Roger Ailes, corpulent prick and president of Fox News, has come out of the closet as a liberal who opposes the war in Afghanistan and thinks wearing lapel pins to prove that you care about something is shallow.
In a 7-minute interview with the National Review Online's Peter Robinson that was posted this morning, Ailes casually undermined the point of Fox News and acknowledged that much of what it peddles to "real Americans" in "the heartland" is just calculated rhetoric that he's not stupid enough to actually believe. The q-and-a is a maddening parade of hypocrisy and inconsistency, and demands a close reading. We'll start with the bit of video above, in which Ailes presents a cogent case for why it's unreasonable to infer from the lack of a pin signifying support a given cause on a person's lapel that the person therefore doesn't support said cause:
I meet too many people...who want people to think that they care. They wear ribbons for various charity events. I try to contribute to charity—I try to help people where I can, but I don't wear the pins. And so they assume that I don't care. Of course I care, but I don't think wearing the right pin makes me a caring person. I think whether I am or I'm not is in my heart.
Aside from his false claim that he possesses a heart, this argument makes some sense. It's actually quite familiar:
Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest, instead I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.
That of course is Barack Obama, explaining in 2007 why he agrees with Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, that wearing lapel pins in support of a given value is a poor substitute for actually supporting the value. Ailes is has clearly lost control over the news organization he nominally runs, though, because Fox News spent most of 2007 and 2008 wondering why doesn't Barack Obama wear an American flag on his lapel????
If only Ailes had taken the time to explain it to them. We think he'd have a hard time, though, explaining his nuanced opposition to the war in Afghanistan, which he likens to his opposition to Lyndon Johnson's "surge" in Vietnam:
I didn't think that escalating 400,000 more troops [was] warranted in a jungle where I didn't know what we were going to win. It's a little bit like Afghanistan right now. Now I understand the nuclear issue, but there is a problem—when you send people into war, you have to tell them what they're trying to win.
Aside from his reference to "the nuclear issue," which is utterly unrelated to Obama's stated goal of waging war in Afghanistan to wipe out the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Ailes' analysis is essentially identical to Arianna Huffington's—we are escalating a war that we cannot win because there's no definition of winning—and diametrically opposed to virtually every utterance on the subject of Afghanistan that his network has ever broadcast.
But it's OK—Ailes' reasonable and nuanced views on matters of important public debate don't have to align with the radically oversimplified and barely veiled political attacks he issues every day. He knows his audience, and he knows that they want straight-sounding talk about America without all the talking and chitter-chatter and thinking that goes on on the coasts. He may have escaped from the desperate heartland of Warren, Ohio, and he may be educated and intelligent enough to hold complicated views, but he's still one of them:
I don't see myself at the Beverly Wilshire hotel or at Le Cirque here in New York. Those are people who aspire to different things—the chattering class.
Ailes doesn't see himself at Le Cirque in the same sense in which he hasn't seen his own dick in 30 years. It doesn't mean it's not there. New York magazine saw him at Le Cirque, and palling around with Elle columnists—if being a columnist for Elle doesn't certify you as member of the chattering class, nothing does—back in 1997:
That's what Ailes and his allies mean when they always say liberals "just don't get it" when it comes to Fox News. It's just a joke. Getting angry at Ailes for operating a political war-room with the implicit aim of deceiving the same "real Americans" they endlessly valorize is like getting pissed off at Larry David for being a Dick to Wanda Sykes on HBO. Laugh it off, kids. He'll take you to lunch some time.