Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

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Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, August 31, 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. 31 at noon ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

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Ana Marie Cox: Greetings from a place that is not in Maine, sigh. Thanks for coming -- hey there, Tucker, long time no see... still no see -- anyway, let's get on with it.

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Pittsburgh: With all the well-deserved bipartisan encomiums heaped upon Sen. Ted Kennedy following his death, re his effectiveness as a veteran legislator, I wonder if those don't constitute a compelling argument AGAINST term-limits (besides re-election, of course).

No lawmaker -- regardless of political persuasion -- could acquire nearly such depth and strength of skills and expertise if confined to a comparatively brief tenure in a legislature, don't you think?

Tucker Carlson: I didn't agree with much that Kennedy did, but I agree with this point completely: He was effective because he understood how laws are made. That's more difficult than most people imagine -- so difficult it usually takes decades to master. So, yes, his career is the best possible argument against term limits. Also, people ought to be able to vote for whomever they want.

Ana Marie Cox: I think we should celebrate those times when Tucker, the questioner, and I all agree with some kind of special sound. Raspberry? The tooting of one's own horn?

In any case, make that sound now.

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Columbus, Ohio: Would the late Sen. Kennedy's political career have crashed if his major transgressions had occurred if the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet had existed?

Tucker Carlson: It's hard to see how his lies after Chappaquiddick could have held up in the age of the Internet. I suspect he would have been hounded by bloggers until he told the truth, after which it would have been a tough reelection campaign.

Ana Marie Cox: I think most politicians of the old school would find it difficult to run in an atmosphere like today's. Kennedy perhaps more than others.

I am not altogether sure that this is a good thing.

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Alexandria, Va.: I'd love to hear from both of you: Why, oh why, does Dick Cheney get so much airtime and print space every time they roll him out to grunt his utterances? We've heard it all before, ad nauseum. This like trotting out Charles Manson once a year to hear him demonstrate his degenerative psychobabble.

'What if they gave a press conference, and nobody came?'

Tucker Carlson: First of all, the Manson interview would be compelling as hell. I'll bet you twenty bucks you'd watch it.

Second, Cheney is one of the relatively few true experts on national security issues, agree with him or not. At a time when Obama and his allies have virtually every available megaphone (the White House, Congress, 95 percent of the press) I don't think it's bad to hear an occasional divergent view.

Ana Marie Cox: Because, uhm, yeah, there's no one on the national scene making that divergent view...COUGHGLENNBECKLIMBAUGHFOXNEWSCOUGH

Of course, the real problem isn't WHO is making the case, it's the CASE. Or, rather, the lack of one. The CIA report does not "prove" that torture works. It proves that we did in fact torture people. And that eventually some of them talked. There's no control group, really. There's not even a way to know that all of confessions were true.

And, in any case, it's simply wrong to torture people. It just is.

(My friend Jason had a good post last week on how Cheney's semantically wrestled the media to the ground on this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/26/cheney-sets-semantic-trap_n_269330.html)

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Kingston, Ontario: Question for Mr. Carlson: in view of Dick Cheney's Fox interview, can we now say for certain that conservatives don't believe in the rule of law? If so, will he explain how this can be reconciled with the vision of the Founding Fathers? If not, will he publicly reject Cheney's statements?

Tucker Carlson: Canada had Founding Fathers? I had no idea. Sorry.

Ana Marie Cox: I'm guessing that means "no."

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Dallas: If Sen. Kennedy was the People's Senator, is the GOP the Corporate party?

Tucker Carlson: Used to be. This time around, rich people voted for Obama.

Ana Marie Cox: PEOPLE voted for Obama.

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NYC: Matt Taibbi: yay or nay?

Tucker Carlson: What a phony.

Ana Marie Cox: Not a fan but I applaud his ability to make me look like a sober and judicious practitioner of journalism.

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Washington, D.C.: Tucker, back in 2004 you lambasted Howard Dean for charging that the Bush administration changed terror threat levels for political purposes (see quotes below). Would you care to revisit those comments in light of Tom Ridge's recent claims?

CARLSON: Eight months after his Iowa meltdown, it look looks like this time, the former Vermont governor needs to check his dosage. Last night, Dean took the airwaves to charge once again that the Bush administration is hyping the terror threat for political gain, as if al Qaeda is merely an invention of Karl Rove. --------- CARLSON: Actually, he's alleging a poisonous conspiracy. He's alleged that the United States government is hyping the terror threat merely to win an election. Now, if they -- if the Bush administration is actually doing that, I can promise you, I will devote all my energy to defeating them, because that's evil. That's wrong.

Tucker Carlson: Which of Ridge's claims? In his book he says he once "wondered" if politics played a role in Ashcroft and Rumsfeld's desire to raise the threat level. Now, in an interview with a Pennsylvania newspaper, he says definitively that he was never pressured to change the threat level. And in any case, the threat level didn't change.

None of this alters my view of what Howard Dean said five years ago. It was reckless, entirely unsupported by evidence and wholly designed to whip the Bush-haters into a frenzy for political gain.

Happy Monday!

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Toronto: I see that Remote Area Medical recently spent eight days and treated thousands of people for free at a clinic in the middle of Los Angeles. Isn't that kind of embarrassing? Is the United States a Third World country?

Tucker Carlson: Pretty amusing, coming from a place where dogsleds qualify as mass transit. Get back to me when you've established a culture up there.

Ana Marie Cox: Come now, Tucker -- Toronto is as sophisticated as New York. Or.... uhm....Or maybe Pittsburg. In any case, it's lovely city and I'd rather get sick there than anyplace in the U.S. where you can catch a cab on every corner.

And yes, it's embarrassing.

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Alexandria, Va.: Tucker: Do you genuinely believe that it is an effective tactic to insult the country of the questioner when you are unable to answer a question without conceding error?

Tucker Carlson: If it's Canada, yes.

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Laurel, Md.: Along the lines of the first question about what made Teddy so effective... Didn't his wealth and shoe-in status allow him to actually do the things a Senator is supposed to, instead of spending half his work day hustling for money?

Wouldn't it improve the Senate if they all could?

Ana Marie Cox: Heck, why don't we just make the office hereditary!

Tucker Carlson: In Massachusetts, we always have.

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Re: Kingston, ON: Wow, Tucker. You got asked a real question and all you could do was make a Canada joke. There are Americans living in Canada, you know. Why don't you toss in something about how awful and evil Jon Stewart is while you're at it.

Anyway, about the question. Do you agree with Dick Cheney that the law is not binding on the Executive and its CIA designates?

Tucker Carlson: Mocking Canada is its own reward. You'll never get me to feel guilty about it.

As for your plea that I take your country seriously, no chance. As far as I'm concerned it'll always be the Great Children's Table to the north, a place better snowmobiled in than heard from. Sorry.

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Chicago: Tucker, did you have a background in debating? Should pundits be required to? I noticed you're very good at shifting the essence of a question to a broader or narrower point where your response is stronger. While it makes me kind of angry, I also admire the deftness. I'd watch more pundits if they were better at this instead of just speaking loudly and not letting the other person speak.

Tucker Carlson: I'm not sure if this is a compliment or an attack, or both. Yes, in high school I did a lot of extemporaneous debate, which is about as close to the experience of hosting a cable news show as you can get without an AFTRA card. Total fun. You're right that I often try to rephrase the question in a way that makes its real point clearer. I think this makes the conversation more direct and honest, though I also know there are times when I've unintentionally mischaracterized what someone was trying to say, and for that I apologize.

Ana Marie Cox: I would sort of like it if pundits were "required" to know what the frak they're talking about. Then maybe we can award points for style.

As for Tucker in particular, I've always known he was a master debater.

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Dallas, Tex.: Sen. Kennedy, "To them I say: I recognize my own shortcomings -- the faults in the conduct of my private life. I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them." I do not remember any such acknowledgement for any of the Bush/Cheney failings, and Tucker, are there any acknowledgements of your failings?

Tucker Carlson: Good for Sen. Kennedy.

As for my own failings, they're so obvious I hardly need to call more attention to them. But if you're sincerely asking, the answer is that I'm acutely aware and work on them every day, usually to little effect.

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Boston: So have we seen the last of the powerful, long standing, high profile senators in Congress (on either side of the aisle)? If so, why?

Ana Marie Cox: God, I hope not. As oppressive as our mediasphere is, I do think some characters slip through, and sometimes they even get to stay. I have high hopes for the aforementioned Jim Webb (whose side, as you know, you'll want to be on when the Senate goes Thunderdome), and Claire McCaskill. And of all of Minnesota's senators, Amy Klobuchar seems the most representative of her actual state, which I hope means she'll stick around for awhile too.

I'm less familiar with who may be endearing and/or feisty on the other side of the aisle. Tho, for comedy's sake, I hope Michelle Bachmann never, never, never goes away. (I figure that one Klobuchar offsets a half a wit.)

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Chicago: Do either of you see any problem in Liz Cheney appearing everywhere as a full-time pundit critic of the Obama administration? If Chelsea Clinton had done this in 2000, would the right have been furious?

Ana Marie Cox: Again, I don't particularly care who the right drags up to repeat their talking points. In fact, it might be better for us all -- or at least more honest and aesthetically pleasing -- if they just hired actors to do it. (And Jake Gyllenhall might actually be able to sell me on privatizing social security. At least I'd let him try.)

The problem is the lack of substance in what the person is saying, not the lack of substance to the person.

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Richmond, Va.: Ana Marie, according to Virginia gubernatorial Republican hopeful Bob McDonnell, you should not be able to seek a rewarding career simply because you're a woman. Also, you're causing the downfall of all that is holy. Please tell me this will lose the election for him!

washingtonpost.com: '89 Thesis A Different Side of McDonnell

Ana Marie Cox: I hate to admit it but I think it might IMPROVE his chances... My favorite part of the Webb-Allen race was when Allen, desperate to change the subject from his racism, accused Webb of being sexist, and wanting to drag Virginia back to the nineteenth century. Which, of course, would totally fine with many Virginians.

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Anonymous: Does the Obama administration have any plan (except to tax the wealthy) to balance the federal budget deficit (and national debt) over time and to pay for a health-care plan (which I favor but with cost restraints)? Please explain.

Tucker Carlson: They (like every administration) have two choices: Tax the most productive members of society, or print more money. Every other option is propaganda.

Have a great week.

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Tucker and Canada: There is an ongoing pattern of Tucker ignoring questions from Canada and simply making cute remarks. Is he Canada-phobic or just avoiding having to think of answers?

Ana Marie Cox: Yes, Tucker, where did Canada touch you?

And on that note -- and with the friendly reminder that my father lives in Winnipeg -- I thank you, the audience, for showing up and asking such great questions, even if most of you are Canadian. And I thank Tucker for his good humor and gracious use of his time.

See you next week.

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