Will Reince Priebus Dump NBC from GOP Debates? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Will Reince Priebus Dump NBC from GOP Debates?

Imagine this: Fox News selects Karl Rove, a Fox contributor, to moderate a debate between candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2016 nomination. Joining Rove on the panel of questioners will be Dana Perino, a co-host of the Fox show The Five, along with talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham.

The Fox announcement is followed by this statement from the Democratic National Committee:

“The 2016 cycle is underway, and I can tell you it will be a landmark election for Democrats,” Democratic National Committee Chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “By constructing and instituting a sound debate process, it will allow candidates to bring their ideas and vision to Americans in a timely and efficient way. This schedule with a Fox debate ensures we will have a robust discussion among our candidates while also allowing the candidates to focus their time engaging with Democratic voters. This sanctioned debate process ensures Democratic voters will have a chance to gain a chance to hear from our candidates.”

Hilarious, right? If you think Debbie Wasserman Schultz or for that matter any DNC chair would ever — say again ever — accept a Fox News debate moderated by former GOP aides, then there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

This fantasy scenario (recall this rejection of a Fox debate by then-Senator Obama) comes to mind with the news that in the wake of NBC’s Brian Williams fiasco a group called the Conservative War Chest (CWC) has written a letter to Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus asking him to dump NBC as a host of two GOP presidential debates:

The first concern about any NBC presidential debate would be the choice of lead questioners. Even if Mr. Williams has formally left NBC by the time of the debate, many difficulties would remain if the network chose to have its current political director, Chuck Todd, take a major role.

We hope you will take a moment to look at our letter and see the careful presentation of evidence about Mr. Todd’s blatant attempts to help Democrats in the last election and equally objectionable record of trying to cover up Obama administration scandals, while accusing Republicans of “conspiracy theories.” As we also suggested, nothing about this should be too surprising. A former aide to liberal icon Senator Tom Harkin, Mr. Todd lacks the kind of field experience as a journalist that would have taught him the news business is about vigorously investigating government wrongdoing not helping to cover it up, as well as about vigorously avoiding even the appearance of partisanship. Mr. Todd really is “a political activist with access to network TV” and we find objectionable the thought of someone with such meager news credentials putting questions to Republican governors and senators who have through long years of struggle — and not infrequently over the objections of the Chuck Todds of the political world — added historic public achievements to their names. 

Mr. Chairman, rely on it, at any debate Mr. Todd will pull a George Stephanopoulos or Candy Crowley (their 2012 antics are featured in our TV spot) and do what he has been doing since taking over as NBC political director — help the liberal Democrats cover up for the Obama administration and try to damage Republicans. 

Long ago the line was crossed between politics and television news. In the beginning it had some reason to it. President Eisenhower enlisted New York Times reporter James Hagerty — who had also worked for New York GOP governor and presidential nominee Thomas E. Dewey — as White House press secretary. When Eisenhower left the White House Hagerty went to ABC News, first as vice president of news, special events, and public affairs and later as executive vice president for corporate relations. 

Hagerty’s successor as press secretary was JFK’s choice of California journalist Pierre Salinger. Salinger stayed on for a short bit after JFK’s assassination, was appointed to the U.S. Senate from California, lost an election race, and eventually — after further political stints in the 1968 presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy and the 1972 campaign of George McGovern — returned to journalism as a foreign correspondent for ABC News. Years later, in 2000, he was quoted as saying, “If George Bush is elected president, I will leave the country.” Bush won — and Salinger did indeed move to France, later dying there in 2004.

Thus the opening of the gates of television news to former political aides. Since that time everyone from Nixon’s Pat Buchanan and Mario Cuomo’s Tim Russert and Bill Clinton’s George Stephanopoulos have become television fixtures. 

The problem, of course, is that as the nation has become more politically polarized the use of ex-politicos as newsmen has become more political as well. Karl Rove is not a Fox anchor — but Chuck Todd is as the host of Meet the Press. Stephanopoulos is not only an ABC anchor, he openly used his role in a GOP debate to play Democratic strategist, slyly injecting the Democrats’ talking point of the so-called “War on Women” into a question on contraception to an unsuspecting Mitt Romney. No one is suggesting they are bad people. But it is plain as day that they are unable to separate their native partisan leanings from the job of being objective journalists. They are liberal opinion guys disguised as objective journalists — and after long experience, no one is buying anymore. 

Back in August of 2013 Chairman Priebus informed MSNBC that “I’m not going to have you moderate the Republican debates in our primary because you’re not actually interested in the future of the Republican Party and in our nominees.”

Good for Chairman Priebus. He’s halfway there. But as the Brian Williams episode illustrates, the complaint about the culture of NBC is right on the money, too.

Thus the newest outreach to Priebus in this eleven-page letter, as noted here at the Washington Times. The request is plain and well documented. The culture at NBC is a mess, and now that culture has 

It is safe to say that Chairman Priebus would only win plaudits from his party by dumping NBC off the debate schedule. And while he’s at it — I would add — where’s the conservative talk radio panel for these Republican candidates, a place where questions come from panelists who are both right of center and up to speed on the issues?

There is a larger problem here with the American media, which is why, among other things, the networks are losing their audience. But for the moment? One step at a time. Giving NBC even one of these debates let alone two is a mistake. Chairman Priebus should dump NBC from the GOP presidential debate schedule. Pronto.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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