent anti-birther editorial.)

There's a difference between wishful thinking and actively going out and trying to get someone ... uhm, whatever happens to people who are president who aren't citizens. Then again, I think the activist birthers are tapping into a deeply ugly strain of American thought that the Republican party has, in the past, used to its electoral advantage and they can't get a pass on that.


McLean, VA: Do you think the Obama Administration's strategy of extensive campaigning to get public approval for each of their programs is for the best of the country?

Ana Marie Cox: No, I don't. I am not sure it makes things WORSE, tho arguably his town halls have made "the public option" less popular, which I think is against the best interests of the country as a whole.


Brigham City, Utah: You two are just too cute for words.

Tucker Carlson: Correction: Ana's the cute one, charming and fun to be with. I'm the grouchy, reactionary half, the one who's mean to Canada.

Thanks for making my Monday as always. See you next week.

Ana Marie Cox: I think Tucker worth chucking under the chin, myself. And I support his personal decision to participate in the be-mean-to-Canada industry, though I myself cannot imagine doing so.

And it's because of Tucker this is always fun, but because of you all that it can happen at all. Thanks so much and see you next week.


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