Tucker Carlson, Putin Asset

Fox News, apparently seeking to blow itself out as a credible home for conservative views, much as did the political Party with which the network is aligned, seems to be on a trajectory into unabashed pandering to the so-called “alt right,” an ugly term in itself which is nevertheless also a euphemism for “Vladimir Putin’s interests.”

Tucker Carlson is a fast-talking simpleton who pretends to be a clever debater — sans opponent. Think of him as a poor man’s Ben Shapiro. (And just to be clear, in my view the rich man’s Ben Shapiro is vacuous enough.) On Tuesday, December 7th, he delivered a lengthy monologue nominally framed as a criticism of the Biden administration’s warlike rhetoric on Ukraine, but more accurately defined as an open defense and rationalization for Putin’s aggression. 

Beginning with an attack on the continued legitimacy of NATO, Carlson offers this magnificent summary of the current situation in Europe:

So at this point NATO exists primarily to torment Vladimir Putin, who whatever his many faults, has no intention of invading Western Europe. Vladimir Putin does not want Belgium, he just wants to keep his western border secure.

Notice that Carlson is not merely criticizing Biden’s approach here, but demeaning the NATO alliance on exactly the terms Putin would, and then daring to directly ascribe specific — and of course totally understandable and benign — intentions to Putin. Does he truly know Putin’s mind and aspirations so well, and know for certain that Putin is dedicated to the dream of peaceful coexistence that the West seems hellbent on denying the poor man (tormenting him)? Or is Carlson merely saying what Putin’s billionaire cronies are paying him to say? It is impossible for me to know which of those alternatives is correct, of course — but if neither of them is correct, then the only other alternative is that Carlson, like his hero Donald Trump, is just a childish fanboy for big, strong Vlad, and therefore only too happy to carry water for him against Western interests because, well, he’s just so big and strong!

Continuing his pity-fest for Dear Vladdy, Carlson offers the following amazing analogy to explain the difficult position in which the mean old West has trapped poor Putin, and his natural wish to defend his borders (by invading a neighboring country?): 

That’s why he doesn’t want Ukraine to join NATO. And that makes sense. Imagine how we would feel if Mexico and Canada became satellites of China. We wouldn’t like that at all. In Russia’s case this is an existential crisis. A NATO takeover of Ukraine would compromise Russia’s access to its Sevastopol Naval Base. That’s the site of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and one of the country’s only connections to international waters.

Good God, the man must be on the Kremlin payroll. Joining NATO would make Ukraine a “satellite” of the NATO countries? Is France a satellite of Italy? Is Canada a satellite of the Czech Republic? Is Carlson really as stupid as his script is making him sound here, or is he just willing to do anything for a ruble? There seems to be no other explanation — except fanboy, of course.

First of all, comparing Russia’s position relative to Western Europe to America’s position relative to China is the most brazenly hideous moral equivalency argument I have heard in a very long time. America, in this analogy, would be a (marginally) free country challenged by a communist dictatorship, whereas Russia is a dictatorship challenging a (marginally) free Europe. I thought only anti-West progressives pulled sophistical stunts like the one Carlson is pulling here. I guess anti-West populists can play that game too.

Next, consider the “existential crisis” Carlson alleges on Russia’s behalf. “A NATO takeover of Ukraine” would threaten Russia’s existence, he claims. But wait. Is NATO trying to “take over Ukraine”? Is NATO an invading force or a ruling cadre? Does NATO, or any Western nation within NATO for that matter, have designs on Russian territory or a wish to deny Russia’s “existence”? I thought NATO was a treaty organization which was inviting Ukraine to join, in an effort to help that country defend itself against Putin, thereby strengthening Europe’s security against aggression from a Russian tyrant. That a tyrant feels squeezed by neighboring nations banding together to protect their interests against his aggression is his problem, isn’t it? Trying to understand the tyrant’s mind is one thing, but should we be trying to “feel his pain”?

Carlson repeatedly uses the phrase “take over Ukraine” during his rant, not only with reference to NATO’s intentions but also with reference to the Biden administration’s policies. Does taking over Ukraine sound like something anyone is proposing to do? — anyone, that is, outside of Putin himself? Carlson, in using such phraseology, is simply mouthing standard Russia Today talking points. He is serving as a Putin media asset through and through.

And as for that Russian aggression which Carlson mocks with his self-proclaimed certainties about Putin’s intentions, consider that the beloved Sevastopol Naval Base he casually refers to, and which a “NATO takeover of Ukraine” would put in jeopardy, is located in Crimea, where it exists under complete Russian control today only due to Putin’s 2014 invasion of Ukrainian territory. Remember Crimea? That little Ukrainian space which the world criticized Russia for taking over by force (and where the Sevastopol base was previously allowed to exist by lease agreement with Ukraine), but which President Trump, Putin’s most valuable American apologist before Tucker Carlson, insisted that European leaders just forget about, since that was over now and Putin’s military was fully established there, so why dredge all that up again? Carlson is essentially delivering the same argument here, but without even acknowledging that the location of this naval base, and the rightful territorial claim to that location, is itself part of the matter at issue. 

As for the simpering plea to let Putin keep “one of the country’s only connections to international waters,” I suggest Carlson look at a map sometime. Or maybe just ask himself why it is in anyone’s interests to help Putin solidify his strategic military position. If in fact NATO had the capacity (which it obviously does not) to squeeze off this aggressive, heavily armed dictatorship’s access to international waters from a military point of view, why would that not be a good thing, and highly desirable? (Hint: “But Hillary” is not a satisfactory answer for this one, Trumpies.)

In response to Joe Biden’s claim that Vladimir Putin is “a killer,” Carlson says, mockingly:

These people are children — again, children pretending to be leaders. “Vladimir Putin’s a killer!” — presumably unlike every other head of state on Earth through all human history.

Really? Every head of state on Earth kills his public critics by poisoning? Every head of state on Earth attempts to murder or imprison all political challengers, while blatantly overturning the laws of his own country to establish himself as oligarch for life? (And consider, on the Carlson standard, according to which calling Putin a killer identifies a president as a child pretending to be a leader, which individual, by contrast, he would regard as an “adult” leader. Perhaps the one who spent four years sucking up to Putin at every opportunity? The one who praised the Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the protests at Tiananmen Square, and played moral equivalency games as Hong Kong was brutalized? The one who got played for a fool by the most laughable little punk on the world stage, as that punk developed his nuclear weapons program while simultaneously gaining from Trump unprecedented global legitimacy, and even personal praise from an American president for being such a brilliant and beloved leader for the North Korean people he is starving and raping to death? The one who, put simply, achieved the seemingly impossible feat of making Barack Obama look like a strong American leader by contrast?)

Tucker Carlson is the most watched host on Fox News, and usually on any cable news network. He is now a complete and overt propagandist for Vladimir Putin. Think about that — assuming you are not a Tucker fan, since in that case I sincerely doubt you can think about that, or anything else.

Anyone want to continue trying to make the case that Trumpism was not — and was not intended by its establishment handlers to be — the death of any strong voice for constitutional republicanism in America?

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