From The Washington Post:
For a man who expresses no desire to lead the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh has a knack for creating problems for those who do.
The ongoing controversy over Limbaugh’s statement in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday that he wants “Barack Obama to fail” and the aggressive Democratic pushback it drew has emerged as the latest challenge for a party struggling to find its voice and lacking an obvious national leader.
Few Republicans are eager to alienate Limbaugh’s millions of avid listeners. But as party officials work to expand their shrinking coalition, they are also vexed about how to contend with his more pointed commentaries on hot-button issues and a president whom most in the party have been reluctant to criticize.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele apologized to Limbaugh on Monday after referring to his show as “incendiary” and “ugly” over the weekend — statements that led Limbaugh to say the new chairman was “off to a shaky start.”
Steele’s gyrations reflected the delicate balance Republicans are attempting to find with Limbaugh. Party strategists say his listeners include a huge swath of the activist base, but some of his rhetoric leaves GOP elected officials forced either to defend views they may not support or to disagree with a popular conservative icon.
“The influence Rush has is 20 million listeners,” said Ron Bonjean, who was spokesman for former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), referring to what Limbaugh says is his weekly audience. “But to get back to the majority, we need to also connect to independents who may not be listeners of his show.” Democrats continued to mock Steele for buckling to Limbaugh yesterday, maintained their insistence that Limbaugh is the GOP’s de facto leader, and said they planned no letup in their attacks.
“Rush is the bloated face and drug-addled voice of the Republican Party,” said Paul Begala, a longtime Democratic strategist who rose to prominence during Bill Clinton’s presidency. “Along with lots of others, I intend to continue to turn up the heat until every alleged Republican either endorses or renounces Rush’s statement that he hopes our president fails.”
In the early days of the Obama administration, while congressional Republicans have generally avoided directly attacking the popular new president and instead criticized their Democratic counterparts as not properly implementing Obama’s vision, Limbaugh dubbed the economic stimulus package “the Obama ‘porkulus’ bill” and was credited with playing a role in House Republicans’ unanimous opposition to the legislation. In a meeting with congressional leaders, the president complained about Limbaugh’s influence.
Some congressional Republicans have defended Limbaugh’s comments about wanting Obama to fail, which the talk radio host has explained by saying he wants the president’s policies to fail, not the country.
“I know what Rush Limbaugh meant,” House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said on CNN yesterday. “Look, everybody wants America to succeed, but everyone like me, Rush Limbaugh and others who believe in limited government, who believe in conservative values, wants the policies this administration is bringing forward . . . to fail.”
But other Republicans have argued that Limbaugh’s style is counter-productive. They say that in looking to woo moderate votes to regain control of Congress and the White House, Republicans must take positions that may annoy Limbaugh and his audience.
And all of those who disagree will go on the record and incur the wrath of the Bloviator?
One state GOP chairman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to criticize Limbaugh publicly, said “he is the leader of a niche of the Republican Party that simply opposes anything a Democrat ever comes up with.”
But most remain vocal defenders of the radio show host, saying he fires up the GOP base better than anyone else.
“He does far more good than harm,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). “The people who listen to talk radio are more politically interested and politically active than people who are listening to ESPN. If you want to get the message out, that’s the way to go.”
Steele took on the delicate political calculation Republicans face more bluntly, saying yesterday: “I’m not here to tick off my base.”
Among the vocal defenders:
From Bayou Buzz at Louisiana Daily News:
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has generated widespread criticism for his unapologetic declarations that he wants President Barack Obama to fail. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele rebutted Limbaugh’s comments in a CNN interview Saturday night, saying Limbaugh is an entertainer whose show is “incendiary” and “ugly.”
Yesterday Steele apologized for his remarks on Limbaugh, once again showing that Limbaugh is driving the Republican Party’s obstructionist agenda against President Obama’s vision and plans to move America forward.
And now Gov. Bobby Jindal is defending Limbaugh.
On Larry King Live last night, Jindal was asked what he thought of Steele’s apology to Limbaugh. “I’m glad [Steele] apologized,” said Jindal. “I think Rush [Limbaugh] is a leader for many conservatives and says things that people are concerned about.”
(Video at link)
From Think Progress:
Just before President Obama was inaugurated, hate radio host Rush Limbaugh declared, “I hope he fails.” Though some Republicans have distanced themselves from Limbaugh’s sentiment, conservatives at CPAC have fully embraced it.
In an interview with ThinkProgress today, radio host Mark Levin and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) added their voices to the chorus of conservatives hoping for Obama’s failure:
TP: What do you think about what Rush said about, I mean, do you hope, should we hope that President Obama fails?
SANTORUM: If…absolutely we hope that his policies fail.
“I believe his policies will fail, I don’t know, but I hope they fail,” added Santorum.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Democrats launched a Web site Wednesday that mocks GOP leaders for apologizing to radio host Rush Limbaugh for criticizing or publicly disagreeing with him.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hosting the Web site, which allows visitors to create an apology to Limbaugh on behalf of Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia; South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; or Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.
The website is up and it’s right here! From the website:
RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
Rush is not the head of the Republican Party. He’s an “entertainer” whose show is “incendiary” and “ugly.”
I’m Sorry, Rush
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh…”
“I was maybe a little bit inarticulate… There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”
“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking…”
Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA):
“I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. ”
I’m Sorry, Rush
“I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments and I just wanted to tell you, Rush, […] that I regret those stupid comments.”
Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC):
“Anybody who wants [President Obama] to fail is an idiot, because it means we’re all in trouble…”
I’m Sorry, Rush
Sanford’s Communications Director, said that “the governor was not referring to anyone” in particular.