What Tucker Carlson Really Thinks
It is not what he does when he's in the ring. It is not what he's like when he's around his friends. It is how he is when no one is watching The man is a fraud and a hypocrite
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.The lazy dog was no match for the quick brown fox.
7:33 PM ET
On Tuesday evening, two news reports caught my attention. The first was an Emerson College poll of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. Donald Trump holds an incredible 41-point lead over Ron DeSantis in the state that rescued Trump's primary campaign after a second-place finish in Iowa in 2016. This result is in line with a series of national polls that also show Trump with a large lead over DeSantis. Trump is still the favorite to win the G.O.P. nomination. Any other conclusion at this early date is wishful thinking.
The second report in Dominion Voting Systems's defamation lawsuit against Fox News was yet another document dump. Collectively, the text messages, emails and other documents exposed by the case represent one of the great 'I told you so' moments in recent American history. Trump critics (notably including my friends and former Fox News contributors Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes) have been telling anyone who will listen that Republican politicians and personalities say one thing about Trump in public and another thing about him in private. In private, they're scathing. In public, they're sycophants.
Now we know exactly how true that is, and the person who is revealing that truth more than anyone else is Tucker Carlson. Previous document dumps have demonstrated that Carlson, in addition to several other Fox hosts and key senior leaders, knew that the various election-fraud conspiracy theories weren't just baseless, they were in the words of Rupert Murdoch ' really crazy stuff.'
In private, Carlson will say what the Fox News audience truly doesn't want to hear: not just that Donald Trump lost the election, but that he was also a bad president. He was bad for the country. On Jan. 4, 2021, Carlson texted this about Trump's single term: 'We're all pretending we've got a lot to show for it, because admitting what a disaster it's been is too tough to digest. But come on. There really isn't an upside to Trump.'
This is the most important truth of all as Trump runs again, thank you Tucker.
To understand why this truth is so important, you have to understand the Trump voter's case for another term. Yes, there are those who support him because 'he fights.' They thrill to the angry and combative rhetoric in his weekend speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. 'I am your warrior,' he said. 'I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.' In order to understand why this is such an important message, you have to understand why Trump supporters want him to have another term. Some people back him because they see him as a fighter who isn't afraid to speak his mind. They were invigorated by his aggressive speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he said, 'I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.'
Although there is another group of Republicans who don't appreciate that rhetoric and find the constant fighting to be tiring, this group takes on Trump with the mindset that 'he's a bad person who was a good president.' This argument is not uncommon in American politics-- in fact, I often heard it from Democrats during Clinton's administration.
Many former Trump skeptics now firmly believe that Trump, for all his other flaws, was good at his job. They believe Trump's constant hype - hype that's often repeated across the length and breadth of right-wing news. According to this narrative, America was strong before Covid. The economy roared. ISIS lost. America was great again. However, this narrative is undermined by Carlson's text.
There is some truth to Trump's statements that makes it appealing to Republican voters. The economy was continuing to recover from the Obama administration. Trump did help to defeat ISIS, though this was an effort that started during the Obama administration. Trump-nominated Supreme Court justices were important in overturning Roe v. Wade.
He was impeached for trying to cheat in the election.
Why would Carlson say that Trump's presidency was a 'disaster?' We don't yet know his specific case against Trump, and he seems to have no intention to tell the public what he really thinks. But the word certainly fits. Trump has hurt the G.O.P. He handed back control of every elected branch of the federal government to the Democratic Party in four short years. He was fiscally irresponsible. The budget deficit grew every year of his presidency. He passed only one truly meaningful piece of legislation in four years, a tax bill that was far more Paul Ryan's than Donald Trump's. He undermined America's vital military alliances. He was impeached for trying to cheat in the election.
The corruption of Donald Trump, his eagerness to put millions of dollars of taxpayer money into his resorts and properties, and his willingness to let his family accept vast sums from foreign entities is profoundly troubling. We'll likely be discovering further examples of his outright graft for years, if not decades. There's considerable evidence that suggests he committed felonies in office.
And yet, that is still a somewhat superficial diagnosis. If you dig deeper, you'll see that, for all the enumerated flaws, the Trump years were most disastrous for the social and civic health of the United States of America. The increases in suffering and despair have been profound. Donald Trump's presidency battered the American spirit.
Tucker Carlson is aware of the struggles of the American working class. He often talks about crime and the increasing number of deaths caused by despair. He is also aware of Trump's failures, which can be seen in various areas of American life.
When Trump was inaugurated, he promised to reverse 'this American carnage,' the 'crime, and the gangs, and the drugs' that were claiming so many American lives. But the 'carnage' only magnified. The murder rate was substantially higher when he left office. There were tens of thousands more drug overdose deaths in 2020 than in 2016. And for all the talk about Trump's anti-abortion policy record, for the first time in 30 years the number of abortions increased under an American president. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 'There were 8 percent more abortions in 2020 than in 2017.' That means there were roughly 70,000 more abortions in 2020 than when Trump took office.
The statistics above pertain to matters of life and death, which are likely indications of deeper measures of personal pain and distress. Trump divided America, which caused partisan polarization and animosity to increase. American mental health declined due to an increase in depression rates from 2015 to 2019, and the Covid pandemic made the trend even worse.
This decline in positive statistics was accompanied by an increase in negative statistics. The marriage rate, for example, which had stabilized during the Obama years, plunged during the Trump years. The American birthrate continued its long decline.
Although American presidents are powerful, they cannot control all social factors. Many of the negative trends (drug overdose deaths among the most notable) long predated Trump, but they continued under Trump. Presidents can't control cultures, but they can help heal or they can further harm. Trump committed grave harms.
I'm most struck by the decline in the marriage rate and the increase in the abortion rate. Marriage and birth represent tangible expressions of optimism. Creating a family, welcoming new life into the world it's difficult to more concretely express one's hope for the future. Yet chaos undermines hope, and Trump's one term was chaotic. It was bitter. And it culminated in an attempted coup.
After almost eight long years of writing about Donald Trump, I'm not nearly as nave as to believe that any single new development will alienate his base. I understand that the right-wing media ecosystem is so protective of both Trump and Fox that millions of listeners and viewers won't see even a single document from the Dominion case.
Arguments still matter, however person by person and household by household. The argument that Trump was 'bad but good' will be heard in many American homes. Those who held their noses to vote for him twice before will be tempted to do so once again. He is still the front-runner for the Republican nomination. But Trump's opponents have a new and surprising ally, a person who agrees that the 45th president didn't just lose the 2020 election, he was also a 'disaster' in the White House. His name is Tucker Carlson. Ask him. He'll tell you. You just need to ask when the camera is off.