Thursday, May 07, 2009
Rush Limbaugh has managed to mix it up with just about everybody this year.
His pre-inaugural statement that he wanted Barack Obama to fail got him identified by Democrats as the "leader of the GOP." That ended up producing retractions of seeming insults from high-profile party leaders like RNC Chairman Michael Steele and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.
This week, the Rush-inspired party civil war continued. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the party was in "deep trouble," partly because of Rush's influence:
Powell, criticizing some of the party's leaders for bowing too far to the right, suggested that neither radio commentator Rush Limbaugh nor commentator Ann Coulter serve the party well. The party lacks a "positive" spokesperson, according to Powell: "I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without.''
Not surprisingly, Limbaugh fired back:
"What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party," Limbaugh said on his radio show Wednesday.
Limbaugh also took aim at Powell's decision to endorse President Obama over John McCain during the presidential election, repeating his earlier sentiment that Powell's move was "solely based on race."
"He's just mad at me because I'm the one person in the country who had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama," Limbaugh said. "It was purely and solely based on race.
There are two ironies here: For one thing, Limbaugh says that Powell's endorsement of Obama was "purely and solely based on race." In making that statement, he ignores the various other white moderate Republicans who endorsed Obama. And, as Powell himself said at the time of his endorsement, he could have done it months before if it was "purely and solely based on race."
But Limbaugh is more likely to use race as a motivating factor -- whether it is there or not -- as anybody, including Powell. His brief sojourn at ESPN exploded six years ago over a racial incident that wasn't. He said that the media didn't criticize Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb because he was black:
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,'' Limbaugh said. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
The problem with Limbaugh's analysis? As yours truly pointed out at the time, by 2003, African-American quarterbacks had begun to thrive in the league; there was no need for the sort of media boosterism of which he was claiming -- nor was it in evidence. Interestingly, before quitting ESPN, Limbaugh went on the attack just as he did with the current Powell situation: He annointed himself the hero who was the only one daring to speak truth to power on the, uh, white elephant in the room:
"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," [Rush] said. "If I wasn't right there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community."
Note the similar self-aggrandizing language with respect to his being "the one person in the country who had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama."
Another irony that comes from this latest kerfuffle is that for the second week in a row that Limbaugh has suggested certain Republicans need to leave the party. After Arlen Specter jumped to the Democrats, Limbaugh said he should take John McCain and his daughter Meagan with him: "You're weeding out people who aren't really Republicans."
Funny thing though, Rush has made a big thing for years about not being a Republican himself -- or at least beholden to the party establishment. Indeed, he reiterated it during his famous, "I want Obama to fail" performance:
Reasons number 249 and 50 why I'm not a Republican. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has been chosen to introduce Vice-President-elect Biden at a bipartisan dinner in Washington on the eve of the immaculation. Biden was one of Hagel's closest friends in the Senate. "Bipartisan dinners also held that night honoring McCain and Colin Powell. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will introduce McCain at a dinner." So all these Republicans are being honored on the night before Obama is immaculately inaugurated, as though they're part of the Obama administration. Our presidential candidate is being honored. I can understand liberals honoring their losers, but I just...
So, the guy who proudly claims to not be a Republican is telling a guy who has served in multiple Republican administrations -- and spoken at Republican conventions -- that he should quit the party? But, of course, Rush thinks pushing moderates out of the party makes it that much stronger.
Call it Limbaugh's Anti-Powell Doctrine: The enemy may outnumber you -- but still keep removing as many as possible of the free-thinkers on your team until you've achieved ideological purity. Who knows? Maybe Rush will be knighted as the new leader of the Duchy of Free-donia. Call him the Mouth That Roared*.
*Yes, the mixing of metaphors and allusions to fictional literary and cinematic small countries was intentional.