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A nasty little propagandist

Tucker Carlson blogs: "Liberal columnist Arianna Huffington wrote a blog attacking me for not revealing that my father has given money to Scooter Libby's legal defense fund. Her points were absurd, her tone was nasty. "

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

Liberal columnist Arianna Huffington wrote a blog attacking me for not revealing that my father has given money to Scooter Libby's legal defense fund. Her points were absurd, her tone was nasty. The fact that she dragged a member of my family into it made me red-in-the-face mad. I would have loved the chance to tell her this in person, and we tried. Unfortunately, a few hours ago a woman who identified herself as Arianna's quote, "chief of staff" informed us that Huffington would not be coming on the show tonight. That's a shame. But I'd still like to make a few quick points:

I didn't mention my father's support for Scooter Libby because it was irrelevant. Completely and utterly. Libby was my father's personal lawyer long before he joined the Bush administration. They're friends, and that has nothing at all to do with me. I've met Scooter Libby precisely once.

My position on Patrick Fitzgerald's ongoing leak investigation has been the same since the day that investigation started. I haven't changed a word I've said or written on the subject to suit anyone else's opinion, including my father's.

Arianna could have criticized my views about Scooter Libby. That would have been fair. But she didn't. In fact, she didn't bother even to address them. Instead she went immediately for the most personal of attacks, dragging a member of my family into it. As if my father is responsible for what I believe.

This isn't honest political debate. It's attempted character assassination by a nasty little propagandist. Arianna Huffington ought to be ashamed of herself. I wish I could tell her that to her face.

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Polygamy will become legal (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

Twenty years from now, polygamy will be legal in the United States. How do I know this? Because there's no longer a good argument against it. Gay marriage has made polygamy inevitable.

Confused by the connection? Here it is: Once we agree that it is unreasonable to limit marriage arbitrarily to one man and one woman, what is the argument for limiting marriage to two men or two women? There isn't one.

But, wait, you say. Polygamy is immoral. It's icky and weird. It's never been legal before. And you may be right. But those aren't arguments. They're reactions. And they're not good enough. In the absence of a rational justification for banning something, it becomes legal. That's the rule in America.

If anything, the case for polygamy (or more precisely the absence of a case against it) is even stronger than that for gay marriage. Unlike gay marriage, which was unheard of in human history until a few decades ago, polygamy has been around forever. It's still the norm in many parts of the world, including parts of Utah.

But wait again. Isn't that precisely the case against polygamy, that the societies in which it exists tend to be the most sexist? Doesn't polygamy demean woman? Maybe, but so does collagen lip augmentation and nobody is proposing to ban that. The point is, both are voluntary. (Yes, there are cases of very young girls being forced into plural marriages, but the crime there is statutory rape, not polygamy.) And in a society in which the highest value is freedom of choice, you can't tell consenting adults how to express their affections.

Next week, HBO will roll out a new drama about polygamy called Big Love. The show stars an otherwise ordinary man who happens to have three wives. Already Mormon leaders have complained that the show casts unfair aspersions on their church, which officially banned plural marriage more than 100 years ago. While that debate may be interesting, it's about the past. Big Love is a show about the future. 

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If you were doing the seating chart for a wedding reception, you probably wouldn’t sit Tucker Carlson next to Bubba The Love Sponge. On paper, they look like oil and water. One’s a bow-tied conservative who stays up at night thinking about immigration policy. The other’s a terribly offensive radio host who stays up at night watching midget porn. Luckily, life isn’t lived on paper.

Tucker and Bubba are a lot more alike than you think (and not just because they’re both into midget porn). Bubba visited "The Situation" on Wednesday night wearing a bow tie over his baseball jersey. There’s no faster way to Tucker’s heart than pretending you think bow ties are cool. From there, it was a love fest. They swapped stories about the biz. They took pictures together. They laughed like schoolgirls. I believe there was even a man-hug at one point. Tucker doesn’t do man-hugs. He really loved Bubba.

Bubba took over our director’s chair for a while. He immediately called for a shot of an attractive blonde reporter he saw in one of the monitors in the control room. Unfortunately she was on the air with another network. Bubba is a genius on the radio, but he’s still learning the fine points of television production.

For a guy who later on our show called himself "the most offensive personality in the history of our country", Bubba sure managed to charm everyone he met at MSNBC. Sure, he might castrate a nd slaughter a wild boar live on the radio every now and again, but who among us hasn’t? By the way, Bubba is statistically "the most offensive personality in the history of our country". He’s proud to hold the record for the largest fine ever levied by the FCC. He cost his employer $755,000. That’s a small price to pay for such a prestigious distinction, if you ask me.

It turns out Bubba The Love Sponge (that’s his legal name, by the way. You can check his driver’s license) and his producer Brent Hatley are big fans of "The Situation". Hatley says he never misses a show. That’s probably because he’s tormented by a rare sleep disorder that keeps him up at night, but we’ll take viewers any way we can get them. See you back on "The Situation" on Monday!

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If you’ve been watching the Olympics on MSNBC this week, you may have noticed Tucker hosting the daily “Olympics Update” show. A few people have said to me, “Tucker’s a talk show host. What does he know about the Olympics?” Well, if you must know, Tucker was an alternate on the Jamaican bobsled team that captured the world’s imagination at the 1988 Calgary Games. He doesn’t talk about it much. Partly because he’s not a braggart, but mostly because of the resentment he harbors about being cut out of the Cool Runnings movie deal. That wound still hasn’t healed.

I’d be lying if I said watching Tucker on “Olympics Update” wasn’t a little like watching your girlfriend on a date with another man. Tucker swears he and “Olympics Update” are just friends. That’s how every affair starts. I see the way they look at each other. I’ll be watching you “Olympics Update”, and not just for the latest medal count.

We here at “The Situation” have known for a long time that Tucker has no shame. The producers of his Olympic show are now finding out for themselves. Just this week, Tucker has donned full equipment to play hockey, snowboarded in the MSNBC parking lot, shown off his light feet while figure skating, worked the broom with the curling team, and worn a skin-tight, purple, lycra ski-jumping bodysuit. It all went out on national television. Well, not all of it. The purple bodysuit wasn’t for the show, but I will not comment publicly about Tucker’s unconventional private life.

Tucker is doing a great job and having fun with “Olympics Update”. I just hope he remembers that relationship is fleeting. We’re not mad at him for having feelings for another show. That happens in time. We just want him to remember where his home is. We’ll leave a light on for you, Tucker. See you back on “The Situation” on Monday.


Cheney giving ammunition for slanderers? (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

The problem with liberals is not that they dislike the Bush administration, but that they dislike the Bush administration for all the wrong reasons. I could bore you all day with examples, but let's start with the latest White House micro-scandal, Dick Cheney's hunting trip.

Critics are angry that Cheney took so long to inform the press about the shooting of his 78-year-old hunting partner, and that when he did, he had a friend call the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, rather than a big city newspaper or network. To which the obvious response is: Who cares? Cheney was hunting on his own time, on private property. The shooting was an accident. No function of government was impaired. Does the public have a right to know what happened? Yes, and the public does know. Does the New York Times or ABC News have a right to know first? Nope. Protests to the contrary are just vanity, and one of the many reasons people dislike journalists.

Other, more fervid critics see a vast conspiracy at work. Leftwing bloggers (including one of the guests on our show - see video) have suggested that Cheney delayed the announcement of the shooting because his mistress was on the scene. But wait a second: What about all that Clinton-era talk from liberals about how a politician's private life ought to remain private? Forget it. That was then.

Whether or not it's fair to raise it, the allegation is almost certainly wrong anyway. The woman in question brought her husband on the hunting trip. So unless Cheney is a whole lot weirder and more adventurous than any of us ever imagined, he's not sleeping with her. As you may have noticed repeatedly over the past six years, many of the administration's angriest critics are not only monomaniacal, but also badly informed.

Which is not to say Cheney did nothing wrong. He did. He drank before shooting. Yes, it was just one beer. No, it's still not acceptable, as every hunter well knows. No booze before shooting. Everyone understands the rule, which on most hunts is strictly enforced. Upland bird shooting is dangerous; dogs, hunters and birds move quickly in all sorts of unexpected directions, and it's easier than you'd think to shoot a friend or, worse, his dog. Again, everyone knows this, which is why so many otherwise frequently drunk hunters are so uptight about alcohol in the field.

The irony in all this is that Cheney, a genuine small government conservative, may end up helping to bring about more unneeded regulation of hunting. Drunk guys with guns firing at anything that moves? That's the stereotype of hunters. It's false, but it endures because it suits the agenda of those who favor gun control. Some of the most decent, responsible people I know are bird hunters. As a group, they know and care more about the natural world than the professional environmentalists I've come across. It's painful to see them slandered, and it's even worse to see Cheney give ammunition to the slanderers.


February 10, 2006 |

Don't blame me; Cheney made me do it (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

A very odd story crossed the wires on Thursday night. Here's the gist: Scooter Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who was indicted late last year, has reportedly told prosecutors that his superiors asked him to leak classified information to reporters. This appears to be the smoking gun that enemies of the White House have spent the last two years looking for, evidence that the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity came from the top.

And maybe it is. But it also raises a few questions. Among them:
Has Scooter Libby broken with Dick Cheney? That's what it looks like. Libby's admission is apparently part of his forthcoming defense strategy: Don't blame me; Cheney made me do it. This makes sense, except for two things. First, according to people who know, there is no break between Cheney and Libby. Scooter Libby remains devoted to his former boss. If Libby is blaming Cheney, he's doing it with Cheney's permission.

Why would the vice president encourage Libby to blame him? Because the revelation can't hurt Cheney and it might help Libby. Telling an aide to pass on information to journalists isn't illegal, as long as that information is declassified. Cheney, as vice president, has the power to declassify information. Moreover, Cheney may be the only person in the Bush White House who honestly doesn't care about how he's perceived by the public. If the New York Times editorial page attacks him tomorrow morning, Cheney will likely enjoy it. So maybe he did give Libby permission to mount such a defense.

But here's the second thing about the story: Scooter Libby isn't charged with passing classified information to reporters. The charges against him have nothing directly to do with the leak of Valerie Plame's name (a non-crime for which no one has been charged and no one ever will be). Libby is accused of lying, both to the grand jury and to federal agents, about conversations with the press and White House officials. So why is he telling prosecutors about a conversation that has no bearing on the charges against him?

Good question. I don't even have a plausible theory, except that there's a lot to this story we still don't know. I can't wait to find out. Stay tuned.



Hurricane Richard (Willie Geist, Situation Senior Producer)

Until Thursday, I had never born witness to a force of nature. I’ve never been caught in an earthquake. I’ve never seen a volcano erupt. Hell, I’ve never even seen the 1999 Sandra Bullock vehicle “Forces Of Nature” (that one haunts me with regret). I got my first experience last night when Hurricane Richard blew through the MSNBC World Headquarters. Let me tell you, it was a Category 5.

As is the case with any major storm, there’s really only so much preparation you can do. You can stock up on canned goods and put plywood over the windows, but when the hurricane makes landfall, you step aside and let nature take its course. In this case, nature was wearing a blue, bedazzled tank top and singing its favorite show tunes.

Richard Simmons is the first guest to receive a standing ovation from “The Situation” staff upon his arrival in our newsroom. Tucker has mandated that we applaud when he shows up for work every day, but he is not technically a “guest”. Resplendent in one of his custom-made tank tops and barely-there short shorts, Simmons burst into the room in song. He actually has a pretty good voice. The man’s talents know no bounds.

He then introduced himself to every member of our staff individually, stopping only to take pictures or commence his next number. He complemented one of our producers for her perfect teeth before he even knew her husband is a dentist. He carried on a phone conversation completely in Italian with the Italian wife of another of our producers. His impromptu chair massage of another male staffer was less warmly received, but it’s really the thought that counts.

Richard and Tucker got along like old friends. The moment I saw them standing together talking and laughing, I immediately began writing a treatment for a sitcom. “He’s a conservative in a bow tie. He’s a fitness guru in dolphin shorts.” You get the idea. Look for it on NBC’s fall primetime lineup.

To give you an idea of just how deep Richard’s love is, he took a red marker and drew a big heart on the wall in our newsroom. Inside it he wrote the words, “I So Love Tucker. Love, Richard Simmons”. I dare anyone to give us a hard time about defacing the wall. In fact, we just raised the property value of the building tenfold.

Richard Simmons has been a hero to a lot of people for a long time. If you could have seen him in our newsroom on Thursday, he’d be your hero too. See you back on “The Situation” on Monday!


Frey - Get a real life! (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

As every American with a television is now aware, Oprah Winfrey beat the crap out of  James Frey on her show today. The author simpered and fidgeted as his former patron made him confess to telling lies in his book, A Million Little Pieces. Oprah's a natural for righteous indignation. Frey's a born masochist. Together they created some of the most uncomfortable yet compelling television I've ever seen. It was a delight, until the final moments.

That's when Frey recited the obligatory litany of penance, the part of the service where the sinner shows evidence of Learning and Growing.  "If I come out of this experience with anything," he lisped, "it's being a better person and learning from my mistakes and making sure that I don't repeat them."

I froze when I heard the words. Call me an alarmist, but that sentence seemed to leave open the possibility of a second chapter in Frey's literary career. A truly repentant man would have pledged never to write again. Frey didn't. Instead he vowed not to be so dumb the next time. It's easy to imagine him publishing yet another memoir, this one about the trials of his humiliation. We might be stuck with James Frey for a long time to come.

No one should be surprised by this. Disgraced celebrities hardly ever go away. They live on at the far end of the cable spectrum like ghosts, haunting and titillating us simultaneously. If Joey Buttafuoco can keep coming back, why can't James Frey?

Here's why: Joey Buttafuoco has led a pretty interesting life. James Frey hasn't. That's Frey's terrible secret, the one he lied to cover up. Frey is an utterly ordinary person, an upper-middleclass stoner who went to rehab. You knew him in college. The real James Frey had almost nothing to write a memoir about. That's why he made it up.

That needs to change. As long as James Frey is going to insist on publishing more memoirs -- and he will -- it's his moral responsibility to do something worth memorializing. For this Frey needs to leave the Upper West Side and get to work. Move to Fallujah. Join the Foreign Legion. Get a job in a coal mine. Become a blackjack dealer on a riverboat. Survive a skydiving accident. Commit a crime and go to prison, this time for real. Anything, as long as it's interesting. Don't come back until you've got a story to tell.

Keep those e-mails coming to

We cheer for America - it's our duty (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

You've got to give Joel Stein credit for courage. It takes a lot of brass to begin an op-ed, "I don't support our troops," as Stein did in the LA Times. It's pretty easy to be offended by what Stein wrote, and many people were. But before you write him off as a crank, consider what Stein said:
"We shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea." This is the crux of Stein's argument, and it's not easy to dismiss. If you oppose the war, how exactly can you support the troops? Isn't that like opposing armed robbery but supporting bank robbers? It has the aroma of moral nonsense. As Stein puts it, "being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken."

Plus, Stein argues, someone's got to be held responsible for the war, and it might as well be the troops. Most Americans aren't going to blame themselves. Congress claims it was misled. The obvious culprit is George W. Bush. But, writes Stein, "blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not."

There is some truth in this, and Stein ought to get credit for saying what  many on the left doubtless feel but are too cowardly to articulate. But here's the deeper truth: There are only two sides in this war: Them and us. Thousands of us have been killed by them. Many more likely will be. Only one side will win. It should be us.

Why? Not because this is a just or wise war. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but that's not the point. We cheer for America not because America is right, but because we're Americans. When a Marine is shot in Baghdad, all of us have been attacked. It's elemental, atavistic, tribal. We're in this together, even if we don't want to be.

So, yes, support our troops, no matter what you think of the war. Taking America's side in matters of life and death is our duty -- more than that, it ought to be our instinct. What does it mean to support our troops? Making sure they're well supplied in the field and treated with respect when they return home is a start. But there's more. Root for them. Fervently hope they win. Despise their enemies, who are also ours. Take America's side. It's that simple, and illogical, and true.

Keep those e-mails coming to

Vampire politics (Willie Geist, Situation Senior Producer)

Jonathon Sharkey isn't the first politician to be accused of being an evil bloodsucker. He might, however, be the first to accuse himself of that. Better known to his base as "The Impaler", Sharkey is a self-proclaimed vampire, Satanist, and semi-professional wrestler. If he gets his way (and vampires typically do), he'll also be the next governor of Minnesota.

In a shrewd political maneuver clearly intended to raise his national profile for an inevitable third-party presidential run, Sharkey discussed his campaign platform with Tucker on "The Situation" this week. He proved himself to be not some wacko with fangs and a cape (well, he does have cape), but rather a common-sense vampire with real solutions for the real problems facing Minnesotans. Sure, some shortsighted voters will have trouble overlooking the fact that Sharkey feeds on human blood, but let's be real here, is that really the most disgusting thing a candidate for public office has ever done? Bill Clinton (allegedly) hooked up with Paula Jones, for God's sake. Now that's offensive.

If you're a junkie for Minnesota politics like I am, you know the 2006 gubernatorial election will be decided by voters' answer to one central question: do you or do you not favor the public impalement of drug dealers, terrorists and other violent criminals? If you answered "yes" to what really amounts to a rhetorical question (what right-thinking person could oppose it?), then there is finally a candidate who speaks for you. Sharkey has pledged to bring a little taste of 15th Century Transylvania right there to The Land of 10,000 Lakes. Convicted criminals will be impaled in front of the statehouse. That's right, stakes will be driven through them. How's that for a law-and-order candidate?

When your governor has a name like "The Impaler", you can be pretty sure impalement is more than just another empty campaign promise. If, however, Sharkey runs into any unforeseen legal obstacles with the whole impaling business, he pledged on our show to send Sicilian crime families after the drug dealers. He might have some trouble locating Sicilian crime families in the greater Twin Cities area, but let's cross that bridge when we get to it.

As you laugh to yourself about the idea of a Satanist vampire sitting in the Minnesota governor's mansion, remember one thing: a professional wrestler nicknamed "The Body" kept that seat warm not too long ago. Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey has my formal endorsement. I'm getting on the bandwagon while there's still room. See you on "The Situation"!

Keep those e-mails coming to

January 16, 2006

Where's Tucker (Willie Geist, Situation Senior Producer)

Many of you have called and e-mailed wondering where Tucker was on Thursday night when “Hardball” aired in our time slot. The company line is that Tucker became very ill and had to leave work just before the start of our show. If you buy that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. The truth is, we don’t know where he was. My guess is he cashed his paycheck and went down to the dog track. That man loves to bet the puppies. The other distinct possibility is that he went to catch a late showing of “Brokeback Mountain”. Either way, we’d like a word with him.

Actually, Tucker was extremely sick. For the record, it’s the first time in his professional career he’s missed a day because of illness. We’re still trying to confirm that with some of his previous employers, but for the time being we’re going to take his word for it. Tucker will be back spreading the libertarian gospel on Monday.

My biggest regret about not doing the show on Thursday is that we didn’t get to bring you the amazing story of the New York family that has filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Japanese hibachi steakhouse Benihana. When you hear Benihana and wrongful death, you have to assume flying ginsu knives or an exploding onion volcano are involved. Not in this case.

This lawsuit proves the old adage, “It’s all fun and games until someone suffers a major neck injury while dodging a flying shrimp”. The attorney for the family of Jerry Colaitis says Colaitis jerked his head out of the way when one of Benihana’s theatrical chefs tossed a sizzling shrimp in his direction. Colaitis died nearly a year later, but the family says the shrimp incident led to his death. Benihana denies that.

I certainly don’t want to trivialize Mr. Colaitis’ death, but can you think of a more disappointing way to go? I don’t mean to tell Jerry his business, but if I were him I’d make something up when I got to The Pearly Gates. Just tell St. Peter you died while pushing a group of schoolchildren out of the way of a train. Something. Anything but the shrimp thing. I can only hope the words “sizzling” and “shrimp” do not appear anywhere in my obituary. We’ll see you back on “The Situation” on Monday.

Keep those e-mails coming to

Questions for Alito (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

The New York Times turned its over op-ed page Monday morning to a group of legal experts who listed questions they'd like to throw at Judge Sam Alito during his confirmation hearings this week. A few hours later, the online magazine Slate did the same thing. Never one to miss a trend, I'm piling on. Here are three questions I'd like Alito to answer:

1) Why should the Senate give you this job when you won't even speculate on the decisions you'd make should you get it? By bipartisan consensus, nominees to the Supreme Court are not expected to comment on decisions that recently have or may come before the court. Yet the whole point of holding hearings is so that the public will have a chance to determine what sort of conclusions a potential Supreme Court justice might reach. As Sen. Russ Feingold pointed out today, the only person who's not allowed to comment on Sandra Day O'Connor's tenure as a supreme court justice is the man nominated to take her place. It's easy to see how this tradition helps a White House looking to avoid a political fight. It's harder to see how the public benefits. We have the right to know whether the president has nominated a Souter or a Scalia. The easiest way would be to just ask him.

2) Since we've decided it's acceptable to ask questions about specific cases, what about Roe v. Wade? Does the constitution guarantee the right to abortion? If so, where in the document is that guarantee? Nowhere, you say? Good answer. You're confirmed.

3) Finally, under what circumstances should the court reverse a precedent? You often hear people (usually senators) claim that this or that decision (usually Roe) shouldn't be tampered with because it is "settled law." As if Supreme Court decisions are inviolable simply by virtue of having been made. To which the obvious answer is: Plessy v. Ferguson. Of course some decisions ought to be overturned. The question is, for what reason? Because public opinion has changed? Because American society has evolved? It would be nice to know what the criteria are.

And one more thing, completely unrelated to Sam Alito: Probably a dozen times in the past couple of months, I've heard people talk about a book called A Million Little Pieces. Usually on airplanes, a stranger, usually a woman, has recommended I read James Frey's toe-curling account of his drug and alcohol addiction. So far I haven't gotten around to it.

But I did find time this afternoon to read the authoritative debunking of Frey's bestselling, Oprah-approved book. Called "A Million Little Lies," it is the most comprehensively devastating investigation I have ever read of an author's work. By the end of it, you'll be convinced that Frey fabricated key sections of his book, and for the most self-serving reasons. It's a long story, well worth the time. You'll find it at: Or tune in to the show. We'll be following the story in detail this week.

Keep those e-mails coming to

January 4, 20068:52 a.m. ET

What really smells about Abramoff scandal (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

Lou Sheldon was the first person I ever officially interviewed. I was 22 and working at a quarterly magazine in Washington. My editor had just assigned me a story about religious revival in the inner city. The idea was, black churches might be better equipped to help the urban poor than government aid agencies. Someone suggested I talk to the Reverend Lou Sheldon, the head of a group called the Traditional Values Coalition. Apparently he was an expert on the subject. So I called him.

Sheldon came to my office for the interview. We sat across from each other in my cubicle and I threw a series of questions at him. He answered each one impatiently, then stopped me. "You want to know what the single biggest problem facing inner-city black neighborhoods is?" Yes, I nodded, readying my pen and pad. Sheldon paused. "Homosexuality," he said.

As a general matter, I try to give people like Lou Sheldon the benefit of the doubt. Just because you oppose the practice of homosexuality (and most of the world's six billion people still do oppose to it) doesn't mean you're a bigot. Some people have principled religious objections. I wanted to keep an open mind.

But I couldn't. Homosexuality was the biggest problem in the inner cities? Bigger than crime? And unemployment? And poverty? And broken families? And AIDS? And for that matter, graffiti? Nope, there was no way around it. What the Reverend Lou had said was bizarre. And creepy too.

So it was with not all that much surprise that I read Lou Sheldon's name again recently, in a story about disgraced lobbyist and admitted felon Jack Abramoff. According to the Washington Post, Sheldon allegedly took money from an Abramoff client called eLottery and in return pressured members of Congress to defeat an anti-gambling bill. Sheldon was joined in this by former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, another longtime Abramoff friend.

The usual good government types will point to the Abramoff scandal as yet another reason we need tougher campaign finance laws and more stringent ethics rules in Washington. Maybe they're right. But there's a deeper kind of corruption here.

Why were supposedly honest ideological conservatives like Sheldon and Reed and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist involved with Jack Abramoff in the first place? Keep in mind that Abramoff's business wasn't just gambling, which by itself should have been enough to scare off professional moralizers like Sheldon. Jack Abramoff was a lobbyist for Indian gambling. Over the years Abramoff and his now-indicted partner took more than $80 million from a half a dozen tribes in return for their efforts to keep Indian gambling revenues tax free.

Step back and think about this for a second. Indian tribes get a special pass from the federal government to run a high-margin monopoly simply because they are Indian tribes, which is to say, simply because of their ethnicity. This is the worst, least fair form of affirmative action, and it should be anathema to conservatives. Conservatives are supposed to support the idea of a meritocracy, a country where hard work not heredity is the key to success and everyone is equal before the law. Conservatives should despise Indian gambling on principal.

And some still do. But others got rich from it, and now they're likely headed to jail. I'll be cheering as they're sentenced. Weirdos and charlatans and self-interested hacks like Lou Sheldon and Grover Norquist have long discredited the conservative ideas they purport to represent. Their political allies in Washington and Congress may be tempted to defend them. I hope they don't. We'll all be better off when they're gone.

Keep those e-mails coming to

December 22, 2005 | 7:23 a.m. ET

Bothered by the NSA story (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson
MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

The argument for allowing the National Security Agency to spy on Americans is simple: It works. According to the New York Times, the federal government was able to disrupt a terror plot aimed at the Brooklyn Bridge by using information gleaned from intercepted phone calls that originated in the United States.

Domestic surveillance saves lives. That's the administration's position. Most Americans seem to agree.

I'm not entirely sold. I'm as against terrorism as anyone. And I think most of the criticism you hear from civil libertarians about the administration's handling of the war on terror is overblown. Bush may be a bad president, but this isn't a police state, not even close. (To claim otherwise is to insult the world's many genuine police states.) But I'm still bothered by the NSA story. Here's why:

Why didn't the Administration bother to get warrants for the wiretapping? Bush's aides claim there wasn't time; the terror threats were so pressing, bureaucratic niceties could have been dangerous. Sounds good, except that the 1978 law that governs federal eavesdropping allows the government to apply for a warrant after the wiretap has already been conducted. So that's not a serious excuse.

The real reason is that the White House decided it didn't have to ask permission to wiretap. Bush's lawyers concluded that as president of a country at war, he had the constitutional authority to take any steps necessary to protect the country, regardless of the law.

Bush's lawyers have a point. There are circumstances when the country's interests take priority over its laws. But by definition such circumstances are temporary. In the long term -- for instance, in the four years since 9-11 -- a president either has to obey the laws or change them. If Bush believes that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is incompatible with fighting the war on terror, he should ask Congress to scrap it.

Unfortunately that is not Bush's way. Bush distrusts rhetoric. He hates to explain and persuade. He'd prefer to decide and delegate. So instead of taking the time to convince members of Congress -- and for that matter the public -- that the government needs to start spying on Americans, he went ahead and did it in secret.

All of which might be fine, for now. There's no evidence the NSA hurt anyone. But the principle is troubling. Do we really want to empower the president to ignore Congress, our most democratic institution? Bush's defenders aren't bothered by the idea because they trust Bush. But Bush won't be in office forever.

Will they feel the same way when Hillary is president?

Keep those e-mails coming to