The Fox News host’s antiwar stance doesn’t erase all that other ugliness.
Suddenly you’re digging him. At least a little bit. I know, I’ve seen the tweets, read the commentary, heard the chatter, detected the barely suppressed cheer: Hurrah for Tucker Carlson. If only we had more brave, principled Republicans like him.
Right out of the gate, he protested President Trump’s decision to kill Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian military commander, noting that it didn’t square with the president’s determination not to get bogged down in the Middle East and warning of the possibility and horror of full-blown war. Your pulse quickened. You perked up.
He sounded that same alarm on his next show and the show after that. Every night at 8 p.m., he worried about the bellicose itch of our leaders. When all around him on Fox News were playing their usual roles (indeed, his usual role) as masseurs for the president’s tender ego, he administered slaps, hard ones, the kind that leave angry red handprints. Ouch — and don’t stop.
You rejoiced. It’s one thing when Democrats challenge what looks like a rush to war by a Republican president. It’s another when typically fawning members of his own party do.
And while Carlson was hardly alone in his rebellion — three House Republicans voted with Democrats to check the president’s war-waging authority and, over in the Senate, Mike Lee and Rand Paul raised a dissident ruckus — no one else had his ardor, his articulateness, his megaphone.
Carlson to the rescue!
The fascination with him is itself fascinating, for many reasons. Can you recall a modern president before Trump whose moods and movements could be reflected and predicted simply by watching one news organization and, for that matter, just a few of its offerings? In lieu of a normally functioning White House communications department or a press secretary who holds actual press briefings (what a thought!), we have “Fox & Friends” in the morning and Carlson’s and Sean Hannity’s shows in the evening.
They don’t chronicle this presidency. They shape it, not just in terms of the volume of their applause for Trump, who craves the loudest possible clapping, but in terms of actual interactions. Carlson — like Hannity and another Fox fixture, Lou Dobbs — has in fact advised him behind the scenes.
Hence the rapt reaction to Carlson’s antiwar jeremiads. They may well matter.
Also, those of us who regard Trump as a menace can be so eager — too eager — to welcome newcomers to our shores that we overlook the polluted seas they sailed to get there. In a recent moment on the ABC talk show “The View” that was awkward at best, Joy Behar announced excitedly that the prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer had just disavowed Trump because of Iran.
Carlson, mind you, has not disavowed Trump. In fact he performed semantic acrobatics to denounce America’s military maneuvers against Iran without precisely blaming Trump. Those slaps I mentioned landed more forcefully on the administration in general than on the man-child at its apex, who is, in Carlson’s tortured rendition, a gullible marionette, his strings pulled by inveterate, habitual warmongers. If these profiteering elites would just let Trump be Trump and train his wrath on Mexicans instead of Iranians, a great presidency would get its groove back.
During his Tuesday show, Carlson performed political jujitsu and held two of the president’s principal Democratic adversaries responsible for exacerbated tensions with Iran. Referring to the Washington establishment and singling out Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, he said, “These are people who have been basically advocating for a kind of war against Iran for an awfully long time.”
“It’s infuriating,” he added. “It’s because of Schumer and Pelosi and people like them that we got into Iraq in the first place.”
Come again? A Republican president, George W. Bush, urged and oversaw the invasion of Iraq, and while Schumer authorized it, Pelosi voted against it, as did many more Democrats than Republicans.
And Carlson’s portrait of Trump as puppet contradicts reporting from The Times and other news organizations that some Pentagon officials were stunned when the president ordered the strike against Suleimani, a measure more extreme than other options presented to him.
Carlson remains true to Carlson: selective with facts, slanted with truths and — this is the most important part — committed to his vision of America as a land imperiled by nefarious Democrats and the dark-skinned invaders they would open the gates to if not for sentries like him and Trump.
As Matt Gertz of Media Matters perceptively noted, Carlson’s antiwar stance “is not a break from his past support for Trump or his channeling of white nationalist tropes, but a direct a result of both.” Gertz explained that in the mind-set of Carlson and many of his fans on the far right, energy spent on missions in another hemisphere is energy not spent on our southern border. It’s no accident that, in regard to the Middle East, he and Spencer are on the same page.
Following Suleimani’s death, Carlson asked his audience, “Why are we continuing to ignore the decline of our own country in favor of jumping into another quagmire?”
Carlson is defined not by a bold willingness to check Trump’s excesses or ugliest impulses but by his indulgence — no, his fervent encouragement — of those impulses as they pertain to racism and immigration. On those fronts, Carlson himself grows ever uglier, as my colleague Farhad Manjoo and others have noted. It’s why many sponsors have defected from Carlson’s show.
Carlson repeatedly uses variations of the word “invasion” to characterize migrants from Central America. He insists that “white supremacy” is a fiction, a hoax. He has used language that buys into and promotes “replacement theory” — a far-right fixation on the idea that declining birthrates among whites will cause a nonwhite takeover — and recently castigated immigrants for litter along the Potomac River.
Just last month he gave precious time on his show to an obscure Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina, Pete D’Abrosca, who has warned white Americans that they’re “being replaced by third world peasants.” D’Abrosca has also bragged of his support from the “groyper army,” a far-right group with more than a whiff of anti-Semitism.
They’re being replaced by third world peasants who share neither their ethnicity nor their culture. https://twitter.com/amsoufi_/status/1186398407507750912 …Angelina Newsom@amsoufi_Replying to @pdabrosca
What’s happening to white people in AmericaSee Pete D’Abrosca’s other Tweets
Is Carlson himself abetting hatred of Jews? In a rare point of agreement, some Jews and white nationalists believe so, pointing to an on-air rant last month in which he bashed a Jewish billionaire, Paul Singer, by comparing him unfavorably with Henry Ford, who owned a newspaper that ran a lengthy series alleging a Jewish plot to dominate the world.
“The Fox News host goes full anti-Semite,” wrote Tablet, a Jewish publication, while Mike Enoch, who rallied with the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., said on his podcast, “If you didn’t catch the German shepherd whistles where he praised Henry Ford and then went into a diatribe of a Jewish financier, you know, I don’t know what universe you’re existing in.”
So that’s some of what Carlson was up to just before he turned his attention to Iran.
How warm and fuzzy are you feeling toward him now?
Trump boasts he made up trade facts in meeting with Trudeau
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis says the United States actually has a trade surplus of US$7.7-billion with Canada. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) – the agency charged with renegotiating NAFTA – calculates the United States’ advantage as being even greater, at US$12.5-billion. According to the USTR, Canada runs a surplus in the trade of goods but the United States more than makes up for it with a surplus in the services sector.
.. The President has long been the focus of fact-checkers – a tally by the Washington Post found more than 2,000 false statements since he took office – but it is rare for him to admit that he does it. His book The Art of the Deal memorably described lying as “truthful hyperbole.”
“It’s an embarrassment to the United States for the President to be lying to other countries. There are a lot of issues where the United States has made commitments to other countries; if they can’t have confidence in the word of the President, they can’t have confidence in those commitments,” said Jordan Tama, a foreign-policy expert at American University in Washington.
Mr. Trump is preparing for sensitive talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un – a high-stakes gambit aimed at avoiding a nuclear confrontation.
Roland Paris, Mr. Trudeau’s former foreign-policy adviser and now a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa, said world leaders learned a while ago to be careful when interpreting what Mr. Trump says and not to engage in a public spat with him.
“Trump’s language is a mish-mash of selective facts, contradictions and fabrications, but his actions are a lot more important than his words,” Prof. Paris said. “I think that the Prime Minister has been handling the Canada-U.S. file very brightly and it has involved not publicly provoking a thin-skinned President.”
Mr. Trudeau’s shrewdness is, at least, one thing on which the President would agree. In the fundraising speech, he expressed some grudging admiration for Canada’s firmness at the NAFTA table, where Ottawa is fighting back against Mr. Trump’s protectionist demands.
“Canada,” Mr. Trump said, “they negotiate tougher than Mexico.”
Trump Repeats False Claim About Canada After Admitting Uncertainty Over Figure
President Trump repeated on Thursday his false assertion that the United States runs a trade deficit with Canada, the morning after privately telling Republican donors that he had deliberately insisted on that claim in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada without knowing whether it was true.
Mr. Trump’s private admission to having a loose grasp of the facts and his public refusal to back down from the incorrect statement — the United States has an overall surplus in trade with Canada — were vivid illustrations of the president’s cavalier attitude about the truth, and a reminder of how that approach has taken hold at the White House.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump had chosen his figures selectively in the conversation with Mr. Trudeau and in a subsequent Twitter post that repeated the claim. The president was referring only to the trade of goods, which ignores the larger trade surplus in services the United States exports to Canada, Ms. Sanders said.
And in a briefing with reporters, she acknowledged that Mr. Trump had fabricated an anecdote he told the donors about unfair trading practices — Japanese officials, he claimed, conduct a test on American cars by dropping a bowling ball on their hoods from 20 feet high, and those that dent are barred from being imported.
“Obviously, he’s joking about this particular test,” Ms. Sanders told reporters who confronted her about the veracity of the tale. “But it illustrates the creative ways some countries are able to keep American goods out of their markets.”
Her explanation came two weeks after Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that she sometimes told white lies on behalf of Mr. Trump.
The latest instance of Mr. Trump bending the truth emerged after The Washington Post published an account of the president boasting about his disingenuous exchange with Mr. Trudeau at a fund-raising dinner on Wednesday night in Missouri. On Thursday, the president refused to back down from the erroneous claim about the trade balance between the United States and Canada.
“We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive),” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. In an audio recording from the dinner obtained by The Post, a transcript of which was published on Thursday, Mr. Trump recounted how he pressed that point in a meeting with Mr. Trudeau even though he had “no idea” whether it was true.
The United States ran a trade surplus of $600 million in goods and services with Canada in January, according to the Commerce Department
.. But during the fund-raiser for a Senate candidate in Missouri, Mr. Trump said he had refused to concede the point in a meeting with Mr. Trudeau, as the prime minister repeatedly pushed back.
“He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none; Donald, please,’” Mr. Trump told the donors according to the transcript, calling Mr. Trudeau a “nice guy, good-looking.”
“I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know,” Mr. Trump said. “I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid.”
Mr. Trump’s retelling drew rebukes from some diplomats and lawmakers who argued that it reflected a dangerous penchant by the commander in chief to misrepresent the truth.
“The president’s admission that he’s literally making things up while speaking face-to-face with a world leader should stop us all in our tracks,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “How can any other government — ally or adversary — have any confidence in what our president says when he admits to lying?”
During the conversation, the president said he and Mr. Trudeau had tangled repeatedly about the trade balance, with the prime minister saying, “Nope, we have no trade deficit,” and Mr. Trump ultimately sending an aide to, “Check, because I can’t believe it.”
The president then claimed that his contention had been validated, appearing to quote an aide he said had told him, “‘Well sir you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber. But when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”
.. Officials in Mr. Trump’s administration insisted that the United States runs a steel trade deficit with Canada even though data from both governments show that trade is balanced.
.. Mr. Trump’s top trade negotiators have presented a list of demands for revising Nafta that Canada has declared unacceptable. Mr. Trudeau has said that Canada is prepared to abandon Nafta rather than accept a “bad deal” and Mr. Trump has similarly threatened to withdraw from the pact.
.. Bruce A. Heyman, the United States ambassador to Canada under President Barack Obama, said that Mr. Trump’s approach was “creating a crisis where none existed before.”
“Lying to your friends only hurts the relationship,” Mr. Heyman wrote on Twitter. “Canada has been there for us thru thick and thin. How can you just casually damage this realtionship?”