Friday, August 19, 2016

Anyone Know How Strong Roger Ailes' Non-Compete Agreement Is?


Recently a non-profit told me they would be honoring two of their donors with a ceremony and a dinner and that one was me. What an honor! The other honoree, however, presented a conundrum. The co-honoree has been ultra-generous to the charity but he had just given $13 million in support to Ted Cruz's campaign. It was far right poker fanatic Robert Mercer. I looked him up and didn't want to be in the same room with him, let alone at the same dinner table. Fortunately, someone at the charity looked us both up, put 1+1 together and fconcluded it would be a bad match and decided to have two separate dinners.

Since then the modern day robber baron and crooked hedge fund manager has shifted his efforts from Cruz to Mr. Trumpanzee and just spent $500,000 helping John Faso against campaign finance reformer Zephyr Teachout. Steve Bannon is on his payroll and he pretty much underwrites the deranged Bretibart hate site. And now the NYC/DC axis is buzzing with rumors that the Trumpanzee campaign, which Mercer is helping to finance, is not really about winning the presidency but about starting a fascist-- they call it "alt-right" these days-- media empire combining the... talents of Mr. Trumpanzee, Roger Ailes, Mercer, and Steve Bannon. Trump's declaration of war against the media (the "crooked media" as he puts it) is part of the set up.

People have been speculating all week that Trump wants to launch a cable news channel next year or some kind of media empire. Sillier things have happened-- like a successful launch of a campaign to capture the Republican presidential nomination. Eric Levitz, writing yesterday for New York Magazine, pointed out that Bannon has been urging Trump-- who needed no urging-- to ignore the hated Republican Party establishment and "to run more fully as an outsider and an unabashed nationalist."

Pundits of all political persuasions found this strategy baffling. The Post’s Greg Sargent derided it as “entirely delusional.” And, on the surface, that sounds about right. It looks like yet another example of Trump refusing to understand that the dynamics of a GOP primary differ from those of a general election.

But, in this case, Trump’s skeptics may be giving the mogul too little credit. Because if Trump isn’t trying to win the election, his new strategy might be the most rational decision of his entire campaign.

And why should Trump be trying to win, at this point? New polls from Quinnipiac-- a firm whose results tend to lean Republican-- show Trump losing by double-digits in Colorado and Virginia. Earlier this week, a Monmouth poll showed Trump down by nine in Florida. The New York Times currently gives Trump a 13 percent chance of winning November’s election.

Let’s stipulate, for the moment, that Trump launched his presidential campaign with the sincere intention of winning the White House. Put yourself in his shoes.

You can either spend the next two-and-a-half months doing everything the political professionals say that you should: Read the boring speeches off the teleprompters. Go speak to skeptical audiences in the African-American community who will almost certainly boo you. Spend your nights in hotels in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa. Recite carefully vetted talking points in interviews. And tell yourself that all these sacrifices are worth it, because they will marginally reduce your probability of losing on November 8.

Or, you can accept the reality that there is (almost certainly) nothing you can do, at this point, to change the outcome on Election Day. Your path to 270 electoral votes was slim to begin with. Even if Clinton loses all of the states that are currently “too close to call” she will still win the presidency. And she’s winning in nearly all of those swing states, anyway. And she has better ground game in all of them.

If your candidacy is dead, then everything is permitted. Your favorite part of running for president has always been riling up crowds of people who love you-- and/or being able to share every damn thought that comes into your head on national television, anytime you please. Why not design a campaign “strategy” that allows you to do those things, without being frowned at by your advisers?

This seems like an easy choice. And when you consider the possibility that Trump never intended to be president, it becomes even easier.

On Tuesday, left-wing documentarian Michael Moore wrote that he “knows for a fact” that Trump never wanted to occupy the Oval Office. Instead, Trump launched his presidential bid as a means of increasing the value of his brand, thereby extracting more favorable terms in his negotiations with NBC over the next season of The Apprentice. But the ploy backfired-- while, paradoxically, working too well.

Trump’s decision to deride Mexicans as “rapists” and “drug dealers” in his launch speech rendered him toxic to the network-- but beloved by GOP primary voters. Soon, Trump had lost a show but gained an unprecedented level of attention and fame. This was tremendous. But also horrible, because it put him in the impossible position of desperately wanting to be the ultimate “winner,” while also desperately not wanting to actually be president.

Elements of Moore’s narrative are backed up by the confession of a former Trump campaign strategist, published by xoJane in March. The story also seems consistent with Vanity Fair’s report that the candidate has been mulling the creation of his own conservative cable-news empire, once the campaign is through. The magazine wrote that “the presumptive Republican nominee is examining the opportunity presented by the ‘audience’ currently supporting him,” and had “discussed the possibility of launching a “mini-media conglomerate.”

So, slip those Trump shoes back on, one last time. Imagine that you launched a presidential campaign to further your showbiz career. After 14 months as a candidate, you’ve realized that you can’t win in November but you can attract an audience of conservative-news consumers who are looking for an alternative to Fox News. How would you spend the last weeks of your campaign?

Sexual predator
Perhaps, you would prioritize keeping your prospective audience entertained, above all else. And to do that, you’d make someone with experience in far-right infotainment the chief executive of your campaign. Plus, you might want to seek out an adviser who really knows the cable-news business. Someone like, I don’t know, Roger Ailes?

Let’s dispel with this fiction that Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
These people-- Bannon, Mercer, Ailes, particularly, even Mr. Trumpanzee-- know how to read polls and interpret focus groups and they are absolutely onto post-election planning now. I hope Team Hillary is strategizing about how to deal with them because there's more than a little bit of a chance that the destruction of the United States of America is the ultimate goal-- starting with her presidency.

Minutes ago Conor Friedersdorf published a piece in The Atlantic speculating that when the Trumpanzee loses his consolation prize may be a whole new right wing media juggernaut, "that challenges Fox News for supremacy on the right across all platforms." Even discounting Mercer, he wrote that "If today’s polls hold through election day, Trump and associates will be proved failures at electoral politics. But even if that proves so, I wouldn’t bet against a right-wing media behemoth that brought together Trump, Roger Ailes, Stephen Bannon, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, and Sarah Palin" and reminds us that O'Reilly, Hannity and Greta Van Susteren could all legally follow Ailes if they want to.
A Trump campaign expecting to lose and then launch an effort of that sort would have every incentive to hoard campaign donations to pay back debt incurred by Trump himself; to be maximally inflammatory, polarizing the electorate while further cultivating a core of true believers; to aggressively blame Fox News, National Review, Glenn Beck, and all other potential competitors in order to alienate them from their audiences; even to sabotage the GOP down ballot, depending on just how cynical the folks running things are. After all, what could be better for business, if you’re a new media conglomerate to the right of Fox News, than a Hillary Clinton presidency supercharged by a Democratic House and Senate?

Nor would the nightmare for the right end on election day. Even after a huge Trump loss, a Trump News Network could help a destructive faction that might have faded in other circumstances to keep driving the Republican Party toward white identity politics, egregious misinformation, ideological incoherence, destructive infighting, and attacks on minority groups, with all of the attendant costs.

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At 11:27 PM, Blogger steeve said...

So fox news tells its viewers Romney will definitely win, making some of those viewers mad at fox news for making them into chumps and losers. These people are supposed to flock to Trump Media after he loses even worse?

Trump has no master plan. Look at his birther stunt from years ago. Either he's playing that long a game (impossible), or he truly believes this stuff as credulously as any rank and file teabagger.

Trump legitimately wants to be president because he knows he wouldn't have to do any of the actual work if he wins. And, as an idiot teabagger, he "knows" that the only way to win is to not wuss out like those losers in the establishment.


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