Paul Begala Under Fire After Disclosure Of Emails To Clinton Aides On Talking Points

220px-Paul_Begala_by_Gage_Skidmore225px-Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropThe email controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton continues to grow but there is one aspects that is less of a problem for her as it is for one of her allies, Paul Begala. Begala is shown in email seeking directions or talking points from the State Department on what to say about one of Clinton’s speeches and then writes back to tell Clinton aides that he gave her an “A+.” Such talking points are common in Washington but the email forces the practice into the open and raises the question about independence of commentators, even in today’s formula conservative-liberal/democratic-republican casting. People like Begala are supposed to be crushingly predictable in blindly support one side of the formula casting, so it is hardly surprising to see such scripting or shaping. However, some have asked about the propriety of a CNN commentator who appears to be so closely coordinated with a political figure like Clinton even on his impressions of her skills as a speaker. It was an ironic twist from a commentator who declared national that “voters to not give a sh**” about the Clinton emails.

Part of the notoriety over the email is clearly as a reflection of the networks of allies that the Clintons have throughout government and the media. While Begala is pegged as “the democrat” in these point-counterpoint formats, it is he concern to be on message for Clinton specifically that has attracted commentary.

Begala, a former advisor to Bill Clinton, asks in the email for talking points before he went on CNN to rate Hillary Clinton’s early performance. He is sent to various Clinton aides at State. After his appearance, Begala emailed back: “I gave Sec. Clinton an A+ in our dopey CNN report card last night.” Ms. Mills forwarded that to Mrs. Clinton with an “FYI.”

There is also Begala’s involvement on retiring Hillary’s campaign debt while she is Secretary of State. One email according to the New York Times is about retiring her $23 million campaign debt from 2008 and her chief of protocol, Capricia Marshall, wrote to Paul Begala in April 2009 to say “Thank you so very much!!! We raised 500K from the email contest!! You are all amazing — the world adores you! You put a serious hole in HRC debt!” What is interesting is that people like Keith Olbermann were dumped by MSNBC for writing a couple checks for political candidates but Al Sharpton regularly organizes political events with the Obama White House and Paul Begala is closely aligned with the Clintons in such emails.

Begala is a very talented television commentator and often offers insightful observation, albeit from a pigeon-holed perspective common to today’s formula television commentary. He is a commentator not a journalist. His regimented perspective is no different from conservatives selected to play the opposing role. While many of us find the formula casting a bit too much like a scripted political reality show, it is a formula that clearly works for the cable shows. The problem is that the red-blue casting invites this type of alliance and steering from parties or powerful figures. For journalists, it raises troubling issues even for a commentator with a network. On the other hand, Begala can respond that he was a known Clinton person and was brought into CNN to fill the role in a point-counterpoint format. Moreover, he could argue that asking for talking points does not mean that he will use them. He already had a publicly known alliance with all things Democratic and all things Clinton. The talking points can simply add historical or contextual facts that escaped him in preparing for the otherwise formula response that he was hired to give on air. No one has suggested that Paul Begala is Walter Cronkite. He was brought in as a crushingly predictable partisan voice as were his counterparts placed in the “four-in-a-box” political fight segments. Why shouldn’t he ask for talking points from the Clinton people when he is type-casted as the Clinton or Democratic voice?

The alternative is for CNN to tell commentators under contract that they are not to solicit talking points for on-air segments. Yet, that would not stop unsolicited talking points or a myriad of ways for operatives to get such information to media allies.

What do you think?

33 thoughts on “Paul Begala Under Fire After Disclosure Of Emails To Clinton Aides On Talking Points”

  1. JT,
    You emphasized both major cable stations as swaying to one side or the other, but failed to mention mainstream media television networks, newspapers, magazines, and internet, which mostly spin their stories to make liberal views outshine other views.

    We all know the FOX is strongly conservative and says so. However, CNN has always claimed to cover both sides of the aisle, yet they have always leaned far to the left–with or without Begala, Oberman, Sharpton, etc. Yet, liberals still take CNN’s word as gospel.

    We’ve got to do our own homework, as best we can, listening to ALL sides and all candidates.

    1. G De La Paz – I get my USA political news from England. They are less biased.

  2. “In a 1958 speech to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, veteran CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow told a roomful of TV executives, “We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent.” The anchorman, who used his position to take on powerful politicians such as former Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy and issues such as segregation, cautioned that the new medium was being used to “distract, delude, amuse and insulate” the public.

    Almost 60 years later, Murrow’s warning has gone unheeded by the corporate broadcast media. On June 8, CNN unveiled “Courageous,” a new production unit and an in-house studio that would be paid by advertisers to produce and broadcast news-like “branded content.”

    We’ve come a long way baby! I love the smell of propaganda in the morning!

  3. I have no idea why anyone watches any of these programs. That said, this doesn’t strike me as much different than the conservative journalists who attend ATR’s Wednesday meetings.

  4. as I lifelong Dem, let me say that Paul Begala is a total political hack and represents most of what the Democratic party needs to fix.


  5. Justice Holmes – You either don’t watch Fox New Channel, or you are too steeped in your own set of “talking points” – by which I mean easy to spoon t license-plate fodder in place of reasoned debate points. Have you never heard Charles Krauthammer? Is he someone you disrespect? How about Steve Hayes? Megan Kelly when she decides to direct an issue? Can you name anyone comparable on any news network? If so I’d like to hear. Krauthammer in particular is an engaging intellect. But you know, with each one of those mentioned, I disagree at times, but see the honesty, integrity and intellect behind what they say. Recording programs gives you full power to selectively choose. You apparently make your choice based on… uh …. cannel number?

  6. Sure Neo, the point being though that I can get my “reported” news from any source because I don’t trust, I verify.

  7. Are we all not yet bored with scripted cable puppets leading political discussions? Turn them all off. Read them in print what they write, but focus only on that which is objective and valid. Because so very few are academic and intellectual enough to be more than sophomores, it greatly shortens the reading time allowing you to move from one to other quickly.

  8. @ Rick

    “If not then CNN is participating in a propaganda campaign [similar to the Begala issue this is hardly news] and their credibility will suffer accordingly.”

    It does and it has.

    They are ALL (MSM) propaganda machines.

  9. @ Olly

    “Watching is not the problem, they are ignorant enough to believe what is reported. Now that’s a problem.”

    Splitting hairs aren’t we Olly? LOL

    There are a few good site out there for better quality news reporting although I must confess Glenn Beck is not among them in my repertoire.

    Russia Today @ is a very good news site far more respectable than MSM is also a very good site although Gordon Duff has me a bit nervous on his rendition of the illegal JADE HELM 15 “exercise”.

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