Historians will note that the first president to enter North Korea was Donald Trump. They will also note that Trump’s historic entrance did not include his handpicked national security adviser John Bolton accompanying him but rather Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Spotted chatting with Pompeo at the impromptu Trump-Kim summit: Tucker Carlson pic.twitter.com/tiSAixgD3K
— Sarah Parnass (@WordsOfSarah) June 30, 2019
Hilariously, Bolton ended up in Mongolia.
Delighted to be in Ulaanbaatar & looking forward to meeting with officials to find ways to harness Mongolia’s capabilities in support of our shared economic & security objectives. Thank you for the warm welcome Secretary of State @davaasuren_d pic.twitter.com/AN8T1AHryg
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) June 30, 2019
In some ways, this arrangement is for the best. Trump plucked Bolton from Fox News, where he frequently appeared as a contributor and just kept saying that he wants to bomb everyone, North Korea included. In fact, calls for war are kind of Bolton’s thing. And don’t take my word for it: That’s also how Trump described him last week. Reasonable people should agree that Trump bumbling through attempts at diplomacy is better than Trump bumbling through a hot war with a country that has nuclear weapons.
Carlson accompanied Trump to the Demilitarized Zone after he advised Trump away from striking Iran with missiles. Again, it’s hard to complain in the short-run about the United States avoiding another quagmire of a war.
But there are three issues at play here that should be a warning to everyone.
First, Carlson is not remotely qualified for any of this. But a lack of qualifications is clearly not a problem for this White House or even this city. Still, it’s worth noting that Carlson’s contribution to understanding North Korea is calling into Fox & Friends to talk about how leading a country “means killing people.” (Carlson did once compare CNN airing at airports to North Korean propaganda though.)
Second, Carlson’s disdain for war is rooted in a deep bigotry. The difference between Carlson and warmongering right-wing pundits is that Carlson would rather apply that bigotry at home than abroad. Just weeks ago, he called for the government to “strike back” at Mexico over refugees attempting to come into the United States. Carlson has repeated variations of that theme numerous times, and he is more than happy to run with bigoted conspiracy theories about foreigners. But Carlson’s unearthed remarks about Iraqis are what really illustrates his mindset:
Carlson’s interests in foreign policy extend little beyond the white nationalist position -- just look at his comments about Sweden, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
And Trump is listening to Carlson when it comes to immigration as well. Again, don’t take my word for it: Trump tweets about the Fox News host regularly. When Trump declared a national emergency, he even thanked Carlson and other right-wing media hosts for their support. Trump plucked his new Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan from Fox News, where he went on Tucker Carlson's show and applauded the Trump administration putting children in cages.
It’s worth remembering how Trump turned to John Bolton in the first place. Trump selected the then-Fox pundit amid questions about whether the United States would remain in the Iran nuclear deal. Trump would later announce that the U.S. would withdraw from the deal. The recent incident of Iran shooting down a U.S. drone was a flashpoint between the two countries, and as of this morning, Iran has breached a limit set in the deal for low-enriched uranium. The underlying crisis is still getting worse, and eventually there will be another decision point for Trump.
And Bolton isn’t the first national security adviser to fall from Trump’s favor and be shut out. Trump’s famously wandering eye means that it’s only a matter of time before Trump starts to daydream about how the mainstream media fawns over a war president.