There exists somewhere, I strongly suspect, a school that trains politicians in the art of unctuous hypocrisy.
Like a black hole in space, it can’t be seen. But its presence can be deduced from its unmistakable effects.
The latest such manifestation is the Republican National Committee’s decision to blacklist CNN and NBC from broadcasting presidential debates in 2016 if they produce contemplated documentaries on Hillary Clinton.
They haven’t even been written yet, much less filmed, but the Republicans intuit that they’ll be puff jobs.
They must be really, really, really afraid of her.
The party’s resolution objects that the programs would be “little more than extended commercials” promoting the former secretary of state for president. They would “put a thumb on the scales for the next presidential election.”
In letters to the networks’ executives, Party Chair Reince Priebus objected that it would be “unfair” to other potential Democratic candidates as well as to Republicans who might run.
It’s so touching of him to think of the other Democrats.
There is a better point in the Republicans’ bluster.
Executives of Comcast, NBC’s parent company, have been major contributors to Clinton and to President Obama’s re-election. Although the Clinton projects belong to the networks’ entertainment divisions, which are separate from their news operations, they could appear to compromise the perceived objectivity of the latter. CNN’s chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, told Politico that it “makes life more difficult. I think there’s no doubt about it.”
But she’s a top-notch pro. No reasonable person believes that anyone else’s work would skew hers.
It is a case study in hypocrisy, however, for the Republicans to be complaining about any network’s possible bias.
For all practical purposes, Fox News might as well be their wholly owned subsidiary. Roger Ailes, who runs it, was a media consultant to Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Fox’s biases are on display almost daily in its story fixations: think Benghazi. Karl Rove, Bush II’s former guru, made his plain on the air election night when he debunked his own staff’s professional judgment that Obama had won.
That hypocrisy is magnified by the irony of the Clinton issue. Where were the Republicans’ concerns for fairness when Citizens United, a pro-Republican slush fund, made a documentary film attacking Clinton during her 2008 campaign?
A lower court’s ruling that the pay-for-view film transgressed the election law on corporate activity made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In history’s most brazen judicial activism, Chief Justice John Roberts brushed aside that narrow question — was the film a violation or not? — to raise a broader one that neither side had argued:
Are corporations such as Citizens United “persons” within the meaning of the 14th Amendment, entitled to spend as much as they like whenever they like to further any political cause they like?
The answer, 5 to 4, was yes.
Republicans have been the overwhelming beneficiaries of Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, which all began with a conservative attack on Clinton.
Even now, the same organization is doing the same sort of number on Terry McAuliff, the former Democratic national chairman who’s running for Virginia governor. It’s going into theaters and on television in the commonwealth. There’s not been a peep from Priebus as to that.
But he did mention Citizens United and the Hillary hatchet job in his letter to CNN. The liberals who complained about that aren’t objecting to CNN’s project, he said, so “they must think that you’re doing her a favor.”
The philosopher La Rochefoucauld wrote that “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”
Four centuries later, politicians like Priebus and the Republicans continue to prove it.