Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Obama’s Post-Partisan Age

Appears to mean that we’re beyond partisanship because "he won." Post-partisan means getting on board with him. Again, he ends the argument by winning it. He may be very, very clever and very, very urbane and winning in his style. But make no mistake about it, this guy means to play hard ball.

Discussions - 29 Comments

Oh well, now he's offering the same advice that was offered by another fiery black leftist - Colin Powell!!

Well, if it turns out that Obama doesn't govern in a non-partisan fashion like George W., then Limbaugh - a guy who knows his statesmanship, according to your institute - can play a "funny" song about how the "magic negro" (get it? Apparently only conservative Republicans can) is starting to act like a street gang thug. That should wake people up to just how dangerous Obama is.

The conservatives were arrogant, irrational self-deceived. Pettily reactionary. Too in love with the sound of their own voices. Too overcome with self-satisfaction at their cleverest formulations and the timeless assurances of their rightnesses. These Cereberean guardians of all that is good were defeated, but Ponzi and the other 22 percenters will never praise Obama's compromises as 'statesmanship' or his assertions of power as 'manliness'. Those themes are for their guys only. The dog whistles of magic negro songs are for the base, except when Ken Blackwell is in the room.

I don't for a second underestimate Obama's brains, discipline or political skills, but this exchange does show a potential weakness (though one that will take finesse to exploit). Obama has (going back to college)made a show of listening carefully to conservative concerns and always ending up on the liberal side of arguments. He is all for discussion, but when his mind is made up, he would dearly love his opponents to shut up and go along. He was kind enough to listen to them (or a least to appear attentive while they spoke), now they should have the decency to support his policies. Sorry but no deal.

The weakness is that it reveals a gap between Obama and Obama's persona. It shows that his dualisms of geting things done vs cynicism is itself a cynical and self interested ploy and that he values public discussion only so far as it suits him personally. Also he seems to have a bit of the martinet in him.

Republicans shouldn't get too wrapped up in defending Limbaugh, but should (preferably with some wit) point out the gap between Obama's actions and his poses. Obama is a very serious guy and means us to take him seriously. Giving people a chance to laugh at his pretensions is a tack worth taking.

Of course none of this absolve the GOP from the need to come up with a compelling alternative agenda.

"He is all for discussion, but when his mind is made up, he would dearly love his opponents to shut up and go along. He was kind enough to listen to them (or a least to appear attentive while they spoke), now they should have the decency to support his policies."

Did you even take a second to consider that this (at least by nearly all non-Rove accounts) would be a fairly charitable description of GWB?

Craig, sure (though I'm not sure I would call it charitable as much as nonvenomous). I'm just pointing out that dissent is at least as patriotic now as it was on January 19, and that highlighting the distance between Obama's rhetoric of unity and his actions might have some political benefits for the GOP. Much of Obama's appeal is his ability to seem above the ideological and partisan fray while while being both a pretty orthodox liberal and a partisan Democrat. That is a strength but also a potential weakness. His exchange with the Republicans showed the limits of that approach. It depends on the other side being willing to treat him as an arbiter who will gave both sides a fair hearing and whose final judgement should be obeyed. When a show of openess did not result in the expected obediance, the mask slipped and the partisan emerged. In one sense Obama is right. He did win and his margins in Congress mean that he will get alot of the policies he wants. But his inability to deal with determined opposition (one that treats him like another politician rather than a godlike arbiter to whom all must appeal for judgement)shows that he is less than he seems. And this distance between his pose and his actions is open for political exploitation

Of course, he was very clever to use Limbaugh like that. The substance he is after has nothing to do with Limbaugh but he'd like very much to tie it all to Limbaugh and use him or "talk radio" as his whipping boy to defeat all opposition to himself. He thinks he's in a position to kick Limbaugh around--not the real Limbaugh, of course, but the idea of Limbaugh that he intends to create--and he may be right.

Here we see the start of the New Era. After eight years of bad mouthing President Bush in the most extreme ways the liberals are now going to jump on any kind of criticism of the Obamessiah. Yeah they all loved free speech when they were tearing down a real American but now that their guy is in Craig and his buddies will be opening the reeducation camps real soon. Just you wait and see what they'll do after they take our gun rights away.

If one poll tests many of Rush Limbaugh's opinions, I bet they are closer to those of the average American citizen than are those of the NY Times Editorial page. On the other hand, if one polls only those who work for major media organizations and staff the government, the NY Times Editorial page is probably closer to the norm.

I think Richard is right about what he says above . . . however, even though the substance of Limbaugh's opinions are closer to the substance of the opinions of most Americans, I think it is also the case that a very great number of people who agree with Limbaugh don't know it. I think that they really believe that they do not agree with him or, they think they do not like him. In other words, there is a disconnect between what Rush Limbaugh actually says on any given day (and, by this, I don't mean every single thing the man says but, rather, the general tenor of it) and what people think he is saying because of how it is reported to them and what others they think they are supposed to respect say about him. In other words, there is a prejudice against the "brand" Rush Limbaugh with enough people that Obama thinks he can use him to good effect. Obama thinks that he can discredit all of conservatism by tying it to this exaggerated and incorrect view of Limbaugh that persists in the popular imagination of so many people as a result of the reflection of elite opinion. So, if people disagree with Obama he will just argue that they are "just like Rush Limbaugh" and they will imagine themselves appalled by the comparison and want to correct it. This is why there is real question about whether it is useful to defend Limbaugh.

It's not for Rush Limbaugh's sake that I note this--worrying about Rush Limbaugh's reputation is Rush Limbaugh's job, not mine. But separating out what is Limbaugh from what is conservatism seems like a fools errand in many respects--like going off on a tangent trying to deny him or embrace part of him or whatever. This is just giving Obama what he wants. I think it is better to ignore this aspect of the argument. Let it go.

The more I think about this, I begin to think (unless I'm really missing something here) that I'm actually beginning to be a little disappointed in Obama. This is too transparent and I thought he was smarter than this. But Pete may be right that this doesn't really speak against Obama's skills or intelligence--this is just a tell. Obama's still as smart as Sikkenga says and as serious and ambitious as Kesler says, but while he's at the zenith of his power (unless he is very, very disciplined) you can expect a little strutting. He may be cool, but he's still young and he's had a lot of adulation these many weeks. I think he's going to strut some. And there's always a tell in the strutting. So here it is. I think it is likely, as Pete hinted above, he has never had to confront a really and truly serious argument from the other side. He is a smart one, but he may be hot-house flower. I think that whenever a person gets indignant or flushed or puffed up like Obama seems to have done with Eric Cantor, it's usually a tell that this is not the ground on which he is most comfortable fighting. So, if that's true, then I think it's probably a pretty good idea to stay there and keep punching. If he's got a glass jaw, that's where you will find it.

We want him to be arrogant and one-sided. We want him to appoint czars and do all the other typically leftist government-first nonsense. We want him to be heavy-handed. All of this hastens the day when we can rid ourselves of this empty suit.

In the meantime, it's time for the true conservatives to play hardball as well...primarily with the GOP. For years and years they promised us a lot and delivered very little, particularly in the social arena. Time to cull the RINOS and return to basics -- limited government, judicial restraint, equal treatment under the law, limited immigration, and fair trade. Nothing less will return the GOP to power...they need a new contract with America, and they need to live up to it.

All should remember, and perhaps Mr. Obama in particular should remember... while "they" won, it certainly wasn't an overwhelming mandate.

Without dwelling on the "what ifs" or the "if onlys," remember that there remains a substantial segment of the population that did not vote for Mr. Obama, do not support the liberal agenda, and are merely waiting now to see what happens.

We do not yet know what happens if Mr. Obama and the liberals force feed their agenda down the throats of those of us in the rural midwest. We have not yet seen the results even in the coastal regions where there remain many of center and right persuasion.

No, Mr. Obama and his pals are enjoying the benefits of the recession presently. Good Americans are willing to give them a chance. To a point. But as the far left surfaces - and it will - I suspect that is when the rural midwest will begin to speak up.

In fact, I suspect it will grow quite loud, quite quickly.

Oh this is some funny stuff, indeed.

Julie, you're working very hard to spin this for your team, aren't you?

The victimized conservatives schtick? Check. Rush Limbaugh is a "whipping boy" that Obama would like to "kick...around".

Evasion of appropriate political labels to avoid appearance of close ties and to maintain the illusion that the center is actually far to the right? Check. Obama's inference that Limbaugh is a conservative extremist isn't reality, isn't "the real Limbaugh of course, but the idea of Limbaugh that he intends to create." And "the substance of Limbaugh's opinions are closer to the substance of the opinions of most Americans." - Oh do tell!

The ever-predictable post-electoral-defeat insulting of the intelligence of The People/Folks? Check. Mixed with a slick defense of Limbaugh and another tired slamming of the "elite" media, as a bonus? Check. "I think it is also the case that a very great number of people who agree with Limbaugh don't know it. I think that they really believe that they do not agree with him or, they think they do not like him." "there is a disconnect between what Rush Limbaugh actually says on any given day... and what people think he is saying because of how it is reported to them and what others they think they are supposed to respect say about him." and "this exaggerated and incorrect view of Limbaugh that persists in the popular imagination of so many people as a result of the reflection of elite opinion." Brilliant stuff! Of course, the fact that Limbaugh is something like the king of the radio airwaves wouldn't indicate that a whole lot of people are actually listening to Limbaugh firsthand, would it? And let's not forget that friendly puff piece in The (Bill Kristol Welfare Project) New York Times, of all places. Yeah boy, watch out for those elite opinion-makers, molding the minds of the gullible public (which is only gullible when it favors non-Republicans in elections).

Fake disappointment to prop up the illusion that there was ever going to be anything other than a purely non-ideological assessment of Obama? Check. "The more I think about this, I begin to think (unless I'm really missing something here) that I'm actually beginning to be a little disappointed in Obama. This is too transparent and I thought he was smarter than this." Oh, no you didn't. Speaking of transparent...

General silliness? Check. "I think it is likely, as Pete hinted above, he has never had to confront a really and truly serious argument from the other side." Yeah, that's pretty typical for a Harvard Law grad isn't it? But those Ashbrook students, on the other hand...

Let's be clear about Limbaugh, though. He's as extremist as his numerous in-context quotes from his radio show make clear and, at the same time, he appears to have his conservative credentials neatly in order, with no small help from the Claremont Institute, an organization connected both to you personally and the Ashbrook Center generally. As I never tire of pointing out (noticed?), Claremont gave Limbaugh their Statesmanship Award in 2004 (yes, that's right, an award for statesmanship!!), an award that they had also previously given to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, William F. Buckley, and Clarence Thomas (oh, and I see it's since gone to none other than the great statesman Donald Rumsfeld - cue spit take!). Seems to me like he's been given the conservative imprimatur. Limbaugh's a conservative and he's treated as one by those who proudly call themselves conservatives (or even neoconservatives).

Julie, I wouldn't say that Obama is incapable of handling a serious and determined argument, but I would say that the tactic he is using (of the arbiter who listens to his squabling counselors and then decides what is best for all) makes it hard for him to engage in that kind of give-and-take. Its not that he can't debate Cantor on the merits, its that the very act of debating on the merits undermines his above-it-all pose. It is telling that the moment he was pressed he retreated to an appeal to authority. But conservatives shouldn't be fooled into thinking that Obama CAN"T compete in a policy debate, just that he adopted a tactic that made detailed policy debate problematic. Like the NFL, politics involves adjustments and Obama is gonna shift tactics - and so will conservatives if they don't want to be left in Obama's dust. Again.

It is also interesting that the guy to break Obama's cool was one of the few Republicans who can match him for brains (if not charisma).

I don't disagree with you, Pete. But I also think Obama is after more than a policy debate. He's for shifting the ground upon which all policy debates will be conducted in the future. I think his shift to appeal to authority on that point is the tell. It tells me he is not really as convinced about his notion that "he won" as he would have us think. He knows he only "won" an election. He's got it in front of him to shift the debate as he would like to do it. And I think it is the case that he has not had a serious opponent in that task to date. His idea is to pre-empt that challenge by labeling it "Rush Limbaugh-esque" and defining that as something beyond the pale of polite and intelligent conversation. It could work if everything falls in place as he would have it and our side rolls over to play dead. I don't think that's going to happen. I think we should take cheer from this episode rather than be intimidated by it.

Julie, thats right, but I would argue that Obama wants to preempt arguments by making a show of tolerance. He offers a choice. He will listen. He will treat you as a legitimate participant in discussion. In return you will go along with his final decision. If you don't you are a cynical, sore loser, Limbaugh listening meanie. That approach has advantages. If the opponents are enticed by the lure of his respect and fearful of being marignalized, then he wins without a real fight. What Cantor proved is that this approach is brittle. when it faces an articulate and principled challange it disitegrates because the listening wasn't real listening. But other tactics are available to him if this doesn't work.

Exactly right, Pete. Craig . . . did you say something? Anyway, I hope you feel better now.

Thank you Julie Ponzi. When I heard Limbaugh play the magic negro song, I sorta remembered his comments about that Eagles quarterback guy, and for a minute thought he was being racist, and signalling to all the racists out there where he stood. I just agreed with everyone else that it was out of line. But I actually agreed with his racism and didn't know it. But Julie knew it! I just THOUGHT he was racist, because there was a disconnect between what Rush actually said and what it was reported, because I was too stoopid to actually hear what Rush said and was just overwhelmed by the MSM. I just love listening to others I think I am supposed to respect. It was the result of a reflection of elite opinion because I cannot think for myself. I just listen respectfully to right-wing pundits and do what I am told. Thanks Julie.

Here what liberal columnist Clarence Page had to say about "Barack the Magic Negro":

The Barack tune, by comparison, is fair comment, whether or not you agree with its slant or tastelessness. "Negro" is unfashionable, but not a slur or it wouldn't be featured so frequently in the speeches of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., among others. Back in those days, "black" was about as taboo as "Negro" is today.

Context gives words their power, as Mark Twain might have said, like "lightning" compared to "a lightning bug." The real target of the song, in fact, is not Obama but Sharpton and others whose grievance-based approach to politics competes with Obama's coalition-building approach.

Of course I'm sure that won't make any difference to some of you. Any criticism of Obama will be attacked as racist.

Oh, I forgot to mention "Grumpier in Ohio"'s laughable warning that "Mr. Obama in particular should remember... while 'they' won, it certainly wasn't an overwhelming mandate."

Something tells me that Grumpier wouldn't have offered the same warning to GWB after either of the elections he won (by considerably smaller margins compared to Obama's victory), the latter of which he and Cheney famously claimed a "mandate" from. I also doubt that Grumpier protested when Bush made the cocky claim after the 2004 election that "I have earned capital, and I intend to spend it."

Yersinia Pestis (Oh, that name makes sense!), regardless of Page's explanation for the classless (even if not racist) song, Rush's racism is clear enough when one looks at a variety of other statements he has made over the years, most of them well-documented and archived - here's one to set the tone.

Oh, I see Julie is now resorting to that noble, honorable, and time-tested debate tradition of covering one's ears and loudly insisting "yibbedy, yibbedy, yibbedy! I can't hear anything you say!" (or, in this case, the visual equivalent) -- maybe the GOP can use that as a debate strategy in 2012.

Here's Rush Limbaugh, speaking on his show, November, 2004:

"And, of course, the Democrats have gotta get it through their heads that they lost. If there's going to be some people crossing party lines, it's going to have to be them -- and that's because the president laid out his agenda today, and I think perhaps the most important thing he said in this press conference was -- and before he said it there was an implied, 'You're not listening to me.' He said, 'I meant what I said.' I didn't come here to bide my time. I came here to get things done. I'm laying out my agenda."

That's the best you've got, Craig? A racist comment from the 1970s which Limbaugh has already apologized for? Considering our current president's longtime connection to the likes of Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, I'd say your latest "guilt by association" tactic is on fairly shaky foundations.

At the risk of ignoring my father's advice, Mr. Scanlon. You're correct. I would not have offered that advice, for you see, President Bush at the time was a centrist, and I believe time will record him as a centrist.

No, Mr. Scanlon, our current President's views, values and opinions are so far removed from those of so very many of us in rural areas. Mr. Obama is not in the same vicinity let alone on the same page with the values of the centrists let alone those of us on the right.


I wish him well.... for our country's sake.


And, Sir, race has nothing to do with this matter. Nothing whatsoever. Race should not matter, nor should it be cause for celebration nor should it be cause for denigration. Bluntly, Sir, it simply does not matter to the vast majority of us.

Yersinia - No, that's not the best I've got, I simply linked to that because it was one of the easiest items to find. There's plenty more out there - new, old, and in-between, but there's little point in my linking to any of it, of course. I've known plenty of dittoheads, and the general rule I've noticed with them is that as long as a statement falls short of "We should kill all the n****rs and burn their bodies in a big parade!" then it's not racist in their eyes.

Why are you accusing me of using the "guilt by association" tactic? I was quoting Limbaugh to condemn... Limbaugh. Yes, Rush is associated with himself! Much different however, than the (largely failed) attempt to try to equate Obama with Ayers or Wright (pssst...America rejected those lines of bull). So, you were using guilty by association, whereas I wasn't. Understand?

Grumpier, you must find it a real head-scratcher that while Obama is (in your view) a leftist, and GWB is/was a "centrist" that Obama was able to secure a bigger victory than either GWB victory. Perhaps the American voting public is further left than you think? In any case, any objective look at GWB on the political compass will not place him close to the center, either today or tomorrow or twenty years from now.

Why do you wish Obama well, if he's such a dangerous leftist? Why not take Limbaugh's tack and hope that Obama fails? At least that is ideologically honest.

And finally, please drop the rural American heartland values schtick. I spent a the better part (percentage-wise) of my youth in rural Ohio and rural South Dakota. And I've known plenty of people from those places who would consider Obama to be a fairly disappointing leftist. Still, Obama got plenty of rural votes.

Having established that Limbaugh has plenty of conservative bona fides, and is viewed as a conservative by many/most conservatives, let's look at this example of how much power Limbaugh holds over the GOP.

Rep. Gingrey's response to the backlash against his recent mild scold of Limbaugh:

"Because of the high volume of phone calls and correspondence received by my office since the Politico article ran, I wanted to take a moment to speak directly to grassroots conservatives. Let me assure you, I am one of you. I believe I was sent to Washington to fight for and defend our traditional values of smaller government, lower taxes, a strong national defense, and the lives of the unborn...

And on so many of these things, I see eye-to-eye with Rush Limbaugh. Regardless of what yesterday’s headline may have read, I never told Rush to back off. I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives—that was not my intent....

Now more than ever, we need to articulate a clear conservative message that distinguishes our values and our approach from those of liberal Democrats who are seeking to move our nation in the wrong direction. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience. Everyday, millions and millions of Americans—myself included—turn on their radios and televisions to listen to what they have to say, and we are inspired by their words and by their determination."

All must bow to Limbaugh (and Hannity)!

(The full thing can be found here on Gingrey's website)

Oh yes, it gets worse. Gingrey also called in to Limbaugh's show to seek absolution. Pretty pathetic.

Mr. Scanlon -

I wish Mr. Obama well because he is the President and I love my country. I have little faith he'll succeed, but I do wish him well.


A question, sir. If the talking heads you repeatedly mention bother you so, why do you choose to repeately ruin your own day by listening / watching / studying them? Sir, they are not the cause nor are they the fuel... no, they are merely a reflection of a very sizable portion of our nation.


You would prefer, I presume, to silence those you disagree with?

For my part, Sir, I'll now turn to my father's advice. Sine die.

"You would prefer, I presume, to silence those you disagree with?"

You are certainly presuming when you say that. Did your father ever warn you of the dangers of presuming and assuming?

In any case, I have said nothing that even hinted that I wish to "silence" those I disagree with. Please tell me where you think I stated or intimated that as my preference.

I think what you are doing with that little bit of rhetorical legerdemain is to play the pre-emptive victimization role. "Watch out dittoheads, the liberals are going to try to silence us (first they'll turn off Rush's golden microphone, then they'll try to take our guns and put us in concentration camps!!!)!" It's silly, it's false, and at this point, it's also boring.

As for wishing for Obama's success, perhaps you've more integrity than I suspected. But if Obama the leftist implements all of his liberal policies without making any (or many) concessions to the GOP, and he succeeds in improving the American situation, I will expect you to give credit where credit is due, and admit that his ideology is effective when applied; or, at the very least, you'll be open to voting for a liberal Democrat in the future. (and please be sure that none of this indicates my agreement with the premise here that Obama actually IS some sort of leftist, or that I am a big fan of his - I am not.)

Well Craig you captured this thread by sheer tenacity, understandable arguments and a restless comprehensiveness. I am not sure that the whole right wing, left wing thing doesn't degenerate into a bunch of non-sense, or I don't know that it denotes anything stable. I don't think you would disagree that from the right wing labels have different meaning than from the left wing.

I think I understand what you mean when you say that Obama is not a leftist, and I might agree in so far as I agree that Obama is post-partisan. But if you are going to bother conquering a thread, especially one with the title of post-partisan age...why not spend the time explaining why he isn't a leftist and why you aren't a fan of his. This would be more helpful to general understanding, especially as you notice that there is considerable disagreement among conservatives as to what is "right wing". In fact this is almost the crux of the matter, folks on the right can think of Bush as centrist and folks on the left can think of Obama as centrist...but perhaps there is no achievable right and no achievable left. In other words there exists a right, but it isn't any more digestable than Limbaugh...and folks defend Limbaugh because they rail against the cruelty of never being able to bring "the right" to fruition politically. In other words McCain 2008 is as good as it gets and so Sarah Palin was added to give appearance to the hope, and like Limbaugh Palin had all other faults forgiven or overlooked just for being a symbol. Conservatism and the right wing exists but is nebulous outside of its representation at the top of the Republican party ticket, likewise the left exists but is nebulous outside its representation at the top of the Democratic ticket. So in many ways Obama is a leftist, just as McCain would have been a right winger, which is to say that in many ways both are centrists or have to be centrists to such an extent that what is right wing and what is left wing exists only in theory. It could be that this is essentially the centrist curse/blessing of democracy. After all in so far as Grumpier is sincere, and I think Julie also, and speaking for myself we all do agree with Lincoln "That ballots are the rightfull and peacefull sucessors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successfull appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves, at succeding elections." Which means in essence that even the moral issues like abortion, are subservient to the democratic process...or rather that the sovereinty of the people presides over and prevents by tempering the emmergence of a philosophically pure/coherent right or left wing.

In many ways Obama is a leftist then as close as one can come without being theoretical because he is to the left of the right without question, philosophically coherent without doubt, and generally deft at persuation and politics. In otherwords some conservatives think Obama is far left less because he is far left, than because they think he will be more successful at moving the country to the left, than someone who was more purely far left could.

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