I never thought the day would come when I felt it necessary to defend Rush Limbaugh. But here it is. Watch the video, you’ll hear Limbaugh proclaim in no uncertain terms his view of Obama’s term as President, “I hope he fails.” Well, of course he does; Limbaugh is a paleo-conservative, a flack for the Hard Right, and a total crank. Whatever Obama plans to do is, in the eyes of a Limbaugh, simply Big Guvmint taking our tax money and spending it on people Who Don’t Deserve It (the poor, people of color, workers, Teh Gayz, you, me, etc.) or threatens absolute American hegemony across the globe.
So Limbaugh’s a douche, what else is new. But listen to the conversation Rick Sanchez has with his talking head guest after the Limbaugh clip. Shorter Sanchez-Talking Head: wanting Obama to fail = wanting America to fail.
Wait. What? Didn’t we just endure 8 years of “with us or against us” rhetoric that treated opponents to the BushAdmin’s policies as tantamount to treason? Remember the Dixie Chicks? The talking head invokes “the new Obama compromise” of post-partisanship, a coming together “across the globe” to solve the war and economic problems we all face. Okay, fine – but no dissent? No disgruntlement allowed? He seems aghast that the Republicans are considering a role as an opposition party — if only the Democrats under Bush had had the cajones!
Yesterday I mocked the Senate Republicans for giving Hillary Clinton crap during her confirmation hearing over their “conflict of interests” concerns — on its face it is laughable — yet when I hear Sanchez speculate that they were practicing “obstructionism,” I wince. The whole discussion makes me cringe. For one thing, it feeds into Limbaugh’s self-martyred fears that the Liberal Media is out to get him, and the right wing blogosphere’s meme that the MSM is “in the tank for Obama.” It would certainly appear that MSNBC and CNN are competing to be the FOXNews of the Obama administration. Don’t worry, they are not. It is simply your corporate media at work.
Which leads to the most cringe-worthy aspect of the Sanchez sycophancy: as always, the corporate media frames the debate, establishes the terms of acceptable discourse in the service of State power. My fellow lefties and liberals should not feel so smug in seeing the tables turned on right wing blowhards like Limbaugh. Of course I want their ilk to lose power, but I want new voices, too; I want to see a diversity of voices, for that matter, because the old “market place of ideas” is healthier for the contributions made by folks who have been historically marginalized. But CNN isn’t interested in bringing those voices into the discussion, at least not as a primary function. Sanchez did not quote Limbaugh to engage his ideas or to even attack them — or, as John Stewart would, mock them. Ideas were off the table completely. This was an exercise in rhetorical power: you are Out, I am In. The King favors me now. And I will curry it further. Or, as Ari Fleischer once said, “people have to watch what they say and watch what they do.”