Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in an interview Thursday that President Donald Trump has succeeded as a conversation starter but has failed to keep his most important campaign promises.
“His chief promises were that he would build the wall, de-fund Planned Parenthood, and repeal Obamacare, and he hasn’t done any of those things,” Carlson told Urs Gehriger of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche.
“I’ve come to believe that Trump’s role is not as a conventional president who promises to get certain things achieved to the Congress and then does,” said Carlson, whose new book Ship of Fools is a New York Times bestseller.
“I don’t think he’s capable. I don’t think he’s capable of sustained focus,” he added. “I don’t think he understands the system. I don’t think the Congress is on his side. I don’t think his own agencies support him. He’s not going to do that.”
On the other hand, Mr. Trump has succeeded in changing the national conversation and forcing Americans to reexamine issues of key importance, such as immigration.
“I think Trump’s role is to begin the conversation about what actually matters,” Carlson said. “We were not having any conversation about immigration before Trump arrived in Washington. People were bothered about it in different places in the country. It’s a huge country, but that was not a staple of political debate at all.”
“Trump asked basic questions like ‘Why don’t our borders work?’ ‘Why should we sign a trade agreement and let the other side cheat?’ Or my favorite of all, ‘What’s the point of NATO?’,” Carlson said. “The point of NATO was to keep the Soviets from invading western Europe but they haven’t existed in 27 years, so what is the point?”
“These are obvious questions that no one could answer,” he said.
Despite his natural suspicion of irresponsible elites, Carlson said he is not a populist, because populism is a reaction to a failed political system.
“Populism is what you get when your leaders fail. In a democracy, the population says this is terrible and they elect someone like Trump,” he said.
This, in turn, is the fruit of a misshapen, education-based meritocracy, where “a small number of colleges has produced a ruling class that doesn’t have the self-awareness that you need to be wise.”
A self-confessed product of this elite system, Carlson says that he began to realize how far the country had gone after the 2008 financial crisis, which was barely felt in affluent Washington D.C.
“If you leave Washington and drive to say Pittsburgh, which is a manufacturing town about three and a half hours to the west, you drive through a series of little towns that are devastated. There are no car dealerships, there are no restaurants. There’s nothing. They have not recovered,” he said.
Rural America, he thought at the time, “is really falling apart” and yet nobody in Washington seemed to understand that. In the end, “the elite in our country is physically separated in a way that’s very unhealthy for a democracy, very unhealthy.”
Trump, on the other hand, “could smell that there was this large group of voters who had no one representing them and he brought them to the Republican side, but the realignment is still ongoing,” Carlson said.
A month ago, Carlson’s home was assailed by Antifa “protesters,” during which his wife hid in the pantry and called the police.
“This has a chilling effect on people’s ability to speak and to think freely,” Carlson said. “That’s the point. It’s totalitarian in its intent. We should fight it.”
“Our public conversation has been hijacked by extremists like this,” he said.
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