I’ve never seen a purer microcosm of the news/opinion divide within Fox News than these three minutes. Cavuto straddles that divide to some degree since he delivers his own commentary on air alongside newsier segments, but that commentary has been lukewarm about Trump on a network where opinion about the president runs almost entirely one way. And Cavuto’s show airs dayside, right after Shep, as part of a run of newsy programming. Dobbs, on the other hand, is not only Fox Business’s loudest pro-Trump pundit, he’s part of the circle of Fox hosts like Hannity and Tucker who are on good enough terms personally with the president to chat with him by phone during off-hours. So deep does their mutual admiration run that Trump has reportedly been known to patch Dobbs through on speakerphone during White House meetings.
What I’m saying is that, while we’re probably never going to get a segment in which Hannity and Shep yell at each other on air about Trump, this is the next best thing.
Each man typifies his wing of the network during the exchange. For Cavuto, it’s a matter of simple fact: Not only is this country still running mammoth deficits under Trump, it’s doing so at a moment of tremendous economic growth, when tax revenue should be up and deficits therefore should be down. That’s not a matter of debate. It’s not a “deep state talking point” or whatever. The numbers are what they are. For Dobbs, the imperative at all times is to protect the president (at least unless and until Trump crosses him on a core nationalist concern, like immigration) and so he’s left here to figure out on the fly how to dodge Cavuto’s irrebuttable point. The first thing he does is get personal, telling Cavuto, “You have to work this thing out with the president, Neil” — that “thing” being a reference to Trump taking issue with some of Cavuto’s unflattering commentary about him in the past. What he’s implying, in other words, is that Cavuto wouldn’t be bringing up a basic, basic, basic, basic fact like, “We’re spending way too much money and Trump obviously doesn’t care” if there weren’t some sort of personal grudge between him and the president.
Which is true, at least, to the cult of personality that defines Trumpism. To criticize the president for a policy failure is to impugn our national savior.
Cavuto didn’t care for that, which is why he starts raising his voice — and maybe too out of sheer exasperation that Dobbs couldn’t bring himself to find fault with Trump even when the evidence is indisputable. So he pressed him on the point — what about the debt and deficit? — and, well, just watch. Dobbs has no answer, because what answer could he rightly give? Is he supposed to badmouth the Trump tax cuts, knowing that that’s Trump’s most notable domestic achievement to date? All he can do is try to shift to happier subjects, like the unemployment rate. Never mind that, as I say, booming employment somehow hasn’t done a thing to cut the budget deficit given the insane rate of federal spending under Trump.
This isn’t the only Fox vs. Fox battle simmering today, by the way. Some FNC employees took issue with this Tomi Lahren tweet last night:
Kamala did you fight for ideals or did you sleep your way to the top with Willie Brown?
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) August 1, 2019
Kat Timpf, Britt McHenry, and Janice Dean called her out for that online, with others complaining anonymously to CNN behind the scenes. Lahren has since apologized, which I’m treating as evidence that Fox management also had a word with her. Is Fox’s personnel roster going to survive this election cycle intact? Stay tuned. Exit quotation from the president of the United States, assessing his favorite news network: “What the hell is going on?”