MultiPloy

August 7th, 2013
Something that Republicans can still do with aplomb is to play the media game. While right-wing individuals tend to say incredibly idiotic stuff, like that a woman's body can repel a rapist's sperm, the party mechanism itself is very finely honed. Take one of their latest gambits: they threaten to cancel primary debates on CNN and NBC if they go forward with planned programming featuring Hillary Clinton. NBC plans to make a miniseries, while CNN will produce a documentary. The GOP objection is expressed in this letter, to NBC:
As an American company, you have every right to air programming of your choice. But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded at your actions. which appear to be a major networks' thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election. ... I find this disturbing and disappointing. NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton's nascent campaign. ... If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC's Summer Meting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.
Like both networks did in 2006, right? Oh, wait, they didn't. Hillary was also known to be a candidate then, was also seen as the inevitable front-runner, etc. etc.—so if NBC and CNN are so “in the tank” for her, why nothing on her back then? The answer, of course, is that right now a program featuring Hillary is most likely to gain viewers. That is always the bottom line, of course. But the GOP isn't doing this for nothing. They get several benefits:
  • They get to paint themselves as victims; victims always get vaulted status and special breaks
  • They get to perpetuate the myth that the media is liberally biased, when the most-watched “news” network is essentially their 24-7 propaganda machine
  • They get to cry “election theft” way in advance, even as they set up the largest number of laws which amount to thinly-veiled election theft
  • They get to influence people's reactions to the programming and smear Hillary, putting forth the assumption that any TV show about her will put her in a better light than reality
  • They get to “play the ref” with the networks, a tried-and-true technique whereupon accusation of liberal bias will shift network bias sharply to the right; in this case, either getting said networks to tone down any positive view of Hillary, and/or getting them to play up negatives so as to achieve “balance”
  • They get to hold fewer debates without looking like that's what they intended all along
  • They get to avoid having debates on any network that won't make them into softball beauty pageants, without looking like they are—as they indeed are—deathly afraid of any debate moderator actually acting like a real journalist and pointing out the GOP insanity oozing from their candidates.
The last two points are undoubtedly the most salient; the GOP was in part slaughtered in the previous election by their interminable primary debate streak, which brought forth almost every candidate (except the most reasonable, of course) as a front-runner at least once (and a couple at least twice), causing all the campaigns to expend great amounts of funds and energy fighting against each other, whilst providing tons of ammunition for the opposition, ammunition which was then weeded and honed into devastating attacks against the eventual party candidate. The GOP, without much doubt, would love to limit the number of primary debates to a much smaller number and hold them in venues where they can carefully control the content and exposure—in short, making these debates, until now one of the few raw images of the process, into a scripted media event as fake and as controlled as every other. They know that Hillary will be coming at them like a steamroller, and they know that women will vote in huge numbers for her, challenging and already very challenged Republican party. They have known this for a while, which is one reason they were so excited by Benghazi, because it meant they had a shot of “scandalizing” Hillary and shooting down her chances in 2016. The GOP is not daunted by failure, however, and continues their best to paint her as unfit. Take their brief attempt to characterize her as “too old,” for example. Expect this kind of thing to intensify. There is another aspect to this attack which is disturbing in a different way: manipulation of media. This is hardly anything new for the GOP, but the prospect of a political party threatening the withdrawal of access on the condition of following a party's demands on the networks' programming is more than a bit disturbing. Of course, it has increasingly been the tone for the GOP, from the staged, part-faithful-only “town hall” meetings Bush favored to the increasing tendency of the media to accept highly conditional terms in exchange for access to a candidate. Sarah Palin's “I'm only talking to Fox” technique is becoming the new norm for Republican candidates, who find their craziness and cluelessness harder and harder to conceal when the interviewer is not a partisan hack. And sometimes even then—remember Mitt Romney getting all flustered when a Fox interviewer was not all softballs and praise? The difference with this level of interference, however, is the overt tone. The GOP is making a very open and plain threat: tailor your programming to our preferences, or we cut off your access. I do not think it has been done so overtly or outrageously before. Here is the full text of the letter, with my comments in green italics:
Dear Mr. Greenblatt: I'm writing to you to express my deep disappointment in your company's decision to air a miniseries promoting former Secretary Hillary Clinton ahead of her likely candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. As an American company, you have every right to air programming of your choice. (Unless we disapprove, of course.) But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded at your actions, (and by “many,” we mean “us”) which appear to be a major networks thinly-veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election. (Only Fox is allowed that, you should know that by now.) This special treatment is unfair to the candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016 who might compete against Secretary Clinton (including Vice President Biden (like he'll actually have a chance!), Governors O'Malley, Cuomo, and Hickenlooper, Senator Klobuchar and others (because all of those are serious contenders who have a real chance to… HAR! COuldn't keep a straight face here, sorry.)) and to the Republican nominee, should Clinton compete in the general election. There's ample cause for concern. Executives and employees of Comcast, NBC's parent company, have been generous supporters of Democrats and Secretary Clinton. David Cohen, Comcast's EVP, raised over $1 4 million for President Obama's reelection efforts and hosted a fundraiser for the president. (Funny, they had no problem when Comcast CEO Neil Smit was a big Republican donor.) Comcast Corp. employees have donated $522,996 to the president and donated $161,640 to Secretary Clinton's previous campaigns. (How much went to Republicans? And if we surveyed Fox employees, what would we see?) Your company has expressly stated that your choice to air the miniseries in the near future would avoid concerns of running afoul of equal time election laws. (Because we are really in favor of equal-time laws!) This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate, not to mention a guilty conscience. (Again, that's Fox News' job!) Liberals complained noisily when Citizens United sought to air a pay-per-view documentary on Hillary Clinton prior to the 2008 election, and yet they're conspicuously silent now that NBC is launching 2 miniseries on network television. (Because that is exactly the same thing—a political smear job by a Koch-funded conservative campaign group is equal to a non-affiliated TV network making a mainstream miniseries.) I find this disturbing and disappointing. (That's my job.) NBC cannot purport to be a neutral party in American politics, and the credibility of NBC News, already damaged by the partisanship of MSNBC, will be further undermined by the actions of NBC Universal executives who have taken it upon themselves to produce an extended commercial for Secretary Clinton's nascent campaign. (Remember, Fox News is fair and balanced—no hypocrisy here!) Secretary Clinton has been in the public eye for well over two decades, so you certainly cannot claim that a series about her political career is any sort of public service or informational docudrama on an unknown individual. (Because TV networks never make dramas about people who are well-known!) Quite the opposite is true: it would be most accurately described as an in-kind donation. (Which is really different than having your own 24/7 news channel.) Out of a sense of fairness and decency and in the interest of the political process and your company's reputation, I call on you to cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production. (Or, make it about how Hillary killed Vince Foster. We'd love that!) If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC's Summer Meting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor. (Which is what we plan to do anyway, unless you agree to partner in name only while we control everything.)
I love the part where they state that such programs would be unfair to Governor Hickenlooper and Senator Klobuchar. It is actually hard to tell if they are trying to make fun of Democrats or are seriously positing these candidates as serious primary threats to Clinton.

  1. Tim
    August 9th, 2013 at 15:16 | #1

    Dear Reince Priebus, and Republican National Committee:

    Your request for the cancellation of any mini-series regarding the life and times of Hillary Clinton is duly noted.

    As an independent media company, we wince at doing favors for political parties, and are not inclined to do so. But as you might recall, we’ve already granted you one favor. When it comes to favors to political parties our policy is “one and done”.

    You should recall, we did your party a major favor in not presenting any mini-series or documentaries on the life and times of George W. Bush prior to the 2000 election. Any such fair and responsible treatment of that man would have demonstrated a long tenure of the man as an angry drunk, followed by a brief tenure as a dry drunk.

    Such treatment would have been a responsible service to the public. Any unbiased assessment would note that Mr. Bush was handed the keys to the country when it was at, or near, its peak, and the peak for any country in history. In the span of eight years he ran that country into the ground and left it as a still collapsing wreck upon his exit. In fact, Mr. Bush ruled the country much the way you’d expect of a dry drunk. Quite reckless.

    Mr. Bush was handed a country with unassailable prestige. No deficits. Now wars. At peace. At prosperity. Near full employment. He spent his first 9 months almost purposely under reacting to the threat of terrorism, and then spent the rest of his tenure over reacting to it. He allowed a cave dwelling terrorist in a remote impoverished land do what neither Nazi Germany nor Soviet Russia was able to: successfully attack New York. By the time he left office, a total of three major American cities have been devastated: Manhattan, New Orleans and Detroit.

    By January 2001, America was in a mild recession. We had reached “supply side” saturation. The indicators were the cries for greater deregulation, after a 20 year period of deregulation, and the dot com implosion, suggesting there was too much supply and too little demand. This is dangerous for any economy based on free markets, market being a euphemism for demand, and so in such an economy, demand is 70% of all activity. So, by January 2002, the easy, simple, logical response was to implement demand side economics. Mr. Bush, instead, pored the coals on supply side economics, moving a further $12 trillion from the demand side of our economy to the supply side. When credit markets ran out, the economy imploded, pulling the financial industry down with it. Again, this is the kind of thing you might expect from a dry drunk who had taken the helm of the worlds largest economy. From the heights of prosperity, Mr. Bush nearly destroyed the entire economy and global civilization along with it, in 8 short years.

    When he entered office, Mr. Bush complained about the economy that Clinton left him in – a mild recession. He used to say that Clinton should get credit for the job losses for the first 9 months of his presidency. When Mr. Bush left office America was hemorrhaging jobs at a rate of 800,000 a month, did so for months afterwords. Indeed, from January 2008 until February 2010 America lost over 8 million jobs. Mr. Bush’s complaints about having to take credit for Clinton’s recession suddenly became muted when Mr. Obama had to manage with the disaster Mr. Bush gave him.

    Rodney Dangerfield is famous for saying “if you want to look skinny, stand next to someone fatter than you.”

    This is what we at NBC feel is your real fear. The Republican party has done a good job of holding down economic prosperity during the Obama years. Still, after suffering the loss of four million jobs during the first year after the Bush years, if trends hold up, Obama will still be able to say he created 8 to 10 million PRIVATE sector jobs. Bush created no private sector jobs, in fact, he lost 1.5 million private sector jobs. But all that is trivial compared to Clinton, who created over 20 million private sector jobs.

    By 2016, the normal 20 year cycle for nostalgia (who can forget the powerful effect of American Graffiti’s celebration of the 1950s during the 1970s?) should be hitting high tide. We here at NBC will be forced to consider reunions for the casts from NBC staples from the 1990s: ER, Seinfeld and Friends. Those are going to trigger found memories of better times before Bush came to power – will you be writing us letters to not run those reunions too?

    Nostalgia plus the solid memory of a well run nation, a prosperous nation, with plenty of jobs is going to make the appeal of Hillary Clinton overwhelming for the public. You’ve done yourselves no favors by doing your best to hold down economic recovery for these last five years, because doing so makes the nostalgia for the Clintons that much more potent. NBC would not be acting in the best interest of our shareholders if we did not act upon capitalizing on what we believe will be intense nostalgia and interest for the Clinton years, manifested in the life and times of Hillary Clinton.

    Now, your concern for Senator Klobuchar’s has been noted. But are we to presume that you speak in her best interest when you are in a competing party? Anyway, woman that she is, she’s man enough to not be afraid of us running a mini-series on Hillary Clinton. Anyway, we’ve received no such letters from her. Keep in mind, she is a Senator in the Federal Government. If she has a problem with us she can send us her own letters.

    Look, your policies had their day. If they worked, you wouldn’t be so spooked by the spector of a 69 year old women running for President.

    I’ll tell you what we will do: we will reconsider running a mini-series on the life and times of George Bush, to remind people what Republican governance means. If you come up with some Republicans interesting enough for us consider running a miniseries on, and we’ll also give that a hard look.

    Kindest regards,
    NBC Universal

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