on June 21, 2004
I always knew that Tucker Carlson's dad was a major player in the right wing media/think tank world. So it's easy to see how Tucky's connections helped him. He's such a cutie! I'd love to pinch his ice cream cheeks! (I wonder if Arianna did!) And I'll bet he wouldn't have a comeback to *that*! What I *did not* know, is that Tucker comes from authorial royalty, if you will. His parents penned the classic: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Love: by Richard Carlson and Kristine Carlson. Obviously, Tucker hasn't fallen too far from the tree, as he doesn't sweat the small stuff in politics! The beauty of Tucky is that he doesn't question the status quo, or any quo at all. He knows that politics is for fun and profit, to be joked about in the DC/media echo chamber. And now we get a front row seat! Luckily, Tucky lets us in on the fun (not the big joke, that we don't get paid for *our* relative nonsense), that policy - or the personalities and sound bites that "front" real policy - shouldn't be taken seriously. Don't sweat the small stuff! In other words, if you've got enough bread, enjoy the circus! "My Adventures" is non-threatening, fluffy, and self-preserving, as cotton candy (light blue or pink, whatever!)! Tucky stays true to the current political era, where the son rides pop's coattails, but isn't so darn serious! Kudos!
on June 18, 2004
In this highly thought-provoking and entertaining autobiography, Carlson, the smug, bow-tie wearing, neo-conservative bibble-di-babbler blasts those commmentators and politicians whom he feels are liberal partisans. He also depicts liberal commentators as parasites, as opposed to conservative commentators, who he desribes as "gods".
The pre-pubescent looking Carlson, who achieved super-star status along with several thousand other novice commentators during the hugely lucrative O.J. Simpson and Lewinsky eras, looks back fondly on his colorful career and recounts the trials and tribulations of being one of the fify-thousand cable tv commentators who enlighten the masses day after day after day after day after day after day with their eternal yakkety-yakkety-yakkety-yakkety-yak.
One of the more memorable events which Tucker brilliantly chronicles here is how upset he was when the OJ Simpson verdict was announced. The gut wrenching agony which he experienced in that moment is presented here for all of America to see what a complex, humane soul is this man. Another equally painful and tragic moment which Tucker writes so forcefully about is when he saw Bill Clinton shake his finger and say he didn't have "...relations with that woman". Tucker relates that historic event and all that followed with such passion and vigor, that the reader is driven to put on his own bow tie and loudly crack wise with juvenile sexual inuendo while grinning widely. The climax, and I won't give anything away here, has to do with how Gore disgraced America by trying to steal the election.
Tucker fought the Viet Cong in the jungles of North VietNam in 1967-68 and lost his arm during hand-to-hand combat during the Tet offensive. Tucker came back to the US and served in the US senatee as Majority Republican leader from 1976 to 1980. He left the Senate to become editor and publisher of the National Review, before becoming Cairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Ronald Reagan. This was followed by his current infuential and highly praised position as expert commentator on CNN. He is a great patriot and hero who has served his country well, and his thoughts on what is going on in the world today are invaluable and must be heard by every American, living and dead.
on June 9, 2004
In Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News the author provides a pleasurable read even if imparting little in the way of political wisdom.
Carlson's narration spares few details and one has the feeling that his publishers were pleasantly surprised with the richness of his account. His onscreen adventures began, improbably enough, with the OJ trial in 1995. It seems that the offices of The Weekly Standard were called by Dan Rather's booker in the hopes of finding a reporter to provide a conservative take on the trial, and Carlson, as he was the first one back from lunch, accepted the invitation.
A few years and many appearances later, our author was transformed from a chain-smoking journo to a smoke-free, media celebrity. He even got falsely accused of rape by a stalker fan (which says all one needs to know about his renown). Carlson briefly had his own show with Bill Press called Spin Room and currently he is one of the hosts on Crossfire.
Before relaying more specifics about the book, let me state, as a disclaimer, that I am personally not a fan of this author. Previously, I've always anticipated his views on politics with the same interest that I have in glasses of room temperature skim milk.
Carlson himself cites the concerns that Congressman Tom Delay had about his representing the conservative side before the nation. He believed Carlson "too liberal to represent the Right on the air." Frankly, I agreed with the Congressman before reading a page of the memoir and, after finishing it, I still agree with him. CNN needs guys like Carlson to be rightists in name, as the rest of us would not let Bill Press or Paul Begala dominate us with their informercials.
The author has warm affection for the likes of James Carville and Bill Press. He also seems to lament Senator McCain's loss to President Bush in the 2000 Republican primary, which is rather disturbing as McCain's goal, in regards to the Republican Party, was that we should "burn it down."
It may well be worth buying the book just to read about the catty way in which Carlson deals with Barney Frank after the Congressman berated a producer who tried to adjust his blazer (the horror!): "I made a mental note to devote the rest of my life to subverting Frank's career." He does a noble job.
This is by no means a philosophical work, but it was a great deal of fun to read. As many liberal comedians have painfully illustrated in the past, you do not have to be on the exact same ideological page as your audience in order to entertain. Tucker Carlson was on a mission to lightly and gleefully depict some of the strange politicians, partisans, and parasites that he has known on from cable news and he has succeeded admirably. Now if he could just lose that bowtie. Anyway, if you're short a present or two, you might consider his memoir for just about anyone who likes to laugh.
on March 4, 2004
If you are a political aficionado, regardless of your partisanship, you owe it to yourself to pick this book up. Yeah, you learn intriguing insider tidbits and some sleaze on politicians, pundits, and the like, but that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. For instance, Tucker reveals how his "biggest fan" claimed that he violated her in a restaurant in plain view of others, and in a bloody manner to boot, only to send him an email a month after the supposed incident proclaiming, "You're great."
From a deranged psychiatrist who went coastal on Tucker claiming he was crazy to his hilarious fan feedback that he sent back to demented fans to the ingenious letter that he composed to bail out his college roommate from an econ midterm, you'll laugh out loud almost incessantly. Tucker tells of his drunk radio interview from the infamous Dick Morris suite and of the other Tucker Carlson and how he was mistaken before a speech as this individual(hilarious). His tells of hi interviews with an admittedly drunk Jim Traficant who, by the way, groped the CNN makeup girl.
A few months later, after he was facing 60 years in prison and $2 Million in fines for rackateering, extortion, and bribery, Traficant came on again, this time safely by remote, pleading, "Tell the girls at CNN that if I get convicted, I'm going to be looking for conjugal visits." Good stuff.
on January 15, 2004
Tucker Carlson, who co-hosts CNN's Crossfire has written an enlightening and amusing book on his three years at CNN.
I have watched Crossfire only rarely, but I happened to hear Tucker speak about his experiences at a televised book conference in Miami, Florida not too long ago.
He described, with dry wit and obvious fondness, the colorful characters he interviewed and worked with in the most powerful and weirdest medium there is. I was entranced by his insight and intelligence and immediately ordered his new book, Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites.
This book was one of the most entertaining reads I have had in a long time. His intimate portraits of Al Sharpton, John McCain, James Carville, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson, and many others are not to be missed.
Tucker has seen television from the inside and describes it without rancor and without pulling any punches. Both in his speech and in the book, he mentioned expecting to be fired at anytime because of his enthusiasm for airing his views.
I hope it doesn't happen soon, because we need more TV personalities with his sense of humor. To get the flavor of Tucker's humor, see his interview by Kevin Holtsberry in August of this year.
He has written a great book. Read it.
on December 20, 2003
I'm not a TV or celebrity junkie, but I have often wondered about the personal characteristics of many public figures. This book lays them out. Flat. And with style, grace, and humor. Carlson has the obligatory section on Monica Lewinsky, for example, but he focuses on her California doctor instead of what we have been told by the media, ad nauseum. And what a doctor! Then there are portraits of others, from Senator McCain to Bill Press, all surely accurate (Carlson is, after all, a journalist) and vastly entertaining. His great gift, however, is to paint a brilliant picture of a personality without being snide or vicious. He even portrays himself. In fact, the scene of Carlson edging over the fat sleeping Moroccan gent to try to get back to his cramped airline seat - and landing on the screaming guy's lap... I'm laughing out loud again as I write this. That scene alone is worth the modest price of this book. It is a 5 star read, perfect for a Christmas gift. I only wish it was longer -- and no, you can't borrow mine.
on November 3, 2003
A short, quick read, Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites is Tucker Carlson's account of his television career. It is mostly a personal, autobiographical account of his own experiences, rather than an analytical treatment of the business--although he does draw some general conclusions about the field. The book deals more with personalities than with issues.
Carlson begins with his largely accidental beginnings in TV--from his first brief appearance during the O.J. Simpson trial (a gig he landed somewhat randomly, by returning early from lunch to the Weekly Standard office) to the phone call during the 2000 election asking him, on the fly, to host a new show on CNN, The Spin Room. Throughout its life, that show always retained a thrown-together quality to it, with Carlson and Press often relying on gifts to furnish the set. They never did get custom coffee mugs, and Carlson's final attempt intersected with the end of the show--the promotional department knew of the show's end before Carlson and would not give him the mugs. From there, Carlson migrated to Crossfire, CNN's one-time premier political show, and watched as it, too, fell, unable to compete with Fox's primetime lineup.
Carlson despises partisans, whom he differentiates from ideologues. The distinction is rooted in partisans' blind adherence to the party line, but I'm not convinced that the distinction is an apt one. He likes people who speak their minds and go out on limbs, who aren't afraid to be outrageous. Jesse Jackson is a phony, whose phoniness is enhanced by TV. Al Sharpton, Carlson suggests, can think for himself, even if he is wrong. Jim Traficant added color when he showed up for an interview drunk and accosted the show's female floor director. John McCain--whose 2000 presidential campaign Carlson reported and covers extensively in the book--is praised for his never-mind-the-consequences approach to politics, but even the admiring Carlson admits that McCain played to the media. Bill Press, former co-host of The Spin Zone, comes off as a decent, funny, hardworking guy who loves to eat on the set.
In general, Carlson seems to believe that TV shapes its "participants" more than the other way around. Shows certainly are influenced by their hosts, but TV has a way of changing people. It enlarges not only physical traits but also personalities and idiosyncrasies as well: everything seems larger on television. It can give one an inflated opinion of himself. If a host isn't careful, his larger-than-life, seemingly all-knowing, accentuated personality can seep into his private persona (e.g. Bill O'Reilly, as Carlson posits). As a career, TV offers an unstable, fragile one that can disappear in the blink of an eye. Of media bias, Carlson doesn't seem to acknowledge its existence; instead, producers, he says, aren't driven by politics but by polls--the "ideology of the poll."
Carlson says nothing earth shattering, nothing surprising, nothing controversial. He provides little depth on the TV media business or on virtually anything that goes on behind-the-scenes. Nevertheless, written lightheartedly and humorously, the book will surely entertain media and political junkies alike.
on October 11, 2003
Tucker Carlson, the witty, politically conservative co-host of Crossfire, has been one of those few on the right who actually seem less dogmatic than practical. Like P.J. O'Rourke, Carlson has a sense of humor, and this book serves not as yet another diatribe against "the liberals" who seem to be running things (The "liberal media" myth is a popular one, nevermind that almost all news operations are beginning to lean rightwards to counter those charges, and the most popular cable news outlet is Fox, full of rabid disgusting neanderthals).
The book is a nice trip through Carlson's career in a non-chronological way. You read about his many experiences as a journalist and public figure, his own brush with rape accusations, and his many tales of "only in Washington" shenanigans on both sides of the aisle. Carlson comes across as far more tolerant of his opposite number on the left, and even goes so far as to call James Carville one of his "favorite people".
All in all, this is NOT a book for the Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh set. This is a fun read, and while I disagree with him politically, I don't feel like a hypocrite when I say he is a born storyteller. Liberals and jerks, erm, Conservatives alike, will enjoy this book.
on October 10, 2003
Tucker Carlson is the perennially smug right-wing conservative with the affected bow tie on CNN's soon-to-be-canceled afternoon political soap opera "Crossfire." If this anorexic volume is any indication of his writing ability, his career as a print journalist isn't much healthier.
This is what they call in publishing a "McBook," the kind of thing that TV sitcom stars churn out in a week and serve to a credulous public to make a quick buck. "Journalism is really pretty easy," Carlson writes at one point. Which is arguably true, assuming of course that you're a complete hack.
Not that this book is total garbage: it's not. But it's so thin and insubstantial, sounding at times like something Carlson cranked out at his desk during his lunch hour, that unless you're eager to waste your money buying a book that's sure to be remaindered faster than you can say, "Where Are The Weapons of Mass Destruction?" it's not worth your time.
There are, however, some good things in it. I particularly liked Carlson's breathless encomium to British journalists: "I've run into a lot of them while covering stories, and generally they're impressive: witty, well-educated, and physically brave. They're also frequently drunk. As a rule, a British reporter will begin boozing at the first opportunity, and won't stop until he passes out or you run out of money." This is, as Gore Vidal would say, splendid stuff. And the story of how Carlson was falsely accused of rape by a self-proclaimed mentally ill fan, a false charge that ended up costing Carlson $14,000 in legal fees, is pretty amusing (although I'm sure it wasn't for Carlson, who does everything but print the woman's home phone number).
Carlson takes some engagingly heterodox positions, including taking on Fox News self-absorbed blowhard Bill O'Reilly for being a self-absorbed blowhard who has started to believe his own publicity. His account of how O'Reilly boasted of his faux-credentials as a war correspondent at a discussion panel in Washington on "The Press in Wartime" in front of many of the real thing, which, as Carlson points out, is "a little like bragging about your National Guard experience to a room full of Navy SEALs," is surprisingly honest coming from an avowed conservative. It's nice to know that Carlson can occasionally espouse positions that are somewhat more intelligent than the ones he spews on cable television.
But it's not enough for me to recommend "Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News," which is a puny little book that tries to capitalize in a cynical way on its author's rapidly shrinking fifteen minutes of fame. Unless you're the kind of person who buys every single book on politics that comes down the Beltway, give this one a pass.
on October 4, 2003
I was only passingly familiar with Tucker Carlson before cracking the binding of his book, POLITICIANS, PARTISANS, AND PARASITES. I vaguely recalled a few articles he had done for The Weekly Standard and The American Spectator, and I knew that he was on CNN's Crossfire. The problem is that at casa de Hartlaub we don't really tune in to CNN all that much, and as for Crossfire ... if I started watching James Carville with any regularity it would be the mark of a behavior deviation so devastating that my family would probably ship me off for that long promised 30-day psychological evaluation. While Crossfire appears to be on its last legs, Carlson's career trajectory is only beginning, if POLITICIANS, PARTISANS, AND PARASITES is any indication.
For one thing, Carlson is really funny. His written delivery is very conversational. Reading POLITICIANS, PARTISANS, AND PARASITES is like having this hip, smart, observant guy over for dinner and being happy to let him monopolize the conversation for the entire evening. Carlson is right to center right politically, but he doesn't beat you over the head with it. He chooses his battles wisely and almost always wins them. But POLITICIANS, PARTISANS, AND PARASITES isn't a regurgitation of Carlson's views. It's a breezy, entertaining account of Carlson's experiences in television journalism and reporting.
Carlson's accounts of his adventures in the trenches of television news journalism are not presented in an orderly fashion. It's not quite stream of consciousness but the link between one topic and another can be a bit tenuous. You're not really going to care, however. Carlson is so entertaining and funny that you'll be more than happy to sit back and let him drive at 100 words per minute while he maintains a nonstop monologue concerning what is flying by. His most entertaining accounts concern being on the campaign trail with John McCain, his trip to Vietnam (again, with John McCain), the crashing and burning of his first television program, The Spin Room, and his dead-on descriptions of Carville.
But Carlson's literary audience will not be limited to conservatives. Liberals who have not lost their sense of humor will find plenty to enjoy in Carlson's accounts as well. Carlson pins Jerry Falwell and Larry Klayman to the wall with his laser-like scrutiny and does it so well that even if you like those gentlemen you won't mind. Well, you will, but you'll be too busy laughing to let it bother you for long.
POLITICIANS, PARTISANS AND PARASITES is a series of dead-on critiques and observations of current events, television news, and the people and personalities behind both. Its substance more than makes up for what it lacks in organization. This is Carlson's first book, but it hopefully will not be his last. Highly recommended.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub