Does Roger Ailes set the agenda for the GOP? GOP Kingmaker: Fox News chief and the Republican Party. Transcript and video of Cenk Uygur MSNBC TV May 23, 2011

I am excited to share our first-ever “power panel.” I like pronouncing things in different ways. David Sirota, radio host, Jane Hamsher, the founder of Fire Dog Lake, and Adam Green, of the Bold Progressives. Look at all those lovely progressives. That is an all-star progressive panel. I love it. Guys, first topic is Fox News, a new report out in “New York” magazine about how they secretly run the Republican Party. Not sure I’m surprised by that, but I find one of the quotes interesting. A person said — you can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger, and every single candidate has consulted with Roger, but he hasn’t found any of them compelling, quote, he finds flaws in every one, said a person familiar with his thinking. David, let me start with you. Is he the boss of the Republican Party?

I think there’s something to that. My take is Roger Ailes is a businessman first. He works for Rupert Murdock and they want to make a lot of money, and they’re interested in having a strong nominee. Especially if it’s a conservative candidate that can rally Fox’s viewership. Can he win without kissing his ring?

No. It’s clear at this point that Roger Ailes has to say we’re going to get behind a candidate before they can expect to win. In telling fashion, now that he’s casting his gaze on Chris Christie, the White House is doing opposition research on him. Roger Ailes has his limits, he thinks Glenn Beck is — and Sarah Palin made a huge blunder. This is when so much media consolidation is in the power of one person and Roger Ailes has successfully leveraged the ever-expanding empire to where he can virtually block out the sun.

And it turns out, you mentioned Palin in there. An insider apparently says he thinks Palin is stupid, which is, wow, okay. And of course Fox News shot back saying if he finds who that insider is, he no longer will be an insider, which to me is not much of a denial.

She gave that blood libel speech which may have been the stupid — —

No, absolutely. I think they screwed up here, right? The whole point that Fox did, and I think the most damaging part was they would say we’re fair and balanced, the rest of the news media should listen to us. But look at the other quotes from the article. Chris Siroti says he’s just got it. We’re going into an election period and he doesn’t want Fox to be seen as the front of the Republican party, referring to Roger Ailes, of course, but way too late, right?

It would be interesting to see what would happened if a focus group of Fox viewers read this article that really pulled the veneer away from Fox. Fox’s big argument is away from elitism. This is a gatekeeper role, and also at a point when Sarah Palin needed a ride across the nation, Fox loaned her their personal corporate jet and gave her a ride. I actually encourage all Fox viewers to read this article.

Cenk, if i can add one thing to that, what’s interesting about this piece is it makes very clear that Fox is not conservative television. It’s Republicans party television. There’s a big difference between an ideological perspective and having a complete partisan perspective. I think that’s what Fox’s interest is in, Roger Ailes’ interest, in the Republican party and the political power rather than an ideological message that is based in some sort of conservative principle.

I think that’s exactly right. I think you nailed it. When Glenn Beck goes conservative and tea party, they liked it in the beginning, and all of a sudden they thought it was getting out of control and hurting the Republican party, not hurting the conservative movement, and all of a sudden they show Glenn Beck the door.

I think Roger Ailes is perhaps the most powerful guy in the country, there he is with Chris Christie deciding who should be the candidate, inviting him along with Rush Limbaugh. I think you guys nailed it. It’s the elitism of Fox news deciding who will run the country. Didn’t they do this before? You know, back in, of course, in 2000 most famously Fox news picked president Bush’s cousin, and he was the one who declared Bush as president. Isn’t this part and parcel of the problem and why the rest of the media have to start ignoring these guys who are clearly a propaganda machine?

Absolutely. I don’t feel like I can give much insight. This is confirming what we’ve been saying for years. The media and Fox viewers need to read this article and get out of our system the fact that Fox is in any way, shape or form a legitimate news outlet. It’s not.

Let’s stay on presidential politics for a second. Trump says he might get back into the race. Let me show you a quick bite here.

It was just a decision I made, but who knows, stranger things have happened.

You would not rule out a late entry if nothing pans out for the GOP?

I would not rule it out, no.

Can I get an across the board agreement from all you guys, Trump, clown of the earth, totally not relevant?



I think he’s very successful at getting his name in the headlines, and he’s done it once again.

We’re absolutely clear on that. Now, speaking of presidential candidates, Biden apparently in Cincinnati told a bunch of funders he might run in 2016. He would be 74 at the time. Does that make any sense?

I think it is absurd, but isn’t the most absurd. Biden’s job is going to Capitol Hill and being the great compromiser. They’re living in bizarro land and not adding anything that the American public cares about. They’re not dealing with the jobs situation, not dealing with health care, not dealing with the things that Americans want. They’re listening to people who think that cutting medicare is a good idea, and Biden has to sell this in 2016? I think he’ll have a tough time.

David and Adam, any chance he runs or can win?

I think there’s a chance that he’s going to run. I think it won’t be a situation like Al Gore in 2000 where he’s sort of the presumptive nominee, and I don’t think that Joe Biden hasn’t made it necessarily a name for himself, which I think will probably be necessary for a Democratic candidate in 2016.


Yeah, 2016 will be an opportunity for us to elect a real progressive president. I don’t think an old Democrat is the same as a bold progressive. We’ll be looking for that kind of ideal candidate. We need one in 2016.

I knew you were going to go there. Let’s go to the senate races. One? Ohio, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota. I know, Adam, you were part of the people that commissioned a poll in those states. Let me show the Ohio numbers. When you ask people, hey, are you opposed to cutting medicare to balance the budget, boy, are they opposed to it. 76%. 61% opposed to cutting medicaid, and 80% opposed to cutting social security. What message do you think those Democratic senators in those races get out of a poll like that?

The message is don’t even come close to cutting social security, medicare and medicaid benefits. It’s a political loser. Myself, Jane and David, all of us in the end of 2010 we were toll told as progressives, don’t take your ball and go home. Get in line, and our answer is we’re supporting Democrats, but we warned you if you dropped the ball, your turnout will not be, we’re telling you way in advance, don’t go there, do not cut social security and medicare. It will be those voters in Ohio, Missouri, and other places. You have to have principles.

They’re getting great political capital out of this, saying the Republicans are coming after your medicare. Do you think there’s a chance they’ll strike a deal, cut medicare and social security anyway?

That’s been their line all along. We need to cut it to save it so the Republicans won’t do it because they’ll do worse. The message of this poll should be that is just nothing that people will ever believe. If you cut it, you cut it. You take away your boogeyman: you have that wonderful Ryan vote that’s now like the beast that ate Cincinnati. And if they try and say we’re going to do this grand compromise, we’ll just cut it a little bit, they’ll not only take that beast away, they’ll piss everyone else off. I don’t know why they would do it, but it seems like something they want to do.

Last thing, Dave, remember the president came out and gave a speech and said I’m going to do three times as many spending cuts as tax increases, basically, can we walk that back?

I think the poll actually, what it does is creates an interesting dynamic where you may have the senators up for reelection being the ones who are giving voice to the idea that the president’s plan to reduce medicare and potentially cut social security is wrong. In other words, you may have a situation where these seemingly most electorally vulnerable democrats are the ones leading the charge within the Democratic party to tell the president he is off base.

All right. Well, let’s see how it turns out. Very interesting, no question. David Sirota, Jane Hamsher, and Adam Green, the power panel. Thank you guys.

About William Brighenti

William Brighenti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified Business Valuation Analyst. Bill began his career in public accounting in 1979. Since then he has worked at various public accounting firms throughout Connecticut. Bill received a Master of Science in Professional Accounting degree from the University of Hartford, after attending the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University for his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. He subsequently attended Purdue University for doctoral studies in Accounting and Quantitative Methods in Business. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals throughout the country as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. In addition to the blog, Accounting and Taxes Simplified, Bill writes a blog, "The Barefoot Accountant", for the Accounting Web, a Sift Media publication.
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