by Eric Martin
While I generally try to leave the filleting of the conservative movement's more outrageous voices to the experts (knives being sharp and all), I occasionally attempt a skewer or two when so moved. At the risk of relying on anecdote, though, it seems that every time I write something about Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh I'm chided from the left ("why waste time talking about them?") or the right ("they don't really represent the Republican Party/conservative movement in America").
Well, an interesting thing is happening within the Republican Party, and it only exposes the prominence of voices like Limbaugh's, and the extent to which he can actually bring elected GOP representatives to their knees. I'm sure many of you are already familiar with the story of Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, who recently had some mild criticismsfor Limbaugh - particularly appropriate given Limbaugh's recent declaration that he hopes the Obama Presidency fails, consequences to the American public be damned, and that the Republican leadership seemed frightened to pursue such a strategy.
After Gingrey's faint rebuke, Limbaugh lashed out, and Gingrey supplicated himself before El Rushbo:
“I never told Rush to back off,” Gingrey continued. “I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives — that was not my intent … Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience.”
As Steve Benen observed:
Gingrey went on to say, "I see eye-to-eye with Rush Limbaugh," adding that he's among millions of Americans "inspired" by Limbaugh
Note, Gingrey hadn't said anything especially controversial yesterday. It iseasy for political observers on the outside to criticize, as compared to keeping a party together. But Gingrey not only faced a swift rebuke for daring to question Leader Limbaugh, but apologized, in writing, and in an embarrassingly meek tone.
The Republican Party is suffering something of a leadership vacuum. It's pretty obvious who's calling the shots. [emphasis added throughout]
Indeed. But it didn't end there. Mike Pence (R-IN) was next in line to make gestures in Limbaugh's direction cooing about how he "cherish[es]" Limbaugh's "voice in the debate." Yeah, what's not to love.
But stillit did not end there. The Wall St. Journal lept into the fray and offered Rush a spot on its Op-Ed pages from which to offer a solution to the economic crisis - a sophomoric proposal that doesn't even pretend to take into account questions of efficacy. No, to Rush, it's all a political ruse:
Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let’s say the vote was 54% to 46%. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009: 54% of the $900 billion—$486 billion—will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46%—$414 billion—will be directed toward tax cuts, as determined by me.
Brilliant! Erected on such solid economic principles! How could that possibly fail!
So there you have it, the cherished voice of the conservative conscience offering a fiscal gimmick that, however ludicrous, the GOP leaders know better than to question. No, I expect them all to tiptoe around l'enfant terrible as if he was little Anthony Fremont.
But now that the GOP has acknowledged Rush's place in the movement's firmament, shouldn't we all drop the protests that Rush is too insignificant to discuss, or that discussing his views would be a waste of time because he doesn't really speak for the GOP? Why, he's one of their most revered pundits. "Inspirational" even.
Given this, I believe it would be fair - no necessary - that the media ask a whole host of questions of GOP representatives regarding Limbaugh's past statements/positions. After all, the media has a duty to inform the American people of just how much influence the extreme right wing has over the Republican Party.
A short list below the fold, but feel free to add your own.
Does the Republican Party have a problem with calling Iraq war veterans that favor a withdrawal from Iraq "phony soldiers"?
Does the Republican Party believe that the torture and, in some cases, deaths of detainees at Abu Ghraib was akin to, or the result of, harmless "frat pranks"?
Does the GOP agreethat Obama got the Democratic nomination because "nobody had the guts to stand up and say no to a black guy"?
Does the GOP agree that the Democratic Party are the "PR spokespeople for Al Qaeda"?
That "minorities never do anything for which they have to apologize"?
That "The government's been taking care of [young blacks] their whole lives"?
That Ahmadinejad's writings contain "some liberal Hollywood Jewish people talking points"?
That "They [Democrats] celebrate privately this attack in Spain" - referring to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people.
That "Halfrican Americans" is an appropriate term for biracial individuals of mixed caucasion and African American descent?