While the big “get” for “Tucker Carlson Tonight’s” first day in Bill O’Reilly’s former time slot was Caitlyn Jenner, the best interview was, not surprisingly, with Tucker’s favorite regular guest (and mine), Dirty Jobs himself, Mike Rowe.
Rowe has been a guest on the first show at each of Tucker’s time slot changes. Rowe is the voice of Working Guy America and Tucker has jumped into that part of Trumpism with both feet—even those parts in conflict with his one-time libertarian principles.
Tucker started the segment by pumping President Trump’s “Buy American Hire American” executive orders and cued up Rowe to do the same by asking with a huge smile, “Are you surprised that this is basically the most popular thing the president’s done?”
But Tucker’s expression quickly changed to the puzzled expression he would later adopt during much of the strange Caitlyn Jenner interview later in the show.
“No, I’m not surprised, but I’m nervous,” Rowe answered.
Then Rowe gently and brilliantly explained, in the kind of plain language that Ronald Reagan once used to explain free enterprise, why the “short cut” of government fiat only appears to solve a problem. “It feels like it might be a shortcut to me, and as my pop used to say, ‘short cuts, you know, lead to long delays,'” Rowe said.
He went on to explain:
If it’s one of these things that is going to ultimately bring about some unintended consequences … look, I’m nervous about the minimum wage because when we raise it to hurry up to get to an endpoint, it’s like that whack-a-mole game—something else pops up somewhere else. It’s like rent control.
I want an environment where the companies that are most responsible for hiring are dramatically encouraged by the market to keep the business here, and if we get ahead of ourselves and make it by fiat or some kind of mandate, I just figure that mole’s gonna pop up out of another hole and we’re gonna have to whack it.
Scrambling to recover, and not wanting to argue with one of his idols (who was reminding him of the principles he once espoused himself), Tucker asked, “If you could write an executive order—if you could do one thing—to bring back American jobs, where would you start?”
Here, Rowe could have gotten sarcastic or frustrated and pointed out that he had just explained how that was the wrong question, but instead he brought it back to first principles.
I would write something that made it crystal clear that my best upside for profit is to stay here … I would just try and set the table differently than just jump ahead and say, “Look, this is where I want the story to end, so let’s just write this down and make it end that way.”
Rowe suggested that a Buy American executive order prevents the nation from looking inward to find out why companies would want to do business overseas or buy foreign products.
He related a story of his own about a company that he worked with trying to push American-made jeans. (Talk about natural branding!)
He learned very quickly that “until those two jeans—the American-made and the overseas—were the identical same price, there was absolutely no push, no incentive for the consumer to buy American.” Rowe added, “It’s not just the worker and it’s not just the boss—it’s us.”
But the topic of jeans allowed Tucker to get back to the firmer ground of ridiculing the ridiculous, as he could then bring up the topic of Nordstrom’s $400 Chinese jeans with ground-in working man dirt.
And Rowe, points made, graciously went along with making fun of the artificial fetishization of the working man by pampered rich people with Chinese dirt on their pants but no grime under their fingernails. He never made the obvious point that it could possibly apply to the formerly bow-tie wearing Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson.
But Tucker is not alone at Fox. Eric Bolling also needs reminding of these first principles, as he loudly espouses “economic nationalism” while equally loudly proclaiming himself a “libertarian.” In embracing Trump, too many voices on the Right are embracing rhetoric I heard my whole life as a Flint, Michigan, native from openly socialist labor union presidents.
Fortunately, so far, the things Trump is doing that have the actual force of law mostly relate to restoring the incentives Rowe talks about above, while the protectionism is still in the largely rhetorical phase.
And oh yeah, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—Mike Rowe for President!