Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trump vs. Ailes: Clash of the Titans

Before the first ballot has been cast Donald Trump has declared himself the victor. He is the man in charge. As he sees it, being the man in charge means telling other people what to do, how to run their businesses.

Now, he has taken on the man who created Fox News, Roger Ailes. One suspects that Trump was just getting tired of kicking around politicians. It was just too easy to pound Jeb Bush. In the world of reality television, Trump is a master. No candidate compares when it comes to occupying space on television. Trump has barely spent any money advertising, but all the television networks report his every word. They fall all over themselves to give him air time. After all, Trump means high ratings, and who doesn’t want higher ratings?

If Trump was tired of squabbles and “squirmishes” with mere politicians, why not go after the king of television news, the impresario who made Fox News into a titan. If you want to be the king, you must replace the king, and when it comes to reality television qua news the king is Roger Ailes.

Better yet, when a Republican attacks Fox news it looks like a Sister Souljah moment. Any Republican can trash MSNBC, with impunity. It fires up the base, as they say. But, for a Republican or a would-be Republican to attack Fox News, that takes courage. It takes fortitude and it appeals to those who think that Fox News is the Inferno and that Roger Ailes is Lucifer.

Of course, people who hold to New York values hate Fox News. They consider it to be the root of all evil… or at least the evil that has not been caused by the Tea Party and George W. Bush.

By dissing Fox News, and refusing, for now, to show up for the Thursday debate, Trump is dominating the news cycle and showing off his New York values.

One must point out that the general opinion, from commentators on the left and the right was that the Fox journalists did an excellent job, took a fair and balanced approach, in the first debate. Obviously, DT did not think so. He took serious exception to the process and especially to one Megyn Kelly.

Go back to the beginning. People forget the opening salvo of the first debate. The moderators asked the assembled candidates to raise their hands to show that they would support the Republican nominee, no matter who. All but one did.

It was serious television drama. Was Ailes behind it? I suspect that he was. Was he trying to humiliate Donald Trump? I suspect that he was.

Truth be told, Trump still came out on top. His supporters loved him more than they had before, if that is possible, and his detractors softened their attitude. It looked like he could handle tough questions and retain his composure under fire. Future debates seemed to prove the point. Trump may not be a professional debater, but he did better than hold his own.

Still, Trump was seriously piqued. But, he did not go after Ailes directly. Why attack the king when you can attack someone he cares about, his franchise, his greatest creation, Megyn Kelly. Increasingly, Kelly looks like the face of Fox News and the future of Fox News.

As it happens, Kelly has become a media darling. She has received fawning cover profiles in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Vanity Fair. For people with New York values, it doesn’t get much better than that. Megyn Kelly is becoming what is called in another context, a crossover talent. She is working on a conservative channel, but has become a darling of the liberal media. Not because she is a liberal—she is far more conservative than liberal—but because she is just as adept at confronting and debating conservatives. She is always fair and balanced….

Anyway, Trump was sorely offended at the questions that Kelly asked him at the first debate. He responded her in personal and vulgar terms. Since Kelly asked Trump about the way he speaks about women, his attacks on her have simply proved her right.

In the meantime, Trump’s fan base does not care. It seems to believe that speaking ill of women is the antidote to feminism. It isn’t, but who cares?

So, Trump has been riding high in the polls. Debates in which he participates have spiked television ratings and brought in considerable advertising dollars. So, why not use his power to abuse Megyn Kelly and to push around Roger Ailes. Clearly, that would make him the king of all reality media… don’t you think?

Trump might have been thinking this way. He might not have been. He has been running a campaign on his instincts, and, for now, his instincts have been much better than some of us imagined.

One suspects that Trump felt humiliated in the first Fox debate. And he must have felt that Ailes did it on purpose. Now, he is looking for payback. If it feels thin-skinned, that’s because it is. If it feels like throwing one’s weight around, trying to look strong when you are feeling weakened, that’s because it is. It might not be the most civilized way to save face, but many people would do the same. They hurt his feelings; now he is going to make them pay... in the most literal sense.

Anyway, the Washington Post has reprinted Kelly’s remarks. I quote them for your edification:

Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs' and 'disgusting animals.' ...

Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a a pretty picture to see her on her knees.

Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?"

One notes that Trump interrupted the question to point out that he had only said those things about Rosie O’Donnell. His fans cheered heartily. To that Kelly pointed out that he was wrong. The Washington Post checked the facts and said that Kelly was correct. To Trump supporters, it did not matter.

And Kelly asked this, which echoes the point that Trump first made in 1999 about New York values:

Mr. Trump, in 1999, you said you were, quote, 'very pro-choice.' Even supporting partial-birth abortion. You favored an assault weapons ban as well. In 2004, you said in most cases you identified as a Democrat. Even in this campaign, your critics say you often sound more like a Democrat than a Republican, calling several of your opponents on the stage things like 'clowns' and 'puppets.' When did you actually become a Republican?

It’s a fair question, because Trump has been touting his conversion to Republicanism. He has made it sound like he converted when he was struck by lightning on the road to Damascus. This seems sufficient for many evangelical voters, who are now flocking to Trump because of a text they found in 2 Corinthians.

The Post adds that the other candidates also received pointed and tough questions, questions designed to address their weaknesses.

Anyway, Donald has been feuding with Kelly ever since. It does not seem very dignified to me, but it does seem to have been working.

So well that Trump recently decided to up the game with his true opponent, Ailes, by demanding that Megyn Kelly be excluded from the upcoming Fox debate. He accused her of being unfair and biased against him and he said that if she was there, he would absent himself. He knew that his presence would mean big ratings and more advertising revenue. Why not leverage his power to kick around Roger Ailes?

To be clear, there is no way on earth that any news organization can possibly accede to such a demand. To do so would discredit it immediately. It would become, if I may use this harsh language, Trump’s bitch.

Perhaps Trump was just playing chicken with Fox News. Perhaps he had intended to make his point and then to show up. After all, the debates have been a boon to him. But then, Ailes fired back at him yesterday afternoon, through a spokesman, in distinctly unflattering language:

We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president—a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.

Apparently, this was one insult too many. No one could be allowed to ridicule the Donald and to get away with it. Trump folded his cards and walked away from the debate. For now, at least.

Obviously, he is opening himself up to charges of chickening out. He is opening himself to charges that he is afraid to face a woman. But he believes that he is looking tough and his supporters might very well be contented with that. Clearly, Ailes or Kelly or both have gotten under his skin. How will it work out in the end? We do not know. Underestimating Donald Trump has not been a very winning strategy lately.

Obviously, Trump’s opponents are trying to seize the initiative by suggesting that Trump is not man enough to deal with Megyn Kelly. Ted Cruz invited Trump to a one-on-one, mano-a-mano debate, moderated by whomever he wishes. And someone created a new hashtag: #DonaldDuck.

When Trump withdrew from the debate, a Fox spokesperson issued this statement:

Embedded image permalink

Now, Gabriel Sherman reports in New York Magazine that the powers at Fox are very upset and that the conflict with Trump is exposing divisions within the organization… especially between those who support Megyn Kelly and those who resent her being the new face of the network.

For now, Sherman writes, Trump wants to appeal to a higher power: Rupert Murdoch himself:

Trump advisers are privately telling people that he will only deal with Rupert Murdoch to resolve the dispute. Having Murdoch dragged into the mess could be a serious problem for Ailes. The CEO earned Murdoch's trust because Fox generates $1 billion in profit, but also because he was always in control. But in recent months Murdoch has been attending news meetings at Fox in the wake of a health scare that forced Ailes to take an extended leave of absence. Succession planning at Fox is very much on Murdoch's agenda. If Ailes loses his grip on the Trump situation — and right now it looks like he is — Murdoch will have another reason to worry about the stability of his most valuable asset.

Stay tuned.


Ares Olympus said...

Trump versus Fox News, because Megan Kelly had time to be PC, while he did not. And rather than kissing and making up, Trump wants to publicly blackmail Fox News to remove Kelly from the debate? What do I make of that craziness?

Trump says he has a bigger heart than all of us, so why can't he open his heart and admit trash talking women isn't cool? He's smarter than this, and I really don't believe he's so petty. As he says, we have a lot of problems, so why waste it on this?

And more strangely, I contemplate on the idea that all the other republican candidates ought to agree to agree to REFUSE to attend any debate that included Donald Trump. So basically I've gotten my wish, and no one had to be mean.

But I suppose Trump has calculated that he can afford to sit out this last debate before the Iowa caucus, and if he wins by a good margin, not a majority, but say a 10% margin over #2 Cruz, AND the Fox debate has a record LOW viewership, perhaps that'll validate Trump's ego, and the bet will be worth it.

But if he skipped the debate AND loses the Iowa caucus AND Iowa republican woman say the primary reason they voted against Trump is because how he treated Megan Kelly, AND remember caucus means "TALKING" so who knows how many republican woman won't be doing their own trash talking on Trump before the vote is taken.

So Trump might lose BIG, and and then what will Trump do?

On the other hand, if Trump backs down from his heavy-handedness, if he decided after all to attend the debate, AND offer a sincere apology to Kelly, perhaps even brings her flowers, and tells her "You were right, I should be kinder to women. I thank you for standing up to me, and allowing me this chance to reform."

Well, a Showman can do anything, and Trump is still a charmer when he wants to be.

And if he did that, perhaps all the romantic Madison Country Bridge women of Iowa will be swooning, and talking up what a gentleman Trump is, and why everyone should vote for him, since unlike most men, he knows when he's wrong.

And Trump wins an absolute majority in Iowa, and his victories continue state after state after state.

So is Trump setting up this last minute melodrama, to keep attention on his planned apology? Women LOVE drama, right?

Well, I'm not betting on either side, but married women do count, and many husbands are yet swayed by their wives opinions. You can't count out the women, EVER.

Marsh said...

Indeed. Stay tuned.

FOX News is the propaganda arm of the GOP establishment. This is part of the battle for control of the Republican party. And so far Trump is winning.

As Bill Mitchell said on Twitter last night," Trump just shot FOX News in the middle of Fifth Ave."

Also, there is no way, Trump changes his mind on the debate. There's nothing to gain from from going. His spokesmen just said other candidates are calling him and asking if they can join his event. LOL

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I think Ares makes a good point: if Trump shows up and offers something of an apology to Kelly, he will lock up the nomination, then and there. Of course, if he sets up an alternative meeting on alternative networks, he will lose the chance to do so. In that case Marsh will be right. I suspect that everyone is looking for a face saving way out... in this case not so easy to find.

David Spence said...

Trump will "be" at the debate, just not be on stage. He will surely be participating from the comfy confines of his Twitter account and if the guys on stage don't call him on it, they are gonna pay. The first thing Cruz should do is to put that out there.

Leo G said...

Scott Adams take is that Mr. Trump is in a win/win situation.

As we saw with Obama, the cult of personality obliterates reason.

Leo G said...

It appears Mr. Trump may be at a fund raiser for Vets with casualties at the time of the debate.

Marsh said...

Stuart, he's already locked up the nomination. This is about cutting the head off the establishment so he can keep his promises to the country once he's elected.

He doesn't have ANYTHING to lose by not showing up. No face saving for him. This IS a total and complete win for him.

FOX is losing their credibility by the hour. Kelly had Michael Moore on her show last night to laugh at Donald Trump! Michael Moore!! What do you think FOX viewers thought of that? Can you imagine Rachel Maddow having Rush on her show and laughing at Hillary??

Marsh said...

Wells Fargo has just pulled their ads from the debates. LOL

vanderleun said...

Scott Adams this am: "At about halftime of the debate you might see Trump say it is too boring to watch and sign off for the night. That gives you a data point to see if viewership drops off around then. And it probably would, no matter what he tweets, simply because the novelty of him NOT being there will wear off. Then all you have is a real debate about the real issues. No one wants that. We have better things to do.

Now suppose Trump changes his mind and decides to join the debate even while Megyn Kelly remains. One of two things can happen. Either she asks questions that sound biased, and Trump rips her and FOX News apart on live television – and his poll number go up, or she asks only softball questions and Trump appears to have won that way.

You might be thinking that the real world is messier than that, and Trump is inviting a big risk. For example, Megyn Kelly might get in a zinger. But Trump dodges those with ease. Maybe the public will start siding with a biased TV host, but that seems unlikely. The media is unpopular in general."

A-bax said...

Stuart writes: " if Trump shows up and offers something of an apology to Kelly, he will lock up the nomination, then and there.". This is exactly backwards. Trump showing up, after he has said he won't, and apologizing to MegYn Kelly is among the very few things that would weaken his support, and give his followers reason to doubt him.

Marsh is right when he says that NeoConNews is an arm of the GOP Cuckstablishment. Trump's candidacy may have not began as an insurgency, but it has become that. Trump campaign is now partly about wresting the GOP away from the establishment, which has devolved into a non-opposition, wink-wink complicit party.

National Review published it's epitaph the other day. It now stands athwart history, yelling "invade the world! / invite the world!....and lower taxes, I guess!". Foxnews will have many of its ricebowels broken soon, and no amount of Krauhammers, Goldbergs, Roves, or Wills will convince the no-longer silent patriotic majority to listen to them anymore.

This is a win for Trump. He doesn't need the debates, the debates need him. He's breaking frame, which is a classic PUA technique. He's showing - not saying - that he's not some thirsty beta like Rubio or, increasingly, Mountie Ted. Those other chumps can go let MegYn Kelly call the shots, The Donald doesn't have time for that noise.

Marsh said...

Right on, A-bax, except for one thing.

I'm a girl.

Go Trump!!!

Dennis said...

I don't think Trump is afraid of Megyn Kelly nor is he afraid of the 'media." I suspect that after months of playing the media for fools he has decided he does not need them. Why subject himself to what he now sees as people who are a minor irritation at best and add nothing to his quest for the White House.
What does worry me is that both he and Cruz have burned so many bridges that neither one of them can do what needs to be done GOVERN. It is almost foolish to believe that he or Cruz will seriously hurt the establishment. Remember the Democrat establishment will still be there. Notwithstanding most of the Republicans as well. This assumes Trump has little in the way of "coattails" because he has shown little interest in building those who can be elect to office with his help.
The one thing Trump has going for him is that he will use the "Art of the Deal" to negotiate whereas Cruz may have alienated so many people in Congress that he won't be able to deal effectively with them. One has to give the Democrats some credit for maintaining a core group though Sanders has demonstrated that that core is no longer as cohesive as it once was.
I suspect a lot of Trump fans are not going to like some/many of the deals given Trump's real history. The sad part here is that government is nothing like business where one can fire people at will. Those people are needed to get things done. We would not need Trump et al if it worked like a business, but also it does not. I sincerely hope we get the change we seem to want, but suspect we are just changing masters.
There is something disconcerting about people who begin to believe their own press.

A-Bax said...

Duly noted, Marsh! That such ardent, clear-eyed support for Trump comes from a female makes me even more hopeful that something momentous is afoot. Clearly, the Trumpinator is not turning women off en masse - likely his unapologetic masculinity is having perhaps the opposite effect.

Dennis - I've wondered about the same thing myself, but I'd be willing to bet Trump will surprise us with his ability to charm and win people over to the ends he's already committed himself to (read: stopping rampant illegal immigration and containing the muslim menace). Unlike our Alien-in-Chief, Trump is a people-person, and can schmooze with the best of them. I bet DEMS will find behind closed doors that they warm to Trump.

And if nothing else, Barack the Blameless has given precedent to rule by executive-order, reconciliation, unaccountable czars, and so forth. The Left will reap what it has sown, and the Right will finally not bring a wiffle-ball bat to a flamethrower fight.

Scullman said...

Ronald Reagan skipped the last Iowa debate in 1980. Went on to win a landslide victory in November.

Anonymous said...

The polls say 83% of potential viewers will not watch the debate without TRUMP!

Soooooo, who's winning that Mexican stand off anyway???

Scullman said...

How in the hell is the 93% White, 57% Evangelical Christian, Ethanol addicted State of Iowa, representative in any way, shape, or form, of what's possibly down the road for the candidates in this general election?

It's a complete farce and has been since it was dreamed up in the late 70's. The only winners are the hotels, TV Stations, motels, winter footwear shops, car rental agencies,etc. in a totally irrelevant and made up political media event.

Just ask previous winners, President Rick Santorum and President Mike Huckabee.

Dennis said...

A- Bax,

Maybe age and experience has made me much more cynical about anything to do with government. I would suggest that if one is going to change government and its growing control of every aspect of our lives we are going to have to start at the bottom. That means we need to have term limits for those in office. We also need to get rid of almost every department and block grant their functions back to the states where they are much closer to the people who are affected by them. This will ameliorate the power of the interest groups who are more establishment than the establishment. Politician do come and go, but a lobbyist, not unlike government workers, are there for much longer. They begin to believe they are the government, shadow or otherwise.
We need to change how taxes are allocated and get rid of the IRS. There are a number of changes that need to be made in order to shrink the size the federal government to what its Constitutional requisites have been determined by people who were far smarter than many want to ascribe to them today. There is not a part of the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branch that does not need to be made smaller and less intrusive and controlling. They need to be reminded that their job is service to the people and not the other way around
What I worry about is the increasing desire for people on both sides looking, no demanding, an individual with the authority to make unilateral decisions, a King, Dictator, et al who can rule be executive fiat. The belief that an Obama, a Trump, a Clinton, et al will be able to make significant changes by their superior, GOD this makes me wonder if we deserve to be a free country, attributes and political acumen. What we need are an electorate that actually takes the time to understand the issues and where the solutions to those issues actually lies. Until we can lessen the amount of people who are in thrall to the federal government then we are losing the battle to control our own destinies.
I wished I shared your faith in Trump, but much of his background has me wondering. This does not mean I don't enjoy watching him confound the political class including the "media."

AesopFan said...

Marsh said...
Indeed. Stay tuned.

"FOX News is the propaganda arm of the GOP establishment. This is part of the battle for control of the Republican party. And so far Trump is winning."

January 27, 2016 at 6:59 AM
* * *

Add to this that Breitbart notes the until-now carefully-hidden connections between Fox and the Open Borders supporters, and a Fox bigwig and Rubio's campaign.

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