“Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore,” he said on today’s show.
Well, I know one person who isn’t.
He said this today in response to a caller who wants Trump dumped from the GOP ticket next year. Why? Because, the guy reasoned, it’s bananas to stick with someone who has as much baggage as POTUS when you could swap in an anodyne Republican and make the election all about how insane Democrats have become instead. Why rerun the lesser-of-two-very-evil-evils contest of 2016 when you could take the lay-up?
That’s a flawed argument for several reasons, starting with the fact that no political party will voluntarily shed the advantage of incumbency. But Rush’s reply went in an … interesting direction:
CALLER: (unintelligible) …Trump Derangement Syndrome, and that will allow any normal Republican to get elected in 2020. Republicans can nominate a young, potentially two-term president, one that believes in fiscal conservatism. We’re gonna have… In 2019, there’s gonna be a $1 trillion deficit. Trump doesn’t really care about that. He’s not really a fiscal conservative. We have to acknowledge that Trump has been cruelly used.
RUSH: Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore. All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.
I went looking for audio and couldn’t find it. Re-reading the exchange, I thought what Limbaugh might have meant was that nobody *in Washington* is a fiscal conservative anymore, which is true enough. He’s not saying that he thinks concern about spending is bogus, he’s saying that the Republican leadership’s endless screeching about it during the Obama presidency was bogus based on how they’ve behaved themselves while in power. Which, again, is true. Rush wasn’t giving us his view here, he was critiquing the GOP establishment’s abandonment of small-government conservatism.
Except no, he wasn’t. The segment continued:
Well, we have a name! A Republican has thrown hit hat into the ring. It happened on CNN right now earlier this afternoon. The hostette, Brianna Keilar, was asking a member of Congress — a Republican from South Carolina — about his possibility of running for president. “So you’re considering a primary run against a sitting president. Tell us why, Mark Sanford.”
SANFORD: There is little to no — I guess I’d say no — discussion of debt, deficit, and government spending in Washington these days. I’ve watched two Democratic presidential debates, and there’s been zero discussion on both of them as to this issue. The president said we’re not gonna touch the very things that drive debt and spending. So I think that we’re walking away into one heck of a financial storm, and there’s no discussion. I was just sitting on set and listening to people discussing both sides of the president’s comments. I think that they’re noxious and they’re weird and they’re all those different things that people are discussing. But there is, again, plenty of discussion on that front. The place where there’s no discussion is the way in which interest is the largest growing expense in the federal government!
RUSH: Well, there you have it. I mean, how can you stop this guy? Mark Sanford: “Everybody’s talking about how weird Trump is, but nobody’s talking about the interest and how interest on the debt is the largest growing expense of the federal government.” (interruption) “The Mark Sanford, yes. “The” Mark Sanford! (laughing) How many years have people tried to scare everybody about [the deficit]? How many years, how many decades have politicians tried to scare us about the deficit, the national debt, (Sen. Jim Sasser pronunciation) “the dafycit,” any number of things? Yet here we’re still here, and the great jaws of the deficit have not bitten off our heads and chewed them up and spit them out.
“Well, it’s coming, Rush.”
Media Matters people are rounding up some of his choicer quotes about the debt and deficits during the Obama era, when O argued that a historic recession left him no choice but to accept massive shortfalls in the federal budget while the country slowly recovered economically. Trump, however, presides over a roaring economy and yet we’re still running a mammoth deficit this year, after two years of total Republican control of government. That is, Rush’s conclusion that gross fiscal irresponsibility simply isn’t much of a concern seems curiously recent. Dating, say, to around November 2016 or thereabouts, I’m guessing.
These aren’t his first comments along these lines during the Trump era. Within a month of Trump’s victory three years ago, he was talking up how a massive infrastructure stimulus might be worth entertaining — so long as it was done right, of course, unlike Obama’s shoddy stimulus of 2009. Last year he confessed his newfound skepticism of the innermost core principle of fiscal conservatism, that government should live within its means, when he said, “[I]n the real world all of the apocalyptic warnings I grew up hearing have yet to happen. The national debt has not choked us. The national debt is not destroyed us. We may be living in the middle of the destruction and don’t see it yet, but for some reason I didn’t get caught up in it.” All he did today is reiterate that he continues to believe that. Coincidentally, on a day when news is breaking that our deficit reached a trillion dollars under Trump last year and his regular listeners might otherwise be under the impression that that’s a bad thing.
Oh well. Everyone’s entitled to change their minds politically. If the most celebrated conservative broadcaster in the history of American radio is now a Krugman-style Keynesian, that’s his right — although a little more truth in how he advertises his program would be welcome. All I ask is that he show an iota of principle by sticking to this big-government position once a Democrat is back in the White House and all the phony fiscal cons on the Hill start bleating again that d-d-d-deficits matter! If he doesn’t, one might get a funny idea that Rush doesn’t really believe anything and is simply saying at any given moment what he thinks his listeners want to hear.