Monday, March 05, 2012

There's a reason I call him "Dear Leader Rush"

(Oh, by the way, did you see our recent post by Kathryn Rogers, Rush's fourth wife? If not, check it out. It's a must-read.)

George Will expressed it well on This Week yesterday to George Stephanopoulos:

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has been inundated with criticism after calling Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University student who testified before a House committee about contraception, a "slut" and a "prostitute." But while Democrats have fiercely condemned the comments, Republicans' ire has been significantly more muted.

ABC's George Will told me Sunday on "This Week" that GOP leaders have steered clear of harshly denouncing Limbaugh's comments because "Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh."

"[House Speaker John] Boehner comes out and says Rush's language was inappropriate. Using the salad fork for your entrée, that's inappropriate. Not this stuff," Will said. "And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh."

ABC's Matthew Dowd suggested that Rush's influence is largely a "myth," but there's really no denying his lofty place on the right. And while some Republicans may indeed think of him as a "buffoon" and a "clown" whom "nobody takes... seriously," and while members of the Republican media elite like Will may scoff at him, he wields enormous influence not just because of his huge audiences of "dittoheads" but because, much like with anti-tax maniac Grover Norquist, Republicans are pretty much required to kowtow to him in order to prove their right-wing bona fides and receive his blessing. Sure, it's been possible to get ahead in the GOP without his blessing, but as the party has moved further to the right and more and more heretics have been purged, his position has only solidified.

And, too, it's pretty rich of commentators like Will to scoff and leaders like Boehner to use euphemisms like "inappropriate" in response to Rush's latest awfulness. Not to take anything away from his horrible remarks about Ms. Fluke, but he has a long, long history of sexist (like this) and racist (like this) and generally bigoted comments, and he's been able to get away with it without suffering much in the way of consequences from within the Republican Party or movement conservatism. Sure, he's had his detractors, and no doubt many have rolled their eyes at his various "inappropriate" comments over the years, but the fact that he's still so influential, still such a force on the right, says a lot about what is appropriate and what isn't for Republicans.

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