The Republican National Committee’s ouster of CNN and NBC as 2016 GOP debate hosts over their Hillary Rodham Clinton programs is decidedly premature. It’s also small-minded.
If the CNN documentary and the NBC miniseries beatify Clinton or tacitly endorse her presidential campaign, it might be fitting for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to say the networks disqualified themselves from moderating GOP debates.
If that’s the tenor of the programs, they’ll also bomb with the public — though Priebus’ fussing about them in advance has already given them a publicity boost.
On the other hand, if the programs are serious examinations of Clinton’s career, they can’t possibly be hagiographic. She has a decidedly mixed record. Her management of health care reform in 1993 was a disaster. She was a hard-working senator, but she ran a terrible 2008 presidential campaign. And she can't point to a single policy success as secretary of State. And, to put it mildly, her personal life has been complicated, the stuff of soap opera.
A penetrating documentary or miniseries might well do her presidential campaign more harm than good. That would make Priebus look silly.
My hunch is that he’s trumped up a spat with CNN and NBC — read, “the liberal media” — to bolster his personal standing in the party and win backing for reforms that include aggressive minority outreach, expensive technological upgrades, fewer presidential primary debates and a shortened primary season.
All good steps, but the party’s true problems lie more in substance and image than mechanics. Trying to muscle TV networks to cancel shows of unknown content makes the party look small.