Why the RNC’s fight against NBC and CNN is smart

August 7, 2013

Here's a political reality: The fights you pick are as important as the way you contest them. To wit: The war the Republican National Committee has opened up against CNN and NBC.


RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

In going hard after the networks for developing programming about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the RNC has picked a three-pronged fight against Clinton (and the idea of her running for president), CNN and NBC.

And there you have three reasons why the fight is a smart one. It's tailor-made to fire up the GOP base.

Clinton has for years been derided by conservatives. So anything involving the former secretary of state is sure to fire up the political right. Reminding Republicans that Clinton may soon be a presidential candidate and is getting a lot of media attention -- in the RNC's view, biased attention -- is a surefire way to gin up attention from the party base.

From there, consider who the other two targets are: NBC and CNN, which are part of a the mainstream media that has long been viewed with skepticism from conservatives. As Aaron Blake wrote Monday, NBC's cable network, MSNBC, and CNN spent more time during the 2012 election on stories portraying Mitt Romney in a negative light than any other network. To many conservatives, this only hardened views about a perceived "liberal media."

The timing of the fight was savvy, too. It's August, when Congress in recess, and Washington is empty. By opening up this battle on Monday, Priebus seized a share of the news cycle early in a week with not a lot else going on.

And the story has not gone away, as allies continue to line up behind the RNC. The founder of the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters has joined the cause. This is a fight with some legs.

Neither CNN nor NBC have shown any willingness to back down in the face of the RNC's threat to exclude them from the GOP debate process unless they stop moving ahead with plans to produce films about Clinton. And Priebus himself has said he doesn't anticipate they will change course. Unless something changes, the RNC isn't going to get what it is asking for.

But as the song goes, sometimes you get what you need. And that may well be the case for Priebus and the RNC.

“My guess is this is exactly what’s going to happen: They will produce the films, and we will cut them out,” Priebus told Post TV’s “In Play" on Tuesday.

And so the fight will continue. That's good news for the RNC.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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