It's been fascinating to watch Republicans try to figure out how to deal with their beloved Rush Limbaugh's ranting against President Barack Obama's first week in office, and his stated hope that the president of the United States fails.
Mind you, you'd think that this would be a really easy issue for any politician to deal with. (Well, okay, any American politician. I suspect that Iran supports Mr. Limbaugh's hopes.) Indeed, it should be especially easy if you're the Party That Loves America. Responding to someone who says he wants the president of the United States to fail is a no-brainer. And in this case, the "no brain" part is meant literally.
But no, instead we get a a spectacle of Republicans twisting themselves into knots, trying desperately to ingratiate themselves to the out-of-touch and long-since discredited Rush Limbaugh calling for the president of the United States to fail.
Let's pause a moment and put things in perspective here. If the radio host and Republicans who dare not criticize him get their way, and the president actually fails -- it means the national economy turns into a Depression, unemployment skyrockets, business collapse in droves, the housing market plummets as countless more homes go into foreclosure... and the Iraq War continues, torture continues, domestic spying continues, global warming continues, education crumbles and America is crushed. Just so we're on the same page, that's what "I hope President Obama fails" means, and not criticizing those words means.
Yet not a word from House Minority Leader John Boehner, not a peep from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Nothing from either of the party's two whips. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your Republican Party leadership!
Honestly, the Republican response should be easy. It begins with, "It is wrong to hope that the president of the United States fails, because we are all Americans, and that means we all fail." How you want to finish the thought is up to you.
But that's it. Piece of cake. The problem is that saying those words means daring to criticize Rush Limbaugh. O the horror! Not a single word from Republicans in Congress saying it's wrong to hope the President of the United States fails. How weasely can you get?
Okay, here's how weasely: When Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) dared suggest that the radio host "back off," he prostrated himself days later on that same radio show in abject apology to the (his words) "conservative giant," crying. "Rush, thank you so much... I want to express to you and all your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday to Politico. ... I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments. ... I regret those stupid comments."
(Touch of irony moment here: Republicans have no problem criticizing the President of the United States, but are terrified of criticizing a radio talk show host. Go figure.)
In fairness, the number 3 man in the House, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) did try. Well...sort of.
"Let me just say, every American hopes that our president is a success," Pence said. "But I agree strongly with Rush Limbaugh that on those issues that President Obama has committed himself to more government or more spending or a departure from traditional values."
Not bad. Compared to the Republican silence, it's like Winston Churchill. The problem is that even he couldn't bring himself to say Rush Limbaugh was wrong. W-R-O-N-G.
Take a moment to imagine the outraged Republican cries of treason if a liberal commentator had said they hoped George Bush failed as president. It would have been the screaming lead story on Fox for a month.
(And if any commentator did offer such a hope of failure, of which I'm unaware, then they'd have been W-R-O-N-G to do so.)
To his rare credit, Bill Bennett actually criticized Rush Limbaugh. Good for him. But Mr. Bennett is not an elected official. Trying to find criticism from actual Republicans officials, that is pretty much non-existent.
On the other hand, Republicans held a retreat this past week, to discuss their values and the party's future. Said Rep. Pence -- you know that No. 3 Republican who said every American hopes the president is a success -- he announced, "Rush Limbaugh will be welcomed at the retreat."
And there in a nutshell is today's Republican Party. Look at its future. Every single one of whom in the House voted against the stimulus package to help America.
And not a single one of whom can say that a radio host is "wrong" for hoping the president of the United States fails. Not even John McCain, who we're told always puts America first. But, on the good side, Republicans did welcome that radio host to their retreat, with open arms!!
How cool is that?