Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rush gives the President a gift

The ultra conservatives are not merely the Republican "base," they've become practically the entire party. So, when CPAC met for their big gathering last week, it was to show America the foundation from which they will attempt to rebuild after getting crushed in the last two national elections and losing the White House.

With the nation's economy in freefall and two wars being fought, how did the conservatives at CPAC show their substance and depth? Their keynote speaker was Rush Limbaugh, a rightwing radio host; "Joe the Plumber" headed a discussion panel; and they had a 13-year-old child deliver a policy address.

If there is any doubt that Rush Limbaugh is now firmly in command of the Republican Party consider this: after Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele called Rush Limbaugh a mere "entertainer" with an "incendiary" talk show, the next day on his radio show, Limbaugh returned fire and told Steele that he was not a “pundit” and should concentrate on building the GOP. Within a few hours, Steele apologized and acknowledged the radio commentator as a "national conservative leader." He is not the first conservative leader who has had to crawl to Rush with apologies after incurring the wrath of Limbaugh fans.

If you still doubt that Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republicans, the news coverage of Limbaugh's rant (speech at CPAC) this past weekend should dispel the notion. CNN, like FOX, gave Rush the kind of uninterrupted live coverage usually reserved for Presidents, followed by a panel of analysts to weigh and consider how important the speech was to our country! Although there were other GOP mouthpieces on the CPAC stage, including Karl Rove, only Limbaugh's hour-long speech was given news status.

In his CPAC speech, Rush once again said he wants the President of the United States to fail and makes no apologies for saying so. He told the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) that he views the future of Americans like the Super Bowl, but their "team" is not the American people. Their team consists of conservative ideologues. Rush called upon his team to tell the American people they are "wrong." Evidently, conservatives have a very low opinion of the American people who want such non-conservative “rights” as a minimum wage and health care.

CPAC gave Rush an award for defending the Constitution – regardless of the fact that he said in his speech that the Preamble to the Constitution says: "we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." (Not so – this is a quote from the Declaration of Independence.) This was not an error on Rush Limbaugh’s part. His misstatements are deliberate and purposeful. To his followers, the fact that Rush quoted the beginning of the Declaration as the Preamble to the Constitution and that the Declaration has no force of law in the United States is just a technicality.

Although they do not yet realize it, these ultra rightwing CPAC Republicans now have a major dilemma: in making the case against government action during the economic downturn they insisted on a literal interpretation of the Constitution. But this could fly back into their faces because a completely literal interpretation of the Constitution would permanently remove religion from the public square. There is an absence of any mention of God or the Bible in the Constitution. To those concerned about little things like logic, this would seem to be a dilemma. But Limbaugh’s followers combine the Declaration and Constitution into a category of "founding documents" and, in Rush's case, use the Declaration of Independence as the preamble to the Constitution.

Another problem for the right wing in using a literal interpretation of the Constitution is that the actual preamble to the Constitution, as written, clearly states the powers, rights, and processes that the rest of the Constitution describes. The preamble states the intents of the Founders such as establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for a common defense, promote the general welfare, and ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. BUT conservative movement dogma only picks up on the “liberty” and the “common defense” part and chooses to ignore the remainder: justice and the general welfare. In believing this, the conservative movement rejects the Founders' vision and mission for the country.

Limbaugh, with his ultra fundamentalist conservatism, who all too often makes statements not based in fact, is leading a Republican Party suffering from a disappearing moderate wing. Several extremely conservative southern governors who have an eye on running for president in 2012 must follow Limbaugh’s lead. They are grandstanding by refusing part of Federal stimulus funds for their own communities.

Limbaugh is taking full advantage of the leaderless Republicans to seize power, shouting obstinate, often illogical, opposition toward an overwhelmingly popular new President. In publicly rooting for Barack Obama's failure, Limbaugh is leading gullible Republicans over a cliff. This is a Limbaugh lemming movement based in refusal to admit the nation's rejection of failed Republican policies. In their minds there is no need to recalibrate their principles to account for new realities such as the current economic crisis. They think they just need to find a better way to frame their message for the same old failed ideas.

In making Rush Limbaugh the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and following his edicts, they have given a political gift to the Obama Administration: instead of a principled point-by-point discussion and willingness to compromise at the bargaining table, President Obama is blessed with Republican belligerence and rejectionism. A large majority of Americans view Rush Limbaugh as a vitriolic loudmouth and the Republicans as the “Party of No.”

Obama knows he holds the winning hand for now.