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Valerie Wilson investigation: Weird & puzzling

There's a lot we still don't know about the Valerie Wilson investigation, but here are a few things that strike me as especially weird and puzzling:

How could Scooter Libby have done something so stupid? In his press conference today, Pat Fitzgerald laid out this case: Libby told the FBI and the grand jury that he first heard Valerie Wilson's name from Tim Russert. But, said Fitzgerald, this is a lie. Libby had at least seven conversations about Valerie Wilson in the weeks before he spoke to Russert, including a conversation with Dick Cheney described in hand-written notes that Libby took and then gave to the special prosecutor.

Let's assume Fitzgerald's account is accurate. This means Scooter Libby must have a death wish. There's no other explanation for behavior this reckless and clumsy. Libby is famous as one of the most careful and meticulous lawyers in Washington. He spent years in private practice representing high-power clients like Marc Rich. I had dinner tonight with one of Libby's former clients, who described Libby as "maddeningly precise." Libby is not, in other words, the sort of person who would lie under oath, then hand over notes to the prosecutor revealing his lie.

Yet that is exactly what he appears to have done. Some have said that Libby must have been trying to cover up for his boss, Dick Cheney. But getting caught in a lie this stupid doesn't help Cheney; it hurts him. None of this makes sense. Something else is going on here. I hope we find out.

And here's another thing I find odd: Pat Fitzgerald gave us all a long lecture this afternoon about the grave harm leaks like this do to America. "National security was at stake," he said. But when a reporter asked Fitzgerald how the leak of Valerie Wilson's name had hurt the country, he refused to answer.

No wonder. As Andrea Mitchell reported on MSNBC later, the CIA did a damage assessment after Bob Novak's column on Valerie Wilson appeared. The finding? Apparently the leak did not cause damage to national security.

If Patrick Fitzgerald believes the leak of Valerie Wilson's name constitutes a crime, he ought to indict someone for it. Otherwise, he ought to spare us the lectures.

Keep those e-mails coming to


Plame case, fishing and sex (Tucker Carlson)

Q: Why is it that we train our soldiers in eight, or sometimes sixteen, weeks and send them to Iraq to fight, and we can't train a native Iraqi to do the same in two years?  Either our trainers over there are dogging it or they will never be ready to shoot one of their own countrymen for our war.
— Bob and June Grime

A: Good question. There are probably a lot of answers, including one you suggested: It's hard to convince Iraqis to side with the United States over one another. It may also be that Iraqis just don't make very good soldiers. That's what many in the U.S. military believe. When I was Iraq I spent an afternoon at an old Baathist police training academy in downtown Baghdad. I'll never forget the firing range. Behind the targets was a wall of sandbags maybe 40 feet high. The top row of sandbags had all but disintegrated from rifle fire. I asked one of the Americans I was with, a former Marine, how anyone could possibly fire 40 feet above a target at a range of only 50 yards. "Spray and pray," he said, meaning that many Iraqis, even those who are supposed to be professional marksmen, fire automatic weapons from the hip, which is another way of saying indiscriminately. This isn't a slur on the Iraqi people; it's true. And it may explain why so few Iraqi troops are ready for combat.

Q: Is it awkward when you have guests on your show (like Jesse Jackson) who you were less than complimentary about in your book?
— Christi Bowser

A: Of course it is. I just hope it's more awkward for them than it is for me.

Q: I enjoy your watching your show, but I'm having a hard time watching you minimize and almost dismiss the work the special prosecutor is doing. Why don't you wait for the investigation to conclude and see what the outcome is before saying that the principals should be charged with the original charge or nothing at all.
— Chuck

A: Believe it or not, I've tried to be restrained in my comments about Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor. And you're right that there is a lot we don't know about what he's been doing over the past two years. When it's over and we know what he's found, all of us will be better equipped to judge his investigation. But at this point I'm offended by the fact he put Judy Miller in jail for nearly three months. What exactly did Judy Miller do to deserve that? She didn't leak Valerie Plame's name. She didn't subvert American national security. Instead, she had a private conversation with an administration official that she didn't feel like telling Patrick Fitzgerald about. That's not a good reason to imprison someone.

Q: Fishing or sex? I couldn't resist.
— Cecelia Barnes

That's an impossible question. Both is the ideal.

Keep those e-mails coming to


Proms, Iraq, and contradictions (Tucker Carlson)

Q: I was very upset by your segment about the banning of prom at the Catholic high school. I do not see how you can accuse a priest of jealously when that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. I feel that this was a direct hit on the Catholic Church. You've said that a private institute can do whatever they want. This Catholic High School would fall under that category, wouldn't it?
— Anonymous

A: Yes, I believe private schools ought to be able to make their own decisions about whom they educate, and how they do it. The government should not step in to reinstate the school's prom. But just because you're free to make decisions doesn't mean they're the right decisions. So I retain my right to criticize Kellenberg Memorial High School. As for the principal of the school, Brother Kenneth Hoagland, he's worse than I'd realized. Hoagland has refused to meet with upset parents, on the grounds that he's got nothing more to say about the prom. Yet this morning, there he was, basking in his 15 minutes on Good Morning America. What a creep. Is my criticism of Father Kenneth "a direct hit on the Catholic Church"? Only if his behavior is typical of church leaders. And I can't believe it is.

Q: I enjoy your show quite a bit - thanks! I also appreciate your principled, conservative disagreement to the war in Iraq. I disagree but appreciate your view. Yet I was very disappointed that the significant success of the recent elections did not warrant a mention on your show. You had time for the cancelled prom in the Hamptons, but a major strategic success of our nation in the war on terror did not even make it as far as the Cutting Room Floor. Disappointing.
— John Kranz

A: I think you were in the kitchen getting another beer when we did our segment on the Iraqi constitutional referendum last night. We devoted a sizable amount of time to it, early in the show, and we did it despite the certainty (later proved true by overnight ratings) that a lot of viewers would change the channel the minute we started talking about elections in Iraq. The referendum struck me as a big deal, and we treated it that way. You are right that I didn't characterize the voting as a major strategic success for America. I honestly hope it was. It's just not clear yet.

Q: Ford over Chevy? I believe I've heard you reference your suburban multiple times. Isn't that contradictory?
— Nathan.

A: Yes it is. And it's one of the many deep internal contradictions I carry around from day to day. Another: while I despise milk, I love dairy products. I could give you more examples, but I'm starting to feel like my head may explode.

Keep those e-mails coming to


CIA Leak, Pepsi or Coke?, and favorite books (Tucker Carlson)

Q:  I really like your show. I do have a problem with something you said. When speaking of the special prosecutor and the leak. You said: "Leaking is good. Leaking is good for us, the public. Leaking gives us more information, helps us make informed choices. People who are against leaking are really saying, 'You have no right to know that.' Yes, I do have a right to know that. " Leaking might be good in some cases, but when it comes to giving the name of a CIA undercover operative, you're wrong. Undercover operatives work undercover so people don't know who they are working for. To give their name, to the public, I believe is wrong, immoral and illegal.
— Rhonda Scott

A: We'll see if it's illegal, but I don't think the leak of Valerie Wilson's name was immoral. There's no evidence that, 1) anyone at the White House intended to blow her cover, or 2) that her name appearing in print has affected national security in even the smallest way. On the other hand, I can think of a couple of reasons the public is served by knowing that Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. From the very beginning, I wondered why the CIA would send Joe Wilson of all people on the fact-finding mission to Niger. Now we have an answer: nepotism. I'm glad to know that.

Q: Do you prefer Pepsi or Coke?
— Serra

A: Coke. And Levi's to Lee, Marlboro to Winston, McDonald's to Burger King, Budweiser to Miller, Ford to Chevy, and of course MSNBC to CNN.

Q: The media is not making too much over President Bush's rehearsed teleconference.
One photo op after another does nothing to reassure the country that he is effectively addressing the critical issues facing our nation. Most offensive is his "scripted" satellite teleconference with a select group of soldiers who have been prompted to provide answers self-serving to positions of the administration. Bush's conduct is an insult to the intelligence of the American people and our brave soldiers putting their lives on the line in Iraq.
— Anthony Mastrangelo

A: There are a lot of things about the war in Iraq that bother me, starting with the invasion itself. It was a bad idea, handled recklessly. Bush engaging in a scripted conversation with soldiers? Who cares? Almost everything in politics is synthetic, every comment vetted, every picture staged. At some point you realize (or I've realized anyway) that it's the scripted moments that reveal the most. Learning what a politician wants you to know tells you almost everything you need to know about him. Listen carefully to the way the White House justifies the war in Iraq. The rhetoric is bumper-sticker deep ("Better to fight them in Baghdad than in Boston!") and numbingly repetitive. If they had a better case to make in public, don't you think they'd use it? So, yes, most of what emerges from this or any administration is propaganda. But I learn a lot from it.

Q: Inspired by your book discussion last week, I am looking for some new books to read in my down time. What are some of your favorite books?  Any recommendations?
— Theresa

A: I could go on forever recommending books, like the old guy next to you on the bus boring you with pictures of his grandkids. I'll restrain myself and give you three off the top of my head: The Flashman series by George McDonald Fraser. There are 12 volumes. You'll wish there were 100. Happily, P.G. Wodehouse did write at least 100 novels. Any of his Psmith books will make you laugh. And you ought to get George Orwell's collected essays if you can. He's remembered as a novelist, but he was an even better reporter. "Shooting an Elephant," "A Hanging," and especially, "Politics and the English Language" are tremendous essays. You'll love them, guaranteed.

Q: Why have you not had a drink in 3 years? You seem like you would be a lot of fun at a party.
— Kris Jones

A: Every person has a maximum allotted limit of alcohol over a lifetime. I reached mine at 33. But don't worry: I'm still obnoxious at parties.

Keep those e-mails coming to


SUVs, Canadians and the Grateful Dead (Tucker Carlson)

Q: I wanted to address a comment Tucker Carlson made tonight about Canada's donation to Pakistan in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. According to the Globe and Mail, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has pledged $20 million CDN. The Canadian Government has also pledged to match any public donations made by the Canadian public. Tucker should also keep in mind the population ratio between Canada and the U.S. Canada's total population is 30 million versus a U.S. total population of 295 million.
— Lauren

A: Twenty million Canadian? That's less than $17 million in real money. Pretty stingy, I'd say. People are dying in South Asia, Lauren, and the best the Canadians can do is kick in about 50 cents a person? Nothing to be proud of, especially for a country whose leading export is self-righteousness. The next time I hear a Canadian describe the United Sates as vulgar, selfish, jingoistic, and morally inferior — and it won't be long — I may have to make the obvious point: "But wait. Aren't you the nation that spent more on sled dog feed than on starving Pakistani earthquake victims?" I hate to be mean, but it's true.

Q: A few months ago, on the night of the latest Harry Potter book's release, you and Rachel and the other guest were talking about other things that had been worth waiting for, and you'd said you'd waited in line for rock concert tickets. I'm curious: who'd you wait in line for? What kind of music do you like? Who are some of your favorite bands?  Sorry it's totally irrelevant to everything, but I've been wondering this for a while. 
— Barrie

A: I'm not ashamed to admit it: I like the Grateful Dead, and have since childhood. Phil Lesh, the longtime bassist for the band, is coming to New York soon and we're hoping to have him on. Stay tuned.

Q: Here's the thing with SUVs. It's not you, who haul around a big family when you use the lead sled. It's the people who are using them as a status symbol and riding around with just one person, torching off a lot more fuel than they need to. So think about it like this: It's the gallons per passenger mile traveled that we need to consider. If you get 10 miles per gallon hauling seven passengers, you get a rating of 70. Which is far better that I get traveling alone getting 24 mpg. I get a rating of 24. A greyhound Bus at 3 mpg hauling 40 passengers gets a 120, and the bozo driving alone in his Navigator gets an 8. The presidential entourage using 50,000 gallons of jet fuel a week for photo ops in hurricane torn areas gets a minus 50. In general, using less, (needing less) reduces our dependency on imported oil, and makes for a cleaner environment, and those are good things. The president should lead by example, and shove a sock in his rhetoric hole, and you should keep driving your SUV for safety, convenience, and your good passenger/miles traveled ratio.
— Michael Kemler

A: That's a smart way to think about fuel efficiency, and not just because it makes my Suburban look impressive. But I still don't buy your core premise: That we ought to feel guilty for burning fuel that we pay for. Gasoline is a commodity, like wheat or soybeans or diamonds. The more scarce it becomes, the more it costs. If gasoline were subsidized by tax dollars, I could understand why it would be wrong for some people to use "too much." But gas is not subsidized. Drivers get to decide how much they value fuel efficiency, just as grocery shoppers or jewelry buyers get to decide how much they'll pay for breakfast cereal or an engagement ring. So while it might be dumb or obnoxious for people to buy SUVs as status symbols, it is not morally wrong.  

Q: It is my understanding that the only thing keeping the Cisneros independent counsel alive is a court fight over the release of its report. Your mention of it failed to clarify why it's still in existence, which was unfair.
— Phillip Nagle

A: You're right in one way: The independent council assigned to bother Henry Cisneros in 1995 is no long investigating how much money the former HUD secretary paid to his mistress. But the counsel is still working on the case, at public expense, 10 years later. Which was my point: These things tend to be self-perpetuating. Once they start, they're hard to stop. After a while, the original "crime" is forgotten and the press loses interest. Meanwhile, millions are wasted and people's lives are destroyed. How does all of this make America a better place? I have no idea.

Q: I think I know the answer to this, but it must be asked: Ginger or Mary Ann?
— Anonymous

A: Both. Together.  

Q: Your 'outsider' story on the Swedish man who donated his sperm to the lesbian couple just goes to show: No good seed goes unpunished.
— Phil Maher

A: Very clever. I wish I'd thought of that.

Keep those e-mails coming to


Abortion, white wine, and bow ties  (Tucker Carlson)

Q: You stated that close to 90% of all Americans agree that abortion is wrong. I agree with this statement. You continued to say that many of us who agree that abortion is wrong still want it to be legal. Now, the reason I either misunderstand your logic or disagree with it is because I question how it can be wrong and we still desire for it to remain legal? I could not imagine anyone taking this extreme to its logical conclusion: "I think murder is morally wrong but I still want it to be legal."
— Neal Cox

A: Neal, You're right: The vast majority of Americans tell pollsters they think abortion is wrong. Which must mean that most people consider abortion to be killing. (If an abortion isn't killing, it is no more morally significant than an appendectomy.) And yet most Americans also say they think abortion ought to be legal under some circumstances. This does not make sense, as you point out. How can a country as compassionate and decent as ours, a place where even the lives of pets are considered sacred, allow doctors to take millions of innocent lives every year? The only explanation I've come up with is, people just don't think about it very deeply. That was true in my case. I was pro-choice for years, mostly because I've always hated the idea of government regulating people's personal lives. Then I spent some time thinking about what abortion really is. Within 24 hours, I was sickened by it. So yes I'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned tomorrow, on legal as well as moral grounds. But even more than that, I'd like to see a thoughtful national debate about abortion. My guess is that if people were forced to think through the subject, most would come to a more consistent position.  

Q: Tucker,  Why on earth are you bothered when people drink white wine? That one threw me for a loop tonight. But I'm still a fan of your show.
— Lisa.

A:  Lisa, If you spend five hours a week talking at full speed without a script, you're bound to say something stupid once in a while, and last night I did. White wine can be delicious. I used to love it with grits, bacon and pancakes for brunch. The last drink I ever had, three years ago, was a glass of white wine. So while most of the time I think red is superior, in principle I've got nothing against white wine, and I'm sorry I suggested otherwise.

Q: Tucker, I am a senior in high school and I watch your show about every night.  Yeah, I do have a life other than primetime news shows so I usually miss the show on Fridays.  Anyway, I was wondering where you get your bow ties.  I have looked in a few places that I thought might sell them but haven't had much luck.  I would appreciate some info.
— Shane Thornton

A: Shane, You're thinking about wearing a bowtie? Be careful. It's a big decision. Bowties are like tattoos: once you get one, you're apt to be stuck with it for life. Trust me. But if you're serious about making the commitment, try J. Press in New York or Washington (or on the Web). They make great ties.

Send me your questions by emailing me at

October 13, 2005|

Just when you thought it was safe... (Tucker Carlson)

Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Untied to the worldwide web, 'The Situation' host Tucker Carlson's brand new blog.  Tucker will respond to your emails on everything from politics and pop culture to the age old dilemma of boxers or briefs.

Q: Tucker, your flippant dismissal and ridicule of the religion I share with Tom Cruise was extremely offensive. I challenge you to find out why Tom and Katie's child will have a silent birth, whether you come to believe the reasons or not. The next time you have occasion to report on the subject, do it with respect.
—John C. Scott

A: Dear John, here's how "silent birth" is described on Scientology's web site: "In the book, Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard writes that for the benefit of the mother and child, silence should be maintained during childbirth. This is because any words spoken are recorded in the reactive mind and can have an aberrative effect on the mother and the child."

Where to begin? There is no such thing as the "reactive mind." "Aberrative" is not a real word. Talking during childbirth doesn't hurt the child; not talking can. Doctors and nurses in the birthing room need to communicate with one other, and with the mother in labor. Silence during birth is dangerous. I could go on.

The point is, Scientology may be a "religion" (the IRS has concluded it is), but it is not a branch of science, and I don't plan to treat it as such, no matter what Tom Cruise says on the Today show. And speaking of Cruise, you ought to ditch him as a spokesman as soon as possible. He makes you all look bananas.

Q: Why didn't you untie your bowtie at the Cutting Room floor on Friday, October 7, 2005?
—Heidi Summerlin

A: Because I forgot people were watching. Now I know better.

Q: Why do you refuse to hug Max Kellerman? You know, he is a good-looking fellow. One of the most attractive men in the world, in fact! You really should hug him the next time he is on. The world would be a better place if you do.
—Theresa from California

A: Because I'm insecure about my sexuality. Once I start hugging Max, I'm afraid I won't be able to stop.

Q: How can you let Rachael Maddow say Karl Rove is a traitor for outing a CIA agent that everybody already knew worked for the CIA and not compare it to Sandy Berger stuffing top secret papers in his underwear to save embarrassment or worse for the Clinton administration? Who has committed the real crime?
—Bob Greathouse

A: That's a good rhetorical point (what Berger did was indefensible), but it's not a legitimate rejoinder: You attack X; I respond by attacking Y as even worse. It has the sound of a real argument, but it's actually a dodge. What I'm really doing is ignoring your original point. I've seen it done many times — I lived in Washington for 14 years — and it has always struck me as cheap and demagogic. So while I'd be happy to devote a segment of the show to attacking Sandy Berger's dishonesty (and maybe we will), I feel obligated to respond directly to Rachel's attack on Rove. Which I think was unfair, as I said.

Q: Boxers or briefs? It's a simple question.
—Andrea Nickas

A: The simple answer is: boxers. Obviously. Do people over 8 really wear briefs? I've heard they do. I refuse to believe it.

Send me your questions by emailing me at  I'll respond to anything you come up with. Politics, pop culture, gardening and fishing tips. Whatever you want to talk about, I'm here for you.