Virtually everyone who follows politics to even a very limited extent (and even some folks who don't at all) has by now heard the quote in the title of this Commentary. It is from Rush Limbaugh, the (politely) "right-wing radio talk show host," or (more accurately) the leading Right-Wing Republican Screamer (although Sean Hannity might take exception to the word "Leading" in the above description.). In fact, Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. (Boy. What does that tell you about the depths to which what some of its more self-deluded political figures still refer to as "the Party of Lincoln" has sunk?) For those of you who for one reason or another might not have heard, this is what Rush has been saying about President Obama shortly after his election. For once in his radio life (and who knows, may be in his real life as well), Rush is telling the truth. He really does want Obama to fail.
This is an amazing statement. It comes from a man who labeled every one of us who charged that the Georgite Iraq and so-called "anti-terrorism" policies as ineffective and counter-productive and called for major changes in them, as traitors. Many of us described the Georgite War on Iraq and the so-called "war on terror" as self-defeating and incapable of achieving their stated objectives. But no one I know or have read ever called for the defeat of the U.S. in Iraq. We never said that we "hoped Bush/Cheney would fail." Many of us predicted that his policies would fail, again to meet the stated Georgite objectives. Many of us predicted that if he kept going, Bush/Cheney would bring the U.S. to its present parlous state. But none of us, to my knowledge at least, hoped that Bush/Cheney would fail. I, for one, in numerous writings here and there, expressed the hope that the country would somehow make it to 2009 without the utter collapse of our domestic society. For I felt that such an occurrence, if it lead to an outbreak of serious domestic violence in protest, would give Bush/Cheney the opportunity to usher in the outright fascist state for which so many of their policies were obviously preparing.
But here is Rush, who along with Ann Coulter labeled as traitors all opponents of the Georgite policies, who did not wish for failure but rather predicted it, hoping, wishing, desiring that President Obama and his policies fail. This is when the United States faces its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, a crisis that some say may outstrip that of the Great Depression. Well, logic and consistency are simply not well-known among reactionaries (no, these folks are NOT conservatives).
But who cares, really what Rush says? Isn't he nothing but "the comedian Rush Limbaugh," as Keith Olbermann has labeled him? Well, I agree with Keith on many things, but I do not agree with his characterization of Limbaugh. Limbaugh is not a comedian. And that is not because he is not at times funny (although never intentionally. Actually the man seems to have no sense of humor whatsoever, either about himself or about anyone else.) Limbaugh has been an important figure in the Republican Party since the so-called Gingrich Revolution of 1994.
(In that so-called "landslide," the Republicans in the House came away with 19% of the total number of eligible voters as compared with 18% of the total eligibles for the Democrats. Don't tell that to the media who screamed "landslide" just like they did when Reagan got 50.8% of the total vote in 1980. Funny, but I don't recall anyone in the media describing Obama's 52.9% as a "landslide," but that must because of their well-known media bias towards him.)
So after the Gingrich "landslide," who did the man call into the House to run the orientation for the incoming, far right-wing "Gingrich class?" Why none other than Rush Limbaugh. He wasn't there to do stand-up. Several years ago, the Heritage Foundation ran a symposium on torture as policy. It was designed, of course, to justify its use and the theory that the President can do anything he damn pleases in what he defines as "wartime," damn the Constitution and full speed ahead. The moderator for the symposium? Rush Limbaugh. These are just a couple of examples of the man's real position in the Republican Party.
Why do I label Rush as the titular head of the Republican Party now? After all, not too many of their political leadership comes out and says the same thing he does about Obama. But, firstly, in the past week, several of those leaders have had the temerity to call Rush for saying it. And then Rush called them on it. Shaking in their boots, like their House Deputy Whip, Eric Cantor of Virginia, almost to a man, they sharply backed off any criticism of Rush. Secondly, Rush is in charge, because his far right-wing ideology is now firmly in charge of the Republican Party and he is a better spokesman, with a much bigger platform, for it than of their elected leaders.
In the House, all Republicans could vote against the Obama stimulus package because they all now come from totally right-wing districts and do not have to worry about re-election. In the Senate, we shall see what happens in the final voting on the package with Republicans who are up for re-election in 2010, but there is a steady reduction in the number of so-called "liberal" Republicans. Even not-so-liberal Judd Gregg is contemplating joining the Obama Administration if he can somehow get a commitment from the Democratic Governor of New Hampshire to appoint a Republican in his place (pay for play, anyone?). Why? Because he thinks that his re-election chances in 2010 ain't so good, and I guess he likes living in Washington and doesn't like skiing on ice in New Hampshire all that much.
It is thus likely that the Senate Republican minority is going to become even more reactionary than it already is. But they still face re-election at some point down the road. Thus they don't want to say openly "I hope he fails." But they do wish that he fails. They surely wish that he fails. Why? (This is a topic to which I shall be returning more than once.) Briefly, because they know that if Obama even half-succeeds, against tremendous odds mind you, they will be in the political wilderness for at least 20 years. So the Republicans hope that he fails, while at the same time, they will be doing everything they can in the Congress in the attempt to insure that outcome.
So, thirdly, why do I label Rush the titular head of the GOP? Because in addition to being brow-beater-in-chief, this unelected, unaccountable, right-wing screamer is saying what most of the elected Republicans are thinking. And those Republicans who don't agree with Rush will be out of the Party by 2012 at the latest.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and a www.TPJmagazine.us Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for BuzzFlash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano's Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad http://dandelionsalad.