By Maureen Dowd — New York Times
I had a four-hour dinner once with Rush Limbaugh at the “21” Club in Manhattan, back in the days when I was still writing profiles as a “reporterette,” to use a Limbaugh coinage.
He was charming, in a shy, awkward, lonely-guy way. Not a man of the people. He arrived in a chauffeured town car and ordered $70-an-ounce Beluga, Porterhouse and 1990 Corton-Charlemagne.
But he was not a Neanderthal, though he did have a cold and blew his nose in his napkin. He talked about Chopin’s Polonaise No. 6, C.S. Lewis and how much he loved the end of the movie “Love Story.”
In those days, he called himself a “harmless little fuzzball.” He’s a lot less harmless now. I went on to columny, as my pal Bill Safire called it, and Rush went on to calumny.
As he and Sarah Palin conduct their auto-da-fé of moderate Republicans — “Moderates by definition have no principles,” he told his radio audience on Monday — Limbaugh is more than ever the face of his party, as Rahm Emanuel said.
He’s also the mouth.
Limbaugh is right that Democrats tend to dither too much. They’re always wondering if they’re doing the right thing, indulging in on-the-one-hand, on-the-other paralysis by analysis, seeing, as James Carville put it, “six sides to the Pentagon.”
President Obama will have to step it up on jobs and fixing the deficit if he wants to block conservatives from stoking the anger of Americans who only see a recovery on Wall Street, especially given the Republican sweep in top races on Tuesday night.
But the tactics of Limbaugh, Palin, Cheney & Fille are more cynical: They spin certainty, ignoring their side’s screw-ups, and they exploit patriotism, labeling all critics as traitors.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace,” Limbaugh accused the president of trying to destroy the economy — yes, the same economy that W. came within a whisker of ruining.
“I have to think that it may be on purpose,” Limbaugh said, “because this is just outrageous, what is happening — a denial of liberty, an attack on freedom.”
Asked about Afghanistan, another W. cataclysm that has left Obama agonizing, Limbaugh stated, “I also don’t think he cares much about it.” Again suggesting that the president is an unpatriotic fop, the radio ranter averred: “He wants to manage this rather than achieve victory.”
He told Wallace that “throughout the Iraq war, it was Barack Obama and the Democrat Party which actively sought the defeat of the U.S. military.” Actually, rigorously examining the government’s conduct of a war started on false pretenses is the best sort of patriotism.
Asked about fellow conservative George Will’s contention that the United States should get out of Afghanistan, Limbaugh said, “I don’t have the benefit of knowledge that George Will has, so I trust the experts, and to me they’re the people in the U.S. military.”
Even a chickenhawk like Rush should remember how well that worked in Vietnam, or in the early years of Iraq. The founding fathers designated a civilian as commander in chief for a reason.
Military brass have told the White House that this is the first time in eight years that they have gotten the attention and resources that they’ve needed in Afghanistan.
If W. had gone to Dover in the middle of the night to salute the war dead, Limbaugh and Liz Cheney would have been gushing about his patriotism.
But since it’s Obama who at last showed up there to see the brutal cost of war, they simply have to dismiss the moving moment as a publicity stunt.
Years ago, when I dubbed Dubya “The Boy Emperor,” Limbaugh spewed a stream of personal invective about me that embarrassed even my mother, a Limbaugh fan.
But now Limbaugh calls Obama the “man-child president.”
The 48-year-old Obama is skinny and getting skinnier, but there’s nothing childish about him. He more or less raised himself and came to terms with his Oedipal demons on his own, and he radiates a hard-won maturity.
W., on the other hand, was like a kid who knew that Daddy’s friends would take care of him; he was always running off to the gym or going biking, leaving the governing to his regents, Cheney and Rummy, or incompetents like Brownie.
At our long-ago dinner, Limbaugh credited his success with being “one-dimensional.” “I’m totally concerned with me,” he said. And that was way before he got a contract for $400 million, so we can only imagine how one-dimensional he is now.
But on Sunday, he ripped the president for having “an out-of-this-world ego,” for being “very narcissistic,” “immature, inexperienced, in over his head.” (Isn’t immaturity scoring OxyContin from your maid?)
It gives new meaning to pot, kettle and black.