The GOP Versus Hillary Clinton’s Celebrity

Republicans want to boycott CNN and NBC over Hillary Clinton – apparently they don’t understand how the free market works.

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads the 2016 presidential polls, with respondents often describing her as intelligent.

I'm not sure whether to file this under "pointless" or just "dumb," but the Republican National Committee is threatening to boycott NBC and CNN if they go forward with, respectively, a mini-series and a documentary about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I guess you could file it under "oblivious"?

Here's why: The last time I checked, Republicans were supposed to be fierce defenders of the free market. And to the extent that these companies are trying to catch the Hillary '16 presidential wave, it's more likely that they're hoping to cash in on it rather than promote it.

Earlier today, the Republican National Committee issued a release saying that if NBC and CNN go ahead with their plans, Chairman Reince Priebus "will seek a binding vote of the RNC to prevent the committee from partnering with these networks in 2016 primary debates or sanctioning debates they sponsor."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

It goes without saying that media companies shouldn't let political parties dictate their programming choices. But honestly, this is silly. Yes, Hillary Clinton is widely expected to run for president in three years. So are a lot of people, but she's also the biggest celebrity in the potential presidential field, and by a long shot (sorry, Donald Trump, I'm only referring to serious potential candidates).

Does it make good business sense for these companies to try to capitalize on that celebrity? Yes. So much so that you'd think there would be a Hillary Clinton move in the works … which, it turns out, there is. NBC announcing a miniseries about Kirsten Gillibrand or Peter King would raise eyebrows. About Hillary Clinton? Come on.

Occam's Razor (the maxim that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one)  applies here: The simpler explanation – that two media conglomerates think there's a market for Hillary-related programming – is more plausible than the idea that they are engaged in a vast, collusive media conspiracy to promote the candidacy of someone who has universal name recognition and is already widely seen as the most likely person to become the next president.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Were I conspiratorially minded, I might suggest that the GOP really doesn't want CNN and NBC to broadcast its presidential debates in 2016. There's fairly wide agreement that the party did itself no favors with the traveling circus that was the 2012 primary debates. So limiting both the number and the reach of its 2016 tilts in one fell swoop? Well that would be a win-win. Could that be what this is all about? Alas, probably not.

So what are Republicans up to? Part of this is probably working the ref: They likely hope that whoever writes the scripts for these shows will bend over backward to make them – to borrow a phrase – fair and balanced, putting extra emphasis on her shortcomings in order to stay the braying on the right. (And if any conservatives want to argue that content is beside the point because any exposure is good exposure, please explain to me what exactly is the problem with Jane Fonda playing Nancy Reagan.) And probably the RNC is itself trying to capitalize on Hillary Clinton's celebrity by issuing a press release about her.

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