One of the great things about being part of the conservative movement is that, on a fairly regular basis, rich conservatives will just write you enormous checks just for being conservative. It’s a lot like the way celebrities who reach a certain status level start getting free stuff all the time, and it’s a factor I really wish I knew about when I was first forming my political beliefs. Last night, the Bradley Foundation held a gala ceremony at the Kennedy Center to hand out $250,000 checks to this year’s winners of its annual award, which this year included Mitch Daniels, right-wing Über-intellectual Yuval Levin, Obamacare almost-slayer Paul Clement, and Roger Ailes.
What social or even political purpose is served by writing checks to a man who earned $21 million in total compensation last year? Well, the Bradley Foundation is dedicated to “preserving and defending the tradition of free representative government and private enterprise” and especially believes that “responsible self-government depends on enlightened citizens and informed public opinion,” so one can easily see why Ailes earned special recognition.
The Fox News chairman gave an address demonstrating his value to these ideals, at least as the Bradley Foundation understands them. Here was one priceless Ailes riff:
A few other hot news topics these days include the IRS. The federal government is about to hire 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce health care. Forty-seven new tax increases! No wonder they need guns! We already know the IRS is arrogant. They waste as much money as other government agencies. They enjoy pushing people around. And they can't line dance! We don't need 16,000 more people who can't line dance. And we don't need more people with guns enforcing our health care! Hi, granny, get your hands up, we're tired of telling you this, but take your Metamucil.
Ailes here is demonstrating why he is a worthy Bradley award winner. The armed-IRS-agents-threatening-granny is a concoction of utter genius. Each individual assertion in his claim is insane, and he blended the ingredients together into a delicious paranoid stew. Consider:
- The weird idea that the IRS was going to hire 16,000 agents to enforce health care was circulated by Republicans three years ago, and debunked by fact-checkers as a “wildly inaccurate claim.” The agency was authorized to hire some new staff, nowhere near 16,000, most of them not agents, and not for “enforcing” health care but helping process tax credits for businesses to insure their employees.
- “Forty seven new tax increases” is a distortion of a McClatchy report about the IRS carrying out 47 provisions, including things that are the opposite of a tax increase (i.e. “Provide refundable tax credits for companies with fewer than 25 workers that do provide health care coverage; Provide help for lower-income taxpayers who purchase health insurance from a newly created state-run exchange.”
- Agents with guns? Well, apparently Republican representative Jeff Duncan toured the Department of Homeland Security and saw IRS agents training with AR-15s, prompting a predictable wave of outrage from Glenn Beck and like-minded freedom-lovers. The IRS has a small enforcement division. (Anybody watch The Untouchables?) It is not a massive new storm-trooper squad, and it has nothing to do with Obamacare.
- It’s not clear what has connected “granny” to Obamacare in this particular fever dream, since the IRS’s role is confined to people who are of working age and not Medicare eligible. It may be a death-panel reference — an old myth that Fox News continues to recirculate.
Not bad for an ostensible news executive.
The real beauty part is that, after his insanely misinformed rant, Ailes tells an old joke involving a hot-air balloonist, the point of which is that conservatives care a lot about facts, and liberals don’t:
The guy in the balloon said, "You must be a conservative!"
He said, "I am, how did you know that?"
He said, "Well, everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information. In fact, I'm still lost. You haven't been very much help so far."
The guy on the ground said, "You must be a liberal. You don't know where you're going or where you've been. You got to where you are on hot air.
It must have been quite a night at the Kennedy Center. All of the grandees of the movement — Paul Ryan, George Will, Bill Kristol — were in attendance to witness the ultimate affirmation of the spirit of the conservative movement: a fantastically rich man being handed more money for telling lies while presenting himself as a truth-teller.