The more I think about the whole situation involving Barack Obama's criticizing Rush Limbaugh publicly and then Rush Limbaugh's bombastic and long-winded speech to the fawning militants at CPAC, all followed by RNC leader Michael Steele's having to recant his criticism of Limbaugh and grovel for forgiveness at the feet of the Great Leader, the more I realize how utterly shrewd a politician Barack Obama really is.
Here we have Barack Obama, who is proposing a budget that is so bold and costly that it gives even me the jitters, utterly decimating whatever conservative opposition to his agenda might be mustered by throwing into complete disarray the conservative establishment and making it all look like it's the conservatives themselves imploding. And how does Obama do this? All he did was plant the seed that Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the conservative movement in opposition to the GOP's nominal leadership. Then he simply backed up and watched Limbaugh take the bait, rise to the occasion at CPAC, while the GOP leadership cowered and wilted.
The GOP comes across as completely emasculated and the only thing left on the pile of rubble is a bombastic entertainer whose self-indulgent and arrogant nature is basically a turn-off to anyone except rabid, bully-ish, and fight-picking rightwingers. I, myself, wasn't clued into the genius of Obama's move until I started reading what conservatives are saying to and about each other in this whole scenario.
Andrew Sullivan has a great rundown of what he calls the "Rush War." Andrew Sullivan's conservative colleague at The Atlantic, Ross Douthat, had this to say:
But if you accept the parallel [of Limbaugh] with Oprah, then you also need to recognize that if American liberals treated someone like Ms. Winfrey the way the adoring CPAC-goers treated Rush - not just as a great communicator and entertainer, but as an arbiter of what their movement is and ought to be, and what their party should be standing for - they'd look like starstruck fools. And rightly so.My favorite, though, is conservative pundit David Frum who wrote this scathing assessment of Rush-mania:
And for the leader of the Republicans? A man [Rush Limbaugh] who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence – exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word – we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.It is a thing of beauty to see conservatives implode and to see Rush be the catalyst for this implosion.
Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.
But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise – and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important.
Worse for conservatives and for the GOP is the fact that they finally did something smart by selecting Michael Steele to be head of the RNC, but that this whole Rush thing has made Steele not only look incompetent and servile to El Rushbo, but it has completely undermined the meaning of Steele as the first black Chairman of the RNC. Now, Steele seems like nothing more than a token figurehead of the GOP who has to bow down to Rush as if Rush were the white master and Steele the black servant. That's a shame, because Steele was such an inspired choice for the GOP. And now Rush has gone and ruined it. And when you think of how Limbaugh reacted to criticism of another Republican-of-color, Bobby Jindal, in the face of Jindal's atrocious speech responding to Obama's address to Congress, you realize how patronizing Rush is towards both Jindal and those conservatives who would criticize Jindal's speech. Rush's condescending and patronizing attitude towards the GOP's shining leaders of color just reinforces the worst of racial stereotyping that is often associated with conservatives and the Republican party.
And it is pure genius for Obama to know that he could count on Rush's massive ego to play his part in this whole affair and, as Frum said, "cooperate" in such an endeavor thought up by Obama and the Democrats -- an endeavor that would only help to dig the grave deeper and push the GOP even farther towards irrelevance, all at the moment when the GOP is the only thing standing in the way of Obama's bold initiative to reshape government and politics along liberal lines in a way not seen since the days of FDR and the New Deal.
One ends up thinking that Obama and the Democratic Party he leads are playing conservatives and the GOP for fools, and that all of them, El Rushbo included, are happy to play the part, albeit unwittingly. One can't help but think the following about Rush and the GOP: "What dunces!"
As a liberal, I find it quite enjoyable to observe this whole thing. But I can only imagine what sensible conservatives must be thinking. They've got to be pulling out their hair. Though that, too, is an image that I have to admit amuses me just as much.