- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Beltway denizens returned to their favorite pastime — clinking glasses and talking politics — Tuesday, after spending a full week processing the presidential election.

And who better to host such an affair than WETA-TV’s new host Tucker Carlson, a more compassionate than caustic conservative?

Tuesday’s happy hour at Morton’s, the Steakhouse, in Northwest promised guests they could “unspin, unload and unwind.”

The affable host, the star of WETA’s new “Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered” and CNN’s partisan slugfest “Crossfire,” took the election results in stride.

His side, after all, did walk away with most of the electoral votes.

“There are a lot of people who were planning on moving to Canada anyway,” joked Mr. Carlson, taller in person than one might guess and, as one female guest put it, “more attractive” to boot.

Mr. Carlson, an esteemed member of the punditocracy, said the election did puncture the so-called conventional wisdom.

“The idea that negative campaigning depresses the turnout has been proven untrue,” he said. “This is the nastiest election I’ve ever seen.”

The post-election malaise also produced a few whoppers. Mr. Carlson’s favorite so far is that Halliburton tampered with the electronic voting machines.

It’s the kind of nonsense a propagandist like Michael Moore might run with.

“Bush on the Couch” author and psychiatrist Dr. Justin A. Frank said he wasn’t surprised how emotional people became in the hours and days after President Bush’s re-election.

“The president sees things as being with us or against us. If you feel you’re against him, you’re against the establishment,” Dr. Frank says. “There’s a fear of living in a divided nation. I think it will calm down after a while, … a lingering ghost of the 2000 election.”

Some are taking the news worse than others.

“I’ve had a few patients who said, ‘I’m going to find a mail-order bride and move to another country,’” Dr. Frank said.

Just don’t blame Mr. Carlson for such animosity. He’s a uniter, not a divider, to hear his colleagues and well-wishers tell it.

Dalton Delan, executive vice president and chief programming officer with WETA, said Mr. Carlson is the rare partisan who can sway his ideological opponents.

“He gets the most e-mail … from the other side of the spectrum. ‘I was prepared to hate you,’ they say,” Mr. Delan said.

“Crossfire’s” Paul Begala, Mr. Carlson’s regular sparring partner, praised his partner’s sense of humor.

“Tucker doesn’t take himself seriously, and that’s important,” Mr. Begala said, his theoretical gloves down for one night.

Better, Mr. Begala said, is his unwillingness to bow before sacred cows.

“He’s utterly fearless,” said Mr. Begala, referring to a recent rant in which Mr. Carlson said those who don’t know the issues shouldn’t vote. “He says things with no fear of political correctness.”

— By Christian Toto

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