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On the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, while discussing Sen. Barack Obama's July 18 speech on urban poverty, host Tucker Carlson responded to New York Times international business editor Marcus Mabry's assertion that Obama was "talking about ways to give fathers the ways and means to be responsible, and not be ashamed, and not have to run away from their families" by claiming that the speech "struck me as much more shallow than that, though." Carlson claimed that Obama's "diagnosis is that jobs are paying less because we've, quote, busted up unions, and there aren't enough jobs for the poor," and added, "[A]ctually, there's some deeper syndrome here that I don't see addressed in any way." Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter responded that Obama had "one sentence fragment" on the "atroph[y]" of unions and accused Carlson of mischaracterizing the speech because Obama also discussed issues including "the earned income tax credit."
Nevertheless, Carlson asserted: "I have higher hopes for Obama. I don't spend my time trashing the guy. I just thought, 'This is a guy who is kind of a broad thinker,' and I expected more." In fact, in the month of July alone, Carlson has said Obama "seems like kind of a wuss," "sounds like a pothead," and gave a speech that was "kind of wimpy," as Media Matters for America has documented.
In addition, on the July 12 edition of Tucker, Carlson teased an upcoming segment on the New Hampshire book clubs Obama's presidential campaign recently established by saying: "Well, everybody knows that a book club is no place for a man. So why has Barack Obama suddenly turned into Oprah? [Producer] Willie Geist rounds up the girls, brings the chardonnay, and heads to the Oprah book club -- or the Obama book club -- when we come back."
From the July 18 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:
CARLSON: Jonathan Alter, I was amazed with this speech for what it didn't contain. It's clearly a well-thought-out speech; he means it. Not one mention of marriage. Not one. Not a single one. And yet, people who are serious about studying poverty know that whether your parents are married is one of the key factors, maybe the key factor, to whether or not you grow up poor, whether you graduate high school, et cetera, et cetera. Why not mention that once?
ALTER: I'm actually kind of surprised to hear you attack his speech on those grounds because Obama, in the speech, specifically criticized the left by name -- he called it, "the left" -- for not focusing enough on fatherhood.
CARLSON: No, but -- but marriage is the key, and he didn't mention it. And anybody, left or right, who studies this knows that that is the key.
MABRY: Exactly, and it's interesting because he's saying, "It takes a father to have a family with hope to come out of poverty." And that -- it's not saying marriage, which some might say was a conservative buzzword, so he wouldn't use that word, but he also condemns the left, and at the same time, he's talking about giving fathers the ways and means to be responsible and not be ashamed, and not have to run away from their families.
CARLSON: But wait, it struck me as much more shallow than that, though. I mean, his diagnosis is that jobs are paying less because we've, quote, busted up unions, and there aren't enough jobs for the poor. Well, our immigration problem exists partly because there are actually a lot of jobs for the poor, and they're taken by people from Guatemala. So actually, there's some deeper syndrome here that I don't see addressed in any way.
ALTER: Those jobs -- but, see, those jobs don't lift people out of poverty. The old union jobs are long gone.
CARLSON: Oh, they don't?
ALTER: No, no, they don't. They're minimum-wage or sub-minimum-wage jobs.
CARLSON: They don't give people dignity? Then why are people coming here to take them?
ALTER: Because they're a hell of a lot better than they get in Mexico. But they don't lift you out of poverty. So the old jobs -- and, by the way, he did not dwell on this in the speech; this is not the same old, same old, if you look at the speech closely. The old jobs are long gone --
ALTER: And one of the reasons, if you are diagnosing the problem, is that, you know, the union movement in the United States has atrophied badly. He had one sentence fragment on that. Don't mislead people into believing that the bulk of his speech --
CARLSON: Mislead people? I --
ALTER: -- was a defense of unionism --
CARLSON: I didn't suggest that. I'm merely saying --
ALTER: -- it was a fragment of one sentence. The focus of his speech was on doing real things, like on the earned income tax credit --
CARLSON: What, is this an ad for Obama or something? I mean, you've gotta be kidding.
ALTER: No, but don't --
CARLSON: I'm not misleading anybody --
ALTER: Tucker, you're mischaracterizing the speech, saying it's the same old, old-fashioned, Great Society liberalism --
CARLSON: I certainly am not --
ALTER: It's not. It's not.
CARLSON: I had higher hopes -- I have higher hopes for Obama. I don't spend my time trashing the guy. I just thought, "This is a guy who is kind of a broad thinker," and I expected more than "Children should go to day care right from birth," which is -- you know, Clinton -- but -- I mean, it has just been demonstrated on the front page of The New York Times that, in fact, going to daycare right from birth maybe doesn't presume -- produce optimum children. I mean, that's a retro solution. Were you surprised to read that?