Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Personal Aside: McCain’s Biggest Problem…and the GOP’s…Lies With One Man. He Can Determine Whether the Base is United for Next November.


McCain’s Problem.

John McCain’s smashing victory in Florida certifies that he is the front-runner—but his biggest opposition…one which can lose him the presidency…is Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh is an institution in this country and holds a definite hold over conservatives. Unlike some, I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Rush. He has contributed enormously to the upbuilding of a conservative consensus in this country. He is far more than a phrasemaker but a thoughtful, witty—even erudite at times—analyst of the conservative mood. As one who got into the talk radio business late in life, I have a fascination and deep admiration for the man who has transformed talk radio into an invaluable educational device for conservatism. There is a snide, smirking view among the intelligentsia in this country that anyone who purveys conservative ideas on talk radio is wafer-thin shallow. Such is not the case. Rush Limbaugh is not only resourceful but he has been at times stunningly ahead of other so-called pundits. And he has produced a legion of talented associates who are very effective on their own—Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Mark Levin: anyone but Michael Savage.

But all the same, Rush Limbaugh as good as he is, has a distinct liability which carries over, I think, to some of his listeners who tend to echo his refrains, sometimes quite mindlessly. Limbaugh like many communicators has not had any first-hand experience with politics on his own. Which means that he hasn’t faced the necessity to lobby for legislation, to do what it takes to build coalitions. He is solely a microphone practitioner (assuredly an extraordinary one). But there is a difference between people who have been in the political game and those who comment on it. People who have been in the political game, either as a candidate or even a failed candidate, a campaign manager or lobbyist or fund-raiser are not as brittle as commentators. Commentators tend to view politics through only one lens: issues. Politics are more than issues—far more.

To a commentator like Limbaugh who has assailed McCain repeatedly, he could be disastrous for the Republican party because of his more recent record—supporter of immigration reform, global warming, McCain-Feingold, a key formulator of the Gang of 14. They have such a high regard for issues that they cannot imagine how one can turn his back on past issue stands and formulate an entirely new platform based on the necessities of the present. To them this is lack of character. But as I have tried to point out many times—to no avail with some readers—politics is more than a fistful of issue cards. It is not a science but an art. Aside from Calvin Coolidge no presidential candidate or president has approached his task with a boilerplate of issues not subject to instant revision. I know whereof I’m speaking, as an architect of getting legislative programs passed in the Minnesota legislature, as a corporate lobbyist, as an assistant Commerce secretary charged with winning support for my program, as number three in the Peace Corps charged with galvanizing conservative support for my agency.

To rule out John McCain because of his past flirtation with liberalism is not to understand the dynamics of public policy. It is nigh unto impossible for radio talk show hosts who are interested in building listener numbers to dwell on the grey areas. The name of the game is to project black and white attitudes: chiaroscuro. I am still for Romney but I can tell you that with McCain you will not have any of the old liberal nonsense that was born of frustration when he sought to even up the score with the George W. Bush who defeated and humiliated him in 2000. All this McCain liberal stuff was generated from that attitude of misgiving. Times have changed and you will now have a McCain who has reverted back to his old stance of Reagan Republicanism, the Republicanism he signed up for when he first ran for office.

Trust me. I am only worried about one thing. Rush Limbaugh will not understand it because he has never had to get a bill or piece of legislation passed but simply has to sound good over the microphone. As one who has tried to do both—serve as a legislative strategist, lobbyist, publicitor and radio talk show host—I can tell you that they are vastly different disciplines. And Rush can determine whether the Republicans win or lose by the way he handles McCain in the future. Sometimes it does no good to ask a radio talk show host on the right if he would rather have a President Barack Obama or President Hillary Clinton than a President John McCain. Maybe in a commercial sense the answer is yes—railing against a liberal president can build great numbers. But I am confident Rush is more sensible than that and more responsible.

He should set himself to the task of understanding how complicated the presidency is…understand that McCain may well be the nominee…and ask himself if he feels the nation can afford the luxury of him beating up on McCain from the standpoint of McCain’s past stances—stances which now are on the way to being obsolete.


  1. Like Pinky Lee, Howard Miller, Alex Drier, Jerry Springer, Mort Downey, and Phil Donahue before him, Rush Limbaugh has influence and a platform.

    Yesterday's McCain victory was triumph of Deeds over Rhetoric.

    Limbaugh and his surrogates can do mischief - that is up to their ratings and sponsors.

    Voters know the difference.

  2. Last night on Fox News liberal commentator Bob Beckel predicted that McCain's running mate would be Mitt Romney.

    This is a view that several great minds have expressed on this Blog!

    He also opined that Obama would be Hillary's number two, but not vice versa.

  3. I used to listen to Rush in the early '90s but I tired of his shtick some years ago and don't listen to him much anymore. I do know he has said repeatedly that he is, first and foremost, an entertainer (not a politician or political adviser), and that his job is to get people to listen to his program. Everything else he does is secondary to that goal. While he does not forget that, perhaps some of his listeners do.

  4. Long years ago, I attended a Rush Limbaugh gathering that was sponsored by WLS Radio. I used to listen to his program faithfully, but I cannot do so today. More often than not, I punch the buttons on my car radio and listen for a few minutes. The show is not nearly as interesting when there is not an election taking place.

    McCain does have serious problems with the GOP base and several of his recent wins were spurred by crossover voting. In Florida, there are significant numbers of Latino voters who prefer the Republican Party and McCain's lax stance on border security and immigration appealed to many of these voters. Romney needed a win yesterday, but still has remote prospects. Huckabee needs to fold. While McCain is electable in November, he is the most liberal Republican running and his possible governance on the domestic side of the presidential agenda is worrisome.

  5. I do not understand the sheep-like following of this poor example of a man. I have heard him use subtly texted racist language; his verbal assaults on women, his contempt for the poor etc.

    The product of an influential Republican Missouri family, he dropped out of a not very good college; he has had three wives; he used drugs illegally (I know a nice young doctor who spent six years in prison for having 12 of the drug that Rushie had dozens of). He is another prominent Vietnam draft dodger. On and on. The man is a vicious loud-mouth who has done more than anyone else to divide this country.

    He is not a wise man.

  6. I will not object to all of your statements, but Limbaugh had a medical deferment from military service.

  7. So lets look at it your way first: The mere fact that McCain would put his tiff with Bush over the interests of the United States and the Republican party patently disqualifies him to be President. This is the action of a hot head and a temper prone person which he exhibits again and again. Just look at his comments about the lack of conservative support for his beloved amnesty bill!

    And speaking of that amnesty bill... he certainly fell into bed with his "enemy" Bush on that one... Tom Roeser please explain this! The foundation of your neo-con argument fails because McCain has been consistent in his liberal attitude. Note that he went after Arizona's prop 200. This was being a LIBERAL .... it was not about a tiff with Bush. Once again you are a victim of clever neo-con propaganda.

    On the other hand, Tom just what are you trying to do here? Are you trying to show us that compromise is the way to go because of political expediency? Are principles dead? Well then Tom should we compromise on your pet Abortion issues?

    Or does your compromise end when it comes to matters of the Church? Pray, Tom, do tell us!

    After the Republicans LOST the house and the Senate, Limbaugh explicitly said that he would no longer be carrying the water for certain people implied to be the neo-cons. They have gone after him since then. He fully saw that the neo-con policies lost the House and the Senate. Further he departed from the neo-con Weekly Standard/WSJ mantra of open borders. In fact he became a strong advocate to tighten up the borders in opposition to Bush and McCain. So Tom do you want open borders to swell the attendance at the Catholic Churches? You were volunteering to teach them English. Where DO you stand on the immigration issue? You were quite silent on the issue in this blog on the issue when the bill was being discussed.

    Are you doing this because Rush Limbaugh deviates from the neo-con mantra so you feel then need to use your weight to go after him so as to pump up the neo-con line so as to score "points" with them? Have you sold your soul to them that much? Would you sacrifice your anti-abortion stance because of them?

    Your equivocation is obvious. What else are we to think?

  8. There is NO topic more tied to LIBERALS than the whole idea of Global Warming. It goes to the core of Al Gore's being. Many of the former commies adopted environmentalism so as to control what they could not control any other way. You know that! Carbon Tax, Thermostat Control,cutesy bulbs filled with mercury, low flush toilets etc. they could not dig more into the pockets of the middle class then adopt the Global Warming agenda and all it means.

    MCCAIN on his Presidential Campaign website blatantly shows his support for the Global Warming mantra. Is it no wonder pseudo-RINO-Republican Schwartzegger also is into Global Warming and will soon endorce McCain.

    Tom try to explain McCain's Global Warming agenda away? Is Limbaugh wrong on this too?

    Tom, are you a closet supporter of this Global Warming thing? This IS the hallmark of the current liberal establisment.

    Frankly if this is the way the Republicans are going to compromise, I WOULD RATHER SEE THEM LOSE! With Republicans like these, who needs liberals?

  9. Larry-

    Supreme imbecile first class with honors, we who cannot comprehend what you are trying to say in your stupor, salute you as Jackass of Year 2008!

    A special thanks to puritan john powers who protects predators like Larry, rather then calling him what he is, Fake, Phoney, and Fraud-

  10. I strongly warn you personally that you had better follow it!

  11. ... is not the liberal deviations, it's his righteous enthusiasm for them, and his willingness to poke conservatives in the eye. He feuded with Bush for a while, but he's much happier with the Republican establishment than the conservative movement, and the RE lacks "fire in the belly" for our issues. Like Nixon and Bush 41, President McCain would "grow in office", embracing tax hikes, de facto open borders, and "global warming", appointing "consensus" judges (read "stealth liberals").

    The fact is, over the last generation, conservatives have learned that any politician who isn't a committed and principled conservative is a de facto liberal.

    Romney is a danger in that respect too. But there's a difference between compromising with a dominant liberal polity to win office and get something done, and gratuitous posturing for liberal applause, as McCain has done.

    Also... if McCain faces Obama, he loses. He's OLD. Over half the voting-age population was born after the Vietnam War. I think they're really tired of hearing about it. The raking-up of Vietnam in 2004 annoyed a lot of them. Another go-round will just be worse. Obama is "young", "dynamic", personally attractive in a way McCain can't match.

    Residual racism might help McCain, but IMHO it would be offset by the Magic Negro factor: Obama is the sort of clean, non-threatening black that whites want to validate them.

  12. Like the call to pardon Scooter Libby, the calls have gone out on high from the neo-con Mt. Olympus to support McCain. Rush Limbaugh has decided to not play along this time and he is being excoriated for it. Tom Roeser is bending this blog to do that too.

    Read Bill Kristol's piece in the New York Times. Bill Kristol is the scion of the neo-con elite. These people look at McCain like a pseudo Winston Churchill. McCain revels in their proactive war theology with Victorian Empire building zeal. And they swoon to him and expect the minions like Tom Roeser to jump in lock step.

    But it is time to ask the question: Is this whole neo-con thing really conservative? It is taking on a cult like quality of either you are with us or you are against us. And if you are against us you will be labeled as a anti-semite or a kook and you will be stomped on.

    These people live in a fantasy world that eminates from Trotsky. It is FAR from being Conservative in the Traditional sense. They promote BIG Government Conservatism. (Liberalism redefined?) They have worked hard to convert the conservative movement to their own twisted ideals. They have taken over nearly every Republican think tank.

    The Republican Party is being destroyed in the process. Just look at the 2006 election outcome! It is disgusting thanks to them. The Republican hold on Congress was squandered thanks to them.

    But not only is their foreign policy flawed their economic policy is flawed because of their support of open borders as the road to their kind of Globalism. Their free trade ideas have nearly ruined Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. But they arrogantly march on without the MEDIA going after them.. Why? Maybe they were trojan horse sent to destroy the Republican Party Conservative wing.

    It is tragic when pundits such as Tom Roeser throw in with them for what ever reason.

  13. I think your analysis of Limbaugh as infantile and naive about politics misses his point, is, perhaps, a tad naive. It's not simply that he doesn't like McCain's positions. I think he honestly believes, as do I, that a McCain nomination will lead to Obama or Hillary. Far from naive about the need for coalitions to get things done, he's being very politically tactically shrewd. If McCain ends up as the nominee, I expect Rush will vote for him and urge his listeners to do the same.

    But that lies in the future. Rush, tactically, believes that McCain can still be denied the nomination, though the window of opportunity for that is shrinking and, precisely to avoid the situation where he has to urge those purists to the right of him who will decide to sit things out rather than hold their nose for McCain to vote for him anyway, he is trying NOW to head off a McCain nomination. He believes purely in pragmatic political terms that nominating McCain is a death-knell for the GOP.

    Why? (1) The media will turn on McCain like a pack of jackals the minute it's clear he's the nominee and will shred him in favor of either Hillary or Obama. (2) even without the media's help, the 72-year-old McCain will be no match in 1 on 1 debates with the smooth-talking con-artist Obama or even (I wish I didn't have to say it), the shrill Hill. He'd do better against her, but he has so alienated enough of the Republican base (not Rush--his opposition to McCain is not personal at all), esp. over amnesty for illegals and the gang-of-14 (esp. with the recent news about his gut-contempt for Alito), and above all he radiates contempt for conservatives. People feel it. He has no grace--e.g., his stubborn refusal to admit that he out and out lied about Romney's position on timetables etc.

    Tom, the problem with McCain is exactly what you value most: he is not a coalition-maker. He "reaches across the aisle" yes, but to destroy unity on his own side of the aisle. He's done it repeatedly and the base knows it.

    Limbaugh will vote for McCain in the end. But he's doing all he can now to keep that sad situation from coming about. Now is the time for Limbaugh and Ingraham and Levin to say what they are saying. It's part of the primary process.

    If we get saddled with McCain, we are in heap big trouble. Big time. Don't blame the messenger who brings you this sad but true analysis. Blame the trolls who have puffed McCain, taking advantage of the inability of the base to unify around a single ABM (anything but McCain) candidate. There's still a bit of time to do that and it has to be Romney, which means Huckabee backers need to ask themselves whether voting for Huckabee at this stage does not ensure that they end up with McCain and whether, in the end, that doesn't mean ending up with Obama and Hillary.

    Those are all pragmatic tactical questions, not naive purist delusions.

  14. Whatever one may say about Limbaugh's lack of political experience or political naivete, Mark Levin, as he notes in this NRO article

    is anything but politically inexperienced. He's just as concerned as Limbaugh about the consequences of a McCain nomination. Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt--these folks all cut their political eyeteeth in the Reagan White House. These are among the brightest of the crop of young soldiers in the battle to renew American culture that were produced by the Reagan years. The fact that these fully credentialed Reagan revolution products all have the same fear about McCain and are speaking up now, while there's still time to avert disaster, speaks volumes to me. Rush Limbaugh may be "merely" a radio talk-show host, but his analysis checks with that of these three lawyers who are also political activists who "just happened" to go into talk radio after Rush stepped into the opening created by their Boss Reynaldus Magnus when he threw out the Fairness Doctrine.

    I think one ought to take their and Rush's analysis very seriously rather than dismissng it as "infantile."