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Hillary Clinton TV Shows Unite Right, Left in Wrongness

The calls from right and left for CNN and NBC to drop Hillary projects amount to: don't make any potentially interesting shows about an active political figure. (And if you do, skew them our way!)

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Daniel Acker / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative CGI America meeting in Chicago, June 13, 2013.

Hillary Clinton has not even declared for President in 2016, yet she is already proving herself a bipartisan leader. The proposed TV projects about her, on NBC and CNN, are uniting right and left in a cross-ideological display of wrongness.

Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee declared that if NBC didn’t cancel its planned Hillary miniseries and CNN a documentary on the former Secretary of State, it would refuse to hold debates on either network. Then David Brock of the left-leaning media-watchdog outlet Media Matters joined the RNC in asking the networks to pull the shows. (Joining both sides, apparently, are Hillary Clinton allies, who reportedly do not want the headaches that might come from either show.)

The Republican objections first; the RNC declared that the programs constitute unfair promotion of a single (potential) Presidential candidate–despite the fact that neither show yet exists. Maybe Republicans believe any show about a political figure is inherently positive, except they don’t when that figure is Republican: witness the conservative reaction to CBS and Showtime’s miniseries about the Reagans, or HBO’s Game Change about Sarah Palin, which were politically attacked before their critics saw them.

(Oh, one exception: Sarah Palin’s Alaska, a series made by TLC in 2010, with Palin’s co-operation. At the time, Palin like Clinton was a party celebrity who was believed to be a possible Presidential candidate, so naturally the RNC also objected strenuously to a TV network giving her singular attention. Um, they did, right? I’m sure those clips must be around here somewhere. Just give me a minute…)

So maybe the reasoning here is that TV networks (excepting, I assume, Fox) are de facto liberal, that their political biographies will necessarily help Democrats and hurt Republicans. The argument then is not really about one Hillary Clinton project, but rather: stop being so liberal with your liberal TV, liberals.

I‘m not going to try to dissuade conservatives who believe in liberal TV bias with one blog post. But assuming that’s all true–that NBC and CNN are liberal institutions who will always stack the deck against Republicans–then whether they do one Hillary Clinton project or not is irrelevant. They remain liberal, so if the RNC truly doesn’t trust them to host debates, that would hold true even if they didn’t make the Hillary projects.

For some reason, this wasn’t a problem for the RNC in the 2008 or 2012 cycles, when it ran approximately one zillion debates on channels including CNN and NBC. Debates are free publicity; parties don’t hold them out of charity for the networks. What’s different in 2016 is that, as my colleague Zeke Miller has noted, the RNC already wants to hold fewer debates, so as to provide less oxygen for distracting up-and-comers like Herman Cain.

Cutting debates to hinder insurgents would offend the Tea Party base, of course–but casting it as a principled, self-sacrificing decision to punish The Liberal Bias Opinion Media would give the party establishment its regimented primary and its base cred too. (By the way, if you’re wondering why I didn’t criticize Democrats for refusing to hold debates on Fox News in the 2007-08 cycle, to cater to its own base: I did.)

Brock’s criticism overlaps the RNC’s in some ways, e.g., that the networks would be giving one candidate more focus than competitors. (By the way, news flash: giving more attention to a famous front-runner than dark-horse competitors is the way pretty much every campaign is covered.) But he also expands on the critique in some weird ways, which boil down to: you shouldn’t make these shows because you might be influenced by the other people who don’t want you to make these shows.

To wit: “Fox News has already done segments suggesting that [each show] will be ‘airbrushed’ or ‘revisionist history’ if it doesn’t include phony scandals like ‘Travelgate,’ ‘Filegate,’ and ‘Whitewater.’” In other words: don’t listen to the other side’s trumped-up concerns trying to spin the public perception of Hillary Clinton! Listen to my trumped-up concerns trying to spin the public perception of Hillary Clinton!

Stripped of their tortured logic and rhetoric, both the conservative and liberal arguments against the Hillary programs amount to: Do not make full-length TV shows about any active political figure, ever. As I’ve said before, if a network produces a love letter or a hit piece on Hillary, it should be criticized as such (and believe me, it will be judged politically regardless).

But to argue that networks have a duty not to make potentially worthy TV because of the risk they might make bad TV is an argument for dull TV. If I can add an open letter to the pile, let me say this to CNN and NBC: ignore the open letters.

17 comments
Ingram091
Ingram091

I say go ahead and let them, but you know it will not include all the illegal activities of the Clinton during her husbands governorship in Arkansas. Or anything during the whole whitewater scandals or her history with copyright holders attacks on private citizens to set an example and threaten the public.  You got travelgate, you got Filegate, she has got the insider cattle futures scandals, and Benghazi coverups...  This women has trouble written all over her face if you look at her legitimately, but of course CNN and NBC will make it a fluff piece showing her as the constant victim and her struggles against powerful forces against her.  I dont believe the American Public is really THAT stupid they will not see it for exactly what it is at that point.  Unlike Obama whom the American public really knew little to nothing about prior to election so he was free to make up his bio as he saw fit and no one would challenge his competence because he is a liberal.  Clinton IS known for what and whom she is.  Despite having tried to make up for their fallacies through the years, her most recent entanglement with Benghazi Coverup scandals for political purposes just goes to prove the laws of the land are for others not them.  And as such proves there incompetence to rule.  So please CNN NBC go ahead and produce your fluff pieces, PBS or someone else will rebuttal it during her election with facts from her life she really does not want rehashed.  And we have not even gotten into the fact that the disgrace of a former President becoming the first dude, to felander about  the White House again. What a joke.  The entire let the poor eat cake ideals of liberals are going to back fire on them soon enough into a bloody war.  Least everyone forget these Arkansas liberals came from poor white trash and are now former president & first lady with millionaire treatment security and private jets paid for by the public for life.  The epitome of Capitalism success, yet their hypocrites cause that is not the path they offer anyone else to follow under their liberal mandates of Anti-American Socialist Regime.

CecilieLarsen
CecilieLarsen

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anti-government
anti-government

Ronald Reagan had a daily syndicated radio show in the years between being Governor of California and running for President in 1976 (and then again from 1977-1980). If Reagan could have media exposure without creating equal time opportunities for others (when he wasn't actively running for office), so can Clinton. The rukles haven't changed and they apply to all candidates from all parties. If one is running for office, the equal time rules apply. If not running (actively, as an announced candidate) the rules do not apply.

There are many people who like Clinton's stand on many issues. She has REAL family values, putting her family ahead of her pride in a way that very few faced with public humiliation are able to do), she is smart, and she can get help from one of the most successful Presidents of the past 50 years, her hubby Bill.

Will anyone watch these shows? Of course. Will thern shows help Clinton or hurt her? I don't know for sure and neithr does she (or the RNC). The exposue is important but what she does with the opportunity is something different.

Thje RNC just wishes they had a Republican with anywhere near the name recognition and qualifications of Hilary Clinton.

YOU GO, GIRL!

CharlesEdwardBrown
CharlesEdwardBrown

Who would watch these shows anyway? They are going to be commercials for Hillary Clinton paid for by the broadcast networks. The RNC is correct on this one.

curt3rd
curt3rd

I think a movie about Hillary would be very entertaining to watch.  The movie could delve into to Whitewater.  You could make a mini series on Whitewater alone.  Then her time as first lady and how Bubba constantly cheated on her.  Maybe Lewinski could make a cameo.  Then you could cap it all off with Benghazi and the numerous other scandal cover ups that she oversaw as her time as Secretary of State. That just sounds like good telivision to me.

sixtymile
sixtymile

The fuse lit on this one when the parties took over control of the debates, and so they become a series of campaign maneuvers dressed up as a public service. Give debate scheduling and control back to LWV and let the parties/candidates take-it-or-leave it!! Broadcasters, you can do it: just tell the boys to "take their ball and go home."

CliffKerr
CliffKerr

I suppose the right would welcome a show about Chris Christie or Rick Perry.  But a show about Hillary Clinton is completely unacceptable.  The stench of equality is grossly unfair to the right's morality.

StevenBerke
StevenBerke

Does anyone remember a cable movie called "D.C. 9/11:Time of Danger"?  There were a whole bunch of 9/11 movies, but this one centered on George W and his cabinet and advisors, and protrayed them in pretty positive terms.  Movie premiered on Showtime on September 9, 2003, two days before the second anniversary of 9/11, and a year and two months before the 2004 presidential election.  Don't recall any Republicans complaining--or any Democrats, for that matter.

gdorrough
gdorrough

And so, the liberal media (yes, Time is liberal) begins it's tap dance well ahead of the next Presidential campaign.

anon76
anon76

@Ingram091 

a)  You forgot to mention that CNN and NBC will never talk about how Clinton bathes in the blood of young Republicans to keep her brain supple.  Good thing we have folks like you around to speak the truth of which the Networks are afraid!

b)  If Obama won in 2008 because of his empty biography, then what explains his success last year after 4 years in office (and with the third highest voter turnout in the last 40+ years)?

c)  Clinton is not liberal.  She is a "Third Way" centrist, as was her husband.  Both of their economic policies favor economic growth and market-oriented solutions to problems, as opposed to your characterization of an "Anti-American Socialist Regime".  If you can't get that basic fact right, then I must assume you have very little in the way of factual information to offer.

betty_clouse
betty_clouse

@anti-government   Hillary Clinton is disgusting and so is her husband!  You are just plain brain dead which the dmeo crates just love brain dead people.  She was the cause of Bengazie murders dummy another socialist idiot!!

gdorrough
gdorrough

@anti-government - You Go Girl is the name of a device made for women so they can pee standing up, kind of like this article.....full of piss.

anti-government
anti-government

@curt3rd The show could focus on her courage in showing REAL family values (unlike the words so many men in both parties say but don't really mean). When faced with public humilation (as public as it gets unless you're Demi Moore) as a result of Monica-gate, she loved her family and made her fmily important enough, to stay with the family rather than quit because her pride was hurt.

VERY FEW PEOPLE (and almost no very proud, very driven, very powerful people) have as much PROVEN COMMITMENT TO FAMILY VALUES (the first of which obviously is a commitment to the marriage itself).

That would make a good show even if she weren't a principal contender for the Democratc nomination for President in 2016.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@curt3rdYou just described why a FOX-produced docu-drama would be nothing but an extended, specious hit-piece and why Poniewozik's complaint reeks of false -equivalence.

StevenBerke
StevenBerke

Mr. Priebus' threats center around the primary debates, which have always been controlled by the parties. The League of Women Voters originally controlled the general election debates when they started in 1976, but the Republicans and Democrats organized the Commission on Presidential Debates which took control starting in 1984. So the parties have a good deal of control over the general election debates, but not to the extent of one party being able to exclude NBC or CNN or any other network it did not like.

jmac
jmac

@gdorrough  This issue was settled when the Supreme Court brought back Citizen's United and then decided to rule on it  based on "book burning" about  a hit movie done by conservatives on non other than  -   Hillary.

What goes around comes around.