In an Obama-Limbaugh fight, the President can't win
Last week on the day following the inauguration, radio talker Rush Limbaugh took batting practice with fellow gasbag Sean Hannity, working himself up into his customary lather and declaring he'd like nothing better than for new President Barack Obama to "fail."
Republicans, said Limbaugh:
have no guts to stand up for what their beliefs are because they're afraid of criticism; they're afraid of being called racists; they're afraid of not having gotten with the program. So I shamelessly say, no, I want him to fail... [W]hy would I want socialism to succeed?
Fine -- that's exactly what one expected when Obama and the Democrats swept the 2008 elections. Like an algae bloom that occurs when a desperately needed rainstorm washes sewage into the ocean, Limbaugh, Hannity, and their ilk do their best work when they can attack from the underdog position. For Limbaugh to assert that he does so "shamelessly" is perhaps the most unneccesary adverbial modifier since Nixon proclaimed that it was, indeed, a Great Wall.
What was unexpected was when Obama seemed to respond, a couple days later. Speaking to congressional Republicans in an effort to drum up support for his economic stimulus package, Obama said, "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done."
Or, as he was quoted in a Fox News story:
We're all political animals, we've all got political bases. If we don't get this done we (the Democrats) could lose seats and I could lose re-election. But we can't let people like Rush Limbaugh stall this. That's how things don't get done in this town.
And to top it off, Obama said the debate between tax cuts and increased spending had already been settled by the 2008 presidential election which, he pointed out, "I won."
Am I alone in thinking little good can come of this sort of playground taunting?
Such bloviating is the stock-in-trade of Limbaugh and his ilk; by responding at all, much less responding in kind, his opponents only lower themselves to his level. And while I wouldn't bet against Obama in a one-on-one matchup between Limbaugh and the new President, a direct debate is unlikely to occur. Instead, like a science fiction fiend who absorbs the energy of any attacks upon it and only grows stronger, Limbaugh gains in stature any time the President or one of his proxies mentions him or seems to respond to him.
Obama can win only by playing to his own strength, which is his ability to inspire others. He should keep to the high road, and if any trench warfare is called for, I'm sure Rahm Emanuel has a squad of ankle-biters ready to spring into action. Let's hope this incident is a reflection of first-week inexperience, not the way Obama and his staff plan to respond in the future to right-wing foamers.