|Who Won the Fox Republican ‘Debate?’ Why Fox, of Course! by Steve Jonas|
August 12, 2015
Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly, and Bret Baier, Fox’s GOP debate moderators. All vetted media critters for the establishment’s most reactionary wing. To claim they had no marching orders is a bit naive.
As I recently pointed out in this space, The Fox 'News' Channel, set up originally as the propaganda wing of the Republican Party, is now in the process of taking that party over.
The “Debates” held last week, in both prime time and drive time on the East Coast, were really more of a series of joint interviews for the position of Fox favored nominee, than they were debates between the candidates. Yes, Christie and Paul did have a go at it and there were one or two other instances of that sort of thing. But the reality of this reality show was that a set of high-profile Fox 'News' anchors asked a series of sometimes tough questions (tough on subjects that Fox is interested in, like immigration, but of course nothing on, for example, the looming disaster issue of our time). And it was a reality show, with a strong touch of sports-show business.
The “debate” was held in a sports stadium — Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Appropriate for a Repub. gathering — just recall the kind of Repub.-smiled-upon “sub-prime” (otherwise known as “predatory”) lending that took place in the run-up to the 2008 crash — Quicken Loans just happens to have a history of being sued on the claim of predatory lending. It was actually set up like a broadcast sporting event. There were three “play-by-play” “moderators” (political debates usually have one) and then there were three “color commentators” (a task most televised political debate operators leave to the news organizations and the “spin room”). The crowd, obviously a carefully chosen one, was loud and cheered as if either the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team or one of the other sports occupants of the Arena — the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey (minor) League or the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League — were playing in front of them. In the pre-game commentary, Megyn Kelly — who would later become much better known for some much more important questioning/commentary — actually referred to the whole event as “The Show.”
The Donald attempting a rebuttal. “Honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry…I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably not be based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.”
(Megyn is prone to gaffes. She made herself the butt of acid jokes by liberal comedians like Jon Stewart by proclaiming a few years back that “Jesus was white.” The declaration was well received by the Fox audience.—eds)
Fox desperately wants the Republicans to win the Presidency the next time around. They have not taken over the Party for the purpose of seeing it lose. But they would appear to want the win for two reasons, not just one: that is, both policies and ratings. Led by the old Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Giuliani, hand, Roger Ailes, of course they want to see Repub. policies, which have pretty much ruled the nation since the time of Reagan, even more firmly put in place. Like the Party’s major funders, such as the Koch Brothers, on behalf of all the members of the ruling class they represent, in my view most of all they want all government regulation — commercial, industrial, financial, environmental — whittled down to the lowest level possible. And that can happen only with a Republican in the White House.
But there is another reason Ailes and his bosses want the Republicans to win: ratings.
Disgracefully, and with highly nefarious consequences for the US and the rest of the world, Fox 'News' is already way on top of the U.S. news channel list. But you can just imagine if there were a Republican Administration in place, especially one that Fox 'News' helped put in place? WOW! And that, sure as shootin’, is what Ailes sees. Actually, you could have seen elements of this plot in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. A number of observers observed that the villain of the piece, a media mogul named Elliott Carver, was modeled on Rupert Murdoch.
And so, to win, Fox 'News' needs the best candidate. Of course that person has to win the nomination through the primary process. But given the politics of the voters who watch Fox 'News', the channel will have an inordinate influence on that outcome. And so we come to Donald Trump. In my view, in the last month or so the powers that be at Fox 'News' have come to view Trump as their biggest obstacle to winning the Presidency. Enough has been written about Trump and his positions, if you can call them that, on the major issues of the day, as well as his many prejudices (including a piece by myself), so that I don’t have to repeat it here. But Trump does represent the biggest obstacle the Fox 'News'/GOP has to winning the Presidency.
As many other observers, like Frank Rich and Timothy Egan, have noted, it is not because of his positions. They have been the bread-and-butter of Republican politics since the time that Richard Nixon instituted the “Southern Strategy;” a few years later passed the “Hyde Amendment” limiting choice in the outcome of pregnancy for many of the nation’s poor women; and then in 1985 had Newt Gingrich say the following about the AIDS epidemic:
AIDS is a real crisis. It is worth paying attention to, to study. It’s something one ought to be looking at. . . . [For] AIDS will do more to direct America back to the cost of violating traditional values, and to make America aware of the danger of certain behavior than anything we’ve seen. For us, it’s a great rallying cry.”The “problem” for the Repubs results from how Trump says these things: VERY out loud and loudly, with no codes or dog-whistles. (Note that he hasn’t gotten to homophobia — yet — and given the changes that have taken place in U.S. culture, to say nothing of the fact that he likely has numerous [wealthy, Republican] gay friends, he likely never will.) So, given that very first question about running or not as an independent, I think that Fox 'News' was out to get Trump. Then Kelly put more bait out in front of him (obviously planned from the beginning). He rose to it and has been rising to it ever since.
The Fox 'News' folks are nothing if not smart. They knew that they were not going to get rid of Trump by either debating him on a rational basis or being nice to him. They figured that the only way to get rid of him was to let him sink himself, which they hope, with every utterance, he is doing, with the majority of Repub primary voters (as well as the Party powers-that-be, to the extent that they have influence — and money to spend). As for the risk of an independent challenge by him (not “third party;” Trump is not really into parties, of the political kind, anyway), that risk is always there. No-one is going to talk Trump out of that one, so Fox 'News' figures that’s just a risk they are going to have to take.
As for the rest of the beginning of the Fox 'News' elimination process, with the joint job interview, it seems to me that one candidate came out very well, and given the questions he was asked, I think that that was a set-up too. It’s not Carson — so out of his depth he didn’t know that the Baltic States belong to NATO. Walker looked like a school-kid, although he is dangerous because he has Koch money — and that’s a lot — behind him. But he is too raw to win, and Fox News' knows it. Paul and Christie looked like they were in the sand-box, throwing the stuff at each other.
Rubio looked young and vigorous — vigorous enough to want to set up the war plans for an Iran Attack the day after he reached the Oval Office, just as Bush was totally focused on Iraq at his first National Security Council meeting, as reported by then outgoing National Security Advisor Richard Clark. By next year, regardless of what happens to the “Iran Deal,” that — possibly meaning “boots on the ground” as well as missiles, drones, and planes in the air — will not be a winning strategy with the bulk of the U.S. public, and Fox 'News' knows it. JEB just looked old and tired, as if he were a re-tread of his brother (which he is, really). Ted Cruz is way out in right field, by himself: also not a winning strategy. Huckabee fully revealed himself as the Dominionist he is (he shares that belief system with one of the kiddy-table candidates, Rick Santorum), when he said, very clearly, that “the Supreme Being is above the Supreme Court.” That view would eventually come out, even in a media very shy of getting into such truly important controversies, and would not go over well with enough voters.
So who does that leave? Well, none other than Gov. John Kasich of Ohio (above). He is just as much a hard-right reactionary as any of them, going way back to when in the House of Representatives he was one of the point-men leading the fight against the Clinton Health Plan in 1994. But he comes across as oh-so-nice. He would even still love his own daughter if “she happened to be that” — gay, that is — (which phraseology in Republican circles counts as “nice”). And boy, did Kasich get the soft-ball questions compared to the others. My guess? Fox 'News', and a few other Repub. big-wigs at least, have picked Kasich, at least at this point.
As for the Vice-Presidential nominee? That one’s not hard. It’s the consensus pick as star of the kiddie-table show. That would be Carly Fiorina, a slight, blond, failed business-executive, who would be a superb attack dog against Hillary Clinton (the role for which she has been rehearsing vigorously since she entered the race). And boy did she go after Obama on the Iran Deal. You just can’t trust those wily Iranians, donchaknow.
So these are my early indicators, gleaned from the joint interview — I mean debate.” Again, my choice for overall winner? Fox 'News,' in a landslide.
Postscript: How does all this relate to “The Duopoly Watch?” Just notice how the Democrats will never go after the Republicans on the most dangerous part of their campaign platform: the dominant place of religious belief in much of their thinking and platform design. Marco Rubio said that he denied the “rape/incest” exception for abortion, because “every embryo/fetus is a child.” That is an entirely religious view. Hillary Clinton attacked Rubio, correctly, on the “denial of women’s rights” issue. But did she go beyond that to the much larger one, the place of religious belief in national policy making? Well no, despite that fact that the issue is one which affects everyone: male and female. I have written on this major constitutional issue in the past, and surely will be getting back to it soon.
Postscript II: Notice how Roger Ailes handled Trump: very nicely. Ailes has surely not changed his mind about getting Trump out of the way for the Repub. primaries, while at the same time doing nothing to push him into a third-party run. So Ailes is treating him with the utmost “respect,” something Trump says he needs if he is not to go 3rd party. So there he was right back on Fox, with Hannity, who surely treated him with the utmost “respect,” if not, given that it was Hannity, overweening admiration (I didn’t watch). Of course none of this does anything but boost Fox 'News’ ratings, making Ailes doubly happy.