(Yes, another tired pun on the word “rush.”)
What do I think on the great debate about Rush Limbaugh and the GOP? I don’t think there’s any way in which it can be good for the Republican Party to be seen as in thrall to The Mouth That Roared, any more than it would be good for the Democrats to be seen as in thrall to their big fat idiot. (I will say that I don’t think the DNC chairman wouldn’t call Michael Moore’s rhetoric “incendiary” and “ugly” for fear of alienating his fan base, but I also doubt that Moore would be the star speaker at a gathering of liberal activists.)
Jonah Goldberg defends El Rushbo here. Among other things, Jonah asks why it’s wrong for Rush or any other conservative to say that he or she wants Obama to fail, considering that Obama’s agenda — to “remake America as a European welfare state” — is one that conservatives naturally oppose. But there are many ways to say the same thing. I, for instance, would say that I hope Obama succeeds in turning the economy around, but fails in foisting upon us the big-government programs he is seeking to enact. Surely, Rush Limbaugh is smart enough to figure out something like this.
Jonah also asks:
Besides, since when did hoping for the failure of ideological agendas you disagree with become unpatriotic? Liberals were hardly treasonous when they hoped for the failure of George W. Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme.
No, but they were certainly called unpatriotic or downright treasonous — and rightly so — if they hoped for the failure of American troops in Iraq. Maybe war is different; but hoping for bad news in the midst of a major economic crisis does not seem much more attractive than hoping for bad news in the midst of a war. I would also add that if the Social Security reform did go through, any liberal who stood up and said that he or she hoped it would end in disaster and bankrupt millions of seniors would quickly become public enemy No. 1 to Rush and others — Exhibit A in the case against America-hating liberals.
Obviously, I don’t particularly care for Rush. I don’t listen to him a whole lot. I know that, unlike some of the talk radio screamers, he doesn’t insult and berate callers who disagree with him. I know that, compared to Michael Savage, his show is an oasis of civility, and that in some cases he has readily apologized for using ugly language. I do, however, know that Rush’s stock in trade is demonizing the opposition and treating Americans with different politics as the enemy. That, as far as I’m concerned, makes him part of the problem. Jonah mocks Tom Daschle for complaining about Rush’s broadsides in 2002, but those broadsides really were pretty extreme; Limbaugh basically accused Daschle of treason for criticizing the Bush administration’s conduct of the war and called him “Hanoi Tom” and “Tokyo Tom.”
I do wholeheartedly agree with Jonah’s proposal to bring back Firing Line — the old show hosted by William F. Buckley that featured rational, civil, interesting conservative-vs.-liberal debate. An online version of Firing Line would be good as well. I’d participate.
(Cross-posted to RealClearPolitics.com)