Liberal Times reporter turned liberal nytimes.com blogger Timothy Egan's latest rant against conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh, "Fears of a Clown," was propped up on the front page of nytimes.com on Thursday for the delight of the paper's liberal audience (last February, Egan calledLimbaugh "talk radio's leading gasbag").
This Thursday, after lamenting about the ubiquity of Limbaugh on the radio, he piled onto the White House-driven bash-Rush bandwagon, focusing on Limbaugh's speech to the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which was broadcast live on FOX News and CSPAN.
As someone who spends a lot of time on the road, I used to find Limbaugh to be an obnoxious but entertaining companion, his eruptions more reliable than Old Faithful. But now that Limbaugh has become something else - the face of the Republican Party, by a White House that has played him brilliantly - he has been transformed into car-wreck-quality spectacle, at once scary and sad.
The sweaty, swollen man in the black, half-buttoned shirt who ranted for nearly 90 minutes Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He reiterated his desire to see the president of his country fail. He misstated the Constitution's intent while accusing President Obama of "bastardizing" the document. He made fun of one man's service in Vietnam, to laughter.
That "man" would be Sen. John Kerry, who ran for president against Bush in 2004. Why Egan didn'tutterKerry's name is a mystery, except perhaps to avoid getting into Kerry's exaggeration of his heroism during the war, not to mention his outright untruths (Christmas in Cambodia?), as exposed by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Race is an obsession with Limbaugh, one of the threads I noticed on those long drives on country roads.
When Colin Powell endorsed Obama during the campaign, Limbaugh said it was entirely because of race. After the election, Powell said the way for the party, which has been his home, to regain its footing was to say the Republican Party must stop "shouting at the world."
In 2003, Limbaugh said quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted a black to succeed. Over the next six years, McNabb threw for nearly 150 touchdowns and went to a Super Bowl.
And Limbaugh launched the current battle when he said of Obama: "We are being told that...we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president."
Then Egan launched some sly comparisons of Limbaugh to Joe McCarthy, all the more contemptible for being evasive:
For Democrats, this is all going to plan. It was James Carville and associates who first cooked up associating Limbaugh with the opposition, as Politico reported. Then on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Limbaugh was the "voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party."
Limbaugh played his role, ever the fool. A brave Republican could have challenged him, could have had a "have you no shame" moment with him, giving the party some other identity, some spine. Instead, they caved - from Steele, to the leaders in the House, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence, to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who would be ridiculed by Limbaugh for his real first name, Piyush, were he a Democrat.
You could almost hear their teeth clattering in fear of the all-powerful talk radio wacko, the denier of global warming, the man who said Bill Clinton's economic policies would fail just before an unprecedented run of prosperity.
But Limbaugh has a fear of his own. If people see him purely as an "entertainer," as Steele suggested, he will be exposed for what he is: a clown with a very large audience.