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Commentary: What Tucker Carlson got right and got wrong in his scorched-earth, anti-Trump monologue

Trump needs to convey strength and also empathy

Image source: YouTube screenshot

By now, many of you have seen Tucker Carlson's monologue from Monday night, which was probably his harshest criticism of President Trump's leadership to date. A Twitter post containing the majority of the monologue has more than 5,000 retweets and 12,000 likes as of the time of this writing. Clearly, Carlson — who is normally a strong defender of President Trump — has struck a nerve.

Tucker: Our leaders dither as our cities burn (GRAPHIC VIDEO) www.youtube.com

Some of what Carlson said Monday night is right. A lot of it — probably most of it, to be honest — was wrong, and a considerable portion of it was intentionally dishonest with the facts. Let's break down Tucker's critique, starting with what he got right.

Carlson is right that the current crisis will likely be the defining moment of Trump's presidency, and the determining factor in whether Trump is re-elected in November. Carlson is right that the primary responsibility of Trump (or any president) is to keep people safe, and that if people do not feel that the president can keep them safe in their homes and their businesses, then he will be replaced. He is right that history judges leaders who dither while their country burns most harshly.

Carlson is right that a firm hand is needed at this point to quell the riots that are violent. In discussing an attack on Fox News cameramen that occurred in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., Tucker raised an important question: "If you can't keep a Fox News correspondent from being attacked directly across the street from your house, how can you protect my family? How are you going to protect the country? How hard are you trying?"

Carlson's essential point in the monologue, the central nut, the one everyone is focusing on, is a valid point, and one that I hope President Trump takes to heart: "The first requirement of leadership is that you watch over the people in your care. That's what soldiers want from their officers. It's what families need from their fathers. It's what voters demand from their president."

Unfortunately, what came before and what came after was almost entirely wrong, both on the facts and on the policy. Carlson flatly lied about many of the targets of his monologue, beginning with President Trump.

Carlson complained that, on the morning of Saturday, May 30, when Trump tweeted to reassure the country that he and his family were safe, he did not say anything about keeping the rest of the country safe, and according to Carlson, "much [of the country] was then on fire."

Carlson's complaint is untrue on at least two counts: 1) as of Saturday morning, the violence was not spread across much of the country; and 2) President Trump HAD spoken forcefully about keeping Americans safe prior to that point.

Recall that initially, the protests that turned violent were confined almost exclusively to Minneapolis. Although there were protests in other places like Memphis and Los Angeles throughout the last week that featured such things as blocked traffic, there were no reported incidents of violence, looting and arson. Those protests broke outside of Minneapolis for the first time on Friday night, and were confined to Atlanta and New York. So when the president tweeted about his family being safe, the violence of the protests was not yet a nationwide phenomenon, as Carlson claimed.

But moreover, Trump had repeatedly, on Twitter and in spoken remarks, stated forcefully his intention to keep American citizens safe. He even had one of his tweets cloaked by Twitter for doing it too forcefully, which Tucker might have remembered as being a sort of huge story. Here is but one of the many times Trump spoke out, on Twitter alone, about the need to protect American citizens and how he considered it his responsibility.

Now, you might well say that Trump's comments about the necessity of protecting the safety of American people were inadequate in some way or not to your satisfaction, but to claim that he had simply not mentioned it before he tweeted about his own family's safety is just factually wrong. Acting like all of America was burning on Saturday morning, when in fact it was confined to three cities (one of which happens to be the current residence of one Tucker Carlson) is also factually wrong.

Carlson also got a lot of other facts wrong, in ways that were unhelpful. Carlson strongly implied that there were no such thing as peaceful George Floyd protesters. This, of course, is an absolute lie. We covered some of the many positive and peaceful scenes from this violent weekend here at TheBlaze. Just last night in my hometown of Nashville, a large crowd gathered at the state capitol to protest. The National Guard showed up, shields out, expecting to confront violence. Instead, they found a peaceful crowd — and laid down their shields, joining the crowd's peaceful vigil.

This factual error illustrates a broader problem with Carlson's entire monologue: He sees no reason at all for anyone to display empathy for the protesters, or indeed the family of George Floyd. In fact, he sneers at anyone who dares to do so. If you think Carlson's attitude is in any way helpful to bringing peace and security back to the country, then I really don't know what to tell you, except to say that the people who are protesting are not unruly children, but adults who were brought up in a country that is founded on the idea that government derives its power from the consent of the governed, not the the point of a gun.

Almost all of what he said in attacking the people calling for empathy was a deliberate misrepresentation of what the speakers said. For instance, in attacking former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), he first engages in a transparent ad hominem — you don't have to listen to Nikki Haley because she once attacked Donald Trump.

It should be noted that Carlson's attack on Haley was also a lie: Haley did not compare Donald Trump to mass murderer Dylann Roof, so there is no need for Carlson to wonder, "How is Donald Trump similar to a serial killer?" because Nikki Haley did not say he was. What she said was that Trump's rhetoric might have inspired people like Dylann Roof. You can criticize Haley's comments on the merits and say that they are not correct, but you should at least bother to characterize her comments correctly.

Of course, this entire argument is an ad hominem, the laziest form of logical fallacy. It is facially obvious to every thinking person that whatever Nikki Haley might have said in the past, doesn't make what she is saying now true or untrue, which Carlson's attack on Haley's ability to think all the more deliciously ironic.

But moreover, Carlson lied about what Haley said, even as her words were displayed on the screen right before he misquoted them. Here is what Haley actually said, as illustrated on screen right before Carlson started mischaracterizing them:

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Right after this image was taken down, Carlson mused, "But wait a second, you may be wondering. How am I, quote, personally responsible for the behavior of a Minneapolis police officer? I've never even been to Minneapolis, you may think to yourself. And why is some politician telling me I'm required to be upset about it? Nikki Haley did not answer those questions. Explaining is not her strong suit. That would require ... thinking."

Those are, in fact, not good questions, because you will notice that Nikki Haley did not say that you and I were "personally responsible" for what happened to George Floyd, despite Carlson's claim that she did. There are miles of difference between "it needs to be personal and painful for everyone," which is a call for empathy, and "everyone is personally responsible," which is an assignment of blame. Perhaps, if Carlson is going to attack Haley's ability to think, he ought not do so immediately after flubbing a basic reading comprehension test.

Sneering at anyone who might feel empathy for George Floyd's family, or the peaceful protesters, is probably easy enough for Tucker Carlson, the product of a private East Coast elite boarding school education, who sits safely ensconced in a multimillion-dollar a year job where he goes to the posh Fox News studios in Manhattan to be a famous television figure who is regularly retweeted by the president of the United States.

It is probably less easy for the tens of millions of people who have lost their jobs in the last two months and have been cooped up at home because their government has told them they aren't allowed to leave and has provided them with a pitiable allowance to make up for their lost income. If Carlson thinks that ignoring the current pain and anger of the American people about their life in general and just telling them to sit down and shut up is going to be constructive and helpful — after they've been told to sit down and shut up for two months already — he probably might ought to consider whether he is living in a bubble, or has any ability to understand the perspective of people who might not have gone to St. George's School.

See, there are without a doubt people who are rioting and looting right now who are just doing it because they want free stuff. Some of them are anarchists who are actively seeking to foment an insurrection. Those people, I will agree, should be dealt with harshly. But they aren't by any means all or even most of the people who are protesting. There is real anger in America right now, about a lot of things. We are pushed to the precipice as a country in a way that we seldom have been before in our history. The response requires both a firm hand with the bad actors, and empathy for people who are genuinely frustrated and are looking for a peaceful outlet to express that frustration and make themselves heard. Addressing only half that equation will only lead to more unrest, resentment, and anger.

Additionally, Carlson's contention that, essentially, this is all Jared Kushner's fault wears a little thin. If Trump really is allowing his own sound judgment to be subverted by his son-in-law at every turn, does that mean that Trump really has sound judgment? Whose judgment brought Kushner into the White House to begin with, in spite of widespread and frequently voiced concern from some of Trump's closest allies? Does Trump bear no responsibility for bringing Kushner into the White House and (apparently) listening to him repeatedly?

And what on earth does the First Step Act have anything to do with the protests that are currently unfolding? Does Carlson have any evidence that even one of the people who has engaged in rioting and looting was released pursuant to the First Step Act? If so, even armed with an army of producers and researchers, he does not provide any.

Right now, Trump has two urgent tasks at hand. Carlson correctly identifies one of them, which is that he needs to have an iron fist with some people. But the other is that the fist needs to be wrapped in a velvet glove. This country needs to heal. Weekends like this last one may have been made worse by paid agitators and organizers, but they don't grow up overnight out of nothing. If you don't think that people are legitimately on edge and enraged about what is happening, then you are too far up in your ivory tower to properly comment on what is happening in America at all.

Sometimes, the president has to be both forceful and empathetic at the same time. For the sake of this country and its great people, I hope Trump is capable of it. Just being forceful is likely to create more problems than it solves.

One last thing…
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