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Cable news host fails race test

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- When it comes to race, conservatives will never ace the quiz.

It stands to reason that this bunch would be slow to understand a subject that they usually downplay, dismiss or deny. Those on the right -- including many Republicans and most Trump voters -- often pretend to be colorblind in order to seem enlightened. Ironically, the opposite is true.

By the way, conservatives aren't really oblivious to race. Ronald Reagan mentioned a "welfare queen." George H.W. Bush approved the Willie Horton ad. Jesse Helms used a campaign commercial featuring white hands holding a job rejection letter while the narrator criticized affirmative action. These weren't dog whistles. They were fog horns.

Be that as it may, those on the right are often a couple slices short of a full loaf when it comes to racial matters.

This is one of the takeaways from my recent appearance on Fox News Channel's "Tucker Carlson Tonight."

I was invited onto the show to discuss a recent column where I suggested that -- after the Las Vegas massacre by Stephen Paddock, a white male who stockpiled large amounts of high-powered weapons -- it was time for authorities to profile white males who stockpiled large amounts of high-powered weapons.

To many people, that is common sense. To Carlson, it was anti-white racism.

Apparently, the part about being slow on race extends to liberal-to-moderate Republicans who masquerade as hard-right conservatives to please a television audience that leans so far to the right that, on issues like trade, it wound up on the left.

You see, I knew the old Tucker, the smart and likable writer who -- in publications such as "The Weekly Standard" -- worked his way through thorny subjects in a fair and thoughtful way. This is the person who -- when discussing hot-button cultural issues such as gay rights, immigration, abortion and gun control -- was known more for seeking nuance than breathing fire. Though he has lived in Washington for 25 years, the television host is still -- at heart -- a California conservative. Raised near San Diego, before attending a private boarding school in Rhode Island and graduating from Trinity College in Connecticut, he is more comfortable around chardonnay than NASCAR.

I've known that guy for 20 years, and I consider him a friend. He's always been nice to me. And I'm proud of his success, which he owes to a combination of talent, luck and perseverance.

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