Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 2, 2009 in Politics | 12 comments

Old And New Media Have Field Day With Rush Limbaugh-Michael Steele Showdown (Limbaugh Won)

A day without controversy is a day without sunshine in the increasingly growing new and increasingly shrinking old media. And Monday it seemed as if the sun was ready to swallow up the earth: conservative talk show giant was at verbal “war” with newly-appointed RNC Chairman Michael Steele — and in the end Limbaugh won.

It was high-stakes national political verbal wrestling….CNN’s “Crossfire” revived courtesy of the GOP…Steele versus the media scene stealer (what other talk show host’s speech to conservatives would be carried live without commercial interruption by CNN and Fox?)

In case you’ve been on Jupiter, over the past few days Steele dared to “diss” Limbaugh by saying Limbaugh wasn’t the head of the GOP and had said some “ugly” things — and Limbaugh followed with a withering blast on his show at Steele, the RNC and basically Republican party’s management. And, in the end, Steele apologized and praised Limbaugh’s talent…while also suggesting that Limbaugh is in fact a leader (or more) of the GOP.

Here’s a cross-section of mainstream media and new media reaction.

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz has an analysis that needs to be read in full. A key quote:

If White House officials were trying to elevate Rush Limbaugh to the leader of the opposition, they may have succeeded.

Salon’s Joan Walsh:

But there’s a pattern here. In January, Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey criticized Limbaugh, and then had to call into his show and grovel his apologies before the man he called a “giant” of conservatism (the giant part is true; even Pat Buchanan marvelled on MSNBC today at how much weight the sweaty, hopped-up Limbaugh has gained recently.) Apparently party leaders are so cowed by Limbaugh they feel they need to crawl back and kiss his ring if they offend him.

I felt bad for Steele during CPAC; he looked so ashamed at Michele Bachmann’s idiotic greeting, “You be da man!” to her new, rare black colleague. But today Steele shamed himself

Newsday’s Spin Cycle:

Gee, who knows — do you suppose Michael Steele, now the first African American chairman of the Republican Party, didn’t especially enjoy that “Magic Negro” campaign-time number on Democrat Barack Obama, the first African American major-party presidential nominee, presented by radio declaimer Rush Limbaugh just a few months back? By one report, since knocking the much-indulged Limbaugh in an interview over the weekend as having an “ugly” and “incendiary” program geared toward entertainment, Steele has reached out to wax conciliatory with the expansive celebrity.

Rolling Stone blog:

Given that the Dow once again plummeted into D’oh! territory today, the power struggle between Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele seems a frivolous side show. But in the end, Steele bowed to Limbaugh, affirming Rush’s preeminence as the angry voice of the party.

I’m not sure the Democrats can contain their glee at this state of affairs.

Andrew Sullivan on Steele’s apology:

This climb-down marks the end of establishment Republican resistance to the Poujadist pontificator. It’s Rush’s party now. So why shouldn’t he run for president in 2012? Make Palin his veep – and be done with it.

-John Amato:

Rush Limbaugh came out firing against the RNC’s new leader Michael Steele after Steele criticised him on CNN. And as usual, the Republican bows down to the altar of Limbaugh and begs forgiveness. Limbaugh spanks Steele and tells him exactly what Steele’s job is and what he should do and how he should do it.

Townhall’s John Hanlon:

I can understand why the left is going after Rush but this intraparty fighting is very disappointing. Limbaugh is an important voice on the right. That does not mean that conservatives always agree with him or should. However, conservatives and Republicans should be focused on supporting their own values and they should be arguing against liberals who are trying to expand the size of government. Republicans and conservatives should be talking about the big government agenda of the Democratic Party and its leaders.

And he goes on to say this:

Democrats have a reason to be attacking Rush Limbaugh. They are in charge of the White House, the Senate and the House and yet the economy does not seem to be getting better….Democrats do not want to talk about these economic worries or the concerns of the American people because they are accountable for what happens to the economy. Dems want to focus on who is in charge of the Republican Party instead. Republicans should stay focused on the major isssues facing this country and the major changes in government that President Obama is advocating.

NPR’s Liz Halloran reports that Steele is walking a tightrope:

So, will Steele’s squabble with Limbaugh — if it even rises to that level — hurt or help him in the nascent days of his chairmanship?

“All this says is that there’s a party that has lost two elections and is struggling to find its way out of the wilderness,” says Republican pollster Whit Ayers. “There are always going to be some battles.”

And Ayers was among a number of GOP leaders who said that Steele is, indeed, the leader of the party. And to expand the ranks of Republicans he need not kowtow to conservative icon Limbaugh.

Says GOP strategist Brad Blakeman: “Chairman Steele is trying to get his sea legs, to show he’s a different type of Republican leader.”

“Steele is making clear that Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer and, to use a Bushism, a ‘philosophiser.’ ”

After two disastrous election cycles, it is incumbent on Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, to broaden the party’s appeal, Blakeman says. And that means bringing into the fold younger people, people of color and moderates who aren’t Limbaugh acolytes.

“Steele has to do a tap dance between distancing himself from Rush and also encouraging Rush to get out information about the party,” he said.

Darkstar Spouts Off;

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Michael Steele is a punk.

Rick Moran has a long post that needs to be read in its entirety. Here is a key part of its ending:

Now as my readers know, I am no fan of Limbaugh. His “show biz conservatism” is a mile wide, an inch deep, and takes forms that while not “ugly,” certainly move the idea of hyperpartisanship to a whole other level. And Limbaugh’s response to Steele was a tad overwrought (Allah [Editor’s note: referring to the lively conservative blogger Allahpundit] rightfully points out that Rush should have a thicker skin by now.)

That being said, with Obama’s agenda on the march to permanently alter America, in the only way he knows how, Rush is trying to stop it. And it’s an open question as to how hard Steele is working to block these transformative, risky, adventurous, and ruinously expensive measures coming down the pike.

If Steele wants to lead the GOP, get out front and lead then. Don’t pull rank on Limbaugh because you only magnify his importance – at your expense. If you spent less time on talk shows agreeing with Democrats who are savaging the party you are supposed to be leading and more time, like, you know, actually opposing what they are trying to do, that would prove your qualities to conservatives who are feeling a little put out by being told that their party convention resembled a Nazi gathering.

The country is going to hell in a handbasket economically, the Democrats are tearing at the Founding Fabric of the nation, our grandchildren are going to be working for the federal government with every dime being taken to service an unserviceable debt, and the world’s bad guys are looking at Obama and feeling pretty damned good.

Meanwhile, Steele and Limbaugh act like two little boys in the schoolyard who unzip, whip it out, and claim their’s is bigger.

Now go to the link and read it from the beginning of the post.

RNC Chairman neutered.

Democrat narrative in full effect.

Rightwing gassbag and drug addict Rush Limbaugh leads the modern day Republican Party.

That was easy!

Michelle Malkin:

I said positive things about RNC chairman Michael Steele this weekend on Washington Journal (link here) and have covered his rise extensively.

Now, a word of friendly advice:

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing Rush Limbaugh. But if you are going to go on Obamedia outlets like CNN and throw around words like “incendiary” and “ugly,” you better back them up. You should also think more broadly about how this distraction feeds the White House/Alinsky agenda — and how better to avoid their traps.

Also: There is nothing — nothing — conservative about echoing the class warfare-tainted rhetoric of the Left. Nothing.

Don’t go there.

Daily Kos:

Whether or not Limbaugh accepts Steele’s apology doesn’t really matter. What this episode proves beyond any shadow of a doubt is that the GOP belongs to Rush Limbaugh and the dittoheads, and anybody who dares cross them had better get in line.

Dan Cody:

The fact that the head of your party is in a public tit-for-tat with the new de facto leader of the conservative movement at a time when you’re coming off two massive losses and should be presenting a united front is just brutal right now for Republicans.

….So what are the RNC and congressional Republicans to do, infuriate the base and disavow Limbaugh or alienate moderates and embrace him? Curious to hear from some of the conservatives in the crowd, especially any who consider themselves more “moderate”.

Ron Beasley:

I have enjoyed reporting on the train wreck that is the current Republican party. But it has simply become too absurd. The writers of comedy must be having a rough time of it since reality is much better than anything they could write. The Republican party and the conservative movement have become a never ending Saturday Night Live skit. Today’s episode is Rush slams Steele – Steele slams Rush – Rush slams Steele again – Steele begs Rush for forgiveness. What can I say?


My point then, and Ace’s point today, is that pandering to centrists is a political fact of life for politicians. Steele and Cantor, when forced to choose between criticizing Limbaugh and having to explain his “I hope he fails” rhetoric over and over again, will take the former every time: Right-wing partisans will turn out against Obama anyway in four years but the middle has to be wooed, and defending a sentiment about failure in the current political climate while The One’s busy framing himself as Mr. Nonpartisan does not a winning “moderate” message make. No wonder Gibbs is urging the media to keep asking Republicans whether they agree with Limbaugh. If they say yes, they’re vindictive partisans and if they say no they’ll get hammered by Rush on his show.

The Gun Toting Liberal’s post must be read from start to finish.
Alan Colmes:

That’s too bad, because this was happening just as I was plugging in my popcorn popper. But Steele folded, perhaps realizing that Limbaugh does call some of the shots for the GOP or, at the very least, has a large enough bullhorn to galvanize support, or lack thereof.

James Joyner:

Limbaugh played a powerful role in mobilizing the base in 1994 and he’s still a major influencer today. But he’s not the leader of the Republican Party; Steele is. Unfortunately, this was a misstep on the new leader’s part. This wasn’t a Sister Soulja Moment; he was merely attacking a figure popular with his base for no apparent reason. It’s one thing to condemn Limbaugh when he says something that’s actually ugly and incendiary. This, though, was nonsensical.

Seattle PI blog:

This puts in sharp relief the party’s dilemma: Can it hold the center without abandoning the Limbaugh faction? Limbaugh, a self described “entertainer” (this has been his defense in lawsuits about what he said), has an ardent following and an equally ardent group of detractors. Democrats are trying to put the Limbaugh brand on Republicans, believing that his brand of take no prisoners extremism alienates more people than it attracts. In calling him an entertainer, Steele is trying to emphasize that Limbaugh does not speak for the party. By his own account Limbaugh purports to speak for only the most “conservative” faction of the party.

Meanwhile the Republicans continue look for a spokesperson. Despite begging off addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, Sarah Palin is closely associated with the Limbaugh faction. Bobby Jindal seems to be off the list. I anticipate that the party will be successful in finding a more moderate face, as — while it has not been in the media light — this is a vital and emerging element of the party.

Comments from Left Field:

I would say I’m Lovin’ It if that weren’t already a trademarked slogan…

….Understand this; Limbaugh represents an extremist and unpopular faction of Republicanism in today’s American culture. I won’t dare to venture whether America is center-left, or center-right, but while Rush may continue to have a large audience, that large audience represents a political minority in this country, and a dangerous one at that. It is the mindless adherence to a disproven ideology that plagues the GOP at this point, and if this is the case, people like Limbaugh are the chief facilitators of this problem.

Considering the political defeats suffered by the party over the past two years, it would seem that this faction would be the first shunted to the wilderness, but instead, they have been elevated, lauded as the TRUE conservatives, whatever that is.

Until Republicans recognize this, and essentially stand up to this guy and his ilk, they may find their time as political pariahs will be longer than they can even imagine right now.

Sister Toldjah:

It’s certainly not up to Steele to explain and rationalize for Rush, but anyone who watched Rush’s speech this weekend knows what was at the heart of what he was saying, and it was that conservative ideals aren’t just good for conservatives; they’re much better for America than the socialism disguised as “compassionate liberalism” this country is being force fed thanks to Barack Obama and his administration, and the Democrats in Congress. There was a way Steele could have argued that point without coming across as a Rush devotee – AND without throwing Rush under the bus. As I’ve said a thousand times before, it’s not so much what you say, but how you say it.

With Barack Obama already setting the tone in DC in terms of trying to paint everyone Republican as a mindless “RushBot,” it’s important for Steele, Cantor and other prominent Republicans to make it clear that they speak for themselves and, oh yeah, that there are many conservatives and conservative pundits – including Rush – who think similarly because they too are … gasp! … conservatives. What Steele did here, again, was to feed into every media stereotype there is as it relates to Rush and the conservatives who listen to him. This will, unfortunately, set the standard for arguments from him along these same lines for months to come, where he will do everything he can while on liberal news networks to try and “appeal” to lefties who wouldn’t touch the Republican party with a ten foot pole, and he’ll do so by being “agreeable” to certain liberal myths about conservatives in order to “fit in.”

Marc Ambinder:

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to stir the controversy: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs this afternoon encouraged the media to ask Republicans whether or not they agree with Limbaugh. If such questions are asked of GOP guests on cable TV, as Gibbs suggested, more Republicans will be put in the position where Steele found himself last night.

Lots more blog reaction is HERE.