Hope and Change: The Operation Rushbo Distraction

posted at 12:30 pm on March 4, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

If the first six weeks of the Barack Obama administration can be summed up in one sentence, it would be this: Obama fiddled with Rush Limbaugh while Wall Street burnedPolitico reports that the demonization of Rush Limbaugh comes as a deliberate strategy by Obama and the Democrats, who hoodwinked people into believing that a Chicago Machine pol really wanted to change the partisan nature of politics.  Starting in October, Obama relied on an old hand in attack politics to devise this strategy — and rolled it out even in the middle of an economic meltdown:

Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.

The strategy took shape after Democratic strategists Stanley Greenberg and James Carville included Limbaugh’s name in an October poll and learned their longtime tormentor was deeply unpopular with many Americans, especially younger voters. Then the conservative talk-radio host emerged as an unapologetic critic of Barack Obama shortly before his inauguration, when even many Republicans were showering him with praise.

Soon it clicked: Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s.

Read all of Jonathan Martin’s report, which makes clear that Carville and Paul Begala coordinated this effort with Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on their morning conference calls.  Clearly, Obama wants to use his media contacts to play rough with critics through coordinated personal-attack campaigns.  Martin neglects to mention, though, that Obama himself started off this attack by telling Republicans that they can’t listen to Limbaugh any longer if they want to have access to Democratic-controlled agendas on the Hill.

So far, Obama’s attack machine — and there’s no other term for it — has mostly succeeded.  While the markets have lost 18% of their value in the six weeks of his leadership, all Democrats can talk about is Rush.  Newspapers and media have followed suit, and so have the blogs.  Usually excellent sites like The Moderate Voice and Political Machine have turned themselves into almost nothing but anti-Limbaugh sites, where Jazz Shaw’s light satire of the trend gets completely subsumed in the overwhelming focus on someone who has no direct power on policy or enforcement.  Instead of focusing attention on the real policy leaders in Washington — all Democrats — whose every move has received a resounding vote of no confidence from investors, they have allowed themselves to get distracted by a deliberate strategy of misdirection originating in the highest levels of the White House.

It’s reminiscent of Nixon’s enemies list, and it comes from the supposed messiah of Hope and Change.

Rush Limbaugh provides commentary, criticism, analysis, and entertainment, not political leadership, as Rush himself would attest.  He has an audience of 20 million people, which makes attacks on him by people like Michael Steele and other Republicans rather stupid.  Instead of dividing the Right, they would do better to act as Bobby Jindal did and find ways to unite the Right.  But with Republicans out of power, this is mere sideshow.  It’s a circus provided by Democrats to cover up their economic incompetence and massively ineffective spending programs.  It’s also a harbinger of things to come as this administration fumbles one issue after another, as they will only need to expand the personal attacks against critics rather than respond to the criticism itself.

Operation Rushbo only succeeds if people swallow it.

Update (AP): Boehner called it a “distraction” today too but I think that misses the point. Economic ruin will be with us long after this dust-up with Rush has blown away, which is to say, in the long run this won’t distract anyone from anything. What the Democrats are really trying to do is rebrand the GOP. They’re keenly attuned to that sort of thing, as we were reminded again just yesterday. I also wouldn’t call what they’re doing to Rush an “attack.” It’s more like promotion, albeit promotion for their own ends. In fact, if there’s anyone who benefits unambiguously from all this, it’s Rush himself. The Democrats might miscalculate in overestimating his supposed unpopularity, and the GOP leadership will go on squirming at having to defend or reject the idea of wanting Obama to fail, but all Limbaugh has to worry about is an expanding audience. His show has never seemed so vital as it does right now, which is precisely why lefties like Peter Daou are starting to worry.

Update (Ed): We’re going to agree to disagree.  I think this article makes the case quite clear that this is an attack policy devised by experienced hands from the Clinton administration at attack politics.  Whether that “rebrands” the GOP is probably secondary; as Carville himself once famously noted, “Your opponent can’t hit back when you have your fist in his face.”  So much for changing the tone in Washington.

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Obama/Emmanuel/White House Staff are on the tax payer’s dime. This is why it is offensive that they are attacking a private citizen. Rush earns his money. Rush can do whatever he wants on his show. Obama is wasting our money on some stupid political stunt against someone who doesn’t vote in the Congress even.

brogers on March 5, 2009 at 7:41 AM

Levin & Frum debate here.

OmahaConservative on March 5, 2009 at 7:42 AM

as ridiculous as it is that the Office of the President is out to smear a another public figure, at least Rush can take care of himself. Its the little folks out here, like you & I, that I worry about.

kelley in virginia on March 5, 2009 at 7:56 AM

Let’s have the NEXT RNC Chair say the following and have it echo’d over and over and over and over by every single talking head that Conservatives have… Pound the following into the American peoples minds, have them saying it to their friends… Pound it, pound it and pound it again… LET’S SUPPORT RUSH AND PROVE HIS POINT WAS AND IS VALID by turning each and every proposal back on the far left radicals, and take it to the American people:

Do we want Obama’s cap and trade that will cost the average homeowner and business MILLIONS in higher energy costs, electric bills, gas bills, and gasoline prices to suceed?

NO! Conservatives want it to FAIL! We want to protect the American people from huge burdens to the family budget.

Do we want to stand in lines, have third world Health Care provided by The Messiah and his thugs, rationed care for our elderly, loss of choice of our own personal Doctors as is proposed… Do we want this Socilist Health Care to suceed?

No! Conservatives want it to FAIL! We want the American people to have freedom of choice of Doctors, personal responsibility for our health choices and affordable coverage that people control, not big Government.

**** Do you guys see how affective this can be? Take every single point that The One is currently proposing and ramming down our throats… Go line by line and simply ASK Americans if this is what they voted for, if this is the Hope-n-Change they expected… We take the fight to them, on their own agenda… This WOULD BE a huge campaign, radio, TV, every single pundit and every Conservative guest on TV would hammer the “facts”, not talking points…

Let’s get a list going and send it to the RNC and our Congressmen… Let’s give them the ammo that is already stockpiled to the rafters…

Mark Garnett on March 5, 2009 at 8:06 AM

Levin & Frum debate here.

OmahaConservative on March 5, 2009 at 7:42 AM

Thanks. Was surprised to hear Frum sounding like a junior- high-school boy. In print, they seem to have a different stature.

JiangxiDad on March 5, 2009 at 8:09 AM

Levin & Frum debate here.

OmahaConservative on March 5, 2009 at 7:42 AM
Thanks. Was surprised to hear Frum sounding like a junior- high-school boy. In print, they seem to have a different stature.

JiangxiDad on March 5, 2009 at 8:09 AM

I can’t get it here at work… Did Levin wipe the floor with the wussy???

Mark Garnett on March 5, 2009 at 8:17 AM

What the Democrats are really trying to do is rebrand the GOP

Exactly. And if you were a conservative instead of a brooks or frum type you would be more outraged by these phoneys jumping on the democrat/media bandwagon in attacking Rush. The republican party needs to be rebranded. The reason things have been going downhill since 1996 is because principle-less, unethical, professional politicians have been in control of the republican party and they have turned it into democratlite. Why would the middle of the road unaware voter who pays attention for the two weeks before an election vote for republicans? They are just as obtuse, just as unclear about what they want this country to look like and how they would go about doing it as the democrats. The difference is that democrats come off as more forceful and strong, they act like they care and believe in the bumper sticker philosophy they throw out. If conservatives were really in charge, true conservatives with principles and courage, and stated the message clearly every time, the democrat party would fade away. People like frum and brooks are more dangerous to America right now then the democrats because they are the bludgeons the demofascists are yielding now to beat down conservatism for good. This isn’t a game, ed.

peacenprosperity on March 5, 2009 at 8:22 AM

I can’t get it here at work… Did Levin wipe the floor with the wussy???

Mark Garnett on March 5, 2009 at 8:17 AM

Honestly, it wasn’t so much Levin, who was able to control the interview, but Frum’s poor performance. He didn’t really say much–far less than he does in print–and sounded virtually indistinguishable from, I hate to say it, most every other la-di-da E. Coast elite. He was just so insubstantial and whiney. Let’s just say the whole interview wasn’t exactly a philosophical discussion.

JiangxiDad on March 5, 2009 at 8:31 AM

Let’s just say the whole interview wasn’t exactly a philosophical discussion.

Boy, zieglar and regan got nasty. Is she really a liberal or does she hate fox so much that she will besmirch them any way she can? I have to hand it to her though, even though most of her points and tactics were irrational and flat out stupid, she let zieglar call her the biggest whore in America and she didn’t even pause.

peacenprosperity on March 5, 2009 at 8:38 AM

Carville and Begala could care less about America, this political junk is all they live for.

I’ve always loved Mary Matalin, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say anything I’ve disagreed with and always used to listen to her radio show. I was thinking last night, however, that her husbands actions and words have become so anti-American, so anti-liberty, that she probably can not be trusted in the inner circles anymore. Again, I’ve never heard her say anything I disagree with but how she can put his actions aside is troublesome. Those morning calls with begala and the white house probably occur with her in hearing distance, fixing breakfast for that scumbag.

peacenprosperity on March 5, 2009 at 8:44 AM

You accomplish nothing. You’re just pathetic. Or maybe pitiful. Maybe we could put that up to a vote, pathetic or pitiful.

hawkdriver on March 4, 2009 at 11:34 PM

The larger question is why are you so unnerved by dissension in your ranks that you take the time to track down all progressives on the site and basically write an essay long whine about how “they aren’t changing our minds.” You’ve already segregated yourself onto a conservative website, now the notion that your eyes may have to glance over a different opinion than yours fills you righteous indignation. One wonders if you’ve ever had to deal with real adversity the way you cry and complain about strangers on the internet. Pull it together hawkdriver, man up.

DeathToMediaHacks on March 5, 2009 at 9:03 AM


This one’s for you…

Tiger Woods received a special invitation to speak at the inauguration. His inviters were stunned, when he did not deliver the message they expected. You will see why the media swept it under the rug with no further ado, who & why of a certain element is pissed off at Tiger.

Below is the text of his speech, entitled:
“You’ll Never Walk Alone,” as posted on his Web site:

“I grew up in a military family – and my role models in life were my Mom and Dad, Lt. Colonel Earl Woods. My dad was a Special Forces operator and many nights friends would visit our home. They represented every branch of the service, and every rank.

In my Dad, and in those guests, I saw first hand the dedication and commitment of those who serve. They come from every walk of life. From every part of our country. Time and again, across generations, they have defended our safety in the dark of night and far from home.

Each day — and particularly on this historic day — we honor the men and women in uniform who serve our country and protect our freedom. They travel to the dangerous corners of the world, and we must remember that for every person who is in uniform, there are families who wait for them to come home safely.

I am honored that the military is such an important part, not just of my personal life, but of my professional one as well. The golf tournament we do each year here in Washington is a testament to those unsung heroes.

I am the son of a man who dedicated his life to his country, family and the military, and I am a better person for it.

In the summer of 1864, Abraham Lincoln, the man at whose memorial we stand, spoke to the 164th Ohio Regiment and said: ‘I am greatly obliged to you, and to all who have come forward at the call of their country.’

Just as they have stood tall for our country – we must always stand by and support the men and women in uniform and their families.

Thank you, and it is now my pleasure to introduce the US Naval Glee Club.”

Keemo on March 5, 2009 at 9:26 AM

Hack –

You’re telling hawkdriver to man up? Hawk’s spent all his life in the service of America and its people. The protection of our Armed Forces is the reason you’re able to come to a Conservative website and express your opposing viewpoints. Instead of telling hawkdriver to man up, you should be telling him, “Thank you for your service”. I know the majority of the regulars at Hotair are grateful for our men and women in uniform. They should hear it from us more often than they do.

kingsjester on March 5, 2009 at 9:54 AM

JiangxiDad on March 5, 2009 at 8:31 AM

Thank you.

Mark Garnett on March 5, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Back on page 4 of this thread, I posted this:


Martin neglects to mention, though, that Obama himself started off this attack by telling Republicans that they can’t listen to Limbaugh any longer if they want to have access to Democratic-controlled agendas on the Hill.

Perhaps Martin neglected to mention that because it is blatantly false on two levels.

1) Check your own link. Obama never said anything about limiting access to Democratic-controlled agendas on the Hill. (Your link from 1/24 also amusingly suggests that the GOP has already stopped listening to Rush, something that has been quite conclusively disproven over the past few days) He was just saying that Rush does not have the recipe for success. This is rather obvious, considering the relative popularity of Rush and Obama in America today.

2) Obama did not start off the attack. The comment you linked to was from 1/24. On inauguration day, 1/20, Limbaugh originally made his claim that he wants Obama to fail.

That’s probably why Martin neglected to mention it; it wasnt true. So why did you mention it?

A few people have responded to point #2 by mentioning that Obama, as president, should not be involved in a “flamewar” with a lowly radio host. Granted, all Obama did as president was to mention Limbaugh’s name one time in a private meeting, but hey – you’re entitled to that opinion. However, that opinion doed nothing to disprove the point. If you think Obama *shouldnt* have responded, that does not prove that Obama started it.

And nobody has responded to point #1.


orange on March 5, 2009 at 12:42 PM


Not particularly.

Jim Treacher on March 5, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Granted, all Obama did as president was to mention Limbaugh’s name one time in a private meeting

Rahm Emmanuel is a freelancer, is he?

Jim Treacher on March 5, 2009 at 1:38 PM

We haven’t seen anything yet this will be a full court press by the Obama goons that will not abated unless the big O fouls out before we get total censorship of talk radio or Rush surrenders. I know Rush will not surrender.

rsl775 on March 5, 2009 at 5:31 PM

rs1775 on March 5, 2009 at 5:31 PM

Or God forbid, that Rush is taken out permanently.

technopeasant on March 5, 2009 at 6:34 PM