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Tilting at Windmills

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February 23, 2010

LIMBAUGH, HEALTH CARE, AND 'REPARATIONS'.... Once in a while, the dog-whistle messages from the far-right are enough to make one's ears bleed. Take Rush Limbaugh, for example, one of the most powerful and influential figures in modern Republican politics.

On his radio show yesterday, the right-wing host condemned health care reform as "a civil rights bill" and "reparations." Seriously.

Limbaugh has spent plenty of time talking about President Obama and "reparations," and has also had plenty to say about health care reform, but as far as I can tell, yesterday was one of those rare instances in which the host combined the two.

I'm going to go on a limb here and describe this as about the most racist thing a major American media personality has said in quite a while. This is about Limbaugh trying -- with no subtlety at all -- to stir up racial fears and anxiety in the hopes of blocking improvements to a dysfunctional health care system, which has repeatedly screwed over a fair amount of Limbaugh's audience.

The racism isn't even restrained. Limbaugh has trashed progressive efforts to improve America's health care system for years, but notice he didn't start talking about "reparations" and comparing reform to a "civil rights bill" until the President of the United States was African American. The nauseating message is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

Ezra added, "It's one of the odder elements of American politics that Democrats have routinely denounced ACORN and MoveOn.org but Republicans feel no compunction to run from this hatemonger."

Quite right. Dems keep fringe liberals at arm's length, but Republicans can't wait to associate themselves with a racist, drug-addled radio personality, who seems to have more influence in GOP politics than anyone. Indeed, when a Republican dares to disagree with Limbaugh in public, he/she invariably reverses course and begs Rush for forgiveness.

Now, I know how easy it is to say, "Democrats should make hay of this." The DNC can't chase after ever bouncing ball, and turn every stupid thing said on a radio show into a national controversy.

But it would be encouraging to see something come of this. Ideally, Republican leaders would be asked a simple question: "Rush Limbaugh sees the health care debate in racial terms, and considers the president's plan 'reparations.' Do you agree?"

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

The DNC can't chase after ever bouncing ball, and turn every stupid thing said on a radio show into a national controversy.

Agreed. But the DNC should try to chase after at least some of them.

One or two concerted efforts to play offense once in a while--especially when served up on the proverbial 'silver platter,' would both help spotlight the Republicans, and energize the base.

I'd also agree that I would prefer not to stoop to their level, but it's getting to the point that I think we've got to start pushing back.

Posted by: terraformer on February 23, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

This tactic of questioning whether Republicans support a racist statement by Limbaugh would only work if Republicans could be shamed. They can't so it has little value.

Posted by: madstork123 on February 23, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

"It's one of the odder elements of American politics that Democrats have routinely denounced ACORN and MoveOn.org but Republicans feel no compunction to run from this hatemonger."

It might have been 'odd' the first few hundred times this dynamic, on both sides, played out, but seriously, what political observer with a pulse is at all surprised by this? The repugs will do and say ANYTHING to advance their worldview, no shame included, and we're, well, 'reasonable', so we don't. The Dems need a junkyard dog or two. Ed Schultz is close, but not rabid enough.

Posted by: BillFromPA on February 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Ideally, Republican leaders would be asked a simple question: "Rush Limbaugh sees the health care debate in racial terms, and considers the president's plan 'reparations.' Do you agree?"

And if they aren't, then Democrats should confront the "journalists" in the corporate-controlled media and remind them how for week after week they demanded that every single Democrat and African-American who appeared before their cameras unequivocally denounce Jeremiah Wright.


Posted by: SteveT on February 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

In Limbaughland the salary Obama gets from the US Gov't is reparations. Or welfare. Take your pick.

Posted by: martin on February 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

It's one of the odder elements of American politics that Democrats have routinely denounced ACORN and MoveOn.org but Republicans feel no compunction to run from this hatemonger."

That statement says a lot more about Democrats than it does about Republicans. Dems cave in to lies ABOUT these two organizations, while repubs uphold lies FROM this asshole.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 23, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, but you may not have followed Glenn Beck -- he has been saying "Obama" reparations for a very long time now and he has explicitly connected both the stimulus and the health care bill up to reparations too...

Posted by: Radha on February 23, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

I think the dynamics have completely changed. Republicans are a moot point. True power is coming from corporate America that is done playing a shell game with the political system and is waging a new war within the belly of the beast, our economics and our government.

Since corporations now have partial economic control of a few key interest (Banks, Health Care, Insurance, Food, Steel, etc.) - it would be natural to add more fuel to the fire by turning true civil discourse into a odd Limbaugh/FOX driven drool that tears at the very fabric of political discourse. It hides the true problems of our monopoly driven markets and pushes them aside for frank discussions about nothing.

Not only are we being sidetracked by repeated lies that are echoed into truth, but we are also ignoring the real issues.

I would hate to see us blinded by the noise and easily destroyed from within.

We have a definite problem and a poor answer compared to the world community of how we are going to compete in the decades to come.

Posted by: Dean on February 23, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Dems keep fringe liberals at arm's length

MoveOn and ACORN fscking aren't fringe liberals. Dems get suckered into repudiating moderate and mainstream liberals, thereby reinforcing Republican frames and helping the disloyal opposition move the Overton window to the right.

Would you mind not helping them out here, Steve?

Sheesh.

Posted by: Gregory on February 23, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Racism has been a part of the human condition since we first stood upright on the savanna.

It's a symptom of the "Not Like Us" disease.

Limbaugh is nothing more than Father Coughlin reincarnate.

Posted by: DAY on February 23, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh, as well as Sessions, have been trying to use the reparations argument against any social program, since, at least, May of '09. They consider any program used to help the less privileged to be a type of welfare state. This is just more blatant than the old line by Pat Buchanan, when, he asked why should the Republican Party do anything for African-Americans as they don't vote Republican anyway. Sessions and Limbaugh seem to forget the majority of the poor are not of a darker color, but, to these two cretins, all social programs are simply payback for slavery.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 23, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Spinning HCR as a "black people welfare bill" only works on card carrying members of the KKK. Though I'm sure many do tune into the Rush's show daily. And while linking civil rights and reparations to HCR is disgusting, I'm OK if the right wants to turn healthcare into a civil "liberties" issue. Affordable access to medical care should be the right of every American regardless of gender, race, religion, age, or socioeconomic status.

Why does Limbaugh hate poor people? His audience is mostly comprised by them.

Posted by: about time on February 23, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

This post is disgusting. Instead blindly yelling "Racist!" how about actually attacking the substance of Limbaugh's argument? Way to make liberalism appear intellectually bankrupt. This kind of reaction is how you lose votes.

Posted by: Rock on February 23, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't think I would live long enough to witness one of the two main political parties in this country evolve into a cult. "conservative" prophets like Beck, Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh, and O'Reilly should be spewing their rants in a sleazy bar (or asylum) somewhere, instead of polluting this nations' airwaves 24/7.

I never took people like these seriously when they atarted moving into the mainstream three decades ago (they have always been with us, but usually were relegated to the margins of American life)because I always believed that intelligent, informed Americans would see them for the self-serving hacks that they were. I was wrong. These are the kind of opportunists that would serve any ideology as long as they had something to gain, and they are oblivious to the damage that they do. We don't do ourselves, or our country, a service by treating them like a serious political party that has real ideas to offer. They are a cult that is only concerned with power, priviledge and prejudice. I wish I knew how to push back against a "conservative" cult that monopolizes much of the media in this country. Does anyone have any ideas?

Posted by: broken arrow on February 23, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Benen: "The DNC can't chase after ever bouncing ball, and turn every stupid thing said on a radio show into a national controversy."

terraformer: "Agreed. But the DNC should try to chase after at least some of them."

Seconded.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on February 23, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

how about actually attacking the substance of Limbaugh's argument?

There is no substance. He is calling it reparations, when they have nothing remotely to do with one another. The responsibility is on Rush to make a logical argument linking them together. Otherwise, he is guilty of equivocation. Which he is.

That is why it is racist.

Posted by: Walker on February 23, 2010 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

MoveOn and ACORN, fringe liberals...really??? Wow! There I was thinking how these groups worked so hard to get Obama elected...I hope he's not a fringe President???

Posted by: Heather on February 23, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

The fault lines in American politics clearly fall along racial ones.

The dialogue now has to be if we still want to embrace bigotry.

HRC is more than "welfare" for blacks.

Don Imus was chastized for his colorful language.

Rush's nuances are a bit too blatant to be nuanced.

Are we really still fighting the Civil War?


Posted by: Tom Nicholson on February 23, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK
MoveOn and ACORN fscking aren't fringe liberals. Dems get suckered into repudiating moderate and mainstream liberals, thereby reinforcing Republican frames and helping the disloyal opposition move the Overton window to the right.

Would you mind not helping them out here, Steve?

Sheesh.

As the kids say: THIS!

Dear fucking lord -- the Overton Window has moved so far right that now a mainstream group that helps people in the inner city is considered "fringe left."

It's pathetic.

It's also why we, as a nation, can't have nice things.

Posted by: Mark D on February 23, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

What Limbaugh really meant was that retarded black people need the money so the back guy at the helm will hand it over like a welfare payment. That's what he is really saying and Bitch McConnell is grinning ear to ear. Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on February 23, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

He's spoon feeding his racist audience what they want to hear. Limbaugh has no scruples or ideals or ideology. He's all about selling a product, plain and simple. He's about advertising buys and dollars and cents. Everything he does or says is specifically and deliberately manufactured to garner attention and please his audience.

I'm not sure why anything he says should ever be considered newsworthy. He's a scam artist.

Posted by: SaintZak on February 23, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Ideally, Republican leaders would be asked a simple question: "Rush Limbaugh sees the health care debate in racial terms, and considers the president's plan 'reparations.' Do you agree?"

Ah, but for Republican "leaders" to answer this question would mean they would need to possess qualities they do not have, namely: integrity, honesty and a basic sense of decency.

Posted by: electrolite on February 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

"Are we still fighting the Civil War"

Considering the makeup of the leadership of the RepuGs and their chief spokespersons, it would appear that Appomatox was a diversionary tactic, while the South went into an extended strategic withdrawal from the field, only to be able to fight another day.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 23, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

a.t. at 9:21: Spinning HCR as a "black people welfare bill" only works on card carrying members of the KKK.

I suspect you do not live anywhere near the South, the Midwest, or any small town anywhere in the U.S., or else that you are rather young. Millions and millions and millions of Americans who would not want to be labeled "racist" nevertheless have a deeply held feeling of group-based resentment, and believe that they pay taxes in order to support undeserving racial Others. Just don't call them "racist" to their faces, or suggest that their views are contrary to facts. This narrative is why Republican politicians would be happy to answer Steve's questions with a weaselly version of "yes."

I love Mark D's last line. So sadly true.

Posted by: rm on February 23, 2010 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Dems keep fringe liberals at arm's length,"

Gosh, I wonder why us "fringe" liberals are feeling a little less than motivated to help conservadems like you out.

Enjoy november.

Posted by: Tlaloc on February 23, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

It's one of the odder elements of American politics that Democrats have routinely denounced ACORN and MoveOn.org

It is one of the sadder commentaries on Democrats in general and Steven Benen in particular that any of them have denounced ACORN or Moveon.org and that Steve considers this acceptable behavior. Neither is "fringe." ACORN is a perfectly respectable community organizing group. Moveon.org supports political policies favored by a larger share of the citizenry than the current Republican party. Both organizations, further, are honest (ACORNs sins, much as they have been advertised, are pretty trivial), truthful, and peaceful.

Denouncing them is a cowardly act by any Democrat and Steve lumping them together with racist, lying demogogues like Limbaugh is a ludicrous insult.

Posted by: Midland on February 23, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Damn. I had to look at Coulter's face in an ad on this blog yesterday. Now I gotta suffer the image of Jabba the Rush. C'mon Steve, if you're going to make us listen to the ass do we have to look at him too?

Posted by: Gridlock on February 23, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

RUSH Limbaugh is a waste of human life. A monster such as himself doesn't deserve to breath the same air i or anyone else breathes.

Posted by: Paul on February 23, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

At the risk of agreeing with Rush, I'm perfectly comfortable calling this a civil rights bill, in the literal and obvious meaning of the term. My abilities to vote, hold office, peaceably assemble, etc., are useful only to the extent I'm alive and well enough to use them.

But then, I'm so far-left, I actually like the original Civil Rights Act too.

Posted by: Matt on February 23, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Afraid rm is correct about the populace in the hinterlands. When, the Missouri State Legislature voted to keep the tax exemptions on yachts, several posters at the KC Star blasted anyone criticizing this as Class Warfare. One wrote of asking how a "black welfare queen with five kids using the Earned Income Credit" had ever done anything worthwhile for this nation. Sadly, in many parts of this country, it does come down to a "Us versus Them" view. It was the old "they don't work and we have to support them" blarney.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 23, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "It's one of the odder elements of American politics that Democrats have routinely denounced ACORN and MoveOn.org but Republicans feel no compunction to run from this hatemonger."

I find Steve Benen's suggestion of some sort of equivalence between the progressive grassroots organizations ACORN and MoveOn.org on one hand, and the vicious racist hatemongering of corporate stooge Rush Limbaugh on the other, extremely offensive.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 23, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, we should be careful of the questions we ask Republican leaders. This is one of those situations where you shouldn't ask a question that you don't already know the answer to. If Republican leaders answer that they agree with Rush (i.e., the health care bill is a form of reparations), then what? Do we actually think there is, in the Teabagger era, a wellspring of people who will be inclined to abandon the Republicans for being too extreme?

It might--might--awaken the Democratic base, but if the prospect of losing Ted Kennedy's seat couldn't do it, I don't see how Republicans agreeing with Rush Limbaugh will do it.

Posted by: rayspace on February 23, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

It's striking how the Obama presidency has let Rush get back in touch with his inner bigot.

Posted by: Jamie on February 23, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

one can only wonder if rushbo thinks that every white person in every red state [ie: his audience] actually has health insurance...last time i looked the answer was no, but then i'm fringe left, so what do i know?

Posted by: dj spellchecka on February 23, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Who are the sponsors of that show? And why would anybody knowingly support businesses that help that creep stay rich?

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on February 23, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

glenn "the weeper" beck has been pushing the "reparations" meme for months...the human anal cyst is late picking up the dog whistle...

Posted by: paddy o'furniture on February 23, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, going "on a limb" is not very courageous. If you were to go OUT on a limb, that would be brave.

Why does anyone care what an Oxycontin-addled pedophile thinks?

Posted by: josef on February 23, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh is a multi-millionaire who is laughing at his own listeners all the way to the bank! He is a racist, and he continually blows his racist dog whistle whenever he believes his following needs its generational racism reinforced for any particular issue threatening his perceived white-person privilege! As of late, he is given to absurdities, juxtrapositions and non-sequitors - but alas, his listeners can't discern such matters!

Anyway, Limbaugh is a pox on a free and liberty minded people. His perspective is far too narrow to offer inclusion, and instead produces exclusion - an us v. them sophistry used to make a hefty profit for himself!

Yes, Rush Limbaugh has the same moral worth as a discarded cigarette butt lying in a mucky, rain-soaked gutter in the most industrialized sector of one of our megalopolises here in America! What a turd! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on February 23, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh would have got along well with George Wallace and Strom Thurmond

Posted by: John in St. Louis on February 24, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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