The Republican National Committee is flexing its acutely atrophied muscles this morning with a nearly impotent threat aimed at their foes in the mainstream media.
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This is just too funny. RNC chair Reince Priebus has sent letters to the heads of CNN and NBC to protest their plans to produce projects about Hillary Clinton, who is a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Priebus is very upset and is issuing an ultimatum to the networks that will surely cause them to lose sleep – due to their uncontrollable fits of laughter.
What isn’t so funny is a political party that thinks it has the right to demand that entertainment producers bend to its will. In fact, it’s an open assault on freedom of expression. It would be one thing for the RNC to decline to work with a network that it believes has a partisan slant against them. But it is something else entirely to threaten a network in order to force them to alter specific programming.
Priebus begins his missive by whining about the perceived bias that has been a part of the GOP gospel for decades:
“It’s appalling to know executives at major networks like NBC and CNN who have donated to Democrats and Hillary Clinton have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives.”
Appalling indeed! I’m sure that Priebus is just as disturbed by the million dollar gift that Fox News (News Corp) gave to the Republican Governor’s Association, and all the other right-wingers at Fox who have donated to Republicans, including News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch. And there is no network that has so brazenly acted as a partisan campaign operative than Fox News, the PR division of the GOP. Priebus’ letter to Fox must still be in the mail. In the meantime, he is making his position to CNN and NBC crystal clear:
“If they have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote stating that the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor.”
Oh my. If CNN and NBC were unable to acquire any of the GOP primary debates they might be forced to schedule interesting and entertaining programs instead. That’ll show ’em.
Let’s face it, the RNC has never been thrilled about putting their candidates in situations where they might face fair questions about their records and policy positions. They herd them onto Fox News where they can expect softballs and gushing praise. During the 2012 campaign right-wingers like Hugh Hewitt and Breitbart’s John Nolte were counseling the RNC to ban debates hosted by what they believed to be unfriendly media. Sarah Palin was advising Republicans to “speak through Fox News.”
The best thing that could happen to the Democrats is for Republicans to sequester themselves in the bosom of Fox News. It would limit their exposure to the broader electorate and the independents they need to win. It would also insure that their candidates were unvetted and unprepared for the real-life battles of a campaign. If they spend the primary season being fluffed by Fox, when they eventually face the general election they will be surprised by sharp criticisms from which they were shielded in their chummy primary.
One positive aspect of this strategy is that fewer voters, and a more narrow, conservative subset, would see the primary telecasts. Considering how often the GOP candidates in 2012 embarrassed themselves, that could be a benefit. Of course, those segments would still be looped on every other news broadcast the following day, so the benefit would be short lived.
By giving CNN and NBC the cold shoulder, the RNC increases the likelihood that only voters who have already decided to vote Republican will see the debate in its entirety. And while that limits their exposure to gaffes, it also limits their opportunity to make an appeal to undecided voters. Since Priebus has already promised to hold fewer debates in the future, the GOP’s visibility to anyone outside their circle shrinks considerably. The result is that GOP primary voters will be more partisan, more extreme, and more out of pace with the general population. That’s a recipe for a Republican nominee who will lead the party to a massive defeat.
Ironically, the motivation for the Priebus ultimatum is the prospect of a couple of Hillary Clinton projects being released several months prior to the 2016 election. That was precisely the issue that sparked the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling that now permits corporations and individuals to make unlimited, anonymous donations to political campaigns. At the time, Republicans were fiercely supportive of the Citizen’s United production and its release just a few weeks prior to an election. Now they are just as fiercely opposed to it.
What’s more, Priebus accuses the networks of producing a “political ad masquerading as an unbiased production.” How he arrived at that conclusion he doesn’t say. He has not seen either production or spoken with the producers. He has no idea whether they will be complimentary, derogatory, or neutral representations of Clinton. He is making a wholly uninformed assumption and using that as the basis of his attempt to bully the networks.
So let the RNC snub CNN and NBC and any other “lamestream” media that they are afraid of. Let them take their balls and go home to Fox News where their cult-like disciples will embrace them with enthusiasm. It will only result in there being less of their obnoxious blather littering the television landscape and a better chance of them losing in November of 2016. Nice work Reince.
[Update: Priebus took his whining to (where else) Fox News last night and reiterated his silly ultimatum. Meanwhile, both CNN and NBC have refused to cave saying that it is “premature” to judge the projects that are not even in production at this time. Priebus gave an 8/14 deadline for the networks to comply. Here’s hoping he is dumb enough to follow through.