GOP Debate Boycott is politically expedient

2013-08-06 12:33
Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was one of the Republican Party's candidates for 2012, is pictured in this file photo at the Black Hawk County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Waterloo, Iowa. (File, AP)

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was one of the Republican Party's candidates for 2012, is pictured in this file photo at the Black Hawk County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner in Waterloo, Iowa. (File, AP)

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Chicago - According to a News24 article on Monday, Republicans threatened NBC and CNN with a boycott of their networks because both plan producing and flighting movies about Hillary Clinton, who is widely presumed to be the next Democratic presidential nominee.
Republican National Committee (RNC) chairperson Reince Priebus, who surprisingly retained his job without an opposing candidate after the party’s dismal 2012 election, sent a letter to the two networks claiming that if they don’t pull these plans, “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.”
At first I thought it rather peculiar that Priebus would take issue with news networks creating and televising documentaries about probably the most newsworthy woman in the USA, until I cast my mind back to the 20 Republican primary debates that preceded Mitt Romney’s eventual nomination in August last year. Quite simply, the glut of performances by a field of weak and mightily bizarre candidates was not good for the party’s PR machine – it is in the party’s best interests to cut the number of debates, and Priebus is taking this gilded opportunity with both hands, to cut the number of debates without looking like he is running away from what happened the last time Republicans gave it a go.
There is not a political campaign of any sort with a team large enough to keep pace with some of the candidates who ran (specifically I am thinking of Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain), and in fact the RNC’s autopsy report which was published in January called for the amount to be reduced: “The number of debates has become ridiculous, and they’re taking candidates away from other important campaign activities.”
Now, Priebus is motivated to cut the number of debates anyway – while officially this is because of a Hillary Clinton documentary and the high number of them, it is worth pointing out the scrutiny Republican candidates got in late 2011 and 2012, and recalling why Republican leadership was hoping the ground would swallow them up at times.
Such terrible candidates under such scrutiny so often is a far more likely reason Republicans took the opportunity to bash networks over perceived bias. They are going to be cutting debates anyway, and are taking this opportunity gladly, because among the strong candidates the party will have running in 2016, you can bet your life on a few extremists jumping into the pot, along with predictable aggression.
Personally, I can’t wait. Neither can Jon Stewart or the cast of Saturday Night Live.

  - Simon Williamson is a freelance writer. Follow @simonwillo on Twitter.

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