A couple weeks ago I was pissed as hell at Tucker Carlson. I mentioned how I had always retained a bit of respect for Carlson, even though I disagreed with him on most issues, but had lost much of it because of his inability to even listen to John Stewart's criticisms of the news media, especially shows like Carlson's Crossfire. Carlson went on to demean his viewing audience by calling people who complain to him in person as drunkards at airports.
But today on The Chris Matthews Show I was reminded why Carlson is not a completely robotic conservative presence like, say, his Crossfire alter-ego Robert Novak. Carlson spoke without spin. Not only did he say he fears that Kerry is likely to pull-out a win, but he also doesn't seem to believe the Republican spin that the Osama bin Laden tape will remind people of how protected Bush made us supposedly feel immediately after 9/11. He takes what I can only call a common-sense approach to the broadcast of the tape: if it has any affect at all (which he doubts) it will make people think, Oh, we thought he might be dead, but he's still alive, looking a bit healthier than last time, so why hasn't our President caught him yet?
Meanwhile on Meet the Press today, Rudy Giuliani showed up to spout more invective at John Kerry, and watching him do so was painful. Aside from the common knowledge that Giuliani disagrees with Bush on almost everything not involved with Iraq or tax cuts, his double-talk is agonizing. After making an obvious gaffe on the Today show the other morning effectively placing blame on the troops for not searching the Al Quaqa site well-enough to find the now-missing explosives, today he tried to say that he was simply trying to explain what Kerry was doing -- blaming the troops. Of course, it made absolutely no sense. And Giuliani, the more he campaigns, has been afflicted by a nervous tick. It's that thing where people chuckle while making their argument, effectively trying to show an audience, I can't believe I'm even having to say this because look at how obvious and laughable it is! Yet that's never the case, and maybe it's actually a result of the speaker not believing enough in his/her own bullshit. Russert rightly challenged Giuliani on the fact that he, like Bush and Cheney, did not serve in Vietnam, so how does he feel justified calling a decorated vet "anti-military." Again, Giuliani just turned around and said that Kerry criticizes the troops, as he did when he returned from Vietnam, which of course is a great distortion of the truth: that Kerry criticized and fought against the war itself, criticizing the policies that created an environment for certain things to happen. He criticized himself and some of his own actions, and by his side stood thousands-and-thousands of other Vietnam war vets.
I used to respect Giuliani, and his mayorship of New York did a lot of good (and some bad) for the city. Why is a man who seems to be able to stand so strongly by his convictions throughout the rest of his career feeling so comfortable blatantly spinning and even lying in support of this President? Even more so than another highly respected and honest Republican John McCain? (SNL's "Fun with Real Audio" animated sketch showing McCain having to repeatedly leave a campaign speech to throw things and flog himself inside his trailer because he had such a hard time swallowing his words of support for Bush was hysterical.)
I think the motivations behind both Carlson and Giuliani are interesting. In Carlson's case, I think he actually believes that his job as an analyst is more important than his job as a spinmeister. Most of the time, you see that, even on Crossfire. He will say what he thinks, even if it's not the party-line. He got riled by Stewart not because his political arguments were being questioned but his very credibility and the legitimacy of his entire profession was being criticized. Moreover, it was being denigrated by someone who he didn't consider worthy of doing so; a guy who is "just" a comedian. In certain ways, it was personal attack against his professional future, and when attacked in that arena, he becomes even more partisan than he ever could be political. Like any wounded person, he will defend his side ferociously without regard to the truth of the situation.
One can look at Giuliani (and McCain, actually) in the exact same way. Giuliani has always been ambitious, and whether Bush wins or lose, his future is tied Republican party support. If Bush wins, chances are the administration will try to bring him in to some sort of cabinet position, maybe even replacing Ridge at Homeland Security or Ashcroft as AG, and then in 2012, he's a potential frontrunner for the presidential nomination. If Bush loses, Giuliani's presidential aspirations come to the forefront four years sooner. If he doesn't publicly and aggressively support this President, neither of those options are possible because Republicans won't follow him. So even if it conflicts with his personal ideology, his political, and therefore personal, future are tied to his visible support of this president.
"He'll say anything to win" has become a laughable and hypocritical argument by the Bush campaign against Kerry, as if the same wasn't true on both sides. But it's "obvious" that "say anything" doesn't just need to pertain to the larger political campaigns. Ultimately, everybody does it. And on this day, my respect for Tucker Carlson has grown while Rudy Giuliani has (at least for the time being) lost any chance of ever getting my vote.