Fox personality Tucker Carlson speaks at the 2017 Business Insider Ignition: Future of Media conference in New York. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Media critic

Remarkable things happen when Tucker Carlson leaves the set of his eponymous Fox News prime-time program. Freed of the imperative to stoke the anger of millions of people, he approximates a normally functioning and quite intelligent man. Catch this Carlson on the Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone,” in which he provides calm and piercing detail on the subject’s impact on American politics.

Or catch him on the Jamie Weinstein Show, a podcast hosted by National Review.

Over an hour or so of riffing on national politics, his foolish opinions of yore and, of course, President Trump, Carlson carefully brands himself as a man of fierce independence. In his new book “Ship of Fools,” the Fox News host bashes the country’s elites for oblivion, laziness and indifference. “Trump’s election wasn’t about Trump,” writes Carlson. “It was a throbbing middle finger in the face of America’s ruling class. It was a gesture of contempt, a howl of rage, the end result of decades of selfish and unwise decisions made by selfish and unwise leaders.” In his conversation with Weinstein, Carlson advanced the theme. “There’s no reason to elect Donald Trump president,” he said, noting that the intent of the voters was to send a message.

As to all those unwise decisions by this country’s leaders — Carlson doesn’t begrudge anyone being wrong. He cites a number of his own opinions — favoring the death penalty and drug legalization, for instance — that he now regrets. “There’s no hiding from my dumbness,” says Carlson. Instead: “What I judge is the refusal to admit mistakes and the refusal to learn from mistakes,” he declares. In the face of evidence that they were wrong, people need to ‘fess up and evolve.

And in the same interview, Carlson says this about Trump: “I appreciate his bravery in saying the things he does, or his resistance to criticism. I think that’s useful at times.”

There was another slight inconsistency, too. Asked about the possibility of a Carlson presidential run, the host responded, “As a temperamental matter, I’m not a leader of men. I don’t think of myself that way. I don’t seek control, I don’t want control. I just want to tell the truth.” A few minutes later, the topic of CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter emerged. “He’s just such a pompous little guy. … I mean, he’s one of the falsest people I’ve ever seen on television. … He’s just so, like, self-righteous … but also lying at the same time. Like, I lie ’cause everyone does. But one thing I would never do, have never done in my whole life, is lie self-righteously.” And yet a bit later, Carlson noted — correctly — that he has on occasion criticized Trump. “There’s always room to tell the truth. I don’t say everything I think. I don’t feel an obligation to say everything I think, but I don’t lie. I don’t lie. I never say anything I don’t think, I can promise you that,” he told Weinstein.

In responding to a question of how Carlson would cover the seemingly inevitable firing/departure of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Carlson took a break from his generally muscular approach to the English language:

I was thinking about Sessions and how deeply unfair and mean and stupid what’s happened to him is. Sessions is a flawed person, as we all are, and his flaws are on display. He’s too passive sometimes, he’s not a genius at running large organizations … But he is one of the very few people in the Senate — ever to serve in the Senate — who understands what Trump was saying during the campaign. He took a pretty significant personal risk in being the first senator to endorse Trump. He understood Trump’s worries about immigration really well and was the one guy who might do something about it. And because he made one bad decision and has been caught up in the maelstrom of this Russia lie, he’s been destroyed as a person. And as a political figure and his ability to do things has been destroyed. It’s really distressing for me to see. And I should just say in the interest of full disclosure that I know Jeff Sessions and I think he’s a very decent man.

Bolding added to highlight the passive constructions. Who could be responsible for all this personal destruction?