March 4, 2009

Let’s look at the whole dust-up between President Obama and talk-show icon Rush Limbaugh in a different way: what would happen if President George W. Bush had, for example, made a point of calling out film director Michael Moore following the release of Farenheit 911. You know the mainstream dino-media would be apoplectic with outrage, accusing the President of partisan politics and encraching upon Moore’s right to free speech. Fortunately, that President undertood how pointless such an action would be – after all, why give an egomaniac an even larger forum for his partisan views than he already has, right?

It reminds back of back in the ’70s when Monty Python’s Life of Brian (still one of my all-time favorite films, BTW) was first released. Originally known of and sought out by only die-hard Python fans, widely-publicized accusations of heresy and demonstrations sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian activists brought the film more publicity than its makers could ever have dared to dream, and the film became a box-office smash.

What amazes me about the first forty days of the Obama administration is: 1) just how tone-deaf it appears to be politically, and 2) how much influence he is giving former attack dogs of the Clinton administration. Taken together, it makes me wonder if the guy has an original idea in his brain and just how politically savvy he really is.

Let’s take item #1. A lot of people voted for the Prez believing he was going to change the status quo in Washington and usher in a new era of decisive leadership. Many hoped his presidency would bring to an close years of endless partisan bickering and bring the parties together to put the country back on solid economic footing. They also hoped his presidency would improve the image of the U.S. on the world stage. So what has Obama accomplished in his first 40-odd days in office? Pick a fight with a popular radio talk-show host heard by up to 20 million listeners a day, treat a visiting world leader and ally in incredibly shoddy fashion, and show the Russians just how inexperienced you are in the world of foreign relations.

Me, I just don’t get it, and it makes me wonder who the hell is really running the show in the Oval Office. Why on earth pick a fight with Rush Limbaugh? To motivate liberals and excite Democrats? Hey Barack, the election is over – you won. I mean, what have you accomplished? Risk permanently alienating a significant voting bloc, a portion of which might be suspicious of you but were nevertheless willing to cut your presidency some early slack? Reveal yourself to be exceptionally thin-skinned when it comes to criticism? Oh yeah, that’s a quality that will serve a president well going forward. More than that, however, I think it just serves to dampen the spirits of people hoping that you were above petty partisan bickering and concerned only with bringing the nation together during a severe economic crisis. Make no mistake, all this has does is make you look smaller in stature – and not only here, but around the world.

And don’t think world leaders pay no attention to this kind of thing – especially during your first days in office.

Taken together with the missteps in foreign affairs mentioned above, this Limbaugh affair makes President Obama look petty, weak, and easily manipulated – not characteristics you want heavies like the Russians and Iranians to see so easily exposed. At least from the outset, this appears to be an administration that is tentative, uncertain of itself, overly sensitive to criticism, and reckless in its messaging, both domestically and internationally.

Which brings me to my second point. It should come as no surprise that this idea of demonizing Limbaugh results from a plan hatched by former Clinton administration hacks and flacks. Why would a President who ran on a platform of “hope” and “change” align himself with people more accustomed and attuned to the poisonous politics of years gone by and allow himself to be drawn into a mud-slinging match that not only diminishes him, but crowds out the economic agenda he has been trying to push forward? Politically it just isn’t smart.

Look, the biggest concern Americans have is the economy – the value of their homes and their investments, their 401Ks, their employment situations, the future of the job and housing markets, and they’re looking to this new President for short-term action and a long-term vision. But what are the airwaves and cable networks all atwitter about? Is it the President’s so-called “stimulus” plans or his articulated vision for the country’s economic future? No, whatever he might be trying to communicate is being drowned out by this pissing match with Rush Limbaugh. It’s stupid and inane, and exactly what people were hoping we could get past with the election of a new President.

Is this dust-up with Limbaugh intentional on President Obama’s part? If it is, he’s not as politically astute as I thought. If it is not, it illustrates just how little control he has over the overall message coming from the White House on a daily basis. And as President Bush found out to his own detriment, once you lose control of your message, you lose control of your administration. During these harsh economic times, that should be the last thing any President would want to have happen.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:49 | Comments (0)
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