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Debate on Tim Russert highlights the differences between left and right
Published on October 12, 2003 By Draginol In Politics

Last night on Tim Russert (CNBC) Tucker Carlson and Al Franken battled it out. If you get a chance, look for it as they repeat the show regularly. It really highlights the difference between American conservatives and liberals.

I would argue most people on the left would certainly have no problem having Franken be one of their champions. He's quite intelligent, witty, full of "facts", and at least on paper, makes seemingly compelling arguments. I would even go as far as to say that those on the left, who watched the show, would argue that Franken more than held his own against the young conservative, Tucker Carlson.

Similarly, those of us who fall right of center would probably have no problem with Tucker Carlson generally representing the right's point of view. He's articulate, witty, intelligent, and decent.

Which is why the on-air battle, which became surprisingly belligerent, between Tucker and Franken was so revealing of both sides.

Here are some of the bullet points of that engagement:

  • In Franken's universe, liberals make mistakes, conservatives lie. That is, conservatives never misspeak or commit an error. Instead, those things are considered lies. If it turns out that there were no significant WMD in Iraq, it isn't that Bush/Blair were mistaken, no, they "lied to us" about the war. By contrast, the left, who loudly claimed that hundreds of thousands of people would die in an invasion weren't lying, they were mistaken. When challenged on this and asked for names of dishonest liberals he has to go back to LBJ. LBJ? Hello?? Clinton? Franken just dismissed that as a sex thing apparently forgetting the various justifications for attacking countries during the Lewinski scandal (remember the Sudan "chemical weapons plant" that got bombed which turned out to be nothing of the sort, apparently Franken's memory on liberal "mistakes" is pretty short term). It was on this point Tucker scored his home run. By demonstrating the tendency of Franken and people like him to paint mistakes by opponents as lies rather than honest mistakes, Franken, unintentionally I suspect, made his irrational hatred of his opponents clear.  From that point on, everything Franken said was fatally weakened. How can you trust someone who is this partisan?


  • Tucker doesn't like partisans. Specifically, he doesn't like people who will twist facts to meet a pre-determined outcome. In short, Tucker doesn't like behavior like that of Al Franken.  Tucker believes that people like Franken and Moore marginalize themselves because they are incapable of influencing the mainstream or their opponents. He believes that because he feels the left's arguments are so over the top and often obviously not in line with reality that non-partisans will reject them.


  • Franken, like many liberals, has fallen into the trap of playing games with statistics that he thinks bolsters his case but in actuality discredit him because they fail the test of common sense. For example, Franken likes to argue that if Bush had been our only President that no jobs ever created. Gee, how witty. Tucker didn't hide his disgust over these kinds of witticisms. Can Franken name a single piece of legislation that either Bush President supported that he feels caused job loss? Any? Franken argues against people. Tucker argues against principles. Rather than pointing out a policy of one of the Bush's that he feels caused such job loss, he attacks people personally.


  • Tucker is a conservative because, simply, he doesn't like people telling him how he should live. He believes Americans should make their own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. He's a conservative because he wants the government to leave us alone. "I already had a mommy, I don't need another one."


  • Franken, like many liberal commenters, demonstrates a depth of intelligence, but a shallowness of understanding.  After Tucker made an eloquent statement on why he's a conservative, Franken's reason for being liberal was essentially a list of anti-Bush talking points. No statements of principle. Just a listing of specific issue talking points that have nothing to do with any set of principles. And usually they're incredibly disingenuous talking points.


  • Franken really likes to let statistics (especially ones he's manipulated) do his talking. "You can't argue with the numbers..." he says as he tries to say that Bush I and II have not created any jobs. Except that his numbers don't actually argue a case at all. That's because Franken seems to lack the depth to argue against a principle or policy. He argues against people.  What is it he believes Bush did to cause job loss?


  • Tucker counters that sort of talking point nonsense by pointing out that it's not convincing. It may fire up other partisans but it's just intellectually dishonest. Which I totally agree with. I mean come on, only a total partisan would blame the current economic sluggishness on George W. Bush.


  • Franken, working hard to be a two-dimensional characterture of the left, even lamely brought in the whole "top 1% are getting most of the tax cuts." Which, to a non-partisan with an ounce of common sense would indicate that the top 1% must be paying the vast majority of taxes. But Franken is addicted to playing with statistics as much as his most reviled opponents. As a percent of taxes cut, the middle class benefited most. But in raw dollars, sure, the top few percent benefited the most because they pay the most.  In a country in which 60% of the population pays nearly 100% of the taxes with the top 10% of the wealthiest people paying 90% of the taxes, it's pretty hard to have any tax cut that doesn't benefit those people. Franken demonstrated clearly that in the name of petty partisanship he'd stoop to saying essentially  "nearly half the population got no tax cut at all!" (because they don't pay taxes, they can't actually get a tax cut).  Which Tucker's point held true: Partisan crap like this won't convince anyone. It'll just make other partisans of your kind jump up and down. Franken, like Moore, is the kind of guy who would write a book arguing for 4 day work weeks and say "People already take off Friday in huge numbers anyway. 20% of sick days are on Friday alone!" (think about that for a second).

And so they battled it out on the air. In my view, Tucker not only came across as more convincing, he came across as more decent. Franken seemed full of anger and hate and carried an irrational dislike of his opponents. He even labeled Bush on air as "radically right wing". Yea right, the guy who wants to give prescription drugs is a "Radical" right winger. Get a grip.

The exchange really, for me, showed just how intellectually bankrupt the left has become. Franken, reduced to just parroting talking points put together by others seemed unable to think on his feet.  Bereft of any philosophical political ideals, Franken is forced into playing games with statistics that even a below average blogger could fisk.

I must say, I was truly disappointed with Franken. About half way through the exchange I realized that Franken is not much different than a mediocre left wing blogger on the net. That is, he offered no more insight than the typical venomous spew that can regularly be seen in the comments area on a blog site.  He's become popular either because his SNL fame overwhelmingly carried him or the left has become so incapacitated that they have no vigor left to put forth a set of basic principles worth fighting for.

Comments (Page 1)
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on Oct 13, 2003
I must say that you lost me between "Franken seemed full of anger and hate and carried an irrational dislike of his opponents" and "The exchange really, for me, showed just how intellectually bankrupt the left has become". But I'm a bit stupid, I'm trying to find a logic link here, which there is probably none.

At least we agree on one thing: Bush lied about WMD, and Clinton lied about the Sudan "chemical" plant. As for the number of civilian death in Iraq, I also hope they lied, but I'm afraid it's above 10,000 by now.
on Oct 13, 2003
Brab: You continue to amaze me with your lack of understanding of what I write.

I do not feel that either Bush or Clinton "lied" about either. I think that at most, they were mistaken. Mistakes are not the same as lies. *I* thought there was a ton of WMD over there in Iraq and thought that before Bush became President.

Franken's blind hatred of the right showed to me that the left's positions aren't based on any sort of bedrock principles but out of anger and loathing of their opponents on a personal level. If someone doesn't like the policies of the Bush administration, argue against the policies, not the man.

As for civilian casualties in Iraq: Note taht 10,000 is an order of magnitude less than say 100,000 let alone the 300,000+ that people of Franken's political persuassion were saying there'd be. Incidentally, do you have any evidence to show that it's even at 10,000?
on Oct 13, 2003
I think that the left is basically bankrupt for ideas. They want to increase taxes and expand government. However, those ideas tend not to be popular. It seems like the left is mostly just arguing against what conservatives who hold government positions are doing.

For instance, I looked at Howard Dean's website. I looked at his "on the issues" page for the economy. I sorta expected to see which economic polices he would implement if he were president. Instead, most of the page was about how bad the US economy was currently, as well as attacks on the Bush administration. He did outline four bullet points explaining his underlying principles. I thought the ones relating to balancing the budget and simplifying the tax system were so vague they were meaningless. Here are his points:

Repeal the Bush tax cuts, and use those funds to pay for universal health care, homeland security, and investments in job creation that benefit all Americans.

Set the nation on the path to a balanced budget, recognizing that we cannot have social or economic justice without a sound fiscal foundation.

Create a fairer and simpler system of taxation.

Assure that Social Security and Medicare are adequately funded to meet the needs of the next generation of retirees
on Oct 13, 2003
I can’t survive three seconds of Al Qaida Franken at this point. Franken is a foul breed of hyena just like that fat slob Hanoi Moore.
on Oct 13, 2003
Before we went into Iraq, the regime was tasked to explain the missing tons of WMD (mostly biological) that had conveniently disappeared. They did not do so beyond saying, "We destroyed them, trust us." Offering no proof at all.

No one doubted they had these weapons. It was a fact. The only two doubts with any legitimacy were: Did they still have them and could they be used.

Not sure why the back track of the reasoning behind this war is so distorted by the left, but at least attempt to keep it in check.
on Oct 13, 2003
Who wrote this screed?
on Oct 13, 2003

The only thing I got from your blog is that you are a conservative. Franken does not define liberals, as I am sure you are aware. Yet, despite this awarness that is exactly what you proceeded to do. Neither you nor I will ever know all the details that led to the Iraq war (likely, nobody does). Both "liberals" and "conservatives" are right about some things but both are blinded by half-truths, their own propoganda and self-righteousness.

You mentioned Bush's perscription plan as a proof that he is not far right wing. Here is some information that perhaps you are not aware of: . If you don't have the time to view the whole thing just view #6. I am not presenting this as an arguement that you are wrong, I am just presenting you with some information. My point with this is that there is so much that we just don't know, it is kind of unwise to be taking strong posistions. Why? Because when you do that you put blinders on.
on Oct 13, 2003

If Al Franken wants to describe Bush as a "radical right winger" the onus is on him to back that statement up. In my view, Bush being in favor of providing more government services is one example of how he is not a "radical right winger".

Does Franken define liberals? Well, if not he, then who would the left like to have as their champion? It is increasingly difficult to find a decent left. Tucker, while not perfect, does a decent job at being an avatar for the right. But on the left, all I can see is shrill and empty finger pointing.

Certainly someone can say "Hey, people like Michael Moore and Al Franken don't represent our views anymore than Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter represent the right." Fine. Then WHO is representative of the left?

Also, beware of falling into the trap of moral equivalence. It is possible to evaluate two sides and concluse that one argument is fundamentally more sound than another. Not every judgement has to be a mushy "Well, both sides are right and wrong on some things.."
on Oct 14, 2003
This site's quite humouring.... you guys are here, just throwing around generalisations such as "conservative", "liberal" or "right" and "left"; any of you actually know what they mean? In today's society those terms have been so often capitalized, they're almost meaningless. You're here debating if one man or another represents accurately a "liberal" point of view or a "conservative" one of an entire nation! One's political and social views are so subjective, it is impossible to divide into two extremely broad groups. Yes, in the Unites States, there are only two main political parties, one which is somewhat more liberal than the other, however why would an actor and the co-host of a television show's views represent the nation's beliefs for those two parties?

I guess since the commie witch hunt is over, you're all gonna go after each other now.
on Oct 14, 2003
Draginol: sorry for the misunderstanding, I should have put a smiley after my comments on lies. It was just a jest, to point to the fact that you did not say which you believed was true. Beside that, I still think you generalize too much, and I do not understand how one infer "intellectually bankrupt" for a class of people from what one said. Even I have learned to not "misunderestimate" Bush

I think that politics is often ugly, resulting in personnal attacks on people past (or their undercover wife ), but I believe that the politician who do that do not represent the ideas. What bothers me when you state "intellectually bankrupt" is that you seem to say that there is no point to debate anymore. If I am on the left (but I'm not sure to fully grasp the American political spectrum), you are telling me that you don't care about what I think. So what's the point of these blogs ?

As for the number of civilian deaths in Iraq, I do not know where to find evidence. It seems like noone really cares or wants to know.
on Oct 14, 2003
"In my view, Bush being in favor of providing more government services is one example of how he is not a "radical right winger"." --Draginol

What other government services? You only mentioned one and I provided a link about that one. Did you bother to view it before responding?

"Does Franken define liberals? Well, if not he, then who would the left like to have as their champion?"--Draginol

That is exactly the type of mindset I was arguing against in my first reply.

"Not every judgement has to be a mushy "Well, both sides are right and wrong on some things.." "--Draginol

It's not being mushy if both sides *are* right about some things. It's called being *honest*.

"Also, beware of falling into the trap of moral equivalence."--Draginol

I will make you a deal. I will do my best not to fall into moral equivalence if you make an honest attempt to view things objectively.
on Oct 14, 2003
Anthony K: I hate to be the one to break this to you but life is a series of generalizations. There is no ideal liberal or conservative. But that doesn't change the fact that each has principles.

The problem is that the American liberal ideology has fallen into being against things rather than being in favor of something. It doesn't seem to have any champions these days.

Abe: Like I said, Franken is the one that argued that Bush is a radical right winger. The onus is on him to prove that. I don't have to provide any reasons to the contrary. If someone says the moon is made of green cheese, it is not my job to prove it's not. I provided one huge example of government services. Yes, I checked out the link you provided but I don't see it relevant to what we're talking about.

Whether you or Anthony K like it or not, ideologies need champions. The reason the left keeps losing is because they don't have a Reagan-like character who is able to make their ideology compelling.
on Oct 14, 2003
Draginol, you argued that Bush is not far right. The support you gave for this assertion is Bush's perscription plan. The Frontline report I linked essentially claims the Bush pushed for this program because the pharmceutical industry wanted it in order to protect themselves from more state inniatives like the one in Maine and Oregon--not because he is for social programs.

"Whether you or Anthony K like it or not, ideologies need champions."--Draginol

Once again, that is exactly what I am arguing against. Having "champions" and following "ideologies" is not a good way to determine a ruling system.
on Oct 15, 2003
Abe - I don't agree with the Front Line report because Bush advocated prescription drug coverage during his campaign.

I also disagree with you that ideologies are unimportant but I'll write about that as its own article.
on Oct 28, 2003
Then, by all means, Antnee''R indulge in four. And use your last breath to stand up and be heard. We hawk-liberals like to hear the bodies hit the floor.
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