Hillary gets serious, Priebus gets silly

     Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the American Bar Association Annual Meeting Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in San Francisco. Clinton spoke about maintaining the Voting Rights Act and received a medal from the association. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the American Bar Association Annual Meeting Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in San Francisco. Clinton spoke about maintaining the Voting Rights Act and received a medal from the association. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    If Hillary Clinton does run for president in 2016, Republicans will need weaponry far more potent than the silly bleatings of Reince Priebus. While the Republican party chairman continues to whine about NBC Entertainment’s nascent Hillary movie—in hypocritical fashion, as we shall soon see—the presumptive Democratic front-runner is already staking out substantive policy turf. Advantage, her.

    On Monday night, speaking to the American Bar Association, she tackled what is arguably the most important issue of this era: the multi-pronged Republican push to suppress the vote, to assault the very spirit of democracy. Clinton rightly observed, “We’ve seen a sweeping effort across our country to construct new obstacles to voting, often undercover and addressing a phantom epidemic of election fraud”—aided and abetted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that shreds historic Voting Rights Act and hampers the Justice Department’s ability to thwart racial discimination at the ballot box.

    Indeed, taking full advantage of that court ruling, North Carolina’s right-wing governor on Monday signed the nation’s most sweeping suppression law. It curbs early voting and abolishes same-day registration—provisions that most benefited minority voters—and it requires that voters produce a North Carolina government ID (to combat the nonexistent scourge of voter-impersonation fraud), a provision that most adversely affects minorities and college students. Clinton cited North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Texas as “the greatest hits of voter suppression.”

    In a swipe at Chief Justice John Roberts’ recent claim that the Voting Rights Act’s enforcement rules are archaic because racism is on the wane, Clinton retorted: “Anyone who says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention.” Unless Congress writes new enforcement rules for the Justice Department, she warned, “citizens will be disenfranchised, victimized by the law instead of served by it, and that progress—that historical progress toward a more perfect union—will go backward instead of forward.”

    She also plans to address other weighty matters this year: “Next month at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, I will talk about the balance and transparency necessary in our national security policies, as we move beyond a decade of wars to face new threats. And later in the fall, I will address the implications of these issues for America’s global leadership and our moral standing around the world.”

    It has long been difficult to pinpoint exactly where Clinton stands on surveillance-versus-privacy, but at least she’s willing to talk substance—unlike her chief Republican antagonist. He’s still hung up about the unproduced Hillary docudrama that would star Diane Lane. While Clinton is staking out policy, he’s on TV talking gibberish—literally.

    Witness Priebus’ performance Sunday on CNN. Rarely have so many words been expended in the service of hypocrisy.

    He’s not boycotting Diane Lane

    Preibus, you may recall, has vowed to bar NBC News from hosting any ’16 Republican primary debates unless the NBC entertainment division agrees not to air the Hillary docudrama. I get why he’s making a big deal about this – Republicans, who can’t agree with each other on anything, are nonetheless united on hating Duh Liberal Media—but here’s the problem: Over the weekend, reports circulated that Fox Television Studios—which is under the same umbrella as Fox News—might agree to actually make the docudrama on its premises.

    Thus, on Sunday, CNN’s Candy Crowley teed up the big question for Priebus: If NBC News is to be punished for what NBC Entertainment is doing, shouldn’t Fox News be barred from hosting debates if Fox Studios makes the docudrama?

    Crowley: “If we follow your logic, do you think that there then is a connection to Fox News, and would they be subject to the same kind of [punishment]?”

    Priebus: “Well first of all, I mean, our party has to quit availing itself to bias moderators and companies that put on television, you know, in this particular case documentaries and miniseries about a particular candidate that we all know is gearing up to run for president and that’s Hillary Clinton and so the big question for me, Candy, is number one, which company is putting it on the air. Who is doing the work? I’m not interested if they’re using the same caterer or whether they drink diet Coke and I’m not boycotting Diane Lane.”

    OK, let’s try to unpack that filibuster: (1) Crowley didn’t ask him about the caterer (2) or about soda (3) or about Diane Lane (4) or about “bias moderators.” (5) What matters is the company that’s “doing the work,” which he narrowly defines as the company that puts the movie on the air—as opposed to the studio company that actually makes it possible to air the movie in the first place.

    Moments later, he said it again: “I am going to boycott the company that puts the miniseries … on the air for the American people to view. I’m not interested in whether they use the same sound studio or whether they use the same set. … Period. Very simple.”

    Crowley: “So the people that write and produce and put together the shows are not—” Priebus: “I’m not going to boycott Diane Lane. Listen, I’m not going boycott Diane Lane. It’s not her fault she decided to take a script. I’m not going boycott the food trucks that service all of the same. … Candy, some researcher, some researcher at CNN or NBC worked for a few days to find some little connection somewhere down the road to, to bring something into this debate. I think it’s totally ridiculous and stupid.”

    It’s fascinating to hear how inarticulate a Republican chairman can become in the hypocritical service of separating Fox News from Fox Studios and thus ensuring that ’16 debates can be conducted within the former’s friendly confines. He and his party will need to scrap this kind of silliness and start talking serious policy if they hope to halt Hillary Clinton’s ascent.


    Three reasons why New Jersey Democratic Senate primary winner Cory Booker is a lucky man today:

    1. He benefited from Gov. Christie’s scheduling of a quick election, which made it impossible for his Democratic rivals to effectively hammer his potential vulnerabilities (press scrutiny of his digital media company and personal finances; his celebrity hobnobbing).

    2. He has stratospheric name ID (due in part to his celebrity hobnobbing, plus his chat show visiblity), and his rivals had none. Only 9 percent of eligible voters went to the polls (it’s August, it rained), and most of them naturally gravitated to the candidate they’d heard of.

    3. He now faces a fringe Republican conservative, Steve Lonegan, who couldn’t win a race in Jersey even if he played sax on “Jungleland” for the E Street Band. The state hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate for the past 40 years, and Lonegan doesn’t even have Christine O’Donnell’s daft buzz.

    All told, Booker is a cinch to raise the number of elected African-American senators all the way up to one.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1


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