President Obama and the Democrats should wave the white flag in their strawman war on Rush Limbaugh. The Media Research Center delivered the grim casualty figures for the Democrats. Since January, the top talk show gabber's ratings have soared off the charts. Radio affiliates that carry Limbaugh's syndicated show call the ratings boost he's gotten from the Democrat's orchestrated attack on him a "dramatic surge." This writer predicted as much when President Obama cracked to Congressional Republicans in late January that they should knock off listening to Limbaugh if they expected to get anything done in Congress and with his administration.
The gabber instantly snatched at the quip and turned it into a multi show bonanza. No matter what topic Limbaugh gassed on, he managed to slide in a reference to Obama's prop up of him as the Democrat's prize punching bag. This did three things. It gave him an even bigger pile of fodder to puff himself up as the emperor of talk radio, claim to be the real kingmaker in the GOP, and in a perverse way paint himself as a credible and thoughtful political critic. It snapped many shell shocked Congressional Republicans out of their post election funk. Now suddenly feisty and combative, they draw a deep line in the sand against any and everything that Obama proposed. And it stiffened the spines of many timid Republicans and made them determined not to be bullied, or at least appear not to be bullied, by a mere talk show host into standing up to Obama.
This should have been the red flag warning to the Democrats to drop Limbaugh from their enemies rolodex. But no, they continued to blunder on. They took out ads, radio spots, and email blasts bashing and trashing bogeyman Limbaugh. The idea was to make sure that when the public thought GOP, they thought Limbaugh.
This was even more grist for Limbaugh. An he went on a tear. In quick succession he picked a fight with Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele, Newt Gingrich, a handful of GOP accomodationists, and the usual suspect to him liberal Democratic interest groups. But the real payoff was that it let him pad his bully pulpit to further whip up the pack to nit pick, poke fun at, and blow up any and every alleged slip or misstep by Obama. This in turn added even more steam to his inflammatory campaign of rumors, half truths, distortions, and flat out lies about Obama, liberals, and just about any other issue he rants on.
Any other time this might be fun and games stuff, a side show distraction that bored reporters and TV talking heads used to fill up column space or a talk cast on off a slow news day, but the Democrats just couldn't let it go. And that insured that the Limbaugh as Democrat's foil ploy would continue to have shelf life.
Limbaugh in a phony self-deprecating moment mockingly minimized his importance as a radio talk show host, feigning puzzlement at why the Democrats were so obsessed with him. He was right. They never should have been. Obama didn't need him to get Congressional Democrats and whipsaw a few Republicans into backing his program and to approve his cabinet appointees. He still doesn't. And that's all the more reason to wave the white flag in the Limbaugh war.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, "The Hutchinson Report" can be heard weekly in Los Angeles on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and nationally on blogtalkradio.com