Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is Limbaugh Better or Worse Than the NYT? Or, Just More of the Same?
by East of Eden

“I’m shocked, shocked that gambling is going on here.” ..........Captain Renault, Casablanca

My mother, Lord bless her, was looking forward to listening to Rush this morning. What, she asked, would he say about the despicable New York Times article.

Well, it didn’t take long, and I suppose it was foreseeable.

First, I consider myself a conservative. Second, I support McCain. Third, I am increasingly impatient with checklist conservatives – Laura Ingraham insists that Romney is a “conservative’s conservative,” but neglects to mention that this is, under any interpretation, a recent development. The likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh clearly hoping that Fred Thompson’s campaign might catch fire, chastising McCain for McCain-Feingold, and neglecting to mention that Thompson was a co-sponsor. (When someone – clearly not a ditto head – asked Limbaugh about this oversight, he sputtered.) But that is old history now. If they think that while Mitt Romney was busy checking all the boxes and returning his application to Talk Radio, Inc., and while John McCain was fighting for legislation to stop the re-institution of the fairness doctrine, that this makes Romney the “true conservative,” then they are just disingenuous.

(It is really tedious to hear them trot out McCain-Feingold, misrepresent what it does, claim that it is the greatest assault ever on free speech, and then chide McCain for using “class warfare rhetoric.” Who could have guessed that conservative talk radio is like the most liberal college campus with its own speech code? What next? Asking someone if you can slash their marginal tax rates before you can date their daughter?)

So be it. Some other day we will argue about how conservatism gets defined.

There are only two questions about the NYT story that need to be asked:

1) Was there sufficient evidence to go forward with it?
2) Do you believe John McCain or the NYT?

My answer to the first is “not by a long shot,” and I believe McCain without a doubt. If this story doesn’t make you think Rathergate, I don’t know what would.

It is thus extremely disappointing that Bill Kristol gave the NYT a pass without answering the simple question – should this story have been published? Similarly, Mort Kondracke thinks the story has legs, but apparently isn’t willing say whether there’s any reason to believe the NYT. And when Alan Colmes says it’s legitimate to ask the question whether McCain did anything inappropriate on behalf of a lobbyist or David Gregory claims that the real story is whether McCain is a hypocrite, this is typical of the worst in liberal character assassination: throw enough out there often enough and maybe people will get confused and believe some part of it. (Or as I heard another in this infinite supply of strategists----that he’s running around with lobbyists and doing favors for them.) But it is simply wrong to raise questions of hypocrisy or inappropriateness unless you have some evidence.

And so now we come to Mr. Limbaugh. Exactly what did he tell us? That he predicted that as soon as the NYT and the drive by media “forced” McCain on the Republicans – as soon as the drive by media picked the Republican nominee for president – that they would turn on McCain. And the only question to be asked was whether John McCain would learn that the NYT and Chris Matthews were “snakes” and whether McCain would come to learn who is real friends were.

Well, there’s a lot here, but we have to start somewhere. So, first – who is it that Limbaugh is actually suggesting are McCain’s real friends? Is Limbaugh asking us to believe that Limbaugh is one of McCain’s real friends? “John, you may not be able trust the NYT, but I’m your friend (just check off these boxes and say what I tell you to say.)” How is McCain supposed to choose between “friends” like these? The NYT who first endorses and then convicts by innuendo? Or Limbaugh who said that he can see no policy differences between Hillary Clinton and John McCain? Who’s more guilty of sloppy reporting … the NYT relying on two unnamed sources? Or Limbaugh, who is apparently unable to tell the difference between Clinton’s and McCain’s positions on the following issues – the war in Iraq, taxes, Second Amendment rights, right to life, health care?

A little more disturbing is Limbaugh’s view that we out here – without him – would be doing impersonations of Capt. Louis Renault. Limbaugh thinks that he has uncovered some great truth that the liberal media would in the end not support a Republican for president. It is as though we out here in ditto-land heard about the endorsement of McCain by the NYT and thought – “Oh, migosh, do you think it’s possible? The NYT might endorse McCain over a Democrat?” And then we read the NYT story, and Limbaugh thinks – were it not for him – we would all be running around saying “I’m shocked, shocked to find out that the NYT is liberal !! I’m shocked, shocked to find out that the NYT would publish a scurrilous piece about a Republican.”

The NYT might endorse a Republican in a presidential general election? We don’t need Rush Limbaugh to answer that. John Wayne from the Searchers will do: “That’ll be the day.”

Limbaugh, however, is too enlightened to be outraged. Why should he be outraged? This is nothing new; it happens all the time with the drive-bys. Why should I be outraged? he asks, rhetorically. What did you expect? This is what they always do. So, by Limbaugh’s Logic, we should not be outraged when Democrats try to raise taxes? After all, this is nothing new. Don’t be outraged when liberals misrepresent a judicial nominee’s record. After all, this is nothing new. Thus, from Limbaugh’s Logic, we infer Limbaugh’s Counsel – only be outraged if you’re surprised.

We have saved the best for last, of course. Limbaugh claims that the liberal, drive by media “picked” the Republican nominee. Now, he’s been saying this for weeks. And the more Romney seemed to lose, the more he seemed to say it. (Indeed, this morning Limbaugh almost seemed to empathize with Romney staffers who lamented that the NYT could not have run this story before New Hampshire or Florida.) Despite his having said it so many times, it’s still hard to figure out what he means.

“The drive-bys picked McCain, forced him on the Republican party.” What could this mean? In a conspiracy greater than anything the left ever imagined about Florida or Ohio, Matthews and Russert and Gregory were stuffing ballot boxes from New Hampshire to Florida to California? Can you imagine? Maureen Dowd went to one of those Americas she’s only read about and voted for McCain. Twice! Is this what Limbaugh means?

Maybe he means that McCain is the clear favorite of Tom Brokaw and Anderson Cooper. (The day after Super Tuesday, Limbaugh played a comment by Brokaw: “The conservative coalition is fractured.” Limbaugh’s response was the more nuanced, “No, they are just going different directions.”) Well, it may be true that Brokaw favors McCain and implies as much in public. But how is that forcing McCain on the Republican Party? Are we supposed to think this: We Republican voters aren’t swayed by Mr. Limbaugh’s daily rants against McCain, but just let Great Tom say the name “McCain” and like Pavlov’s dogs, we start looking for a McCain lever to pull?

Is that what Limbaugh thinks? We can resist the entreaties of Coulter and Ingraham, of Hannity and Limbaugh, but just let a Matt Lauer say, “Ooo, boy, that McCain’s got integrity,” and we are jello in the hands of the drive-bys?

Maybe he means that since the drive-bys wanted McCain, they gave disproportionately favorable coverage to McCain and ignored the grand conservative, Romney. And who would have guessed that the drive-bys would have the epic literary sense to let McCain plummet to single digits in the polls, carry his own bags through airports, throwing everyone off the track of their real choice, before rescuing the McCain candidacy from oblivion. And I’m sure if we asked Limbaugh to go through it slowly for us, he could and would. He could tell us exactly which Matthews show, exactly which report by Russert on the Nightly News, and exactly which E. J. Dionne column pushed McCain over the top in the Republican presidential primary contest. Sounds kind of silly doesn’t it?

Maybe he means this. There are of course true conservatives who voted. (And despite evidence to the contrary, Limbaugh, Hannity and others still insist that had Huckabee just gotten out of the race, all those true conservative votes would have gone to Romney.) You know the ones. The 3.6% of the electorate that matters. And then we have all the others. You know the type. Moderates. Republican riff raff. Conservatives who are only somewhat conservative….yeah, you know the type – Republican trailer trash. I can barely say it…jello molds – you know, Republican liberals. And worse…people from the wrong side of the tracks. Yeah, you know the ones. Independents. What are they doing voting in our election? So, ok, all these jello molds voted in way disproportionate numbers. (And darn that Guiliani for that silly strategy; he could have been in New Hampshire taking votes from McCain.) But what did the drive-bys have to do with this? Did Paul Krugman go to the local McCain headquarters and offer to drive Republican riff raff and trailer trash to the polls?

But then what does Limbaugh mean? Well, relying on the same sort of evidence that Limbaugh relies on, here’s a stab at what he might mean. Since we didn’t vote for the “very conservative” candidates in the race, since we didn’t follow Rush’s “non-recommendation” recommendation, we must have somehow been not exactly misled, but shall we say, possessed, by the drive-bys. Yes, the devil made us do it.

But Limbaugh can’t be as bad as this sort of NYT yellow journalism. Innuendo. Tsk-tsking. Instead Limbaugh insists that this is now a struggle between the NYT and McCain, and one of them must lose. And Limbaugh’s analogy for this struggle – yes, Gary Hart. During the Florida election, Limbaugh approvingly read George Will’s column, describing McCain’s comments about Romney and time tables “Clintonesque.” But let us not suggest that Limbaugh comparing this situation in any way to the case of Gary Hart and Donna Rice is Clintonesque. Instead, let’s just say it’s “NY Timesesque.” Because that’s what it is. It is exactly what liberals do. Let’s just throw it all out there and see if any of it will stick.

Limbaugh’s distaste for McCain certainly appears visceral. And until he gives some plausible explanation, some evidence for his great narrative of this Republican primary season – that the liberal media “picked” McCain, that they forced McCain on the Republican party – he would seem no better than the NYT.

East of Eden

(editors note: East of Eden is a guest poster here at RovinsWorld that prefers to remain anonymous. Respectfully, I will honor this request. Additionally, the only editing I preformed in this piece was to format the text-----no other changes were made)

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