Rush Limbaugh has managed to mix it up with just about everyone this year. The vociferous talk-show host's pre-inaugural statement that he wanted Barack Obama to fail got him identified by Democrats as the "leader of the GOP." That ended up producing retractions of seeming insults from high-profile party leaders like RNC Chairman Michael Steele and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.
This week, the Rush-inspired GOP civil war continued. This time Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was in his crosshairs for saying the party was in "deep trouble," partly because of Rush's influence: Powell said that with radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and commentator Ann Coulter as the faces of the party it lacks a "positive" spokesperson.
"I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without,'' Powell said.
Not surprisingly, Limbaugh fired back:
"What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican Party," Limbaugh said on his radio show Wednesday. "He's just mad at me because I'm the one person in the country who had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama," Limbaugh said. "It was purely and solely based on race.
There are couple of ironies in Rush's excoriation of Powell: For one thing, Limbaugh says that Powell's endorsement of Obama was "purely and solely based on race." In making that statement, he ignores the various other white moderate Republicans who endorsed Obama. And, as Powell himself said at the time of his endorsement, he would have done it months before if it was "purely and solely based on race."
Not to mention that Limbaugh is more likely to use race as a motivating factor --- whether it is there or not --- than Powell. You may remember that the conservative talk show host's brief sojourn at ESPN exploded six years ago over a racial incident that wasn't. He said that the media didn't criticize Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb because he was black:
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,'' Limbaugh said. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
The problem with Limbaugh's analysis was that by 2003 African-American quarterbacks had begun to thrive in the league; there was no need for the sort of media boosterism of which he was claiming. Interestingly, before quitting ESPN, Limbaugh used language similar to what he uttered during this Powell situation. He deemed himself a hero who was the only one daring to speak truth to power:
"All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something," [Rush] said just before leaving the worldwide leader in sports. "If I wasn't right there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community."
Note the similar self-aggrandizing language with respect to his being "the one person in the country who had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama."
Another irony that comes from this latest kerfuffle is that for the second week in a row that Limbaugh has suggested certain Republicans leave the party.
After Arlen Specter jumped to the Democrats, Limbaugh said he should take John McCain and his daughter Meagan with him: "You're weeding out people who aren't really Republicans."
Funny thing is Rush has made a big thing for years about not being a Republican himself -- or at least not being beholden to the party establishment. Indeed, he reiterated this during his famous, "I want Obama to fail" show:
Reasons number 249 and 50 why I'm not a Republican. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has been chosen to introduce Vice-President-elect Biden at a bipartisan dinner in Washington on the eve of the immaculation. Biden was one of Hagel's closest friends in the Senate. "Bipartisan dinners also held that night honoring McCain and Colin Powell. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will introduce McCain at a dinner." So all these Republicans are being honored on the night before Obama is immaculately inaugurated, as though they're part of the Obama administration. Our presidential candidate is being honored. I can understand liberals honoring their losers, but I just...
So, the guy who proudly claims to not be a Republican is telling a guy who has served in multiple Republican administrations -- and spoken at Republican conventions -- that he should quit the party! Of course, Rush thinks pushing moderates out of the party makes it that much stronger. Call it Limbaugh's Anti-Powell Doctrine: The enemy may outnumber you -- but still keep removing as many of your free-thinkers as possible until your troops are ideologically pure.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.