It’s like Bill O’Reilly never left.
Tucker Carlson, the man Fox News has turned to after finally losing retrogade misogynist icon Bill O’Reilly earlier this year, did his damnedest on Thursday to explain away President Donald Trump’s proclivity for making nasty personal attacks when he is criticized.
By the end of his O’Reilly-style monologue on Thursday, Carlson had used a mix of race-baiting, us-versus-them incitement, and pearl-clutching to establish that Trump’s only true sin lies in inconveniencing his own radical right-wing policy agenda.
Liberal objections to Trump’s tweets about Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski are insincere, Carlson said, because liberals don’t actually care about Trump’s vulgarity. Echoing a common sentiment on the political right, Carlson argued that departed President Barack Obama had already degraded the White House too much for Trump’s conduct to move the needle. The criticisms of Trump’s tweet-rage that dominated yesterday’s news cycle are therefore just a disingenuous ploy to gain the upper hand with the media, the Fox host argued.
“Nothing is more empowering than victimhood. It won’t be long before NBC’s entire White House unit claims affirmative action status,” Carlson said.
Got that? Affirmative action — an upward-mobility policy targeted primarily at the descendants of slavery — is just another cheap victimhood stunt from those dang leftists, and Tucker Carlson is here to make sure they don’t get away with it this time.
The proof that Trump haters don’t actually care about vulgarity is that “they applauded when Barack Obama vacationed with rappers,” Carlson went on.
Cultural conservatives have been obsessed for decades with the idea that rap is a harbinger of societal decline and a degradation of both America’s morality and its sense of aesthetics. Carlson’s yogi reach to render a sitting president’s vitriol and misogyny equivalent to the Obamas’ friendship with Jay-Z and Beyoncé — the First Couple of American pop culture — is flat-out laughable. But it’s also reflective of a genuine belief on the right that the music of black America has debased rather than enriched our national fabric. Which is a pretty racist thing to believe, since it means shutting your ears to the realities of black experience and denying full-stop that the artistic product generated out of those experiences could be worthy of study — could be anything other than literal garbage.
Carlson’s version of culture-warrior self-righteousness echoes the most recent ad put out by the National Rifle Association, a smooth video package explaining to real Americans how Hollywood liberals who don’t like the president manipulate people into civil unrest and street protests that must be met with force. Both call on a conservative audience to view everyone to the left of Michael Bloomberg as an un-human “They” who threaten to pillage the righteous and therefore deserve to be met with violence. Carlson’s not nearly as good at singing it, but it’s the same old song.
Carlson also channeled O’Reilly’s other main schtick: Playing the straight shooter who isn’t afraid to tell his own side when it’s wrong.
Liberals might be overreacting little snowflakes, Carlson said, but that “is no defense of these tweets. They were stupid and they were counterproductive.” He elaborates that Trump’s goof gave liberals a free news cycle and “brought joy to the left while embarrassing the president’s supporters.”
But Carlson’s not actually criticizing the caudillo here. He’s play-acting at it, treating the president’s tweets as an unfortunate bump in the glorious road to MAGA-land rather than a meaningful barometer of his character, mindset, or values.
“That’s the real tragedy of today’s tweets: They were a diversion,” Carlson said. “When the president talks about the people who elected him, he wins. When he talks about himself, the left does.”
In the Carlson’s mind, the only reason Trump’s tweets were bad is that they are politically inconvenient. It’s not actually bad for a powerful man to constantly resort to cracks about the physical appearance of the women who criticize him, Tucker tells us; the only tragedy here is it gives a “win” to the left.
That’s a familiar two-step from Republicans. Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham, and other senior party figures have been doing it for weeks every time the president tweets about Russia or the FBI. Yesterday morning, scads of House and Senate GOPers made sure to tell the press how disappointed they were in the tone of the president’s tweets.
But the Republican performance of grave disappointment is a sham, coming as it does from “members of a political party presently working out how to strip reasonable access to healthcare from tens of millions of vulnerable people — the poor, the sick, the elderly — so that they can kick back some tax money to the richest sliver of America’s upper class,” as Albert Burneko noted. “Imagine fretting over what does or does not empower women while your own party conspires to strip prenatal care from mothers. Imagine wringing your hands over civility while plotting to bankrupt and ruin the families of sick children so that a few billionaires can bleed just a little more cash out of the society they’re destroying.”
Indeed, actual policy substance is the only context in which it makes sense to evaluate Carlson’s disingenuous critique. The only shame he sees in his president’s conduct is that it might inconvenience the ongoing Republican campaign to give rich people more money by derailing venerated public safety net programs.
It’s not that these conservative Trump apologists disagree with what the president says about his perceived enemies and fellow countrymen. They want to see the Mika Brzezinskis of the world humiliated and punished, the Obamas and Jay-Z’s of our country presented as a national stain. They just wish he’d let somebody else do it.
Tucker Carlson runs race-baiting interference for President Tweetsalot was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.