round one…

Posted on Saturday 31 January 2009

There’s an Obama negative column  in the Washington Post by Kathleen Parker [Barack W. Obama] comparing Obama’s "I won" to Bush’s, "I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." I think it’s something of an overworked analogy., O. and W. But she goes on to talk about Rush Limbaugh and Obama and she’s more on target:
Obama was cool even when, at that same GOP meeting, he urged Republicans to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh. No anger, just angst. "You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done." Excuse me, Mr. President, but you’ve been baited by none other than the Master Fisherman. Limbaugh tossed you a lure and you chomped.

Never start a land war with Asia. Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel (or who owns the patent on the microchip). Never let rabble-rousers get under your skin – especially those whose popularity in some circles compares favorably with your own and whose earnings make bailed-out bank presidents envious.

While we’re at it, tread very carefully around the implication that conservatives cling to their talk-show hosts out of anger and frustration. That may be true, but the backfire Obama felt in West Virginia was a gentle zephyr compared to the blowback that can be bellowed by El Rushbo.

Obama’s pique at recent Limbaugh commentaries is understandable, but his reaction suggests a lack of playground wisdom. To backtrack, Limbaugh said he hopes Obama will fail because success would mean a socialist America. In language that would not endear him to his professed mentor, the late William F. Buckley, Limbaugh said:
    "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles… because his father was black, because this is the first black president, we’ve got to accept this."

Now there’s an image we could have lived without…
I agree that Rush Limbaugh is ahead in the game this week. But I’m not sure that Obama "took the bait." Obama did two things this week rather than just the one:
  • "You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done."
  • Obama was amiable, if not malleable. "Feel free to whack me over the head, because I probably will not compromise on that part," he told Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) when challenged on the composition of tax cuts. Obama said he would risk the heat: "I will watch you on Fox News and feel bad about myself."
  • He went to the Hill and met with the Republican Congressmen.
The combined attack from Talk Radio, Fox News, and the Congressional Republicans was an outright, vicious frontal attack. It had all the sarcasm and contempt they could muster. Obama could have ignored them. Instead, he acknowledged each one of those elements. He spoke candidly and respectfully with the members of Congress, and briefly mentioned the other two as divisive [and silly]. I think that was a brave first move. As Parker pointed out, Limbaugh has had a field day being an utter ass-hole – responding with a fever pitch of obnoxiousness. Kathleen Parker goes on:
But if he really wants to win, he might take a page from his predecessor’s playbook: Never dignify your enemies with recognition. 
My take on this is the opposite. If there’s an elephant in the room, say "There’s an elephant in the room." He’s done that, and given notice that he’s not interested it talking to people about serious matters if they’re going to channel Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly. That’s what he said, and that’s all he needs to say. But to not say it at all is like the family that never brings up that dad’s a drunk, or that mom is psychotic. I thought what he did was brave. Maybe he took the bait. Maybe he didn’t. But he wasn’t silent about how huge the influence of these people is, and how he’s not going to listen to them by proxy. Like the new dog in the neighborhood, he was marking his territory. He’s got a fight on his hands and I agree that he should not engage with these petty creeps. But he drew his lines carefully with all three elements without attacking. What is a better strategy than that? When someone says something like this, "because his father was black, because this is the first black president, we’ve got to accept this?" I don’t think silence works…

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