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Talking with Tucker

By Kevin Robinson in News on Apr 23, 2009 4:20PM

Political Pals Tucker Carlson (left) and Kevin Robinson (right), Photo courtesy of Kevin Robinson
Last night, Chris Matthews hosted a Q&A session with Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala, and Arianna Huffington at the Chicago Theater as part of the 2009 Speaker Series. Matthews aside, the panel was set up to be a conversation about the news, a discussion among the people that "blog about it, analyze it and are against it." The subjects included Barack Obama's role as a transformative president, the future of the war in Afghanistan and the government's hand in shaping and rebuilding the national economy. With the exception of Carlson, each panelist took positions that, if you watch cable news, felt familiar. Paul Begala occupied the center left, Huffington advocated for the independent center, and Matthews was decidedly on the liberal left.

I've never been a big fan of the cable news shouting matches, a la Crossfire. Unlike the Sunday morning news shows, where you can listen to the different sides present their talking points and at least work out an analysis of your own, the cable news channel punditry only take swipes at each other and play to their base. Last night's event reminded me of why I dislike such shows, even if the tenor at the Chicago Theater was more civil. Nothing new was discussed, no new ideas introduced. In fact, the only thing that struck me was Tucker Carlson. More than Arianna Huffington's spiffed up take on Ross Perot-style populism, more than Begala's smug centrism, was Carlson's insistence that libertarian ideology was the answer. Only through the application of such dogma, he seemed to argue, can our troubled nation find its way again. Pulling Carlson away from lofty ideals for a moment, Matthews challenged him on abortion and gay marriage. Carlson crossed his legs stiffly and held to his position that the two hallmark cultural issues of the right were mutually exclusive.

Afterward, we headed upstairs to the balcony to drinks and a meet and greet with the evening's talent. As I waited at the bar for another beer, none other than Tucker Carlson stepped up next to me to order a water with lime. "Hi," he said, shaking my hand. After I explained who I was, we started talking about DC (he lives in Georgetown) and the neighborhoods of the Northwest. After telling me that his office was right above Lambda Rising in DuPont, he started telling me about how important marriage was. "I've been married since I was 22. I think it's great," he said, noting that he thought it would be great for homosexuals to marry as well. "I don't see how marriage and abortion are related," he told me, earnestly, as though Chris Matthews had personally wounded him in the evening's panel discussion. "Gay marriage as an issue is over," he said. "It's going to happen. Most Republicans know this." He went on to talk about the cultural divisions in the nation. "The elites on the coasts don't understand regular people in the rest of the country. They only know their culture, and they think that's what's best. And then everyone else around the country get all worked up, all defensive," he told me, sipping his water. "You should move to DC," he said, encouragingly. "You should move to Chicago," I suggested. He smiled. "I just don't understand this city," he said, placing his hand on my shoulder as we posed for a photograph. Stepping out on to State Street, I looked through the photos in my camera and wondered what Carlson didn't understand about Chicago. Are we "elites on the coast" or "the regular people"?