Barack Obama ran on a platform of post-partisanship, of healing and uniting a divided nation. Yet it didn’t even take him a week to enter into the partisan fray, taking on the Right’s biggest megaphone — and making it even bigger. Instead of marginalizing Rush Limbaugh, Obama managed to make him the most credible voice of opposition:
President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.
“You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,” he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.
One White House official confirmed the comment but said he was simply trying to make a larger point about bipartisan efforts.
One doesn’t make points at all about bipartisanship by explicitly attacking another partisan voice, no matter how much one disagrees with it. By naming Rush and attempting to sideline him, Obama lifted Rush’s profile and practically anointed him his opposition. It demonstrates that Obama still has no sense of his office, nor of “post-partisanship”, regardless of his endlessly empty rhetoric on the subject.
George Bush never attacked Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, or other voices of the rabid Left by name. If he ever went on the attack against the left-wing media, he kept the attack general and broad, rather than specific. Bush may not have been the most media-savvy of our modern presidents — in fact, he may have been the worst at it since Nixon — but he knew enough about his office to understand that part of its strength would keep him somewhat above the partisan-pundit fray. Obama hasn’t figured that much out yet.
Thanks to this attack, Rush not only has his own megaphone, but he gained everyone else’s for a brief time. He became a national story, gained national coverage, and in general got a million dollars’ worth of free publicity. And Rush knows how to use it to his advantage, as he showed:
To make the argument about me instead of his plan makes sense from his perspective. Obama’s plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR’s New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule, and it would also simultaneously seriously damage any hope of future tax cuts. It would allow a majority of American voters to guarantee no taxes for themselves going forward. It would burden the private sector and put the public sector in permanent and firm control of the economy. Put simply, I believe his stimulus is aimed at re-establishing “eternal” power for the Democrat Party rather than stimulating the economy because anyone with a brain knows this is NOT how you stimulate the economy. If I can be made to serve as a distraction, then there is that much less time debating the merits of this TRILLION dollar debacle.
Not only could Rush underscore the fact that Obama got petty, Rush also had an opportunity to blast away at Obama’s economic plans on a larger platform than usual. Thanks to Obama, Rush just doubled his effectiveness. And also thanks to Obama, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill might do something that they haven’t done in years, whatever Obama’s paranoia might tell him: they might take Rush’s advice.
Anytime a man in a position of great power attacks someone with significantly less power, it lessens the greater man and raises up his opponent. The American President is, thanks to the office, the most powerful man in the free world. If he’s worried about any political pundit so much that he has to attack him personally, it shows weakness, which is exactly what Obama cannot afford.