How Fox News outsmarted the White House

What is also wrong-headed in the Axelrod and Emanuel anxiety is that Fox News is joyously good at what it means to be—a popular platform for its advertisers. Ailes knows how to make the confusion of the news into a nervous and strangely comforting comic opera. Most of the Fox News day’s production is a reading of helter-skelter bulletins into a coherent narrative consistent with themes of super-patriotism, progress, profit, and paranoia. In the evening, Fox News becomes a variety show of cattiness, gossip, chants, and whoppers. Recently Fox News has added the theme of “Survivalism for Dummies,” though this subplot could soon slip into an extended version of the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

The decision by the golden-hearted crank Bill O’Reilly to attack the warm-hearted crank Glenn Beck over the latter’s swine flu denial spiel is at once first-rate showbiz and slapstick teamwork. Not since Abbott and Costello have two guys in suits, one tall and impatient, the other chubby-cheeked and childlike, had more fun debating “I Don’t Know’s on Third.”…

It is likely too late for Axelrod to correct his knuckleheadness. Factotums Anita Dunn and Robert Gibbs have committed the White House to years of wiping custard from their own eyes. But it is not too late to be blunt about the wormy state of the Republican Party in comparison to the golden duchy of Fox News and Rupert Murdoch’s Romulan Empire of News Corporation Ltd. The Democrats embarrass themselves when they mention the Republicans at all—just as the White House embarrasses itself when it speaks of the ridiculous zombies such as Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh as vital opponents. The GOP lives in a decrepit Hollywood mansion where Gingrich is its Norma Desmond, always ready for his closeup. The NFL doesn’t look ready to tolerate Limbaugh within 100 yards of a huddle. If the president’s brain trust must have an enemy to bash for attention, try a true comic book roué like Lex Luthor, who has more notoriety and believability with younger voters.

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