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Wal-Mart: Good or bad for America?

Tucker Carlson blogs: "For the average person, opposing Wal-Mart is an unaffordable luxury. And that is why the anti-Wal-Mart "activists" you run across in the news business invariably come from upper-middle class backgrounds."

November 23, 2005 | 11:55 a.m. ET

Wal-Mart: Good or bad for America? (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

I don't like Wal-Mart. But then I don't have to. I'm not looking for a job; I don't need to shop for bargains. My objections to Wal-Mart are mostly aesthetic. Wal-Mart is ugly. Its presence tends to push smaller, more picturesque stores out of business. I like small, picturesque stores. They're more interesting. They're also more expensive, which is why, when given the choice, most people choose Wal-Mart.

For the average person, opposing Wal-Mart is an unaffordable luxury. And that is why the anti-Wal-Mart "activists" you run across in the news business invariably come from upper-middle class backgrounds. (Come to think of it, almost every professional activist I've ever met came from privilege. Working people are too busy working.) There's nothing necessarily wrong with this. But the activists should admit the truth: the debate over Wal-Mart is really a debate about aesthetics and social class.

Robert Greenwald does not admit this. Greenwald is a liberal filmmaker (his last two documentaries focused on Enron and Fox News) who has just released a documentary attacking Wal-Mart. The film is called, "The High Cost of Low Price." I just finished watching it. It's terrible. Parts of it are also dishonest. For example:

The film opens with the story of H and H Hardware, a family-owned store in Middlefield, Ohio that has been in business for more than 40 years. But there's a problem: Wal-Mart is coming to town, and you know what that means. Sure enough, Wal-Mart arrives and the store goes under, along with the dreams of the Hunter family, which has nurtured the business, and the community, for so long.

That's what the movie tells us. The reality: According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, H and H Hardware went out of business almost three months before Wal-Mart opened its doors. One event had nothing to do with the other. "I think Wal-Mart hurts a lot of small businesses," founder Don Hunter told the paper. "But it's not the reason we closed. Absolutely not." As it turns out, the Hunters sold their store to a new owner. It is now a hardware store again - despite Wal-Mart.

There may be other factual inaccuracies in the film, though I didn't pick up on them. I was too numb after 90 minutes of unrelenting, irony-free propaganda. It's hard to think of a single social ill that Greenwald doesn't accuse Wal-Mart of causing. It is overkill of the most heavy-handed kind. By the end of the movie, I was rooting for the company. And, again, I don't like Wal-Mart.

Greenwald was on my show Tuesday night Here are a few of the questions I asked him:

If Wal-Mart is so bad, why do 100 million Americans shop there every week? Is a third of the population too dumb to know they're acting against their own interests?

Wal-Mart employs 1.3 million people in this country. Yes, their wages are low, by and large. But if they could find better jobs, why are these people working at Wal-Mart? If Wal-Mart didn't exist, why do you think they'd be paid higher wages?

Do small businesses - the fabled "mom and pop" stores you hear so much about - have a right to remain in business, even though they charge people more than Wal-Mart does for the same products? If so, what other professions have a right to charge above-market prices for their goods and services? Do I have a right to double my salary as a talk show host, regardless of how many people watch my show?

You attack Wal-Mart's desire to beat its competitors. But how is it different from any other company's competitive desire? How is it different from any professional athlete's?

And so on. It took a lot to make me side with Wal-Mart. In just 90 minutes, Robert Greenwald did it.

Keep those e-mails coming to


Fun Friday with the Weekly World News (Tucker Carlson)

I sat down this afternoon to write about Patrick Fitzgerald's plans to empanel a new grand jury in order to extend his meandering and destructive investigation into the Valerie Plame leak. I made it about two paragraphs, got depressed and switched to Iraq. Which after about a sentence and a half also became a downer. It's Friday and as important as those topics are, I hate the idea of starting the weekend on a sad note. So instead I turned to what has long been my inspiration in tough times, a reliable wellspring of good cheer and remarkable information: The Weekly World News.

If you've ever stood in line at the supermarket, you're familiar with the publication. Tucked between lesser tabloids like the National Enquirer and the Star, WWN is the only paper brave enough to bring you headlines like, "I Was Bigfoot's Love Slave," and "Alien Body Snatchers Reject Paris Hilton." The Weekly World News tells is own kind of truth, and tells it boldly.

About 15 years ago I met a woman who worked at the Weekly World News, or claimed she did. Her duties including posing as a space alien for a cover story about the Kennedy assassination. (Only the WWN dares draw the connection.) The picture, she said, was snapped by a photographer behind the building; later her head was superimposed on an alien body. I never got to see the picture, though I was impressed. I made a mental note to do a story on the paper some time.

Tonight, a dream is about to be realized. I'm interviewing Bruce Lubin, an editor who works with the paper. He's bringing with him an early edition of next week's Weekly World News. Tune in and you'll hear the latest long before your fellow Safeway shoppers.

A few highlights from next week's edition:

"Martha Stewart Space Shuttle Makeover." WWN reporters have learned that NASA has hired the world's most famous interior designer to update what is aesthetically a very 80s shuttle program. Improvements include "giving the rocket booster a natural wood, semi-gloss glaze." Impressive.

The highlight of the paper, though, has got to be a story headlined: "U.S. Has Developed Nucular Weapons." The misspelling is intentional, a reference to President Bush's pronunciation of the word - which, WWN reports, is not accidental. "The truth is, there are 'nucular' weapons. President Bush simply made a mistake by mentioning this ultra top-secret project too early." According to Dr. Allan Furtive, identified as the director of operations at the Los Alamos New Weapons Lab, "'Nucular' is an acronym for Nuclear Uranium-Cobalt Union, Large Explosive Response. These bombs posses three times the destructive power of a standard nuclear bomb, but leave no deadly radiation."

In other words, Bush isn't dyslexic. He's merely indiscrete. I dare you to find that in the New York Times. And there's a lot more where that came from, trust me. See you at 11.

November 18, 2005 | 8:53 a.m. ET

Why we can't abandon Iraq immediately (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

It's one thing when Nancy Pelosi attacks the war in Iraq. Pelosi is from San Francisco, and she represents her constituents well. Just about every word that emerges from her mouth is shrill, amusingly leftwing and easy to ignore. Jack Murtha is another story entirely. The Pennsylvania congressman is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, hawkish on defense and a 37-year veteran of the Marine Corps. It's impossible to imagine him shopping for soy milk at Whole Foods. He is not for the Transgender Amendment.

But he is for an "immediate" withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. As he put it in an emotional statement on Thursday, "continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America." Notice the wording: Murtha is not arguing, as so many on the Left do, that the U.S. is unworthy of bringing democracy to Iraq (War for Oil! Abu Ghraib!). He is arguing almost precisely the opposite: The war is bad for us. It's a compelling position. It may even be a conservative position. Ultimately, I think it will be a winning argument. In the meantime, here are two problems with what Murtha said:

An immediate withdrawal would cause Iraq to become Somalia in about a week. There would be chaos and civil war. Many thousands would die. Turkey, Syria and Iran would immediately move to fill the power vacuum in the country. The region would become more unstable than it already is. The White House says it is impossible at this point to withdraw from Iraq safely and with honor. As frustrating as it might be, the White House is right.

Also, a small but I think significant complaint: In his speech today, Murtha attacked Dick Cheney as someone who received "five deferments" in Vietnam. This is true, but unfair. The implication is, if you didn't serve, you've got no right to send others to die in battle; only war heroes get to make war policy. There's an emotional appeal to this argument, but it doesn't hold up if you think about it. For one thing, it wasn't long ago (I remember it vividly) that the Democratic Party lionized Vietnam War resistors as moral heroes. When did that policy change? For another, what about Bill Clinton? And Sandy Berger? Not to mention the countless women in foreign policy posts -- Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice -- who've had no opportunity to serve in combat? And finally, we have civilian control of the military for a reason. We choose our commander in chief by election. This past election, the voters preferred a man who did not serve to a man who did. Get over it.

Keep those e-mails coming to


With newest revelations, more questions (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald began his press conference announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby with a windy preamble about the significance of his own investigation. "It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected," Fitzgerald announced gravely, "not just for the officer, but for the nation's security." It was Scooter Libby, he said, who violated that protection and put the nation's security in jeopardy: "Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter" Plame's name.

Fitzgerald was wrong on both counts, it turns out. In fact there is no evidence at all that the leak of Valerie Plame's name hurt American national security (and $100 to the first person who can prove otherwise). And Scooter Libby was not the first person to leak her name. We learned that on Wednesday, when the Washington Post revealed that Bob Woodward knew Plame's identity considerably before Libby's now-famous conversation with Judith Miller.

All of which raises several interesting questions:

1) What else doesn't Pat Fitzgerald know? After two years of investigating the case, he had no idea Woodward was a recipient of the Plame leak (something anybody who lives in Washington would have guessed immediately), and learned only when he was told by an unnamed administration official. Yet Fitzgerald's ignorance didn't prevent him from accusing Libby - falsely and in public - of undermining this country's security. Fitzgerald should apologize, though of course he never will.

2) When are journalists going to realize that Fitzgerald is their enemy, and the enemy of the public's right to know what its government is doing? From the beginning, Fitzgerald has gone after reporters, threatening them with prison for refusing to rat out their sources. The tactic has scared reporters, but it has spooked their government sources far more. Thanks to Fitzgerald, there will be fewer leaks from the Executive Branch in years to come. Fewer leaks mean less information, and therefore a less informed public. We all lose. You'd think reporters would point this out. Instead, many have spent the last few months attacking Judy Miller, and now Bob Woodward. Why? Because in the end a lot of journalists hate Bush more than they love their own work. Which is depressing. 

3) And finally, what the hell is this investigation about anyway? Fitzgerald's original job description was simple: Find out who leaked Valerie Plame's name, and determine whether that leak was a crime. After two years, he seems to have concluded what was obvious right away: No, the leak was not a crime. Yet he has kept his investigation alive, as independent counsels always do. Meanwhile, people's lives are being disrupted and in some cases destroyed. What is the justification for this? I'd love to hear Fitzgerald himself explain.

Keep those e-mails coming to

November 16, 2005 | 9:16 a.m. ET

9/11 theorist clearly hits a nerve (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

We've never had an e-mail response like the one we got after Monday's segment with Stephen Jones, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at Brigham Young University. Jones believes that the World Trade Center buildings were likely brought down by bombs, rather than by hijacked planes on 9-11. "Use of powerful, pre-positioned explosives in the WTC buildings would imply an 'inside job'," Jones writes in a paper available on the BYU website. "Clearly, we must find out what really caused the WTC skyscrapers to collapse as they did."

When one of my producers first told me about him, my first thought was: Stephen Jones is insane. And he may be. On the other hand, he does have a legitimate job and a responsible-sounding title. He's not living in the park, or writing me letters in crayon. How crazy could he really be? In the interest of open-mindedness, we booked him.

That was probably a mistake. Talking about 9-11 is a lot like discussing someone else's religion: You can do it, but you've got to tread carefully. Most of the time, it's best to stick to platitudes and move on. The subject is still too raw for debate, particularly here in the New York area. (The little town where I live lost six people on September 11th; the town next door lost more than 20.) Professor Jones wasn't up to the job. If you saw last night's show, you know what an uncomfortable six minutes it was. If not, I'll summarize: Jones was almost totally incapable of explaining his own ideas. By the end of the interview I understood no more about his hypothesis than when it began. He was an epically bad guest.

Yet - and here's the interesting part - he seemed to connect with a huge number of viewers. Some who e-mailed were offended that Jones would dare question the official version of 9-11. Some were confused by what he was trying to say. But the overwhelming majority wrote to thank me for my "courage" in putting him on, and to complain that we didn't give him more time to explain the conspiracy.

In other words, a lot of people seem to think it's possible that the U.S. government had a hand in bringing down the World Trade Center buildings.

Ponder that for a second: The U.S. government killed more than 3,000 of its own citizens. For no obvious reason. Then lied about it. Then invaded two other countries, killing thousands of their citizens as punishment for a crime they didn't commit.

If you really thought this - or even considered it a possibility - how could you continue to live here? You couldn't. You'd leave the United States on the next available flight and not come back. You'd have no choice. Continuing to pay taxes to a government capable of something so evil would make you complicit in the crime.

So of course most of the people who wrote to say they think the government might have been behind 9-11 don't really think the government might have been behind 9-11. For whatever reason, they just like to say so. Which as far as I'm concerned makes them phony and irresponsible.

Incidentally, we still have an open mind here on the Situation, even after Professor Stephen Jones. So if evidence ever does arise that the government lied substantially about what happened on September 11th, we'll be on it immediately. I promise.

Keep those e-mails coming to

November 15, 2005 |9:38 a.m. ET

Motherhood is a wonderful thing, but... (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

In 1998, I went to a breakfast in Los Angeles where the governor of Texas was speaking. I'd woken up that morning barely aware of George W. Bush. I left the meal impressed by him. Over the next year I wrote several stories about Bush, including a magazine profile that took months to complete. I flew back and forth to Austin, talked to Bush's friends, family and classmates, took his staff out to dinner. I had several long interviews with Bush himself. Long before the Republican primaries, I became convinced Bush was headed to the White House. At the podium, he was a mediocre speaker, but he was brilliant -- Clinton-level good -- with individuals. I have never before or since seen a man work a room more effectively. Bush seemed to have great judgment about people.

And for the most part, he did. But I always wondered about Karen Hughes. Hughes, a former local TV reporter from Texas who oversaw media relations in the governor's office and later on the Bush campaign, was one of Bush's closest confidants. I once saw her snap at her boss, right to his face in the most embarrassing possible way. He didn't flinch. Obviously Bush thought so highly of her, he gave her a pass. I have no idea why. Hughes always struck me as not only dishonest, but thoroughly average. Her main contribution to Bush's speeches appeared to be her insistence that the public -- formerly known as  "Americans" or "voters" or "men and woman" -- be always and everywhere referred to as "moms and dads." Every time I heard Bush repeat a talking point that was patronizingly simplistic and dumb, I assumed it was Karen Hughes speaking.

The rest of the story is well known: Despite her limitations, Karen Hughes not only survived the campaign, she moved up to the White House, and remains in the inner ring of Bush's private circle. Not long ago, Bush appointed her Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, our ambassador to the Islamic world. Today, she was in Pakistan handing out aid to earthquake victims.

There aren't yet any detailed reports of what Hughes has said while in Pakistan, so it's hard at this point to criticize her trip. But if her appearances in the region last month are any guide, she's certain to embarrass America.

Hughes went to the Middle East in October on what was billed as "a listening tour." Among the journalists on the trip was ABC's Jonathan Karl, a former print reporter who writes well and takes excellent notes. He later filed a detailed account for the Weekly Standard. Here's a brief excerpt:

"I go as an official of the U.S. government, but I'm also a mom, a working mom," she told reporters on the flight from Washington to Cairo.

To college students in Cairo: "You've heard my title, but that's the fancy stuff. I am really a mom."

"My most important job is mom," she said in an interview with NBC News. "I still have to pinch myself a little when I am sitting in a meeting with the king [of Saudi Arabia] and realize that I'm there representing our country."

At a joint press conference in Turkey: "I am a mom, and I love kids. I love all kids."

It goes on. You get the flavor. By the end of the trip, Hughes had so annoyed a group of Saudi women, they barked at her. So much for winning hearts and minds. God knows what she's saying to the Pakistanis right now.

And it matters. In today's wire service account of Hughes's trip, she is quoted as calling Pakistan "one of America's most loyal partners in the war on terror." For once Hughes is right. Pakistan really matters. Pervez Musharraf, for all his many faults, is a vital bulwark against Islamist parties that would love to control the country and its nuclear weapons. Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, may be riddled with al-Qaida sympathizers, but it still provides us with invaluable information about terrorist threats. We have an interest in courting public opinion in Pakistan.

Maybe the Pakistanis do care that Karen Hughes is a mom. Maybe they are yearning to be lectured at by a humorless kindergarten teacher posing as a high-level diplomat. On the other hand, maybe they're not. It's not a chance we ought to take.

Keep those e-mails coming to

November 11, 2005 | 4:38 p.m. ET

Hypocrisy -- it's everywhere (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

Hypocrisy gets a bad rap. When you're under 30, you think there's nothing worse than a hypocrite. When you get older, you realize you are one. How could you not be? All of us fall short of our expectations of ourselves and of other people. All of us do things we know we shouldn't. If you're living up to your own ideals, you've got low standards.

So, yes, we're all hypocrites. But some of us are bigger hypocrites than others. Some of us are such profound hypocrites, in fact, that other people write nasty books about us pointing out that fact. Peter Schweizer has written such a book, called ‘Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.’ Schweizer is coming on the show tonight, and I'm sitting in my office at the moment flipping through his book. It's compelling reading.

Here's how Barbara Streisand thinks the rest of us should live, as she explained in the pages of Tikkun magazine: "We can continue to thrive on this earth, but in order to do so, we must adapt to a more sustainable way of life. While there is still some time to alter our way of living, we must begin now to behave respectfully and honor these sacred gifts -- our rolling hills and mountains, the depths of our blue oceans and rivers, the richness of our forest and plants and the vastness of our land."

According to Schweizer, here's how Barbra Streisand lives: Her annual water bill is $22,000, most of it for watering her lawn.

Then there's Michael Moore. Moore has made a living by cataloging the various sins of American life, while simultaneously trumpeting his own exquisite moral goodness. Moore may be heavy-set and sloppy, but he's decent. That's the message. Nothing bothers Michael Moore more than racism. In his book Stupid White Men, Moore announced his desire to "hire only black people" from here on out.

He didn't live up to the pledge, to put it mildly. As Schweizer demonstrates, Moore has hired essentially no black people at all. In three of Moore's projects that he looked into (Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine and the show TV Nation), Schweizer could find only a single non-white person on staff.

But my favorite example of hypocrisy in the book involves Halliburton. You remember Halliburton, the evil oil-services and defense contractor that, with the help of Dick Cheney and the Trilateral Commission, is subverting democracy and oppressing poor people around the world. No one hates Halliburton more than Michael Moore. Every time an American dies in Iraq, he has said, "I would like Halliburton to slay one mid-level executive."

Well, guess what? Michael Moore has been a Halliburton investor. According to IRS records Schweizer found, Moore made 15 percent off of his Halliburton shares.

In other words, Michael Moore has profited from the very evil he decries. Come to think of it, let me revise my first sentence. Yes, hypocrisy is universal and understandable. But there's a limit.

Keep those e-mails coming to

November 11, 2005 | 9:32 a.m. ET

Plame's life in danger? Spare me! (Tucker Carlson)

MSNBC Cable; NBC News; Tucker Carlson

I've heard the same talking point for two years now, on talk show after talk show: The leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's name was more than simply illegal, it was immoral and dangerous. As Senator Chuck Schumer floridly put it, divulging Plame's name "not only put an agent's life in danger, but many of that agent's sources and contacts." Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois told me virtually the same thing the other night in almost exactly the same words. (There's no such thing as an uncoordinated thought in politics.) It sounds compelling - her life was in danger! - but is it true?

The short answer: probably not. Though the CIA has never described exactly what Valerie Plame does for the agency, we do know a few things about her career there. First, she operated under remarkably thin cover. Plame posed as an employee of an energy company called Brewster Jennings and Associates. A simple Internet search turns up virtually no mention of Brewster Jennings & Associates. Dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that Brewster Jennings is a theoretical entity; it's obviously phony, a shell of some kind. This is something foreign intelligence services could and would have figured out in about 20 minutes.

Second, at the time she was outed by Bob Novak, Valerie Plame was working at the CIA's main offices in Langley, Virginia. Why would the agency ask someone who was pretending not to be a CIA employee to report to its (closely monitored) headquarters every day?

Third, there's the matter of her husband. If the CIA was intent on keeping Plame's identity secret, why would it send Joe WIlson on a mission to Niger, then allow him to write about it in the New York Times? It wouldn't. Of course.

And, finally, if the leak of Plame's name actually put her life or the lives of agency assets at risk, do you really think we wouldn't have heard about it by now? The White House and the CIA hate each other. If the CIA could show that the Bush Administration had damaged national security with this leak, it would, likely on the front page of the Washington Post. In fact, as NBC's Andrea Mitchell has reported, an internal CIA investigation found that Plame's outing caused no discernable damage to anyone.

None of this is a defense of Valerie Plame's outing. The leak may have been a crime. We'll see. But a threat to her life? Spare me.

Keep those e-mails coming to

November 8, 2005 |
The fine line between wooing and stalking (Tucker Carlson)

Q: Why do you think it's evil to kill Americans and it's not evil for Americans to kill Iraqis? 9/11 was evil, but so is the invasion of Iraq, probably more so.
— The Lizmeister

A: Are you for real? I have the feeling your e-mail is a prank, and you're a conservative provocateur trying to make a point about the dangerous absurdity of moral relativism. You can't really believe that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, misguided as it may have been, is a greater sin than the deliberate, unprovoked slaughter of thousands of civilians on September 11th. You don't really think that the death of an American Marine in Iraq is equivalent to the death of the Iraqi insurgent trying to kill him. If you really believed all that you'd be a living parody a hateful anti-American leftist. And I don't want to believe those exist.

Q: What's your opinion of calling a woman you've just met? All of my inexperienced friends say to wait two days, and I say that's absolute rubbish and you should call when you feel like calling.
— Anonymous

A: Your instincts are right: Call when you feel like it. But your friends are also onto something: Don't call too much. There's a fine line between wooing and stalking. More than three calls the first week crosses it.

Q: I share your frustration with senators who voted for the Iraq war authorization without asking the tough questions first. But I disagree with your characterization of senators as having "voted for the war." The Senate didn't vote "for the war" any more than a vote to give police officers guns is a vote for them to shoot people. The Senate voted to give the president a gun. The President is the one — the only one — who made the decision to shoot, which he did immediately after being handed the gun, despite all his talk of exhausting the inspections and using force only as last resort.
— Tom Bloom

A: I'll give you points for a clever analogy. But like most analogies (especially the clever ones), it's not very accurate. Yes, Bush pulled the trigger; he alone sent us to war. But he did so with the knowledge and the approval of Congress. Technically the vote was for "authorization," but no one in either chamber that day had any illusions: it was a vote for war, as those who voted against it loudly pointed out at the time. Everyone knew the invasion was coming, without or without Congress. The only question was whether individual members would support it. So to use your analogy, it was in fact a vote to shoot people. It drives me crazy that cowardly one-time war supporters are now trying to pretend otherwise. They'd be better off admitting the truth and apologizing.

Keep those e-mails coming to


Emails, coffee, & pardons (Tucker Carlson)

Q: I watch your show everyday and generally enjoy your approach to the news. However your comments last night concerning Mike Brown's e-mails were not appropriate in my opinion. I think you showed a total lack of sensitivity to the fact that a lot of people were dying or about to die as the FEMA director was more concerned about fashion and dog sitting rather than doing his job. I realize that he did not cause the storms, but he was among a group of people that really could have helped people and made a difference, but failed to act, which cost lives.
— Bob Schill

A: In the broadest sense, I agree with you. Michael Brown was an incompetent FEMA director. The government's response to the hurricane was completely inadequate. I'm glad Brown was fired. But I still feel sorry for him. Michael Brown isn't responsible for Katrina. He's not the one who wasted and misused federal money that should have gone to strengthening levees in New Orleans. He didn't loot any shoe stores. He didn't rape anyone. Unlike the New Orleans police department, he didn't shoot an unarmed man and leave his body to rot on the sidewalk for a day. Yes, in the story of what happened after Katrina, Michael Brown is a villain. But he's hardly the only one, or even the worst. He just happens to be the most convenient. Plus, I always have sympathy for anyone whose private communications are thrown open to public scrutiny. How'd you like the rest of the country to read your e-mails?

Q: I watch your show most nights and caught last night's bit on the Alito Justice Blend. I know it was supposed to be just a light and fun segment but it was really awkward and difficult to sit through. I think it would have been more appropriate for cheesy morning shows like Regis or Fox and Friends. I am a student at Seton Hall Law and live in Newark. Why not have our dean come on or one of Alito's colleagues from the school? I think they might be a bit more enlightening and engaging guests than Alito's coffee guy.

A: There's a fine line between entertaining and stupid, and we may have crossed it last night. My only defense is that, on a live show, you can never be certain how a guest will turn out. Once you do know, there's no going back; the images have already bounced off the satellite. You can't edit live television. That wasn't our only Alito segment, however. We've done a number of interviews about what the judge believes, and how he might rule if he's confirmed to the Supreme Court. So I hope you'll give us a pass this one time.

Q: What is the likelihood that Bush would pardon Libby if he is convicted, after he leaves office?
— Kristen Roberts

A: I think the likelihood is low for several reasons: Bush would be criticized if he pardoned Scooter Libby, and no one with a 39 percent approval rating is anxious for more criticism. Nor does Bush have strong personal reasons to pardon him. Libby worked for Cheney, not Bush. There has long been tension between their respective staffs. Libby is seen as primarily loyal to the vice president rather than the president.

Not that Libby's former boss seems to be repaying the devotion. You'll notice that Cheney has said next to nothing about Libby since the day he was indicted. He hasn't stood up for him in public. He hasn't raised money for his legal defense fund. He's apparently done nothing to prevent Bush aides from telling White House staffers not to have any further contact with Libby. In other words, Cheney is acting like most politicians: He demands total loyalty, and gives very little in return.

Keep those e-mails coming to


Bush apologist? (Tucker Carlson)

Q: Here's your chance to prove you're not just another Bush apologist. You have said repeatedly in recent days that it's incomprehensible why Scooter Libby would lie and say that reporters told him about Plame when his own documents contradict this. Of course the one explanation is clear. Because what Libby is trying to hide is worse than perjury. Because he and Cheney (and perhaps Rove as well) wanted to out Plame, expose her covert status, and send a message to people who go against the administration. Of course you know Rove has a history of this sort of thing. This is treason. Of course Libby would try anything to avoid it being discovered.
— Mich

A: I don't need to prove any such thing, as you'd know if you'd been watching the show. I've been as tough on the Bush administration as anyone. But just because Bush's policies sometimes infuriate me (Iraq, immigration, affirmative action) doesn't mean that everything writes about the Plame investigation is true. Treason? Take a deep breath, Mich. Better yet, explain exactly how Scooter Libby betrayed his country. You can't. Neither could Patrick Fitzgerald, which is why he didn't indict anyone for the leak.

But back to your main point: Maybe Libby is trying to hide something worse than perjury, but that doesn't explain why he did such a poor job of trying to hide his perjury. Libby's a very smart guy. Turning over notes that prove you've lied under oath is moronic. I don't get it.

Q: Do you invite people on your show just so you can disagree with them and mock them, or are you genuinely out to promote several viewpoints? Because it seems like you have people on to get pissed at them on the air. I actually agreed with you on something (while writing an article about it for Newsday) and I thought the earth spun off its axis. You can really anger and delight a girl.
— Jamie

A: Looks like you've caught on to one of the basic devices of cable talk shows: The straw guest. You know how it works: Host invites on fringe character. Fringe character says something outrageous. Host berates him. Host exhibits his own moral superiority: "Look Mr. Klansman [or Farrakhan acolyte or Taliban sympathizer] that's just wrong. Offensive. Disgusting, really. How can you live with yourself?"  Etcetera and so on. It's good TV, and it's easy. But it always makes me feel guilty afterward, so I try not to do it. I like listening to smart people I disagree with, which is why we have Rachel Maddow on nearly every night. Occasionally they even change my mind about things. Honestly.

Q: After being on Bill Maher's show, what is your opinion of Spike Lee?
— Anonymous

A: Not high. It isn't easy to offend me, but Spike Lee did. To claim, on no evidence, that the government blew up levies in New Orleans in order to kill black people strikes me as not only reckless, but also cruel to the people who inevitably will believe him. But here?s the real question: How does Spike Lee keep getting his movies made? How did he get his latest HBO development deal? Didn?t anyone at HBO sit down and talk to him? Didn?t anyone notice what he was like? It?s amazing to me.

Q: Are you a purist angler who uses a fly, or a savage fisherman who uses bait? Any favorite local, national, or international honey holes you've enjoyed fishing through the years?
— Dan

A: I’m radically ecumenical when it comes to fishing. I’ll fish anywhere, any time, using any tackle. I like fly fishing, bait and spincasting, and deep sea fishing. I’ve never ice fished, but I bet I’d like it. I’m happy to fish with worms, crayfish, minnows, hotdogs, stinkbait, lures, flies or peanut butter if it works. I like to catch pickerel in Western Maine and tarpon off the west coast of Florida. My favorite spot is probably the Androscoggin River just above Bethel, Maine. It’s lovely and packed with fish, and there’s almost no one there. But I also fish in the Passaic River in New Jersey, which gives you some sense of how open-minded (or desperate) I am.

Keep those e-mails coming to


Fitzgerald, Novak, and dogs (Tucker Carlson)

Q: I could swear that I heard you say that the Bush administration is
moderate to liberal. Tucker, I think your bowtie might be too tight.
—  Nancy

A: Open your mind. I know that and the New York Times continue to describe Bush as a ferocious right-winger, but the evidence doesn't support the claim. Would a conservative apply strict affirmative action quotas to government hiring and contracts? Would a conservative defend the Harriet Miers nomination by accusing his opponents of sexism? Would a conservative have nominated Harriet Miers in the first place? Do conservatives believe in government's ability to build utopias, in Iraq or elsewhere? I could go on, but it's too depressing. The point is, it's important to see through the fog of clichés that obscures the real identity of most political figures: Reagan as doddering warmonger, Clinton as horny bumpkin, Bush as budding John Bircher. In each case, the truth is far more complicated, and interesting.

Q: Truly, are you really going to give up your car if you lose the bet? But if you win the bet, then what do you get out of it?
— Monalisa Formano

A: Here's the deal: If special prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald indicts anyone for the supposed crime that spawned his investigation - the leak of Valerie Plame's name to the press - I'll give Rachel Maddow my car, a not very impressive 2000 Audi with low power and lots of dents. If he doesn't indict for the original offense, I'll get nothing but the satisfaction of having predicted long ago what a piddling story this would turn out to be. I fully expect to win.

Q: I am concerned about the total lack of coverage on Novak's role in the outing of the CIA agent. He was the first in print with her name and since then no one seems to be interested in getting him to talk on where he got his information. Did he go to the grand jury and if not why not? Why didn't the prosecutor investigate him? Would you have him on your show to clear the air?
— Ray Adams

A: Novak has no obligation to explain anything, though I expect he will in the autobiography he's writing, which is coming out next year. I can sense from your e-mail that you're hostile to Novak, though I'm not sure why. Everything in his column was accurate, which is the first and essential test of journalism. No one has accused him of lying. Nor is there evidence Novak thought he was doing harm to American national security by printing Plame's name. (And by the way, there's no evidence he did harm national security by doing so.) Exposing secrets is part of what journalists are supposed to do. And you ought to be grateful they do it. There's a lot you wouldn't know without them. So leave Novak the hell alone is my position.  To answer your other questions: Yes, I believe Novak did talk to the prosecutor in this case. And, no, we have no plans to have him on. He's still locked up in a CNN contract, which prevents us from booking him as a guest, though CNN (stupidly) never uses him.

Q: Do you believe dogs, specifically (although this question could be applied to many animals), are creatures who can and do react both negatively and positively to their human caregivers and their environment, and that both can produce extremely neurotic behaviors? Or are dogs creatures who want only to hump, eat, roll around in poop, and be scratched?
— Julie

A: From my extensive observations, I'd say both.

Keep those e-mails coming to

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.