Tilting at Windmills

January/February 2013 Petraus’s demands … Fox News’s GOP ambitions … Washington’s merry-go-round

By Charles Peters

Fox as campaign HQ
I also want to say a kind word for Bob Woodward, whose recent book I was definitely not kind to in our last issue. I could kiss him for his revelation that Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, had one of his minions present David Petraeus with this proposal: if the general would enter the race for the Republican nomination in 2012, Ailes would manage the campaign. And Ailes’s boss, Rupert Murdoch, would finance it.

If this news becomes widely known, as is my hope, it seems likely that Ailes will no longer be able to get away with proclaiming that Fox is “fair and balanced.” And that development, given the power of Ailes and Fox, seems totally desirable to me. It is comparable to Karl Rove’s failure to elect more than two-thirds of the candidates he supported in November. I have feared Rove and Ailes more than any of the other Republican gurus because they combine cleverness and cynicism in a truly dangerous way.

Obama’s party loyalty
I’ve been working on a book about how Washington and the country have changed in my lifetime. Since I recently celebrated my eighty-sixth birthday, that covers a considerable span of modern American history.

One of the more consistent truths of that long run has been that the Democrats have been right and the Republicans wrong, most of the time. This helps explain my disappointment in Barack Obama’s failure to campaign for congressional Democrats and his seeming lack of interest in building the party and pointing with pride at its record. In campaign speech after campaign speech, he failed to mention local Democratic candidates. Sometimes, of course, his own dubious popularity in the area made that a wise choice, but on the whole, it meant that he was depriving his fellow Democrats of the support that might have helped them regain the House in 2012.

More importantly, I’m disappointed in his failure to inspire his droves of idealistic supporters to become active in party affairs—to help nominate good candidates in 2014, for example, and not repeat their mistake, almost tragic in its consequences, of sitting on their hands in 2010 and letting the Know-Nothings gain control of the House. I’m afraid Obama’s tendency here reflects a larger trend of growing individualism in America, where it’s how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers I have.

How many times have you heard someone smugly declare, “I vote for the person, not the party.” That may be right if you’re well informed about the candidates. But the less you know about them, the more relevant party becomes in determining your choice. Who will control your state legislature? Who will control the Congress and chair its committees? Who will pass or fail to pass the laws that will make a real difference in your life?

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.


  • Richard Fox on January 15, 2013 2:57 PM:

    Regarding your item about AARP and Medicare, medical providers agree as a condition of participating in any insurance to accept what the insurance authorizes as total payment for a bill. This works the same with Medicare as with any private insurance. Therefore the difference between what Medicare pays and what it authorizes becomes the total amount owed. There is no "gap" as you imply.

  • Sparky Satori on February 21, 2013 4:04 PM:

    "...is more accurate than his movie JFK, in which he wove a few remotely plausible facts into an absurdly vast conspiracy to explain the assassination of John Kennedy."

    Why is it that those who have never bothered to acquaint themselves with the "facts" expect to be taken seriously when they pontificate about which among them are "plausible?"

    Oliver Stone got more right than wrong in JFK, but in order to know that, one would have to read more than just the Warren Commission Report, which is apparently where your own education on this ended.