The Best Defense

Tom's Wednesday: Fox on the run?

By coincidence, I was over at Fox News headquarters in midtown Manhattan yesterday morning, just as the election results were setting in incontrovertible concrete. The scene reminded me of something that David Eisenhower once said to me about living in the Nixon White House during Watergate: "It was painful for others, but you know, it sure was interesting for me." At Fox, the faces in the hallways were sober but chin-up. There clearly was some head-scratching going on. Like, "Hey, perhaps the Republican Party shouldn't have dissed women, Hispanics, the poor and the rest of the electorate so much?"

I wonder if the jig is up for Fox: On election night they looked like they couldn't decide whether they were a political party or a news network. That peculiar combination is no longer working. It was kind of like being in the line yesterday at Romney's D.C. transition office to hand in your cell phones. Or, if you're into 1962,  like being at U. Miss. 

On the other hand, Obama's re-election may have helped the Fox MO. After all, it is much easier to work in opposition. You don't have to deal with messy realities, or defend the awkward compromises that come with it, and can criticize at will. That likely will be the case come Monday, when Fox will have their memory banks adequately scrubbed. So maybe their business model is safe -- despite it being built on the rubble of the national comity.    

The Best Defense

The British lesson of the Industrial Revolution: The drawbacks to being 1st

One of the drawbacks to being the pioneer in the Industrial Revolution, Paul Kennedy writes in The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, was that the British, being first, simply were not accustomed to competition. Hence both their industrial and social practices were encumbered, he writes, by "complacency and inefficiency."

As a result, he continued, the British educational system failed to keep pace with the Americans and Germans in churning out engineers and technologists. And even when innovators surfaced, they did not necessarily succeed. Britain was a major innovator in the steel industry, he writes, but was surpassed because its wealthy did not back innovation with investments.