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. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as all future questions to Begala begin “So what is the Clinton position on this issue?”.

    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.

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

  3. People are still ignorant enough to watch anything the Main Stream Media (MSM) puts out? Now that’s disturbing. I knew there was a good reason I don’t watch TV.

  4. Olly, My vision is to get back to being a country where its citizens have the freedom/liberty to opt out.

  5. If the press went on strike and refused to cover Clinton she would allow them to interview her on their terms. However, they are gutless. Most of the current reporters have worked in the WH at one point or another, usually for Democrats. They are all butt-boys for the Clintons or the Obamas. And when the Obamas leave they will switch to the Clintons.

    They should require 50% of reporters to be card-carrying Republicans, that would scare Hillary.

  6. The danger in biased media is not the bias but that it’s not challenged by the average viewer. Like him or hate him, Glenn Beck has a bias but he always tells his viewers/listeners to not just trust him, go look it up. Regardless of where we get our information we have to have the chops to do some critical-thinking.

    Additionally, we have to have a reference point to gauge just how skewed the media and candidates are from that point of reference. So if we want a constitutionally limited government and eliminate this bloated administrative state then any news outlets or political platforms that veer away from that will not be acceptable. If we want even greater centralized power and have all our rights come from government then places like FoxNews or candidates stemming from the conservative political party are clearly biased against our ideals.

    I measure all news outlets, parties and candidates against the principles that gave us this constitution. That’s an easy benchmark for accuracy in reporting and most importantly as a gauge to determine who is the best candidate. Clearly that approach is not acceptable to many in this blog which begs the question, what vision do you have for this country?

  7. Begala is one of the most weasel like people on TV. But, we know he is a Clinton butt boy and he doesn’t hide it. It’s the moderators, the allegedly straight news people, like Stephanopolous, that are the disgrace. Russert made the transition from working for Moynihan. However, once a Clinton butt boy, it’s the Hotel California, “You can never leave.”

    Begala was honest when Jake Tapper interviewed him on this email controversy. He said the lesson was it was stupid for him to put this in writing.

  8. Watching Billary run for office is akin to watching a used car salesman, no disrespect to the car salesman. They have an answer for every misstep while pushing for anyway to close the sale. Like most high mileage used cars they are unreliable, require lots of maintenance and that fresh coat of cheap paint quickly fades. Nevertheless, it is entertaining to watch.

  9. As to Begala and Clinton, there is an entire network, FOX, that spouts GOP talking points 24/7. Who expects him to be unbiased?

    As to Begala and Clinton, there are entire networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and CNN that spouts DNC talking points 24/7. Who expects them to be unbiased?

  10. Annie, It’s not enough. You should be asking for Hillary to drop out.

  11. Justice, Please show me one Fox commentator that has used vile language like the idiot Oberman has.

  12. Jim,
    10,000 filled a stadium in Madison WI to hear Bernie Sanders yesterday. He is the “other” candidate and I’d say don’t discount him.

  13. isaac, What is wrong is that the libs and Democrats are not asking for Ol’ Hills head. Instead, they give her a pass. They aren’t even looking at anyone else. I can’t respect anything that a lib/Dem says as long as she is their candidate. They know she is bad and a liar and instead of saying, “If she is the Dems candidate I won’t vote” they look the other way and pull the lever. That is the problem. I did this when the mannequin Romney was given the nomination.

  14. Unfortunately for all of us Keith Oberman was dumped for talking truth to power once too often. The checks were an excuse.

    As to Begala and Clinton, there is an entire network, FOX, that spouts GOP talking points 24/7. Who expects him to be unbiased?

  15. Isaac, There are other parties but our first past the post way of declaring a winner leaves people voting the lesser of evils, that is, those who haven’t already decided that their vote means nothing and don’t bother.. The winner rarely has the support of 50% +1 of the people. Instant runoff voting would be one way to go. Getting big money out, as you suggest, might also give some of the other parties a chance to be heard. You want money out, but do you look for and support the candidates that are choosey about accepting contributions?

  16. For anybody who doubts that the mainstream media backs the dems, here you have proof that they get their talking points directly from the campaigns.

    But we knew that.

    Thinking people have diversified their sources away from the media and now access lots of opinions – witness the diversity of opinions on this blog.

    What concerns me is the unthinking block – perhaps a majority. remember the supposed Stevenson quip:

    ‘Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!’ Stevenson called back ‘That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!’”

  17. Jim22

    It’s not Clinton and these activities that is what is wrong with the country. It is simply these activities and more. Both Republicans and Democrats pervert the democratic model. The polarization and lack of structure of the US government makes for a system that elects those who are the most funded, not necessarily the best for the job(s).

    If one side refused to play the game the other would win by default. The underdog Bernie will not be chased by the money, even if he is the best man for the job. This is true with both parties. This is true with the special interests which place their special interest above the best interests of the people and effect changes through financial and media control.

    The first move in dealing with this circus is to remove private money, as much as possible, from the political arena. Other countries have successfully developed systems where voter support equals the primary funding, sourced from the government, or the people. There will always be private financial influence in some places in the career of a politician. However, the higher up the ‘representative of the people’ go the more the ‘people’ should be funding their desired leaders and not super pacs of money from billionaires.

    If the US wishes to maintain a claim to the freest, most democratic, best country in the world then it has to change how it elects its leaders. The present system is a farce and denigrates everything the US is supposed to stand for. The US must design a system around the majority and issues clearly stated. There must be at least four political parties. The way to begin is to design the Presidency as a completely non party position. The waste that comes from swinging back and forth between two extremes is sapping this country of its greatness. It’s time to rethink a few things. Come the revolution!!!!

  18. This just seems like a deflection piece. The real issue is Clinton. Anyone else would be disqualified by now, but instead, we are looking at the next President. She is the perfect model of what is wrong with this country.

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