The Limbaugh-Steele Faux Feud

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The following statement is both ambiguous and so obviously ambiguous that it should hardly bear mentioning:

I want President Obama's agenda to fail.

This could be used in several kinds of circumstances, including ones where I might say any of the following:

1. President Obama has a certain agenda whose goals I disagree with, and I don't want him to achieve the goals that I want to avoid.
2. President Obama has a certain agenda whose methods I disagree with, and I don't want him to use those methods to achieve the goals he and I both agree to be good, even if I would want those goals to be achieved.
3. I don't want President Obama to have goals that would achieve good.
4. I don't want President Obama's goals to be achieved, no matter what those goals turn out to be, even the good ones, merely because they happen to be his goals.

So RNC chair Michael Steele comes along and says something that denies 3 and 4, and when pressed on the details he endorses 1 and 2. Popular conservative entertainer talk show host Rush Limbaugh around the same time says 1 and 2, and when pressed for details he denies 3 and 4. Aside from a small disagreement about how to say things and what constitutes the kind of cordiality that it's best to have toward the President of the Unites States, there isn't any real substantive disagreement here, and neither person involved thinks there is. So why do I keep hearing about this? There really is nothing to see here.


Well, the original comment was pretty innocuous. Steele, defending Limbaugh's remark about failure, said this on CNN: "Let's put it into context here. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, the whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it's incendiary, yes, it's ugly --"

And for that remark, Rush Limbaugh attacked Steele on his show:

Michael Steele, you are head of the RNC. You are not head of the Republican Party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the RNC and right now they want nothing to do with it, and when you call them asking them for money, they hang up on you. I hope that changes. I hope the RNC will get its act together. I hope the RNC chairman will realize he's not a talking head pundit, that he is supposed to be working on the grassroots and rebuilding it, and maybe doing something about our open primary system and fixing it so that Democrats do not nominate our candidates. It's time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do instead of trying to be some talking head media star, which you're having a tough time pulling off....

Michael Steele has been around long enough to know that the liberal media will use him by twisting what I say or what others say. He took the bait, he bit down hard on the bait, he launched an attack on me even though the premise of what was said to him was false. He took the bait and he went for it. Now, Mr. Steele, if it is your position as the chairman of the Republican National Committee that you want a left wing Democrat president and a left wing Democrat Congress to succeed in advancing their agenda, if it's your position that you want President Obama and Speaker Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid to succeed with their massive spending and taxing and nationalization plans, I think you have some explaining to do. Why are you running the Republican Party? Why do you claim you lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it that President Obama succeeds?

So apparently, this is a conflict because Limbaugh cannot face the fact that he is an entertainer whose show is incendiary and ugly. Or at least, he can't stand for the GOP leadership to acknowledge that fact because it will help Obama advance his agenda.

Of course, the fact that "conservatives" like Limbaugh spent the last eight years demonizing people like me (as endorsing "treason" and "defeat," among other things) is part of why Obama is succeeding in the first place. Obama delivered a message of national unity at the Democratic convention in 2004, at a moment when almost nobody else was doing that.

And a recent poll by Democratic strategists, according to James Carville, found that only 11 percent of Americans under 40 have a positive opinion of Rush. That's largely because -- yes, indeed -- his show is incendiary and ugly. That's why the Democrats are exploiting this opportunity. It's not Michael Steele who is hurting the GOP, but Rush Limbaugh with his incredible ego and sycophantic following of ranters.

I think it's clear that Limbaugh and Steele both were responding to something the other hadn't actually said, but Steele is right that Limbaugh was incendiary in how he said it. But it seems they've moved on and seem to agree on the fundamental issue at this point. I'm not sure why everyone is treating this as if it's an ongoing feud and as if they ever really disgreed on the substantive issue. It doesn't seem to me that they really did.

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