Commentary Magazine


Childish Things

A cynical ploy, a “petty strategy” to distract voters from real issues. That’s what Time is calling the Rush Limbaugh gambit cooked up by the Obama administration:

According to [Jonathan] Martin, the Rush “controversy” began as an idea last fall that followed a poll taken by Stanley Greenberg, who owns the house where White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stays when he is in Washington. With his old Clinton Administration colleagues, Paul Begala and James Carville, Greenberg realized that Limbaugh was deeply unpopular among wide swaths of the American electorate. So, the strategists figured, why not turn the turn Republican Party into a Limbaughesque caricature? Limbaugh, a consummate publicity hound, was only too eager to help. Earlier this year, he said he hoped Obama “fails,” a reasonable claim in context, given that Limbaugh’s entire worldview is constructed around an opposition to the sorts of policies that Obama has proposed.

Even Robert Gibbs gave up the ghost yesterday, conceding it could be “counterproductive” to egg on Limbaugh and other commentators if the aim was to have a serious public discussion about important issues.

I suppose “putting away childish things” is one of those pieces of advice for other people only. Or, like going “line-by-line” through the budget, something better used for show than in practice. But I will give the press their due: they seem to have had enough of the White House’s rather cynical media strategy.

As a practical matter, however, now that the Republicans have mounted a “counteroffensive” against the White House and are going for the high ground, is the Obama gambit even effective?