Friday, July 24, 2015

They Made The Rules They Now Regret

I know it's crooked, but it's the only game in town
- attributed to a con artist, Canada Bill Jones

The Republicans - and their media overlords - are apparently getting more worried about their self-inflicted damage, also known as Candidate Donald Trump.

The first part is the coverage.  The biggest reason Trump is leading - for now - is because Fox Not-News and their conservative media cohorts - hi, Rush! - can't stop their coverage of Trump as he rails against immigrants and trashes the reputations of established party leaders (dissing John McCain, doxxing Lindsey Graham).

This is how serious a problem it's become: Rupert Murdoch, who officially OWNS the Fox News channel and pays everyone's salary there, can't even get his own people like Roger Ailes to listen to him:

One reason Murdoch is taking to social media and deploying his publishing properties to attack Trump may be the simple fact that he hasn’t been able to control his most powerful media organ: Fox News. According to sources, Murdoch has tried — and failed — to rein in Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who, insiders say, is pushing Fox to defend Trump’s most outlandish comments. This week, Ailes told his senior executives during a meeting that Murdoch recently called him and asked if Fox could “back off the Trump coverage,” a source told me. Ailes is said to have boasted to his executives that he told Murdoch he was covering Trump “the way he wanted to.” The implication was that he wasn’t going to budge... 
...It’s understandable that Murdoch would be frustrated. Fox News has been a ringleader of the Trump circus. Shortly after Trump jumped into the race, he had a "2-to-3 hour" private lunch with Ailes, sources told me. Last month, Fox gave Trump more airtime than any other candidate. And, according to sources, the channel's personalities are taking an active role in aiding Trump, both on- and off-camera. One source explained that Ailes has instructed The Five co-host Eric Bolling to defend Trump on air. A review of Bolling’s comments shows that over the past week, he’s gone to bat for Trump numerous times...
...Inside Fox News, the Journal editorial (Note: which Murdoch owns) is clearly seen by some as a message to Ailes. It seems doubtful, however, that he is listening. “Roger claims not to care,” an insider said... 

You might remember Roger Ailes if you've read The Selling of the President: he was one of the media people handling Nixon's 1968 campaign and was a major figure in McGinniss' classic book.  He is one of several legacies left behind by those Nixon years, a figure who spent decades trying to create a purely conservative media outlet and finally got one in Fox. Who is now reveling in the final end-game of the much-vaunted Southern Strategy weaponized under Nixon's tenure: the rise of a conservative populist figure devoid of reason and full of emotional pandering.

What is happening now between Murdoch and Ailes is akin to watching a pro football team owner trying to tell his Head Coach-slash-General Manager to think of improving the team's talent with smart free agency signings and drafting a highly-scouted defensive lineman, only to wail in horror on the Rookie Draft Day as that Coach/Manager goes and drafts a PUNTER in the First Round. (for those of you who don't follow football, let the experts tell you that drafting a Punter in the First tends to be a REALLY BAD IDEA)

The other part is the debate itself.  Terrified of what Trump could do on the stage, some party players are urging the big names - Jeb, Walker, Rubio - to boycott if Trump garners an official invite:

...One idea that came up was to urge three leading candidates — Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor; Mr. Walker; and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — to band together and state that they would not participate in any debate in which Mr. Trump was present, using his refusal to rule out a third-party bid as a pretext for taking such a hard line. The thinking, according to a Republican involved in the conversations, was that the lesser-funded prospects who have been eclipsed by Mr. Trump would follow suit, and the TV networks airing the debates would be forced to bar Mr. Trump in order to have a full complement of candidates.
But none of the campaigns have shown any appetite for such solidarity, for reasons ranging from their strategic interests and not wanting to make Mr. Trump a martyr, to fear of making an enemy of Fox News, the preferred cable network of conservatives and the host of the first debate...

Another problem with that boycott idea is obvious: in a crowded field where the ONLY major front-runner (so far) will be Trump, avoiding the first debate for the other major names would be akin to shooting off your own foot.  The remaining candidates - most of them struggling for ANY media attention - would gladly join the same stage as Trump and try to pilfer Trump's fanbase through their own pandering.  Just because Jeb Bush or Scott Walker might not show won't mean the likes of Carson, Cruz or Huckabee would also avoid the moment.

There's a bigger problem as well: having set up the rules of the debate - whomever hits the Top Ten in average of the major polls, and filed proper with the FEC - the Republican Party is going to look like fools trying to change in public the rigged game days before the table is set.  They knew full well going in that Trump was polling relatively high among the party base.  They knew they had the likelihood of inviting someone who had no political experience and a potential to embarrass himself and the party.  They could have earlier set a tougher guideline such as actual campaign wins - which would have knocked Trump, Carson, and Fiorina off the list - and not a lot of people would have complained then (save for Carson's and Fiorina's backers).  Either they figured Trump - when it was time to put up or shut up - wouldn't have risked the potential business losses or he wouldn't have risked public humiliation.

But Trump is now blowing those hopes to pieces: he's clearly willing to swallow his short-term losses in exchange for long-term infamy, and he's proven there is no level of shame that can humiliate himself.  And being a self-assured billionaire, he's under no obligations to listen to anybody as there's no financial backers or potential threats from the national party to keep him in line.

Now the Republicans are stuck with a blowhard con artist dominating the first debate while more qualified political figures - Governor Kasich in particular may well miss the starting round unless his fortunes change in a week - sit at the little kids' table in frustration.

What's happening here is that the Republican Party leadership - both the organization itself and the media outlets openly associated with them - tried to rig the game after the relatively embarrassing fiasco that was the 2012 primary season.  But they've tried doing this after having rigged everything else: having mounted a massive obstructionist program against Obama and the Democrats by vilifying them as the evil opposition, which enforced a partisan anti-everybody agenda that Trump is easily exploiting; having pushed for more rich-people's money flowing into campaigns via court rulings like Citizens United that Trump can use to basically keep himself afloat and even threatening an independent run if the Republicans reject him; using media outlets like Fox Not-News to script and shape the Republican message to shill to an ever-angered and ever-gullible audience, now attuned to Trump's calls towards hatred and outrage at the Republican leadership itself.  Now they're finding that all the tricks they've used to set this all up are now tripping their own efforts.

That quote above about how that rigged game was the only one in town?  The guy saying was a con artist himself: leave it to a con artist to try conning the con, much like con artist Trump conning the rigged Republicans.

Murdoch, the Bushes, Reince Priebus and the RNC, their financial backers like the Kochs, they all have to live with the fact that they created the only rigged game in town with these GOP Primaries and the public debates... and NOW they're no longer in control of the fix.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

I would say "Be careful what you wish for" but "Be careful what you lavishly fund and obsessively devote yourself to for half a century" would be closer to reality, I think...

-Doug in Oakland