This week, former Bush speechwriter David Frum foolishly bit. "Limbaugh is kryptonite, weakening the GOP nationally," Frum wrote in a Newsweek cover piece, "Why Rush is Wrong." Frum concluded that while he probably agreed with Limbaugh on most ideological matters, "the issues on which we do disagree are maybe the most important to the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party: Should conservatives be trying to provoke or persuade? To narrow our coalition or enlarge it? To enflame or govern?"
Of course, the answer is: both. Yes, political parties need to reach beyond their ranks, but you don't win with an alienated base. Witness the Clinton-distancing Al Gore and the pro-Iraq-war voting John Kerry. Witness my guy, John McCain.
And you don't win without people who charge up the base. That's what Limbaugh does better than anyone. (And I say that as a "mushy" moderate conservative.)
While many think Limbaugh is enjoying the Obama-supplied spotlight, he was pretty steamed in e-mails to me. Divided government, he wrote, "is designed to ensure that the president fails when he is wrong. The framers wanted the country to succeed; if they wanted the president to succeed, they would not have saddled him with Congress, courts, a free press, and elections every four years."
"I can think of no pursuit more childish than an Oval-Office-initiated food fight with a talk-radio host," Wallace wrote. Apparently Team Obama sees the Limbaugh feud as an effective use of its time.