The Predictable Benching of Rove and Morris

New York’s Gabriel Sherman has a fine scoop on some internal decision-making at Fox News, but I fear he’s missing the big picture here:

The post-election soul searching going on inside the Republican Party is taking place inside Fox News as well. Fox News chief Roger Ailes, a canny marketer and protector of his network’s brand, has been taking steps since November to reposition Fox in the post-election media environment, freshening story lines — and in some cases, changing the characters. According to multiple Fox sources, Ailes has issued a new directive to his staff: He wants the faces associated with the election off the air — for now. For Karl Rove and Dick Morris — a pair of pundits perhaps most closely aligned with Fox’s anti-Obama campaign — Ailes’s orders mean new rules. Ailes’s deputy, Fox News programming chief Bill Shine, has sent out orders mandating that producers must get permission before booking Rove or Morris.

Thanks to their high visibility in the 2012 cycle, some MSM and progressive observers seem to be making the mistake of associating Rove and Morris with right-wing influence in the GOP, and assuming that taking them down a notch in FoxLand means some sort of new conservative pragmatism. Are we forgetting who these men are? Rove was the author of every single violation of “conservative principle” by George W. Bush that has enabled wingnuts to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the bitter fruits–substantively and politically–of the Bush/Cheney administration: No Child Left Behind, the Medicare Rx drug initiative, comprehensive immigration reform, and in general Big Spending and Big Government Conservatism. And given his role as the “quarterback” of the entire Super-PAC/501(c)(4) money blitz in 2012, Rove is also nicely positioned to take the fall for a “Republican Establishment” that failed to make ideology and “vetting” the centerpiece of the anti-Obama drive. As for Dick Morris–well, he’s the same unprincipled self-promoter he’s always been.

Putting Rove and Morris “on the bench” is precisely what you would expect from conservatives looking for a way to shift blame after another electoral defeat. The idea that it means Fox is coming to grips with the error of its ideological ways is leap of logic and faith unjustified by anything we’ve seen so far.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.