“I’ve called you all together because we’re facing a major challenge. Fox News has put four potential presidential nominees on its payroll--four! We don’t have a single candidate of our own, and something has to be done about it. Now!”
“What’s the problem, Steve?” asked Jeff, the VP for programming. “All four of their people are far right Tea Party darlings. I mean, give me a break. Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum? A lineup like that completely undercuts their claim to be ‘fair and balanced.’”
Immediately, the infighting began. This was a TV network, after all.
“What you fail to understand, Jeff,” began Monica, the chief operating officer, “is that even though Fox is outrageously biased, you can’t stop them from telling people otherwise. Trot out all the statistics you want showing how lopsided their coverage is, and it doesn’t faze them. God could speak in a voice of thunder, calling them liars, and when the thunder finished rolling, Fox would still be plastering their claim on the airwaves, hundreds of times a day.”
Jeff ‘failed to understand’ something Monica clearly understood. Well played, thought the others around the table
“Right. Get real, Jeff,” chimed in Arnie, the head of the entertainment section. “You act as if you don’t understand the power of TV. No wonder this network is in a tailspin.”
Ouch. All eyes shifted quickly toward Steve to see if Arnie’s low blow did more damage to Jeff or to Arnie himself.
“We’re getting sidetracked,” said Steve. “Focus on the real issue.”
“Look, Steve,” piped up Lyle, the head of the sports division, “I don’t see the problem here. Fox isn’t exactly fielding an all-world team. Palin was a feisty point guard, but she didn’t even make all-Alaska. Santorum will mix it up and do the dirty work, but he can’t score. And Gingrich is a shooter who misfires most of the time.”
Groans and winces. The usual reactions to Lyle’s contributions.
“Let me spell it out for you, Lyle,” said Steve. “Fox has contracts with all four potential candidates forbidding them from appearing on any other network. How do you suggest we cover the presidential race when there’s a boatload of candidates who won’t even appear on our shows?”
Having brushed Lyle aside, Steve moved on. “Time to get serious, people. I want us to settle on at least one candidate of our own by the time this meeting is over, and two would be even better.”
Okay. Time to shift gears and move on.
“We need somebody who screams ‘not Fox’,” offered Arnie. “Somebody with a positive vision, somebody who cares about the climate catastrophe facing our planet, somebody who will direct our resources toward our common problems instead of mutually destructive wars....”
“You’re thinking outside the box,” snapped Steve, cutting him short. “Get inside the box! There’ve got to be plenty of politicians with bizarre, discredited views who are available and viable presidential candidates.”
Ah, an acceptable direction to move in.
“Steve,” said Rahim tentatively, “what if Fox already has the good ones sewn up? I mean, crazy is flat-out entertaining, and Fox may have cornered the market. I’m not sure anybody as wacky as Palin or Gingrich is still available.”
Monica was quick to pounce. “Well, Steve,” she said, “Christine O’Donnell just jumps out at you. If she wins Delaware, there’s going to be an enormous amount of buzz about her and a possible presidential bid.”
Wouldn’t you know it? Got to give Monica credit, she’s a quick study.
“I think she puts Palin in the pale,” she continued--winging it, but sounding good. “For my money, she’s better looking than Sarah Palin, and she’s even more quotable. She has a track record of looney, anti-intellectual positions that endears her to right wingers and fascinates the media. That makes her an ideal candidate to be our candidate.”
A gleam came into Jeff’s eyes. “Uh, Monica,” he said, “what you fail to understand is the extent of Christine O’Donnell’s history with Fox News--or maybe you were just completely unaware of it. She’s spouted political commentary for shows like The Live Desk and The O’Reilly Factor. If she entered the presidential race--God forbid--she’d become Fox’s fifth entry, not our first.”
Silence, as that soaked in. Monica momentarily stunned.
“Ya know,” mused Lyle, “I’m not sure we ought to put this game on our schedule.”
“What?!” said Steve. “What the devil are you talking about?”
“It’s sort of like a football game,” began Lyle. But then everything was sort of like a football game for Lyle.
“How do you figure?” inquired Monica, recovered and willing to help him hang himself.
“Well, think of the two political parties as teams,” said Lyle. “And news media are kind of the referees. They’re supposed to be neutral, see, not favoring one team or the other. Just call ‘em the way they see ‘em. But here you have Fox owning a team and paying the players and still pretending they’re gonna referee the game fairly. So if we buy a team and pay the players, we’d be doing the same thing. It’s disrespecting the game.”
Talk about being out in left field! But that’s baseball, not football. Anyhow, who will set Lyle straight?
“Look,” said Monica dismissively, “it’s simple economics. “Corporations donate money to campaigns, they buy ads, they lobby, they spend millions to bend politicians to their will. Then the politicians do what they’re paid to do in Washington. This just simplifies the process. You eliminate the middleman by hiring him.”
Lyle couldn’t seem to let it go. “Let’s say the Constitution is the rule book,” he argued. “This is a way to get around the rules. It might not break any rules, but it violates the spirit of the game.”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud!” exploded Steve. “Think of it as the introduction of the forward pass--something new that changes the nature of the game. It’s progress!”
“All progress isn’t progress,” countered Lyle. “This is more like blue artificial turf.”
© Tony Russell, 2010