I used to appreciate the Fox News appearances of former Bill Clinton adviser, Dick Morris. I thought he brought a unique and informed perspective to his political analysis. His observations were insightful, his take on events made sense, and his bold predictions were thought-provoking.
Many others clearly felt the same way. In addition to pulling in a lot of domestic and international consulting work during his time with Fox, he also wrote a barrage of books that did quite well thanks to heavy (and routinely over-the-top) self-promotion on the news network.
Morris has an undeniable gift for successful laying out his unconventional observations with logical arguments that strike a chord with people. That gift has made him an intriguing public figure and a regular fixture on Fox News’ prime-time lineup over the years.
With that being said, Fox absolutely did the right thing by choosing not to renew Morris’ contract this year.
In the end, the decision came down to, as Morris inferred on Piers Morgan’s CNN show this week, simple credibility. Morris was being paid by Fox not just for his gift for gab, but also for his expertise. And when you’re being paid for your expertise, you have to demonstrate that the claims you make – especially when you make them with absolute certainty – are ‘right’ more often than not. Sure, you can get away with sometimes being wrong, but Morris’ big problem is that he was almost always wrong.
The final straw was his most recent and now most famous flub: His unabashed insistence that Mitt Romney would not only win the 2012 presidential election, but win it in a “landslide”. His long history of botching forecasts, however, certainly predates last year’s election.
Here are just a few of the more notable examples:
Morris told us that the Republicans would take the U.S. Senate in 2010. Two years later, he told us the same thing, declaring a pick-up of 10 seats including easy victories for candidates that in some cases ended up losing by wide margins.
He told us in 2011 that it was “very possible” that President Obama wouldn’t even run for re-election due to poor poll numbers.
He told us that Donald Trump was going to run for the presidency, had a “good shot” at winning the Republican nomination, and could likely beat Obama in the general election.
He told us that the 2008 presidential race would be between Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. His rationale was that Obama couldn’t beat Clinton, and the Republicans would “never” elect John McCain as their general election candidate.
I could list several more, but you probably get my point.
Sure, lots of reputable people get predictions wrong, but Morris has built his reputation largely on his proclaimed ability to read the electorate, interpret the political tides, and fearlessly predict outcomes – outcomes that he portrays as inevitable. It’s what got him a position in the Clinton White House and it’s what got him a position on Fox News. Morris has marketed himself on that expertise, distinguished himself with it, and has earned quite a living off of it. Such a person should be held to the level of competence that they’ve set for them self. When that person can’t even come close to performing at that level, what exactly is their value as an expert?
I think that’s the question the higher-ups at Fox News finally asked themselves after the presidential election.
As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me consistently, why are we still paying this guy?”
I figured out a while back that Morris’ predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, and I think many others reached the same conclusion even before the 2012 election. You just can’t be routinely wrong and expect people to keep putting stock in what you have to say.
While some have suggested that Morris knowingly misleads viewers and readers in order to help the candidates and organizations he supports, I’m not all that convinced. He may very well believe in his own prophecies and his own hype. If that’s the case, I wish him luck in his future endeavors. I just won’t be missing him on Fox.
The irony is that if Dick Morris had been right about the Romney “landslide”, his past goofs would have been largely forgotten, and his winning gamble would have certainly propelled him onto the A-list of this country’s great political minds. But as any good capitalist knows, risk doesn’t always lead to reward. When someone puts themselves as far out on the edge of a diving board as Morris did, they have to understand that the big splash they’re about to make might just come in the form of a belly-flop.
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