From the earliest planning stages of the 2016 Republican primary, the party has demonstrated a foreboding fear of the public finding out anything useful about their candidates. To the contrary, they are more worried that what voters might learn will only make them nauseous. So the party honchos severely shortened the debate schedule and limited media access to friendly venues, particularly Fox News which was given more of the debates (five in all) than any other network. Additionally, the other networks were required by the Republican National Committee to include conservative co-sponsors and moderators, a requirement to which Fox was not held. This is the unmistakable behavior of a party that’s afraid of American voters.
Over the course of the campaign the RNC has repeatedly made decisions that affirm their state of fear. RNC chairman Reince Priebus admitted that the party was set on transforming what is supposed to be an open dialog that provides voters with an informative look at the candidates, into a PR vehicle that functions more like propaganda. If Republicans want a fully scripted television farce, they should be forced to buy the time like any other telemarketer. But Priebus was focused on producing GOP infomercials saying that…
“The thing that is ridiculous is allowing moderators, who are not serving the best interests of the candidate and the party, to actually be the people to be deposing our people. And I think that’s totally wrong.”
In his view the debates were there to serve the interests of the party, not the voters. Any attempt to draw out anything substantive from the candidates was frowned upon. That’s why after a contentious debate hosted by CNBC, the RNC revoked the only remaining debate scheduled for NBC. The party was punishing the network for doing its job.
This week National Review published a special issue entitled “Against Trump” that contained a series of short essays making the conservative case for ditching Donald Trump. The issue featured your favorite wingnut authors who were generally opposed to Trump’s lack of conservative credentials, principles, or any platform details. The issue opened saying that…
“Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”
It’s somewhat disarming (and a little heartwarming) to see a right-wing publication describe their party’s front-runner as a strong-man akin to Stalin or Mussolini. But coming from a source with diverse conservative voices like Glenn Beck, Bill Krystal, Erick Erickseon, and John Podhoretz, didn’t stop the RNC from striking back and “disinviting” the magazine from co-sponsoring an upcoming debate with CNN. Since when does a party committee get to decide for a news organization who they partner with? This is an unprecedented intrusion into the jurisdiction of journalism, and CNN is just as complicit for capitulating. It makes you wonder if the RNC is also dictating who the moderators are and what the questions will be.
While the RNC was quick to dump the National Review, their inherent prejudice was illustrated by exempting their friends at Fox News from any retaliation. After all, four of the National Review essays came from Fox News regulars Katie Pavlich, Cal Thomas, Dana Loesch, and Brent Bozell. So if you speak out against Trump you can say goodbye to any debate participation – unless you’re Fox News.
The media is shamefully abdicating their role in these debates while the RNC is bending over backwards to placate one candidate to the detriment of all the others. National Review was jettisoned solely because of the perceived slight of Donald Trump. Trump was also a prominent objector to NBC hosting a debate. He was also the reason that the New Hampshire Union Leader was removed as a co-host for an ABC debate. Perhaps the RNC should change their name to the Trump National Committee. Or maybe the Republican National Wusses.
But that wasn’t the end of it. A few weeks ago Trump tried to get the RNC to cancel a GOP primary debate on Univision, which was a bold move considering that Univision was never scheduled to host one. Trump had already banned all Univision employees from his golf resorts, an optically disturbing action that prohibited minorities from his country clubs. What’s more, Trump has also threatened that if Telemundo was involved with a debate he would walk. It remains to be seen if he will follow through on that threat since Telemundo is currently listed as a co-host for CNN’s debate. If Trump succeeds in getting Telemundo axed there will be no GOP debates at all that included any minority news organization.
Most recently Trump tweeted this about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: “Based on @MegynKelly’s conflict of interest and bias she should not be allowed to be a moderator of the next debate.” He seems not to know what a conflict of interest is, but as for bias, he is simply referring to his objection to an entirely appropriate question she asked him in the first GOP debate. She asked him to explain his many derogatory references to women. He dodged the question and complained about political correctness, and after the debate he accused Kelly of having been hormonal. That led to a prolonged series of attacks on her. If Kelly worked for some other network it would probably have already been removed as a debate host. However, as established above, Fox News will not likely suffer any consequences.
[Update: Trump is hinting that he might boycott the upcoming GOP debate on Fox News unless they drop Kelly as a moderator. He’s saying he might hold his own televised townhall to compete with it. Fox is, so far, refusing to capitulate saying “Sooner or later Donald Trump even if he’s president, is going to have to learn that he doesn’t get to pick the journalists. We’re very surprised he’s willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly.” Fox deserves credit for standing firm, and it’s pretty cagey of them to accuse Trump of cowardice, but don’t bet on Trump sitting this out. However, the RNC, which demanded the exclusion of the Union Leader in New Hampshire, has said they are keeping out of this dispute because – well, it’s Fox News]
What this tells us is that Reince Priebus is the weakest Republican Party chairman in decades. He is letting Trump dictate the terms of the campaign. And the other candidates are keeping their mouths shut. They are all too afraid to demand that their primary be conducted with neutrality and integrity. It is a pathetic display of cowardice by a party so feeble it’s at risk of blowing away. And the thought of facing aggressive questions, even from other conservatives, makes them scurry into the crevices in the floorboards like cockroaches surprised by the light.
Good luck to them when they eventually face actual opponents in the general election. They will be utterly unprepared for battle having sheltered themselves in a cocoon of limp rhetoric that all stems from the same cultish mindset. That may be sufficient to draw support from Republican dimwits who thrive in those pools of ignorance, but it is a recipe for crushing defeat when the broader electorate votes in November.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.