Something funny is happening in Washington. Within the Republican Party. Something that's music to Democrats' ears. It seems that desperate and disillusioned conservatives, not having learned their lessons from the November election--or worse, still reeling from it--are allowing the rabid right wing talking head Rush Limbaugh to hijack the party. And God help anyone who criticizes him and his sanctimonious, self-aggrandizing rants. They're skewered on-air and humiliatingly brought to their knees, forced into a quick and embarrassing apology.
The latest mea culpa came from Michael Steele, the new chairman of the National Republican Committee who, over the weekend, had the balls to sharply criticize Limbaugh for wishing failure on President Barack Obama during his speech to equally rabid attendees of the Conservative Political action Conference, the annual right-wing lovefest that featured both party luminaries and rebel-rousers including Newt Gingrich, Ralph Reed, Ann Coulter and yes, even the ubiquitous Joe the Plumber.
Limbaugh had whipped the staunchly conservative audience into a near-frenzy with his attack on the president: "So what is so strange about being honest to say that I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?"
In response to a CNN reporter's comment that Limbaugh is the de facto head of the Party, Steele tersely replied "No he's not. I'm the de facto head of the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, the whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it's incendiary. Yes, it's ugly." And yes, it royally pissed off Limbaugh so much that it sent him into another round of his standard derisive radio rage.
"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. You are head of the RNC. You see 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." Oh no he di-int! Apparently, hell hath no fury like a bloviating partisan pundit scorned.
Steele follows GOP Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia who in January was also publicly harangued into kissing Limbaugh's ring after intimating that the radio host was crossing the line with his critiques of House Republicans.
What's going on here? Didn't voters overwhelmingly reject the brand of hard core conservativism that Limbaugh spews every day? Don't Limbaugh's views appeal to just a small, ever-shrinking, myopic and increasingly obsolete GOP base? Just what are Republicans so afraid of then? Why is it that they clearly reject him when speaking candidly and viscerally about the future direction of the party, only to later tuck tail between legs, retract, parse and apologize? The answer is simple: they fear the shitstorm Limbaugh will relentlessly and mercilessly unleash before his alleged 22-million punishing listeners at election time if they don't.
Thanks to these spineless GOP leaders, and much to the delight of Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Democrats everywhere, Limbaugh's become the Party's Tony Soprano. To be sure, he's clearly getting off on the power trip and, much like his TV counterpart, will bloody anyone who gets in his way. And that makes the left quite happy. With Limbaugh steering the ship, there's sure to be another Republican Titanic in 2010.