Let’s start with the mechanics of Obama deciding to attack Limbaugh. Yes, Limbaugh mocked Obama’s stimulus plan and said he hoped Obama would fail, since in Limbaugh’s opinion Obama is a socialist who is a threat to the United States. That, however, is Limbaugh’s right as a private citizen, to hold his opinion and speak it freely, even into a microphone on a popular radio talk show. It is not appropriate for government officials to appear to be oppressing free speech, but that is precisely the move Obama chose. On January 23, President Obama demanded that Republicans not even listen to Limbaugh’s show if they wanted any chance of participating in the stimulus bill discussion.
For all the false claims that President Bush was a fascist, this action by Obama comes far closer to actual fascism than anything even imagined in the last decade. President Obama not only painted his administration in the colors of suppressing free speech and attempting to stifle open debate on critical legislation, he inadvertently raised Limbaugh’s influence profile to that of the national government. Rush Limbaugh’s identity went overnight from ‘annoying self-righteous individual’ to ‘legitimate opposition leader’, because in his attack the president chose to treat Limbaugh as someone as worthy of his attention as any head of state or political faction. Obama could have ignored him as a no-account nuisance, the way most presidents ignore the noisy jibes from wanna-be populists, but instead he accomplished the exact opposite of his intent.
The secondary effect of Obama’s latest blunder was a further bullet in his façade of bipartisan leadership. The Telegraph in England, for example, noted that “after less than a week in office, Mr Obama's presidency is already encountering the very partisan bickering he had pledged to stamp out during his first 100 days.” The Telegraph further noted the dishonesty of Obama’s pretense by noting that “the president responded with a clear signal that he is prepared to ram the bill through without the bipartisan consensus he promised to construct, telling Republican leaders from the House of Representatives: "I won. I'm the president."
Barack Obama somehow fooled himself into imagining that no one would say bad things about him once he was president, that he would face no mockery or ridicule as the highest-profile figurehead in the world. He somehow believed that he could pass himself off as ‘post-partisan’ while simultaneously demanding that everything be done his way. Anyone familiar with American politics, let alone recent events, would have known better, but Obama bought into his own spin too far to accept reality when it did not march in his parade. As a result he diluted the value of his own brand, and tacitly granted equal merit to an unelected entertainer. At this point the best course for the Obama Administration would be to quietly back away and pretend the dustup never happened.
The second major reason that Obama’s attacks on Limbaugh were unwise, is the effect that action had on the debate surrounding Obama’s plans. Loading a trillion dollars more debt onto the taxpayers for a bill which guaranteed not even one private-sector job, did not save one house already facing foreclosure, and which made no effort at all to save even one private industry company in crisis, is more than controversial on its own merit; the Obama Administration needed to lead the debate on its merits, not allow itself to lose focus and create doubt as to how well it planned its policies. Reacting emotionally to a talk show host sends out the signal that Obama is worried about anyone looking closely at his proposals. Certainly the apparent contradictions are causing people to wonder about the plans, and not just talk show hosts:
In the midst of signing and proposing massive spending bills, the president announces his plans to cut the deficit in half
The president urged the Congress to pass his massive ‘stimulus’ package with admonitions that delay could be catastrophic, yet the bulk of the bill’s effects won’t occur until late 2010 at the earliest
The president has repeatedly promised that 95% of “working families” will see a tax cut, but only 66% of working Americans actually pay any taxes to begin with
The president has announced plans to close the terrorist incarceration facility at Guantanamo, on the basis that the site was inhumane, yet investigators have determined that the Guantanamo site was not inhumane, indeed was superior to many places the inmates would be transferred to. Yet the shut-down is still scheduled to occur, even as the Obama Administration admits that in some cases it considers rendition to be an appropriate option
Given the lack of civil discussion on the issues, a reasonable observer might well conclude that the Obama Administration is not able to defend its policies on a rational basis. The juvenile spat between the president and the radio host only adds support to that belief.