Andrea Mitchell: If Republicans Know What's Good for Them, They'll Accept Biased Debates

While MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell admitted that the planned NBC biopic of Hillary Clinton was a "bad idea," on her Thursday 1 p.m. ET hour show she and her guests scolded Republicans for refusing to allow the biased network to moderate GOP primary debates: "That's where you get debates where the audience is cheering because they were all hand picked by local or state parties, that's where you get candidates like Mitt Romney talking about self-deportation to try to play to the crowd." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Mitchell made that observation while discussing the topic with former Obama White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, not exactly someone with the best interests of the GOP at heart. Gibbs ranted: "If you're only going to do debates in front of diehard Republicans that 100% agree with you, you're going to end up pushing yourself farther and farther and farther to the right....you're not going to win any national elections."

Moments later, USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page appeared on the program and argued that Republicans being subject to unfair debates would be good for them: "Nothing serves a candidate better than to go before an audience or a questioner who seems to be unfriendly and handling himself or herself well."

Mitchell chimed in: "Remember how Reagan used to call – President Reagan used to call on some of the really aggressive reporters, the sort of outlying reporters, just when he wanted to develop sympathy from the television audience."

Page replied:

And [White House reporter] Sarah McClendon got questions all of the time, because you knew she was going to ask an aggressive question. I gave – it would give the President a chance to respond with humor, with good feeling. You know, if you want to be president, you should take questions from all comers, you should be prepared to take questions from reporters from all kinds of news organizations. Democrats should be going on Fox for debates, Republicans should be going on outlets that they think are maybe not so friendly to them, that serves presidents well, it serves candidates well, and it is frankly part of the job.

Wrapping up the exchange, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza suggested the objection from the Republican National Committee was just a ploy to get money: "I think the biggest thing, frankly, is fundraising. Look, attacking Hillary Clinton and the mainstream media for propping up Hillary Clinton, which is what Reince Priebus is alleging, is absolute gold, almost literally gold, for the Republican Party and their small donor base, who reacts vehemently and with their wallets to that sort of thing."


Here is a portion of the August 8 coverage:

1:07PM ET

(...)

ROBERT GIBBS: I think, though, what Reince Priebus has to careful of is what got them into a big mess in 2012. If you're only going to do debates in front of diehard Republicans that 100% agree with you, you're going to end up pushing yourself farther and farther and farther to the right. I don't doubt that the RNC should get a hold of some of the debate process, which we did in 2007 and 2008, but if you're going to limit speaking only and debating only in front of people that quote, "care about building the Republican Party," you're not going to win any national elections. And that's why, quite frankly, I think Reince Priebus's tenure has not been – the hallmark of that tenure certainly has not been winning national elections.

ANDREA MITCHELL: That's where you get debates where the audience is cheering because they were all hand picked by local or state parties, that's where you get candidates like Mitt Romney talking about self-deportation to try to play to the crowd.

GIBBS: I was gonna say, that's where you get somebody making a stand, and if you look back on it, Mitt Romney eviscerates Rick Perry on basically the state version of the Dream Act, calls for self-deportation, and in large measure, the demographic election among Hispanics was over at that point. You know, Republicans didn't have a chance.

(...)

1:10PM ET

SUSAN PAGE: Well, nothing serves a candidate better than to go before an audience or a questioner who seems to be unfriendly and handling himself or herself well.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Remember how Reagan used to call – President Reagan used to call on some of the really aggressive reporters, the sort of outlying reporters, just when he wanted to develop sympathy from the television audience.

PAGE: And [White House reporter] Sarah McClendon got questions all of the time, because you knew she was going to ask an aggressive question. I gave – it would give the President a chance to respond with humor, with good feeling. You know, if you want to be president, you should take questions from all comers, you should be prepared to take questions from reporters from all kinds of news organizations. Democrats should be going on Fox for debates, Republicans should be going on outlets that they think are maybe not so friendly to them, that serves presidents well, it serves candidates well, and it is frankly part of the job.

MITCHELL: And Chris Cillizza, what do you make of all of this, what the Republican Party is trying to do in response to what we, a lot of us feel, is a really bad idea, which are these Hillary films?

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Right, look, I think there's a couple of things going on here, Andrea, that are not immediately evident but are probably the real motivation. I think the biggest thing, frankly, is fundraising. Look, attacking Hillary Clinton and the mainstream media for propping up Hillary Clinton, which is what Reince Priebus is alleging, is absolute gold, almost literally gold, for the Republican Party and their small donor base, who reacts vehemently and with their wallets to that sort of thing.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC