Limbaugh, Failure, and Media Distortion
Commenter Bithead alerts me to a cross-blog debate that I somehow missed between Patrick Frey and Jeff Goldstein over Rush Limbaugh’s “I hope Obama fails” line at CPAC and the ensuing media frenzy. Essentially, Patrick argues that conservatives should be more careful about what they say so as to avoid being distorted in the media and Jeff retorts that conservatives should be free to say what they want and expect to be treated honorably.
As a general matter, I’m with Jeff on this one. I’m tired of obviously benign remarks being portrayed in the worst possible light for the sake of controversy and think it’s the duty of all good pundits to cry Foul when it’s being done. I’m equal opportunity in that regard. When Joe Biden got charged with racism for calling Obama bright, clean, and articulate, I had his back. When Team McCain claimed Obama called Sarah Palin a pig, I begged to differ.
Had Limbaugh delivered the “I hope Obama fails” line in the course of a three hour stream of consciousness monologue in the course of his daily radio show, I’d defend it, too. But he didn’t. It was part of a prepared speech with a major media presence and deliberately crafted to get precisely the reaction it got. Of course “I want Obama to fail” was going to make the headlines. He’d have been disappointed if it hadn’t!
Rush is a provocateur and a showman. Ginning up controversy is free publicity which drives up interest in his show and thus his audience and his ability to charge “confiscatory advertising rates.” Good on him for mastering his craft so well.
But I’m not going to then turn around and treat his deliberate provocation as part of a serious debate.