The Surge

Slate’s guide to the most important figures in politics this week.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Surge, which will do you a solid and not spend a single sentence on the White House budget proposal.

We do, however, have to spend an unusual amount of time—in this day and age!—discussing Jan. 6. We also look at President Biden’s recent pivot to the right, express our astonishment at allegations of grifting taking place at the annual Grifter Convention, and check in on the current ground zero of sex news, Tennessee.

Let us begin, though, with one of those guys who’s always all “I love Trump” in public but then all “Ugh, I hate Trump” in private.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images.

Rank 1

1. Tucker Carlson

A tale of two Tuckers.

The star Fox News host was the leading figure in the news this week (again!), with two stories showing the chasm between what he says in public and in private. In public, on his show, he’s in the midst of doing revisionist history about Jan. 6. (He says it wasn’t that big of a deal.) And at the same time, more and more of his private correspondence, released as part of the filings in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News, shows how passionately he hates Trump. (He literally texted, on Jan 4, 2021, “I hate him passionately” and that he was praying for the day when he would be “able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.”) Carlson also said, of the Trump presidency, that “we’re all pretending we’ve got a lot to show for it because admitting what a disaster it’s been is too tough to digest. But come on. There really isn’t an upside to Trump.” When it came out that Trump wouldn’t attend Biden’s inauguration, Carlson said it was “hard to believe. So destructive,” and “It’s disgusting. I’m trying to look away.” He noted that Trump’s “deadly” anger had nearly “consumed” him in November 2020, when Trump lawyer Sidney Powell went after Fox. “It was very difficult to regain emotional control,” he said on Jan. 7, 2021, “but I knew I had to. We’ve got two weeks left. We can do this.” You’ll never hear Carlson try to explain all of this on his show. His viewers will also never know he felt this way. He will misdirect, misdirect, misdirect. The stock price, and Carlson’s job security, depends on it.

Rank 2

2. Mitch McConnell

Not a big “Jan. 6 revisionism” guy.

When we wrote, a couple of weeks ago, about Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to grant Carlson exclusive access to Capitol security footage of Jan. 6, we observed that letting the most popular conservative television host dive headlong into Jan. 6 revisionism might not help Republicans win more elections. Many Republicans in Congress appear to agree. “What is the purpose of continuing to bring it up unless you’re trying to feed Democrat narratives even further?” Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw told Politico. “If your message is then to try and convince people that nothing bad happened, then it’s just going to make us look silly.” Senate Republicans were even more sour. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell led off his weekly press conference slamming the “presentation on Fox News” for depicting Jan. 6 “in a way that is completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks.” Another thing McConnell slammed this week: his head, leading to a concussion. Get well soon, Mitch!

Rank 3

3. Andrew Clyde

How a guy like this gets a bill like that into law.

Something quite unusual happened through the legislative process this week. A high-profile measure introduced in the House by Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde—a Freedom Caucus member deemed by all Democrats, and a great many Republicans, to be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs—successfully got through Congress on a lopsided bipartisan basis. The resolution nullifies D.C. government’s comprehensive revision of the city’s criminal code, a years-in-the-works product that was demagogued to oblivion—and President Biden will sign the resolution into law. We were at the Senate, watching from above this week, as the chamber voted 81–14 (with Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock voting present) to throw D.C. self-government under the bus, and Clyde was there to soak it all in. He shook hands with Republican senators and got into a back-and-forth with Warnock after his (admittedly too-cute-by-half) present vote. This could be the last time that Clyde, who infamously referred to the Jan. 6 riot as resembling a “normal tourist visit,” ever gets a Democratic president—or any president—to sign a bill of his into law. Either that, or he comes up with another bill that sends Democrats panic-screaming about how they’ll look “soft on crime” for opposing it.

Rank 4

4. Joe Biden

Is the phone line to Congress not working anymore?

Biden’s decision to sign the Republican crime bill is part of an unmistakable tack to the right as he prepares for reelection. In addition to overturning D.C.’s revised criminal code, the administration has proposed a rule tightening asylum applications and is reportedly considering a resumption of migrant family detention. Now, it’s not shocking news that a president eying reelection would move to defuse criticism on two issues—crime and immigration—where he’s susceptible to attacks. What is odd is the lack of communication with his allies in Congress about this. Biden’s decision to come out against the D.C. crime bill came only after vulnerable House Democrats had put their necks on the line to defend it, which has to be one of the most politically mismanaged moves we’ve seen from the White House in a while. House Republicans are already running ads against vulnerable House Democrats over it. And there appears to have been little to no consultation with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus ahead of these immigration moves, something the CHC isn’t taking well. “The lack of communication on immigration-related policy decisions is an insult,” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez told Axios. “It would be like making civil rights legislative ideas and thoughts without checking with the Congressional Black Caucus.” The Surge is not a White House reporter. But we would observe that the breakdown in these communications seems to coincide neatly with the transition to a new White House chief of staff.

Rank 5

5. Jim Risch

Please, by all means, ransack my office again.

Imagine that a bunch of goons break into your workspace, smash your windows, rifle through your papers, and crap on your floor—but you absolutely are not allowed to get mad about it, because you will lose your job. This is the Jan. 6 conundrum for many Republicans in Congress. But we learned about a particularly acute example of it this week. NBC News reported on newly released footage that shows Jan. 6 rioters busting the window of and trashing Idaho Sen. Jim Risch’s “hideaway” office in the Capitol. But, as NBC notes, “a review of Risch's public statements on the Jan. 6, 2021, riot show no indication that he has ever mentioned what happened to his office that day.” He’s never even mentioned it! Risch, the Surge can report, can have a brusque manner with reporters when asked about something he doesn’t want to talk about. And this week, when NBC asked him about dirtbags smashing up his office, Risch simply said, “I don't do interviews on Jan. 6, but thanks.” Jim, you have to let it out! The therapy bills are just going to get higher the longer you sit on this.

Rank 6

6. Vivek Ramaswamy

Shocked, shocked to hear about corruption at CPAC.

Ramaswamy, an investor and anti-“woke” activist who’s launched a long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination, made a startling allegation this week following the Conservative Political Action Conference. It turns out that not all may be aboveboard at CPAC, a three-day conference for conservative celebrities to pitch their custom gold-investment pyramid schemes. A campaign aide for Ramaswamy told Politico that a consultant reached out to them and said, “If you pay, I think it was upward of $100,000, we can get tickets and bus a bunch of people in for the straw poll” to vote for him. Ramaswamy himself told Fox News that the consultant said they could get him all the way to second place in the straw poll for “a few hundred thousand dollars.” Ramaswamy refused, and earned 1 percent in the CPAC presidential straw poll. All of this sounds, and is, very dirty. But also … it’s the CPAC straw poll. If you’re not paying to play, you’re not playing to win. Bus in whomever you want! Rick Santorum accused Mitt Romney of paying to rig the CPAC straw poll in 2012, and you know who didn’t go to jail? Mitt Romney (yet).

Rank 7

7. Randy McNally

Say what you want, but he will never stop posting.

Tennessee has of late passed some of the most high-profile anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country, banning drag shows in certain spaces and gender-affirming health care for transgender children. There’s more in the legislative pipeline too. So there were some interesting discoveries made this week about the man who presides over the state Senate, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. McNally has been a regular liker and commenter on the Instagram feed of “a young gay male aspiring performer”—as the Tennessee Holler, which broke the story, put it—who posts racy, near-nude photos. Under one photo of the aspiring performer’s butt, McNally commented, “you can turn a rainy day into sunshine and rainbows!” along with several heart and fire emojis. There’s a whole lot more. In an interview this week, McNally apologized to anyone whom his social media activity had offended. But, he said, he “tries to encourage people with posts and try to, you know, help them if I can.” OK, but a real way to lift up and encourage LGBTQ people would be to not pass so many laws that criminalize their existence.