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March 07, 2009

Missing the Point on Rush Limbaugh

Wunderbar. This is just what a party already in disarray needs! Instead of making reasonable, serious arguments pitched to appeal to issues large numbers of Americans can agree upon, let's indulge in polemicist rhetoric that turns off even those who agree with the underlying ideology!

Here’s my considered (and no doubt extremist) response:* In suggesting that the trouble here is that Republicans are straddled with the burden of having to explain Limbaugh’s nuance, Patterico (and Allah) are not only conceding the linguistic ground to the left, they are now actually helping perpetuate what, at least on Patterico’s part, he knows to be a lie** — an out of context quote whose real meaning he admits to understanding, but whose complexities will be lost on those of, well… let’s just say lesser intellectual stock — in order to avoid confusing people who can’t be bothered to get the actual context correct, or who aren’t at all interested in getting it right. All so these folks might find it more difficult to despise the right for the way the left has decided to portray it.

Is that about the gist of it? — that it’s just too damn difficult to demand that what we mean be presented honestly, and so rather than fight that kind of complicated battle, it’s best just to learn to self-edit in a way that placates those who don’t do nuance well — while simultaneously castigating those willing to do the work of fighting the difficult battles?

You can "demand" less shallow/more accurate media coverage all you want, Jeff, but at some point it's probably not a bad idea to factor reality into the political calculus. The conservative blogosphere spent the last 8 years "demanding" honest and unbiased coverage of the war, the Republican administration, and several elections from a media who, by and large, lean left and want us to fail.

That worked out well, didn't it?

Now all of a sudden, conservatives who have the temerity to point out the obvious are the enemy?

... Americans have short attention spans and don’t always do nuance well. Just by writing the title of this post the way I did, I’ll get an angry reaction from some — even though, if you read the post, I haven’t said anything particularly negative about Limbaugh. As Allahpundit says:
It’s Republicans who are suffering from having to thread the needle between defending Limbaugh and rejecting the “I want him to fail” rhetoric. What harm has Rush suffered? His stature’s never been greater, as he himself acknowledges right here.

...Michael Steele and other Republicans need to say: “Rush Limbaugh is an articulate man who expresses conservative principles well. But when he says he wants Obama to fail, he’s putting things in a deliberately controversial way to draw attention to himself. I wouldn’t say I want Obama to fail. I would say simply that I think conservative principles are better for our country. That’s how I feel — and I’m not apologizing for saying so.”

The Marines have an old saying: fight smarter, not harder. The thing is, you have to do a bit of both. You have to actually fight if you mean to win.

But shooting yourself in the foot isn't helpful, because as we learned in Anbar, that whole "hearts and minds" thing is often the decisive factor that makes victory possible. It's the difference between fighting an uphill battle with no support and forming an effective coalition of folks who don't agree with every single one of your objectives, but have decided their interests are better served by throwing in with you, rather than the other side.

So exactly how does polemicist rhetoric that is easy to mischaracterize win us allies?

Answer: it doesn't. In point of fact, it turns away potential allies. Hell - when I heard Rush had said that, I was disgusted and I happen to agree with most of the points he made.

The message is important, but delivery is important too. It's quite possible to say the same thing in two completely different ways: one will piss people off and make them think you're a self-serving partisan, and the other rationally appeals to interests most people have in common.

Centrist is not a dirty word. It doesn't mean apologizing for or abandoning your principles. It just means we need to do a better job of articulating our ideas in a way that de-emphasizes our differences and capitalizes on the things we agree on. Obama just won a national election because he was better at that than John McCain. Turns out he was lying about a lot of what he said, but that's beside the point.

He's sitting in the Oval Office right now and we're fighting amongst ourselves and flailing about ineffectually rather than keeping our eyes on the freaking ball. Not helpful.

And all the folks in the party who can't seem to stop attacking the centrists have issues with electoral math. Pissing off and alienating anyone who fails to demonstrate sufficient reich wing ardor won't help us put together enough votes to win back Congress and the White House.

In the 1990s, the Republicans under Newt Gingrich succeeded in building just such a coalition, but they did it by avoiding divisive topics and concentrating on issues which had broad appeal to the majority of voters:

During the construction of the Contract, Gingrich insisted on "60% issues"[citation needed], intending for the Contract to avoid promises on controversial and divisive matters like abortion and school prayer. Reagan biographer Lou Cannon would characterize the Contract as having taken more than half of its text from Ronald Reagan's 1985 State of the Union Address.

And let's not forget that Ronald Reagan, historical revisionism aside, was widely considered too liberal and too centrist by his own party... until we needed an icon who embodied "success". Then we disclaimed the means but took credit for the end.

Again, not helpful. I didn't like John McCain as a candidate, but the truth is that he was perceived as being closer to the majority of American voters (you know, that whole winning elections thing?) than the rest of the candidates on offer:

Probably the biggest meme going around right now is that John McCain's just a bleeding-heart liberal, no better than Hillary Clinton.

Of course it's not true. Folks are entitled to their views, of course, but for many brain-addled, anti-McCain talk-radio Rush-bots, there's little of practical reason that might break through the prejudice.

But I'll make a stab anyway: Take a look at this chart, from Andrew Kohut, over at the New York Times. I just love this graphic!!!

I'm getting a kick out of it, mainly because this is Political Science 101. I draw this image on the chalkboard every semester when I cover political ideologies, particularly during classrooom discussions on the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

Although it's quite common for people to chant, in exasperation, "there's not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties," in truth the American political parties offer dramatically different ideological orientations and policy programs. The U.S. does not have a tradition of multiparty democracy and true radicalism, as in European history. But our distinct culture of individualism and markets is often challenged quite vigrorously by left-wing preferences for expansive governmental intervention (i.e., the Great Society), and more recently by the upsurge of postmodern leftism following the cultural and rights revolutions in the 1960s.

But look at the graph: For all the fulminations against McCain and Huckabee and the alleged threat they pose to the GOP, it's interesting that the median voter clumps McCain, Huckabee, and Mitt Romney all together - nice and neat - on the right of the spectrum (hint: the right wing's conservative folks). Indeed, Huck's further to the right than is Mitt Romney, to whom many conservatives gravitated following the withdrawal of Fred ("Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act") Thompson.

We need to send some talk radio hosts back to school!

But what's even more important is that John McCain's position on the right of the scale rests closer the country's media voter, and hence the hypothesis from this spatial model is that while he's conservative, he's more likely to capture moderate-to-liberal voters in a general election matchup against the eventual Democratic nominee.

We have to live in the real world. This is what the real world looks like:

perception.jpg

Notice how differently Democrats perceive things. Now let's indulge in a little electoral math. Registered Republicans aren't numerous enough to hand an election to a conservative candidate. We have to pull moderates and even conservative Democrats over to our side. Unless and until we can do that, we will continue to lose.

Now if that's what you want, then go ahead and help Rahm Emmanuel identify a controversial and polarizing talk show host as the de facto leader of the Republican party. Go ahead: knock yourself out.

But it's a huge mistake (as well as a tour de force of political tone deafness) to think that we're going to win the next election by allowing ourselves to be perceived as extremists.

What we need is to perceived as credible, competent, honest brokers who have a better plan for this country. You don't see Newt Gingrich flaming out the opposition, and yet he's broadly perceived as being all of these things.

We don't need to compromise our principles. We just need to articulate our platform competently in a way that emphasizes common interests and avoids handing a knife to our opponents. That takes discipline, and there's nothing wrong with people pointing that out. I'm happy to have people in the party who disagree with me on both issues and tactics.

I'm not so keen on turning them into enemies right after we just lost an election and I'll be damned if I'll support a party that turns on anyone for suggesting we might not be headed down the right track.

We're supposed to be on the same team, here.

Posted by Cassandra at March 7, 2009 10:57 AM

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Comments

Cass, somewhere in all that kerfuffle, you lost me there. I don't know what the point is that you're trying to make. Is it that we shouldn't be shooting Limbaugh, and helping Messrs. Begala, Carville & Emanuel out? Is it that a better smarter choice might have been Giuliani instead of McCain? Or is it, that for the moment at least, you're frustrated with the whole darn mess?

Posted by: Mike Myers at March 7, 2009 12:44 PM

Love that phrase, "polemicist rhetoric"...

Posted by: BillT at March 7, 2009 01:03 PM

I'm astonished that there are still people who learned nothing from the recent election. John McCain is the epitome of what you're arguing for. The media fawned over him for years because of it.
That is, they fawned over him until he had served his purpose and was head to head with teh teleprompter Jesus and then he was George Bush term three.

Next argument ...

Posted by: Joes Cuervo at March 7, 2009 01:44 PM

No, John McCain is NOT what I'm arguing for. Nowhere in that post did I say John McCain did any of the things I said we needed to do, to win an election.

I didn't think I was being obscure but apparently I was if my points weren't understood:

1. There are many ways of making the same argument.

2. If the goal is to convince a broad group of voters to vote for us rather than the Democrats (which is what we need to win an election) it's not helpful to make your argument in a way that causes *part* of that audience to view us as extremists.

3. If you're losing the game (and we are right now), you need to avoid costly mistakes. You need to argue competently and not hand ammunition to your opponents.

People who think that we're going to forge broad-based appeal by making easily mischaracterized and sensationalistic statements don't help us win votes.

It's a false choice to pretend the only alternatives are between John McCain (who did NOT do a good job of articulating our principles competently and also arguably didn't even *understand* conservative principles, much less believe in them) and someone who is perceived as being so far right that centrists won't support him.

There's another alternative: a conservative who competently articulates conservative ideas without pissing off more centrist voters. It's possible to do that. Reagan did it.

Rush ain't Reagan, and if the party wants to paint anyone who doesn't hew to a very narrow line as a collaborationist, they're going to lose votes.

Including mine. I don't mind fighting.

I just hate to see us fighting the wrong battle.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2009 02:11 PM


I don't know what the point is that you're trying to make. Is it that we shouldn't be shooting Limbaugh, and helping Messrs. Begala, Carville & Emanuel out?

How is it "shooting Rush" to say this?

“Rush Limbaugh is an articulate man who expresses conservative principles well. But when he says he wants Obama to fail, he’s putting things in a deliberately controversial way to draw attention to himself. I wouldn’t say I want Obama to fail. I would say simply that I think conservative principles are better for our country. That’s how I feel — and I’m not apologizing for saying so.”

How does that "help" Rahm Emmanuel? His goal is to make it seem that Rush speaks for all conservatives because he knows Rush is widely disliked outside of conservative circles. Not liking or agreeing that assessment doesn't change the truth of it.

Is it that a better smarter choice might have been Giuliani instead of McCain?

How did I introduce that graphic? I said, "look how differently Democrats perceive things.

That doesn't say anything except the obvious fact that people who don't agree with you will perceive you as more "extreme" in your views than those who agree with you.

It doesn't mean McCain or Guiliani were "good" candidates. It doesn't mean the things McCain did to make him perceived as moderate should be emulated - there are MANY ways to be perceived as moderate.

It's a very simplistic argument to pretend that McCain-like aisle reaching is the ONLY way to win an election. I didn't argue that.

I said we need to be more disciplined in the way we articulate our arguments if we're trying to convince people who may not share ALL our view, but share enough of them to be persuaded.

Any anyone who thinks either party can win an election without winning people in the middle hasn't been paying attention. That's how we just got beaten.

I think this was pretty clear:

Centrist is not a dirty word. It doesn't mean apologizing for or abandoning your principles. It just means we need to do a better job of articulating our ideas in a way that de-emphasizes our differences and capitalizes on the things we agree on. Obama just won a national election because he was better at that than John McCain.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2009 02:29 PM

OK, now you have the Blog Princess all riled up. Succinctly put, John McCain is an idiot. The Republican Party is a disaster, from which I have disassociated myself. I live in California, which is a beautiful state, barring the political cretins. DiFi, Senator Barbie, Nazi Piglosi? Gag me with a spoon.

Posted by: Mark at March 7, 2009 02:30 PM

Love you, Cass, but I fear you and Pat (whom I have met, like, have had great conversations with and respect greatly) have missed Jeff's essential point -- the minute you buy into the Left's hijacking of language then you are playing their game and will not win. Period.

JeffG is the academic and I can't even come close to his language skills, but I know a bad faith passive-aggressive when I see it.

The ONLY way to win is to stop playing.

Posted by: Darleen at March 7, 2009 02:53 PM

I waded through over four hundred comments on that thread on ProteinWisdom the other night.

I sided with Jeff G. Patterico NEVER responded to most of Jeff's points. Over and over again, by many of the commenters, the point was made that seems to elude Patterico.

No matter what Rush Limbaugh says, or how he says it, the left is going to distort the message to their advantage. There is a danger in worrying about what words one uses to make one's points, and consciously engaging in such linguistic limitations plays right into the left's hands.

Sitting and parsing every word we utter, hoping that we won't give "fodder" to the left. to misinterpret what we say, is a futile and ridiculous notion.

Posted by: JannyMae at March 7, 2009 02:59 PM

*rises from trench*
I can't argue with a thing your say... well, except may to point out that

..."making easily mischaracterized and sensationalistic statements"...
is all too easy in this age.

We are, after all, talking about a population who pays more attention to American Idol and Hollywood celebrity nonsense than to politicians and policies with the potential to have a major impact on their lives now and in the distant future. Like dude, like two months from, like now, even. Eh?

And who could argue that the art of quoting someone out of context, repackaging the snippet within the context of the propagandists choosing and repeating the message a few gazillon times has not been elevated beyond anything Orwell could have ever imagined? Not me...

Should the conservative message be carefully considered and delivered? Sure, but IMO it does not matter how carefully the conservative message is considered prior to being made public, the message will be dissected and reconstituted in such a way as to serve the purpose of the opposition. And it will be delivered to an audience who is either too invested in the positions of the opposing side, too lazy to verify the messages, or too willfully ignorant to save in any event.

It's just part of the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds. The progressives slice, dice and repackage the pronouncements of conservatives. How often does this happen on your own blog M'lady? Often enough I'd wager you would say.

No matter the message, conservatives must be reconciled to the reality of having to continually correct those who seek to skew the message. And we must do so in a way that does win over those segments of the population who are not (as one of my favorite old CPO's used to say) et up with the dumbarse.

*now back to my regularly scheduled trenching*

Posted by: bt_careful-with-that-microphone-Eugene_hun at March 7, 2009 03:05 PM

Or what Janny Mae said...

Posted by: bt_careful-with-that-microphone-Eugene_hun at March 7, 2009 03:06 PM

bthun,
Careful with that entrenching tool.

I want my country to be prosperous, peaceful and free. I voted for John McCain in November.
After Barack Obama was elected, I hoped out loud (I think I might have made a comment to that effect somewhere on this blog) that he would be successful as President. But now there is objective evidence that what President Obama defines as successful in his presidency is not going to result in anything like the country I have lived in and my children are growing up in.

I think, on the prosperous, peaceful and free scorecard, President Obama is about 0 for three.
Properity: Has not addressed the central banking/finance crisis. Is proposing new taxes that will only affect the "top 5%". Cap and trade will make electricity more expensive. Huge stimulus package based on more borrowing. New entitlements on the way. Big, huge deficits as far as the eye can see. Will this work?
Right. Wall Street is not voting "yea" on this.

Peaceful: It appears that not everyone is as enthusiastic with President Obama as those legions that appeared in Denver last summer. There are people speaking up in a lot of places, beside the inestimable Rush Limbaugh.
This administration seems to have a lot of trouble with criticism, even though "We won" seems to be a trump card that never wears out.

Free: Nothing has happened yet to me or anyone like me, so we shouldn't become fearful without reason. But why would the Administration become so obsessed with confronting and demeanng private citizens, and why is much of the Media so imbecilicly playing along? Because they do not fundamentally believe in dissent, they do not believe inside that "dissent is the highest form of patiotism." They invented that hoary chestnut to justify vilification of all the perceived wrongs of George W. Bush.
So yes, in the name of supporting President Obama, plenty of people will give lie to their alleged belief in First Amendment rights. The cause du jour of the Media is to marginalize and shut up Rush Limbaugh. That is task for the day.

H.L. Mencken was an extremely articulate and harsh political and social critic of his times, from around the turn of the 20th century up through the '30's. He criticized everybody, right, left, Democrat, Republican. He attacked the New Deal and Roosevelt, for some of its stupider collectivist ideas, and Roosevelt and his administration barked back, and a lot of the "Media" of that day joined in, to marginalize Mencken, greatly reducing his stature. It also didn't help that Mencken was of German ancestry and harkened to the NASDP in Germany (the Nazis) as an example of "progressive" governance. But if you read history of the era, a lot of so-called intellectuals agreed with that.
But Roosevelt pretty much shut him up. My mother lived through that era (she was born in 1921), and remarked years ago that the country came pretty close to a dictatorship under Roosevelt.

So yes, I want my country to succeed and be all the best things it can be to its citizens, to live up to the ideals and principles of the Constitution and the subsequent amendments. For all its citizens to have "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But now, to have those things sustained, I think Obama must fail.
There, I said it. I want Obama to fail.

So sue me.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 7, 2009 03:48 PM

So.

If you believe that no matter what is said and how carefully it is said, it will be distorted by the media?

How - exactly - then, do you expect your counterarguments to survive this same process?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2009 03:59 PM

The fact is, irrational people at BOTH ends of the spectrum believe what they want to believe.

There are people who, by temperment or ideology, are in the center. They are amenable to signing on with either side and they are *highly* suspicious of anyone or any argument they believe to be partisan.

I have voted Republican in every election after Carter (what can I say? I was 18). Every. Single. Election.

If I am turned off by Rush's rhetoric (and I listened to the entire show so I'm not "quoting him out of context") is it just possible that people more centrist than I will be even MORE turned off? The truth is, you can't win an election without people like me. You don't have the numbers.

If you want to take that chance, go ahead. But your arguments aren't making any sense to me.

We have lost the PR war for 8 years running. All our "corrections" of the press never DID correct the "16 words" meme, did they? You can deny that perception is important all you want, but there's a huge body of evidence (as well as the last election) that contradicts that position.

If something isn't working, you change strategies.

I have news for you: we're not convincing America we're the better choice. We need to do better.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2009 04:06 PM

Should the conservative message be carefully considered and delivered? Sure, but IMO it does not matter how carefully the conservative message is considered prior to being made public, the message will be dissected and reconstituted in such a way as to serve the purpose of the opposition. And it will be delivered to an audience who is either too invested in the positions of the opposing side, too lazy to verify the messages, or too willfully ignorant to save in any event.

And we can make that EASY or we can make it HARD.

Why make the job easier?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2009 04:08 PM

I was not defending Rush, I was not trying to make a case that in any way alluded to perception having no relevance and I did not think I was making a case for incivility or for not making the attempt to be persuasive and bring centrists into the fold. But there is no denying that the message for the past eight years has been shaped and delivered, in no small part, by the leftist in the media in spite of what conservatives say and do.

Posted by: bthun at March 7, 2009 04:39 PM

Cass

I haven't listened to Rush since the 90's and I don't have to defend him. What I am saying, what JeffG is saying, what a lot of fed-up non-leftists are saying is we won't play the Left's game any more. We cannot/will not cede our own speech to their interpretation.

What the Obama admin is trying to do with Rush (and Santelli and Cramer) is what the Left does to Christians ... make a cartoon caricature then argue against that caricature. Make up an interpretation of a phrase, even make up a deliberate misquote, then be outraged by that misquote.

For heaven's sake, look at the NYPost "chimp cartoon" debacle. Is it any wonder that cartoonists now are holding back and stand up comedians are avoiding anything that reflects badly on Our Lord and Savior Obama (PBUH)?

Everyone should engage in civil conversation ... but that doesn't mean becoming doormats.

When an abused wife thinks "oh, maybe I caused this because I didn't have the dinner done on time or I talked back" the abuser has won.

Posted by: Darleen at March 7, 2009 05:55 PM

When Democrats denounce Olberman, Maddow and Matthews for their partisan, over the top efforts at making all Republicans villains all the time, on MSNBC, and say that they don't speak for the Democratic Party, when EVERY NIGHT Olberman villainizes someone else, CONSCIOUSLY, what does this mean?

When PBS subsidizes Tavis Smiley, Frontline, Bill Moyers and on, and on and they are bulletproof from mainstream criticism, what does that mean?

Is there a clue here? Does anybody know how to play this game?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 7, 2009 06:48 PM

Don, it's fascinating, at least it is to me, how the mouthpieces you mention above seem to be winning the hearts and minds of the nonpartisan voters while we have a food fight amongst ourselves over what Rush says versus what the MSM says he says.

And while we're having a food fight, I'm gonna say one more thing to you Mr. Brouhaha regarding...

"So sue me."

SUIT FOR DAMAGES IN DEFAMATION OF THE DEFAMED IN THE COURT OF CIVIL JUDGE -SENIOR DIVISION- MSM AKA SPANISH INQUISITION

Special Suit No.0000.5/2009

MR. HUN, BT HUN aka Neal Anderthal
Aged YES, married ABSOLUTELY
Resident of HUN HOVEL,

BitterNClingy, FLYOVER. S.E.
.......................................Plaintiff

V/S

1) MR. DON BROUHAHA

Resident of INTERTUBES,

UNITED STATES.

.......................................Defendant

SUIT FOR DAMAGES IN DEFAMATION OF DEFAMED AND RESULTING EMOTIONAL DISTRESS.

The plaintiff above named states and submits as under:

1) The registered address of the plaintiff for the purpose of communication as required under mumbly-fritz ladeedaa of the Civil Procedure Code is the same as is mentioned in the cause title.

2) The plaintiff is a.... Well, he is a leading expert in the art of entrenchment.

3) The entrenching efforts of the plaintiff in a short span have been much maligned by suggestions that care was not utmost in mind of the plaintiff during entrenchment.

4) The resulting emotional stress and anxiety caused by this accusation having slowed Mr. Hun’s entrenching efforts and induced a severe contusion to and placing a twist in his root chakra that is visible to all with The Sight, compounds the injury.

I, MR. HUN, BT HUN, the plaintiff above named state on oath that the contents of paragraphs 1 to 4 are true to my own knowledge, as true as any representation that you might hear of in the news or multitudes of blogs.

The Plaintiff is seeking damages for defamation and emotional distress *belch* in the amount of 1 Samuel Adams Lager, one quart of Wite-Out® and one Slap-Chakra to more rapidly repair his onion of a soul.

Consider yourself served! =8^}

Posted by: bt_careful-with-that-microphone-Eugene_hun at March 7, 2009 08:02 PM

Suddenly this comes to mind. I suspect it was effective.

Posted by: Pablo at March 7, 2009 10:10 PM

"Registered Republicans aren't numerous enough to hand an election to a conservative candidate."

By conservative I infer that you specifically mean social conservative. I've asked this on other sites & I'll ask it here. Has anyone bothered to collect data to validate their hypothesis that social conservatives lost McCain the election? My counter hypothesis is that fiscal conservatives stayed home because they were annoyed with McCain's support for Bush's bank bailout boondoggle.

Posted by: adagioforstrings at March 7, 2009 10:11 PM

All you have to do is look at the number of Registered Republicans. We just aren't numerous enough to win an election.

Honestly, this isn't even a close question. And it's not just this election.

Bush won b/c he won a sizeable portion of the crossover vote. I haven't seen a President in modern history who has only had appeal to his own party. You need the crossover vote to win.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2009 10:38 PM

When Democrats denounce Olberman, Maddow and Matthews for their partisan, over the top efforts at making all Republicans villains all the time, on MSNBC, and say that they don't speak for the Democratic Party, when EVERY NIGHT Olberman villainizes someone else, CONSCIOUSLY, what does this mean?

It means they're better at this game than we are.

We just lost an election. And FWIW, regarding the "So sue me", that isn't really fair.

I never said I disagreed with Rush. You don't even know what I think of the merits of what he said. But I don't say everything I think b/c I'm aware how easy it is to misinterpret some statements.

No one's asking him to shut up.

No one's disputing his right to say what he wishes.

The only question is: does the RNC want to help Emmanuel in his quest to associate us with Rush? Because if we allow ourselves to be manoevered into defending him every time he does something to get attention, we've allowed someone outside the RNC leadership to be our spokesman.

The fact is this: he's a freaking talk show host.

He can say what he wants, but he's neither the RNC chair nor an elected Republican. So I don't understand the idea that we have to defend him.

He's a big boy.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 7, 2009 11:02 PM

How - exactly - then, do you expect your counterarguments to survive this same process?

Rush was making a speech to CPAC. Political hack reporters latched onto "I want him to fail" and deliberately left out the very obvious context because they're political hack reporters.

Then the hack reporters ask every conservative/GOP pol they interview for the next few news cycles to react to the statement.

The pol, trying hard not to offend the dishonest hack reporter or say something else that will be taken out of context, utters mush and drivel.

Which then scores TWO points for the Left: the GOP are mean-spirited meanies and they're blithering morons.

This isn't about defending Rush. As you say, he's a big boy and can defend himself. This is about defending the terms of the debate. It's about publicly identifying and calling out dishonesty right there in that interview where people can see it.

Observe:

Hack Reporter: Rush Limbaugh, who is the de facto leader of the GOP, says he wants Obama to fail. Is that the kind of tone the opposition is going to take during this presidency?

Proper response #1: George, that phrase, "de facto leader of the GOP," is a direct quote from Rahm Emmanuel, in one of his daily phone calls to three main media figures, including yourself. Why are you repeating his words as if they were fact when you know very well that they are not?

Proper response #2: Matt, please repeat the question, only this time provide the context for Rush's quote and omit the propaganda line from the Obama White House.

Proper response #3: Katie, it's hard for me to take that question seriously. You failed to provide context for Rush's statement and you repeated Rahm Emmanuel's words without identifying the source.

Proper response #4: Of course Rush wants him to fail in his attempts to drastically increase the size of government. Rush is a Reagan conservative. He doesn't want to see the country go in the direction that Obama wants to take it. I don't understand why people are upset about what Rush says. Where were you when Democrat members of congress were pronouncing the Iraq war lost when in fact it was anything but?

The merits of what Rush said, both in content and in tone, are not what is in question. Anytime a hack reporter or pundit starts obsessing over tone, you know they have no way to answer the content.

Call them out. Call them out on their own shows. The problem with the GOP is they're trying so hard to be liked by the NYT and NPR and all the fancy people in the Boston/Washington corridor that they won't stand up for themselves and they won't call out hack reporters for being hack reporters.

Someone needs to. They need to do it now. You'd be surprised to see how many people would be delighted to see a GOP politician (shewt, ANY politician) and a hack reporter his head.

Being solid and unapologetic in your views will WIN supporters, yo. It's the "democrat lite" crap that's keeping the GOP away from the polls.

Posted by: dicentra at March 8, 2009 12:32 AM

Erratum:

You'd be surprised to see how many people would be delighted to see a GOP politician (shewt, ANY politician) hand a hack reporter his head.

Posted by: dicentra at March 8, 2009 12:35 AM

He's a very big boy, Cass. :)

I meant to say:

"When Democrats DON'T denounce Olberman, Maddow and Matthews..."

Everyone KNOWS that these jokers don't speak for the Democratic Party, just as they KNOW that Rush doesn't speak for the Republican Party.
Daily Kos WISHES that they spoke for the Democrats, and they want to read out anybody that doesn't toe their line (sound familiar about some Republicans wanting to read out the dreaded RINO's? Way to build a majority!).

The fight is about who has the right to level legitimate criticism (or illegitimate) at anybody, over anything. There is that First Amendment thingy that we all pat ourselves on the back about. We all have that right, and nothing that Rahm Emanuel says or does can change that. And Emanuel is effective in this, to a degree, because the rest of the Media want to carry water for him. How conveeeeeeeniet!

What Rush says is jarring because most of the rest of the major news outlets have become eerily Orwellian in their chorus of praise and tepid examination of the Obama Administration. I dont't want them to scurrilously attack him, just be a little honest and skeptical.
It's all good according to them!

All those jokers at CNN, MSNBC, etc., have big networks behind them. Even though Rush has plenty of money and a successful organization, he pretty much stands alone. And he makes no bones about being partisan. These attacks want to cut his stations, sponsors and organization out from under him, and shut him up. No amount of criticism of Olbermann or others, is going to shut down MSNBC. They might take Olbermann off the air if he actually was proven in court to be libelous (fat chance), but MSNBC will continue. But Olberman pretty much carries everything as politcal speech, so he is protected.

But in the context of what Limbaugh said, I have come to believe he is right. Rush has been working up to this for weeks, and he just repeated at CPAC what he has been saying for weeks on his radio show.
And it is frankly not because of some personal animus toward Barack Obama. It's just that everything I suspected of him (Obama) has unfortunately been proving out after six weeks. I hope it gets better, but I doubt that sort of change is in the cards. He is the legitimate President of this country, duly elected, and we are stuck with him at least until January 2013.

And is what Rush said worse than Randy Rhodes making jokes about assasinating George Bush on Air America? That's where Rachel Maddow came from, you know. Craig Kilbourne made jokes about that sort of thing too, and now he's at Guantanomo (that's a joke).

We all wish political speech was nobler and more thoughtful, but it is what it is. I remember a year or two ago you mentioned that you had ventured into the political left side of the blogosphere to engage and find out what they really thought, and came away feeling pretty sick about the whole effort.
This, unfortunately is the real world, where real people think really ugly stuff every day.
Fair? Who said anything was fair in politics?

And this last year the Media has been so mind-numbingly dishonest about nearly everything, from the calculated incuriousness about Obama to the vicious attacks on Sarah Palin, that a bolt of honest opinion from Limbaugh is a breath of fresh air.

**********************
Bthun, your working too hard to make fun of me. I'm really a pretty simple target to hit. :)
By the way, I don't live on the Intertubes, I live in the vast wastelands of suburban Columbus, Ohio.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 8, 2009 12:41 AM

Your problem is not with Rush and what he said. Your problem is with the media mis-interpretation of what he said.

Lets stop apologizing for his or any other Republicans plain use of the English language and start telling the media that if they would try taking some English classes they might just be able to understand the language.

Nothing he said was wrong. The people being interviewed that were apologizing for what he said were fools. You know going into the interview that the media is in the tank for the Dems, so why not just call them on it and be done with it.

If Mr. Steele had just told the the guy interviewing him that he was being an obtuse horses ass and left it at that he would have been fine.

Our problem is that we always want everyone to self-monitor their speech so we don't give the media a chance to twist the words to their own end. That is a losing battle. Articulate our side and call the bums in the media on it every time they try to twist something.

You think maybe the American people might just wonder what was going on if no Republicans were ever invited on the shows?

Posted by: Russ at March 8, 2009 01:38 AM

I don't understand why the chairman of the RNC is in the business of explaining or apologizing for anyone outside the RNC?

That is my point: why get drawn into a debate that doesn't serve your purpose?

I thought this whole thing was stupid when it came up. That's why I didn't write about it. Steele should have said, "If you want to discuss Rush's remarks, talk to Rush."

Instead, he got sucked in and made it worse by giving them another sound byte: "Steele vs Rush: cage match"

"Disarray in the RNC!!! A party in crisis"

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The chairman of the RNC shouldn't be in the business of explaining or defending the remarks of talk show hosts: misquoted or not.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2009 04:50 AM

dicentra:

I agree with much of what you said, but I also think that given political reality it's based on a best-case scenario (i.e., the person in the media spotlight at the moment is always going to have been briefed on all the details of the brouhaha of the day). That isn't always the case, and reporters KNOW that. That's why they do it.

As you point out, these folks lie in wait for either a perceived or real misstep, and then they milk it for everything it's worth for days on end hoping to give the story legs:

Then the hack reporters ask every conservative/GOP pol they interview for the next few news cycles to react to the statement.

Exactly. And what I'm saying is, unless you absolutely have to, why play their game? Why react at all?

The pol, trying hard not to offend the dishonest hack reporter or say something else that will be taken out of context, utters mush and drivel.

True. And sometimes they try to rebut and step on their cranks. And that's stupid. And unnecessary when you stop to think about it. Like Nancy Reagan said, "Just say no".

This isn't about defending Rush. As you say, he's a big boy and can defend himself. This is about defending the terms of the debate.

I guess I disagree about the best way to "defend the terms of the debate". When you're constantly being asked what you think of someone else's statements, that's a distraction from what *you're* trying to accomplish (i.e., get *your* message out). Just cut them off and move on.

It's about publicly identifying and calling out dishonesty right there in that interview where people can see it.

Again, in an ideal world where you have the facts right at hand and you can do that without giving them another sound byte, that's not a bad idea. But I think it's more successful in the abstract than it is in practice.

This whole thing reminds me of my kids. You tell them to do something and they start bringing up what some other kid's parent says or does. And it's irrelevant.

My answer to that was always: "I don't really care what x or y says or what your friend is allowed to do. You're my son and this is what *I* say. End of story."

And it was. I don't see why we can't say to the media, "I'm not here to explain or defend someone else's remarks. If you want to discuss what X said, ask him onto your show."

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2009 05:21 AM

Mr. Brouhaha,

Just trying to lighten up the mood... Food fights ought to be fun ya know, especially if we're to have 'em in public.

Posted by: Dewey, Cheatem & Howe ESQ. at March 8, 2009 08:36 AM

"Articulate our side and call the bums in the media on it every time they try to twist something. "
Dare I say, ditto!
"The chairman of the RNC shouldn't be in the business of explaining or defending the remarks of talk show hosts: misquoted or not."
Zactly!

Posted by: Dewey, Cheatem & Howe ESQ. at March 8, 2009 08:41 AM

Heh.

Don finally admits what we all suspected: he's easy...

Posted by: Cassandra at March 8, 2009 09:04 AM

Don, we're on the way. We will be there in a few.

Posted by: Mark at March 8, 2009 02:26 PM

Don finally admits what we all suspected: he's easy...
Don, we're on the way.

Depending on their intentions, that may not bode well for Señor Brouhaha...

Posted by: BillT at March 8, 2009 04:47 PM

I'm fine, thanks for asking.

What's for dinner? And just for the record, where's Pile On? He hasn't been seen around these parts (VC) in a month of Sundays.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 8, 2009 06:16 PM

We miss him too, Don. But he is a busy man :p

Though we always thought he liked a well-shaped derriere....

Personally, we are *not* feeling the love.

[sniff!]

Posted by: Cass's Butt at March 9, 2009 12:33 PM

Awwwww. This might be the time to mend those fences with the mint chocolate chip...

Posted by: BillT at March 9, 2009 12:42 PM

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