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Tilting at Windmills

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March 10, 2009

LIMBAUGH VS. GINGRICH.... Rush Limbaugh insists he doesn't want to be the leader of the Republican Party. But somehow, he seems to keep engaging in high-profile fights with those who do want to be the GOP's leader.

The fissure between Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich seemed to begin in earnest about a week ago, at CPAC. Gingrich urged conservative activists to embrace an ambitious policy agenda, which he would generously write, shape, and outline for the right. Limbaugh, soon after, said conservatives need to "stop assuming that the way to beat them is with better policy ideas."

On Sunday, Gingrich made the next move on "Meet the Press," arguing, without mentioning the right-wing radio host's name, "You've got to want the president to succeed. You're irrational if you don't want the president to succeed. Because if he doesn't succeed the country doesn't succeed.... I don't think anyone should want the president of the United States to fail."

Limbaugh naturally assumed the former Speaker was calling him out, so he responded on the air.

"I'm frankly getting tired of talking about Newt. I mean, it's a pointless exercise," Limbaugh said of Gingrich's dismissal of him on "Meet the Press." "I'm surprised by nothing when I'm dealing with people in the media who think they're in politics. ... They are fly-by-night operators, and most of them stand for nothing until they see a poll about what the American people want, and then they go out and try to say one way or another what the American people want while trying to falsely hold onto an ideology at the same time -- and you can't count on them. You can't depend on them. They will sell you out; they will throw you overboard to save themselves, faster than anything. And they'll use you on their way up as often as they can at the same time."

"I mean, next week Newt could come out and profess his total admiration and love for me if it would serve his purposes," he continued. "They're running TV ads against me. Newt Gingrich wishes they were running TV ads against him."

So, I guess the next question is, will Gingrich follow the Steele/Sanford/Gingrey example and apologize for hurting Limbaugh's feelings? Or risk alienating the right-wing host's minions?

What's more, it seemed as if we were dealing with a divided conservative movement, with reform-minded Republicans like Crist, Brooks, Frum, and Huntsman taking on pretty much every other GOP leader in the party. But it's really more like a three-way fissure -- Brooks' reformers, Gingrich's conservatives, and Limbaugh's conservatives.

As intra-party disputes go, the substantive differences are mild, but the dividing lines are nevertheless clear.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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the substantive differences are mild

So mild, in fact, that I can't detect one.

Posted by: Danp on March 10, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Politics does make for strange bedfellows so in this catfight I'd have to support Gingrich even though he's just as crazy as the other idiot. Again, I'd like to know why is Rush such a pussy that he cannot be criticized?

Posted by: Paul on March 10, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

This is all just horribly exciting!

I cannot imagine Newt apologizing, it's just not his personality, especially with presidential aspirations.

Oh, let the rubber hit the road!

Posted by: Homer on March 10, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Gingrich won't apologize and this might just be the crack in the GOP that turns into a chasm. The more moderate Republicans will back Gingrich and the hardliners will back Rush. Seriously this could be the beginning of the end of the party if Gingrich sticks to his guns and considering his past I expect he will. I am popping some popcorn and sitting back to watch the fireworks.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla on March 10, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one who sees these words...

"I'm surprised by nothing when I'm dealing with people in the media who think they're in politics. ... They are fly-by-night operators, and most of them stand for nothing until they see a poll about what the American people want, and then they go out and try to say one way or another what the American people want while trying to falsely hold onto an ideology at the same time -- and you can't count on them. You can't depend on them. They will sell you out; they will throw you overboard to save themselves, faster than anything. And they'll use you on their way up as often as they can at the same time."

...and realizes that "El FlushBowl" could, in essence, be talking about himself?

Posted by: Steve W. on March 10, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Rush wants to be a kingmaker, not a king. Or, since we're talking about the GOP, Rush wants to be a puppetmaster, not the puppet.

Posted by: slappy magoo on March 10, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

A brilliant rhetorical move by Limbaugh here:
"I mean, next week Newt could come out and profess his total admiration and love for me if it would serve his purposes," he continued.

He criticizes Newt in advance for apologizing to him.

Posted by: dave on March 10, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Stupidity is doing the same thing in an entirely different situation and expecting the same result.

The mouthbreathers in the Republican party can't let go of Rush because he's been their bread and butter for twenty years. The somewhat smarter ones like Gingrich realized that America has changed and the party is going over a cliff, but probably don't have the strength to overcome the vast power of Teh Stoopid.

My hope is that we get War of the Roses in lovely HD on my teevee. Almost all of them have the same vicious animal cunning that will make the fratricide fun to watch.

Posted by: ericblair on March 10, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

"They are fly-by-night operators, and most of them stand for nothing until they see a poll about what the American people want, and then they go out and try to say one way or another what the American people want while trying to falsely hold onto an ideology at the same time"

Sounds like he's describing an opportunistic entertainer doing whatever it takes to hold onto a certain audience and keep the ad renue flowing...but he was probably just talking about Newt.

Posted by: Saint Zak on March 10, 2009 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

"As intra-party disputes go, the substantive differences are mild..."

quite true, because none of the three camps have made any credible counterproposals to Obama's program. They haven't got enough ideas for one faction, let alone three, so they all kinda sound vaguely alike.

Which is fine with me, as long as they keep bickering among themselves.

Posted by: richard greenslade on March 10, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Will Gingrich follow the Steele/Sanford/Gingrey example and apologize for hurting Limbaugh's feelings?"

No. Newt isn't running for office.

Posted by: JC on March 10, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

What seems to be missing in this cat fight are the culture warriors. We know that Lush is anti-feminist (Feminazis!), anti-gay, anti-immigrant, racist, to reflect the ideology of the nativist and ignorant ditto-heads he panders to, but he isn't a fundamentalist Kristianist exactly. A fascist yes, as are they.

The coalition of corporate establishment, libertarians, and fundamentalists/evangelicals/pentecostals seems to have already fallen apart, and probably can't be put back together again, which really spells the end of the Rethug party as we have known it - the party that is still well represented in Congress.

Let the cat fight continue. It is delicious to watch. With Steele shooting himself in the tongue every time he opens his dumb mouth, more and more of his faithful become Independents or Democrats. And in that there is hope.

Posted by: rich on March 10, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Morally bankrupt and without a good idea in their pockets, leaders of the faithful are doing wonders in confusing conservatism with a cult of personality! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 10, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

The focus on Limbaugh has laid bare the deep intramural divides that exist within the GOP between the "realists/reformers" who want to see Republicans actually win and the "populist ideologues" led by Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and crew who got into politics as a protest against the modern world and everything alien. There is no way the two can occupy the same party in times of stress like this, which is why the Conservative Movement is likely to once again split from the Republican Party, as it has in the past. It's a civil war that will tear conservatives apart, which is why Republicans are so furious with Democrats for provoking it. An over the top Gingrich even likened what the White House had done in raising Limbaugh's standing as "Nixonian" in its inspiration, if you can believe that.

Republicans may be accusing the White House of distracting the country with trivia at a time when we should be focused on solving the financial crisis. But the only folks who really seem to be distracted are Republicans. They can't stop talking about Limbaugh, who can't stop talking about himself. From a purely political perspective the White House strategy was brilliant. I've never seen a bigger bang for less buck. All it took was one word from the president and another one-liner from his chief of staff and Republicans have spent the last two weeks struggling to disentangle themselves from too close an association with the talk radio demagogue and his populist Dittohead insurrection. But Republicans are stuck with their pitch-fork wielding mob and they know it. And they are mad as hell at Democrats for pointing that out.

When you hear Republicans complaining about all this talk about Limbaugh being the leader of their party, remember that back in 1994 when Gingrich and his Southern reactionaries captured Congress for the GOP for the first time in 40 years, that Republicans threw an appeciation party for Limbaugh, giving him the unofficial title: "Majority Maker." They knew the power of right wing hate and bigotry to their party, however much they may want to distance themelves from it now, but can't.

Posted by: Ted Frier on March 10, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

I'm gonna go all contrarian. The differences between Limp-balls and the rest are real. The problem is they all call themselves "conservatives".

As compassionate liberals, let's do an intervention. It's high time to point out to "conservatives" that they can live with out the Great Fat Leader. The reason's simple - he's not a conservative; he and his ilk at CPAC are reactionaries. Old-fashioned conservatives, clownish fool conservatives, even economic luddite conservites, can re-own their brand (as we are beginning to re-own "liberal") simply by casting off their need to placate Fat-Boy's reactionaries.

Posted by: RuSs on March 10, 2009 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one who sees these words...
and realizes that "El FlushBowl" could, in essence, be talking about himself? - Steve W

Nope, you just got here before I did. Pretty remarkable, isn't it?

Posted by: beep52 on March 10, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

it occurs to me that if we could get this going as a cage match on pay-per-view, we might be able to pay for the whole stimulus package and thensome.

Posted by: mellowjohn on March 10, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see Brooks et al participating.

Is Limbaugh their "useful idiot"?
Is he doing it on purpose? If so, he may be smelling winds of change and getting out ahead of it. Implied meme: "The discredited Republicans take him on because he isn't one of them! He's "principled"... you know... like Crist!"


Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 10, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

I find it heartening that Rush finds it perfectly acceptable to admit that he'd rather push his ideology than to give Americans what they want. And that he'd attack any Republican who doesn't do the same. The concept of democracy really does seem to elude these people and the more they insult the majority of America, the better for us.

And what's idiotic is that Gingrich is totally right. I'm sure he doesn't REALLY support the president, but he needs to say this stuff. As I've been saying, they needed to at least pretend to support Obama while stating their disagreement with his theories, and then picking their opportunity to pounce. But instead, they keep pouncing at random intervals and nobody's buying it except the dummies in the media.

And while I think Rush's job is made MUCH easier by adopting a hardline stance against that, he's not doing the party any favors by insisting that the others do the same as him. Rush also should say that he disagrees with them, but say that he won't impugn their motives for doing what they did. But he won't. He's just thrashing about like a wounded grizzly bear and will slash anyone who gets too close to him. And in the long run, this is bad even for him.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on March 10, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh, Gingrich, and Steele are first and foremost entertainers; it's how they make their money. Herein is a perfect use of the term kerfluffle as a minor sideshow that gathers a crowd. For them, any publicity is positive. For us, a waste of time and resources.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on March 10, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

I don't agree that the differences are mild-- the policy differences may be mild, but we already know that policy is low on the wingnut 'To Do' list. What matters to them is who's in charge. And that is very much at issue.

Posted by: MattF on March 10, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

"more and more of his faithful become Independents or Democrats"

I'm inclined to believe the 'faithful' will simply not vote rather than turn democrats. The GOP is desperately grasping for a unifying theme such 'socialism', but the GOP's greatest attribute these past 8-10 years (absolute adherence to the party line) may be their undoing. They put all their eggs in one basket.

Posted by: palinoscopy on March 10, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

MattF - Unless you think the presentation of policy is "substantive", I'm missing the differences.

Posted by: Danp on March 10, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

We're getting played here. People should let this go away rather than continue to talk about it. It's a move to strength Gingrich as a national figure willing to take on and and corral the crazies in his party. This aint no accident. An orchestrated event by the right wing to garner attention to Gingrich. Let it die on the vine.

Posted by: grinning cat on March 10, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Grinning cat

I was thinking the same thing. Gingrich is first and foremost a wild-eyed revolutionary. That all this talk about Limbaugh is transforming Gingrich into a sober moderate is frightening. Gingrich is a skilled political strategist. His attempt to lay the sins of George Bush at the feet of Obama ("The Bush-Obama big government plan") is truly inspired, however audacious and dishonest. Let's not let Gingrich rise from the ashes of Limbaugh. We've had our fun, now let's put this Limbaugh flap to rest.

Posted by: Ted Frier on March 10, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

This is all just so fascinating. Gingrich doesn't have to apologize because he doesn't have any power to lose. He's not Cantor, Steele, Gingrey, et al. Plus, Gingrich, like it or not, has his own established brand in the Republican party. So he can allow himself to be taking the principled stand against Limbaugh. He wouldn't be so stupid if he was still a leader in Congress, but he's not, so he's seizing an opportunity to gain goodwill and seem totally sane.

Still, I think there are substantive differences. There are a handful of potential reform Republicans, but they're severely outnumbered. They see the obvious flaws in the party but are powerless to change it right now. Then, there are your garden variety Republicans (you know, the lifers) who don't like Dems but are willing to give Obama a chance because if he fails, we're all kind of fooked.

Then, there are the Rushbots. People incapable of independent thought and are easily scared into hating whatever Dear Leader tells them. They'll eventually be the losers of this battle, but we can hope it rages for a solid decade or so.

Posted by: Run Up The Score on March 10, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

The publicity is good for each of them personally (well, maybe not for Steele), but the way it's happening really shows how vacuous the Republican Party has become. Now we actually have people who are taken seriously who don't want any policy ideas. How foolish can that be.

Posted by: freelunch on March 10, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Gingrich hasn't changed a lot in the last 15 years and now he's being held up as the "figure willing to take on and and corral the crazies in his party". Clearly, there's not a lot of sanity left in the GOP.

Posted by: freelunch on March 10, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

The stage is now set for the biggest show ever, PT Barnum never came anywhere close to this. It is the monumental "Battle of the Blowhards", Rush vs Newt in a no holds barred death match. Coming this summer to ESPN.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on March 10, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

@Danp

Well, the differences between Rush and Newt (I'm unsure about Brooks, he's been all over the place lately) aren't substantive to me, but the difference between 'Rush is in charge' and 'Newt is in charge' are substantive to Rush and Newt, respectively. And, somewhat less snarkily, this -is- what matters to the wingers.

Posted by: MattF on March 10, 2009 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Newt IS using Limbaugh - haha - to try to appear to be the 'moderate' voice of reason.

Problem is ... he's Newt!!

Posted by: sidewinder on March 10, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's fascinating to watch the GOP floundering in its leadership vacuum. Normally one would expect the outgoing vice president to have this role, but he has retired. Their last presidential candidate is too old and too quirky. Their congressional leaders have no charisma. The state governor who was given a chance to reply to the budget speech blew it big-time. And so it comes down to this circular firing squad between pundits, talk-show hosts and yesterday's man Gingrich. Which person of substance will finally step up to the plate and try to end the farce? Romney? Giuliani? Crist?

Posted by: davidp on March 10, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

That all this talk about Limbaugh is transforming Gingrich into a sober moderate is frightening.

Ted Frier - Who's done that? Someone has suggested such a thing? I doubt it.

Besides, if Democrats were losing elections, would you ever say it was a good thing that a circular firing squad developed amongst us? I wouldn't. Look, we really need to kill this mindset that believes that conservatives are super-geniuses who can develop secret jujitsu plans to score big points on stories that look bad for them. They can't. We keep seeing again and again that they're incompetent fools who can't see past the noses on their faces. Even the much feared Karl Rove was little more than a slimy thug who couldn't count votes.

Gingrich and Limbaugh are IDIOTS. Gingrich in particular. Everything he touches turns to crap. The only reason anyone thought he was a genius is because he was head of the Republicans at a time when lots of conservatives switched parties and people wrongly imagined that he had something to do with it. He didn't. All that happened was that states like Texas flipped from Dem to Repub, but they stayed just as conservative as before. And as time went by, liberals and moderates realized what was happening to their party and slowly switched. That's it. And now that process is almost complete and we see how entirely boneheaded the Republican strategy was.

Gingrich isn't a political mastermind. He's a fool who was dumb enough to believe his own hype. And I am quite positive that it not only helps us to highlight what jerks like Gingrich and Limbaugh say, I think it double-helps us to highlight what they're saying about each other. While I did think Steele's comments might have been intentional stagecraft, until he disgraced himself by backing off, at this point, I don't see how this helps them or why we shouldn't assume these dummies aren't really shooting at each other. And the more we highlight these jerks as being the face of the party, the worse the party looks.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on March 10, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Is Limbaugh their "useful idiot"?
Is he doing it on purpose? If so, he may be smelling winds of change and getting out ahead of it.

I don't think Limbaugh is being a useful idiot: this whole thing is way too damaging to the GOP for them to have started deliberately. However, Limbaugh is probably deliberately staking out positions that are politically impossible for the GOP to hold, so he personally doesn't get blamed if they fail and he can keep up the ranting. Lots of people do this to some extent to avoid having to be responsible for anything.

The problem for them is, that there's so little resistance to Limbaugh's brand of stupidity that the GOP will chase him around and try to do what he says, causing the blob to get even more extreme.

Gingrich is a smart guy, but he's got just about every character flaw possible in a Republican politician. He's been the face of the GOP before and look how that turned out.

Posted by: ericblair on March 10, 2009 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Rush: "...I'm surprised by nothing when I'm dealing with people in the media who think they're in politics. ... They are fly-by-night operators, and most of them stand for nothing until they see a poll about what the American people want, and then they go out and try to say one way or another what the American people want while trying to falsely hold onto an ideology at the same time -- and you can't count on them. You can't depend on them. They will sell you out; they will throw you overboard to save themselves, faster than anything. And they'll use you on their way up as often as they can at the same time."

Right. As if Rush's shtick isn't squarely aimed at pleasing a targeted audience. If his listeners all by some miracle made peace with liberals, would he still have a job?

Posted by: Varecia on March 10, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Can they just settle this once and for all? Couldn't FAUX run a Pay-For-View Mud Wrasslin' Sumo match between the two. Brooks could dress up in some leftover Andover cheerleading outfit and dance around with PomPoms or Tampons, or what ever, as long as he doesn't display his peanut biceps. Might induce Ahnold statements.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 10, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

The dispute between Limbaugh and Gingrich is that Newt still cares on some level about the GOP winning elections. Rush only cares about Rush.

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on March 10, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Let's make sure that we are not getting "played" here.
Gingrich is the elected pol, Limbaugh is the entertainer, they play different roles, and can mutually benefit from this (possibly orchestrated) brouhaha.
Now that the minor players have set the scene, Newt steps in as the party savior, faces down Rush, and becomes the de-facto leader & front runner for the 2012 presidential nomination.
My prediction is that Rush will eventually back down and let Newt emerge as the Alpha Dog. Rush keeps his audience (he did it for the good of party and the country, they will say) and Newt gets all kinds of free press. They will embrace, unite the party, and get tons of press, all for free.
I saw it on iCarley recently, where "Fred" sets up a feud, thus boosting both site's hits.

Posted by: BuzzMon on March 10, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Let's make sure that we are not getting "played" here.

If getting played means that Newt becomes the next presidential nominee for the GOP, I'm all for it.

He'll get shellacked.

Nobody wants to have a beer with Newt Gingrich.

Posted by: lobbygow on March 10, 2009 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh and Newt et al are now trying to sell the fact that they don't want Obama to fail - they only want his policies to fail. This is a distinction without a difference. One could argue that either Bush failed or his policies failed, but for the country the results are the same. Of course, the republican owned media never points this out.

Posted by: James G on March 10, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

What Ted Frier said at 9:11 AM.

Posted by: Gregory on March 10, 2009 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Great post. And I love the way you managed to work the word "fissure" in so early when referring to Limbaqugh. Wasn't it @n@l fissures or cysts that kept him out of the miitary or something like that?

Posted by: muso on March 10, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

" With Steele shooting himself in the tongue every time he opens his dumb mouth, ... "

I'm not exactly shure why, but since your making this comment about a black man, it must be raceist.

Posted by: Lipstick on a pig. on March 10, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

You're forgot about a fourth group. The rest us who don't a rat's behind about the silly, personal intercine warfare amongst right-Cosmos.

You what to see what real conservatives are thinking, instead of worrying about what Limbaugh, Brooks and Gingrich are bellowing about, I suggest you slide on over to this website www.frontporchrepublic.com or this website www.amconmag.com or this website www.conservativetimes.org or here www.chroniclesmagazine.org.

You might actually enlighten yourselves instead of being amused.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on March 10, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Am I the only one who sees these words...
and realizes that "El FlushBowl" could, in essence, be talking about himself? - Steve W

Nope, you just got here before I did. Pretty remarkable, isn't it?"

Ditto.

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on March 10, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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