Have some GOP heretics begun to become more vocal? Damn the negative emails and broadcast denunciations: full speed ahead!
Two voices from the GOP are now downplaying the idea that Rush Limbaugh has a blank check — and questioning whether he should have one — to define the GOP and who is a Republican.
First, there’s this statement from a GOPer that will most likely be retracted soon. It has gotten to the point that I think I just need to copy an old Rush apology post, then revise the lede slightly. Unless it breaks the now-established pattern, Rep. Tom Price (R-Georgia), considered a rising face in the GOP’s conservative wing, will soon have to apologize to conservative talker Rush Limbaugh — for saying this:
S[MSNBC’s JOE] CARBOROUGH: Congressman, do you disagree with Rush Limbaugh that Colin Powell should leave the Republican Party?
PRICE: Look, it’s not up to Rush Limbaugh to decide who ought to be in the Republican Party. There are all sorts of wonderful folks across this land who hold dear the fundamental principles that we, as Republicans — […]
SCARBOROUGH: Congressman, do you believe that Rush Limbaugh or Dick Cheney are better, quote — I’m just using terms that we hear every day on TV and radio — that they are somehow better Republicans than Colin Powell?
PRICE: No. Goodness.
He rejects a litmus test? He seems to be arguing that the GOP needs to be a bigger tent and be more tolerant of other views? (We’ll start writing the apology post and keep in in TMV’s SAVED file now).
And then there’s this comment from one of the strategists of Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — the rising GOP more-moderate star who decided to take the Ambassadorship to China offered to him by President Barack Obama rather than remain a domestic political figure closely watched by pundits asrepresenting a more moderated inclusive brand of Republicanism:
The Republican strategist who helped Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman prepare for a possible presidential run says the Republican party is in for a devastating defeat if its guiding lights are Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney. “If it’s 2012 and our party is defined by Palin and Limbaugh and Cheney, then we’re headed for a blowout,” says strategist John Weaver, who advised Huntsman and was for years a close adviser to Sen. John McCain. “That’s just the truth.”
But right now –early as it may be — that seems to be what’s happening. Except the name “Newt Gingrich” needs to be tossed in there, too.
In addition to being out of the 2012 presidential race, Huntsman is also out of the ongoing debate over the future of the Republican party. Quinn, who met with Huntsman during the visit to South Carolina, says the Utah governor “seemed to be highly motivated to try to re-brand the Republican party as an institution that can win elections all across the country.” Now, Huntsman won’t be doing that, not only because it would not be a proper role for an ambassador but also because he will be thousands of miles away in Beijing.
That leaves the wide-open GOP presidential field even more open than it had been before. Whatever happens, the way forward won’t likely be smooth; Weaver’s “headed for a blowout” comment indicates the depth of division over the GOP’s prospects. “I firmly believe that Huntsman and people like him are the prescription for what ails us,” says Weaver. “But I have the feeling that our party maybe won’t order that prescription in 2012.”
And that’s what it is really about: can the Republican party seriously, genuinely rebrand itself — versus akind of perfunctory rebranding by saying its rebranding but offering the same old, angry, exclusionary voices from the 1990s and campaign 2008? Does it want to be a bigger tent, or a smaller tent blaring re-run tapes from its more glorious — and not so glorious — past battles?
FOOTNOTE: Take bets now on how long it is before Price qualifies his remarks about Limbaugh or retracts them..
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.