Fox News host and sack of decaying Beanie Babies turned real boy Tucker Carlson was among the network's most vigorous apologists for Vladimir Putin and Putin's military build-up along the Ukrainian border. Now that Putin is shelling Ukrainian cities in an attempt to annex Trump's least-favorite democracy, however, Tucker has turned his shtick toward the rather more pressing (for him) problem of trying to distance himself from past bits in which he mused, "Why shouldn't I root for Russia, which I am?" and his explanations for why conservatives should direct their hate toward American liberals rather than Russia's kleptocratic thug.
As always, Tucker's schtick is premised heavily on claims of being a victim—because everyone's been going around replaying clips of his past shows, the ones where he said all these grotesque things—and it just keeps going. It looks like Tucker's Fox News show is going to be devoted to Tucker's own self-preservation for a good long while yet. A long, long while yet.
I mean, this dude just keeps going.
Yes, Monday saw the next of Tucker's I-am-a-patriot-so-stop-asking bits, but the difficulty he's having committing to the bit is apparent. No longer able to tell his pro-Trump audience that Vladimir Putin, claimed to be a "genius" by both Trump and large chunks of America's white nationalist movement, is a peace-loving not-murderous not-thug (as long as you ignore all those reporters and political opponents that keep getting murdered around him), Tucker still can't stomach full condemnation for Putin's invasion. That's led us to Tucker's current stage of grief: blaming the war on Kamala Harris.
You see, in Tucker's mind not only did NATO cause the war by being willing to listen to Ukraine's requests to join the European defense partnership, but Kamala Harris was especially culpable for saying she "appreciate[s] and admire[s]" Ukrainian president Zelenskyy's desire to join NATO during Putin's buildup of forces. This shows, sez Tucker, that the Biden administration was giving Putin the green light to invade.
"Why in the world would the United States intentionally seek war with Russia?" asks the Fox News turnip.
From the standpoint of a root vegetable, that is a very good question. From the standpoint of a supposed deep political thinker who is absolutely for sure not in Vlad Putin's personal pockets, though, it remains a streeeeeetch. Yikes.
As with pretty much everything that comes out of Tucker's mouth these days, this new theory—that while Putin may have done the actual invading part, he only did it because Russia's enemies goaded him into it—is an unsubtle variation of what Russia itself has been claiming. Russian analysts pin the Russian invasion on Putin's desire to project Russian strength as a world power even though the state has been vastly weakened since the days of the Soviet Union; Putin is said to want to annex old Soviet territories as means of burnishing his own supposed legacy.
Russian propagandists, however, have been selling the war as a defensive action made necessary by the "fascist" nature of the (Jewish) Ukrainian president and by the threat posed by NATO "aggression," meaning NATO's continued existence as counter to would-be Russian imperialism. Russia is telling everyone who will listen that, actually, the war is Joe Biden's fault, and Europe's fault, and NATO's fault.
That Tucker Carlson is struggling mightily to distance himself from pro-Putin Republicanism but still keeps landing on arguments promoted by Russian state television propagandists shows just how hard this has been for the network and for Tucker himself. It's not that he's taking talking points from Russian propagandists, mind you. It's just that he coincidentally keeps ending up at all the same places.
All of Fox News is currently suffering from this same problem, as Russian state television gleefully shares clips of the network's talking heads offering up pro-Russian takes in an attempt to show Russian viewers that even international enemy states cannot help but praise Putin's genius and resolve. The network that defended violent insurrection was never going to have a strong compulsion to back democracies elsewhere in the world, and the network is currently struggling to find the Republicanist sweet spot of condemning Putin for murdering Ukrainian families while still putting the most blame on Republican enemies here at home.
Go too far, and the network's older conservative viewers will become unsettled with such steadfast defenses of The Great Satan, which according to most Republicans, is still "communist" because American public schools haven't purchased new textbooks since sometime in the 1970s. Condemning Putin fully, however, will infuriate the new audience of open white nationalists and pro-Trump conspiracy cranks to whom the network now caters—and fights for, given the new army of conservative sites and networks looking to please and flatter those same cranks.
Tucker Carlson isn't known for expressing any emotion on his face other than a seemingly unfaltering look of irritated confusion, such that every guest's pronouncements are met with a visage roughly approximating, "I am listening to you, but also secretly wondering whether I have just pooped my pants." But you can see the gears turning as he tries to calculate, with each new show, how much he can distance himself from his movement's embrace of Trump while still keeping his viewers soothed with the notion that their real enemy is not Putin, but (rolls dice) Kamala Harris. He's probably not getting much sleep.
He'd also be in real danger if the Murdoch family wasn't a group of money-obsessed pro-fascist lunkheads willing to advocate for anything, no matter what violence it might lead to or what government it might topple; Glenn Beck was canned when his conspiracy theories began to result in would-be terrorists targeting the names on his chalkboard. Tucker would also already be gone if the Fox News corporate board wasn't made up of similarly protofascist voices, or if the Republican Party wasn't a gross, pro-insurrection band now focused on erasing democracy outright rather than tolerating election losses. But here we are, and here Tucker is, and he just can't help himself.
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