Republicans suddenly see a downside to Reaganism and Citizens United

Your unintentional comedy for the week: Republican National Committee and Republican Party of Iowa leaders freaking out over lengthy planned television broadcasts about Hillary Clinton. Republicans now threaten not to co-sponsor any presidential debates with CNN or NBC if those networks move forward with a documentary about the former first lady and secretary of state and a miniseries starring Diane Lane, respectively. The RNC is appalled by the “thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election,” while the Iowa GOP is upset by the lack of “journalistic integrity.”

What a pathetic display of weakness and hypocrisy.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, corporations can make and broadcast movies about political figures, and such activity is not considered “electioneering communication” that must be funded through a registered political action committee (PAC). The Citizens United case arose because of a (very negative) corporate movie about Hillary Clinton. I didn’t agree with or welcome Citizens United, but Republicans were happy to treat corporations as people with unlimited free speech in the political sphere. Who are they to tell CNN and NBC not to make money by airing films that could draw a large potential audience?

I’m old enough to remember when prime-time television about controversial political topics had to be balanced with an opposing point of view. But under the GOP’s sainted President Ronald Reagan, the Federal Communications Commission voted to “abolish its fairness doctrine on the ground that it unconstitutionally restricts the free-speech rights of broadcast journalists.” Democrats didn’t like it, but elections have consequences. As a result, CNN and NBC can air films about any political figure as frequently as they believe they can profit from doing so.

P.S. – RNC Chair Reince Priebus and Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker wouldn’t be making this threat if they believed in GOP talking points about Benghazi or Hillary being “old news.”  

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  • Hypocrisy?

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall, on Voltaire.

    Aren’t the Republicans mentioned simply living out this philosophy?

    Do you see anyone from the Republican side calling for a law to prohibit this documentary?  Any indication that they’re trying to get the government to prohibit this speech?

    Isn’t it possible to believe in free speech but disagree forcefully with someone’s exercise of it?  Isn’t it possible to believe in free speech but react strongly to a particular example of it?

    Free speech does not, and never has, meant that there can be no consequences for that speech and that everyone is required to simply sit back and nod sagely; it simply means that the government does not prohibit, regulate, or coerce the speech.  Private parties, like the Republicans mentioned, are completely free to disagree and take actions in response to speech which they dislike.  Boycotts and disagreements – even heated disagreements – are PART of free speech, not somehow in opposition to it.

    If Republicans start calling for the government to stop CBS and NBC from airing these documentaries, call me; we’ll have some hypocrisy to talk about.

    Until then – supporting free speech doesn’t mean you have to like everything someone else says.  Actually, that’s kind of the whole point of free speech.

    • yes, I call it hypocrisy

      Republicans whining when corporations produce movies about Hillary Clinton. Suddenly it’s so unfair to flood the airwaves with material about one politician.

      They are free to choose debate co-sponsors, of course.  

      • Then you misunderstand their position.

        Citizens United – and the Republican “free speech” position backing it – wasn’t about fairness; it was about freedom: the freedom of people to band together in whatever form (including a corporation) and speak as they see fit – and the freedom of others to whine about it.  Whining as a response (whether unbecoming or not – that’s a separate question) is completely in keeping with the philosophy supporting the Citizens United decision.

        • I would rather

          have the FCC enforce the Fairness Doctrine, and I wish Citizens United had been decided differently. I guess if Republicans want the major news networks to be “fair” about time devoted to covering people who may become presidential candidates, they shouldn’t have worked for decades to undermine the Fairness Doctrine.

          • CU

            I agree with you on Citizens United, but wouldn’t the Fairness Doctrine just cause more backlash?  

          • So

            You just don’t recognize the difference between wanting something to happen and wanting the government to mandate something to happen?

            An example:  I don’t smoke.  I loathe the smell of cigarette smoke.  People smoking in bars and restaurants before the ban significantly decreased my enjoyment of those establishments.  I thought it was gross, and I didn’t like the way my clothes smelled when I went home.  I occasionally complained about it – about filthy smokers who think the world is their ashtray, who have to sit at the next table rather than across the room, whatever.  I don’t like smoking.

            But I was (and am) strongly opposed to having the state ban smoking in “public places.”  Why?  Because I think it’s an infringement on the property rights of the business owner to decide what to allow or not allow on his property.  Would I prefer that business owner prohibit smoking?  Absolutely.  Do I think it’s my place to tell him he has to, or to tell others they can’t smoke there if the owner permits it?  Absolutely not.  But am I free to be annoyed by it and even maybe complain about it?  Yep.

            This situation is the same:  the Republicans don’t think it’s their right to tell others what they can or can’t say, regardless of how those others organize themselves or what medium they use for their speech, and they regard government intrusion on free speech as a gross violation of the first amendment.  But that doesn’t mean they have to like the way that speech makes their clothes smell, and it doesn’t mean they can’t complain about it when they don’t like it – after all, they have free speech rights too.

            Is that something you just can’t relate to?  Disliking something without wanting the government to fix it?  Too far outside the lefty thought box?


            By the way, I agree with zeitgeist that we don’t really know what the documentary will be like, and that this is an effort to “work the refs.”

  • Comedy, Farce...surely Shakespeare wrote this one as well!

    Yes, it’s a comedy. And, yes, it is whining.  The Republicans were the only ones to have advantages out of the Citizen’s United decision, not ALL corporations, just Republican influenced corporations. Didn’t you get that memo?  

    It’s just desserts for the Republicans and more are coming their way.  The death of a political party is fascinating to watch. I find myself wondering, “Who gets thrown under the bus today?”

  • Premature

    I’m not sure why the right – or anyone else for that matter – assumes these miniseries/specials will be particularly good for Hillary other than in the “all press is good press” sense.  Maybe I’m just cynical, but I could see these being as much a hit piece as a love fest.  Even somewhere in between, it certainly wont be her story as the campaign would prefer to tell it.  

    • thanks for mentioning that

      I agree with you–for all we know these movies won’t even be particularly flattering.  

      • Working the Referees

        and as I think about it, that may be the real point of the Republican screaming.  because these are not finished products yet, this may be “working the refs” to see if the nets will slant the presentation a little more to appease the Republicans.