Who is Rush Limbaugh and why is he manipulating the GOP vote?
By Carol Devine-Molin
For years I've been a fan of talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh, the "harmless lovable fuzzball", and I've always enjoyed his humor and commentary. But recently, something has changed. He's crossed a line. Limbaugh is now actively manipulating the Republican electorate in ways that are unacceptable for an entertainer, or even a self-styled ideologue and opinion shaper.
Rush regularly underscores that he's a "movement conservative", not a Republican partisan. That's fine. But then he has the chutzpa to engage in heavy-handed tactics that are meant to skew the outcome of the GOP election process. Sometimes I feel like he's morphing into a right-wing propaganda minister of the air-waves as he mercilessly beats on some candidates, and gives others (that he likes) a free ride. Rush is on a strange power-trip. As both a proud Reaganite Republican and conservative who operated at the grassroots, I really take umbrage with what he's doing. The Republican Party is my party and the party of millions of other rank-and-file who love the GOP. Who the heck is Rush Limbaugh? This is a guy who probably didn't even cast his first vote until he was thirty-five. Bombastic Limbaugh has even taken recent potshots at Republican stalwart Newt Gingrich. It's time for El Rushbo to chill out.
True, Rush Limbaugh is among the most influential conservative voices on the political scene today. That makes it all the more disconcerting that Limbaugh is being patently irresponsible by spewing over-the-top rhetoric that could very well depress the Republican vote in the general election and thereby help elect a Democrat become the next president of this great nation. This is not a matter of free speech; Of course, the conservative poobah can make any public pronouncements that he wishes. But, by the same token, words have meaning and impact, and given the high stakes in this election, it's difficult to see how Limbaugh is being properly circumspect. Yes, Rush, it's your right to say anything you want, and it's my prerogative to register my deep displeasure.
I'm in the awkward position of having to defend John McCain and Mike Huckabee against Rush Limbaugh's rants, despite the fact that I will not be voting for either of these contenders in the primaries. That being said – even if it means crawling over broken glass or walking on a fire-bed of hot embers – I will do whatever it takes to pull that lever in the general election for the Republican candidate, whoever that might be. Why? Because the safety of this nation is paramount, and any of the Republican presidential hopefuls would do a better job as commander-in-chief during these perilous times than the Democrats in the offing. Moreover, the last thing that America needs is a bunch of blatant Nanny-state socialists expanding government and exerting further control over the citizenry.
Limbaugh recently stated: "What I said was that I, for the first time on this program, I can see possibly not voting for the Republican nominee." On another occasion, Limbaugh was even more vociferous, as he espoused: "I'm here to tell you if either of these two guys [John McCain or Mike Huckabee] gets the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party, it's going to change it forever, be the end of it. A lot of people aren't going to vote. You watch."
Well, what happens if either McCain or Huckabee survives Limbaugh's onslaught and becomes the GOP candidate? That's a distinct possibility for McCain, who is polling well and battling with Mitt Romney for the numero uno spot. Rush holds sway among conservative Republicans, and if he persists in his attacks against McCain, some conservatives will refuse to vote Republican in the general election if McCain is on the ballot.
As to the assertion that McCain or Huckabee will destroy the Republican Party if nominated, that's sheer poppycock. Let's face it; the GOP is already in flagrant disarray due to the policies of President George Bush who broke with conservative orthodoxy, and by extension, his party base. Upon his departure from office, conservative Republicans will look to reclaim the party. If Senator McCain intends to win the GOP primaries and the general election, he can only prevail by burnishing his conservative credentials and developing a special bond with the conservative grassroots. He may or may not be capable of accomplishing these things. In any vent, there's a legitimate process in place that will vet McCain. Then let the chips fall where they may. Conservatives are smart people – They don't need a crazed Limbaugh to repeatedly beat-up on McCain or any other GOP presidential aspirant.
Sadly, Chief Wagawaga El Rushbo of the El Conservo Tribe is being both supercilious and short-sighted as he leads the pack against McCain and Huckabee. For Limbaugh, these two contenders must be quashed at all costs, utilizing his talk show power-pulpit to inflict devastating attacks. Limbaugh's stridency begs the question: At this juncture, who is really having a deleterious effect upon the Republican Party? Limbaugh is acting like a petulant child, desperately attempting to get his way, even if it means overstepping his bounds and inflicting nasty targeted assaults upon GOP hopefuls.
Let me be clear: During this primary season, we should welcome debate and challenge the contenders on their ideas and records. However, it's not necessary to go in for the jugular as Limbaugh is doing – He's engaging in over-kill. That being said, really vicious assaults and infighting at the primary level don't serve Republicans well. Why provide the Democrats with further ammunition to assail an already bloodied GOP candidate in the general election?
In the past, Limbaugh adroitly tapped into the fact that most Americans desperately wanted to attain victory in Iraq. Likewise, he should easily grasp that Republicans are extremely jazzed about the prospect of persevering against Hillary Clinton, the probable Democrat nominee. So the simple message to Rush is don't unduly damage any of our GOP hopefuls. Let the primary process run its course.
However, there's salient interference in the works from other quarters. It's rather intriguing that the master political strategist himself, Bill Clinton, is out-and-about the media emphasizing that John McCain and Hillary Clinton are "good friends". That, in concert with the recent New York Times endorsement of John McCain, appears calculated to impart the "kiss of death" on McCain, so that the Republican base will run tearing at their hair and screaming. Clearly, the Clintons and their liberal surrogates deem McCain a significant threat and they're scheming to eject him from the political race. Ironically, despite Limbaugh's efforts to harpoon McCain's candidacy, it might be the finessing by the Clintons that does McCain in.
And, please, I'm not buying El Rushbo's bogus claim that there isn't a whit of difference between McCain and Hillary or Huckabee and Hillary. It's Rush's contention that they're all the same. If either McCain or Huckabee become the GOP candidate, Rush would rather let the next presidency play out under the "Democrat's watch". He stated: "I think it would be easier to do that [advance a conservative agenda] with a Democrat president, given our choices here if it's McCain or Huckabee." This has been a rude awakening for me: Rush is no friend of the Republican Party. How dare he try to assiduously manipulate the GOP vote! And what has happened to his judgment!
Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.
Rush Limbaugh responds here. (MP3 format, 8.88MB - approx. 6:30 minutes into the file)