Frank Rich: ‘Fascistic’ GOP Debate Letter Appears ‘to Have Been Drafted by Stalin’

Appearing on the Monday edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, New York magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich denounced the letter written by numerous Republican presidential campaigns to media organizations concerning the format of future debates as “fascistic” and written by “scared little children” but “seem[s] to have been drafted by Stalin.”

First asked by Rachel Maddow what he made of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’s attempt to regain control of the debate process, Rich compared him to a schoolteacher “about to be canned” after being leveled with “unruly charges.”

Dubbing it “hilarious,” Rich declared that “if you look at their demands in this letter which they're not even all agreeing to, they seem to have been drafted by Stalin” and “so tedious, it's so fascistic really, no one will watch.”

Maddow seemed astonished, admitting that she viewed Priebus as “scared and small” but not exactly “Stalinist and fascistic.”

Rich then doubled down: 

Well, scared — they seem like scared little children, but also they want to control things so much, there won't be a single spontaneous moment if there is — there aren't even many now. They just want to get out their sound bites, do their stump speeches. Who will watch except the Republican base that would watch anyway no matter what? 

Touting him as “a keen observer of the media,” Maddow inquired next whether or not he expected the news media “to go along with” any of their demands and allow them to “dictate to us the tenor of the questions that our moderators are allowed to ask.”

Rich maintained that they wouldn’t give but would “if Stalin were in charge.” The New York magazine writer continued bloviating:

[W]e've got a bunch of people who are fighting among themselves and also don't even have a coherent set of demands. I think the real winner here may be Donald Trump because he's the only one who actually knows something about television in this whole group. He'll get terms favorable to whatever it the hell he wants to do. It will be every man for himself, but in the end, the networks will win anyway and do whatever they want. 

The relevant portion of the transcript from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show on November 2 can be found below.

MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show
November 2, 2015
9:16 p.m. Eastern

RACHEL MADDOW: Is Reince Priebus correct, that this is all totally normal, nothing to see here, completely under control? 

FRANK RICH: Sounds like a teacher, a kindergarten teacher about to be canned, dealing with the unruly charges. It's hilarious because first of all, if you look at their demands in this letter which they're not even all agreeing to, they seem to have been drafted by Stalin. You know, it's so tedious, it's so fascistic really, no one will watch except the hardcore — 

MADDOW: Stalinist and fascistic? I just thought it seemed scared and small. 

RICH: Well, scared — they seem like scared little children, but also they want to control things so much, there won't be a single spontaneous moment if there is — there aren't even many now. They just want to get out their sound bites, do their stump speeches. Who will watch except the Republican base that would watch anyway no matter what? 

MADDOW: So, news organizations that are being — that may or may not be confronted with these demands, and there may or may not be an or else that comes with these demands, we don’t know, but let's say news organizations are confronted with these demands. Would you expect, as a keen observer of the media, would you expect news organizations to go along with this and say yes, you can decide what camera angles we're allowed to show, we will allow to you dictate to us the tenor of the questions that our moderators are allowed to ask? Won't news organizations all say no to this? 

RICH: Of course they will. Just as if Stalin were in charge they'd say yes. Instead, we've got a bunch of people who are fighting among themselves and also don't even have a coherent set of demands. I think the real winner here may be Donald Trump because he's the only one who actually knows something about television in this whole group. He'll get terms favorable to whatever it the hell he wants to do. It will be every man for himself, but in the end, the networks will win anyway and do whatever they want. 

(....)

MADDOW: In terms of these candidates who are now opting out or at least turning away from this little bit of a revolt, that also seems like a strategic matter. We've got John Kasich and Chris Christie both saying they don't want to be playing these reindeer games. Carly Fiorina's campaign sent out a very snarky letter saying well, while you were all discussing debate rules we were at an Applebee's in Iowa doing the hard work of campaigning. 

RICH: And fighting with The View.

MADDOW: And — yes and fighting with The View doing the really tough substantive work of being a presidential candidate. Is there any advantage to be gained in trying to rise above this fray? Does this now look so small with the candidates fighting over the temperature of the room and the quality of their green rooms that somebody might actually get some advantage out of putting this controversy in its place? 

RICH: Well, I think that what Kasich, Fiorina and Christie have in common is they're all doing terribly in the polls, as Donald Trump would say, so their best-case scenario is sure, let all the others not do it and we'll be in primetime alone and so they — meanwhile, they can look statesman-like, as you said. But I don't think — I think it's a win-win for them.

NBDaily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Debates Media Bias Debate Communists Conservatives & Republicans MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show Video Rachel Maddow Frank Rich Joseph Stalin Reince Priebus
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