Tone Deaf

Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party

The disconnect is everywhere now. Republicans and right-wing bloggers think they’ve shown the Obama Administration what’s what. For example, Kathleen Parker seems to think President Obama has been bested by Rush Limbaugh —

Obama was cool even when, at that same GOP meeting, he urged Republicans to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh. No anger, just angst. “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”

Excuse me, Mr. President, but you’ve been baited by none other than the Master Fisherman. Limbaugh tossed you a lure and you chomped. … the backfire Obama felt in West Virginia was a gentle zephyr compared to the blowback that can be bellowed by El Rushbo.

Sure he can bellow, but does anyone care? In the past several months we’ve seen over and over again that what Rush bellows does not move public opinion by so much as a hair. Steve Elman and Alan Tolz wrote in the Boston Globe (November 8, 2008),

Consider some of the major stumbles this year by the medium’s 800-pound gorilla. Rush Limbaugh vigorously promoted three separate political objectives over the past year, all of which failed: derailing John McCain’s quest for the Republican nomination, sabotaging Barack Obama’s drive for the Democratic nomination by fomenting Republican crossover votes for Hillary Clinton, and ultimately stopping Obama’s march to victory in the general election. …

…New ears – even middle-aged or senior ears – are vital to talk radio’s influence because they are attached to brains that are available for persuasion, rather than brains that have already made a choice. In other words, if Limbaugh and Michael Savage (not to mention Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and other more recent adventurers in talk) fail to attract many new listeners, they end up talking only to those who agree with their opinions, and thus have a smaller chance to affect the ideas of the electorate in general.

The “no new ears” syndrome is haunting the entire Republican Party these days. They are busily congratulating each other for sticking it to the Obama Administration this week. As Nate Silver says, House Republicans in particular seem to be saying no just to say no. I mean, what’s with blocking a delay in the changeover to digital television?

(BTW, the federal program set up by the previous administration to provide coupons for purchasing digital-to-analog converter boxes ran out of money several months ago.)

Eugene Robinson writes in the Washington Post that Republicans not only have no new ears; the ears they have aren’t hearing much.

When not one single, solitary Republican vote can be found in the House of Representatives to support the president’s $819 billion stimulus package, it’s pretty clear that the GOP caucus has been meeting in a soundproof room.

See also Michael Tomasky, “They Actually Think This” and “Boy, it’s fun to kick these people while they’re down!

There has been criticism of Obama from the Left from people who think he should not have even attempted to negotiate with Republicans on the stimulus package. But I think he was right to make a public show of meeting with them and offering concessions. I think many people would like to see an end to petty partisan bickering. So Obama reached out a hand and the Republicans bit it. Did you catch that, America? Do you see who’s at fault here?

Kathleen Parker (you really ought to read this column all the way through; it’s pathological) tries to make the case that Obama is showing the same “arrogance” that Dubya showed early in his administration. Parker actually writes,

If Obama had a mandate at all, it was to heal the divisions that have plagued politics for so long. No more partisan bickering, he promised, though there’s only about a smirk’s difference between Obama and Bush, stylistically. While one is bring-’em-on confrontational and the other a passive-aggressive Mr. Cool, both reveal a staggering sense of personal empowerment.

Ms. Parker, dear, what Obama is showing is voter empowerment, not personal empowerment. Your side lost. The American people want change, and your side is standing in the way. Exactly what entitles you to do that?

Regarding the family planning provision dropped from the stimulus bill — Katha Politt thinks Obama has betrayed women. However, Steve Benen writes that the Obama Administration is committed to the family planning funds and intends to put the provision in another bill.

There was an impression in some circles that Obama’s willingness to scuttle the family-planning funds was evidence of a lack of commitment on the issue. For the president, however, it seems this was about when to advance funding on the issue, not whether. Obama wasn’t giving up on access to Medicaid-covered family planning services, he was just delaying it a little to help advance the stimulus plan.

Now that the House Republicans have demonstrated they want to be marginalized, I say they can be politely ignored from now on.

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  1. Bodhi  •  Jan 30, 2009 @12:46 pm

    Good article.

    But I don’t think it would be wise to ignore the Republicans. They need to be house-trained, and house-training doesn’t happen all in one go. You have to tell the puppy to poop outside quite a few times before he finally gets the message. It’s going to be the same way with the GOP. Eventually some of them will realize that they’ve been wedded to an insane mind-set and realize that there are benefits to working in a cooperative way with others. Some won’t, and some of those will lose elections (although not all). But in the long term the party will become more sane and responsible.

    The problem with leaving them un-housetrained is that eventually they’ll have charge of the House (or Senate or both). I’ve been through enough election cycles to know that if a party stays in power long enough it’ll make more and more mistakes out of sheer arrogance, and then will be replaced by other party. And that replacement (think Thatcher’s Tory party in the late 1970s) may be fresh and new but it also may be disastrous. Obama may get two terms. I hope he does. We may even have a Dem president after that, but eventually the whole thing will go rotten. We need a responsible opposition — one that we can live with and that won’t trash the country (again). I think Obama needs to keep trying to get them on board.

    By the way, I enjoy following your tweets. Want to follow me back?

  2. joanr16  •  Jan 30, 2009 @1:10 pm

    Kathleen Parker’s had less than two weeks to observe President Obama in action, and she thinks she has him completely figured. As a loser, of course, because that’s what her existing prejudices dictate.

    So I’ll continue to discount her for the same reason I discounted Bush… they were both incapable of learning, and of admitting when they’re wrong.

    Nothing new in the dispatches from Dimville.

  3. MNPundit  •  Jan 30, 2009 @1:31 pm

    The blocking of the delay was the only right thing they’ve done in years. Enough. By this time the people who haven’t switched, won’t be switching until they turn on their TVs and realize the rest of the country finally went and changed over.

  4. BPx3  •  Jan 30, 2009 @1:52 pm

    “I say they can be politely ignored from now on.”

    That is the only realistic solution. We could try to assist them into voluntary exile, but I doubt any other nation on Earth would have them.

    Trying to have a rational conversation with these self-described “proud, rock-ribbed conservatives” is like trying to have a rational conversation with any politically conservative lunatic you might encounter who insists on metaphorically shooting himself in the foot. Invariably, you have the following conversation:

    Sane Person: Excuse me, but do you know that you’re shooting yourself in the foot?

    Rock-Ribbed Conservative: No, I’m not! You’re just saying that because you hate real ‘Muricans like me!

    Sane Person: Well, yes you are shooting yourself in the foot. If you just stop long enough to take a look at your own foot, you’ll see bullet holes and blood.

    Rock-Ribbed Conservative: So, ya think I’m stoopid, do ya? Well, I’ll show you who’s stoopid, Mr. Smartypants, Librul, E-Leet! I’ll just stand here and continue to shoot myself in the foot. That’ll learn ya!

    As long as we can keep them isolated enough that their stray metaphorical bullets don’t hit the rest of us, I’m happy to politely ignore them.

  5. ironranger  •  Jan 30, 2009 @2:08 pm

    I would ask Ms Parker who tossed the lure & who chomped.

  6. Bonnie  •  Jan 30, 2009 @3:44 pm

    I don’t understand why these Repugs even think that they can lecture Obama and the electorate that they know a good stimulus package when they see it when they are the ones responsible for the tanking of the economy. Why isn’t the MSM reporters asking any Republican on the air what have they done in the past that has improved the economy? The Republicans are in the minority for a reason–they screwed this country up. But, they seem to think we will fall for letting them do it again–I don’t think so. All I see is a bunch of whiners in Limbaugh, Parker, and Noonan. They should be thankful that they got some concessions. As Maha said, “Obama reached out a hand and the Republicans bit it” and that is what Parker and other news outlets should be reporting. But, no they just report all the whining. If nothing else, this shows Obama doesn’t need the Republicans to pass bills that are good for the country. He gave them their chance; now, let’s move on and get lots of things done for the country.

  7. Sunny Jim  •  Jan 30, 2009 @3:55 pm

    I have suspected for a long time now that there are too many ‘conservative columnists’ and ‘conservative talk show hosts’ – don’t polls demonstrate pretty conclusively that the general attitudes of Americans lean a little left of center?

    Did you see John Stewart put this same question to O’Reilly a few weeks back? O’Reilly hemmed and hawed and fondled a little panda bear, and didn’t give a clear response.

    Maybe there should be a special provision of the economic stimulus plan to extend unemployment benefits to unemployed conservative pundits?

  8. joanr16  •  Jan 30, 2009 @5:56 pm

    In my doctor’s waiting room this afternoon, the teevee above my head was tuned to CNN. They went live to the RNC chairmanship convention, where the RNC had just elected its first black chairman!

    Apparently the entire RNC membership has been in a coma since last summer, because they acted like this was a big deal.

    I couldn’t see the teevee above my head, but I could hear this Michael Steele gentleman, and he sounded like every other punk-ass Republican I’ve heard for the past eight years: “I say to friend and foe alike… you can work with us… but if you choose not to, PREPARE TO BE KNOCKED OVER!”

    Ooooooh, scary.

    Dear Chairman Steele,

    My congratulations on your election. You’re a damn sight better than that “Barack the Magic Negro/Star Spanglish Banner” fellow. Your party is a day late and a dollar short, as usual, but still: kudos and God bless.


    P.S. Speaking of dollars, you’ll go a lot farther if you should happen to find the $1 trillion that G.W. Bush’s Dept. of Defense just “lost” somewhere. You might want to audit the Committee’s books.

  9. joanr16  •  Jan 30, 2009 @6:07 pm

    Oh, snort! It’s a damn good thing I couldn’t see Michael Steele on the teevee above my head. What a twit!

  10. maha  •  Jan 30, 2009 @6:23 pm

    Oh, if only Steve Gilliard were still with us. He always had interesting things to say about Michael Steele.

  11. Doug Hughes  •  Jan 30, 2009 @8:00 pm

    Hats off to the POTUS. A few Democrats, like Carville have figured out how the comment Obama made about “Don’t listen to Rush” plays. Because it plays one of 2 ways. (Carville damn near crowned Rush the de facto head of the GOP on CNN.)

    If they cozy up to Rush & his ideology (polarize far right) they become even MORE irrelevant. On the other hand, if they break with the rabid right & move to the center, Obama can work with them and both sides benefit. Ad Bodhi observed in comment # 1, it’s not a bad thing to have a viable opposition.

    Also if the right moves to the center, then the perceived center moves further left. Obama (& any smart national politicican) has to be perceived as ‘centerist’, which means for Obama to pursue a progressive agenda, he has to move the perception of where the middle is.

    But the Limbaugh strategy is brilliant, because Republicans must either identigy themselves wingnut, or move to the center. Either way Obama wins.

  12. khughes1963  •  Jan 30, 2009 @8:42 pm

    Maha-you are thinking the same thing I was. Steve Gilliard would have been thrilled at Obama’s election, saying “I told you so” about the economy, and raking the RNC and Steele over the coals.

  13. moonbat  •  Jan 30, 2009 @10:05 pm

    The Rs as usual are full of bluster and delusion. It’s going to be fun watching the Ds along with the rest of the country pass them by – that is, if the Ds can actually make progress.

    In trading, there’s a concept known as “the always wrong crowd” (ie, the amateurs), and you can check your bearings by ensuring that your positioned opposite of whatever the always wrong crowd says. I feel good about where Obama and the Ds presently are. Not great, just good. They have yet to really hit their stride.

  14. biggerbox  •  Jan 30, 2009 @11:52 pm

    So, then, I guess high-level meetings of the RNC can’t be held at Katon Dawson’s club in South Carolina anymore, eh?

    It is a great day for our country. Obama’s inauguration sent the message to millions that you no longer have to be white to be President, and Steele’s election sends the message that you no longer have to be a white jackass to be chairman of the Republican Party. Not white, just a jackass.

  15. LeRoy Ferguson  •  Jan 31, 2009 @5:06 am

    Bochi is right: it would be a mistake to ignore the Republicans. After all, they now have a Democrat in the White House to blame in a time of mountng economic crisis. They have not only Limbaugh but most cable talk shows solidly on their side, to fuel frustrations. I, for one, hope Obama, and every progressive-minded person, never misses an opportunity to warn the people of rightwing misinformation.

  16. (: Tom :)  •  Jan 31, 2009 @11:19 am

    If Obama had a mandate at all, it was to heal the divisions that have plagued politics for so long. No more partisan bickering, he promised, though there’s only about a smirk’s difference between Obama and Bush, stylistically. While one is bring-’em-on confrontational and the other a passive-aggressive Mr. Cool, both reveal a staggering sense of personal empowerment.

    Funny – I seem to remember that Putsch stole the White House, the first time, by claiming he was going to be a uniterer, not a dividerer. And I can’t recall Kathleen Parker mentioning that the Illegally Installed Drunken Cokeheaded Deserter saying anything like this about that situation at any time during the last eight years, much less within two weeks of his illegal installation.

    I would love to see, every single time crap like this gets trotted out, somebody from the Democratic side of things point out that the Republican’ts couldn’t even follow the rules they are trying to enforce among their opponents. After being marginalized in the last election. Why anyone does anything but point and giggle when they see this kind of thing is also beyond me.

    Then again, about the only teevee I watch involves live sporting events (and Faux politicizes them quite a bit when they broadcast them). Mothercheneying iceholes!

  17. Sondra  •  Feb 1, 2009 @1:31 am

    Parker has been on Obama’s team for a short time after many years as a Republican booster. She has taken a lot of flak from her own team over her position so maybe we should give her a little time to acclimate.

    I read her post and many people on our side say similar things; that Obama should ignore Rush because he likes the attention; in fact he revels in it. I’m in that camp myself, but I can see why he did it.

    Parker turned against Bush at the end and she’ll support Obama in her own way I think. Let’s keep in mind that every time we get people like her to see that the people she used to support were wrong, she helps persuade other more moderate former Republican voters to move away from right wing talking points.