Rush Limbaugh is worried. His anxiety might have something to do with his precipitous weight gain. Also, his speech patterns are showing stress. The normal enthusiastic, even jovial, oom-pa-pa of the instrument has become labored, dogged.
It’s a hinge moment for the Limbaugh career. The advent of the Obama administration and the sweeping gains of the Democratic Party, together with the disorganization and enfeeblement of the Republican Party, could be an incredible opportunity for Rush. He could become the remaining voice of the right. On the other hand, he could be marginalized out of existence. If the economy trumps ideology, if Obama makes progress neutralizing the political wars, that’s bad news for Rush.
Right now Rush is being played. The Obama dinner with conservative columnists, shortly before his inauguration, was as much about excluding Rush as coddling the columnists. Not only did the conservatives fawn, but Rush fumed. It got under his skin. Indeed, the rumor that he might in fact be there (likely coming from the Obama camp), and then his evident lack of an invitation, highlighted the slight. He’s tried to make it out to be a political point ever since, but mostly he sounds like a guy who’s hurt he didn’t get invited to the hot party.
Then, there was the president’s throw-away line suggesting that Republican lawmakers, in the midst of the greatest modern financial crisis, were glued to their radios listening to Rush rather than hard at work. It was deft suggestion, not so much about ideology but about seriousness. Rush isn’t.
He’s out on a limb, Rush. His current themes are about Obama’s radicalism, which, with every day of the new administration, seems a less and less sellable image, and—say-again?—the new president’s racism. Obama’s the racist, you see, in one of those message inversions coded so as to speak to actual racists. (“Racism in this country is the exclusive province of the left.”)
It’s an unaccustomed verbal flailing: “Most of these guys came alive in the Civil Rights battles of the Sixties…” (When Barack Obama was under seven). Obama is being forced on us by a left-wing, racist, homosexual conspiracy: “We’re being told we have to bend over and grab the ankles.”
The game the president is playing is to make a testy, easy-to-arouse, fun-to-rankle Rush come to stand for an odd-ball, tone-deaf, blowhard far right that the rest of the desperate-to-be-liked Republican Party will eagerly distance itself from (if Rush is trying to capitalize on the panty-waist demeanor of so many of his fellow Republicans, he’s also got to suspect that they’ll sell him out.)
Rush’s game is to try to stay in the game. To find some plausible way to characterize and ridicule the president, which will justify the $400 million what-were-they-thinking contract he signed with Clear Channel over the summer. The pressure is on.
Source: Newser blog