Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Interview With Tucker Carlson About His Trip to Mar-a-Lago To Warn President Trump

Tucker, are you unable to critique Trump directly? His response has been panicked. It started with denial, has moved into panic and is completely ineffectual and causing worse problems. He’s fighting with the governor of New York right now on Twitter. I mean, are you able to directly criticize him?

I am able to do whatever I want. I mean, I haven’t gotten a single directive from the company I work for. They haven’t said literally one thing.

But are you critical?

I was the only person in media to say that in America, to say that the State Department, the Trump State Department, was lying about the Syrian gas attacks, which they were. They were lying. Yeah. And we twice killed people with prison missiles in response to what was the lie, and I said that out loud and I meant it and I was the only person who did. And so yeah, I mean, of course I can criticize Trump directly.

Are you critical of his handling right now of this pandemic? Do you think he’s done a good job? Yesterday Trump was asked how he rated his own handling of the pandemic on a scale of 1 to 10, and he gave himself a 10.

I’ve been really critical of the administration’s response to this, repeatedly every night on my show. I think the mistake that people make, and I’ve felt this for three and a half years, is making everything about Trump. It’s all about Trump. And so really at a certain point, it’s like, no, it’s all about your emotional problems. I’ve lived in Washington since I was a child. My dad ran a federal agency [Richard Warner Carlson was an assistant director of the United States Information Agency under Ronald Reagan]. I know how the government works and there are many layers to this. It’s not all about one guy’s mercurial personality, and anyone who thinks it [is] is a child and should get out of the fucking news business, right? And I look around and it’s all children. It’s all people like Jim Acosta, Oh, Trump’s a racist—who cares? There’s a freaking pandemic, dude. Just stop whining about whether he calls it the Chinese coronavirus or not. Like, this is insane. Look, there are many roles that people play in American life and in the news media, but my role, I don’t want to make every show about Trump. Not because I’m covering for Trump, but because I don’t think it’s that interesting and I don’t think it’s actually the truth. And the truth is this: We have all kinds of systemic failures here, big time. And no one wants to say that because actually they’re covering for the people who created those problems in the first place. Do you know what I mean? So I would love to hear somebody on why does it fall to Bernie Sanders to make the obvious points about corporate America’s role in all this? Bernie Sanders is a completely mediocre guy who doesn’t even really mean it—but why is he the only one who’s saying some things that are true? That’s what the media should be doing, but they’re not. Because they’re so focused on Trump. Trump is tweeting too much. Well of course he’s tweeting too much! Okay, I got it, maybe don’t read his tweets. All right. But like, there’s a lot else going on, right? That’s my opinion.
I get it. But there’s a catch-22 here, which is that the way that Trump has been successful is to create a cult of personality as a guy who can cut through the bullshit and make things happen. Suddenly that strategy is no longer functioning. His strength has become a weakness. Don’t you agree?

There’s a moment in the life of every administration when you realize that your schtick isn’t working. And you see it play out in every administration—Holy shit, we didn’t plan for this. And that’s the point where you need to think of a new way to respond to things like you do. You have to be flexible.

I wouldn’t say flexibility is a major strong suit of the Trump administration.

I think that’s a fair criticism. But I would also say, because I think it’s really important to be totally honest—if you took Trump out of the picture entirely, if he retired this afternoon, it wouldn’t fix the problems. And by the way, if you retroactively fix every bad decision he’s made for the last three and a half years, we still wouldn’t be prepared for coronavirus. And you still wouldn’t have a clear path to mitigating the effects of that virus on our economy. So if you’re only thinking about Trump, you’re missing it. You’re missing the point. This is a call to fix some pretty basic things that are broken that nobody wants to fix. And because they don’t want to fix them, they spend a lot of time talking about Trump. And Trump is happy to play that game. So it’s not just a question of conservatives deflecting blame by casting stones at the media. It’s much bigger than that.

The Trump–media relationship and the way that it subsumes everybody’s attention has turned into a real Achilles heel for us.

Ya think? That’s been obvious since day one. Day one of the campaign. And coverage is just so childish and stupid and repetitive and boring—

But can I say something? You could say the same thing about Trump himself, and I know—

But of course. This is a symbiotic relationship. But okay. So that does not obviate anybody’s responsibility. So he did it too, so, okay, great. Yeah, but we’re all adults here. So now is the time for people to start acting responsible, try to do the right thing; you can express your political views, but do the right thing and stop with this crap. And I know it makes everybody feel virtuous. And I know the real root here is every educated person that’s really frustrated because they understand they’re never going to be as rich or prominent as they thought they were going to be because the economy is changing and they’re filled with rage about that. I know what’s going on ’cause I live in that world. Yeah. And they’re just placing all of that rage onto one guy. Some of it’s deserved, some of it’s not. But it’s not actually going to fix what’s making them mad in the first place. When do you start to ask, “Why are only private equity people prospering right now?” That’s the conversation you need to have. Instead the conversation is, “Can you believe he tweeted this?” Okay. But he’s never going to stop.

When I criticize the media, I say that as someone who’s been here since 1991 and worked in newspapers and doing magazines and all three networks, and, like, I know the landscape pretty well, as well as anybody does, and so my criticism is not reflexive partisanship. I’ve never been a reflexive partisan, and you can check—it’s totally sincere. I’m appalled by the dumbness. I’m appalled.

Do you acknowledge your own role in that?

Of course I acknowledge my own role in it! Are you joking? Of course I do.

Do you acknowledge your role in this ridiculous symbiotic thing that’s made us less cohesive as a country and less rational as a country and less able to function? The reason that we’re in this?

No, I don’t. I acknowledge my role in saying a lot of stupid things over the years. I acknowledge that I probably shouldn’t have gone and talked to the president about this since I’m not any kind of policy adviser, I’m not an epidemiologist. I acknowledge all of that. What I don’t acknowledge is playing the “Donald Trump is the only story” game. I have not done that. And you can look at my show rundowns every night for three and a half years, and you’ll find that we’ve done less Trump on TV. It’s not that Trump doesn’t deserve criticism, obviously I don’t think that. It’s that there are all these massive and profound [things] going on in American society that are being completely ignored, and coronavirus was one of them. And that’s the context in which I first introduced it to our viewers.

This is one of the things that’s happening that you should know about that no one was even mentioning because—the problem with impeachment as a news story is that it had a foregone conclusion. So why does this merit wall-to-wall coverage? I never understood that. And there’s a cost to that. It’s not necessarily a cost to Trump. He benefited from it. By the way, his approval numbers went up, Trump was helped by impeachment. The problem was that interesting and important stories that everybody should kind of be thinking about were totally ignored, and coronavirus was one of them. And that’s what I said and that’s what I think now.

Did your meeting with Trump have a result? Did it cause some shift? Was there a pivot in the way that Trump himself absorbed what was going on?

I don’t know. You can assess that yourself. You can look at the timeline, but my only comment would be that it’s not my job to do that. All I felt was I just want to say what I think and that’s my responsibility. And then I’m leaving and I’m not on some CDC conference call. I can tell you that. I could feel—I could just feel a sense of real danger. Not every premonition is accurate, but I just had a really, really strong one that I couldn’t shake and I have to do this.

And so, well, let me just ask that again. You saw the timeline afterwards. I mean, you saw with his reaction was, maybe it was like a week later or it was the Friday and Saturday of last week that he steps up and takes some actions.

I think the reality of it spoke a lot louder than anything I said.

Well the question all along has been: Is Trump in touch with that reality, or could he see it through the distortion of the media that he imbibes? And I guess that’s the question I have had all along is that the first reactions from a lot of people in his political sphere was that this was a hoax. Right? Even up until like three days ago, we had California Republican Devin Nunes and then Kevin Stitt, the governor of Oklahoma, telling people to go out to the bars and hang out and gather. I mean, this is where the political media vortex has become dangerous.
I don’t think that you should encourage people to gather in large groups right now, that does not seem wise. I also don’t think you should shut down public institutions like restaurants, hotels, without thinking through the very real economic consequences to people. That’s gotta be a factor. It has to be. And anyone who says it’s not a factor is an idiot, because it has to be. And I’ve noticed that a lot of the people who say that “if we can save one life,” they give you that speech. They’re people who will not be affected by that at all, except to the extent they can’t get fresh burrata.
This is a lot of people I know, and love, and I understand where they’re coming from. I think most people are being sincere. I think the hardened partisans on all sides will always lie because that’s what they do. But most people, even most politicians, want to do the right thing in the face of the crisis. I know them! I know almost all of them. So I know that that’s true. Some of them are dumb. There are a lot of dumb ones. But who else would go into politics? It’s mostly dumb people. Not all, but mostly. So I do think there’s a very, very complicated balance, and there’s a war between competing imperatives and it’s totally real. And I think it requires a kind of subtlety that almost nobody in our leadership class is capable of.

The populist politics that Trump has practiced has made him distinctly bad at dealing with this particular moment. What made him strong as a populist has made him a terrible manager of this particular crisis.

Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe. You don’t get populist politics unless your institutions are failing. Because satisfied people don’t resort to populist politics. So once again, if you believe that the current paralysis is all Trump’s fault, you’re absolving an awful lot of guilty parties, maybe including yourself. That’s what I’m saying.

Well here’s my last question for you. Given how it’s been managed, given where we are, given the unknowns of the next two to six weeks to three months, do you think Trump can survive this in November?

I haven’t the faintest idea. I mean, I spent months telling our viewers that Joe Biden could never get a nomination. So I mean, I have literally no idea. I know things are changed so completely in the last 10 days. Where will they be 10 days from now?

Do you think his management of this pandemic has damaged him politically?

I think this has scared the hell out of everyone, left and right. And we’re at the very early stages of this, and according to what epidemiologists say, we’ll be where Italy is three weeks from now. And if you extrapolate from their population, that’s a lot of people in the hospital and a lot of people dead. And so that will be a completely different country at that point.

I mean, this is all happening so fast, it’s hard to think it through, but there are a lot of potential consequences to the society. Not political consequences necessarily, but social consequences to this—to the economy, to the way people live, the higher education. I mean, you’ve got the entire college-age population home right now taking classes online at a time when college debt is overwhelming families and actually creating a really dangerous overhang, economically, in the economy. So why does this not result in fewer people spending 70 grand a year to go to G.W.? I don’t know. It might.
The divisive nature of Trump’s political style has driven half the population mad and the other mad in a different way. And you know that the dysfunctionality of it is precisely ill-equipped to deal with what we’re dealing with right now.

So if you really believe that explanation, which presumably you do, you have to ask yourself, this is a sincere question: What institution do you really trust right now? Honestly.

I was watching 60 Minutes last night. Did you see it?


I was surprised to learn about the kind of state-level medical operations that they’ve put into place that are being built to deal with this. There’s a world of nurses and medical people out there who are pulling together in a MASH unit style to cope with this. It’s the people on the ground who are going to help us. It’s not the people at the top.

Well see, you’re sort of making my point for me. What you’re saying is you trust the decency and the resilience of normal people.

Maybe as we’re forced to come together, we’re going to realize that the political storms that we’ve been living through are not really what life is about.

I really fervently agree with that—really fervently, as much as I agree with anything. And I really hope for that. And I, again, I think you’re kind of reiterating what I’m saying, which is that the institutions have failed so completely that what we’re left with is each other.

Again, when you say failed institutions, I include the Trump administration in that. We shall see what happens next. But please get a test and don’t needlessly expose your children to the coronavirus.

Nope. I’m not gonna. I’m waving at them through glass right now.

Source: Vanity Fair: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/03/tucker-carlson-on-how-he-brought-coronavirus-message-to-mar-a-lago

[Through a Fox News spokesperson, Carlson said he is “symptom free and feels healthy.” He broadcasts from a home studio in Florida.] This post has been updated.

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