Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox: Pros and Cons of Angry Mobs

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


Toronto: How dumb are Americans anyway?

Tucker Carlson: Another Canadian, back for more. There's a deep masochistic streak north of Buffalo, I've noticed. But I'm not rising to the bait this week, much as you'd probably enjoy it. You'll understanding when you're older.

Happy Tuesday.


Boston: "There are no indications that Death Panels are currently on any legislation moving through Congress." That is a paraphrase of the WP front page on Sunday.

You know, this would have been a good time for the media to explain there really are "Death Panels." They are comprised of insurance underwriters and hospital administrators and they issue their bureaucratic death sentences every day in perfect anonymity.

The system that Palin and other "conservatives" are freaking out over is the one we have in place today. Just read the MD&A at the back of any health insurance company's Annual Report if you don't believe me.

Ana Marie Cox: I believe this is the same joke (or similar) last night; it is no less true this afternoon.


Sorry I'm late guys, has anything happened today?


Town Halls, USA: More of a question for Tucker. Do you think the shouting, and anti-Obama posters are drowning out the protesters message against the health-care bills? It looks like they are starting to, given that there is so much confusion as to what these bills will actually look like.

Tucker Carlson: In other words, are the screamers hurting the principled case against Obama's health care power grab? Probably. And that's exactly why the administration's many lackeys in cable news have been going wall-to-wall with videos of scary-looking protestors -- to make the case that anyone who opposes the plan is either a tool of big business or insane.


@ town halls: Tucker, is Obama a Nazi or a socialist or a commie? Methinks there's a bit of a difference between the various slurs, but then again, what would I know - I merely took history classes as a youngster...

Tucker Carlson: I prefer "charming, talented guy with no relevant life experience for his current job who is totally out of his depth."


DC: Given the angry mob mentality of these health care town hall gatherings, isn't this the reason why our founding fathers didn't trust the public's opinion when it came to important decisions?

Tucker Carlson: Of course. The founders definitely weren't populists.

On the other hand, search your soul and ask yourself an honest question: Did you consider Farrakhan's Million Man March an "angry mob"? What about Vietnam or Iraq war protestors? I'd guess not.

Ana Marie Cox: I just spent a long time answering a very similar question and Tucker has cut straight to the point in his typically elegant way. And while I think his point about what constitutes an "angry mob" is an important discussion to have, these people are in fact angry. And they will tell you that.


Austin, Tex.: Tucker,

Of all of your liberal counterparts through the years, which one is the most fun to have dinner with (excluding Ana of course)?

Tucker Carlson: I've liked and eaten with just about every one of them. But for sheer entertainment value, nobody has or ever will come close to James Carville. It's like going to the best movie you've ever seen, every time. Believe it or not, he's actually a wise person, at least on non-political matters. I still talk to him all the time.


35 year old hockey mom: Can't these town halls be held on weekends or in the evening? I'd love to attend one, unfortunately, I have a job and two kids to bring to various activities.

Tucker Carlson: There ought to be a law.

Actually I've asked myself that very question at dozens of marches/protests/teach-ins/town halls I've covered during business hours over the years: Don't these people have jobs?

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, I've wondered that, too. There must be a reason they sked them like this, right? I don't mind them during the day, I can start drinking earlier.


Silver Spring, Md.: In reading the Constitution, I cannot see where We The People have given the Federal Government the power/authority to manage healthcare or to require citizens to have insurance (note: whether this is a good idea or not is a seperate issue). My question is: Am I missing the article in the constitution? Or have we reached a point where "we can't let the Constitution get in the way of a good idea"? I've seen no debate on this in the MSM.

Tucker Carlson: You haven't, and you won't. Nobody cares. It's depressing.

Ana Marie Cox: You know, the Constitution doesn't say anything about capital punishment but there's a lot people who seem totally fine with the state having that kind of power over life and death.

(Tucker is king of snappy answers today but I'll give it a shot!)


Bethesda: "I prefer 'charming, talented guy with no relevant life experience for his current job who is totally out of his depth.'"

Tucker, a technical glitch apparently reposted a description you wrote sometime between 2001 and last January. Perhaps you could try again? Thanks.

Tucker Carlson: Do not attempt to adjust your screen. What you read is not a misprint, much as it seems like one. History has never repeated itself so quickly.

If you don't believe me, listen to Obama attempt to explain why he is increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

Ana Marie Cox: I just want point out that the best experience for being a political reporter is BEING A POLITICAL REPORTER, which Tucker has done (and does) and he's great at it. I happen to think he's wrong about some things but his long-form writing is consistently well-written, full of finely honed opinions and gimlet-eyed observations.

I just wish he did more of it...

This post contains no sarcasm.


Maryland suburbs: The one frightening thing when I see the town hall protest is it's the angry white mob thing all over again.

It's like the Republican convention, all white, old, predominantly male, and angry. Why are they so angry? Do they literally oppose health care for all or is it the big government debate all over again? I'm liberal and will say if it won't reduce cost they need to go back to the drawing board. However, this country needs intelligent conversation and debate. These folks really set our country back with these closed minded approaches.

Ana Marie Cox: A few things. Lately, I've been in the odd position of defending the town hall protesters (THPs?) -- at least their tactics if not their message. I'm a veteran of street theater protests and while I've never actually been inside one of those giant puppets, but I've certainly marched next to them. All of which is to say democracy can get a little rowdy sometimes and as long as no one's getting hurt and no one's breaking the law then shout away. I can only think of that one example from Florida where things actually got out of hand. Most of the THPs aren't donning stilts, they're just talking really loudly... after they're called on.

However, as a veteran of the street theater/giant puppet school of protesting, I can also assure the current THPs that those tactics don't really work.

Which brings us to the content of what they're saying. On Sunday, Mark Halperin told Howie Kurtz (and me) that he didn't care what the THPs said just HOW they said it, which is precisely backwards. A lot of what they're saying is based on incorrect information and thus not useful to moving the debate forward. There should be some kind of professional career whose job it is to correct that kind of thing but I can't think of what it is.

As for the "white mob" thing: I think a lot of people (not just men or even predominately men to judge by the videos I've seen) are angry about A LOT of things and are using the TH forum to vent frustration over spending, the bailout, and, yes, the fact that we have a black president.

I don't think these people are in fact racist, but to say that race isn't a factor is to ignore figuring out how to make things better.

Sorry for the long answer. If you REALLY want to immerse yourself in this meta discussion, we talked about it on my show last week:


Tucker Carlson: What the hell does their color have to do with anything?


Houston: Thank you for taking questions, and Tucker, you seem to be a reasonable and principled...something.

Anyway, do either of you feel that there is any chance that our country will realize that a health care "overhaul" is necessary, but that it will never please everyone - that in order to make some progress, everyone's going to have some of their sacred cows roughed up a little bit?

Ana Marie Cox: Tucker is reasonable, principled and smokin' hot. There's a reason why do these chats from separate rooms.

And while what you describe is probably what will happen I don't think you can call it "overhaul."

Tucker Carlson: I do these chats from my kitchen in my housecoat, face covered in cold cream and curlers in my hair. That's the real reason Ana and I are separated.

If you're looking for an imperfect system that nobody loves but most people are basically pleased with -- and it sounds like you are -- look no further. We already have that.


Brooklyn: "to require citizens to have insurance"

I guess this person refuses to drive without auto insurance, even though its a REQUIREMENT BY LAW. Do we really value our cars more than our lives?

Tucker Carlson: Just because something is REQUIRED BY LAW, doesn't make it just. Obviously.

But I suspect the reference was to health insurance, which (if Obama gets his way) will soon be mandatory, not car insurance, which already is.


Laurel, Md.: Tucker, I missed last week, but have a suggestion from the question a couple of weeks ago about why nice areas to live and visit tend to be liberal.

Liberalness is correlated with population density, as you can see from this map of Obama and McCain counties.

Nice places that attract lots of people to live or visit need more laws to regulate behavior.

Tucker Carlson: Or maybe nice places tend to draw the rich and entitled, who have no problem using the law to tell other people how to live.


Washington, DC: I don't see why Obama and his fellow Democrats are upset when loads of people show up at these town halls and express their firmly-held opinions -- is that what community organizing is all about?

Oh, wait, I get it -- it's only "community organizing" when they agree with you. When they don't agree -- they're an un-American mob. Sorry about that.

Tucker Carlson: Glad you finally grasped that distinction.

Ana Marie Cox: I'm gonna take quick break and stop defending people's right to disrupt town halls. Because, wow, is there ANYTHING else to talk about? Oh, right: we're talking about THPs because it's FUN TO TALK ABOUT DISRUPTION AT TOWN HALLS. This is what the THPs WANT.

I'm told Claire McCaskill's town hall yesterday went so well (everyone speaking in normal tones of voice) that the TV cameras left halfway through.


Anonymous: Ana Marie Cox: ..."... And while I think his point about what constitutes an "angry mob" is an important discussion to have, these people are in fact angry. And they will tell you that." Why are they angry? What information are they acting on? or is it more important that they are acting on misinformation or hearsay? Are they all being paid and bussed into these townhall meetings in order to disrupt them? Seriously, I just tune them out and read NYT and WASHPO. But I think there is potential violence out there. Whoever is pulling these strings will cause someone to get hurt...it is only a matter of time.

Ana Marie Cox: Sadly, there is "potential violence" in every human interaction, which is why we have laws against acting on it. Silencing people for what they MIGHT do would be all Tom-Cruise-movie-ish but actually scary.

And, more to your point, it would shut down the conversation completely and we'd lose the chance to correct their bad information and perhaps learn something ourselves.

Tucker Carlson: I can't add to this. Instead I plan to laminate it and post it on the fridge.


St. Louis, MO: I find it rather ironic that one of the anti-reform protesters claims to have been beaten up by a member of SEIU at a Town Hall meeting in St. Louis, is now asking for donations to help pay for his medical care, since he recently lost his job and doesn't have health insurance.

Ana Marie Cox: Perfect, if true.

I should add that this WAS NOT Sen. McCaskill's town hall.


Washington, DC: "and, yes, the fact that we have a black president." If people are upset because we have a black president that is racist. If that isn't racist, then what is it? You don't get to define what is and what is not racist? It is what it is.

Tucker Carlson: Is there any real evidence -- anywhere -- that significant numbers of Americans are upset that we have a black president? Until we get reliable poll numbers on this, I think we all ought to agree to stop saying it.


DC: Preventative care is the best way to bring down the costs of health care, and the only way that can happen is if everyone was insured.

The uninsured already are costing taxpayers by showing up in ER rooms every time something goes wrong.

Tucker Carlson: Sounds good. And strictly speaking, probably true. But how do you use public policy to encourage preventative care? It seems to me that pretty soon you're going to have to punish people for eating the wrong things, or having sex with the wrong people. No thanks. I'd rather pay more for my premiums.


Ana Marie Cox: For my last trick I will define racism. WAIT A MINUTE, LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE JUST DID. Thank you, @Washington, DC, I look forward to seeing your whole list.

And Tucker published his answer before I could respond, but the point I was trying to get across about the relationship between angry dissenters and the color of our president, is that having a black guy in the WH is such a MONUMENTAL addition to the history of race in this country, I think it's fair to say that it influences the way people think about him. No one ran after McCain trying to get his birth certificate even tho he was born in Panama (military base). I think there's a reason why some people leap so easily from disliking Obama's policies and to thinking he's not really president, and I don't think it has to do with how tall he is.

Thanks for having us, and have a good week!


Serious Question about Health Care: So I'm barely following the coverage...mostly cause it's boring, but even in what I've read, here's what I can't figure out about the health care debate. What problem are we actually trying to solve? Too many uninsured? Costs? Availability? I honestly can't discern.

Ana Marie Cox: A serious question gets a serious answer: I'm no expert on this either, but I suggest you check out Ezra Klein's blog at this very institution for a fairly accessible (if left-leaning) discussion of the actual policies being discussed. Matt Yglesias at Think Progress is also good. I can't suggest a righty person on this issue as, I find almost all of the conservative "solutions" to health care to be pretty unpersuasive.

And the answer "all of the above."


Arlington, Va.: About this whole "death panel" thing: why is it okay for an insurance company to deny treatment for a woman who needs a liver transplant, but the government "proposal" doing the same thing is not okay? (FYI: IT'S NEVER OKAY!). I know the Republicans are stirring up discontent because in the short term it works to scare senior citizens (and creates great visuals for Faux News). But wouldn't it be better for EVERYONE if the Republicans participated in getting a public option? and I propose that the first recipients of the public option is all government employees, starting with members of Congress (putting their own butts on the line).

Ana Marie Cox: Dr./Sen. Coburn actually added an amendment to the bill that they're hammering away on, thinking to embarrass his colleagues (or scare them) -- but not only did Kennedy and Dodd endorse the idea, they are both already using the system supplied by Congress.


Sterling, Va.: I know it's a bit late, but what were your reactions to the whole "southerners are the problem with the republican party." The post ran two really great op-eds about it by Parker and Jenkins - was just curious as to your thoughts. Happy Tuesday.

washingtonpost.com: Jenkins - Go South, Sen. Voinovich; Parker - A Tip for The GOP: Look Away

Tucker Carlson: Great food. Terrific bass fishing. Nice people. I like the South.

Thanks for everything. See you next week.


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