The Donner Party

There is rather an amusing ruckus underway in the Republican Party, which has been floundering in disarray since the presidential race. The titular head of the GOP, Michael Steele, has been going mano a mano with Rush Limbaugh over who is really the party’s leader. Steele may have the official position, but he made a mistake by dismissing, in a recent interview, Limbaugh’s de facto stewardship, and has since made an obsequious apology to El Rushbo. This is hardly the way to consolidate one’s hold on power, or inspire fealty in the party apparatchiks (try to imagine Stalin quailing as Steele did), and I shouldn’t be surprised if Steele’s suzerainty is effectively over.

For his part, Rush Limbaugh has made it abundantly clear that he wants the Obama administration’s economic machinations to fail; he says that the president’s mission “is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation.” There may be some truth to that.

Of course, if the Hail-Mary efforts now underway do indeed fail, it will not go well for America either; I think most folks on both sides of the aisle are hoping they work. Whether we like the policy or not, we are, at this point, committed to it, and to call for its failure on ideological grounds may make good political theater (which is of course Mr. Limbaugh’s line of business), but it hardly seems patriotic. Indeed, we heard just the same sort of thing from the Left during the Iraq war; a great many I spoke to were rooting for us to lose spectacularly, and leave in shame and defeat, just because they either hated the president and vice-president, or wanted a decisive ideological refutation of neoconservative foreign policy. Mr. Limbaugh himself derided and castigated such people back then, but this seems no different to me.

Another Republican who has been trying to make his way to the front while the party staggers about in blind confusion is Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, a rising star whose booster rockets sputtered a bit after he delivered an anemic response to Mr Obama’s “State of the Nation” address last week. Mr. Jindal, who delivered his remarks with a stage presence that would have made Fred Rogers look like Sauron, merely recited, as a counterpoise to Mr Obama’s lofty oratory, some shopworn GOP boilerplate about tax cuts, was roasted on a spit for it by his fellow Republicans as soon as he was done, and would have done himself and his party a favor to have just stayed home.

Governor Jindal, who if the Bible is to be trusted will one day inherit the Earth, faced a further challenge this evening from Larry King, who asked him to take a position on the Steele-Limbaugh smackdown. Did Bobby Jindal, like Rush Limbaugh, want the Obama administration’s policies to fail?

Mr. Jindal was in a tough spot. If he publicly disagreed with Mr. Limbaugh — who can do with the GOP base what Namor the Sub-Mariner was able to do with fishes — then he would be alienating the most powerful Republican in America on prime-time TV. If, on the other hand, he agreed with him, then he would be going on public record as rooting for an economic catastrophe. (Rush doesn’t care, of course; he’s just a talk-show host, and has nothing to lose. But you could see that Mr. Jindal was walking on a tightrope.)

So he did what any canny politician would do: he answered a different question, and at sufficient length as to use up most of the time that Mr. King might have spent following up. He said that what he wanted was for us to be choosing different policies, because he didn’t believe the ones in place could work. Mr. King tried once to press him, but Mr. Jindal deflected again, and finally the time ran out. I could tell that Mr. King knew that he had the governor up a tree; all he had to do would have been to say “No, we are not talking about future policy choices; we are talking about the policies that are already in place. Do you want them to fail, or not? Yes or no!” But to my immense disappointment, he relented. Oh well. I guess Larry King is now revealed as really just a sportsman at heart; he’s content just to play ’em and throw ’em back.

The way things are going, in another few months the whole nation will be living in a refrigerator carton under a rusting railway trestle, but you can’t say it hasn’t been entertaining.

I sure do miss Tim Russert.

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  1. Paul says

    Mr Steele, you are a coward. Buckling to the likes of Rush Limbaugh’s hatred. Why is the GOP so terrified of this methane bag? He has crossed the line into sedition and should be charged as such. The federal government should look into this and the radio license suspended where the windbag works. The GOP is is dire straights for sure.

    Posted March 3, 2009 at 6:46 am | Permalink
  2. the one eyed man says

    As usual, Andy Borowitz nails it:

    Posted March 4, 2009 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Yes, I saw that too. Funny.

    Posted March 4, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink
  4. PDG says

    As much as Rush wishes to see the Nation collapse, just to improve his wack-job slants’ viability … I enjoy being one or two up on him these days. I already can relish the GOPs’ floundering now… If that fool is vying for the leadership it thrills me no end. As they loosen their already flaccid grip on power…

    Posted March 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Whatever Rush Limbaugh is, he’s no “fool”; he does what he does quite brilliantly, and he has repeatedly denied that he has any interest in leading the Republican Party.

    Longtime GOP strategist Ed Rollins comments articulately here.

    Posted March 5, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Permalink