On Tuesday's O'Reilly Factor, Mike Gallagher -- sold that home yet, Mike? -- and Lars Larson were on to talk about why right-wingers like Newt Gingrich just can't help talking about Rush Limbaugh and drawing his ire and thus feeding into the evil liberals' devious plan to draw attention away from the serious issue of the economy. It was a hoot.
The wankafoolery started really rolling when Gallagher came up with this gem:
Gallagher: Well, I think Newt doesn't like being part of a phony debate that's been set up by the left as to whether or not Rush Limbaugh is the face of the Republican Party. Newt has always been great at defining what Republicans are about, what Republicans are for, and putting Democrats on the defensive. And I think Newt is probably mildly annoyed that a radio host, even one as prominent as Rush, has created so many headlines over all this. And I think both of these men acknowledge that it's a disingenuous debate. It's just something that's been ginned up by the Left to try to fracture the Republican Party even further, and that's just not what Newt is about.
Even O'Reilly seemed skeptical about all this, but all were in eventual agreement that the whole thing was a ridiculous plot by liberals and the Obama administration to distract attention from the economy, which O'Reilly assures us is going to backfire, blah blah blah blah blah.
They're all conveniently forgetting one thing: Limbaugh is precisely relevant to the matter of the economy because he has made himself a major player -- and certainly its most visible one -- in the fight over President Obama's legislative package for getting the economy back on its feet.
Does anyone doubt for a minute that Republicans in both the House and the Senate would have been as significantly lockstep, completely uniformly obstructionist, in voting against the stimulus bill had it not been for Limbaugh, with this troops manning the phone lines to deal rapidly and harshly with any hapless Republicans who might even hint toward straying? Is there any doubt their leverage helped Blue Dogs water the bill down enough to make it potentially short of what's needed?
Trying to pretend Limbaugh is just a sideshow, when in fact he's been a key player in how the economic fix has proceeded -- and particularly in how it's been discussed and shaped -- is a good meme for Republicans. But it also runs aground on the sharp rocks of reality.
Limbaugh has become the most important means of Republicans maintaining their ideological rigidity through hardline party discipline, especially on economic matters. So when liberals go after Limbaugh as the face of the GOP, that's because -- by default -- that's what he is right now. And it's not looking like it will change anytime soon, either; do you see any real potential winners among that crop of Republican politicians right now? (I for one am waiting for them to recruit Glenn Beck to run on the Sarah Palin ticket ...)
So when Obama brought Limbaugh up -- "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done" -- it was precisely in the context of solving the economic mess. And he's right: If Republicans are just listening to Rush and, like him, reflexively rejecting every proposal he offers, and moreover reflexively working for his failure for cold political calculations, then they're not going to be part of getting anything done in the next four years, especially not in terms of getting the economy back up and running.
The public doesn't want the standard old Conservative solutions to these problems -- which is all the GOP has to offer -- and Republicans are going to have to learn to deal with that fact. The only remaining question is whether they're going to be part of the solution, or part of the problem. With Rush, we already have our answer.