Thursday, March 05, 2009


Jane Hamsher must have the modern GOP confused with some other Republican Party:

... I was having a conversation last night about the fact that someone in the GOP could make a name for themselves taking on Rush, but it would have to be the right person. Newt may think it's him, but his negatives are probably as high as Rush's, and they'd just drag the whole thing further into the mud. Jim Baker may have the gravitas, but he has operated in the background for so long he's not really a household word. My top pick was Orrin Hatch, whose social conservative credentials are good, but so far he has shown no appetite for the task. Palin, like Jindal, Pawlenty and Cantor, is too much of a lightweight. The only reason anyone listens to them is because nobody's listening to Boehner, so his bellyaching is useless.

Someone suggested Huntsman, who quickly spotted how weak Jindal was and made headlines accusing him of "gratuitous political griping." He's hugely popular in Utah with an 80% approval rating, and seems to be positioning himself as an outspoken party reformer. Could Limbaugh swallow him whole, like he's doing with the rest of the party? Possibly....

Possibly? Possibly? Opposing Limbaugh, in the modern GOP, would be like advocating gay marriage and Eurosocialism on a hunting trip in rural Mississippi. No amount of prior mutual respect could help you survive that. Your relationship with your auditors is toast.

It would be like insulting the Pope on the campaign trail in Boston in 1935. It would be like badmouthing high-school football in Texas. Some things you just can't walk back.

And I think Jane is wrong here, too:

It may also be a matter of timing -- the story is amusing now but wearing thin fast. A few days, a week, a month from now, Limbaugh will not have tired of the sound of his own voice, but the rest of the country probably will. If someone's good at picking their moment -- and Huntsman seems to be -- they may be able to collect Limbaugh's scalp and resurrect the GOP.

But I'm afraid that's not how the story is going to end. I've been wrong about this, and I should have known it: the story's going to end with finger-wagging at Democrats by members of the "liberal" media elite.

The conventional wisdom is already becoming set in stone. The line will be the GOP line: that

just weeks into his Administration the President's staff has been caught engaging in a coordinated and cynical political attack game -- the very diversion and manipulation then-candidate Obama attacked the McCain campaign for last year

in the words of an e-mail from GOP senator John Cornyn (quoted in this Politico post). The Cornyn e-mail echoes Michael Scherer's tut-tutting Time blog post from yesterday; both of them begin by quoting the same Obama statement on the campaign trail. The line that Obama and other Democrats are practicing nasty, lowball, hypocritical politics isn't limited to Scherer's post and Cornyn's e-mail and this op-ed by John Boehner -- it's showing up in pearl-clutching posts from Talk Left's Big Tent Democrat ("Applauding That We Once Despised") and the Daily Howler's Bob Somerby. By next Sunday morning's chat shows, there probably won't be anything left to this story except the sniffy question Didn't Barack Obama say he was going to be better than this? Instead of attacking a harmless entertainer, shouldn't he be trying to solve the country's problems?

Of course, last time I looked, Obama was also trying to solve the country's problems -- maybe you missed it, but there's a mortgage relief plan over here, a stimulus plan over there, a health-care plan warming up in the bullpen ... But no -- the furrowed-brow question on every Sunday show is going to be "Didn't he say he wanted to solve problems and not just play the same old political games?"

And the fact of the matter is, Limbaugh is the most powerful and most typical Republican in America -- he says what Republicans, on the whole, believe -- and he is deeply influential with a right-wing minority whose opinion the press has portrayed, incorrectly, as quintessentially American and mainstream for years. So it's perfectly appropriate to attack this very important political figure. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the country really does find him appalling, and it is perfectly appropriate to point out that no one in the elected and appointed GOP leadership does, at least not for attribution.


UPDATE, FRIDAY: Want to watch the story evolving in the direction I've outlined? Read Howard Kurtz today.

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