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Rush to the Wrong Choice

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By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, March 4, 2009; 12:00 AM

It's been a win-win the past few days for Democratic and Republican loyalists, but what about the rest of us?

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You know. Americans who either don't think that (a) spending nonexistent trillions is quite the way to proceed in an economic crisis, or that (b) Rush Limbaugh is the messiah.

Oh wait, that's right, Barack Obama is the messiah. I get confused sometimes, what with so much deification going on. Limbaugh's 85-minute speech at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), frequently interrupted by grateful applause from a slightly star-struck audience, was, dare we say it, Obama-esque.

But where there's deification, there's bound to be demonization. Thus, Rush told conferees that Obama, in essence, is Stalin. And Obama, via chief commando Rahm Emanuel, anointed Limbaugh as leader of the GOP, calling him the "voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party."

Talk about damning with praise.

El Rushbo can't have minded much, despite his protestations that he was being maligned by the White House to distract Americans from the "plunging economy." What could be better for a talking head than to be chosen by a president as his worthy adversary?

At least both sides certainly should finally agree on one thing: The Fairness Doctrine is a terrible idea! Who wants fair and politically balanced commentary on the airwaves when being "unfair" is keeping both armies in their Humvees?

The body politic, meanwhile, resembles a tempest-tossed ocean liner on which passengers scurry across the deck as the ship pitches. On one side is the president, promising to build a new $3.6 trillion ark. On the other is El Rushbo, clutching the conservative tablature: Thou shalt not raise taxes.

Might there be a smallish strait between these gulfs where the storm-weary could rest their oars? (Not to go overboard on the metaphor, ahem.)

Don't even think about it. Michael Steele, new Republican National Committee chairman, tried to inject a little calm into the discussion and quickly learned that criticizing the omniscient one is an act of treason punishable by public humiliation. After Steele said in a weekend interview that Rush is sometimes "ugly" and "incendiary," the talk-show host administered a 20-minute, on-air spanking and let Steele know that he, El Rushbo, is the talking-head pundit around here.

"Why do you claim you lead the Republican Party, when you seem obsessed with seeing to it that President Obama succeeds? I, frankly, am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda. I have to conclude that he does because he attacks me for wanting it to fail."

The war we're witnessing should be familiar after six years in Iraq. While insurgents battle for supremacy in an unstable environment, Obama achieves chaos in the enemy camp. Which is to say, Limbaugh isn't wrong, but neither was Steele -- even though he apologized. The GOP will sink as long as criticism is considered apostasy, as more-rational folk run to the lifeboats.

If neither Limbaugh nor Steele is the leader of the GOP, then who is? The answer seems obvious: Mitt Romney.

It is hard to say "Mitt Romney" without wanting to say "Poor Mitt." He's like the quiet, polite kid who keeps raising his hand with the correct answer -- all his homework neatly arranged in his book bag -- but the teacher is too busy with the rowdies to call on him.

Oh, yeah, Romney was at CPAC, too. He also gave a speech and even won the presidential preference straw poll -- for the third straight year. But he notably has stepped out of the frame the past few days, and for good reason. He's taking notes, retooling, analyzing, waiting. Compare Romney's and Limbaugh's speeches and you see who the real GOP leader is.

Where Limbaugh wants to slash and burn, Romney wants to build and repair. Where Limbaugh wants Obama to fail, Romney wants "our country to succeed, no matter who's in power. We want America to be prosperous and secure, regardless of who gets the credit ..... in good times and bad, the interests of this great nation come first."

One man is an entertaining, rabble-rousing political commentator. The other is a temperate, optimistic leader with a business record of red-to-black successes. No one should confuse the two, though Obama surely hopes everyone will.

kparker@kparker.com


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