No GOP Leader? Tell That to Fox’s Roger Ailes

Even if you don’t agree with him, Ross Douthat’s columns in the New York Times are normally well-reasoned and thoughtful.

Still, today’s premise — that there’s been no real leader of the GOP for the last six years — struck me as clueless, or at least missing the obvious.

Speaking of the 2008 campaign, Douthat wrote, “after the general Republican rout that year,
the party’s public image was suddenly defined more by media
personalities — from Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck — than by any of its
elected officials.
The Limbaugh-Beck moment passed, but the vacuum remained.”

But Douthat overlooks something that has been clear to virtually anyone who follows media, if not politics: That the voice of Republican opposition throughout the Obama administration has been Fox News Channel, and the de facto leader of the GOP its chairman-CEO Roger Ailes.

I’m hardly the first to register this observation. As Gabriel Sherman noted in an exhaustive profile, Ailes “is also, in a sense, the head of the Republican Party, having
employed five prospective presidential candidates and done perhaps more
than anyone to alter the balance of power in the national media in favor
of the Republicans.”

Focusing on talent like Beck or Limbaugh, however influential, misses all the resources in Ailes’ arsenal, and his ability to not only set the GOP agenda, but to test and focus group lines of attack, fine-tuning and occasionally abandoning them.

As Sherman suggested, that might not make him the kingmaker in the next election. But give credit (or blame, if you prefer) where credit is due. And unlike the GOP, if Mitt Romney loses, Ailes and Fox News — as a prominent counterweight to the administration, and no doubt the future employer of many a prospective 2016 nominee — still win.



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