Back when I was a Republican political operative (everyone experiments in their youth) the path to the White House was fairly standard: form a leadership PAC to help other candidates, launch an exploratory committee, raise a lot of money ($20 million!), do well in the Iowa Straw Poll, line up some good endorsements, build momentum in time for the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary and maybe, just maybe you'd end up in the Oval Office.
Things have changed considerably since I worked for Lamar Alexander and John McCain in the 2000 primaries – again, everyone experiments in their youth.
It's looking more and more like the GOP path to 2012 runs directly through Fox News.
Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee who is widely considered to be eyeballing 2012, has his own Fox News program each weekend. Just last month Fox executives were forced to tell Huckabee to stop plugging a website on-air, which he'd repeatedly promoted, after it learned "that it linked to his political action committee, which the network deemed a conflict of interest." Despite his bosses' reported order to stop the promotion, Huckabee has continued to plug, both on-air and on FoxNews.com, his personal website that leads visitors to his PAC.
Then there is the former half-term Alaska Governor who announced this week that she'd signed on to be a contributor at Fox News. In what was surely a glimpse of things to come, Sarah Palin's first day on the job included a softball interview with Bill O'Reilly. As Media Matters' Simon Maloy noted:
The financial terms of Palin's agreement with Fox News have not been disclosed, but it's safe to assume that she isn't working for peanuts. With that in mind, it's worth pointing out that Palin spent much of her Fox News debut defending her own record and reputation, hawking the biography she pretended to write, and promoting the Tea Party convention at which she is being paid to speak (though she claimed that the money she makes from the event will go towards campaign donations). The rest of her "analysis" consisted of conservative bromides about the evils of government and tired attacks on the media. She was essentially paid by Fox News to put on an infomercial for herself.
There's also been bizarre, perhaps crazy, speculation on the network that Palin will form a ticket in 2012 with Fox News' Glenn Beck. Quit laughing.
Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich even announced this week that he's considering a run for the White House in 2012 – the same speculative announcement he made in 2008 mind you.
So there you have it. At least three potentially major candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are going head to head in the 2012 Fox News shadow primary.
So, when are Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty going take the plunge and join in the fun?
How Fox News expects to provide the 2012 Republican primaries with "fair and balanced" coverage when it employs so many of the potential candidates is anyone's guess.
Following President Obama's January 7 remarks on the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing -- during which he stated, "We are at war. We are at war with al Qaeda" -- numerous conservative media figures have falsely suggested that prior to that speech, Obama had not characterized the fight against terrorists as a war. In fact, in his inaugural address, Obama stated that "[o]ur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred," and he has repeatedly discussed terrorism as the rationale for U.S. military action abroad.
From the January 7 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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New year, same Fox News ethics.
On December 21, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported that Fox executives told host Mike Huckabee to stop plugging his website "on the air after learning that it linked to his political action committee, which the network deemed a conflict of interest":
His HuckPAC has been involved in local races, raising $305,000 in this campaign cycle. His Web site urges followers to "Vote No Against Senate Health Care Bill" and invites fans to join him and his wife, Janet (for just $3,999!), on a tour of Israel next month. Fox executives told Huckabee to stop plugging the Web site on the air after learning that it linked to his political action committee, which the network deemed a conflict of interest.
As we've noted, Huckabee has used his Fox News program to promote the website "balancecutsave.com," which redirects visitors to a web page soliciting donations for Huckabee's political action committee.
Huckabee's personal website, MikeHuckabee.com, actively promotes and links to his political action committee. The large and small HuckPAC graphics and "Vote No ..." graphic direct readers to HuckPAC.com.
But despite his bosses' reported order to stop promoting a website that "link[s] to his political action committee," Huckabee promoted MikeHuckabee.com on his program last Saturday:
Huckabee's FoxNews.com website also promotes MikeHuckabee.com:
From Howard Kurtz's December 21 Washington Post column:
To the untrained eye, Mike Huckabee appears to be running for president again.
Looking into the camera, he unloads on President Obama: "He's never done this kind of work before. He's never run a state or a private company, or as best we can tell even a Sno-Cone stand. So running the whole country, that's a big leap from community organizer."
But the former Arkansas governor is just doing his Fox News show -- and, what's more, insists he may pass up the 2012 race. Although if he were plotting another White House campaign, what better route than by pounding home a conservative message on television?
Huckabee hasn't exactly abandoned Republican politics, either. On Sunday, he headlined a Nebraska rally staged to oppose the Democrats' health care bill. His HuckPAC has been involved in local races, raising $305,000 in this campaign cycle. His Web site urges followers to "Vote No Against Senate Health Care Bill" and invites fans to join him and his wife, Janet (for just $3,999!), on a tour of Israel next month. Fox executives told Huckabee to stop plugging the Web site on the air after learning that it linked to his political action committee, which the network deemed a conflict of interest.
From the December 13 edition of Fox News' Huckabee:
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During the December 5 edition of Fox News Watch -- Fox News' media criticism show -- contributor James Pinkerton defended Fox News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's role in granting a commutation for Maurice Clemmons, who has been accused of killing four police officers in Lakewood, Washington; Fox News did not disclose that Pinkerton served as a senior adviser to Huckabee's presidential campaign. The lack of disclosure comes after Fox News reportedly admitted a mistake in allowing host Gretchen Carlson to interview athlete Derek Jeter without disclosing that her husband is Jeter's agent.
From Mike Huckabee's December 2 Q&A with Christianity Today:
Would you vote for the health-care bill if the Stupak amendment [that bans funding for abortion] was retained in the final version?
Absolutely not. First of all, I don't have any confidence that the Democrats in the House plan to honor that in the long term, and secondly, if abortion wasn't even a part, it's still going to create huge deficits. It's a job-killing bill. It intrudes into an area of people's responsibilities and rights as citizens. I think the bill on its face is unconstitutional, in that it requires the purchase of a product for a person to exercise his or her rights as a citizen. We already decided that's unconstitutional when we outlawed the poll tax that required people to pay money in order to vote, because the Supreme Court declared that you can't make people pay money in order to enjoy the rights and benefits of citizenship. That's exactly what this bill does, and I think it's an outrage and an insult to the Constitution and to the citizens of the United States.
From the November 29 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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From the November 11 edition of United Stations Radio Networks' The Lou Dobbs Show:
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On two Fox News shows in October, Fox News host Mike Huckabee directed viewers to "go to balancecutsave.com," urging them to sign a petition telling Congress to "balance the budget," "cut their spending," and "save American families"; however, balancecutsave.com redirects visitors to Huckabee's political action committee, which financially supports Republican candidates and also pays Huckabee's daughter's salary. Subsequently, Huck PAC apparently emailed petition signers -- who were required to provide an email address in order to sign the "balancecutsave" petition -- "newsletters" urging political action on behalf of Republican-backed candidates and soliciting donations for campaigns against Democrats who voted for health care reform.
Right-wing media figures enthusiastically endorsed and boosted the failed Conservative Party candidacy of Doug Hoffman in the race to fill a vacant seat in New York's 23rd Congressional District, with several of them hosting Hoffman on their radio or television shows. Media figures who boosted Hoffman include Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Malkin, and Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com.
How'd you spend your election day Tuesday? If you're a Fox News host or political analyst, you might have spent it shilling and celebrating for conservative and Republican candidates:
That glee transferred to Fox & Friends, where Fox News revelled in calling GOP victories the "winds of change," a "Republican revival" and a "blueprint for success."
From the November 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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On two Fox News shows in October, Fox News host Mike Huckabee directed viewers to "go to balancecutsave.com," urging them to sign a petition telling Congress to "balance the budget," "cut their spending," and "save American families"; however, balancecutsave.com redirects visitors to Huckabee's political action committee, which financially supports Republican candidates and also pays Huckabee's daughter's salary. Subsequently, Huck PAC apparently emailed petition signers -- who were required to provide an email address in order to sign the "balancecutsave" petition -- a "newsletter" urging political action on behalf of Republican-backed candidates Bob McDonnell, David Harmer, and Doug Hoffman.