Joe Conason's Journal

Did Fox help choreograph the Republican House performance? Plus: It's time to ask Howard Dean about whether he supports an amendment to protect the flag.

Published November 14, 2003 4:12PM (EST)

Mr. Ailes! They're ready for their close-up!
The judicial sleepover debate staged by the Republican leadership may not have had the most exciting production values. But it wasn't for lack of effort or good advice from the best in the business over at Fox News, as the Hill revealed Thursday.

The Capitol Hill weekly published a memo sent around by Manuel Miranda -- a staffer who works for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist -- concerning the need for punctuality as the great 30-hour debate commenced. Inspired by the cinematic vision of the Fox producers, Miranda explained the precise relationship between the public's business and show business:

"It is important to double efforts to get your boss to S-230 on time ... Fox News Channel is really excited about this marathon and Brit Hume at 6 would love to open with all our 51 senators walking onto the floor -- the producer wants to know will we walk in exactly at 6:02 when the show starts so they get it live to open Brit Hume's show? Or if not, can we give them an exact time for the walk-in start?"

That sounds just like the old days, when Roger Ailes made commercials for Nixon and Bush 41 -- except that now, as Fox boss, he doesn't have to buy airtime. On TNR Michael Crowley provides a funny first-night review of the GOP show, including the "truly revolting" performance by South Carolina freshman Lindsey Graham.

Dean's cute flag flap
Several readers distressed by Wesley Clark's remarks supporting the flag desecration amendment wrote in to declare that they had dropped their support of the retired general in favor of Howard Dean. But others pointed out what I didn't know about Dean's own record on this issue. Two years ago, as governor of Vermont, he brokered a legislative resolution that urged Congress to "take whatever legislative action it deems necessary and appropriate to honor and safeguard the United States Flag." While a bit vague, that sounded much like an endorsement of the Constitutional amendment.

Around that time, Dean rather pompously declared that politicians should declare their positions on the flag issue before voters went to the polls in 2002. That requirement didn't apply to Dean himself, as he "coyly" told the Rutland Herald, because he wasn't on the ballot that year. So now that he is running for president, the candidate who prides himself in speaking bluntly should explain the limits of his support for the First Amendment -- in plain English.
[8:22 a.m. PST, Nov. 14, 2003]

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