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Tilting at Windmills

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March 2, 2009

IS THERE A THIRD CHOICE?.... Leadership vacuums can lead to some genuine unpleasantness for a political party.

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is taking issue with the notion that Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the GOP, calling the conservative radio talk show host an entertainer whose comments can be ugly.

Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with CNN that he, rather than Limbaugh, is "the de facto leader of the Republican Party."

And Steele described Limbaugh as a performer.

"Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh's whole thing is entertainment," Steele said. "Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly."

Specifically, when CNN's D.L. Hughley referred to Limbaugh as "the de facto leader of the Republican Party," Steele quickly interjected, "No, he's not. I'm the de facto leader of the Republican Party."

Now, I'm delighted to hear Steele refer to Limbaugh as "incendiary" and "ugly." Chances are, the RNC chairman is going to have to walk that back fairly soon -- Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) can probably offer him some advice -- but Steele was probably trying to appear reasonable and credible, at least temporarily, while talking to Hughley.

Regardless, how depressing is this for the Republican Party? Determining the GOP's "de facto leader" comes down to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Steele?

Shouldn't there be some kind of third choice, perhaps someone who's actually been elected to some kind of public office?

Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Now, THIS is gonna be fun to watch.

Posted by: bcamarda on March 2, 2009 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Apology (and kissing Rushbo's ass) to begin in 3...2...1

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 2, 2009 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't there be some kind of third choice, perhaps someone who's actually been elected to some kind of public office?

You mean someone like Sarah Palin?


Posted by: SteveT on March 2, 2009 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Micki Mouse is the leader of the club! Does that qualify as an elected office?

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 2, 2009 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Lollerskates.

Posted by: FeverM on March 2, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

If you have to tell people that you're the defacto "head" of something, you're not it.

Posted by: rusrus on March 2, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

As Chairman of the RNC, wouldn't Michael Steele be de jure leader of the party?

Then Rush can stay on as de facto party leader.

Everybody wins!

Posted by: ajw_93 on March 2, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Steele is off the hook! Beyond cutting edge!

BUT, no one crosses Limbaugh. NO ONE.

Posted by: Gang Green on March 2, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

I nominate Joe Lieberman

Posted by: TM on March 2, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Shouldn't there be some kind of third choice, perhaps someone who's actually been elected to some kind of public office?"

Michael Steele was elected to the public office of Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in 2002 and served in that office from 2003 to 2007. He ran for Maryland's vacant Senate seat in 2006 but lost to Democrat Ben Cardin.

He also has a solid background in Republican politics, which is a substantive credential for anyone who aspires to or claims "leadership" of any political party. Wikipedia notes:

After joining the Republican Party, Steele became chairman of the Prince George's County Republican Central Committee. He was a founding member of the centrist fiscally conservative and socially inclusive Republican Leadership Council in 1993 but left in 2008 citing disagreements over endorsing primary candidates. In 1995, the Maryland Republican Party selected him as Maryland State Republican Man of the Year. He worked on several political campaigns, was an Alternate Delegate to the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego and a Delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia that ultimately chose the George W. Bush ticket.

In December 2000, Steele was elected chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, becoming the first African American ever to be elected chairman of any state Republican Party.

As a citizen of Maryland who is familiar with Steele's career and his politics, I do not in any way endorse or support him. Quite the contrary.

However, he has put in the work and paid the dues to earn a leadership role in the Republican Party.

Unlike Rush Limbaugh, who has never done anything but sit on his fat ass and read the corporate-written, scripted, focus-group-tested lies that are handed to him.

I don't like Steele's politics, but he is not the complete and utter phony that Rush Limbaugh is.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Trying to appear reasonable and credible? More likely he was trying to protect what he considers his turf.

Posted by: CDW on March 2, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

If I wanted to help the GOP, I'd suggest Collins, Snowe or Specter... you know, Republicans that LEAD. The ones that put "Country First" and DO something to get the economy's feet under us again.

But under the current circumstances, may I suggest Boehner or Newt?
Is Larry Craig interested?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 2, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen, please be sure to do a follow-up on whether or not Steele apologizes to Limbaugh. I'm very interested in whether or not the GOP is engaging in effective push-back against that pill-popping hypocrite. If they ever start actually doing that, maybe they will finally be on the road to being an effective opposition party, something this country really does need.

Posted by: Shade Tail on March 2, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Only one man can unite the Republicans, can appeal to both the frothing hatemonger and the corporate stooge: Dick Cheney!

Posted by: calling all toasters on March 2, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently things got heated at CPAC when Steele said about Rush, 'foo' be trippin', yo,' and then gave high fives to several members of his 'posse.'

Posted by: doubtful on March 2, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh is a dick.

Posted by: David Bailey on March 2, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Food fight!!!!!!!

Posted by: Curmudgeon on March 2, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Benen: Shouldn't there be some kind of third choice, perhaps someone who's actually been elected to some kind of public office

Apparently Eric Cantor and Ron Paul are daring to state criticism of Limbaugh...Y'all should see the flaming over at Free perv ille, if you can stomach giving the site the page hit.

Posted by: grape_crush on March 2, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh isn't an entertainer, he's a carnival huckster.

His full name is Rush Hudson Limbaugh III.

He vacations in France and has a seriously love for French wine.

He just hates America.

Posted by: alan on March 2, 2009 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Technically, Michael Steele is the de jure leader of the Republican Party. Or perhaps we might say he's the titular head. Rush Limbaugh is the de facto head. And Reagan is the Figurehead. Where's Bush? I can't think of any pun obscene enough.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on March 2, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

As I reviewed the list of prominent Republicans, it didn't take long for me to start wondering, "How did these idiots get elected?"

Shortly after that I began to wonder, "Who ties their shoes for them in the morning?"


Posted by: SteveT on March 2, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK
Regardless, how depressing is this for the Republican Party? Determining the GOP's "de facto leader" comes down to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Steele?

Shouldn't there be some kind of third choice, perhaps someone who's actually been elected to some kind of public office?

There are lots of other choices as to who one might see as the de facto leader of the party, but I don't see why there should be any preference for election to public office. The Republican Party isn't an organ of government, there is no reason why its de facto head ought to be a public officer. Sure, its traditional that the President is seen as the leader of his party, but that's almost the only time that a US party leader is usually also a public officer (an extension of this is that, during a Presidential general election campaign, a party's nominee is usually seen as the head of the party). Other than that, the de facto leader of the party is usually the party chairman.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 2, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Specifically, when CNN's D.L. Hughley referred to Limbaugh as "the de facto leader of the Republican Party,"

Whoa, when did that happen? What's next, MSNBC's Steve Harvey? FOX's Cedric the Entertainer?

Michael Steele was elected to the public office of Lieutenant Governor of Maryland in 2002 and served in that office from 2003 to 2007.

Oh, please. Maryland's Lieutenant Governor is elected on a ticket with the guvernatorial candidate - most of the time nobody knows who the lieutenant governor is. Quick, name the current lieutenant governor of Maryland.

Posted by: John on March 2, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm the de facto leader of the Republican Party. And if I have to punch both Steele and Limbaugh in the nose to prove it, I accept that challenge...repeatedly.

Seriously though, Limbaugh is blowing this. If anything, he's supposed to be the leader of the conservative movement. He's not supposed to be a party hack, at least not in theory. That's part of his whole credibility: That he's a purist ideologue uncorrupted by the needs of Washington. That way, he's not a liability to Republicans and they're not a liability to him. They're two separate entities which just so happen to have an alliance, but which don't always agree. Or so used to be.

But now that he's insisting that all Republicans also be pure while forcing elected officials to kowtow to him, he's messing the whole thing up. O'Reilly says he's still an Independent. Fox News still pretends to be fair. Nobody with a brain believes it, but there are still plenty of brainless who haven't caught on yet. But Limbaugh is outright posing as the voice of the GOP, rather than the voice of America. This needed to be the time that conservatives went into the wilderness and came out without the Republican taint. But Limbaugh still won't let go and is dragging the party down while holding public purity parties.

Limbaugh gave up conservative purity for party hackery a long time ago, but he's never made it so obvious until now. His schtick works much better when he's championing a downtrodden victim than when he acts like a conqueror. Particularly not when he's only conquering Republican politicians.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on March 2, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Shouldn't there be some kind of third choice, perhaps someone who's actually been elected to some kind of public office?"

Like who? Boner? Cantor? Pence? McConnell? Gomer Kyl? Jindel the Page? Caribou Barbie? That's a list of rejects from a circus freakshow, not viable political leaders.

True, there are guys like Charlie Crist and Jon Hunstman...oh, wait, they preach tolerance, moderation and new policies, so they are heretics who must be purged from the cult. My bad.

Oh and yes, Steele has been Lt. Guv in the past. Perhaps one should say, "elected on his own," since he won that race by piggybacking on Bob Ehrlich. When he ran for office on his own, he got clobbered.

Posted by: gf120581 on March 2, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans have been check-mated on this one. They can't be seen on the leash of a self-promoting con-man entertainer, yet butting heads with him means butting heads with the core of their ever shrinking base.

The Republicans have to disance themselves and regain control. Limbaugh has to keep it boiling to keep attention focused on himself. Its quicksand for the Republicans

Posted by: Saint Zak on March 2, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Shortly after that I began to wonder, "Who ties their shoes for them in the morning?"

Hired help.

Limbaugh has successful selling his reactionary nonsense, but he's just another rich kid who thinks that his success was all his own doing.

Posted by: freelunch on March 2, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

grape_crush I followed your link. Wow those guys are truly delusional. Putting them in and staffing homes for the hopelessly insane will create full employment overnight.

What we have here is failure to communicate. Do what Massa Rush says or he be whipping you.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Technically, Michael Steele is the de jure leader of the Republican Party. Or perhaps we might say he's the titular head. Rush Limbaugh is the de facto head. And Reagan is the Figurehead. Where's Bush? I can't think of any pun obscene enough."

Well, there's always 'Dickhead,' but of course that's Cheney's job.

Posted by: azportsider on March 2, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I wondered about the D.L. Hughley thing myself.

Oh, and -- funniest comment thread ever!

Posted by: stinger on March 2, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

The choice between Limbaugh and Steele is like having a choice between saying "the 16-ounce glass of kool-aid you just drank was 50% rat poison," or "the 16-ounce glass of rat poison you just drank was kool-aid." Either one is a death sentence....

Posted by: Steve W. on March 2, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't it pretty much speak for itself that Steele is even considering the phrase "de facto" in reference to himself? If he's the RNC leader, opposition party with no clear candidate, then he's the LEADER - if he's willing to cede that there might be another "de facto" leader, then that doesn't speak so well for his confidence in his own leadership.

Is there any record whether Limbaugh IS a Republica? Is he registered, does he contribute? (remember he was touting voting for Hillary in the primary - perhaps he's not even a registered Republican!).

It would be pretty funny if the "de facto" leader of the Republican party weren't even a Republican.

Posted by: g on March 2, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Rush just finished spending about 20 minutes ripping Steele to shreds on his show. Will Steele have the guts to tell Rush that the GOP can't win squat if the only people who vote for it are Limbaugh listeners?

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on March 2, 2009 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is one serious political animal. Through his comments he elevated Limbaugh to the head of both the conservative movement and the Republican party. Limbaugh might be the biggest lightening rod in America, wildly loved by 14 million and the butt of a billion jokes. Limbaugh fell for the expanded roll given him by Obama's attention. Elected Republicans like Steele and Cantor are trying to resist, but can't without risking offense to the great unwashed pool of dittoheads hooked on their daily dose of Limbaugh.

I love watching a master at work.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

You know, this may well be the reason the Dems have been pushing the whole 'Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican party' schtick in the first place. Sooner or later the actual politicians are going to get annoyed that this fat useless blowhard is getting all the attention even though he's never campaigned for anything in his life.

This is going to be the mother of all turf battles, and I for one am loving it!!

Posted by: Curmudgeon on March 2, 2009 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Rush and Steele need to have a jive off, so we can see who "be da man"! (The GOP's favorite dope ...)

Per Ron B: Pwbama!

azportsider: W Bush is the shithead. I wanted to say, Steele is "the blackhead" but that's insensitive ...

Posted by: red reptile on March 2, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

From Halperin's page:

The ladies of ABC argue over the fairness of Rush's remarks at CPAC, discussion then evolves into debate over his appearance.

Behar accuses him of looking a little chubby, while Sherri jumps to his defense: “I think he looks kinda hot.”

I honestly have no words for this except: Ewwww!

Posted by: Missouri Mule on March 2, 2009 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party isn't an organ of government, there is no reason why its de facto head ought to be a public officer.

Good point. I nominate Bernie Madoff.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Romney has a claim to the title, since I heard he won a plurality of the straw poll. Or there's Palin, I guess Jindal is in timeout for now.
Lameball, Poochie, Mittens, Kenneth, or Barbie--take your pick, Dems win no matter what. Works for me.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on March 2, 2009 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

This thread is off da hook and I should know, being GOD and all that!

Posted by: GOD on March 2, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Stop giving Obama credit for this. I mean, sure, he's a good politician, but the problem here isn't that the Republicans were outfoxed, the problem is that Rush Limbaugh actually is the leader of the party. De jure leader although not de facto, of course, but it's true. Who was that GOP Congressman who criticized Limbaugh and then desperately walked it back the following day? That preceded Obama's remarks on Limbaugh, if I remember correctly, not the other way around.

Posted by: Cyrus on March 2, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Specifically, when CNN's D.L. Hughley referred to Limbaugh as "the de facto leader of the Republican Party," Steele quickly interjected, "No, he's not. I'm the de facto leader of the Republican Party." -- Steve Benen

Face it, Mr Steele...When Steve Benen and others *on the left* are the only people paying attention to what you say, you're not the leader of the *right*-wing party. Not de facto, not de jure, not de domo, not in any way at all. If you think you are, you are either de lusional, or just plain de mented. Rush-to-Limbo has a following, so he's a leader. All you have is a meaningless title and antediluvian vocabulary.

Posted by: exlibra on March 2, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Who was that GOP Congressman who criticized Limbaugh and then desperately walked it back the following day? That preceded Obama's remarks on Limbaugh, if I remember correctly, not the other way around.

Absolutely true. What Obama, Emanuel and every other Dem beating this drum do deserve credit for is recognizing the potential of that humiliating scene and freaking running with it.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2009 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Cyrus, @15:21,

I think Obama *did* start it, when he said -- during the fight for the stimulus -- that listening to Limbo wasn't going to get things done. Rush took offence and things rolled on from there...

Posted by: exlibra on March 2, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK
Stop giving Obama credit for this. I mean, sure, he's a good politician, but the problem here isn't that the Republicans were outfoxed, the problem is that Rush Limbaugh actually is the leader of the party. De jure leader although not de facto, of course, but it's true.

I hope you meant the de jure and de facto the other way around, there. Otherwise, that's a pretty odd claim.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 2, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

He forgot to mention "drug addled", you know: yes it's incendiary, yes it's ugly, yes it's drug addled.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on March 2, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Steele:
Yo dis goes out to all ma peeps in the hizood. I'm da head pimp in da Republican party, ya heard me?

Posted by: WInknandanod on March 2, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I actually saw some of that "Breaks the News" episode, though I missed the Rush-related discussion. At the end, D.L. insisted that the what the three of them (former Public Enemy frontman Chuck D was also there) had in common (as black men, obv.) was greater than their ideological differences. Kinda awesome and touching, also guaranteed to make dittoheads puke up their Ensure.

Takeaway visual: Michael Steele pals around with D.L. Hughley and Chuck D.

Posted by: kth on March 2, 2009 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Chances are, the RNC chairman is going to have to walk that back fairly soon...

Seems doubtful to me... for Steele to walk that back would be to provide demonstrable proof against his own assertion.

Posted by: The Lurkologist on March 2, 2009 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Capt Kirk: He forgot to mention "drug addled", you know: yes it's incendiary, yes it's ugly, yes it's drug addled.

and don't leave out...

thrice-married....

meanwhile..

Rush = never been RICHER

GOP = never been MORE OUT OF POWER

some people NEVER catch on...


Posted by: mr. irony on March 3, 2009 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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