Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roger Ailes sees "shoot," and swoons

A few posts back, while trying to articulate a warning that Rick Perry had implicitly endorsed an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations, I wondered if this veiled threat might be written off as campaign bluster.  A story about Andrew Jackson, which I had read in Robert Remini's biography, popped into my head at that point.

When Jackson was sitting as a Superior Court judge in Tennessee, "a great, hulking fellow named Russell Bean, who had been indicted for cutting off the ears of his infant child in a 'drunken frolic,' paraded before the court, cursed judge, jury and all assembled, and then marched out the door."  Jackson ordered his arrest, but no one dared do it, as Bean threatened to shoot "'the first skunk who came within ten feet of him'." Jackson called a ten-minute recess and took matters into his own hands:

Bean was standing a short distance from the court, in the center of a crowd, cursing and flourishing his weapons and vowing death to all who might attempt to arrest him.

Mr. Justice Jackson walked straight toward the man, a pistol in each hand. "Now," he roared, staring into the eyes of the ruffian, "surrender, you infernal villain, this very instant, or I'll blow you through."
Bean surrendered meekly. Asked why, days later, he said, "when he came up, I looked him in the eye, and I saw shoot, and there wasn't shoot in nary other eye in the crowd'" (pp. 43-44).

I wonder whether this oft-retold piece of American political lore (e.g., recounted by this blogger in 2007, who perhaps worried that George W. Bush wasn't trigger-happy enough) was not kicking around in Roger Ailes' mind when he offered this assessment of Perry to Howard Kurtz:
Ailes concluded that Perry had a look that 'if he tells people he's gonna kick their ass, he might actually do it, which is useful for a president."
In this, if in nothing else, I credit Roger Ailes' judgment. And yes, it's necessary that at appropriate moments people see "shoot" in a President's eyes.  But of course, lots of people, from the corner drug dealer to history's worst mass murderers, possess that necessary but insufficient qualification for leadership.

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