In a sick way, it’s been fun watching the Republicans wrangle over the contentious Obama issue since the election. I wondered on the morning after the election how long it would be before the Republicans dropped their pretense of being interested in bi-partisanship, and all this talk from some quarters of the G.O.P. about how party member should show support for an Obama presidency, for the good of the country, would evaporate.
It didn’t take long.
For eight years we were scolded by the Republican party, and had our patriotism questioned, if we dared question, much less criticize, George W. Bush. You all know the refrain. One should support the president without question in a time of war. Criticizing the president with troops in the field was aiding and abetting the enemy. Sarah Palin even went as far as defining parts of the country as “pro-American” (apparently defined as the areas supporting Republicans). So I wondered from the moment Obama started pulling ahead in the polls during the election if the Republican mantra about supporting the president would be extended to a President Obama.
Well, Rush Limbaugh recently said what was on every Republican tongue and answered that question. Limbaugh was asked by a major newspaper to write a 400-word statement on his “hope for the Obama presidency.” Using this as a jumping off point on his radio program, Limbaugh said: “So I’m thinking of replying… ‘Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.'” He continued: “I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: ‘Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.’ Somebody’s gotta say it.”
Since then there’s been a lot of back-pedaling, with Conservatives insisting that Limbaugh’s remarks were taken out of context. Limbaugh covered his ass well enough to give the Right-Wingers some wiggle-room, but any reasonable person can see clearly through the bull.
Limbaugh went on to say, “He is the president of the United States, he’s my president, he’s a human being, and his ideas and policies are what count for me, not his skin color, not his past, not whatever ties he doesn’t have to being down with the struggle” (which, of course, is what Conservatives point to as evidence of… well, I don’t know – Rush Limbaugh supporting Obama?). But Limbaugh went on to say, “We’re talking about my country, the United States of America, my nieces, my nephews, your kids, your grandkids. Why in the world do we want to saddle them with more liberalism and socialism? Why would I want to do that? So I can answer it, four words, ‘I hope he fails’.”
Does that clear it up any? Does that provide proper context? Limbaugh’s position seems pretty clear to me. When the Right-Wingers pretend that Limbaugh was quoted out of context, that he was not saying that he wanted the president of the United States to fail, but that he wanted the president’s so-called liberal policies to fail, they leave out the sub-text, the real meaning of which is that if President Obama toes the line and adheres to Right-Wing ideology, people like Rush Limbaugh will support him. Otherwise, Rush Limbaugh, and the Republicans, will continue to try to tar and feather the President as a Liberal and a Socialist, and they will pray for his failure.
This is really very simple. It’s amusing to watch the give-and-take over it. You can read the transcript of what Limbaugh said and discern very clearly that, barring any sudden shift to the Right in Obama’s ideology, Rush Limbaugh is pulling for the failure of Barack Obama’s presidency. Given the operational paradigm of the Right-Wingers over the last eight years, shouldn’t we be questioning Limbaugh’s patriotism? Aren’t we a country at war? Don’t we have troops in the field?
Any suggestion that Rush Limbaugh is a Right-Wing extremist and a blow-hard, that his rhetoric should taken with a grain of salt, is off the mark. If you think this bull is unique to Limbaugh, you clearly haven’t been listening to the feverish chattering of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, and their ilk. If you believe this depravity is isolated to the talking heads and not the party proper, you’re kidding yourself.
To no one’s surprise, the G.O.P. gave President Obama a lesson in partisanship this week. When Obama’s $819 billion stimulus package came up on the House floor, not one Republican voted for it. Not one. So much for bipartisanship. Bipartisanship is a myth. At least, it’s a myth at this time in Washington, with this gang of negative, out-of-touch Republicans.
Gods know Obama tried. Even before being sworn in as president, he traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with House and Senate Republicans. In his first week in office, he invited Republican leaders to the White House. But he didn’t leave it at that. In a gesture seldom seen in partisan-bound Washington, Obama drove up to Capitol Hill to have lunch with Republican members. How often did George W. Bush go to Congress to meet with Democrats? Did he ever?
Both in his speeches and actions, Obama has extended the hand of bipartisanship to Republicans. And how did they respond? By stabbing him in the back. One wouldn’t expect every Republican to fall in line and vote for everything that Barack Obama wants, but do you mean to tell me that not a single Republican had the balls to vote for President Obama’s stimulus package? Not one Republican thought Obama’s overtures warranted at least a symbolic show of support?
The American people want leaders of both parties to put aside their differences, sit down together, and get to work solving our problems. Working in a bipartisan manner is clearly what Obama wants, as well. But not the Republicans. They chose, instead, to reject the will of the American people, ignore the desperate economic crisis facing the nation, and slap, not shake, the hand of friendship Barack Obama extended across the aisle.
Every explanation given by Republicans for opposing the Obama stimulus package falls flat. They say it doesn’t offer enough tax cuts, but it includes $275 billion in tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000 a year. Well, actually, that’s the problem, isn’t it? The tax cuts are for the average American instead of the wealthiest (those who benefited most from Bush’s tax cuts and who overwhelmingly support Republican candidates).
Republicans, suddenly concerned about fiscal responsibility, also complain about spending so much money at time when the country is on shaky financial footing. Sure, the price tag is high. But that’s only because the Bush-created economic hole we have to climb out of is so deep. Those same Republicans who now complain about dollars to help Main Street had no problem spending $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, or supporting with gusto the never-ending money pit that President Bush created to “liberate” Iraq.
Operationally, it’s hard to understand exactly what Republicans are up to. They buck the most popular president since Reagan. They do nothing to fix the economy. They sit on their asses and fiddle like Nero while America burns. That’s not political courage. It’s political suicide.
George W. Bush won re-election in 2004 by less than 500,000 votes and the Republicans called it a moratorium. “The American people have spoken” and all that. Barack Obama won by over 7 million votes, but the Republicans are operationally acting as if he just barely squeaked by. 7 million votes is not just a moratorium, it’s an ass-whipping of Biblical proportions (at least when compared to the election margins since 1992). But instead of examining why they suffered such a stunning loss, the Republicans chose to employ the usual bizarre Neo-Con logic. They decided that the reason John McCain lost was not because he didn’t appeal to enough moderate voters or because the selection of nutjob Sarah Palin galvanized moderates against him (even as it reinvigorated the Far Right), but was rather because John McCain hadn’t been far enough to the Right. According to the Neo-Cons, McCain wasn’t enough of a Right-Wing extremist to appeal to the average American voter.
This bizarre, reality-free logic explains why Sarah Palin has emerged as the de-facto face of the Republican party and is expected to run for president in 2012. It explains how a nutjob like Rush Limbaugh can declare that he hopes the President of the United States can fail and not only escape any real fall-out from his party, but can have those few bold Republicans who dared criticize him essentially offering their apologies a few days later. This logic is the reason that, in spite of the evidence offered to them during the last election, the Republicans still desperately believe in their hearts that the average American is a Right-Wing ideologue and that anyone who is not as far to the right as they are is a Marxist Liberal who wants to turn the United States into a socialist county (which is why Limbaugh and his ilk are still using the words “liberalism” and “socialism” together as a phrase in sentences – Google the phrase “liberalism and socialism” sometime and marvel at the number of Right-Wing web sites that are employing it).
Personally, I believe that what happened during this week, when Rush Limbaugh not only spoke out openly against the President of the United States and then, for his troubles, had his ass reverentially kissed by the Republican party, was that it was the first concrete steps toward the marginalization of the Republican party. If the Republicans are going to redefine themselves not as “the party of Lincoln” but as the party of Limbaugh and Palin, then the de-facto two-party system of politics in the United States is slowly coming to an end. That presents its own problems, since the Democrats have proven that they’re all-too-human and are just was willing to abuse their power as the Republicans. But that’s another story.
It’s clear what the Republican party is becoming following its defeat in the recent elections. Given that their political power and credibility have greatly waned of late, they’re going to sulk on the periphery like a bunch of petulant school children, taunting and belittling those they disagree with, content with doing little more than standing in the way. The danger of such a position is that everyone one else might very well move on and leave them standing there with their bottom lips poked out, squabbling amongst themselves about who’s to blame for their misfortunes. Like every other ten-year-old with a losing hand, the Republicans are now looking to their most promising bullies, in the guise of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, to bluster their way back into prominence on the playground.
By denying President Obama their support on a critical stimulus package at a time when the average American is having a hard time just getting by, the Republicans are signaling that they’re willing to gamble that Obama and the Democrats will fall flat on their faces. If that happens, they’ll be able to say “well, we didn’t support this at all”. Then they can hope that the resulting discontent from suffering Americans, whose fortunes they’ve helped to worsen, can be parlayed into gains in the next elections. Unfortunately, given the desperate shape the economy is in, if Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans get their wish and President Obama fails, we’re all going to be in the same sinking boat and it won’t matter what our political affiliations are. We’ll all be screwed.
I hope Rush Limbaugh doesn’t get his wish. Thanks to George W. Bush, I, and most Americans, can’t afford for him to. If that makes me a Liberal and a Socialist, then so be it. The Republicans had the White House for eight years and Congress for twelve. Seems like the last time things were going really good for this country there was a Democrat in the White House. So yeah, I sort of hope this latest Democrat does rather well.