Newly elected RNC Chair Michael Steele tried to assert his leadership over the Republican Party, over and against the perceived headship of Rush Limbaugh, and like two rams jockeying for alpha-male status, rhetorical head-butting ensued. Last night on DL Hughley's show, Steele was asked about Rush Limbaugh, and Steele responded by saying that Limbaugh was an "entertainer" whose radio show is "incendiary" and "ugly." Limbaugh today fired back charging that Steele is "obsessed" with helping Obama succeed, and like Rep. Gingrey (R-GA) before him, Steele backpedaled, apologized, and supplicated to Limbaugh:
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”Limbaugh is now the de facto Republican leader.
With the elevation of Limbaugh as party leader, Democrats now can force congressional Republicans into the corner. If Republicans aren't willing to come work with Obama in a bipartisan fashion, then the Democrats will unceasingly associate Republicans with the extreme viewpoints of Limbaugh. DNC Chair Tim Kaine had this response to the Limbaugh-Steele dust-up:
Chairman Steele’s reversal this evening and his apology to Limbaugh proves the unfortunate point that Limbaugh is the leading force behind the Republican Party, its politics and its obstruction of President Obama’s agenda in Washington. Just this weekend, Rush Limbaugh repeated his claim that he is rooting for the President to fail.To prove my point further, look at this video of Press Secretary Gibbs today about Limbaugh, bipartisanship, and solving the nation's economic problems. Oh yeah, I almost forgot this AFSCME ad with the same messaging scheme: Republicans say 'no' to Obama because they are taking their cues from Limbaugh, who wants Obama to fail.
And, finally conservative columnist David Frum gets it:
President Obama and Rush Limbaugh do not agree on much, but they share at least one thing: Both wish to see Rush anointed as the leader of the Republican party.Well yes and no. Obama wants to get work done, but if Republicans don't want to help, then it's all Limbaugh all the time. Frum seemingly understands this and wants to minimize the effect of Limbaugh's microphone:
He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise – and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important.