It doesn’t make sense. This may be his escape hatch, but Rogers over the weekend hinted at his real agenda when he told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that he wouldn’t rule out a run for president in 2016. That may be a stretch, but how about vice president on a Jeb Bush ticket?
What Rogers and his backers are getting is running room.
After a decade of grinding, pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are questioning the wisdom of overseas adventures and the staggering defense budgets needed to support them. They are wary of the domestic spying of intelligence agencies. They have learned of Central Intelligence Agency lies about torture and renditions. They want lower taxes and better roads.
Isolationism, always at play in the American psyche, is again fashionable and a threat for the powerful military-industrial complex. Rogers offers an option to keep their contracts coming. He’s a cold warrior — a hot warrior if necessary — which is what they need to tamp down the influence of defense dove presidential contenders like Rand Paul of Kentucky. Contributions to Rogers campaign and political action committee for the last reporting period came from General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Raytheon. These are big players in the defense industry with deep PAC pockets.
A radio platform with broadcasts in key Republican primary states could give Rogers an outlet to hone his America as policemanof-the-world message. But a career? Is there really a market for another right-wing, middle-aged white man shilling for the Republican Party on AM radio?
Probably, although Rogers, a serious and seasoned politician, may not be cynical enough or sufficiently rabid to succeed in that circus. His radio gig begins next January with the Cumulus network, which promotes a roster of bread-and-games conservative personalities. Rogers couched his decision to move to radio in high-minded, perhaps, presidential terms.
“It gives me a chance to talk to people in their cars, in their living rooms, in their kitchens about these issues — about American exceptionalism, about national security,” he told The Detroit News.
“I believe in being a conservative media you have to move the ball forward,” Rogers said to the Detroit Free Press, adding, “That voice is missing.”
If he listens to conservative talk radio, he should know why it’s missing. Talk radio isn’t about ideas. It’s about ratings and stoking fears and anger. To succeed, Rogers will have to squeeze into an already packed line-up of radio pundits. And he’s joined the junior league. Cumulus is significantly smaller than the Clear Channel operation that features Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
His Cumulus team’s line-up includes these personalities:
Mark Levin: “I feel like Obama has had a hate-on for our economic system since he was a teenager. He had enormous jealousy and hate for the productive sectors of this society.
“Now he is using his presidency to settle scores.”
Phil Valentine: “You can’t waterboard me into a liberal.” His program features a stooge sidekick to laugh at his “jokes.”
Michael Savage: “For some reason ethnic groups are hoodwinked into thinking Obama is on their side and that Obama is really an ethnic who has suffered discrimination when in fact the opposite is true. He is the son of privilege. He never worked a day in his life. ... He found that by pretending to be an oppressed minority he could become president of the United States.
Rogers’ challenge, even if it’s only for a short time, will be taking airtime from these sages. He may believe that radio is an opportunity to “move the ball forward.” Good luck on that. Conservative talk radio is entertainment for an audience built on the overreach of government, evil liberals, activist judges and deep, dark conspiracies, which Rogers lately has embraced.
In January he accused Edward Snowden of plotting with the Russians to steal government secrets. He cited only “clues,” which is very talk radio. Nothing like conspiracy to light up the phone lines. But every day? Not likely.