“In case you missed it,” said Jessica Heslam in the Boston Herald, “Round One of the Right-Wing Talk-Show Host vs. the liberal Leader of the Free World goes to … the Right-Wing Talk-Show Host!” It all started last week when Rush Limbaugh assailed President Obama on his nationally syndicated radio program, saying, “I hope he fails.” Soon thereafter, Obama was trying to persuade some House Republicans to support the Democratic stimulus package. “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,” Obama warned them. This must have felt to Limbaugh like a gift from the radio gods, and soon he was chortling about how Obama is more “frightened” of him than of the GOP leadership in Congress. He even proudly crowned himself “Senator Rush Limbaugh, the man to whom you should not be listening, according to President Obama.”
This may have been the “first tactical error” of Obama’s young presidency, said Joe Garofoli in the San Francisco Chronicle. By singling out Limbaugh, Obama only served “to elevate a talk-show host to his level,” giving the dispirited GOP someone to rally around. That someone is a talented performer who holds great sway over his audience of 15 million “dittoheads.” Does Obama really want to shine a spotlight on the opposition’s most extreme elements? He just might, said Ben Smith in Politico.com. A poll taken last fall found that Limbaugh was “the second-most toxic figure among likely voters, trailing only George W. Bush.” So with Bush out of the picture, it makes perfect political sense for Democrats to anoint the polarizing Limbaugh as the new symbol of the Republican Party.
Bring it on, said Michelle Malkin in the New York Post. Obama’s broadside only served to rally the base, and expose Limbaugh’s “biting critiques” of the Democrats’ ill-conceived stimulus plan to a wider audience. And if Obama thought he could “drive a wedge between Beltway Republicans and the outside-the-Beltway king,” he clearly miscalculated, since not a single House Republican voted for the plan. Well, bully for Rush, said Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But I’ve got news for the Republican congressmen lining up to kiss his, um, ring. Limbaugh’s only goals are to inflate his own importance and to insist that “ideological purity” be enforced. The stunts he uses to build a fiercely loyal audience, such as openly rooting for Obama’s presidency to fail, “don’t make sense for a mainstream political party”—assuming the GOP still wishes to be one.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.