Politico has an interesting story examining the campaign to paint Rush Limbaugh as the head of the Republican party. It began with Limbaugh’s severely misquoted and misunderstood “I hope he fails” argument, which really was an argument and warning about Obama’s policies, not some unpatriotic trashing of the presidency and the nation as has been widely publicized. Then there was the recent dust-up regarding new RNC chair Michael Steele calling Limbaugh “incendiary” and “ugly,” then apologizing to Rush less than 24 hours later. Now Rush is publicly challenging President Obama to a radio debate to defend his New Deal-style programs (the offer won’t be taken, by the way).
I said little about the recent Steele affair mainly because it seemed like an inconsequential internecine misunderstanding. There was and is no feud between Limbaugh and Steele, though the left severely hoped for one. I will say that for D.L. Hughley to make the monstrously disgusting comparison of the Republican National Convention to Nazi Germany, and then for Steele to say nothing in rebuttal, is a monumental failure of leadership. I like Steele, and I’ll cut him a bit more slack, but you simply must do better than be a whining apologizer.
I digress. In the larger picture, Democrats think they’re clever in now casting the GOP as beholden to Limbaugh. It’s a curious argument in the first place as the last Republican presidential nominee won over the vehement objections of talk radio. That nominee then ran a haphazard and uninspired general campaign and ended up being defeated handily, which somewhat vindicates Limbaugh’s position in my view.
Nevertheless, the over-arching strategy, led by James Carville and Paul Begala, sanctioned by Rahm Emanuel and apparently assisted by a top-level White House aide, is to make Limbaugh the face of the Republican party. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, increasingly revealing himself as a stammering punk eager to attack opponents, got the ball rolling with the smart-ass comment, “I was a little surprised at the speed in which Mr. Steele, the head of the RNC, apologized to the head of the Republican Party.”
Maybe the strategy will indeed work for Democrats and provide them a temporary political advantage. My question is, how exactly is smearing the entire opposition party and casting the leadership in a false light bipartisan? Why, with majorities in the House and Senate and difficult economic times befalling us, must the Democrats bother with beating down an already weakened party? How is this war-room attack-ad strategy post-partisan or setting a new tone in Washington? Hell, how does having James Carville and Paul Begala involved in political planning a shift away from old-style politics when they both partisan attack dogs are yet another direct link to the Clinton years? The questions are rhetorical, and the answer is obvious – it’s always about your team winning than about the good of the country.
But more than that, it speaks to the need of the left, in the absence of having their own inspiring ideas, to have a boogeyman to rail against. President Bush is gone, so the nation’s problems can no longer be blamed on him. Current and rising Republican stars are too new to be recognized by the public, so the attention is directed back at Rush Limbaugh, as though everything in this country would be all right it weren’t for that extremist Limbaugh making things difficult for us. It’s a ridiculous argument that is meant to distract from the shortcomings of their own party and leadership. The slogans might work for a short time, but in the end they’ll backfire, because Democrats are going to have to provide their own concrete solutions to problems, and bigger government, class warfare, and higher taxes, their model so far, isn’t going to sit well with the American public in the long run.
Update: Patterico looks at the anti-Rush effort and the Anchoress reacts with excitement about Rush’s challenge to the President for a debate. Again, it won’t happen, but an administration concerning itself with a talk show host seems beneath consideration when it should be focused on other matters. It’s all about power and controlling the narrative, apparently.