Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES TV ARCHIVES

Sitting Here in Limbaugh

Television

How to do Rush Limbaugh? It’s a serious politicomedic question, a challenge for anyone of the liberal/left persuasion who stammers in the face of right-wing-but-funny. You dread sounding shrill, so you develop a grudging respect, maybe even a winking approval for the talk show host who has the nation’s right ear. You begin casting him in a whimsical light to avoid casting yourself as someone who can’t take a joke.

Better you laugh with success than it laugh at you. Limbaugh is the nation’s No. 1 radio talk show host, with 530 stations and some 13 million listeners tuning in for his daily three-hour program. His three-month-old TV show, in which he cavorts guestless 30 min­utes a night, is syndicated in 203 markets and many weeks is the No. 3 late-night talk show, topped only by Nightline and Leno. His book, The Way Things Ought To Be, has been the No. 1 hardback bestseller for 14 weeks.

Success begets tolerance. Even reluctant libs look at Limbaugh in a new light — Shirley MacLaine, as he tells it, communed deeply with him at a star-studded Manhattan party. News stories, which invari­ably dub him a “rock and roll Republican,” tend to chuckle over the bombastic, entertainment-val­ue Rush, repeating his patented lines about “environmentalist wackos,” “feminazis,” and the boast that he has “talent on loan from God” — while they ignore the more heated moments, like his defense of Mississippi governor Kirk Fordice’s declaration that America is “a Christian nation.” Literal to a fault (when he wants to be), Rush explains that Fordice is right, because “86 percent of Americans claim to be Christian.” Liberals who act like they’re threatened with a concentration camp “need a psychiatrist.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”720727″ /]

Still, Rush is not a screaming hatemonger like Bob Grant or Morton Downey Jr. He’s got charm, humor (though personally I’ve yet to laugh out loud), and ideology — a combo as bedeviling to “the dominant media” as Ross Perot’s magic. (The author of the nation’s No. 1 paperback nonfiction book during the election, Ross was Rush’s one true rival and a daily target of his ridicule.) Of course, the media eventually struck back at Perot, a fate Lim­baugh evades by not running for office, though he is often asked to.

All of which may well make him, as he’s also fond of repeat­ing, “The most dangerous man in America.” That says it all: He mocks liberals who believe a fun­ny conservative is dangerous, and yet this roly-poly marshmallow, who once shied away from televi­sion because of his girth, wants the world to know he stings.

“How to do Rush?” parallels the nagging ’80s question of how to do Ronald Reagan. And that parallel bounces off another: Rea­gan’s former media consultant, Roger Ailes, is Rush’s TV execu­tive producer. With another for­mer Ailes client, George Bush, out, the Republicans scrambling, and Pat Buchanan a Party pooper, it’s reasonable to conclude: Rush Limbaugh is the country’s foremost conservative.

[related_posts post_id_1=”717929″ /]

If Rush has reached that prickly pinnacle, it’s because he’s deter­mined to prove that conservatives just want to have fun. Limbaugh’s real mission is to show that liber­als are a bunch of p.c. killjoys, that their web of political do’s and don’t’s restrains the natural expansiveness of man. (Which is an indi­rect way for Republicans to say, “I am not sexually repressed!”)

And so every day, millions tune into Rush to get permission to have fun. Every now and then, Rush bursts forth and bellows that he’s “having more fun than a hu­man being should be allowed to have” (a locution that contains the conservative seeds of fun’s re­pression). Recently Joan from Bir­mingham called the TV show. She’s one of Rush’s biggest fans, she assured him, but she has to say it, she just got tired of his Clinton-bashing. Rush’s response was characteristic: First he re­treated — lied, waffled, you might say — claiming that he doesn’t bash. Then he attacked: “My guy lost and I’m having a good time,” he said soon as Joan got off the phone (always polite, he stabs callers only behind their backs). “Joan’s guy won and she’s miser­able.” The point, as always, is to show that liberals are constitu­tionally crybabies.

In this, Rush is at least consis­tent. The day after the election, despite much radio caller moan­ing, he declared he wasn’t going to get depressed or blame the me­dia — that would be no better than the Democrats blaming Willie Horton for ’88. He exhorted his audience to get on with their lives, to prosper despite the economic disaster Clinton will surely bring, and “not look at whoever’s in the White House as your Daddy.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”717934″ /]

Perhaps his cheer is forced. It’s possible that Limbaugh is merely a creature of the Reagan-Bush era, and maybe, please please please, he’ll just fade away. If the next few years improve the economic lot of his fans — people whose in­stinct is less for Rush’s ideological conservativism than for Perot’s fed-up populism — Rush might find himself with less to say and begin feeding more and more off his media stardom, devouring his own tail. Already a promo-for-a-­promo feel courses through the broadcasts: His TV show refers to and plugs his radio show, his ra­dio plugs his TV, and both plug his newsletter (“printed on non­recycled paper”) and his book­ — shelves of which serve as back­drop on the show’s set. To top it off, he regularly reads excerpts of both rave and attack reviews (and I can’t write this without imagin­ing him reading the most flat-foot­ed parts on the air to prove me wrong wrong wrong and no fun!).

But that’s wishful thinking. Limbaugh will thrive. Sure, the shows have lost some angry oomph since the election, but then, hasn’t life? With subjects like gays in the military and Marge Schott, he’ll have plenty to play with. In fact, he’ll be a re­freshingly fearless critic of Clinton’s inevitable hypocrisies.

After the wistful question of whether his show will survive, the other query you hear most in New York — where Rush works and lives (on the Upper West Side!) but where people seem barely aware of the national legend (his TV ratings here are among the lowest, despite the recent switch from Channel 9 at 12:30 a.m. to Channel 5 at 11 a.m.) — is: He doesn’t really believe half the stuff he says, does he? Way more than half. As Limbaugh told USA To­day, his views are “honestly held and sincerely offered. But the ar­rogance is pure, 100 percent shtick — an attempt at humor.”

The big brag is his key attempt at humor. “This show is not about what you think,” he tells his audi­ence. “This show is about what I think.” The big brag simulta­neously inflates his importance and, by its obviousness, preempts audience resentment. The brag’s his free-market ideology in action, a blow-up toy version of letting the individual, not the govern­ment, do it.

[related_posts post_id_1=”397777″ /]

Whether or not he becomes King of the Right Wing, the daily debates over just where does Mr. Limbaugh stand play right into his self-referential media politics. Is he far right-wing? callers ask. Does he like Pat Robertson? (His disassociation from the reverend is most delicate.) In Rush’s lexi­con, he’s from “the Bennett/Kemp/Limbaugh wing of the Re­publican Party.” He also defends Pat Buchanan’s “religious war” and is antiabortion, but he’s not a prude. Soft-core blasphemy is a frequent motif: To announce his book’s reemergence at the top of the lists last month, he said, “For three weeks Madonna sat atop me [audience laughs] on The New York Times hardcover [on “hard” he squinches his face like he can’t stand the overstimulation] nonfic­tion bestseller list. But now I sit atop Madonna [oohs and boos], and she is going down.”

Other good things ab-out Rush, quickly:

• He makes ideas understandable in plain English, without talking down to the audience. In fact, un­like Reagan or Bush, Limbaugh exalts the intellect and is vaguely pro-brains: “With half my brains tied behind my back to make it even,” he says daily.

• When you agree with him — go Rush! He was ruthless on Perot, doing one of his “Updates” — ­song parodies on topical sub­jects — to the tune of “Secret Agent Man.”

• Liberal p.c. needs to be pierced.

A few sickening things about Rush:

• One of his spoof Updates is about the homeless. Only under pressure did he drop an AIDS Up­date set to “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” (Is there a Lee Atwa­ter-deathbed apology in the mak­ing here?)

• He avoids direct discussion about race, couching any talk about, say, Jesse Jackson or Spike Lee in their liberal politics. Theo­retically, that’s fair. But in actual­ity, his almost all-white audience easily fills in the cracks, which he gleefully widens: Delighted that the Colorado boycott forced May­or David Dinkins to choose be­tween two politically correct forces — gays or Denver’s black mayor, Wellington Webb, who asked him not to support the boy­cott — Limbaugh went on and on about how Dinkins and Webb were “black bros,” repeating “bro” eight times, apparently be­cause it was just so darn funny. His understanding of racism is, at best, pre-adolescent: Iman, “a black woman,” is “beauti­ful … that means I’m not racist.”

•  Almost everything he says on women is suspect. He just doesn’t know women, feminist or other­wise. He’s obviously afraid of them, as he admitted in Vanity Fair, because he felt unattractive and never had a date in high school. But the twice-divorced Rush can’t see his own projection: Women become the ugly desper­ate ones, as proven in one of his “35 undeniable truths about life”: “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easi­er access to the mainstream.” And while he railed against Gloria Steinem for calling Al D’Amato a Nazi, he’s continued to call femi­nists “feminazis.” Why, Rush is just heilarious!

[related_posts post_id_1=”714416″ /]

Such rabidness smoothed by a likable personality would seem to make him a TV natural. But there’s something off about the show. Maybe it’s because Rush plays himself sweeter and safer on TV, afraid his more free-wheeling radio rant will lose him his chance for TV glory.

TV glory seems important to Limbaugh and Ailes — they’ve been “using the medium” to the hilt. Viewers send in video Rush paeans; Rush regularly shows TV clips of his favorite enemies in the act of a liberal gaffe. But without guests and with only an occasional caller, the props are just a diver­sion — there’s an emptiness at the heart of the show. Oddly it’s an emptiness echoed, not countered, by the presence of a live audience.

Their laughter sounds canned. Maybe it’s because they’re trying to have more fun than a human being should be allowed to have; maybe it’s because, laughing only on Rush’s cues, their laughter is canned. Lookswise, they could pass as The Rushford Lives: 98 per cent of the men wear suits and ties.

[related_posts post_id_1=”716800″ /]

Ultimately, it’s Rush’s relation­ship to his audience that defines him as either dangerous man or mere media darling. The most telling Rush phrase I’ve left till last: “Dittos.” Years back, callers were wasting valuable radio time praising him before they got on to their questions. He suggested they just say “dittos” and everyone would get the point. So people be­came “dittoheads” and greet him with “megadittos” from Omaha or Dallas. The special phrases that pass between Rush and audience have become a kind of nationwide baby talk, a gurgly lingo that only the in-love understand.

Though Rush urges his audi­ence to think for themselves, like a good individualistic-minded conservative should, most every­thing in his spiel tells them to think like him. “You don’t have to think. I’ll do the thinking for you.” He’s being ironic, very­ — but many in his audience don’t get the irony and just get upset. In his own way, he wants to warn them away from followerhood­ — but he’d be a nobody without it.

The shows crackle with the con­tradiction. Never does the audi­ence challenge him more than when they think he’s deviated from the track he’s warned them to stay on. Postelection, he appar­ently said something nice on the radio about Clinton (I missed what it was, but heard the hemor­rhaging). As caller after caller be­rated him, Rush categorically de­nied that he had said the nice thing. Thus the faithful rose to their most noble, calling him, in so many words, a liar. One wom­an, after validating herself as a megadittohead, took him on, arti­culately and fearlessly, and dared him to replay the tape. OK, I thought, finally someone smart, strong, someone who “gets the joke” challenging him on his own ground. Will he finally be punc­tured, for real?

Rush charmed her, and she forgot her dare. ■

[related_posts post_id_1=”226751″ /]

Categories
From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

What’s Wrong With Rudy Giuliani?

What’s Wrong With Rudy?

ON A RAINY DAY LATE in June, about a month after Rudolph Giuliani formal­ly announced his candidacy for mayor of New York, his car rolled north to Harlem for lunch at Sylvia’s restau­rant with an endangered species: black Republicans. Giuliani was conserva­tively dressed in a gray suit, his thin­ning black hair combed into the now familiar it-only-looks-like-a-bad-tou­pee style. He was missing his belt, wristwatch, and the eyeglasses he uses for reading. Giuliani forgot them while rushing out of his East Side apartment in the morning.

The prosecutor-turned-politician was fiddling with a portable phone in an effort to reach a former colleague who had just won convictions in a tough mob trial, when the talk turned to the city school system:

“What are your thoughts about the number of chil­dren enrolled in special education programs?”

“In what sense?,” the candidate replied.

“There are a staggering number of kids enrolled in special education. What are your thoughts on that?”

“You’ll have to make it a more specific question.”

“OK. Well, the number of children enrolled in special education is thought by some to be abnormally high, distressingly high.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.”

“Do you think there are too many children enrolled in special education?”

“Do I think that there are children enrolled in special education inappropriately? That shouldn’t be in a spe­cial education program because the numbers are so high? I don’t know the answer to that.”

This is the man who was the most famous federal prosecutor in memory — the media’s darling, who never seemed to make a false move when the public eye was on him. Now, suddenly, Rudy Giuliani seemed very mortal.

As New York’s top cop, Giuliani spent the past five years in a fortress-like environment, as insulated from the nitty-gritty of urban life as any midwestern Republi­can here to gape at the tall buildings and exotic types. In that monastery of indictments and investigations Giu­liani excelled, but on the streets of New York, he frequently seems lost. His solemn face and candlewax skin were appropriate for an avenging angel announcing the indictment of mobsters, inside-traders, and crooked pols. But at street fairs, walking tours, and other venues for mayoral candidates, Giuliani looks wooden, robotic, even a little ominous at times. If he held up a baby, it might cry.

What happened to the Rudy Giuliani many peo­ple had such hope for? A stunning cross-sec­tion of the city was excited about the idea of his candidacy, but after more than three months of lackluster campaigning, he has slumped badly in the polls. He is trailing both his likely Democratic opponents, Ed Koch and David Dinkins, and so far, he’s looked good only in comparison to the dread Ron Lauder. Fortunately for Giuliani, many voters have yet to make up their minds, but among the uncom­mitted, his campaign has raised doubts and failed to quell fears. And the media, which initially smiled on Giuliani, has joined the chorus of doubt. “I like the idea of change at City Hall,” says one newspa­per executive. “And I like the idea of Giuliani coming in and cleaning things up. But I don’t know what this guy stands for.”

The crime-fighting Giuliani would nev­er have dreamt of becoming, in a single day, the target of tabloid headlines that ranged from “RUDY’S MEN ACTED LIKE NAZIS,” in the Post, to “RUDY HAS A BLACK EYE,” in Newsday. The former allegation was largely bogus; the latter was the biggest blunder of Giuliani’s law enforcement career. In 1987, the prosecu­tor arrested three Wall Street executives on insider trading charges so flimsy that the case against them dissolved almost overnight. Nevertheless, he pressed a two-and-a-half-year criminal investiga­tion of the trio. It ended last week with no charges filed against two of them. The third executive pled guilty to a charge unrelated to the allegations that prompt­ed the arrest. “It was a mistake to move with that case at the time that I did,” Giuliani said, “and to that extent I should apologize to them.” But Giuliani’s tortured explanation did not help. The politician was paying a heavy price for the abuses of the prosecutor.

Giuliani’s supporters believe his strongest personal and political quality is his leadership ability, but the campaign has so far found him on the defensive on important issues like abortion and irrele­vant ones like Noriega. His continued fixation on the C-words — crime, crack, and corruption — might well require the services of a deprogrammer before the election. (Giuliani recently conducted separate press conferences on corruption on three straight days.) “He’s good at the only thing a mayor doesn’t have to do — ­prosecute criminals,” says Democratic mayoral candidate Richard Ravitch.

Giuliani’s political beliefs remain shrouded by the “fusion” fog pouring forth from his $23,000-a-month headquarters at Rockefeller Center. Giuliani’s press releases refer to him as a “fusion candidate” or omit his party affiliation. This is an honorable tradition in New York, where Fiorello La Guardia ran as a Republican/Socialist, and John V. Lind­say initially pieced together a Republi­can/Liberal coalition and won reelection without the GOP. But La Guardia, and Lindsay (at least initially) had a popular touch that overcame confusion about their affiliations. Giuliani will go through the ritual flesh-pressing of New York politics, but watching him meet and greet voters, it’s clear he doesn’t have the com­mon touch. Giuliani is used to the kind of personal appearances a crimebuster would be expected to make. He is intro­duced, makes a short, formal speech, an­swers questions from a friendly, white, middle-class audience, and departs. This is not exactly the testing ground on which voters in New York decide whom they will allow to live in Gracie Mansion.

The abortion issue, in particular, has left the two-fisted gangbuster doing more head spinning than Linda Blair in The Exorcist. The Supreme Court’s ruling last month underscored Giuliani’s unwilling­ness to take strong positions on most controversial issues. “I would not take a leadership position supporting or opposing abortion,” Giuliani said just after the court’s decision was announced.

But the problem for Giuliani goes much deeper than appearances. There’s a perception among large groups of voters he will need to fashion a winning coali­tion that Rudy is traveling in three direc­tions at once. Giuliani wants the Republi­can and Liberal Party nominations. He must also attract large numbers of Demo­crats if he is to become the next mayor of New York. He therefore presents himself to the voters in the fuzzy form of Mr. Fusion, the candidate who is all things to all people.

It’s worthwhile noting that Giuliani’s pronouncements on issues like abortion are made only after what one of his asso­ciates calls “considered judgment.” For instance, shortly after the abortion ruling was announced, staffers huddled at Giu­liani’s campaign headquarters. They re­viewed the decision and Giuliani’s previ­ous statements on abortion. They also discussed questions Giuliani might be asked as a result of the ruling. They then moved on to a second meeting with the candidate himself. “We presented to him what had happened and what he’d said on abortion,” former campaign manager Russ Schriefer explained. “We let Rudy talk for a while, and as he talks, we kind of get an idea what his position is, where he’s coming from.” The Giuliani team then peppered the candidate with ques­tions he might be asked. Only after this process was completed did Giuliani emerge from his campaign cocoon to pub­licly turn one thumb up and one thumb down.

As Schriefer explained, without appar­ent irony, the most challenging aspect of the Giuliani campaign was illustrated by the abortion controversy. “Every decision you make has to be weighed as to how it’s going to affect another element or anoth­er area,” he says. “Abortion was one where the decision-making process had to take into account that there was a liberal position, a Democratic position, and a Republican position.” The “decision-­making process” clearly wasn’t good enough. Giuliani’s waffling hurt him bad­ly among women and Jews, prompting an unconvincing recent “clarification” in which the man opposed to Roe v. Wade said that he would fight any effort to outlaw abortion. “It’s one thing to screw up through inexperience,” said a Koch campaign official. “But you don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a savvy politician to have a strong, clear position on abor­tion.”

At a recent town meeting, Giuliani was asked a simple question about whether community boards should be given more power and money. It took him 350 words to explain that he would “be happy to consider” such an increase. Even when it comes to crime, Giuliani’s performance has hardly been emphatic. The candidate has had much difficulty in straightening out the exact age at which he believes young killers should be electrocuted. Is it 14, 15, 16, 17?

Then there was the Donald Trump newspaper ad in which the balding air-­shuttle executive talked about his “hate” for muggers and murderers and the need to incinerate the little criminals. Even death penalty–Ninja Ed Koch found this excessive, but Giuliani hailed the ad by the co-chairman of his first big fundrais­ing event as contributing to what he called a “healthy debate.” On the day he announced his candidacy, however, Giu­liani traveled to Bishop Loughlin, the Catholic high school in Brooklyn that he attended as a boy, and faced a solidly black and Hispanic student body. Giu­liani swiftly distanced himself from “Trump-the-ad” when a black student asked him if he endorsed the hyperactive casino owner’s position. No flapdoodle for this audience.

Giuliani has raised eyebrows among Irish voters by expressing warm admira­tion for Margaret Thatcher, and blundered through a campaign appearance at a city firehouse — a place where partisan politicking has always been prohibited. His campaign garnered a potentially valuable endorsement from the families of four slain policemen, but he promptly angered other fallen cops’ relatives by announcing the endorsement minutes af­ter a memorial service for the officers.

“Rudy does not suffer from the Arthur Goldberg or Pete Dawkins syndrome,” in­sists Raymond Harding, the Liberal Par­ty leader who has singlehandedly crafted the Giuliani fusion. “This is not a man who goes out to campaign and steps on his dick.”

Perhaps not, but Giuliani is clearly a man who has had trouble with his fly.

By mid-June, it became apparent that the campaign was in trouble. By July, the polls confirmed the obvious: Giuliani was trailing Din­kins and Koch. His declining pop­ularity has made fundraising more diffi­cult, and by August, he was faced with a financial crisis. Two weeks ago, he cut staff salaries in order to generate cash for television ads — the lifeblood of any effec­tive campaign.

Perhaps it was inevitable that, when trouble arose, Giuliani would place the campaign in the hands of one of his old­est and most trusted friends. With the exception of one stint as a lawyer in pri­vate practice, he has spent his entire ca­reer as a criminal prosecutor. He shares the caution and suspiciousness of the law enforcement fraternity. As a prosecutor, Giuliani’s top deputies were more than subordinates; they were his personal friends. So it’s not surprising that he would push out the pros. Says one Giu­liani confidant: “You don’t win Rudy’s trust overnight.”

Peter Powers and Rudy Giuliani go back to high school. They double-dated, joined the same fraternity at Manhattan College, graduated in the same class at NYU Law School, and then went their separate ways professionally — Giuliani to the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, Powers to a successful practice as a tax attorney. The two men still live close to one another on the Upper East Side, and their passion remains arguing about politics. This decades-old dialogue goes back to the days when Giuliani was a Kennedy liberal. Powers is a lifelong con­servative, and though the two still don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, he has emerged as the most influential figure in Giuliani’s organization.

The steady, cautious Powers has been involved with the campaign since day one. He was part of a team who picked Richard Bond, George Bush’s former deputy campaign manager, and Schriefer, another Bushie, as a team to run the campaign. As Giuliani’s candidacy floun­dered, he turned more and more to Pow­ers. One afternoon in late June, the two men sat side by side in a nearly empty car of a Metroliner bound for Philadelphia. It was the first time in months Giuliani and Powers had been able to enjoy each oth­er’s company without interruption. Their talk, however, was about the problems they had left behind in New York. “Look,” the candidate told Powers as the train slid through Trenton, “I think it’s time you came on board full-time.”

Over the next month, Powers was phased into the campaign. By July, Schriefer, who had been the day-to-day manager of the campaign, was meeting each morning with a “management com­mittee” composed of Powers, campaign chairman Arnold Burns, and Liberal Par­ty chief Harding. On July 25, Giuliani made it official by appointing Powers as his campaign manager. Attorney Ken Ca­ruso, another longtime Giuliani pal, is slated to become Powers’s deputy. He joins deputy campaign manager Bob Bucknam, another friend who worked for Giuliani as an assistant U.S. attorney. Schriefer and Richard Bond — two “Bushies” originally hired to run the campaign — were pushed aside.

(Giuliani’s old sidekick, Denny Young, has never been a major player. Young made the move to White & Case with Giuliani, and his duties with the firm have prevented him from becoming a full-time campaign activist. His presence is missed. As Giuliani’s top deputy in the U.S. attorney’s office and a close friend, Young often seemed epoxyed to his boss. The mild-mannered Young functioned much as a human Thorazine tablet by calming Giuliani in moments of anger and tension.)

The new team is long on the trust factor and very short on political experi­ence. Powers clearly has his work cut out for him. Despite a large and highly paid staff of 35, Giuliani has no briefing book containing his positions on important is­sues and other pertinent facts. The candidate has also been writing his own speeches — an enormous waste of time, particularly since Giuliani lives in anoth­er era when it comes to the written word. He does not type. He does not dictate. He writes everything from letters to major speeches in longhand on yellow legal pads and gives them to his faithful longtime secretary, Beth Petrone, to type. Outsid­ers brought in to check the campaign’s temperature were amazed to realize that the candidate was laboriously composing speeches that should have been done by hired hands.

Powers says speechwriting has now been turned over to others. A briefing book is being prepared. Another nagging problem, the lack of a media consultant, has been solved with the hiring of Roger Ailes.

The newest member of Giuliani’s inner circle of advisors, Ailes is a 49-year-old veteran GOP media man with the reputa­tion of a tough guy. Ailes is said to have a certain flair for leaning on journalists. Barely on board, he has already called a reporter to complain that her story on a recent Puerto Rican Day Parade in the Bronx had a pro-Koch slant.

Ailes was one of Nixon’s key media men in 1968, and has a lengthy involve­ment in GOP politics. When Nixon went on television in 1970 to announce the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, Ailes was there. Foolish Nixon advisers wanted the president to use a pointer to illustrate the movement of our boys into the tiny Asian nation. But Ailes quickly realized that the heavy pointer might cause Nixon’s hand to shake, thereby sending the wrong message to the nation and the communist enemy. Thanks to Ailes, Dick Nixon used his forefinger on that fateful night.

Ailes was also manning the ramparts during the dark days of Al D’Amato’s campaign for the Senate in 1980. Once again, the media savant proved equal to the task by unleashing Ma D’Amato on television audiences. The elderly lady was strategically placed at the produce counter of a supermarket. “Every time I go to the supermarket, prices keep ris­ing,” she complained. “I am afraid to walk the streets because of crime. That’s why my son is running for the Senate.”

The rest is history.

Ailes fashioned George Bush’s televised attacks on Michael Dukakis last year, though the modest videomeister denies any responsibility for the infamous Willie Horton commercial. This year he has already raked in major bucks by turning out insufferably boring commercials for Giuliani’s Republican foe, Ron Lauder. After either being ousted in a power struggle or discovering to his horror that Lauder was out to get Giuliani, Ailes quit the Lauder campaign.

Giuliani aides say Ailes has been push­ing the candidate to go on television as soon as possible, but the campaign’s con­tinuing financial woes have made it un­certain when commercials will begin. Ailes is planning a series of “positive” ads to precede the September 12 primary. This may well work against Ron Lauder, but in the general election, some of Ailes’s better-known traits may emerge. There’s already been a backlash among liberals to the mere presence of this hard­core Republican — a heartbeat from Lee Atwater — in the Giuliani camp. Ailes’s own image problems could complicate Giuliani’s task of courting Democrats in the general election.

If that weren’t difficult enough, Ailes must teach the candidate to deal with the press. Giuliani needs to return to the “directness and candor” that marked his style as a prosecutor, says Ailes. “I think he’s been too careful. Rudy should stop worrying about being political candidate Giuliani and just be Giuliani.”

That first day of Giuliani’s campaign, May 17, also launched his mushrooming press problem. The day began well enough. The candidate, flanked by his wife, television anchorwoman Donna Hanover; son, Andrew; and mother, Hel­en, launched into a speech highlighting the C-words: crime, crack, and corruption. The R-word, Republican, was never uttered.

After delivering the speech announcing his candidacy, General Giuliani executed the first flanking maneuver of the war to come by walking out of the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan without answering any questions from the media. Television, the important medium, would be forced to focus on his message without the danger of annoying questions that might deflect attention, and airtime, from the candidate and the C-words. The strategy worked in the same way one might succeed in “tricking” a drunken gang of Hell’s Angels armed with chain saws and lead pipes. The press quickly caught up with Giuliani and began a sav­aging that continued for weeks. Wasn’t his new law firm, White & Case, representing the government of Noriega, the Panamanian dictator/drug dealer? Of course it was a nonissue. And the media would cream him with it.

The transition from prosecutor to poli­tician transformed Giuliani’s press rela­tions. During his five-and-a-half years as U.S. attorney, Giuliani’s critics liked to revile him as a masterful media manipu­lator, but it took candidate Giuliani less than a week to establish just how gener­ous that assessment of his talent really was. Giuliani sweated, shifted in his seat, and in one instance simply fled the pres­ence of a hostile television journalist. Nothing remotely like this had happened to him on Foley Square.

“It’s the case of a guy from a very protected environment being thrown into one of the toughest [media] bullrings in the world,” says David Garth, Koch’s me­dia maven. “I can understand the culture shock.”

And Giuliani’s new opponents were not handcuffed or accompanied by lawyers telling them to say nothing. The candi­date’s political enemies readily heaped verbal napalm on his head. Of attacks by rascals Ed Koch and Republican perfume scion Ron Lauder, Giuliani said: “If they really were men, they would apologize.” Needless to say, the unmanly imps sneered at the White Knight and contin­ued to slip thistles under his mayoral saddle.

“Prosecutors throw bombs. Mayors catch them,” says Mitchell Moss, director of NYU’s Urban Research Center. “Giu­liani has proven to be a bleeder.”

Koch in particular seemed to sense instinctively that it takes very little to set Giuliani off. He was right. Even as U.S. attorney, Giuliani could be stupendously thin-skinned. For instance, there was a flattering profile of Giuliani published in the Daily News Magazine shortly after he became U.S. attorney in 1983. The story was typical of the favorable pieces that were regularly written about Giuliani dur­ing his tenure. The author provided some balance to the article by mentioning a few criticisms of the prosecutor. There was a line in the story that reported — correct­ly — that Giuliani had a temper.

“He got so upset about it,” his wife, Donna Hanover, recalls. “He was hurt, saying this is terrible and so forth. I said, ‘Honey, it’s a little line. There are two or three criticisms in this long article.’ But he was in agony. We agonized the whole Sunday. It was a miserable, miserable day.”

Giuliani’s best qualities — intelligence, courage, honesty, and leadership abili­ty — have yet to put in an extended appearance on the campaign trail. His worst traits — self-righteousness, hypersensitivi­ty, and a grasping opportunism — have been too much in evidence.

His message, certainly, is not getting through. Most New Yorkers know little more about what Giuliani believes than they did three months ago. They might be forgiven for wondering if the candi­date actually has any strong feelings on any issue besides law enforcement.

Just what does Giuliani believe?

As most people know, Rudy Giu­liani started life as a liberal Democrat who worshipped John and Robert Kennedy. He voted for George Mc­Govern in 1972, and according to friends who knew him then, despised Richard Nixon with a fervor typical of Kennedy worshippers. A year later, however, he registered as an independent. He did so partly because of his growing disillusion­ment with the party of McGovern but also, as he told the Daily News, because he was working as a federal prosecutor in a Republican administration.

In 1975, Giuliani came under the wing of Judge Harold Tyler, a pillar of the respectable Republicanism of the Eastern Establishment. Tyler was appointed num­ber two man in the Justice Department of Gerald Ford, and took Giuliani along with him as his deputy. When Ford was turned out of office in 1976, Tyler took Giuliani back to New York with him as a partner in the white-shoe law firm then known as Patterson, Belknap & Webb. By then, his politics blended with those of the firm: the liberal Republicanism of Nelson Rockefeller.

A month after Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980, Giuliani switched again, registering as a Republican. The timing was not coincidental. When Rea­gan took office in 1981, Giuliani was of­fered the number three job in the Justice Department. Giuliani took two young as­sociates with him to Washington. He ad­vised Renee Szybala, a liberal Democrat, and Ken Caruso, who had no party affili­ation, to become Republicans, just as he had.

Giuliani was showing a flair for taking on the political coloration of his employ­ers, and his stint as associate attorney general from 1981 to 1983 marked him as a loyal and energetic Reaganaut. He was a leading player in the administration’s war on drugs, and capably supervised an array of important Justice Department agencies.

His first messy mission involved a pending criminal case against McDonnell Douglas. The gigantic St. Louis airplane manufacturer and four of its executives had been charged during the Carter ad­ministration with bribing Pakistani offi­cials to buy the company’s DC-10 airlin­ers. In one of the controversial early decisions of the Reagan administration, Giuliani dropped criminal charges against the four executives. He concluded that the government’s case against the four rested on the retroactive application of a congressional act outlawing overseas bribery, even though the courts had up­held the legality of the indictment. It was the kind of pro-business gesture that set the tone for the Reagan years.

A second act Giuliani undertook as as­sociate attorney general has come back to dog him in the mayoral campaign. The Reagan administration decided to stop the influx of Haitian refugees into south­ern Florida by jailing those who arrived in the Sunshine State and turning back those they could stop at sea. More than 2000 Haitians were placed in detention facilities critics described as “concentra­tion camps.” This shameful policy was not of Giuliani’s making, but he went to dubious lengths to defend it. Partly on the basis of a 48-hour trip to Haiti in 1982, he testified that political repression was not a problem in Haiti under Presi­dent-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

“It was like someone in our own gov­ernment getting up to say the Soviet Union is a democracy,” said Stephen Cohen, a State Department human rights specialist in the Carter Administration, who found Giuliani’s assessment “laughable.”

Giuliani’s opinion — although based on a visit somewhat shorter than a luxury cruise boat-docking — was important. Im­migration law permitted aliens to be granted asylum in the U.S. if they fled political persecution. So if the Haitians were to be kept out, it was essential for Giuliani to find an island bereft of politi­cal torture, imprisonment, and intimida­tion. He followed up his trip to Haiti with an appearance as a government witness in a federal civil case in Florida filed on behalf of the refugees. Under questioning by lawyers for the Haitians, Giuliani de­scribed the dread Tonton Macoutes as an “interior police department” that was “alleged” to have committed repressive acts in the 1960s.

Q. Do you believe that the Tonton Ma­coutes does not exist anymore?

A. I don’t know if they exist or don’t exist.

And:

Q. Mr. Giuliani, in your tour of Haiti, how many prisons did you visit?

A. I spoke with no prisoners.

All of this suggests that like most poli­ticians, Giuliani is a man quite capable of adjusting his beliefs to suit the temper of the times. And a man whose political advice the candidate values highly is, not surprisingly, a professional pollster.

Robert Teeter was the pollster and a top campaign strategist for George Bush in last year’s presidential campaign. The 50-year-old former political science in­structor has been active in Republican politics since he went to work for Michi­gan governor George Romney in 1956. He is widely regarded as one of the best in the business by Democrats and Republi­cans alike.

Teeter’s advice helps to account for the Johnny One-Note character of Giuliani’s campaign. “By anybody’s definition, those [crime and drugs] are severe prob­lems in the city,” Teeter says. “But more importantly, they are the problems the voters think need attention right now.” Teeter, who lives and works in Ann Arbor, Michigan, flies into New York peri­odically for discussions with Giuliani and members of his campaign staff. He and Giuliani also talk by phone. Teeter, at least, has no doubt about Giuliani’s poli­tics: “I think he has a fundamental, basic, Republican, center-right philosophy.”

Which brings us to the old saw about strange bedfellows. The last member of Giuliani’s Gang of Four is Ray Harding, a portly aficionado of unfiltered Camels who holds a doctorate in political schem­ing. Harding has been a major player in the endless and impenetrable infighting in the state’s minuscule (and ridiculous) Liberal Party. But he delivered the par­ty’s nomination to Giuliani and is ad­mired by the candidate for his shrewd­ness and political judgment.

Of the men Giuliani relies upon the most for political advice — Powers, Ailes, Teeter, and Harding — only Harding has extensive experience in New York poli­tics. Some political observers believe this to be a serious shortcoming. Ailes dis­agrees: “I haven’t done a whole lot in New York,” he says, “but politics is poli­tics. I’d never done anything in Wyoming, and I won in Wyoming.”

With the new team in place, the future of Giuliani’s campaign is becoming clear. “You’re going to see a new Rudy coming down the pike in the next few weeks,” Powers predicts. The “new” Rudy will speak more forcefully; his answers will be clearer and more concise. The candi­date is being made over into a strong leader with the courage and determina­tion needed to make the changes voters want.

His learning curve is on the rise. De­spite blackouts on topics like special edu­cation, his knowledge of municipal prob­lems has increased since the campaign began. He has earnestly studied the is­sues in briefing sessions that feature guest experts who enlighten him on vari­ous subjects. But one of those urban spe­cialists, who arrived eager to share his expertise with the mayor-to-be, came away disappointed by Giuliani’s glassy-­eyed response. “He was very passive, and he didn’t seem at all familiar with the issues we were discussing,” the expert said. “If it were Mayor Koch, he would have been engaging me and asking tough questions. I didn’t have any sense that I was getting through.”

“Getting through” to Giuliani is a mat­ter of arousing his passion. The man who as a little boy donned priestly vestments sewn from Turkish towels to solemnly perform the mass and distribute Holy Communion to his mother and grand­mother does not take things lightly. (On one occasion, his mother substituted chocolate mints for the white Necco wa­fers she normally gave him for use as communion hosts. Young Rudy sternly rebuked her for sacrilege.)

Giuliani has moved from passion to passion throughout his life. Horse-racing, tennis, New York Knicks basketball, pho­tography, and the Civil War are among the interests that he has embraced and abandoned. These pursuits are not as well known as his love of the law, opera, and the New York Yankees, but he has approached them all in the same way. He will read everything he can get his hands on about a topic that strikes his fancy in an effort to master it as quickly as possi­ble. Last winter, when Giuliani privately decided to become the 106th mayor of New York City, he devoured books about municipal government in his small East Side apartment at night and played U.S. attorney during the day.

But the passion always seemed to be missing. Giuliani appeared to look upon governing New York City as a problem to be analyzed and dissected rather than an intoxicating challenge to his abilities. He has always been keenly interested in poli­tics, but there is nothing in his past to suggest that he wanted to become the mayor of New York. He has talked with some measure of enthusiasm about be­coming governor, but the road to Albany is blocked by Mario Cuomo’s popularity. He also toyed at length with the notion of challenging Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but he ultimately abandoned the idea.

At the time, one of his closest friends said Giuliani seriously considered run­ning against Moynihan only because the opportunity had presented itself rather than because Giuliani wanted to become a U.S. senator. The same might well be said of his mayoral candidacy. Ed Koch’s job was the only important political posi­tion on the horizon when Giuliani wrapped up his law enforcement agenda at the end of 1988 with the trial of Bess Myerson and the settlement with Drexel Burnham, Wall Street’s big bad investment firm. Giuliani took the plunge, but nothing about the candidate or his campaign to date suggests that anything approaching a fire burns in his belly.

Giuliani’s supporters are betting that he’ll hit his stride as the campaign un­folds and take on the job of vanquishing his rivals with the same workaholic drive he applied to the Mafia and political cor­ruption. That may happen. Giuliani is a man who doesn’t like to fail — as a college student he was blackballed by the most prestigious fraternity on campus, but he rebounded by promptly gathering a group of his friends and taking over a dying fraternity with three members. The re­born frat made Rudy its president.

But New York City is no fraternity. The divisions between rich and poor, black and white, prochoice and antiabortion, are too deep to permit the election of a formless Mr. Fusion. Rudy Giuliani isn’t La Guardia, and he won’t defeat a Dinkins with bona fide liberal creden­tials, or a middle-class hero like Koch, unless he tells the voters exactly who he is and what he stands for. “It’s going to be a lot easier for us when we get down to the general election and it’s one of them against one of me,” Giuliani predicts. It’s true that he will get a second chance. But the “new” Rudy will have to show much more to convince New Yorkers he’s an alternative to the “old, tired political leadership” that has made one of the world’s great cities a miserable place for the poor and middle-class alike. ■

 

Categories
From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Rudy Giuliani and Roger Ailes: Cold Fusion

“I THINK WE HAD a great week,” Rudy Giuliani’s deputy campaign manager, Ken Caruso, said Satur­day at the official unveiling of the TV ad on Dinkins’s failure to file tax returns 20 years ago. “Jackie Mason went too far, and he was removed from the campaign. But today the issue is taxes…”

A campaign is like a miniseries: It develops the hero’s character slowly until a defining moment broadcasts it in simplified form to everyone. Many voters now think Rudy has the sense of humor of a wet troll, especially after the infamous “fancy schvartze” joke, and that will be hard to shake in the month left before election day. “The question isn’t really how Jack­ie Mason reached such prominence and visibility in Giuliani’s campaign, but how this became the only story in the race,” Republican strategist Jay Severin said the day after Mason’s controversial re­marks forced him to resign. “If Giuliani had been getting out a message a day it would have been different, but all of a sudden this is the only sound in a vacu­um — that signals deficiencies in a cam­paign.

“Mason is more a political story than it seems,” Severin continued. “This is almost a generic model of what happens when you don’t have an agenda. As we say in this business, [the important thing is] not stepping on your own dick.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”713710″ /]

If Giuliani danced the flamenco on his own dick last week, his staff claimed not to notice. In fact, they counterpunched hard, first with an ad in the country’s largest Yiddish newspaper showing Din­kins arm in arm with Jesse Jackson and Rudy chatting with George Bush in a wing chair (reminiscent of Saturday Night Live‘s mock ad, “Vote for Bush­ — He’s whiter”), and then with the taxes spot. All the while, Rudy complained that the press employed a “double standard ” in judging the fairness of the two sides, nagging him while letting Dinkins take “a free ride.”

The Mason flap made Giuliani the fo­cus of media attention for several days, and he took advantage of the opportunity to trot out canned assaults on his “Jesse Jackson Democrat ” opponent. Like the original decision to name an ethnic-insult stand-up comic as campaign mascot, the Giuliani assault suggests a tin ear for the subliminal vibrations of politics — surpris­ing in a campaign guided by the Republi­can master of the unsaid, Roger Ailes, who managed Bush’s nasty ’88 campaign.

That the Giuliani people didn’t pull the Algemeiner Journal ad after Mason stepped in shit may speak more about sloppiness than intent. The way it went down, it almost seemed as if Rudy were hoping Mason’s troubles would ultimate­ly work in his favor, and that Robert I. Friedman’s interview had merely allowed Mason to spell out clearly what he’d been saying in semaphore for weeks. Just what counts as a blunder in this sort of politics?

“Is racial innuendo raising its ugly head? I think it’s entirely possible that that’s the motivation,” says a Republican consultant based in Washington. “It may be a case in which Giuliani is really being manipulated a little bit here. I think there is a certain sense in which Giuliani is naive about these kinds of things, I’m not sure he’s been around long enough to know what he’s doing. Maybe it’s a coin­cidence, but maybe, too, it’s a pattern that racism seems to become an issue as Ailes becomes more prominent in a campaign.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”714847″ /]

IN AMERICA, RACE GIVES a pretty straight bounce in a campaign. It’s an identity issue, an us-or-them question, exploiting the Manichaean mythologies of national politics with their binary op­positions — Democrat/Republican, liber­al/conservative, black/white. Like the LOVE and HATE tattooed on Robert Mit­chum’s knuckles in The Night of the Hunter, racial division has a fundamentalist glamour.

But here in New York City, the physics of race occur in a cloud of charged particles that can bend space. Ask Al Gore, who was led into an eerily similar nuclear winter by Ed Koch during the presidential primary.

“The reason it wouldn’t happen any­where but in New York is you don’t have a Mason type anywhere else,” says David Keene, conservative activist and former Bush campaign political director. “Also, in New York the ethnic and racial appeals are more overt than anywhere else. It’s the only place you put together your schedule and say, ‘Today we’re going after Puerto Rican voters, tomorrow we’re go­ing after Jews.’ You can argue that it’s more crude, or you can argue that it’s more honest. What you have in the rest of the country often masks itself.”

Besides, to a couple of deep-dish Re­publicans — Ailes, who earned his media spurs as a producer for Mike Douglas, and Robert Teeter, the Ann Arbor–based polling consultant and fellow Bush ’88 veteran who completes Rudy Giuliani’s A-Team — the local customs must seem very exotic. “I’ve been astounded at the answers I’ve gotten on some things,” Giu­liani pollster Fred Steeper says of his New York data. Steeper hails from De­troit, where his firm works with Teeter’s. “You are the most liberal group in the entire country. Giving out birth control to teenagers without parental consent, for example, is overwhelmingly opposed in the rest of the country. In New York, it’s a close question… This is one of the wildest races I’ve ever been involved in.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”590085″ /]

In factional politics — which is what the New York mayoral race has become — the shadows cast by a candidate inevitably obscure the algebra of his policies. That’s part of the appeal of campaigning on a symbolic level, since fighting a race with petroglyphs largely frees the pol from making promises he might not want to keep. Besides, it works, sometimes against the longest odds.

So candidates look for doppelgängers, issues that have a patina of legitimacy (who wants a convicted murderer in their bedroom?) and a sweeping undertow (es­pecially a black one!). That some people could clearly read the unwritten in the Dinkins/Jackson picture in the Alge­meiner ad may well be because they’re partisan or obsessed, as Giuliani maintains. Or it could be that they read context: the context of a fractious New York City, of Ed Koch’s divisive kvetching, of Willie Horton, of how photos of black people have been used throughout Ameri­can history to transmit verbal taboos. To strip this graven image of context, as Giuliani has tried to do by protesting, “What’s wrong with this picture?” is at best naive, at worst willful insensitivity.

Up in the swanky fastness of the Rockefeller Center campaign headquar­ters, things in the top echelons have got­ten mighty male and pale. Giuliani’s de­spair of picking up black votes has led to a virtual blackout of African-American issues, not to mention faces, in his cam­paign. “I have not measured the amount of racial antipathy in the city because we don’t want to know. We have not asked some of the standard academic ques­tions,” Steeper says. And yet he goes on to lament the perverse polling anomalies he’s found in the city.

“It’s frustrating. New Yorkers say that crime and drugs are the number one issue and that Giuliani is better on it. But they’re voting for Dinkins. It’s partly be­cause there’s been a sort of honeymoon for Dinkins and he hasn’t been viewed as critically as the other candidates.”

For his part, Roger Ailes is still trying to live down the bitterness of the Willie Horton issue (Ailes didn’t make the infa­mous TV ad, but he was part of the team that made Horton a household name). So in his first TV spot for the general elec­tion, Ailes appears to have bent over backward to avoid using a photo of Din­kins. The tax commercial is just a scroll­ing script and a voiceover spearing Dinkins for not paying; by failing to mention that he paid the IRS in full 16 years ago, the sin floats lazily into the present.

The ad is curiously prefaced with a caveat. “Some people will try to tell you this is a negative commercial. But it isn’t. Because it’s fair and the facts are true.” This is classic Roger Ailes: the opening denial is at once an attempt to trumpet the ad’s negativity (negative ads are sim­ply irresistible) and to preempt any such thoughts.

And the ad is almost personal. Ailes is so aware of his reputation as a GOP hit man that he has to insist he’s using only “true facts.”

[related_posts post_id_1=”714416″ /]

“THE AMAZING THING here is that there’s an absolute strategic imperative for Giuliani,” says Jay Severin. “The is­sue in people’s minds hasn’t changed — crime and drugs — and Giuliani as a polit­ical entity exists only to fill that political void. But look at the feeble connection that’s been made to it! I would have him somewhere on the steps every day talking about a new program to fight crime and drugs.”

It would be nice to say, as Mario Cuomo did last Sunday, that New York City is going to show “Republicans that if you inject race into a campaign we will reject you overwhelmingly.” But this is hardly the end of such campaigns. GOP chair Lee Atwater is doing fine, in spite of the Tom Foley slander; this very local flap probably says more about New York than it does about a general rejection of the principles of ’88.

In the short term, Rudy Giuliani is going to pay the price — he’ll have a hard time getting elected Grand Poobah of the Raccoons in this city, much less mayor. But Ailes will likely pay a personal price, too.

“I don’t want to blame Ailes for Ma­son’s comments,” says David Keene. But “if Giuliani fails badly and if his failure is popularly believed to have been a result of this, then yes, Ailes’s career is in some jeopardy. And I suspect Giuliani is going to lose badly. So [using Mason was] dumb, in that it allows some people to say that it was Ailes’s fault.”

Reportedly Ailes is advising his man to put every dime into TV. “I agree with Roger,” says Severin. “He’s never going to win it with news coverage.” ■

Research assistance: Diane M. Rubino

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES Media NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES TV ARCHIVES

Good for What Ailes You

Although it’s been giving up ground to CNN this election season, the Fox News Network is still a target of derision by liberals who never fail to be exasperated by its “fair and balanced” motto. But for Fox haters, there’s a delicious (if uncorroborated) new look behind the scenes at the network’s startup now appearing online, courtesy of one of the people who helped birth it.

Dan Cooper, a former Fox News managing editor who helped conceptualize and design the channel in its first six months, has written a book dishing dirt on Fox News guru Roger Ailes. Cooper worked at the Fox network from 1994 to 1996, and claims to have been a critical part of the “brain team” that put the news channel together; he helped design the studios, the layout of the newsroom, and the program schedule. After six months—and countless titanic fights with Ailes—Cooper was made redundant and left to chase jobs producing television shows and managing talent in Los Angeles. But his subsequent divorce was so brutal that Cooper returned to his native New York to figure out what to do with his life. “The divorce was emotionally and financially shattering,” he says. “I had to rebuild, and the idea came to me that writing a memoir about the birth of the Fox News Channel could be very lucrative.”

According to Cooper, he titled his manuscript Naked Launch, snagged an agent, and shopped the project around town. But, he claims, publishers who showed interest were worried about alienating Ailes. So Cooper decided to serialize the book on his website (www.caos.us) and see if he could drum up publicity. He posted the prologue early last month.

Cooper spends most of his time guttersniping about Ailes’s alleged swaggering, vindictiveness, and casual abuse of underlings. Near the prologue’s conclusion, he recounts a story in which an Australian transplant named Ian stuck his head in Ailes’s office and asked a question in an accent so thick no one could understand him. Ailes, Cooper wrote, always liked to imagine this employee as a pig with an anus for a mouth.

“Instantly, Roger’s face was overcome with devilish glee,” Cooper wrote. “Roger had no idea what he was talking about, and he didn’t care. Roger made a fist and put it up to his mouth . . . ‘Oim Eeyan Rye!!’ Roger shouted. ‘An oim tawkin troo me arse!!’ This was supposed to be riotously funny. The
other boys howled in hysteria. I sat down
and slumped. Roger: ‘Eeooo cayn’t mike out what oim sighin, becawz oim tawking troo me arse!’ . . . This was the man who created the Fox News Channel for Rupert Murdoch.”

In another chapter, Cooper writes that Ailes allegedly demanded that bomb-proof windows be installed in his office, because he was concerned that homosexual activists might bomb Fox News when it debuted. As Cooper scrambled to find bomb-proof glass—which doesn’t exist, as it happens—Ailes also demanded that he get the city to chop down a line of trees outside his office. Every few days, Cooper wrote, Ailes would grab him and scream, “They’re still fucking there! Don’t you have any balls? Chop them fucking down!”

When Cooper isn’t trashing Ailes, he’s writing about the female employee he lusted after, or the men he believed his wife was sleeping with behind his back. The result is a hilariously idiosyncratic account of a flawed man and the terrible people he worked under. I may be an asshole, Cooper is saying, but you should see Roger Ailes.

Needless to say, Fox News representatives did not return calls seeking comment for this story. But Cooper’s memoir is drawing more and more Internet buzz, and the legions of people who love to hate Fox News are feasting on the kind of gossip that almost never manages to leak out of the channel. Meanwhile, Cooper promises even more salacious dirt to come. As for whether he worries that Ailes will somehow retaliate, he says: “I’m staying away from skating rinks this winter. You never know who’s driving the Zamboni machine.”