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Columbia Missourian

COLUMN: Failure, the latest 'F' word in politics

By J Karl Miller
March 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

Even in the midst of an economic uncertainty, one constantly aggravated by the caterwauling of the prophets of doom on both sides of the political aisle, a ray of humor has penetrated the gloom. The party now in power has elected to counter “Obamamania” with its own desperation attack on the right — "Limbaughphobia.”

The feeding frenzy over radio personality Rush Limbaugh’s commentary — his lack of optimism for the policies of the newly elected administration — would be more amusing were it not so patently silly. It is of no importance what he actually said, meant to say or the context of his remarks "wishing failure” for the president’s policies. The unfavorable interpretation has already prevailed — negative sells.


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Anyone with a scintilla of objectivity in his or her makeup will identify readily a thread of hypocrisy in the impassioned condemnation of his use of the “F” (fail) word as somehow immoral, malicious or unpatriotic. For the past eight years, we have been subjected to an overdose of that insidious “F” word: “ failed” presidency, “failed” war on terror, “failed” immigration policies, etc., by our duly elected members of Congress as well as from the media. I even seem to recall a certain Senate majority leader referring to former President George W. Bush as a “loser” in an address to high school students.

If we agree that neither party owns a monopoly in substituting inane rhetoric for constructive ideas inasmuch as extremists on both sides march to a different beat than do those who think before they act, it should be clear that transferring the vitriol formerly reserved for Bush to Limbaugh is unwise. The attempt to identify him as the de facto leader of the Republican Party is laughable for several reasons, not the least of which is he has neither been elected nor appointed to leadership nor will he be so anointed.

What we have here is merely “Rush being Rush” to paraphrase a sports page term describing the antics of Manny Ramirez, a controversial but talented player. Love him or hate him, Limbaugh is a talented and entertaining talk show host who commands a huge and loyal audience by doing what he does best — being a perpetual burr under the saddle of the Democratic Party leadership. The ill informed decision to launch a frontal assault on this talk radio icon serves only to increase his audience — ‘tis folly indeed to provide ammunition to a defeated adversary.

With the possible exception of the aforementioned political extremists, it is highly doubtful that Rush and other conservative voices of talk radio control the hearts and minds of Republicans any more effectively than do Air America Media and others of the progressive persuasion influence Democrats. Most potential voters choose media personalities and venues that appeal to their philosophy and cast ballots accordingly — the majority votes its pocketbook.

As a fairly representative Republican of conservative bent, I – like any of my colleagues, acquaintances and friends – am not unduly influenced by the pearls of wisdom emanating from the “EIB” network. I don’t believe I have ever met a “ditto head.” Talk radio can be entertaining, informative and/or irritating, but it does not dispense news any more than do the editorial pages of the New York Times, cable network commentary or this page from which you are reading — it is merely opinion that one may accept at face value, look into or ignore.

The long-term effect of this attack on Rush will be minimal in that it will affect the status quo not one iota. The extreme right wing will, of course, double its criticism of what purports to be a socialist approach to governance, while the fringe element of the far left would welcome a reincarnation of Che Guevara. The rest of us will observe what works and what does not and react accordingly. The inherent strength of the United States exists in the flexibility and resilience of We the People — it has been thus for 234 years.

Once and for all, the mantle of leadership in the Republican Party does not belong to Mr. Limbaugh nor to anyone at present. If Republicans had a leader, it is highly probable the results of the presidential election would have been reversed.

The most unfortunate aspect of this “tempest in a teapot” is that President Obama allowed himself to become personally involved. Mr. President, one trait of your predecessor that you might consider adopting as your own is the facility of ignoring the braying and chattering of your detractors — it is far more presidential.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at