This morning, members of the Republican National Committee meeting in Boston are expected to pass a resolution threatening to shut NBC and CNN out of the party’s presidential primary debates if the networks go forward with planned documentaries about Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The resolution accuses NBC and CNN of showing “political favoritism” by airing “programming that amounts to little more than extended commercials promoting former Secretary Clinton.” The resolution also says the news coverage of both networks will be tainted by the programs. And it will note that a top NBC entertainment executive is a big Clinton contributor.
But the key part of the resolution has nothing specifically to do with NBC, CNN, or even Hillary Clinton. The final clause in the document says the RNC “shall endeavor to bring more order to the primary debates and ensure a reasonable number of debates, appropriate moderators and debate partners are chosen, and that other issues pertaining to the general nature of such debates are addressed.”
That is what top party officials have wanted to do ever since it became clear that the GOP’s grueling series of twenty-plus debates in 2011 and 2012 created more bloodletting, division, and sometimes embarrassment for the party than enlightenment of voters. Ever since that moment — RNC officials realized it as it was happening but were powerless to stop it — the party has wanted to limit the number of debates and exert more control over who moderated them. That was going to happen even if NBC and CNN had never announced plans for Hillary Clinton programs. And that is what today’s resolution is really all about.