Ailes’ many frustrations

I’ll give Roger Ailes one thing: he makes for great magazine copy.

The Fox News chief has already been the subject of some terrific profile pieces, but as Gabriel Sherman helps prove, there’s still more story to tell.

In the latest piece, we see that Ailes has been “more interested in a real narrative than a television narrative — he wanted to elect a president.” He put several possible GOP candidates on the Fox News payroll, but all of them were coming up short.

All he had to do was watch Fox’s May 5 debate in South Carolina to see what a mess the field was — a mess partly created by the loudmouths he’d given airtime to and a tea party he’d nurtured. And, not incidentally, a strong Republican candidate would be good for his business, too. A few months ago, Ailes called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the race. Last summer, he’d invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes’s calls to run. Ailes had also hoped that David Petraeus would run for president, but Petraeus too has decided to sit this election out, choosing to stay on the counterterrorism front lines as the head of Barack Obama’s CIA. […]

All the 2012 candidates know that Ailes is a crucial constituency. “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger,” one GOPer told me. “Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.” But he hasn’t found any of them, including the adults in the room — Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney — compelling. “He finds flaws in every one,” says a person familiar with his thinking.

Ailes also apparently thinks Sarah Palin is “an idiot.”

Indeed, the New York piece is filled with interesting tidbits. Ailes, for example, threatened to quit if Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post endorsed Obama in 2008. The same year, a Fox News producer complained that the McCain campaign was limiting access to Palin, so Ailes banished the producer from Fox News airwaves until she quit.

This anecdote was also fascinating:

Going back to the 2008 campaign, Axelrod had maintained an off-the-¬record dialogue with Ailes. He had faced off against Ailes in a U.S. Senate campaign in the early eighties and respected him as a fellow political warrior and shaper of narrative. But early on, Axelrod learned he couldn’t change Ailes’s outlook on Obama. In one meeting in 2008, Ailes told Axelrod that he was concerned that Obama wanted to create a national police force.

“You can’t be serious,” Axelrod replied. “What makes you think that?” […]

Later, Axelrod related in a conversation that the exchange was the moment he realized Ailes truly believed what he was broadcasting.

And given that Ailes appears to be mad as a hatter, that’s not encouraging.

Update: Fox News’ executive vice president of programming issued a statement today, arguing that Ailes does not think the former half-term governor is an “idiot,” the New York article notwithstanding. The statement added that Ailes thinks Palin is “smart,” and then complained about “members of the left-wing media.”