Recent attacks on prominent critics of President Obama’s policies may give some satisfaction to supporters of the Democratic Party. But is it a smart political move to put the Administration’s values under the public spotlight and provoke greater scrutiny of its controversial plans?
On Wednesday, Democrats forced an investment group to drop popular conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh from a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams football franchise. Football connoisseur Limbaugh was lambasted by Al Sharpton and an array of liberal media commentators for alleged past racist remarks. The drive-by media– a phrase coined by Limbaugh himself to describe traditional media organizations because their reporting resembles drive-by shooters – lived up to its moniker by broadcasting the allegations as if they were true.
Limbaugh denied ever making the statements and news organizations were eventually unable to authenticate them. Now it seems they were just made up by a hard leftist and repeated on blogs. Nevertheless, the mere existence of the fabrications proved sufficient for the National Football League (NFL) to weigh in against Limbaugh on the grounds that he broadcasts divisive views.
While Limbaugh has become a victim of liberal political correctness, the NFL is now caught in its own contradiction. Existing owners and players cannot meet its new high behavioral standards. What is to become of them? And if its aim is racially based, what is the NFL going to do about its current make-up, with an ownership that is almost exclusively white and players who are mostly black? Asian Americans, for example, are grossly underrepresented on the field.
In reality, Limbaugh was ousted because he is the nation’s leading and most effective articulator of conservative thought today, and therefore the primary political target of liberals. That this should become a disqualification to own a sports team is deeply troubling to many Americans.
Limbaugh has the gift of being able to dissect political developments and translate them into everyday language in an entertaining manner. His syndicated talk show draws a weekly audience of more than 14 million. After last November’s election the Democratic Party tried to portray Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party, a move that clearly amused the commentator, while also boosting his ratings.
Behind the racial accusations against Limbaugh is liberal frustration with his skill at exposing and articulating their underlying values. Through a series of parodies, his show reuses the words of Democrats and liberal journalists to make political points. Aside from the humor, he is a relentless critic of the culture of dependency in many black neighborhoods, where government programs have failed to improve livelihoods, and where Sharpton’s powerbase lies. Limbaugh also criticized President Obama’s disastrous handling of the Gatesgate incident in July when a black academic was arrested and publicly accused a police officer of racism.
Separately, the White House has launched an open attack on the Fox News Channel, asserting that the broadcaster is too critical of the Administration and is behaving like an “arm of the Republican Party”.
Over the past eleven years, Fox News has built ratings substantially higher than its cable competitors by reporting on political issues that liberal networks shy away from. It recently exposed corruption at ACORN (The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the action group that registers Democrat voters, and revealed the Marxist philosophy of President Obama’s Green Jobs Czar Van Jones, who subsequently resigned. Obama declined to be interviewed by Fox when he made a series of Sunday morning interviews last month, leading host Chris Wallace to call the Obama Administration a “bunch of crybabies”.
A report from the left of center Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence In Journalism found that Fox provided the most balanced reporting of the 2008 Presidential election, with CNN, MSNBC and the traditional networks all strongly favoring Barack Obama.
Devised and led by Communications Director Anita Dunn, the White House strategy appears to be backfiring. Fox’s ratings have skyrocketed. Glenn Beck, the host responsible for the ACORN and Van Jones investigations, gleefully installed a direct phone line to the White House on his stage, challenging Dunn to call and correct any instances where he gets facts wrong. So far, there have been no calls.
Limbaugh weighed in on the controversy on Friday when he broadcast part of a speech Dunn delivered at the Washington Cathedral in June in which she described former Chinese dictator Mao Tse-tung as one of her “favorite political philosophers”. The Communist leader’s purges and famine-inducing policies caused ten of millions of deaths in China in the 1950s. Beck played the same clip on his show.
Barack Obama promised more dialogue and less partisan politics but his attacks on critics are reminiscent of President Nixon in the midst of Watergate. Limbaugh, meanwhile, will be more fired up than ever to expose the shortcomings of the President’s policies and can watch his ratings rise further.