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Barack W. Obama

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.


Never start a land war with Asia. Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel (or who owns the patent on the microchip). Never let rabble-rousers get under your skin -- especially those whose popularity in some circles compares favorably with your own and whose earnings make bailed-out bank presidents envious.

While we're at it, tread very carefully around the implication that conservatives cling to their talk-show hosts out of anger and frustration.

That may be true, but the backfire Obama felt in West Virginia was a gentle zephyr compared to the blowback that can be bellowed by El Rushbo.

Obama's pique at recent Limbaugh commentaries is understandable, but his reaction suggests a lack of playground wisdom. To backtrack, Limbaugh said he hopes Obama will fail because success would mean a socialist America. In language that would not endear him to his professed mentor, the late William F. Buckley, Limbaugh said:

"We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles... because his father was black, because this is the first black president, we've got to accept this."

Now there's an image we could have lived without.

It's fair to say that we've sufficiently celebrated the milestone of electing our first biracial president, but it's simply incorrect to assert that hope for Obama's success is guilt-induced. Fear-induced is more like it. Most want Obama to succeed because they'd like to avoid bread lines in the near future.

Conservatives of both parties justly fear that too much of the stimulus package is aimed at non-stimulus programs. There's plenty to criticize, but shouting socialism in a crowded panic room is laughable under the circumstances. Bush gave Nanny a tenured position in Washington with his Medicare bill, farm subsidies and public education spending. It was under the GOP's watch that the nationalization of America's banking and insurance programs began.

There we go again.

Trying to assign blame -- or amp up rhetoric to satisfy the market's gargantuan appetite for ratings -- is counterproductive in the present. If Obama wants to rumble, he's got an eager foe in Limbaugh. But if he really wants to win, he might take a page from his predecessor's playbook: Never dignify your enemies with recognition.

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