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Tilting at Windmills

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May 13, 2009

TAYLOR CROSSES RUSH LINE, FACES WRATH.... The other day, I teased Jerry Taylor for a post at the National Review in which he said President Obama wants to convince the public that guys like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh "are the leaders of the GOP at the moment." Taylor said this is premised on the notion that these personalities "are thought to be relatively unpopular with non-movement Americans."

I joked that there isn't any real mystery here; clowns like Limbaugh really are unpopular with Americans outside the conservative "movement." Taylor responded yesterday, and after encouraging me to "cut back on the coffee," he conceded he is "no fan" of Limbaugh and Hannity.

While I will admit to not listening to their shows, the snippets that I have caught over the years have irritated. One can agree with a majority of their vision regarding what constitutes good public policy and who is worthy of my vote while being annoyed by the manner in which their arguments are being made and chagrined by the dubious logic and dodgy evidence being forwarded to buttress their arguments. One can also be driven to frustration by the seemingly endless parade of political red herrings and conspiracy-minded nonsense that I have heard both of them traffic in.

Good for Taylor for having the courage to say so publicly. Indeed, after taking a few mild shots from fellow conservatives at "The Corner," Taylor returned to the subject.

[T]he more people who think Rush Limbaugh leads the GOP, the fewer votes the GOP will get. [...]

Just because Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh agree with us more often than not doesn't mean conservatives should shout "Amen!" when Obama coronates them as leaders of the Republican party or the conservative movement.

Regarding my claim that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity often use "dodgy evidence" to back their claims, I can only plead that on the rare occasions that I've listened, this is exactly what I have found.... [I]f you want chapter and verse on that score, you can't do better than Al Franken's two books on this subject (Lying Liars and Rush Limbaugh). Now, I know that this will double my hate mail, but the fact is that Mr. Senator-Elect is often spot-on regarding the facts when he goes after these guys.

He added that many of Hannity's bizarre attacks on the president are "bark-at-the-moon crazy," which makes Hannity a poor banner-carrier for conservative ideas.

This, not surprisingly, also did not go over well at "The Corner." In fact, Mark Stein called Taylor's arguments "pathetic," and "an embarrassment to National Review." So, Taylor returned to the subject once more.

The question for conservatives is this: Do you want President Obama to succeed in painting the Republican party as the party of Rush Limbaugh? Given his sub-Nixon popularity figures, I can't believe I'm causing a firestorm by suggesting the answer here is probably "no."

Except, of course, he was causing a firestorm by crossing the one line conservatives aren't supposed to cross -- he questioned the value of letting a deceptive, drug-addled radio shock-jock lead a party and movement.

The irony here is that Democrats have worked for months to carefully characterize Limbaugh as the right's driving force and leading authority. Corner-ites, by slamming their conservative colleague for questioning the utility in following Limbaugh, only help reinforce the Dems' point.

The left keeps arguing, "Conservatives are a bunch of mindless ditto-heads, reflexively taking orders from a man who lies on the radio for a living." And the right keeps responding, "You're damn right we are!" It just never seems to occur to the right, Taylor's valiant efforts notwithstanding, that it's rarely a good idea to let Democrats call their shots for them.

Steve Benen 4:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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It just never seems to occur to the right, Taylor's valiant efforts notwithstanding, that it's rarely a good idea to let Democrats call their shots for them.

Are the Democrats calling the shots, or just following the GOP base's lead in calling Limbaugh the party head?

Limbaugh is playing it for all it's worth, along with a huge contract to be on the air telling malarky, and the True Believers are willing to follow him over all the cliffs he can find. The more he leads, the weaker the GOP gets. It seems that's the way they want it. Trying to convince them it's a bad idea will only get people yelled at or bruised for their trouble.

Posted by: nerd on May 13, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's just as easy to surmise that the GOP has no strategy, but I think they look at this current situation as win-win. Not only can they go fund-raising and rabble-rousing as underdogs slash the only real patriots left in town (and they assume those left in the Republican party are so scared of a leftist takeover, they'll give even more than they used to thus compensating for those that have left the party), they also position themselves as bastions of integrity by not sacrificing their principles to win elections. Therefore, when/if the political pendulum swings back to the right, they're in the catbird seat, even if it means coming across as whiny losers now.

I'm not saying it's a philosophy that will succeed, but let's face it, if the right starts adopting any of the left's goals, they might as well convert and become Democrats. They're not arguing that our ideas have merits but our strategy is flawed. They're arguing that we by and large suck, and offer nothing but anti-Americanism to the voters. They can either soften that message and muddy their position to become even more ineffectual. Or they can dig in their heels and keep screaming how wrong they are so the loyal righties can feel like someone's still on their side.

And if that screaming results in deluded fundies planning for Armageddon, stockpiling weapons, issuing thinly veiled threats of a revolution to unseat the current Administration that fairly won the last election...well it's a small price (for them) to pay to keep democracy alive, isn't it?

Posted by: slappy magoo on May 13, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

This guy, Taylor, is he by any chance related to George Armstrong Custer?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on May 13, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Jerry: you are a member of the lunatic fringe. Get used to it.

Posted by: gfw on May 13, 2009 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

As an Obama-voter, presumably in the category of people whom the right wants to court in subsequent elections, can I just say that I found Taylor's honest assessment of the conservative state of the nation interesting, and Steyn's comments specious illogical claptrap?

In other words, if the Republican party wants to come back and bring in more voters, voices like Taylor's will do a lot more good than voices like Limbaugh's, Hannity's, Steyn's, or K-Lo's.

Posted by: ANM on May 13, 2009 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's time to lay off the Rush drug addict stuff. It was years ago, he appears to be off the sauce, and by harping on it, liberals look childish, if not a bit hypocritical (arguing for making drug laws about treatment rather than punishment and then attacking Rush, who got treatment, for example). Rush is an asshole. There's tons of ammunition to use against him. We don't need to keep harping on the Oxycontin. It's just lame at this point.

Posted by: NHCt on May 13, 2009 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. He praised Al Franken's anti-Limbaugh books and called him the senator-elect, while the base is still pulling for Coleman (or at least trying to drag things out as long as possible).

How long before National Review fires him?

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 13, 2009 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Still no post from Steve on Obama keeping the prisoner abuse photos under wraps? Color me shocked. Back to the real issues that face our nation; What stupid thing did Mike Steele say today?

Posted by: grinning cat on May 13, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Cat, there are a number of other blogs that have covered the abuse photo thing already today, so I'd suggest going there if you need to read something about it now. Steve will cover the issue soon enough. And if you're like a small number of others who are constantly carping about Steve's coverage of GOP nuttery, why do you come here in the first place? I don't get it. Don't torture yourself... it's unhealthy.

Posted by: bluestatedon on May 13, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Don't torture yourself... it's unhealthy.

Maybe it is, but the real question is: Does it work?

Posted by: Tea Bagger Jones on May 13, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Just want to say that I agree with NHCt. I actually was getting ready to make the same point. I yield to no one in my loathing for Limbaugh, but I don't think his substance abuse history should be part of our attacks on him.

Posted by: Menthol on May 13, 2009 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

The big question is if Jerry Taylor has the balls/stones/cojones to stick to his guns or whether the standard abject apology to His Immensity will be forthcoming in the next day or two?

The guy sounds like he has a couple of functioning brain cells and isn't an elected official, and if he's not worried about keeping his job at National Review he may just make this work.

Here's hoping he does. It would open floodgates that haven't been seen since Noah went yachting with a T-Rex.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on May 13, 2009 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Rush and his drug issues.
One one hand he has no issues with going after street drug abusers and on the other hand it's old. Personally, I think the way acted at CPAC was a classic sign of drug abuse, and the whole out-of-control direction leads me to believe he hasn't stopped. But I don't know and it really has run it's course. The commenters snide remarks are expected, and often entertaining, but for Steve to do it's just tacky. Reminds me of the purposeful Democrat Party non-sense, small and wore out. Ditto for the Viagra slurs.

Posted by: ScottW on May 13, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Rush is one of the few people I would indeed beat over the head with the drug issue. He bought and paid for that one.

Posted by: Jon on May 13, 2009 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

"I think it's time to lay off the Rush drug addict stuff. It was years ago, he appears to be off the sauce, and by harping on it, liberals look childish, if not a bit hypocritical..."

I agree, we should play up the Rush as sex tourist angle more !

Posted by: Larrythekidman on May 13, 2009 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Rush's drug abuse and addiction -- whether past or present -- is pertinent in so far that it's likely to affect his brain still and, therefore, explain his behaviour to a certain extent.

It's either that he's fried his brain with drugs, or that his fat cells invaded his brain box and overpowered his grey cells... Either one or the other and I'm not sure that Lardball himself would prefer the second explanation.

Posted by: exlibra on May 13, 2009 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

How is the fact that the de facto leader of the GOP is a junkie and a pedophile *not* relevant?

In fact, anytime Limbaugh's name is mentioned, it should be followed by the phrase "junkie and pedophile". It would be nice if we could also add the adjective "disgraced" but since the wingnuts have no shame, that doesn't apply.

Posted by: Disputo on May 13, 2009 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

Keep lickin', ReRushlickins!
I think the ethanol business had better just quit and divert all that corn into the popping kind ...

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on May 13, 2009 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

> I think it's time to lay off the Rush drug
> addict stuff. It was years ago, he appears
> to be off the sauce,

#1: Limbaugh never admitted publicly what he had done. One can reasonably conclude that he felt no remorse then or now.

#2: The angle that never got enough play to me was the guy who had a $30 million/year radio contract sending his maid, who he was paying all of $40,000/year, out onto the street to buy his junk. She took 98% of the risk while he gave her some pocket change. That was real, um, big of Rushbo.

#3: But the real story was Big Pharma being caught returning from the Dominican Republic, without girlfriend or wife on the trip, with a suitcase full of illegal Viagra. He somehow avoided going to jail on a probation violation when any dime-bag hustler in similar circumstances would have gone up the river in 37 seconds. But that's a side note: what was he doing in the Dominican Republic with a suitcase of Viagra? Hiring underage prostitutes perhaps?

No, I don't think we should "just keep on walking" from this one.


Posted by: Cranky Observer on May 13, 2009 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

grinning cat: This is you, only about blogs instead of web comics.

Posted by: Shade Tail on May 13, 2009 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

gotta love prose stylist mark steyn:

Full disclosure: I occasionally guest-host for Rush and, on TV, Sean (as does Rich also).

and what in the world is a sensible post doing at *the corner*? k-lo must have been taking her after-lunch nap.

your pal,

Posted by: blake on May 13, 2009 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Taylor isn't being read out of the NRO for attacking Limbaugh per se. He is being slapped down for saying out loud what the rest of us have known for a long time: that the GOP base is robotically receptive to emotion-laden messages of dubious authenticity.

Posted by: Ted Frier on May 14, 2009 at 6:23 AM | PERMALINK

God knows I despise Limbaugh, the GOP, and The Corner; but it seems to me that this argument is of the "when did you stop beating your wife" variety. What is the GOP to do? If they deny that Limbaugh is leading the GOP, they are letting the Dems fragment the party by dividing those who are fans of Rush from those who are not. If they defend Rush, then people like Steve will crow that the GOP is allowing the Dems to define them.

Of course, that leaves the third option, which would be to simply ignore Dem provocations about Rush. I suppose the question here is why they are mostly unable to do so. The reason, really, is that the GOP is actually divided on Rush and thus it's a sensitive issues, and makes it hard for them to ignore provocation.

As a Democrat and progressive, I do find this quite amusing. We should keep poking them in this sensitive spot because, obviously, every reaction just hurts them more. But Steve is wrong to imply, if I understand him correctly, that Taylor is any less allowing Dems to manipulate the GOP than are those who defend Rush. The only way to do this is to ignore the provocations entirely, not to repudiate Rush.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on May 14, 2009 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK

Consider me impressed. Good for Taylor.

(I hate having to move the respect meter upwards for people at the nat'l review...)

Posted by: KilgoreTrout XL on May 14, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK



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