At this point, the Republican National Committee is just acting childish.
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the RNC has laid down a challenge to CNN and NBC: cancel planned projects about former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, or the Republicans will not "partner with" either network "in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor."
The quotes are from letters Priebus sent to the two networks, by the way.
So, basically, what the RNC is saying, "if you don't play by our rules, we're going to take our toys and go home." In essence, they are threatening to flounce. Kids flounce. Divas flounce. Responsible adults, and organizations run by responsible adults, do not flounce.
Of course, what the RNC is claiming is that the programs, a feature-length documentary to be aired by CNN sometime next year and a four-part miniseries scheduled to be shown on NBC in 2015, are really just elaborate campaign ads, efforts to promote Clinton ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign. Which I find kind of funny, considering that there is no indication at this point from Clinton or anyone else that she is going to make another run for the White House.
To their credit, both CNN and NBC have said they will continue to participate in the projects, while NBC has pointed out that the mini-series they plan to broadcast is under the auspices of their entertainment division and has nothing to do with their news division.
I think there a couple of things going on here.
First of all, this is just another attempt by the ruling right wing of the Republican Party to control the national conversation. This is nothing new. They have previously shown a willingness to do anything they need to in order to be able to define the rules of the campaign and control the information that the American people are allowed to receive. They want, specifically, to have the deciding say in where the primary debates are held, who can participate in them, who can moderate them, what questions are asked during the debates, and who can broadcast them.
The issue of who can participate in primary debates, which are between members of one party, is particularly problematic for the Republicans, who complained during the 2012 primaries that, especially early on, too many Republican candidates were allowed to participate, taking the focus off the two or three candidates in their party who the RNC wanted to be perceived as the front-runners. Here, again, the RNC's control issues are apparent, with them wanting to be able to decide even which candidates should be taken seriously.
This is not to say that I think all of the candidates among the Republicans in the last election cycle should have been taken seriously. Clearly, some of them were not only not really serious but not even close to qualified. But I also think that there were candidates who had serious qualifications who were quickly marginalized by the party leadership because they were not seen as sufficiently to the right. I think that during the primaries any candidate who can put together enough money, enough supporters, and enough media attention to be visible nationally should get to participate in debates, at least until the various primaries, caucuses, and state conventions start showing who the public considers to be the viable candidates by winning votes and endorsements.
The other thing, I think, that is going on, is an attempt to sabotage the existence of primary debates altogether. The Republicans, or the leadership, at least, have very vocally complained about the number of debates last primary season. I think the problem they see is that, in the debates, the candidates started to say what they really believe and, in some cases, showed themselves for who they really are, and in some cases (I'm looking at you, Rick Perry) how incompetent they really are to run anything, much less the most powerful nation in the world.
I think the Republican Party apparatus would be just as happy if their candidates did not have to participate in any debates, did not have to talk to the press at all, and didn't have to make any statements about where they really stand on issues. Look at the end of the 2012 presidential campaign, after the conventions. How long did Mitt Romney go without making any statements to the media at all following the revelation of "47 percent" comments that got him in so much trouble? The RNC knows that their candidates' positions on many issues do not resonate with many, many people in the country, including many, many Republicans. They realize that their candidates have a better chance of being elected if the voters don't know their candidates' positions on the issues.
There is a third thing going on, I think, around this attempt to prevent the airing of projects concerning Clinton. Ever since Bill Clinton was elected president, actually ever since before that election, the Republican leadership has made no secret of their hatred for the Clintons, both Hillary and Bill. I think something else they are trying to do here is to erase, to the extent they can, all mention of the former President and the former Secretary of State. It's kind of like the thing that used to happen in ancient Egypt, where an incoming ruler would sometimes to back and obliterate all mention of the former pharaoh by physically scratching his (or her; there were a few female pharaohs) name from every monument they ever had erected.
So, the Republican leadership are showing their asses again. This really should not be a surprise. But you'd think that they would at least hire spokespersons who can conduct himself like an adult, rather than employing people like Reince Priebus, who sounded like a child in a report about this issue, broadcast by ABC News, where he is seen saying that "we are done playing in the sandbox..." in relation to his demands to CNN and NBC.
Priebus might as well have thrown a tantrum, stomped his feet, and come right out and said, "Do what we want, or we're taking our toys and going home."