Rush Limbaugh has a self-awareness problem.
It's one you commonly see in celebrities -- they form their self-image based on what those around them think, but those people are frequently responding to some combination of factors that may have nothing at all to do with who they are.
Take, for example, supermodels. When you meet them you're usually struck with the impression that something's not quite right about them, and after a while it dawns on you that you've never met anyone quite this stupid who is so convinced that every word they utter is dripping with peerless insight. You can kind of cobble together a mental image of a lifetime spent with men nodding their heads in apparent fascination and listening to hours of endless drivel trying to figure out when and how to get their pants off and draw some conclusions as to why this might be, but let's just say that intellectual humility and celebrity beauty don't often go hand-in-hand.
Chris Rock has a whole routine about "model smart," which basically means being smart enough not to walk out in the middle of traffic and get hit by a car. Which pretty much sums it up.
Anyway, now we have Rush Limbaugh. He's been putting out the message on behalf of the GOP to millions of the AM radio faithful so long he thinks he's one of them, a "man of the people," or as he likes to say, "part of the Cape Girardeau [Missouri]-Middle America axis."
But Rush is no such thing. Unless his audience is composed of a lot more people making $35 million a year than I'm aware of, he's an ugly weld spot between the corporatists and the rank-and-file within the party. Huckabee knows that audience rather better than Rush does, at least the Southern contingent, and given the fact that the GOP has become largely a regional party, that's a significant portion of Rush's base.
Which is why Huck's attack-by-proxy ("a DC based Huckabee ally") is so spot-on, and amusing:
"Honestly, because Rush doesn't think for himself. That's not necessarily a slap because he's not paid to be a thinker--he's an entertainer. I can't remember the last time that he has veered from the talking points from the DC/Manhattan chattering class. If they were praising Huckabee, he would be too."
Rush rebounded by basically calling Huckabee a stupid hick:
He called the attacks "Clintonian" and accused Huckabee's campaign of "trying to dumb down conservatism in order to get it to conform with his record."
Given the region's cultural persecution complex -- not the best move, Rushbo.
Huckabee's response? He was sweet as pie:
Mike Huckabee, taking questions from reporters after a town hall meeting here, responded to the torrent of criticism that Rush Limbaugh unleashed during his broadcast yesterday by turning the other cheek -- and then heaping on the praise.
"I love Rush Limbaugh; I've always loved his show," Huckabee assured. "I think he's been great for the conservative movement."
But he never retracted what his surrogate had said. He might as well have said "bless his heart." (And for those needing help translating that, see the YouTube above).
As a veteran spewer of right-wing talking points, Rush thinks he's well aware of what's going on here, and capable of combatting it with his usual armaments. He retorts by projecting onto Huckabee motivations that legislate the game he perceives himself as playing:
"What was somewhat stunning about all this is that NO ONE in the GOP field, including advisers and staff, could possibly misread my 19-plus-year career the way Gov. Huckabee's D.C. supporter did," Limbaugh said. "Whoever said those things was essentially repeating the Democrat mantra of all these years: that I am just an entertainer, not an independent thinker, part of the Wall Street/D.C. axis. If it was someone on Gov. Huckabee's staff or support team, it was just silly, uninformed and thus curious."
Yeah except it isn't a left/right PR game this time around, Rush. You're taking arrows in the back.
Rush eats left-wing hate like candy. It only makes him more popular with the true believers -- it's tribal, a sign that he's "one of them." But when Rush wasn't looking, the left crafted a narrative about him (in a swift akido move employing many of the themes Rush himself popularized) that has now been picked up by Huckabee, who has the ability to carry it into the heart of the beast. Huckabee is a messenger who will be taken seriously in a way the left never could, and I imagine also in a way that Rush is going to have a hard time competing with.
Rush is betting that his listeners will see him as "part of the Cape Girardeau [Missouri]-Middle America axis." The GOP elite have told him to take down Huckabee, and his ego is so engorged with money and seven years of right wing hegemony he thinks he can win that battle. He doesn't see the weld spot preparing to crack.
That's just...model smart.
Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com