Friday, May 19, 2017

The FOX And The Hounds (And The Turtle)

As I pointed out yesterday, FOX News Channel founder and serial assaulter of women Roger Ailes died yesterday from a fall in the home at age 77, and while Ailes was definitely one of the primary assholes responsible for the Age of Trump, he's also one of those responsible for the Age of Mitch as Ailes was the man who gave McConnell his first Senate win with this now famous campaign ad.

In September 1984, McConnell, then the Jefferson County judge-executive, the top elected official in Kentucky's most populous county, was polling 40 points behind his opponent, Democratic Sen. Dee Huddleston. That is, until he hired Ailes.

In his autobiography last year, McConnell called it "one of the smartest moves I made."

"I was happy he agreed to do it. I sure needed help." McConnell wrote in "The Long Game."

The arrangement gave birth to one of the most successful political ads of all time.

Ailes and McConnell needed to find a way to exploit Huddleston's biggest weakness: his tendency to not show up for work.

One night while watching TV, Ailes saw a dog food commercial and got an idea.

They hired an actor named Snarfy to play a Kentucky farmer and found some bloodhounds, prized as hunting dogs in Kentucky.

In the ad, Snarfy and the dogs go off in search of Huddleston in places where he was giving paid speeches instead of casting votes in the Senate. Snarfy and the dogs searched city streets, by the pool and on the beach for Kentucky's missing senator.

"Our job was to find Dee Huddleston and get him back to work," the narrator said.

The ad closed with a pitch to "switch to Mitch" as one of the dogs barked twice.

Kentuckians loved it.

"On the trail, people began to approach me, to shake my hand and comment on how funny they'd found the ad," McConnell wrote in his autobiography. "This momentum was just what I needed."

That November, as Ronald Reagan coasted to a landslide presidential victory, McConnell won his first Senate term by 5,000 votes.

Ailes told McConnell he'd never seen anyone come from that far behind and win.

"I think it can be argued that if not for Roger Ailes, the political history of Kentucky and the United States would be a lot different," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky and a veteran journalist.

Indeed, how different would things be right now if McConnell had lost that race in 1984 and he had stayed out of politics, and Ailes's credibility as a political operator had been shot to hell?

We'll never know, but man, it was just 5,000 votes.  Our country has hinged on fewer than that in many a contest.

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