In 1967 Donald Trump was still at Wharton finishing up his economics degree. Roger Ailes was a young producer telling Nixon why media – especially television – mattered. Things do come full circle eventually, if imperfectly. Nearly 50 years later, the question is: does the media star and now political star fear the media magnate? Ok, CEO would in fact be more accurate. The magnate is Murdoch of course, but Roger Ailes nearly 50 years later continues to shape the media landscape.

The Sunday get-together of GOP candidates (including Trump and Carson’s teams) declined, it seems, to impose the conditions they are seeking for future debates on Fox News. They will do so, apparently, with other channels. All this because of the nature of the questioning at the last debate, and the genuine anger of the audience at some of the CNBC moderators in Boulder.

There was tough questioning at the Fox debate in Cleveland, but the audience seemed to love it, and never turned on the moderators the way they did in Colorado. Is it Fox’s brand? And their relationship with their viewers? That has to be part of the answer. Maybe it’s also a case that Fox just knows better how to stage a debate.

Trump and Kelly, of course, started a dust-up that continued well after the debate. With cease-fires and then a resumption of hostilities. That hardly seems to be fearful behavior on the the part of the Donald. But regardless, the candidates decided not to try and dictate terms to Fox. Has media become so powerful that the following words no longer apply?

Intending to correct the licentiousness of the press and to restore the use of orderly language, you first try the offender by a jury: but if the jury acquits him, the opinion which was that of a single individual becomes the opinion of the whole country.

De Toqueville’s meditations on freedom of the press in the then young republic of America continue to resonate. Correcting abuses of the press could lead you to the feet of a despot, as he famously wrote. The problem with these wise words is that many nowadays feel media is the despot. Ted Cruz’s laser guided attack on the moderators was something that was dying to be said. Yet the youthful French aristocrat’s warnings still hold true.

So are the GOP candidates attempting to exert an unwarranted amount of influence on the media? Or just trying to restore a small semblance of orderly language? With the only jury being ratings and poll numbers. If Roger Ailes could sit down with De Toqueville in a television studio in 2015, what would advice would he give the best-selling author? Maybe something like: Alex, look at our ratings.

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