So Rush Limbaugh has challenged Obama to a debate.
It’s smart for Rush. If Obama is going to anoint him as the leader of the Republican Party, he may as well respond in kind. And hey, he articulates conservative principles very well.
But still. I hope Rush Limbaugh fails in his attempt to set himself up as the de facto head of the Republican Party. [UPDATE: More accurately, as the de facto head of the conservative movement. See UPDATE below.]
It’s good for him personally. I get that. And I love hearing the guy hold forth. I wish him all the success in the world for his radio program.
But some of the things he says are designed principally to stir controversy and draw attention to himself. Like saying he hopes Obama fails. Rush knows his comments will elevate his profile and make him seem more important.
I know: when he says he hopes Obama fails, he doesn’t mean he wants to see Americans suffer. He just doesn’t want liberal policies enacted because he thinks they’re bad for the country. I get it. I agree with that.
But, you know, that’s nuance.
The problem is, Americans have short attention spans and don’t always do nuance well. Just by writing the title of this post the way I did, I’ll get an angry reaction from some — even though, if you read the post, I haven’t said anything particularly negative about Limbaugh. As Allahpundit says:
It’s Republicans who are suffering from having to thread the needle between defending Limbaugh and rejecting the “I want him to fail” rhetoric. What harm has Rush suffered? His stature’s never been greater, as he himself acknowledges right here.
Michael Steele and other Republicans need to say: “Rush Limbaugh is an articulate man who expresses conservative principles well. But when he says he wants Obama to fail, he’s putting things in a deliberately controversial way to draw attention to himself. I wouldn’t say I want Obama to fail. I would say simply that I think conservative principles are better for our country. That’s how I feel — and I’m not apologizing for saying so.”
P.S. I hope David Frum fails too.
UPDATE: Some commenters object that Rush is not the head of the Republican party, and indeed recently said he doesn’t want to be. These commenters say that, if anything, he is the head of the conservative movement.
Fair enough. I understand (painfully well, as a conservative) that the two are not synonymous, and I take Rush at his word. Therefore I have changed my post to say “conservative movement” instead of Republican party, and thanks to those who pointed this out.
I don’t think that this change alters the point of my piece significantly. Namely: it’s great to have someone strongly articulating conservative values . . . but prominent conservatives need not sign on to his “I want Obama to fail” phraseology. That phraseology is counterproductive because it puts conservatives on defense. Conservatives need not sign on to that formulation to prove that they stand for conservative principles.