Megyn Kelly won. And so, in its way, did Fox News. America, too, if you stretch the point.
That’s how I’m scoring it. Don’t tell me that last week’s Republican debate on Fox scored the second-worst ratings of all primary season’s GOP debates. All that matters is that Fox’s Trumpless debate trumped Trump’s ratings many times over for his competing CNN “Take that, Megyn!” veterans event.
Kelly is now the face of Fox News – not because she’s beautiful but because she has a sense of moment: She knows what to do when the spotlight is on her. And what she does is trot out genuine journalistic procedure. On a network known for being one long Republican agenda, she trotted over to the nerd’s lair on election night 2012 to actually check up on the facts and figures Karl Rove was making up. She quoted Donald Trump in full frontal sexist piggery right to his face on the first debate and asked him if such street talk was, in any way, presidential. A fair question if ever there were one.
Last week, she ran video montages of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio flip-flopping and contradicting themselves to outline their political opportunism in gold relief.
Bill O’Reilly may continue to get the hotsy-totsy ratings at Fox News but no one knows better than he that any big ratings numbers he gets from now on are empty numbers. There has always been a point in TV history where ratings supremacy is meaningless; the soul of the medium is going somewhere else besides kneejerk affection.
Blunderbuss O’Reilly can tell the world that HIS is the “no-spin zone” but Kelly is the one who INVARIABLY makes sure that when history’s light is on, she is doing the matter-of-fact work of journalism.
This is not to say that there aren’t liberals who scream that Kelly can be as toxic as any other Fox idealogue. It’s just that, she has – somewhat incredibly – brought Fox News back into the traditional “lamestream media.”
The parade of candidates in what some have called “The Republican Clown Car” is not, to many experienced pol watchers, recognizable as Republican. Courtesy of post-Bush politics and Donald Trump, those in the parade seem to be members of what we might call the Omarosa Party, named after the most recognizable and talked about villain on Trump’s “The Apprentice” – the hostile, posturing, meaneuvering “contestant” who took up all the oxygen in the room and drew a direct line between bad behavior and “good television.”
The members of the new American Omarosa Party are not Republicans as some of us had come to know them. They are not the party of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Earl Warren, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits or even Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan – whose 11th commandment, he always said was, “thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”
Trump is being rejected by the American political Establishment big time. The National Review put out a whole “dump Trump” issue. The New Yorker’s Barry Britt cover cartoon called “No Reception” showed the dismay and horror of past presidents watching Trump on the tube.
In 2016’s Reality Show politics, Ted Cruz – rather brilliantly I thought – opened the Trumpless Fox debate by joking “let me say that I’m a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben [Carson] you’re a terrible surgeon. Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump part of the evening out of the way, I want to thank everyone here for showing the men and women of Iowa the respect to show up.”
That was a very good snide joke indeed on the position of everyone in 2016’s Omorosa Party last week. Unfortunately, it made Cruz cocky and he tried to float another gag about supposed host mistreatment by offering to disappear a la Trump. It failed so badly that the audience seemed to encourage him to do just that.
All we can hope now is that people who claim to be in the “news business” remember that the point of elections is to produce a good president, not a King Kong beating his chest over ratings supremacy.
Megyn Kelly seems to remember that when the lights are on her.
She has, at odd moments, seemed to lead Fox News out of partisan drool toward truth – or at least something that, for a few seconds at a time, is “fair and balanced” by any possible assay.
To that small degree, her victory may actually be good for the rest of us.
These days, something certainly ought to be.