Thursday, September 21, 2023
Thursday, September 21, 2023

The most unsettling moment of Trump’s counterprogramming interview

by admin
The most unsettling moment of Trump’s counterprogramming interview

As a matter of political strategy, Donald Trump’s latest interview with Tucker Carlson made sense. The former president knew that his rivals for the Republican nomination would be participating in a nationally televised primary debate, and he also knew that he had no intention of joining them on the stage.

By arranging for an online interview with the former Fox News host, Trump and his team figured they could distract attention away from the other GOP candidates, while giving the former president a platform of his own. It was an example of Counterprogramming 101.

But as NBC News’ report on the 46-minute episode noted, Carlson’s interview with the Republican frontrunner did get a little weird.

Donald Trump’s attempt to dominate the Republican presidential debate from afar Wednesday night veered into dark and occasionally bizarre territory as he mused with commentator Tucker Carlson about potential civil war, the manner of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s death in prison and whether he’s concerned about potential assassination attempts.

The good thing about the show was that the two covered quite a bit of ground. The bad thing was that the result was an episode that offered more heat than light.

Viewers learned about Trump’s thoughts on household water pressure. And the Panama Canal. And the seven wonders of the world (though the Republican struggled to remember whether the total was seven or nine). And mosquito-related deaths. And the fact that it’s a secret why he calls former Gov. Asa Hutchinson “Ada.”

All of this, of course, came amidst predictable nonsense about the Jan. 6 attack, his many criminal indictments, his 2020 defeat, and his contempt for President Joe Biden.

But arguably the most notable exchange related to political violence. From a Vox report on the interview:

Carlson, the disgraced former Fox News host, asked Trump twice whether he believed America might be heading toward a “civil war” or “open conflict.” In response, the former president suggested that such violence was within the realm of possibility. “There’s a level of passion I’ve never seen, there’s a level of hatred I’ve never seen. And that’s probably a bad combination,” Trump told Carlson.

A related Washington Post report helped shine a light on the larger pattern of Trump’s rhetoric on the subject:

Trump, the polling leader for the Republican nomination, has repeatedly declined to condemn or rule out political violence. As a candidate, in 2015 and 2016, he encouraged rallygoers to rough up hecklers and protesters. As president, in 2017, he defended white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, one of whom killed a counterprotester, saying there were “very fine people on both sides.” In a 2020 presidential debate, he told the Proud Boys violent extremist group to “stand back and stand by.” And on Jan. 6, 2021, and ever since, he has praised his supporters who attacked police and broke into the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

To be sure, Trump’s assessments of political “passions” and “hatreds” have been wrong before. The former president invested quite a bit of effort, for example, predicting that his indictments might lead to civil unrest. At least so far, that hasn’t come close to happening.

But as Vox’s report added, “The idea that the United States is careening toward civil conflict is a central animating idea among violent far-right extremists. Trump indulging such dark speculation, given his influence on the American right, runs the risk of even further mainstreaming their ideas.”

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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