The RNC’s Threat to Boycott Big Media Debates Is Brilliant. Really!

We might not see a Republican debate on CNN next time around.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In my latest piece, I praise—and not even in a Slatepitchy way—the RNC’s threat to boycott 2016 primary debates hosted by NBC and CNN unless those networks put the kibosh on their Hillary Clinton movies. (NBC’s entertainment division is working on a docudrama, while CNN—far less enragingly, given the networks’ Benghazi scoopage—is working on a documentary.) The Clinton hook is a little cute, and the RNC is already using it to raise money and build email lists, but I agree with the general idea that ideological candidate debates, put on by right-wingers, might be more interesting than the “MSM” debates. Ten questions from Fred Kagan or Ed Meese are more likely to burrow into the GOP’s philosophy than 10 questions from Handsome Cable Host of the Week. Indeed, though it was seen as a snoozer at the time, the think tank-sponsored debate of 2011 was the only one that got candidates on the record on drones and Patriot Act renewal.

Let’s not be Pollyannas, though. This is a popular campaign among Republicans not because they want harder questions but because they mistrust the press and think they let candidates be exploited for ratings in 2011–2012. “Why in the world would this be a bad idea?” one former candidate spokesman told me. “Chris Matthews and Piers Morgan should never moderate a GOP debate. It’s impossible for them to be objective. It is like a child with their parents’ credit card in a toy store. They just can’t help themselves.”