MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Petraeus and Ailes Outfoxed
As revealed by Bob Woodward in The Washington Post and discussed by Rachel Maddow on December 4, FOX is now on record as having become directly involved in trying to recruit a Republican candidate for president.
As Woodward reported:
So in spring 2011, Ailes asked a Fox News analyst headed to Afghanistan to pass on his thoughts to Petraeus, who was then the commander of U.S. and coalition forces there. Petraeus, Ailes advised, should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director and accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military post. If Obama did not offer the Joint Chiefs post, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president, Ailes suggested.
The Fox News chairman’s message was delivered to Petraeus by Kathleen T. McFarland, a Fox News national security analyst and former national security and Pentagon aide in three Republican administrations. She did so at the end of a 90-minute, unfiltered conversation with Petraeus that touched on the general’s future, his relationship with the media and his political aspirations — or lack thereof. The Washington Post has obtained a digital recording from the meeting, which took place in Petraeus’s office in Kabul.
McFarland also said that Ailes — who had a decades-long career as a Republican political consultant, advising Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — might resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign. At one point, McFarland and Petraeus spoke about the possibility that Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, would “bankroll” the campaign.
“Rupert’s after me as well,” Petraeus told McFarland.
Not long after the conversation between the FOX news emissary/analyst, Petraeus accepted the position of director of the CIA because he apparently thought that the role had become as important as being named head of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.
If you listen to the audio of the conversation between FOX's McFarland and Petraeus (or read the transcript here), it becomes clear that not only does Petraeus (now the ex-CIA director due to a sex scandal) express his admiration for Roger Ailes ("I love Roger," he says), but that he is very chummy with the Darth Vader of right wing news -- and owner of FOX -- Rupert Murdoch. The now disgraced general jokes that Ailes or Murdoch could bankroll a run for the presidency – if he were interested, but he was not inclined at the time that the conversation took place to run for higher office. Petraeus also implies that he understood FOX attacking Obama politically, but complained that they were now being critical of Petraeus's war in Afghanistan – and the general didn't like that much.
As Maddow notes -- among other insights that this recorded conversation provides us -- FOX has now lost its thin fig leaf of legitimacy as anything other than a bullhorn for the Republican Party. However, its fig leaf of not being mainlined into the GOP has always been a transparent one in any case. Ailes, who launched his career as a Republican propaganda maven after he met Richard Nixon when Nixon was a guest on the "Mike Douglas Show" in the '60s (which Ailes produced), has never really stopped being a political media and image strategist despite his disclaimers. He is selling a product, and the product is not soap suds; it is the Republican brand and programming that aids it in achieving its corporate governance policies by propaganda manipulation of the electorate.
Ailes admitted to Woodward that the conversation occurred – given that it was curiously on tape Ailes had no choice -- but tried to belittle it:
In a telephone interview Monday, the wily and sharp-tongued Ailes said he did indeed ask McFarland to make the pitch to Petraeus. “It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have,” he said. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”
A FOX national security analyst has a cozy conversation with Petraeus in which she also emphasizes how much Ailes and Murdoch want to personally talk to him about his running for president, but it was just a "wiseass" joke?
Ailes loves to play the self-deprecating naive political bumbler, while he oversees the Republican flagship media outlet – and intervenes in GOP politics.
Now we know that the tentacles of FOX reach further than putting potential GOP presidential candidates on the network's payroll, they reach right to the top in terms of kingmaking for the Republican Party.
While Ailes and Murdoch have made FOX into the farm team for the GOP, unfortunately Petraeus was playing another sort of game under his desk with Paula Broadwell.
Why hold a Republican Convention? You can just have Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly crown a GOP president nominee on FOX.