Limbaugh – Steele Cage Match
RNC chairman Michael Steele was on D.L. Hughley’s CNN show Saturday night and people are slowly getting interested:
Some obvious questions come to mind:
- D.L. Hughley has a talk show?!
- What’s up with that shirt Steele’s wearing?
Mostly, though, people are talking about Steele’s comments about Rush Limbaugh.
So let’s put it into context here. Let’s put it into context here. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.
To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it’s unclear what the meaning of “it’s” is here. As best I can tell, it’s Limbaugh’s assertion at CPAC that he wants Barack Obama to fail.
If I wanted Obama to succeed, I’d be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he’s talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the U.S. government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don’t want this to work. So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, ‘Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.’ (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here’s the point. Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’ Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the drive-by story is. I would be honored if the drive-by media headlined me all day long: ‘Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.’ Somebody’s gotta say it.”
That’s mildly entertaining, in a red meat to the party faithful sort of way. It’s “incendiary” and “ugly,” though, only if taken out of context. Of course he wants Obama to fail at imposing policies he disagrees with. That’s a far different thing than, for example, hoping the economy continues to tank to make it easier for Republicans to win seats in 2010.
Michelle Malkin isn’t happy. I’m mostly befuddled.
Limbaugh’s response was pretty good.
“I’m not in charge of the Republican Party, and I don’t want to be,” Rush said. “I would be embarrassed to say that I’m in charge of the Republican Party in a sad-sack state that it’s in. If I were chairman of the Republican Party, given the state that it’s in, I would quit.”
Rush then mocked those who have criticized him for saying he wants Obama to fail, and directly challenged them to choose: You either want Obama to succeed or fail at his goal of dismantling conservatism.
“So send those fundraising requests out,” Rush said in a sneering tone, in an apparent reference to Steele, adding: “Make sure you say, `We want Obama to succeed.’ So people understand your compassion.”
My CPAC neighbor Melissa Clouthier thinks Steele could learn a thing or two from Limbaugh:
Washington insiders are bathed in moderate and liberal group-think. Any idea outside the liberal mainstream is branded as mean, hateful, and base. So Republican leaders find themselves saying,”I’m not a racist! I’m not dispassionate! I care! I do!” And then, they go about working on crap legislation to make it somewhat better. These disgusting half-measures make Republicans look weak and confused ideologically.
Instead of playing defense, the Republicans, including Chairman Steele need to go on offense. We need to demonstrate that we are the party of the little guy, the small business man. We need to have the best ideas on health care, the environment, and the economy. We need to speak these ideas clearly and unequivocally.
And when a man like Rush Limbaugh articulates what millions of Republicans are feeling, the leader of the RNC does not get on the liberally biased station CNN and bash an ally and friend. It’s wrong. He should apologize. And Chairman Steele should go to work doing what he has said he wants done: a changed Republican Party that will win elections by winning in the arena of ideas.
Limbaugh played a powerful role in mobilizing the base in 1994 and he’s still a major influencer today. But he’s not the leader of the Republican Party; Steele is. Unfortunately, this was a misstep on the new leader’s part. This wasn’t a Sister Soulja Moment; he was merely attacking a figure popular with his base for no apparent reason. It’s one thing to condemn Limbaugh when he says something that’s actually ugly and incendiary. This, though, was nonsensical.