The View From the Right: An Interview With Tucker Carlson

Tara Taghizadeh


Joseph C. Wilson once said, “Republicans are very good at describing things in black and white; Democrats are very good at describing the 11 shades of gray.” With Democrats, there is always a sense that the “other” can be explained and understood, whereas most Republicans tend to categorize the world into right and wrong (pardon the pun) and draw a clear line in the sand.


Tucker Carlson is that rarity in the sea of conservatives. He has opposed the Iraq War, been a vocal critic of George W. Bush, is a devoted Grateful Dead fan to boot, and once traveled to Africa with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Carlson, along with the New York Times’ David Brooks, is the type of conservative whom liberals may disagree with, but ultimately (and perhaps grudgingly) respect.


He currently serves as the Daily Caller’s Editor-in-Chief, an online publication he co-founded with Neil Patel, which has made its mark as a lively bastion of conservative thought, boasting millions of readers, brash and theatrical headlines, and even a “Guns and Gear” section.


Most Americans recognize Carlson from his role as a television commentator on various news networks. But Carlson is a prolific writer, having established bylines in The New Republic, New York magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and he was also a National Magazine Award finalist for an article he wrote (about his travels with Sharpton) for Esquire.


Carlson recently spoke with Highbrow Magazine about the Daily Caller, his thoughts on the Obama Administration, American foreign policy, and why he no longer reads the Washington Post.


The Guardian once described the Daily Caller as “the conservative answer to the Huffington Post.” How do you feel about the comparison?


Tucker Carlson: I admire the Huffington Post in a lot of ways. They started a news organization from scratch and became one of the biggest in the world….I don’t agree with [HP’s] politics…I wish they would be more straightforward about what their politics are, but I admire what Arianna has done.



What do you think of the Romney-Ryan ticket and their chances of winning the election?


Carlson: Oh, I don’t know…I’m always wrong. Honestly, predictions require accountability and if I was into accountability, I would never have become a journalist; I would have had a real job. One of the reasons that I sleep like a golden retriever every night is because I’m not very accountable. It’s a wonderful thing.


What have been the greatest successes and failings of the Obama Administration?


Carlson: I have very strong feelings about the President’s record…You can’t look at the country and say it’s improved under Obama because it hasn’t…it’s [become] a much more depressing country in the past four years.


Obama’s greatest political success was passing Obamacare. I don’t think it was a good thing for the country, but it was a pretty impressive political success. But you have to judge these things in the aggregate – overall -- and the country is worse off than it was….If this were a company and all of a sudden, our returns went south, you would say, “Who’s in charge of the company?” because you’re going to be replaced.



How do you think Democrats and Republicans vary in regards to foreign policy?


Carlson: I think they are strikingly similar. They seem to share this assumption that it’s worth committing American troops to foreign soil in order to improve the political system and/or living standards of that country. I disagree with that. I think the only reason to ever commit American troops is in direct defense of the country. We’re not very good at nation building; we’re terrible actually.


You opposed the Iraq War, but where do you stand on the war in Afghanistan?


Carlson: I agree with punishing the people behind 9/11. I certainly do not agree with rebuilding Afghanistan. We have no moral obligation to make Afghanistan into Belgium. I don’t understand where that obligation came from. It’s not real; we made it up and put it upon ourselves, and it turns out that we’re not very good at that.


After 9/11, our job was to go in and punish the people who did it to (a) prevent them from doing it again and (b) teach a lesson to anybody else who would try that, and then leave….We don’t have the cultural self-confidence to be an effective colonial power. Great Britain was an effective colonial power for a while…in the 18th and early 19th century, they were pretty good at this…they believed their culture and religion were superior to anyone else’s. You have to have that self-confidence; you have to have that belief to pull it off. We just don’t have that.


Again, I believe that the only reason to commit American troops to foreign soil is in direct defense of the country, and I don’t think many people in either party agree with me on that because the preference is always in favor of action.….I do believe in improving the world, but I don’t think the military is always an effective instrument for that and there are unintended consequences….


…Also, the rest of the world is not like us…Because of our brotherhood-of-man rhetoric, we believe that every culture is like ours and that the yearnings of every person on earth are like ours, but it’s not true. People have a preference for order and stability over freedom, and we’re one of the rare societies where that’s not the case.


Most people who have a real experience of poverty and instability – something that we don’t have in this country; if you’re measuring poverty on a global scale, nobody’s poor in America – so we don’t understand the worldview of people who do live in a truly unstable environment, and their most profound desire is for order and stability. We just don’t get it…we superimpose our desires on other people and I think a far wiser course is to say, foreigners are really foreign; we don’t understand them. Do you understand Pashtun society? Probably not. We just don’t.




Who are some of your favorite conservative journalists?


Carlson: I don’t know if I would say “conservative” because who knows what that means…the meaning of that word has become so muddied…but I can tell you who my favorite writers are: George Orwell; Matt Labash; there are a couple of writers at The New Yorker who I think are excellent: Larissa Macfarquahar…and Nick Paumgarten is really talented…I don’t know what their politics are; I assume they’re liberal….David Grann, also of The New Yorker; Whittaker Chambers….I read a lot, so I have a lot of favorite writers….a fly-fishing writer: John Geirach and another one, Dave Hughes, I think they’re fantastic….


What is your daily reading list?


Carlson: I read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times in their entirety. I don’t read the Washington Post…it’s my hometown paper; they hurt my feelings. They’ve hurt my feelings by becoming a terrible newspaper for no real reason…it’s as if they intentionally decided to become a bad paper, and by bad I mean cowardly and boring.


Even though they have all these smart people and a lot of money, [the Post] decided, Let’s not cover Washington D.C. because we’re afraid of being called racist – at least [they] won’t cover the city. They could have a huge effect on our city, they could be a great paper – God knows, there are enough stories to cover – but they refuse to cover them, so I’m not going to reward them with my attention.


What is your definition of a true conservative?


Carlson: First and foremost, someone who has respect for the individual, whose default setting is sympathy for the individual against the group…that’s always number one. Someone who is hesitant to use coercion. Sometimes coercion is necessary…but a lot of times, it is not.


Also, someone who has respect for the complexity of life and understands that, you know, you think you have more power than you really do. You think all it takes is to force people to line up in a certain order and everything will be better, but once you do that, you realize that they were lined up in that order for a certain reason….people create their own systems for a reason.


I’m not defending the existing order always and everywhere, but there is often an order that you may not be able to see in human organizations, and you should be really hesitant before you go in and tell people how to live their lives.


Author Bio:
Tara Taghizadeh is the Founding Editor & Publisher of Highbrow Magazine.


Photos: Courtesy of the Daily Caller and Gage Skidmore (Creative Commons).

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Gage Skidmore, Flickr (Creative Commons)
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