Initial Reaction To War In Libya

As is true in so many areas, Barack Obama’s action regarding Libya represents a tremendous improvement over the policies of the Bush years, but does not go as far as I’d like in presenting change. Now that the United States is involved militarily it is not the best time to dwell over whether we should be there. Ultimately the answer will depend upon factors such as whether we can really be successful in maintaining a limited involvement to save lives without getting involved in a prolonged war or nation building.

Reviewing opinions from politicians, and especially blogs, from the right there is the usual irrational thought, often based upon ignorance or intentional deception. This is also true of some of the comments from the far left but, as usual, I’m paying even less attention to them as, unlike the extremists of the far right which control a major political party, the extremists on the left are not of any real significance. Michael Moore has little more credibility with me than Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, but Moore does not have the type of influence on the Democratic Party that Beck and Limbaugh have on the GOP. This is the case when Moore is being dishonest on issues where I partially agree with him, such as health care reform, and true when his tweets on the current issue are counter to fact.

The best analysis might come from  Marc Ambinder in the National Journal. Ambinder concluded:

It was important to the U.S. that Libyans and the world understand that this coalition of the willing was more than a U.S. rhetorical construct. An hour before bombing began Saturday, Clinton spoke to the press in Paris. Asked why military action was in America’s interest, she gave three reasons and implied a fourth. A destabilizing force would jeopardize progress in Tunisia and Egypt; a humanitarian disaster was imminent unless prevented; Qaddafi could not flout international law without consequences. The fourth: there’s a line now, and one that others countries had better not cross.

The development of a new doctrine in the Middle East is taking form, and it could become a paradigm for how the international community deals with unrest across the region from now on. The new elements include the direct participation of the Arab world, the visible participation of U.S. allies, as well as a very specific set of military targets designed to forestall needless human suffering. Though the Libyan situation is quite unique – its military is nowhere near as strong as Iran’s is, for one thing – Obama hopes that a short, surgical, non-US-led campaign with no ground troops will satisfy Americans skeptical about military intervention and will not arouse the suspicions of Arabs and Muslims that the U.S. is attempting to influence indigenously growing democracies.

Some conservative bloggers are arguing that Obama is adopting the policies of George Bush, totally missing several important distinctions. Unlike with Iraq, the reason for going in is clear. Obama has not subjected us to an endless series of lies regarding the reasons for going to war, ranging from false claims of treats from WMD to false claims of involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Obama is going to war as part of a coalition of other nations and obtained the support of the United Nations before taking action against another country in a situation where the United States was not directly endangered. Obama also has pledged not to use United States ground troops, and does not appear to be interested in an occupation of yet a third country.

Fox has also taken the opportunity to raise false claims, such as that Obama is going on vacation as opposed to paying attention to the war. Think Progress reports:

Over the last 48 hours, as President Obama contemplated and then authorized U.S.-led military strikes in Libya “in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians,” Fox News talking heads have attempted to foment domestic political opposition to the president by questioning his priorities and leadership. Seizing on Obama’s current five-day trip to Brazil and other Latin American countries, Fox pundits have repeatedly said he is distracted in Rio de Janeiro and not adequately focused on the military action in Libya.

“He’s going on vacation; he’s going to Rio!” an incredulous Steve Doocy commented. “He’s on vacation in Rio,” Fox contributor Ralph Peters said, echoing the network’s attack. Referencing Rio, Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt opined, “President Obama has absolutely abdicated his role as leader of the free world.”

Obama’s pre-scheduled Latin American trip is intended to strengthen the U.S.’s trading role with some of the world’s fastest growing markets. But the agenda of the trip has been overshadowed, as Obama has turned his focus to Libya.

Perhaps Fox News pundits should read Fox News’ website. Here’s how Fox’s White House reporter Eve Zibel, who is traveling with Obama on the trip, reported on the president’s priorities on his first day:

Libya Dominates President Obama’s First Day in South America On the first day of President Obama’s first trip to South America, it was not relations with Brazil or its president that was front and center, but instead, attention was directly focused on Libya and the start of military action.

On a Fox website, a Reuters report states, “Obama’s only planned sightseeing in Rio will be to the city’s iconic Christ the Redeemer hilltop statue, and even that had to be postponed from morning until evening to give him time for early briefings on the Libyan situation.”

Despite the evidence from news reports on Fox’s own websites that Obama is focused on Libya, network pundits continue to seize on any shallow criticism of the Commander-in-Chief.

While spending too much time on all the factual and logical errors being made by right wing bloggers and pundits is not worthwhile, the comments from John McCain are worth noting, despite McCains long history of being wrong on foreign policy. Many conservatives agree with McCain’s mistaken view that Obama should have acted too soon and should use more than air power. In other words McCain would not have taken time to obtain international cooperation, most likely getting the country dragged into a third war which the United States would bear most of the burden of.

The delay was warranted, but Obama’s action was not perfect here (even if we accept for the sake of  discussion that his ultimate decision was right). While true that presidents before him have all too often initiated military action without either a declaration of war or adequate consultation with Congress, this could have been the perfect situation for Obama to provide a real change. In a situation such as this, where the United States was not in imminent danger and there was already going to be a delay until military action was initiated, there was ample time to bring this matter before Congress.

Obtaining international support was the right thing to do, but even this did not work out perfectly If the reaction from the American right wing has been irrational, the response by the Arab League has been far worse. From AP:

The head of the Arab League has criticized international strikes on Libya, saying they caused civilian deaths.

The Arab League’s support for a no-fly zone last week helped overcome reluctance in the West for action in Libya. The U.N. authorized not only a no-fly zone but also “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

Amr Moussa says the military operations have gone beyond what the Arab League backed.

Moussa has told reporters Sunday that “what happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives.” He says “what we want is civilians’ protection not shelling more civilians.”

U.S. and European strikes overnight targeted mainly air defenses, the U.S. military said. Libya says 48 people were killed, including civilians.

Their initial calls for a no-fly zone were naive if they consider the military action to date to now be grounds to withdraw their support. I only hope that our involvement doesn’t increase much more, which there is considerable risk of happening. There was even a sensible warning from one conservative today, George Will, when asked if this was the right thing to do:

“I do not,” Will said. “We have intervened in a tribal society in a civil war. And we’ve taken sides in that civil war on behalf of people we do not know or understand for the purpose of creating a political vacuum by decapitating that government. Into that vacuum, what will flow? We do not know. We cannot know.”

There is certainly an understandable tendency to want to intervene to protect civilians fighting against a tyrant, but Will is right in questioning the impact of intervening in a tribal society in an area where many hold extremist beliefs supporting Muslim fundamentalism.

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Live Blogging The Oscars

I’m primarily using Facebook (and am trying to remember to keep these posts open for everyone to read–I know I missed several). Some comments are also on Twitter–see the box on the left. I’ll also try to periodically update here, but there is far more on Facebook when the comments are included.

 

I’m really shocked that Buzz Lightyear didn’t show up to the Oscars to pick up the award.

Everybody get ready. If Social Network wins as best movie, everyone on Facebook is expected to go up on the stage.

What happens if Inception wins as best movie, and then everyone wakes up and finds the entire Academy Awards show is a dream?

The Social Network guys are asking “Is this really happening?” They must have confused their movie with Inception.

Inception beat King’s Speech and other movies for Sound Mixing. I agree that the sound in Inception was better than listening to stuttering.

I see Anne Hathaway got out of her tux. When is she going to put on her new Catwoman outfit?

Republicans disagree with Obama’s view on “As Time Goes By.” Their favorite song is “If You Could Turn Back Time”

At least one good thing about the Academy Awards compared to the Golden Globes. There’s no way Glee will win as best comedy tonight.

Yes it is wrong that not a single financial executive has gone to jail. It is also wrong that nobody who was involved with the two sequels to The Matrix has ever gone to jail.

Michael Moore on Twitter: Thank u Charles Ferguson 4 pointing out not a single Wall St crook has gone 2 jail! And to the audience for applauding!

Inception is winning so many awards that I now suspect that someone planted an idea in the minds of the voters.

A win for Social Network (film editing). Everyone on Facebook, start walking up to the stage.

Makes sense that best song came from Toy Story and not the guy cutting off his arm in 127 Hours.

It’s getting late. I might just look up the rest of the Oscar winners on Wikileaks.

As I feared, now that we are getting to bigger awards like Director, Inception’s run is ending and King’s Speech won. When they planted ideas in the minds of voters, those behind Inception should have taken it to another couple of levels.

Idea for shortening the Oscars: Only allow winners to make acceptance speeches which they can fit on their hands. (I can’t believe I’m taking an idea from Sarah Palin).

Natalie Portman’s dress is fine, but I wish she accepted the award wearing this:
http://liberalvaluesblog.com/2006/10/09/is-audrey-hepburn-campaigning-for-john-kerry/

Is Michelle Bachman going to put out a rebuttal to the Oscars later tonight?

Colin Firth wins as best actor. I wonder if he is still interested in playing a villain on Doctor Who. (He really did say he wants to do this–I hope Steven Moffat was listening).

On Facebook: Oh well, The Social Network didn’t win. We can all go home–no awards for us.

Biggest disappointment of the evening: Didn’t get to see Anne Hathaway in a Catwoman outfit. With all the clothing changes she had did during the night, she could have thrown it in.

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Sicko Banned In Cuba To Prevent “Popular Backlash” From Moore’s Inaccuracies (Or Maybe Not, See Updates)

Michael Moore’s health care documentary Sicko did a good job of showing the problems of  American health care but unfortunately Moore resorted to Fox standards of truthiness when looking at foreign health care systems. The most blatantly dishonest section of the documentary (as I’ve mentioned previously) was the segment on a Cuban hospital. A  hospital for foreign tourists was shown with the implication that it represented the type of health care available to Cubans. The Guardian reports that, according to WikiLeaks, Cuba banned Sicko out of fear that it  might lead to a “popular backlash” from Cubans who were denied access to the health care portrayed in the movie.

The secret 2008 cable is based on reports from the USINT’s foreign service health practitioner (FSHP) of her conversations with local people, unauthorised visits to Cuban hospitals, and experience of helping USINT American and Cuban personnel access healthcare.

The cable describes a visit made by the FSHP to the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital in October 2007. Built in 1982, the newly renovated hospital was used in Michael Moore’s film as evidence of the high-quality of healthcare available to all Cubans.

But according to the FSHP, the only way a Cuban can get access to the hospital is through a bribe or contacts inside the hospital administration. “Cubans are reportedly very resentful that the best hospital in Havana is ‘off-limits’ to them,” the memo reveals.

According to the FSHP, a more “accurate” view of the healthcare experience of Cubans can be seen at the Calixto Garcia Hospital. “FSHP believes that if Michael Moore really wanted the ‘same care as local Cubans’, this is where he should have gone,” the cable states.

A 2007 visit by the FSHP to this “dilapidated” hospital, built in the 1800s, was “reminiscent of a scene from some of the poorest countries in the world,” the cable adds.

The memo points out that even the Cuban ruling elite leave Cuba when they need medical care. Fidel Castro, for example, brought in a Spanish doctor during his health crisis in 2006. The vice-minister of health, Abelardo Ramirez, went to France for gastric cancer surgery. The neurosurgeon whoheads CIMEQ [Centro de Investigaciones Médico-Quirúrgicas] hospital – widely regarded as one of the best in Cuba – came to England for eye surgery, returning periodically for checkups

Update: Michael Moore Responds

Writing at his website and Huffington Post, Michael Moore states that Sicko was not banned in Cuba. Moore accuses the diplomat who wrote the previously secret cable of lying. It is certainly possible that  diplomats in Cuba might send home reports which are negative of Cuba but we cannot be certain the author was actually lying. The cable was written January 31, 2008 and Moore reports that Sicko aired in Cuba  on April 25, 2008. The author of the cable might have been lying, but it is also possible that the Cuban government changed their policy after this was written.

Moore did not respond to the real problem with the Cuban segment. He portrayed a Cuban hospital which is used for tourists and diplomats as an example of Cuban health care. Moore only looked at the worst aspects of American health care, which by itself is fine as there are enough problems to necessitate a change. However, when he selectively shows the worst of American health care and an atypical example of Cuban health care he is really not being honest. He also took a selective view of health care in other countries.  This is no better than the reports in the conservative media which highlight the best aspects of American health care while concentrating on (and often exaggerating)  problems in other countries.

Not having been to Cuba and basing my view on what appears to be reports which are not based upon ideology, I get the impression that health care varies tremendously for Cuban citizens. At least it is available to all. Michael Moore’s portrayal is false, but I also believe that the description in the cable  highlights the worst.

Update II: Sicko Was Banned, Maybe

In the above section I questioned whether Michael Moore was right that the diplomat in Cuba lied about Sicko being banned versus this being a change in policy after the report was written. It might have been latter. Ed Morrissey demonstrated this with a simple Google search showing numerous reports of Sicko initially being banned.

However it might not be this simple. Reason found evidence suggesting that there was another reason the story spread that the movie was banned, regardless of whether or not it was:

I may have found the origins of the error. The dissident Cuban doctor Darsi Ferrer Ramírez wrote an editorial in 2007 predicting that the government would censor the film. Some writers outside Cuba misread this as a statement that the film had been banned. I suspect that the author of the cable then heard that version of the story and passed it along.

I was already disappointed in Moore for his erroneous portrayal of the Cuban health care system. Such dishonesty really was not necessary to make the case for needing reform in the United States. I would also think that Moore would be aware of this information showing either that the movie was banned or that there was reason for people to believe it was banned, making it unfair to accuse the original author of the report of intentionally lying.

I am also disappointed in Moore for also being deceitful in his response by citing a World Health Report ranking of Cuba as being just two places behind the United States. This report is ten years old and the World Health Organization has since stopped issuing such rankings, realizing the complexity of such rankings and that they are of questionable validity. Besides, even if true this still would not excuse Moore’s dishonest portrayal of Cuban health care in Sicko.

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Does Glenn Beck Make It All Up For The Money?

I’ve often speculated that people such as Glenn Beck and  Rush Limbaugh do not really believe most of  the things they say but see their act as a way to make a lot of money. A profile of Glenn Beck in Forbes suggests he says all those crazy things primarily for the money:

You may love or hate him for his outlandish words, but that is how he gets an audience–and sometimes repels advertisers. Some classic Beckisms: “This President, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture” (2009). “Al Gore’s not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization” (2007). “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself or if I would need to hire somebody to do it” (2005).

With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: “I could give a flying crap about the political process.” Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. “We’re an entertainment company,” Beck says.

Others also see Beck as more a performer than as someone saying what he believes:

“I don’t necessarily believe that [what Beck says] is reflective of his own personal politics–I don’t even know if he has personal politics,” says Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade magazine devoted to talk radio. “I see him as a performer.”

Think Progress points out other examples suggesting that it might be an act:

In February he told USA Weekend that “you’d have to be an idiot” to “not notice the temperature change” caused by global warming, and that he thinks mankind may play a significant role in the phenomenon. Beck has previously described himself as “a rodeo clown” and conceded, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”

If it really is the case that Back does not believe what he says, and that he doesn’t “give a flying crap” about politics, he is getting a large number of people out protesting on false pretenses. It might not be Beck who is the crazy one, but al those people who listen to him. We’ve already known that the right wing protesters are often basing their protests on false information. I’m not sure if it makes it better or worse to find out that one of the prime sources of their misinformation is intentionally playing games with them.

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Documentary Planned On Questions Surrounding Bush’s Military Service

The New York Observer reports that Meghan O’Hara, who has worked with Michael Moore on previous documentaries, is working on a documentary about the controversy over George Bush’s military service:

The former president was originally admitted into the Texas Air National Guard more than 40 years ago, in 1968, with the American military already deeply engaged in the war in Vietnam. In 1973, Mr. Bush officially departed the Guard, without having seen any combat, to attend Harvard Business School. What, exactly, transpired in between has since become the subject of much heated debate.

Questions about Mr. Bush’s service in the Guard—did his family use its political connections to help him avoid combat in Vietnam? Did he eventually skirt the requirements of his service?—first began to surface during his successful 1994 run for the governorship in Texas.

Several years later, in the fall of 2004, with Mr. Bush locked in a heated presidential reelection campaign against U.S. Senator John Kerry, the topic exploded into a four-alarm national controversy, thanks to a flawed story on the subject by CBS News’ 60 Minutes II. The story, produced by Mary Mapes and reported by Dan Rather, featured the first on-camera interview with Ben Barnes, the former Texas lieutenant governor, explaining his role in helping Mr. Bush leapfrog a long waiting list to land a coveted spot in the Texas Air National Guard. The story also featured a number of documents ostensibly detailing Mr. Bush’s failure to live up to the requirements of his military duty.

Afterward, reporters and bloggers challenged the veracity of the documents, and CBS News was unable to fully verify the origin or legitimacy of the documents in question, resulting in the so-called Memo-gate scandal and the eventual dismissal of several top CBS News producers, including Ms. Mapes.

Since then, questions about Mr. Bush’s military service have largely dropped out of the national conversation. That said, intense interest in the topic continues to smolder in certain corners of American military and journalistic life.

In 2005, Ms. Mapes wrote a book about Mr. Bush’s military service and the controversy surrounding her reporting on it, called Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power.

Unfortunately this is a little late. With George Bush out of office and not likely to run for any other office, the political significance of this  (and potential audience of such a documentary) is considerably reduced. It does remain of some historical interest to clarify these issues. Unfortunately the story died during the 2004 campaign when questions were raised regarding the documents given to Rather by one source but the case against Bush did not rely on the questionable memos. The story should have been pursued in 2004 based upon the evidence beyond the questionable documents.


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In Their Usual Corners

I’ve expressed reservations about Michael Moore’s upcoming movie on capitalism. My bet is that Moore will have come correct points about failures of capitalism as practiced which led to the financial crisis but he will also stick to his usual political views and fail to appreciate the many benefits of capitalism. The movie will also be attacked from the right–often by people who will stick to their longstanding views that treat capitalism more as a religion and fail to acknowledge any problems.

John Stossel argues that Michael Moore Gets It Wrong.  He falls back on quoting Reason which can be counted on to always cherry pick the facts to show that any problem is always caused by government intervention.

I have little use for those on the left or right who have a knee jerk reaction of defending their long-standing beliefs in such manners while ignoring any facts which show a need to revise their views. Rather than listening to either Moore or Stossel there are some other people I’d recommend here–all conservative or libertarian writers. I’m not saying they are always right, but I respect them for showing a willingness to revise their beliefs based upon the evidence. Such willingness to consider revise one’s views based upon the facts and changing situations also displays an essential component of true liberal thought.

Richard Posner, a long time supporter of the Chicago School, responded to the economic crisis by writing an excellent book, Capitalism in Crisis, which argues that the deregulation of the financial sector he previously supported did contribute to the crisis.

Bruce Bartlett, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan, has written The Next Economics which argues that:

economic theories that may be perfectly valid at one moment in time under one set of circumstances tend to lose validity over time because they are misapplied under different circumstances. Bartlett makes a compelling, historically-based case for large tax increases, once anathema to him and his economic allies.

Stossel argues about this quotation:

The wealthy, at some point, decided they didn’t have enough wealth. They wanted more — a lot more. So they systematically set about to fleece the American people out of their hard-earned money.

On one level Stossel is right that this sounds ridiculous. Most people strive do obtain more wealth and you cannot fault the wealthy on this alone. Ultimately Stossel is the one who is ridiculous in stressing the wrong points and instead I would suggest the works of former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips. His books in recent years have shown where the Republicans have gone wrong, including how they have used government to transfer the wealth (and fleece the American people out of their hard-earned money).

The transfer of wealth which Phillips writes about is from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy. Such actions by Republicans  could be used as an example by libertarians of a problem caused by government, but in this case many libertarians back the Republicans on economics and are blind to this. Of course there are exceptions, such as Will Wilkinson who has written, “the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite.”

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Michael Moore’s Next Movie

Variety has reported on Michael Moore’s next documentary:

Michael Moore’s opting to spoof romantic conventions in titling his upcoming documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which addresses the causes of the global economic meltdown.

“It will be the perfect date movie,” Moore said in an announcement Wednesday. “It’s got it all — lust, passion, romance and 14,000 jobs being eliminated every day. It’s a forbidden love, one that dare not speak its name. Heck, let’s just say it: It’s capitalism.”

Moore and Overture Films had announced previously that the film would be released domestically on Oct. 2 — a year and a day after the U.S. Senate voted to approve a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. Paramount Vantage will handle international distribution.

The film is described as focusing on “the disastrous impact that corporate dominance and out-of-control profit motives have on the lives of Americans and citizens of the world.”

I’ll have to wait and see what I think of this one. While there are certainly problems with the capitalist system which are responsible for the economic collapse (as even conservatives such as Richard Posner have argued) my suspicion is that Moore will over-emphasize the bad while failing to appreciate all the benefits of capitalism.

I’ve found Moore’s work to be quite mixed in the past. Fahrenheit 9/11 was an easy one as the case against Bush was so strong. Sicko showed both the good and the bad sides of Moore. He did an excellent job of showing the problems faced by many in hour health care system (as long as you realize that millions of other people are also satisfied with the system). On the other hand he white-washed problems in foreign systems. For example, he showed Americans receiving health care at a clinic in Cuba suggesting that this is the type of free health care which is available in Cuba. Actually he went to a clinic which treats foreigners only and which is not representative of Cuban health care. He showed the positive aspects while ignoring problems in countries such as Great Britain. While France does have an excellent system, Moore even exaggerated the benefits available there. I fear that a documentary on capitalism will emphasize the worst of Michael Moore’s views.

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Michael Moore and GM

This isn’t meant to indicate agreement with Michael Moore. In general I agree with him on some things and not on others. I do find some irony in seeing him write about General Motors today. In 1989 Michael Moore first attracted attention with his documentary Roger and Me which alternated between Moore’s criticism of GM and his attempts to get the attention of Roger Smith, former chairman and CEO of GM.

Now GM is in bankruptcy and Michael Moore is just doing what he has always done. Back in 1989 who would have guessed where the two would be today.

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Michael Moore is No Rush Limbaugh

With ads such as the above being distributed by Americans United For Change some have looked to see if their is a situation for the Democrats analogous to Rush Limbaugh’s toxic influence on the GOP. Andrew Malcolm asks,  So if Rush runs the GOP, does Michael Moore head the Dems?

There are certainly some similarities. Both are primarily showmen, among other obvious shared traits. Still the question to this question is clearly no.

Michael Moore isn’t necessarily a Democrat. He has referred to Bill Clinton as “the best Republican president we’ve had since Abraham Lincoln.” In 2000 he backed Ralph Nader over both Al Gore and George Bush. Sure, in 2004 Moore begged Nader not to run against John Kerry. Does that make him a Democrat, or just someone who learned from his mistake?

Assuming for the sake of discussion (as there is no good way to really measure this) that Moore and Limbaugh are both equally far from center, there is a major difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. The extremists on the right dominate the GOP while the Democratic Party is far more centrist. For example, look at one of the top issues of the day which Michael Moore has expressed his views upon–health care reform. Moore backs a government run system. In contrast most Democrats, despite the phony cries from the right of “socialized medicine,” are pushing for a far more conservative plan which would preserve both private insurance companies and private practice. A plan as far left as Moore’s isn’t even on the table.

It is debatable whether Rush Limbaugh actually runs the  GOP, but there sure are signs of his influence over it. Start with the fact that the debate over whether Limbaugh runs the party comes primarily from the guy who, on paper at least, really does run it. The argument that Limbaugh runs the GOP is even stronger if you accept Joe Gandelman’s assessment that Limbaugh won in his dispute with Michael Steele.

Limbaugh’s dominance is also seen in the manner in which many party leaders backed him up when Limbaugh made a statement that any honorable political leader would reject.  Back in 1960  conservative John Wayne showed how it should be done: “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.” Now, during the worst economic downturn since the great depression, Rush Limbaugh expresses hope that Obama will fail. To him it is better that people live in misery than to have liberal economic principles show themselves to be successful.

While any reasonable person would be expected to reject Limbaugh’s statement, many prominent Republicans are backing Limbaugh. I’ve previously given Rick Santorum as an example, but many more have expressed similar beliefs. Bobby Jindal was unwilling to repudiate this statement and even said, “ I think Rush is a great leader for conservatives. I think he articulates what a lot of people are concerned about.”

This does not mean that every conservative wants to grant a leadership role to Rush Limbaugh. I’ve recently quoted both  John Derbyshire and Rob Dreher criticizing Limbaugh. Still, having been invited to be keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference is probably a stronger indicator of where most conservative Republicans stand on Limbaugh.

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The Democratic Conspiracy To Prop Up Limbaugh and Palin

First Read sees identifying Republicans with Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin as an effective strategy:

One of the things Republicans did very effectively during their 24-year run from ’80 to ’04 was define who the opposition was, whether it was raising the profile of a Michael Moore or a Jesse Jackson or someone from the most liberal or divisive wing of the Democratic Party (see Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton). Well, it appears Democrats in general, and President Obama specifically, seems to enjoy propping up two of the more divisive figures in the Republican Party, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. The more attention a Palin or a Limbaugh gets right now, the harder it will be for the Republican Party to pitch itself as a Big Tent party again. This is a dangerous period for the GOP, the party is, well, without definition. Is it a less-government, low-tax, fiscally responsible party? It’s hard to make that case after the last decade of governing. Because it’s hard to define the GOP on issues right now, it becomes easier for the Democrats to paint the GOP with the brush of a personality like Limbaugh and Palin.

If this was a conscious strategy it would make sense. Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin both represent the worst of the conservative movement. Expressing a hope that Obama fail is only the most recent example of how much Limbaugh despises America and the values this country stands for. A party led by Sarah Palin is far more likely to go the way of the Whigs than ever win a national election as long as the average I.Q. of the voters is greater than 70. As Michael Tomasky wrote in ranking her as the second Worst American of 2008:

Never in my adult lifetime has one politician so perfectly embodied everything that is malign about my country: the proto-fascist nativism, the know-nothingism, the utterly cavalier lack of knowledge about the actual principles on which the country was founded.

It would certainly be beneficial for the Democrats to identify Republicans with Sarah Palin, but can the prominence of Limbaugh and Palin really be written off as a Democratic conspiracy to prop them up? Rush Limbaugh has had a large following for years. In the previous post I noted that Limbaugh is Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini’s choice to replace William Kristol at The New York TImes.

Sarah Palin has also attracted considerable support among those on the extreme right. While polls at this point are more a measure of current interest than predictive of future success, a recent poll showed Palin a close second to Mike Huckabee for the 2012 Republican nomination. Now we even have SarahPac, which is certainly not a Democratic plot  to ensure that Palin remains prominent in the GOP.

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