So cue the lamentations again, this time from the movement conservatives, who might have hoped to see him contend with populism’s fraught history and Trump-era manifestation and shape it into something different. “Carlson has radically reinvented himself,” says David French, senior editor of the conservative outlet The Dispatch, “and one would hope he’d reinvent himself again, grant the reality of right-wing populism’s race problem, and do something determined and intentional to overcome it.”
When I relayed that sentiment to Carlson, he burst out laughing. “Whatever,” he said. “I’ve made a complete break mentally with the world I used to live in.” He later followed up with an official statement: “David French is a buffoon, one of the least impressive people I’ve ever met. Only in nonprofit conservatism could he have a paying job.”
Which brings us to perhaps the most crucial metric of success for Carlson: how many people in Washington think he’s wrong. About what, it doesn’t matter, really. Just as long, he says, as whatever “costume” the Morning Joe folks are wearing—“fighting for private equity,” “making alarmed noises about Tehran,” believing “a woman’s right to choose is the bedrock of human freedom”—is the opposite of his own.
And maybe one day, he said as we wound down our interview, he’ll decide everything he’s saying in this moment is wrong. He’s certainly recanted his viewpoints before.