Balance of Power with Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox

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Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox
Political Journalists
Monday, November 23, 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 will be online Monday, Nov. 23 at noon ET to offer their analysis of the Obama presidency and other goings-on in the world of politics.

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McLean, Va.: So it looks the media has come to an agreement that Obama is struggling/failing. Because he has failed to achieve that easily achievable success...that was going to come where? The economy? Congressional legislation? Iraq? Afghanistan?

I voted for the guy and like him, so I'm biased. But I don't see how he should be doing much better than he is, given the big steaming pile of, um, stuff he was left with.

Your thoughts, oh wise ones?

Tucker Carlson: I don't know that there's agreement on that. Obama is still receiving notably gentle treatment from the media. You haven't yet seen the pile-on the press reserves for leaders it considers wounded and weak.

Your point that Obama inherited a number of tough situations is obviously true. If he hadn't made grandiose claims about his own nearly-supernatural healing powers -- his pledge to end cancer "in our time" is but one example -- it might make sense to blame Bush for the current messes. But he did, so it doesn't.

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Atlanta: I can't think of anything I'd like to ask either of you today. Not a thing. Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving though.

Ana Marie Cox: I feel like that is our fault. But thanks for the happy holiday wishes, and right back at you. Good Monday, everyone!

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Washington, D.C.: Tucker, a few weeks ago you recommended several books that you had recently finished reading. I have now read both recommendations and was not disappointed. Ever considered creating your own verion of Oprah's book club?

Tucker Carlson: Thanks, but I couldn't do it. I always feel like a pompous tool recommending books to people. Can't remember what I suggested here but I'm glad it worked out.

There's nothing worse than getting a bad tip on a book. I'm still mad about that horrible, depressing novel about the Afghan kid who flies kites and gets raped. The Kite Runner, I guess. It was pushed on me, and as you can tell I haven't stopped resenting it.

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Austin, Tex.: I'd be curious to hear from both of you on this one. This weekend the Senate was shockingly open about its attempt to buy off votes from Democratic senators for the health care legislation, most notably Louisiana. How do you think that openness will play with voters?

Tucker Carlson: I guess voters expect it, to the extent they're paying attention at all. But it's pretty ugly nonetheless, and also counterproductive. (This is how we're going to save money from health reform?) Plus, it's dumb politics. Landrieu would have voted with her party in the end anyway. When it matters, she always does. Never has a reputation for independence been less deserved.

Ana Marie Cox: It does seem hard to believe Landreiu would have voted any other way... a part of me applauds the transparency, though. And it's hard to see how "she got us more money" will play BADLY with those that elected her. It's bad for OTHER Dems, however, in that it feeds the image of how the game is played and an anti-Washington fevor that seems to be the real motivation in off-year elections so far.

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Los Angeles, CA: Wasn't Sen. Lindsay Graham's question to Attorney General Eric Holder last Wednesday regarding enemy combatants caught on the battle field being tried in civilian courts disingenuous and political grandstanding? First, the Bush Administration transferred enemy combatants Ali al-Marri and Jose Padilla to the civilian court system where Padilla was indicted and convicted in Miami. Second, KSM and some other 9/11 planners were not caught on "the battlefield." They were captured by the FBI in Pakistan. If Holder is to be criticized it should be for not recalling the al-Marri and Padilla situations (where was his crack staff). Of course neither Bush (who claimed Iraq had WMDs sufficient to invade the country) nor his fellow Republicans declared war or designated battlefields when they controlled Congress. Did I miss the Constitutional Amendment appointing Graham as the person to designate battlefields?

Ana Marie Cox: Grandstanding, maybe, but surely EFFECTIVE grandstanding. And yes, Holder should have had those examples at the tips of his fingers. Frankly, the fact that he didn't makes me doubt his skills as a lawyer and thus the wisdom of his decision to go this route. Competency matters. Congressional hearings aren't JUST theater -- or, rather, they're theater, but they're the only place we have to go, oftentimes, to see how our government explains itself.

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Athens, Ga.: How far is the United States down the road to the Roman collapse of 476? Do you find it interesting how many different studies on the collapse of Rome have been written in the last couple of years?

Tucker Carlson: It's been a long time since I forced myself to read the Gibbon books (more powerful than Ambien, truly) but from what I remember late Rome was almost as decadent and self-involved as the contemporary West. One key difference: civilian control of the military. Things really fell apart when the Praetorian Guard started running things. We're nowhere near that. On the other hand, the Islamists do strike me as Visigoth-like, so maybe we should be worried.

Ana Marie Cox: I just hope that if we do go out that way, there will be LOTS more decadence. And that whoever is in charge looks good naked (thanks, Newsweek!).

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Boston: Tackling health care as the administration's top priority: Big mistake or astronomical mistake?

Tucker Carlson: Objectively, one of the great mistakes in American history.

Politically, it depends entirely on whether the bill passes. If it does, the middle class will be forever -- and, with every year, progressively more -- dependent on the federal government for its basic needs. Obama will have brought more power to Washington than any modern president, and for that will be seen as a hero by his party and many historians.

If the bill fails, Obama stays weak till he leaves office.

Ana Marie Cox: Tackling it: Not a mistake. The way it was tackled? So far, simply big mistake. It'll depend a lot on what we wind up with. I used to think ANY bill would be an improvement, even if it just eliminated pre-existing condition discrimination and modernized medical records. But, for instance, if Stupak amendment stays in... a roll back of 30 years of reproductive rights is not exactly progress.

As for Tucker's analysis: The the middle class would "dependent" on government for "basic needs" -- like health care, I guess? -- only because those basic needs are not being met (or not satisfactorily enough) now.

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Atlanta: Tucker, I'm looking to take a fly fishing trip soon. I know you are an avid fisherman, so any recommended destinations?

Tucker Carlson: So many. If you're trying to distract me from ranting about health care -- and maybe you are - there's no faster way than to ask for fishing recommendations. I'll keep it short, since I'm self-aware enough to know the subject is deadly to most people:

Captiva Island on the west coast of Florida is terrific for snook and baby tarpon in the mangroves this time of year. If you're looking to get cold, you can still catch steelhead on the Deschutes in Oregon about now. Major fun.

But if I had a week off and money to spare, I'd head to Cuba to catch largemouth bass on a fly, one of the most undervalued fishing experiences I think. Google a place called Lake Lebrije. Apparently it's teeming with bass over 10 pounds. Unreal. Tell me if you go. I could listen to fish porn forever.

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I'm still mad about that horrible, depressing novel about the Afghan kid who flies kites and gets raped.: I'm very happy to see you write that, since every single person in my family has tried to get me to read that book for years now. For some reason I sensed that it would just be a bummer, and you've proved me right. Happy about my avoidance.

Tucker Carlson: Don't do it. Seriously. It's dreck.

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If he hadn't made grandiose claims about his own nearly-supernatural healing powers -- his pledge to end cancer "in our time" is but one example -- : Oh come on, he said that was his GOAL. Like Kennedy saying he'd aim to put a man on the moon. Aim high, folks.

Ana Marie Cox: And I don't think Kennedy was saying he, himself, would build a rocket any more that Obama was pledging to put on a lab coat and fire up a Bunsen burner. Which would be pointless anyway since everyone knows he just has to lay on hands.

Tucker Carlson: So I guess the country hasn't been trying hard enough to cure cancer already? We needed Obama to drag us over the finish line? To my assessment of grandiose, add patronizing.

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Farifax, Va.: Tucker,

It appears that conservatives don't seem to understand why liberal hate Sarah Palin with such a passion. Despite Fox News claims to the contrary it is not because we are evil people who hate her patriotism and family values. It is not because we disagree with her on most issues, we disagree with lots of conservatives on the issues and we don't hate all of them.

We hate her because she is the embodiment and logical conclusion of two disturbing trends in modern conservatism.

First the division by conservatives of the country into "Real Americans", i.e. them and other Americans, i.e. us. The second and even more disturbing trend, which you can chart from Reagan to W to Palin, is the conservative belief that belief is all you need. That the common sense of real people is truth, that facts are irrelevant and curiosity is pointless.

While few people can actually achieve true open-mindedness, at least liberals think it is a virtue, not a fatal flaw.

You can listen to Sarah Palin and hear that she believes she knows everything that she will ever need to know her world view is fully formed and unquestionable. She betrays an attitude that people who have worked hard for years to gain knowledge and understanding are simply elitists who's work is to be denigrated and accomplishments are proof that they not to be trusted.

That's why we hate her.

Ana Marie Cox: I actually agree with your analysis of her, but still don't hate her. I hate the actions she seems to inspire -- on the right and left. I wish liberals would stop condescending to her, I with conservatives would realize that as a leader, in the long run, she is bad for the country and for their ideology.

Tucker Carlson: I'm with Ana: One could agree with your (pretty measured, non-insane) analysis and still not hate her. I consider plenty of people wrong, and their attitudes silly, but I'm not up late hating them, mostly because they pose no threat me to. Sarah Palin poses no threat to liberals. She's not going to be president. So I'm still baffled by the intensity of reaction.

My gut instinct is that it's related to the way she talks about religion, though obviously I can't prove that.

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Ana & Tucker: If the "New Louisiana Purchase" was $300 million in special funds, what do you expect Joe Lieberman to ask for? Another public kiss from George W. Bush perhaps?

Ana Marie Cox: Maybe being able to keep his seniority and caucus membership no matter what asinine moves he pulls? OH, right...

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Cleveland: I find it difficult to hate Sarah Palin. Not because I like her or what she stands for. But because she has so little content in what she says, and has so little prospect for wielding real power. It would be like hating a small-market weather reporter.

Ana Marie Cox: I don't hate her, either, and it is in part because I simply can't take her seriously as a thinker or a politician. And because her life story does strike a chord in me -- she is independent and resilient, and has faced some difficult challenges. She is also petty and incurious and fickle, tho, sadly, those traits would probably serve her well if she decides to pursue public office. Which I don't think she will. We should just stop talking about her.

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AnaTuckerstan: What's the secret drinking word today?

Also, when will the Senators be returning to debate the bill, and how many will have reservations for going home at 11:59pm on December 24th?

Ana Marie Cox: In the Republic of AnaTuckerstan, every word is a secret drinking word.

Tucker Carlson: Even the secret police are drunk. It's a very inefficient dictatorship.

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Philadelphia: "So it looks the media has come to an agreement that Obama is struggling/failing"

I agree with this observation and take it as tremendous news for Obama. Studies have shown (yes, that's a phrase to watch, isn't it?) that pundits are less correct than would seem to be statistically possible. We'd be better off having lab rats prognosticate than pundits, as it turns out. So, if the pundits say Obama is failing, then there's no surer sign of his success and good times ahead for all of us.

Ana Marie Cox: I would totally watch a lab rat pundit. Unless you mean Glenn Beck.

Tucker Carlson: For the record, I abhor and reject all criticism of pundits and cable news hosts.

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Our democracy in action: To anyone paying attention, the process involved in moving forward the health-care legislation has provided an enlightening view into the current Congress. In my case, I think the nightmares will slowly fade away.

Watching these people in action, in debate on the floor and in interviews, I now have a basic question: approximately what percentage of the House members are totally clueless, incompetent party hacks who should be kept away from any buttons anywhere in the Capitol? How about the Senate?

I'm really not joking.

Ana Marie Cox: What percentage of elected are clueless? I guess I haven't said this in awhile, but our government is "representative" in more ways than one: I believe the Bell curve for their intelligence distrubution mirrors that of society at large. That's a long answer for, "yep, there are some real lunk heads."

As for the buttons: I think the elevators are safe -- or safe enough. Perhaps there's a reason for "Members' Only" elevators.

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Springfield, MA: Hello. I just drove through a traffic jam caused by a group of Martha Coakley's supporters standing on a street corner waving at people. Is there any fact based finding that standing on a street corner, waving and causing traffic issues has ever caused any individual to vote for that candidate? Do you all have a favorite Senate candidate in Massachusetts?

Tucker Carlson: Anyone who snarls traffic loses my support. Hard and fast rule: Your political views are not more important than my getting home to see my kids. Down with Martha Coakley!

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Greene, New York: Why no Skeeter porn lately?

Ana Marie Cox: Oh, LIVE ACTION Skeeterporn. Don't know how you missed it! You may find "Skeeter and the Two Toy Problem" here.

Enjoy.

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Dallas: "To my assessment of grandiose, add patronizing."

Mission accomplished!

Ana Marie Cox: And are you implying that the country wasn't hard enough to blow up go to the moon, pre-Kennedy administration?!?

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KSM Trial: On the Sunday talkers, I've heard two different politicians try to ease the public's fears by saying:

1) If KSM isn't found guilty, he won't go free; and,

2) If KSM isn't found guilty, he won't go free in America.

Now, the first doesn't seem to jibe with the whole civilian trial thang...you're found not guilty but you go back to jail?

The second is supposed to make us feel good how exactly? He's found not guilty (most likely due to a technicality) and he gets to go back to a country that will welcome him with open arms?

Ana Marie Cox: I've seen that analysis, too. And the "good news" about how being found not guilty won't lead to freedom is due to the horrible, inhumane power grab that is the Patriot Act, which I used to have some hope would be disabled by an Obama administration. Ha-ha. (Oh and I hear from legal-interest-type friends that 1 is more likely than 2, should he be found not guilty. Which is, they insist, unlikely.)

Interesting defense of the decision to try in NYC -- from a Bush DoJ appointee, James Comey -- here, btw.

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The Gordian knot: If the GOP had such great free market health care solutions, why didn't they implement back in the day of the Permanent Republican Majority? Just askin'.

Tucker Carlson: Because a lot of Republican leaders don't really believe in free market solutions. And because it was hard. And because they were incompetent. And probably other reasons as well.

None of which matters much now, when the only significant question is: Does Obama's plan make sense? I'd argue it doesn't.

In fact I guess I have argued that. A lot. Thanks for indulging me. See you next week.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Shouldn't we be more concerned about putting an excellent health-care bill in place than sending young troops to Afghanistan to be maimed and/or killed? We are not going to win that effort and I think President knows that. All America has ever done is go to other countries to try to make them live and breath like Americans. We are not perfect examples of how to live. If we were, the health-care bill would be no problem to pass.

Ana Marie Cox: It sounds easy when you put it that way! Sadly, I don't think the national (and international) crises on the horizon right now can be judged along a single "more/less important" axis. Also, from what I can tell, we have definitely given up on making Afghanistan "like us," if that was ever the goal. What's more, would be a shame to pass meaningful health care only to have Dems voted out because a weak Afghanistan enabled a serious terrorist attack (here or there).

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re: More Decadence: Drink!

Ana Marie Cox: And that is what I plan to do. After laundry, which is actually pretty decadent as chores go -- the fluffiness, the nice warm smell. As usual, I have enjoyed my time with you all, and with Tucker. Please all of you have happy Turkey Day. Thanksgiving is my favorite holidy: family and country are celebrated, good food is eaten and there's no gift-giving to take the focus off of what it means to be together as a family in a country that still manages to be the best of all the options I know of.

Though I would like nationalized health care.

Best to you all.

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