So who’s more important, President Barack Obama or radio personality Rush Limbaugh? The answer may surprise you. By at least one mainstream media measure, it’s Rush.
For those who aren’t familiar with the dying newspaper business, it’s critical to remember that editors tend to put the stories they consider most important on page A-1. Thus, the front page of an August 1945 Indianapolis Times carried the headline: “Japs Surrender.” That was the big story at the time, although a framed copy of the newspaper was recently removed from the halls of an Indiana VA hospital in the interest of political correctness.
In any event, on March 4 The Washington Post featured a front-page (“below the fold” as they say, but still) headline: “GOP Seeks Balance With Conservative Icon Limbaugh.” The story went on to examine the tempest Rush stirred up when he announced -- on Feb. 28 -- that he wants “Barack Obama to fail.” Limbaugh made the front of the Post’s Style section March 4 too, by the way, and was back on the front page on March 6, 2009.
To review: Wednesday’s story was a front-pager looking into a story about an event that happened four days earlier. Compare that to, say Obama’s address to Congress (don’t call it a State of the Union, please) the preceding week. Obama spoke on Tuesday, newspapers fawned over his audacious plans on Wednesday, and that was that. By Saturday -- four days later -- you’d search in vain for a front-page story on Obama’s supposedly ground-shifting speech.
In other words, Limbaugh’s four words seem to have had a greater effect than Obama’s thousands of words did. Interesting, that.
The Post managed to dig up the usual suspects to make the usual ad hominem attacks. “Rush is the bloated face and drug-addled voice of the Republican Party,” former Clinton flack Paul Begala told the paper. “Along with lots of others, I intend to continue to turn up the heat until every alleged Republican either endorses or renounces Rush’s statement that he hopes our president fails.”
Some of the “others” Begala plans to work with include politicians on the public payroll. The Politico newspaper reports that Begala and his fellow attack dog James Carville have daily phone conversations with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual.
It should come as little surprise, then, that they’ve coordinated their words. “Emanuel elevated the strategy by bringing up the conservative talker, unprompted, on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ and calling him the ‘the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party’,” Politico reported.
Well, someone had to be.
Anyway, it’s odd that all Americans are apparently supposed to suddenly fall into line behind the president. Sure, we all want the country to succeed -- but many of us (Limbaugh included) think Obama’s policies would take the country in the wrong direction. It’s unclear why anyone would support, for example, the socialization of health care. It hasn’t worked in the U.K. or Canada, so why import it?
It’s also worth remembering that, during the Bush years, liberals not only wanted the president to fail, they actively worked to bring about his failure. That’s called “politics.” In fact, they even declared he’d failed when he hadn’t.
Remember Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s announcement in April 2007 that, “this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday”? That came as Americans were fighting and dying in Iraq, so the stakes were slightly higher than they are today when we wonder whether the president will succeed in his attempts to federalize the health care system.
If we’d followed Reid’s advice, or that of his then-fellow Sen. Barack Obama, the U.S. would have lost the war in Iraq. Instead, it’s generally accepted that, because of the surge, we’ve won.
One thing is clear: the White House listens to Limbaugh. It was only after Rush criticized Obama for failing to talk up the markets that Obama suddenly decided to remind people that this might be a good time to buy stocks. Coincidence?
But it’s also a pleasant and necessary change from a few weeks back, when the president stumped for his supposed “stimulus” bill by proclaiming that our economy was in free-fall and might never recover unless his massive spending bill became law.
So who’s more important?
Any president can command the front page any time he wants. “The Constitution gives me relevance,” as Bill Clinton explained (irrelevantly) in 1995. An entertainer such as Limbaugh can achieve relevance only if his ideas deserve it. The Washington Post, for one, seems to think they do -- more so, maybe, than the president’s own ideas.