Tucker Carlson: ‘We aren’t very good at talking about death’

The Fox News host on the media, Trump, Biden and the theological implications of the current crisis

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The media has not covered itself in glory in its response to the coronavirus crisis, it’s fair to say. Yet one well-known journalist who really has excelled has been the Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Not only was he one of the first major TV pundits in the world to take the threat of the virus seriously, he also intervened with Donald Trump by visiting the president at his house in Mar-a Lago to discuss the gravity of the situation.

I caught up with my friend Tucker yesterday on my podcast, and we talked about the…

The media has not covered itself in glory in its response to the coronavirus crisis, it’s fair to say. Yet one well-known journalist who really has excelled has been the Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Not only was he one of the first major TV pundits in the world to take the threat of the virus seriously, he also intervened with Donald Trump by visiting the president at his house in Mar-a Lago to discuss the gravity of the situation.

I caught up with my friend Tucker yesterday on my podcast, and we talked about the media’s failings, Trump’s response, how the Democrats are going to junk Joe Biden, and not killing iguanas. Most of all, we talked about death and the theological implications of this terrible problem. You can listen to the podcast here, or read the transcript below. I’ve clipped a bit and tidied up a few sloppy phrases (almost all mine) to make the text read more fluently, but otherwise left Tucker’s words as he spoke them. He’s an interesting dude

FG: Tucker, one thing that a lot of people are talking about is how this crisis has accelerated trends that were happening already. And one of these trends has been a loss of trust in the integrity of the media. This crisis is going to make that worse. Would you agree?

TC: Well, it has made it worse measurably. The new Gallup poll numbers are out today and they show that approval of various institutions is up. For the president it’s 60 percent, I think, his highest ever recorded. Approval of hospitals, our medical establishment, CDC, it’s all up. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans say they’re happy with their employers’ response.

Remarkably, the only institution whose numbers are down is the media and they’re underwater by double digits — and that’s deserved.

What’s interesting is, is how difficult it has been for people who are purportedly smart to change their orientation, to respond meaningfully to a change in circumstance. So they spent three-and-a-half years telling you that everything Trump says in tweets is the most important thing and the most loathsome thing that ever happened. They’ve lost perspective completely.

And then we have this global pandemic, which did not come out of nowhere, it came out in very slow motion over a period of months. They refused to even pay attention because Trump impeachment was going on. And then it arrives here, and the hospitals in New York City are struggling, and they are still churning out the same dreary palace intrigue stories about, you know, Jared and all these figures in the White House. Who said what to whom? Will Anthony Fauci get fired — and you just think ‘Boy, talk about failing to rise to the moment.’

I get some people don’t like Trump. I’m not mad that they don’t like him. Whatever, that’s an opinion. But that you can’t pivot and meet the challenge of the moment — by definition, that should disqualify you from holding a position of influence in a civilized country.

FG: What you’ve picked up on is that the media on both left and right are so addicted to putting everything through the funnel of pro-Trump or anti-Trump that nobody cares about what’s actually true. And so when a major story like this happens, both sides go sort of bananas in their various ways and no one actually talks about whether this is a serious problem or not.  

TC: Well, that’s it. And it’s not only what’s true, which is obviously the central concern and always is the central concern, but also what’s relevant, even what’s interesting. I mean, that’s why we get paid.

So at a time where you can get a pretty comprehensive news rundown on your phone, you’d have to ask yourself: what’s the purpose of journalism professionals? What’s our role? And our role — this is why they pay us — is to sift through all the potential things that the public could learn about and figure out what are the things the public should learn about. That’s the whole job right there. And journalists have lost their ability to do that and there’s a bunch of reasons. Part of it is the collapsing business model of journalism, even digital journalism, that exerts enormous pressure on people’s behavior.

But it’s deeper than that. It’s that have they have become too close. They are too emotionally invested in this one man. I supervised reporters for a long time, for 10 years. And I always told them that, in the same way that loving someone disqualifies you from covering that person because it clouds your vision — you can’t write a feature story on your spouse or one of your kids — you also shouldn’t be writing about people you hate because by definition you cannot see them clearly. By definition, you are blinded by your own emotion. We now have an entire press corps that hates Trump so much. Maybe he deserves it. Or maybe he doesn’t. That’s an academic question that we can debate. But it definitely disqualifies them from writing about him because they’re going to be off the mark because they can’t see clearly.

Anyway, what bothered me, what enraged me, back in January was we had all these reports out of eastern China, out of Wuhan, that there was this kind of transformative thing happening. They shut down a city of 11 million people — bigger than New York. And they still couldn’t control it. And the obvious conclusion that anyone paying attention would draw is, if the most sophisticated authoritarian government in history can’t control the spread of this disease. And simultaneously, we have hourly capital-to-capital jet travel. Maybe this is something we should be paying attention to. I mean, with just that fact set alone, you could conclude we need to tell our viewers about this. And almost nobody did because they thought, you know, Trump was the most important thing. It’s really dereliction. When this is over. I really hope that we can learn something useful and corrective. I really do.

FG: I love…I love your optimism, but I’m afraid the media track record of that…

TC: [Laughs] You’re probably right.

FG: But this is something you’ve been quite personally involved in. You yourself went to go and see President Trump. Could you tell us a bit about what happened there?

TC: Well, let me just say, I mean, I don’t think it’s hard right now to stand out in the American media by just saying common sense things. It’s a very low bar. It is like being, you know, the sexiest Supreme Court Justice. So it’s not really a compliment because the standards are just so low. But in this case, I mean, nothing extraordinary happened with me. I didn’t have any special insights of any kind. I just am interested in the rest of the world because I’ve traveled a lot. And I’m interested in news and I saw this story and it was obvious for the reasons just explained that it was a significant or potentially significant one.

Then, when it began to arrive here, you could just do simple math — I was hardly the only person doing this — and realize this could be a huge problem. When we don’t have proven therapies or a vaccine, the medical response is limited. And you have to be honest about that. There’s not a lot we can do. But it was obvious that one thing that might happen is that our medical facilities or hospitals would be overwhelmed. That would create its own series of problems for the people suffering from coronavirus, but it would also cause a second-order problem for the people who had other sicknesses. The virus is not the only thing people die of. People still have burst appendixes and pancreatitis and they’re getting chemo. There’s a lot of people who will be denied critical care if our hospitals get overwhelmed. I just thought that was a point worth making. So I felt a moral obligation to say it both on the show and also privately to people I spoke to, and that would include the president.

I will say this to you. I think the reason that I felt so strongly about it was just so I could see it. The reason I could see it was not because I’m especially insightful. I’m not. It’s because I’m not emotionally attached to the Trump story in a way that most journalists are. I have feelings about Trump, but I’ve covered a lot of presidents. He’s an unusual one will probably have more unusual ones.  But I’m not waking up in the middle of the night brooding about Trump. That makes me a normal person. But it also makes me an anomaly in journalism.

FG: But I think you’re being too self-effacing here, because you went to Mar-a-Lago, didn’t you, you went to a party, which Trump was at.

TC: Well, I didn’t mean to go to the party. Actually, I didn’t know there was a party in progress. I literally walked into it without knowing. I went only to talk to the president and I did it on my own. I didn’t tell my bosses at Fox. I didn’t want to get the network involved. And it had nothing to do with Fox whatsoever. I was only going because I thought that I could. And I thought that I should use the opportunity to do some small piece of good if I could. And I was encouraged by my wife, who is a fervent Anglican. I didn’t want to go at all, actually, at all. But my wife’s point was ‘you have the opportunity to do this and it’s the right thing to do and you should get the car and go do it.’ So I drove for four hours and I did it.

I didn’t say, by the way, anything that I haven’t said a million times on my show. I just felt that I should. And I don’t know if it had an effect. I haven’t talked to him since; I don’t plan to. It’s very much not my job to do things like that but in this one case, I thought I should.

FG: But I mean, what did you say? Did you say, ‘Mr President, I don’t think you’re taking this as seriously as you should be’?

TC: I said exactly what I say on my show, which was: this is a species of the flu, but it’s not the flu that you’re familiar with. It spreads much more easily. The death rate, which we still don’t know because we don’t have a baseline number for infections, but it seems to spread much more easily than most versions of influenza. And it seems to kill more people. And this could very easily overwhelm our healthcare system, which isn’t really a system but a patchwork of different hospitals. And that could be really bad for the country. And I know that there are people saying otherwise. But I’m just telling you, in my capacity as a semi-informed private citizen, I think that they’re wrong, respectfully. I understand why they think that. But I don’t think they’re right. And here’s what I think. And so I laid it out over more than an hour.

I’m not being defensive. I’m being honest. I didn’t say anything that I haven’t said before and since on television. I just wanted to emphasize it because there is something different about speaking to a person in private, you know, from saying something into a camera.

FG:You could watch the resident’s reaction, for once?

TC:Yeah, and I will say: I don’t know this because you can’t know it, but my instinct is that everything I said comported with what he knew was true. And I think that’s very often the case with Trump, who clearly has a lot of things working against him — being hated by every power center in American life, for example. He has excesses and ticks that make it harder for him to govern, obviously. But I think the reason he became president, in spite of all of that, is because he has good instincts, in some cases very good instincts, and he generally listens to them. And to the extent he screws up, it’s because he’s talked out of obeying his own instincts.

My impression on this from day one has been that Trump knew because he could feel that it was a problem. I mean, if you’re Trump, you don’t survive all that he’s been through — multiple bankruptcies and marriages, media attacks and all the things that he’s been through in 73 years — you don’t get through that and become president anyway without a very finely honed sense of danger or impending danger. People have this or they don’t. Some people can feel it coming and others can’t. And so I’ve always thought that he sensed that this was coming. And people around him told him it’s not a big deal. And it’s very easy to believe the happier forecasts than it is the threatening forecasts. Again, it’s kind of an unprovable hypothesis, but that’s always been my opinion.

FG: Well, Trump’s genius, as you suggest, is perhaps his intuition and his common-man intuition in a way. And if you see the pivot from his administration this week: the new line seems to be that ‘the cure can’t be worse than the disease’ — and if necessary, they will take the step of reopening the American economy, even if it involves a great deal of risk to human life. That’s a very difficult decision. And of course, now that the media has shifted into full on hysteria about coronavirus, they’re going to scream at him about it. But polling suggests it looks as though the public see that’s a decision a leader probably should take.

TC: I would argue that Trump’s genius is more specific even than that. It’s not that he has an intuitive grasp on what to do. He’s not a natural policy guy. For example, I think Trump’s genius is in feeling a threat. So Trump brilliantly identified what the main threats to America are. Globalization is a huge threat to the country. I don’t think Trump has a clearly articulated vision of what the alternative is. But I think he was able to explain in 2016 — and at best moments he still does — what’s going to undo us. And the things that are going to undo us are, you know, dependence on foreign supply chains for critical goods, for example, such as pharmaceuticals or military equipment; the death of the middle class; unrestrained immigration … he knows what the threats. That’s an incomplete set of skills, of course: you may need more than that to govern. But at this point in American history, that is a very helpful set of skills, in my opinion. As for his view now, this my read on it, it’s that nobody really knows what to do and we should be honest in saying that all courses are fraught with peril. Shutting down the country, believing the epidemiologists that we can we can stop the spread of this temporarily by isolating people from one another — that entails massive risk. That’s not the safe course. There is no safe course, but that’s a course. So anyone who tells you that that’s the cautious thing to do is an idiot because it’s not cautious. Again, there is no safe answer. Everything we do will entail hurting people, period. So you have to start with that acknowledgement.

And maybe once you do acknowledge that, you get to the right view, which is my view. And that is it’s all a balance. You know what I mean? Everything you do has a downside, just as in life. And you just need to weigh, you know, what you want, what sort of country you want to live in five years from now?

Ideally, you want a leader who’s like you’re the eight things you need to do to make it better. You’re never going to get that with Trump. And I don’t think you’re probably going to get that from anybody under these circumstances. Anyone who’s being honest, because we don’t actually know what the best course is. Yeah, but Trump’s helpful insight here is that there is a downside to shutting the country down. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t, but it does mean you should go in eyes wide open. Epidemiologists aren’t the best people to make that determination. That’s why we have never elected an epidemiologist president and we never will because their range of vision is just too narrow. Just in the same sense, I hope we never elect an academic economist president. These are specialists whose judgment you rely upon to make your judgments, but you don’t substitute their judgment for yours because that would be insane. In a democracy, it violates the basic precept, which is the public gets to decide and they do it through their elected leaders. This is a political decision that needs to be made. It’s not purely a public-health decision. I’m sorry. Nobody says it out loud because it sounds bad, but I don’t care. It’s true.

FG: It doesn’t matter if you’re the most brilliant mind that’s ever existed, you’re never going to be able to absorb enough information for a problem like this. And so intuition is the best thing you’ve got.

TC:Well, but also, it’s not a matter of information. First of all the reserve of information is very shallow because, as I said, we don’t have the one thing you need, which is a baseline. You have to know how many people are infected before you can successfully compute any other equation, like what the death rate is, what the physical damage of the disease is on average, what the transmission rate is, you can’t know any of those things. We don’t have that for a simple reason: we don’t have enough tests. So there you go: you’re working on incomplete data, you usually are under these circumstances. Stop whining: move forward on what you have.

But I actually think part of the problem and the root of the public’s fear — and my fear, too, I’m not judging anyone — is an unwillingness to acknowledge that, on the big things, we are not in control. And that’s basically a theological precept that we’re not comfortable with because we don’t ever talk about anything that’s not rooted in materialism.

How much do people have? How much is this cost? You know? But in times of life and death, you’re forced to, because that’s the only language that explains it. And so you’re dealing with a country, the first really large scale experiment in secular democracy ever. You can say the Soviet Union was secular, but really it wasn’t: it was a religious cult based on, you know, Das Kapital. They were still a very religious country.

Ours — meaning the whole west, yours too — is the first experiment in secular materialism over a big population. It works great if your job is to supply people with enough calories. What it doesn’t do a very good job of is explaining death. That’s really where it falls down. And so our response has been to basically ignore death and put poor people in homes and then they just kind of disappear and no one talks about what happened. But in a time like this, death is at the forefront. You can’t ignore it. We’re all brooding about it. And our leaders and our people, too, don’t really have a good way of thinking about it. And so let me just suggest, as a non-theologian, a not especially faithful Christian, that the thing to remember is you don’t have control. You weren’t responsible for your birth. You likely won’t be able to choose the moment of your death. This is what it is to be human. I don’t have an answer as to why it’s that way, but it is always has been, always will be. And the sooner you internalize that, the clearer you’re thinking can become.

FG: Do you not think Americans might actually have an advantage there? Because, yes, you’re a secular country, but you’re far more Christian than Britain is…

TC: I mean, Britain is the most aggressively, angrily secular place I’ve ever been. And I say that with no respect. I’m sorry. There’s a lot about Britain I love, but that’s the ugliest part of your culture by far.

But we are much more like Britain than you realize. I’m an Episcopalian and I’m not an evangelical, not even close, but I’m interested in the topic. And if you look at the polling on religious faith, just even on church attendance, it has dropped off a cliff. This country has become more secular more quickly than any place in the world other than maybe Spain after 1975 when Franco died, which really did become almost immediately non-observant. But America has really changed in the last 10 years, and there are probably a lot of upsides to that. It’s a lot easier to have sex with strangers than it’s ever been, so I guess that’s good if you’re in college. But the downside is it leaves us much less prepared, psychologically and spiritually. for a pandemic. Because we’re not ready. We’re not ready for what that means and what it always means. No matter what your medical establishment does. No matter how smart your leaders are. What it always means is that lots of people die before their time. That’s why it’s called a pandemic. That’s why you fear it.

I would love to see a sober analysis of how faithful religious communities are responding to this as compared to, say, the neighborhood I live in, which is affluent and secular.

FG: You’d imagine that a religious group would be more stoic and swinging less wildly between despair and blind optimism.

TC:You would definitely assume that. As far as I know, no one’s looked at it. But my instinct would be that that’s true. And I know for myself that it’s a comfort. You know, I’m no repeating the Nicene Creed every morning over coffee. But I do remind myself throughout the day because I’ve got my nose in all these coronavirus horror stories, all of which are real. I keep reminding myself: you don’t have control.

And I got exposed to three separate people who were confirmed carriers of coronavirus. I feel fine. But there have been moments where your skin crawls when you think maybe I have this or – you know, I smoked for so long. I just keep reminding myself it’s beyond human control, as so much is. My kids know someone who’s 25 and in a coma, who’s a college athlete and who looks like he’s gonna die. They were telling you about this last night and I was thinking this goes against everything that we think we know about the virus. I asked: ‘what did he have? Did he have chronic asthma? Did he have mono? Did he have some pre-existing health conditions that predispose him?’ ‘No, we don’t think he did. His parents don’t think he did.’ It kind of leaves you facing the truth, which is you can make predictions that are broadly true but in the end fate still exists. And I wish it didn’t. I wish everything were predictable, but it’s not and that’s just the nature of life. And we have spent too little time thinking about that.

FG: Have you been struck by the way a lot of conservatives, people perhaps that you and I know have reacted to this crisis. They were perhaps alert to the danger rather sooner. But also there’s been this kind of, I think, slightly sick tendency to say ‘this is this is what the world had coming. Finally, we are being punished for our sins…’

TC: I mean, I don’t like that kind of talk. You know, that that’s not the faith-tradition that I come from. And I don’t think we should ever gloat or enjoy the suffering of others. I think it’s a really ugly impulse to have, you know, all of us are going to die in the end. I do believe in the eternal nature of human souls. And I do think that we will discover on the other side what all of this means and why the innocent suffer and why the wicked prosper. And, you know, all the kind of eternal mysteries I think will be revealed to us. But I think in the meantime, it’s very bad form and maybe even unwise to start saying or even thinking things like that. It’s not good. If people are suffering, it should hurt you. When they’re thriving, it should please you — because we are all connected. I am a simple man and I think like that. And if I find myself enjoying the suffering of others, I scold myself and I think we all should.

In fact, I’m down in Florida right now and I was sitting writing a script and I looked up and there was an iguana on the wall of my house.

And so, I went to my door and I’ve got a pellet pistol there and I’m pretty decent shot and I thought ‘I’m going to kill the iguana.’ So I walk out…I hate iguanas. They’re terrifying. They’re big giant lizards with teeth…and I thought ‘It’s in my house. I’m gonna kill it.’ And then I thought, you know – and I hunt, by the way, I also eat meat — but I thought ‘with all this suffering going on, do I really want to shoot something right now?’ And I didn’t — I did not kill the iguana. I’m sure I’ll kill many iguanas going forward. But right now, I thought maybe a little less suffering in the world would be good. And if that means not shooting an iguana, then that’s fine with me.

FG:It’s a shame that you don’t write as much anymore because I can see it: ‘Consider the Iguana’ essay coming…

TC: [Laughs] No because it would cast me as the hero and I do think, especially as you age, this is the pitfall that writers and maybe all people themselves get trapped in is that you make it all about yourself. And if you start writing stories whose main but unspoken theme is ‘I’m a great guy’ then you should pull back and go fishing.

FG: But aside from the theology and the godly elements in this, which are all fascinating, I think about conservatives again. I’ve been struck by how enthusiastic a lot of conservatives are for state intervention. And I think that’s something that perhaps you’ve helped cultivate. And it’s perhaps a good thing in a way that we are not so obsessed with the free market. But have you ever thought in the last few days that we’re going too far now. We’ve gone from a hatred of extreme neoliberalism, whatever you want to call it, to a kind of a kind of right-wing state socialism, which is not necessarily a good development?

TC:Someone who worked for State Highway Department in the state of Maine once told me that the majority of fatalities on main roads occurred when someone veers off on his side of the road into the gravel and then whips the wheel in the opposite direction and hits a tree. And I thought that’s the clearest metaphor for American politics I’ve ever heard. It’s overcorrection. You ignore a problem and then you go all in and fixing it and create a brand-new set of problems. I mean, that really is the whole story right there. It’s true of everything.

So it goes without saying. You know, my position has always been not that we need to become a socialist country: I certainly don’t think that. But just that when you find yourself governing by theory alone, you become a Pharisee. That’s it. It’s not that the Pharisees weren’t religious enough. They certainly were. They were too religious, actually, but they were completely caught up in the letter of the law, in the theory of it, rather than in the practice of it.

And that’s true of a lot of different systems, that it certainly has become true over the decades of American conservatism, where, you know, you read, Road to Serfdom, you read Hayek or von Mises. You attend a couple lectures at Cato and you think you’re a libertarian and you got the world figured out as kind of this seamless theory of everything. Next thing you know, you’re arguing to privatize the sidewalks and you never pause to ask the basic questions like the most basic which is ‘do people really want this?’ Which is another way of asking, does my solution comport with human nature whose features are unchanging? That’s all I’m saying. That’s what I’m saying. Just take people into account when you make systems designed for people.

FG: But you think now there might be an overcorrection …

TC: Of course there is! We’re not capable in a country of 320 million people with a political system designed to be unwieldy. It’s unwieldy because the founders wanted political power to be diffuse. We don’t have the fine motor skills. It’s like somebody cuts off both your thumbs and asks you to paint a painting.

FG: If you look at Trump and I know obviously one doesn’t want to get into just a purely is this good or bad for Trump discussion? But you have this whole idea that Trump is too much of a child to be able to handle this crisis. Whereas in fact if you look at this more broadly, a lot of the themes that are emerging out of the Coronavirus crisis might make Trump stronger as a political candidate.

TC: I’ve been thinking a lot about that. I think you need to separate Trump from his 2016 platform. I mean, whether or not Trump gets re-elected depends upon a lot of different factors, including who the Democrats run against him, and it’s hard to imagine it’ll be Joe Biden who has dementia and is capable of leading the country: I say that in sadness but it’s true. There’s a lot of different elements in that question.

I think there’s no question about how thoroughly the coronavirus pandemic ratifies Trump’s predictions. I mean, he said China was a problem; that international trade exposed America in dangerous ways. Those are both true. They’ve always been true. And now it’s very hard to deny that they are true. I mean, is anybody going say, as the all Democratic candidates did three months ago, ‘we need to let the rest of the world to come in here and use our healthcare system for free.’ Really? Are you really going to say that right now? ‘We need five million more people from the third world living in America tomorrow —it will make us stronger.’ I mean, I don’t think there’s a single person who believes that. I also don’t think there’s a single person who believes climate change is, you know, the most pressing threat we face. I think they believe it’s a threat. They may be right, but is it the most pressing threat? Doesn’t feel that way right now. No, Trump’s ‘worldview’ and I’m using that phrase with air quotes because it’s hard to know what Trump personally thinks. But the platform that he articulated and the movement that he started, I think a lot of those core views have been vindicated. I don’t really see another way to consider it.

FG: What do you think of the Joe Biden candidacy?

TC: I don’t think Joe Biden will be the candidate in November.  I don’t have any special knowledge of it, but Joe Biden is in cognitive decline. Everyone around him knows that. I know Joe Biden and I’ve known him for a long time. I’m from Washington where he’s spent the last 50 years and he’s very gregarious and very charming. But everyone around him will tell you, some have said it in public, that Joe Biden is in cognitive decline and he has some form of recognizable dementia. And I hate even to say that out loud because it’s poignant and sad.

But I just don’t believe, knowing the Democratic party as well as I do, that they will settle for that. Their plan was to use Joe Biden as a vessel, you know, pick a strong vice president for him, Biden will make it through his first term, that vice president person will become president and all their priorities will be front and center. That’s what they thought was going to happen. But in a moment of crisis, voters will not vote for someone they perceive as weak. They won’t. Because under pressure, people become even more like what they are, which is animals. People follow strength, they do not follow weakness. That’s the first and last rule of leadership. And Joe Biden is weak, it’s obvious. So I think given how much Democrats want to beat Trump, they will find a way to replace him.

If you say that to people in Washington, they’ll say ‘well the rules…’ My view is that Democratic party doesn’t care about rules in the first place. That’s why they were pushing the vote on 16-year-olds last year. They don’t care. That’s why they’re flooding the country with foreign nationals because they want them to vote. They don’t care about the rules. They don’t have abstract concerns. Only right wingers care what books say. This is like the huge difference between the right-wing and the left-wing outlook. Right wingers care about principles and if they lose upholding those principles, they feel virtuous. Democrats care about wielding power. And if they lose for any reason, they hate themselves because they failed and they’re diminished by it. So they want to win. They can’t win with Biden. They will get somebody else. How will they do it? I don’t know. All I know is they will.

FG: And you have you willing to make a prediction as to who they might bring in?

TC: Well, I mean, the obvious candidate right now is Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, who’s been giving daily press conferences, which has gotten him high marks across the board. By the way, not just from liberals, but from moderate people, some conservatives. He knows what he’s doing. He’s smart. He’s in command. He’s got an authoritarian temperament. He has no problem telling people what to do. That’s a long tradition in New York. And so he looks like a very strong candidate. Now I know him, and he definitely has weaknesses.

FG: You know him, I don’t. But I wouldn’t say he scores very highly on the likability index.

TC: Well, that’s putting it mildly. But in a moment of crisis, that recedes in importance. For example, every mayor of New York in my lifetime has had a kind of overbearing, prudish authoritarian personality. The only one who didn’t was the least popular one, David Dinkins, who was the black mayor in the late 80s, early 90s. He was very left-wing, but he was also kind of a gentle character. And I always thought people hated him for that, because New York is a city of eight million people,  a closely packed, high density city. So, by definition, every day is a crisis in New York. Every day people are getting pushed in front of subway cars and murdered in parks. And there are all kinds of weird diseases floating around New York on every day of the year. And so every day is a crisis. People can feel it. And so they invariably elect an authoritarian — the more authoritarian, the better. I mean, Michael Bloomberg was a very popular mayor of New York, but he was like borderline fascist. I mean, he wanted to determine what you ate. And people liked it.

The rest of the country is going to look a lot more like New York and its voting preferences if we’re afraid on Election Day. It’s just human nature. It’s simple.

FG: But it’s interesting you mentioned Bloomberg because Cuomo is not a popular governor…

TC: He’s got all kinds of problems. He is distrusted by a lot of African American voters.And people close to him have gotten in trouble for corruption, for sure. But the moment makes the man. Winston Churchill was, at a number of times in his career, unpopular and discredited. And now he’s credited with saving the West.

Rudy Giuliani was not very popular but 9/11 happened and he was seen as decisive and calm and fluent in the facts and reassuring most of all. And he became America’s mayor. He became one of most famous people in the world. It’s just true. So, the guy who happens to give the reassuring press conference day-after-day at a time when everybody’s afraid and everybody’s paying attention, is a completely new person. It’s not the Andrew Cuomo of two weeks ago at all. He’s a new guy. We just created him.

FG: Well, Tucker, I think we’ll end it there. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s been fascinating, as always. We got pretty theological, so I think we’ll end it by saying God bless you and God’s speed.

TC: God bless you, Freddy. I appreciate it.