Mar 08 2009

Jokers To The Right …

Published by at 11:25 am under All General Discussions


This is part one of a three part post title “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, stuck in the middle with you (America)”.

Today we have a delicious story of irony regarding the GOP infighting and how it is reshaping the conservative movement. David Frum, who led the initial charge against Harriet Miers (George W Bush’s 2nd nominee to the US Supreme Court), is now all of a sudden concerned about one faction of the conservative far right taking control and shrinking the party into a political oblivion of purity:

It wasn’t a fight I went looking for. On March 3, the popular radio host Mark Levinopened his show with an outburst (he always opens his show with an outburst): “There are people who have somehow claimed the conservative mantle … You don’t even know who they are … They’re so irrelevant … It’s time to name names …! The Canadian David Frum: where did this a-hole come from? … In the foxhole with other conservatives, you know what this jerk does? He keeps shooting us in the back … Hey, Frum: you’re a putz.”

I mention all this not because I expect you to be fascinated with my life story, but to establish some bona fides. In the conservative world, we have a tendency to dismiss unwelcome realities. When one of us looks up and murmurs, “Hey, guys, there seems to be an avalanche heading our way,” the others tend to shrug and say, he’s a “squish” or a RINO—Republican in Name Only.

Levin went off the deep end a year ago and is intolerable to listen to as he babbles and rages. He and Savage (and Hannity and others) represent the failed conservatism. But the irony of this is Levin and Frum were probably allied in their personal smear attack against Miers. Frum was excessively hostile to the impure Miers – which started the GOP civil war years ago. Now that the purity cannon is aimed at him, he is now wondering where this will end? These people should have listened to us so called ‘moderates’ years ago before they drove off the cliff and won the political version of the Darwin Awards. (Apparently, not wanting to destroy a successful political alliance on the mythology of purity makes one a ‘moderate’).

But I will give Frum credit for noting a critical problem with Rush Limbaugh. A problem that bothers many of us who believe in the conservative idea that family and personal responsibility are just as much a part of the core of America as small business and free enterprise:

On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence—exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. 

Yep, Frum nailed Rush here. Not that ‘nailing’ anyone provides any guidance on what ‘to do’, it just helps remind people that everyone is imperfect and impure. You can be 100% right on one subject and dead wrong on the next. Welcome to the human race.

Frum also nailed Rush as clever manipulator of the media:

I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “OK, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words. I need four: I hope he fails.” … See, here’s the point: everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff: “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here … I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.

Notice that Limbaugh did not say: “I hope the administration’s liberal plans fail.” Or (better): “I know the administration’s liberal plans will fail.” Or (best): “I fear that this administration’s liberal plans will fail, as liberal plans usually do.” If it had been phrased that way, nobody could have used Limbaugh’s words to misrepresent conservatives as clueless, indifferent or gleeful in the face of the most painful economic crisis in a generation. But then, if it had been phrased that way, nobody would have quoted his words at all—and as Limbaugh himself said, being “headlined” was the point of the exercise. If it had been phrased that way, Limbaugh’s face would not now be adorning the covers of magazines. He phrased his hope in a way that drew maximum attention to himself, offered maximum benefit to the administration and did maximum harm to the party he claims to support.

Rush Limbaugh is a seriously unpopular figure among the voters that conservatives and Republicans need to reach. Forty-one percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll. Limbaugh is especially off-putting to women: his audience is 72 percent male, according to Pew Research. 

Yep, Rush’s viewership is up, so will be his already massive income. But Obama’s numbers are up too, and the GOP’s is sinking. What price are conservatives paying for this game? Why is this symbol of ‘everything but’ the responsibility of family a rallying point?

Here’s the kicker: Rush has been wrong, Frum has been wrong. They were two of the leaders who crafted the collapse of the conservative coalition. Rush still rails against the impure conservatives, keeping the liberals in power by his demand of perfection (a pure myth) over progress.

So with clowns to the right and the jokers to the left, where does that leave the rest of us out here in normal America?

Addendum: Let me be clear (in case anyone missed it) I am no David Frum fan. He has done more damage to the GOP and conservative movement than most jokers. My point is we can dump the jokers because conservatives, in general, are the leaders in their communities and in their career areas. My point is we need a new conservative party with broader participation and fewer egos.  We need more Palins, which is someone Frum abhors BTW.

Addendum: However, Frum nails one more problem with the GOP strategy:

Look at America’s public-policy problems, look at voting trends, and it’s inescapably obvious that the Republican Party needs to evolve. We need to put free-market health-care reform, not tax cuts, at the core of our economic message. It’s health-care costs that are crushing middle-class incomes. Between 2000 and 2006, the amount that employers paid for labor rose substantially. Employees got none of that money; all of it was absorbed by rising health-care costs. Meanwhile, the income-tax cuts offered by Republicans interest fewer and fewer people: before the recession, two thirds of American workers paid more in payroll taxes than in income taxes.

Damn straight. Get small businesses into group plans so we can spread the risk and costs. That one simple element of the Bush plan could change the face of health care in America. Forget all the bells and whistles and ornaments – just get this done.

20 responses so far

20 Responses to “Jokers To The Right …”

  1. […] is part one of a three part post title “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, stuck in the middle with you […]

  2. Redteam says:

    Two good posts: Obviously a lot of work went into them, a couple comments:

    Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence—exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party.
    Rush is living the life that comes with the success of capitalism, a goal that many in this country strive for. If he were not a public personality, you’d never know he exists, as with many rich people that lives the same life he does.

    This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal:

    hmmm.. depends on point of view, I guess. To me, he epitomizes the corruption of machine politics. I’ve never heard of Rush taking payoffs or his wife being given a high paying non-productive job just to buy favors. Essentially everything that is wrong with the country. Never heard of Rush associating with known terrorists.

    Notice that Limbaugh did not say: “I hope the administration’s liberal plans fail.” Or (better): “I know the administration’s liberal plans will fail.”

    Rush has said this same thing with several variations in how it is quoted. One time (and it was the first time he said it, I believe) it was stated something like: ” if Obama’s plan is to socialize America, I hope he fails”. I know, for sure, that what he said, I agreed with. And I’ll maintain that if that is Obama’s intent, I hope he fails.

    Forty-one percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll.

    And if you asked the question, “why?” and have you ever actually listened to him? their answer would most likely be no, I haven’t listened to him and just that from what I’ve heard from the news people, he hopes the country will fail.

    If that’s all I knew about him, I would have an unfavorable opinion also. and I haven’t listened to his radio show in at least 8 years. But, actually, I have a very favorable opinion of him.

  3. MerlinOS2 says:

    The whole Rush issue is a manufactured piece of red meat simply to distract people from examining what Obama and co are doing.

    A shiny toy that morphs to something new each day just to keep it going.

  4. Jeff Z says:

    You’re mistaking a strength for a weakness. What you term “infighting” is a necessary adaptive process to a new political reality. You can call it “a dialogue,” “a discussion,” or just thrashing it out, but it’s absolutely necessary, and the more divisive, partisan, and detailed it is, the better it will be.

    I don’t know why so many people are buying into the Democratic idea that Rush Limbaugh, Hannity. Levin, etc. are Republican Party officials, but they are not. They are, however, along with Frum, et al, representative of various factions within the Republican Party.

    The only important task right now is to prepare for the 2010 elections, and the more vibrant, passionate, wide- and far-ranging, the discussion, the better.

    When a decision is made, the more input the better. Also, it’s time to get over the past, especially those of us who are always telling everyone else to get over the past (See under MIERS, HARRIET).

  5. crosspatch says:

    Well here is the context in which the “I hope he fails” meme got started:

    If I wanted Obama to succeed, I’d be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he’s talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don’t want this to work. So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.” (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here’s the point. Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.

    And at CPAC he said:

    For those of you just tuning in on the Fox News Channel or C-SPAN, I’m Rush Limbaugh and I want everyone in this room and every one of you around the country to succeed. I want anyone who believes in life, liberty, pursuit of happiness to succeed. And I want any force, any person, any element of an overarching Big Government that would stop your success, I want that organization, that element or that person to fail. I want you to succeed. [Applause] Also, for those of you in the Drive-By Media watching, I have not needed a teleprompter for anything I’ve said

    As I say, we want the best: Happiness for everybody. Now, about my still-to-me mysteriously controversial comment that I hope President Obama fails. I was watching the Super Bowl. And as you know, I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. [Cheers and Applause] So they have this miraculous scoring drive that puts them up by four, 15 seconds left. Kurt Warner on the field for the Cardinals. And I sure as heck want you to know I hope he failed. I did not want the Cardinals to win. I wanted Warner to make the biggest fool of himself possible. I wanted a sack, I wanted anything. I wanted the Steelers to win. I wanted to win. I wanted the Cardinals to fail. This notion that I want the President to fail, folks, this shows you a sign of the problem we’ve got. That’s nothing more than common sense and to not be able to say it, why in the world do I want what we just described, rampant government growth indebtedness, wealth that’s not even being created yet that is being spent, what is in this? What possibly is in this that anybody of us wants to succeed? Did the Democrats want the war on Iraq to fail!

    CROWD: Yes!

    RUSH: They certainly did. They not only wanted the war in Iraq to fail, they proclaimed it a failure. There’s Dingy Harry Reid waiving a white flag: [doing Harry Reid impression] “This war is lost. This war is” —

    [Cheers and Applause]

    They called General Petraeus a liar before he even testified. Mrs. Clinton — [Crowd Booing] — said she had to, willingly suspend disbelief in order to listen to Petraeus. We’re in the process of winning the war. The last thing they wanted was to win. They hoped George Bush failed. So what is so strange about being honest to say that I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation? Why would I want that to succeed? [Applause]

    Let me add a caveat here. My friends, I know what’s going on. I know what’s going on. We’re in the aspects here of an historic presidency. I know that. But let me be honest again. I got over the historical aspects of this in November. President Obama is our president. President Obama stands for certain things. I don’t care, he could be a Martian. He could be from Michigan, I don’t know — just kidding. Doesn’t matter to me what his race is. It doesn’t matter. He’s liberal is what matters to me. And his articulated — his articulated plans scare me. Now, I understand we can’t say we want the President to fail, Mr. Limbaugh. That’s like saying — this is the voice of the New Castrati, by the way, guys who have lost their guts. You can’t say Mr. Limbaugh that you want the President to fail because that’s like saying you want the country to fail. It’s the opposite. I want the country to survive. I want the country to succeed.

    So I didn’t see it as a personal attack. What I took it to mean was that he did not want to see the President succeed in implementing socialism in this country. He does not want to see the President succeed in putting through policies that hurt our economy and saddle our children. He said he wanted the President to fail in implementing a liberal agenda of additional programs and expenses that were likely to severely damage the economy and in the long run hurt more people than it helps.

  6. crosspatch says:

    I posted a fair bit of context in a previous post that is waiting moderation. What Rush was saying by “I home Obama fails” is that he hopes he fails at implementation of any sweeping liberalism. And I tend to agree with that.

    By the way, I can’t stand Levin or Hannity either. Levin comes across to me as rather moronic though outspoken and every once in a while there *is* a gem in that load of gravel but only once in a while. Lately I have been listening to Glenn Beck more. I do catch about 30 minutes of Rush but during a time that is mostly commercials and don’t really get to hear much of what he has to say that day.

    But honestly I can say … if you don’t listen to Rush for most of, say, a month, you aren’t going to get a lot of the context of what is being said because much of what is said on any given show is part of an extended conversation that has evolved across several days. Unlike Levin or Hannity that produce a “stand alone” show each day. Rush has more of a continuing conversation going on that spans several days or even weeks and something he says today might be a reference to or expansion on something said the day or week before. This makes that statement mean one thing in that context but it could mean something completely different when cut out of that context and pasted on its own.

    I used to listen to Rush regularly but don’t have the time anymore. Most of the hardcore Rush haters I have come across are people who either have never listened to him or have only listened once or twice for a brief period. To really understand the show, you really do have to listen for a while.

  7. crosspatch says:

    My favorite show, by the way, was Hugh Hewitt but the local station that carried him changed their format and no other stations carry him around here that I can find.

  8. […] Strata-Sphere, no Rush fan and no Frum fan, goes both ways. Likes some, whacks some. […]

  9. kathie says:

    I think people hate Rush because he is a big time braggart. It puts people off. How ever if you can get past the bragging and the fragile ego, he stands consistently for our military, and those who are fighting, a strong national defense is the first order of business for any president, he is against abortion, he is for individual human rights, individual liberty and forging your own happiness. He hates government interference except for those who can’t take care of themselves. He thinks that corrupt government is inevitable when it gets too large. The pay to play representatives we have now is out of control, and the bigger and intrusive the government gets more they control, and the more they will.

    I find Rush echos many of my thoughts. I like him. I recognize he is not a politician, he can say what is on his mind because he doesn’t have to think about an election. He is a radio guy with a great memory, grounded in history, and from a middle American family. He has become more prominent because he and a few others are the only voices expressing the republican point of view except for Fox. MSM is a turn off for many Republicans.

  10. GuyFawkes says:


    I swear this is a legitimate question: what is it about Sarah Palin that makes you so convinced she is the future of the GOP? You’ve made it pretty clear in your three posts here that you think the party needs a more moderate and more open-armed approach – what have you seen from her that convinces you that she thinks the same?

    I understand that she’s overwhelmingly popular amongst the GOP base – but you usually speak of the base rather derisively. What has she done that makes you so convinced that she can bring the GOP back to prominence?

  11. AJStrata says:


    Be happy to answer. Palin is not from the DC elite and is more like Bush (the latter) than anyone else. She has strong family values but doesn’t believe in mandating social conservatism via laws. She also attracts a ton of people from left of center to the right. She drew more people than Obama did in the debates.

    She is a moderate, don’t let the spin fool you. While she believes in marriage and the family, she didn’t send her daughter packing when she was pregnant.

    She also took on a very powerful and corrupt GOP senator. In that manner she is just like McCain.

    She is not a knee jerk amnesty hypochondriac, she believes in a strong national defense. What’s NOT to like!

    The base is going to have to deal with another W – who is a strong conservative but not a radical winger. Palin was spun as a far right winger to give the far right some face saving way to support the ticket.

    As long as the GOP can be a big tent party with the far right in exile it can come back. Palin can actually pull this off.

    Did I mention she draws ENORMOUS crowds? The women’s vote is enormous – take that from the Dems and they cannot win nationally.

  12. crosspatch says:

    Oh, and what Obama wants isn’t “liberalism”. It is socialism. For some reason the word liberal has been twisted over the years. It is the Republicans who have the traditional view of classic liberalism. Liberalism means more responsibility and liberty given to the individual and less given to the state. Individual responsibility and individual rights (including the right to fail) are liberal ideas. The notion that power springs from the government and the government grants rights to people is the classical “conservative” thinking. In both the US and the UK, liberal and conservative have swapped meaning for some reason where “liberal” now means greater government control, regulation, distribution, and granting of “rights”.

    Liberal used to mean more individual liberty. Now it means less. Now it means the government is for some reason responsible to see that you have enough to eat, have a proper home, have a cell phone, have a doctor available, etc. These are not the responsibility of your neighbors. It is a moral duty for a community to help its members but not one to support them from cradle to grave.

    A government that provides these things is one admitting failure. They are admitting that they can not create an environment where people can achieve these things on their own without the government confiscating from some to give to the rest. Modern liberalism is fundamentally an admission of failure and it destroys communities, families, and the social fabric as people no longer need to rely on each other because “the government” (who has no name and no face) “takes care of them.”

  13. GuyFawkes says:

    Thanks for the response, AJ. She definitely draws a strong response – I think we differ slightly in the fact that I think the people cheering for her are going to vote GOP no matter what. It’s just that the Republicans/conservatives who like her, REALLY REALLY like her. I guess I just haven’t seen anything yet to convince me that she can pull in independants or Blue Dogs.

    But, it’s entirely possible that it’s way too early to judge her – the McCain campaign did a terrible, terrible job handling her inbetween the convention and Nov 4. She was obviously over-coached – it’s impossible for someone to learn as much about national and international politics as she needed to learn in such a short time.

    If she is a true moderate though, then ironically she might have an even harder time in 2012 or 2016: I am having difficulty thinking of any prominent Republican moderate that isn’t currently being scorned by their own party.

  14. Terrye says:

    I don’t think that Limbaugh wants America to fail. I get what he is saying, but I do think that he could have said it differently. He knows how people like Guy here will twist his words.

    A few years ago a poll was done {Patterico has it} in which a majority of Democrats said they wanted Bush to fail. We get that. But there is a reason why Obama keeps mentioning Limbaugh. He knows Limbaugh has high negatives with certain voters and he wants to tie the Republicans to him with those voters. He also wants to put the GOP in the position where political officials are somehow answerable for what Rush says…and of course certain people on the right are willing to see those officials fired if they do not stand up for Limbaugh. As if Rush needed defending.

    My beef with guys like Limbaugh is that when the campaign was going on they could barely bring themselves to support McCain, he was not conservative enough for them. And that includes Rush….well I hope they are happy now.

  15. Terrye says:

    Palin has governed from the center in Alaska. Her appointments have included people from all sorts of backgrounds. If people would look at her record instead of knee jerk attacking her they might find she is a reasonable intelligent woman.

  16. Terrye says:

    And I am not sure the GOP numbers are down either. That msnbc poll has been contradicted by several other polls. It is rare for Republicans to have anything like parity with Democrats. Right now they are averaging about 7 points behind Democrats, historically that is not all that unusual.

    When Reagan was it was a bigger gap than that.

  17. GuyFawkes says:

    Mike Murphy, GOP strategist, on Meet the Press last week:

    “But at the end of the day here’s the one statistic we all got to remember: the country’s changing. Ronald Reagan won in 1980 with 51 percent of the vote. We all worship Ronald Reagan. But if that election had been held with the current demographics of America today, Ronald Reagan would’ve gotten 47 percent of the vote. The math is changing. Anglo vote’s 74 percent now, not 89. And if we don’t modernize conservatism, we’re going to have a party of 25 percent of the vote going to Limbaugh rallies, enjoying every, every applause line, ripping the furniture up. We’re going to be in permanent minority status.”

    Just something to keep in mind, when you think back to Reagan’s day.

  18. Terrye says:


    Reagan was a product of his time. No one would deny that. The point being that when it comes to elections party ID do not always tell the whole story. Look at the south. Most voters consider themselves Democrats even in states where Republicans dominate.

  19. Terrye says:

    And if Ronald Reagan were running against the same people he still might win even today. Mondale could not beat Coleman in Minnesota not so long ago. And McGovern could not win a national election any more than John Kerry could.

  20. GuyFawkes says:

    Oh, I agree completely, Terrye – John Kerry was basically the Walter Mondale of 2004. I still can’t believe that was the best we could do. (Nice hypothetical, though – Reagan of ’80 vs. Obama of ’08.)

    This goes more towards something that I think AJ, and possibly some of you, will agree with. It’s about a couple of quotes from Limbaugh at CPAC:

    “Conservatism is what it is and it is forever. It’s not something you can bend and shape and flake and form.”


    “Our own movement has members trying to throw Reagan out while the Democrats know they can’t accomplish what they want unless they appeal to Reagan voters. We have got to stamp this out within this movement, because it will tear us apart. It will guarantee we lose elections. We have to. You see, to me it’s a no-brainer. It’s not even something to me: How do you get rid of Reagan from conservatism? The blueprint — the blueprint for landslide conservative victory is right there. Why in the hell do the smartest people in our room want to chuck it?”

    Now, seeing what I wrote above – as a Democrat, I have to say I hope the GOP does follow this advice. Don’t change, don’t adapt, don’t modernize your message – just stick with what you’ve been doing for the past few years. It’s worked out so well so far.

    I’ve seen a LOT of support for these ideas at places like Hot Air, or Powerline, or RedState – and here. And it kind of baffles me – they seem to be saying, “So long as we keep doing the same things as we’ve been doing for the past 30 years, everything will change!” Eh? How does that work?