The thing that Rush Limbaugh needs to remember, or maybe learn, since it doesn't look like he's figured it out yet, is President Obama's uncanny ability to appear to be something that he is not.
My buddy called me yesterday to talk about the Congressman who had appeared on the news while he was getting dressed. My buddy said the congressman, red faced and flustered, cried out to the CNN reporter interviewing him that the Republicans weren't against the country, with their opposition to the stimulus bill, they were simply against the wasteful spending it contained - "we've been set up" is the quote my buddy told me.
"Dude," I said, "Obama is not a gentleman. He is the president. He knows how to behave. He knows how the game is played. But he is not the kind of guy who waits for someone to go over the Marquis de Queensbury rules before the bell rings without getting a lick in."
My buddy cracked up laughing.
"Even your boy Rush is getting handled. He took the bait from Obama, and then swung back - at a guy who is still standing under the 'first black president' aura that has surrounded him since last week. There was no way to win that one. Now Republican leaders don't know whether to castigate Rush, or placate him, because to be on the bad side of Rush Limbaugh as a member of the GOP could mean an uphill re-election battle once you’re in his sights."
I really didn't pay any more attention to what appeared to me to be a minor trading of insults between Rush Limbaugh and President Obama until yesterday, when I ran across the "Obama –Limbaugh Stimulus Plan", written by none other than Rush Limbaugh himself. With a title that ridiculous, I had to check it out. Two things jumped out at me as I read it. One was Limbaugh's fascination with the proportions of the Obama victory:
"Mine is a genuine compromise. So let's look at how the vote came out, shall we? Fifty-three percent of voters in this country -- we'll say, for the sake of this proposal, 53% of Americans -- voted for Obama. Forty-six percent voted for Senator McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Let's give the remaining 1% to President Obama, so let's say that 54% voted for President Obama and 46% voted for Senator McCain.
As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009, $540 billion of the one trillion will be spent on infrastructure as defined by President Obama and the Democrats. The remaining $460 billion, or 46% that voted for Senator McCain, will be directed towards tax cuts, as determined by me."
I'm not going to even look at the historical implications of his plan - what president has ever won with 100 percent of the vote?
What concerns me is that the psyche behind this tongue-in-cheek jab at the President is based on some of the same kind of thinking my fair haired neighbors ascribe to here in the Atlanta suburbs. "We need to spend OUR tax dollars on things that benefit US" was the rallying cry that saw the north end of Fulton County, where I live here in Georgia, become fully incorporated, with four brand new cities springing up in the last five years to keep northside tax dollars from going to the city of Atlanta.
Now most of these cities are suffering from growing pains, even as they try to explain to their constituents why the tax relief they campaigned on to get these new cities chartered is no longer a priority.
The federally funded interstate highway system fundamentally changed the American way of life. It enables goods and services to be reasonable priced and available to a large part of the country quickly and easily. Even though the underlying philosophy behind this system was national defense, it has fostered many social and economic changes in our society by increasing the mobility of the American populace.
Would the interstate work as well if it was only built in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Missouri, California, Washington State, and Colorado? Maybe you can add a couple more states to the list, but these were probably the only states in the forties and who paid more in tax revenue than they took out of the federal government.
Which means produce can't get across the country so easily, or cheaply. That flat screen TV gets a delivery surcharge. And if you need to get somewhere in a hurry, by car, it had better begin and end in the list of states above that touch each other.
The other thing was the use of the phrase "as determined by me". Again, it is pretty obvious that this is supposed to be a humorous, whimsical piece, but the thing that the "me" speaks to, in my mind, is how important Rush Limbaugh is to Rush Limbaugh.
The thing for me about growing up with Republican parents is that I ended up going to local GOP fundraisers, delivering paperwork to the party officers, and occasionally, if I happened to get stuck in the car with my father at the wrong time of day, listening to Mr. Rush Limbaugh himself. To be a teenager, with all of the teen sensitivities to the slightest opprobrium from my peers, was tough enough, but to be a teenager whose African American parents were Republicans could be almost unendurable at times.
The future Rush Limbaughs in my town went to the private high schools, which had all become overgrown with students after the Feds finally got around to enforcing the Brown Vs. Board of Education ruling in the early seventies. There were guys who looked just like Rush does now back when they were in high school, Rush's cigar replaced by a cigarette, the hairline already fading, a polo shirt covering the beginnings of a beer gut, legs splayed out to either side of the steering wheel on a Jeep Wrangler, with a sneer on their lips that seemed to grow longer whenever they passed what was ostensibly the black high school that served the public.
You couldn't get more self satisfied than these kind of guys. After all, we were in the South, and their fathers owned stuff, like businesses, and farms, and real estate that had been paid for by their grandfathers, while my father, and the fathers of my friends and cohorts were starting out with bank loans, or SBA loans, or owner financing that they had to take care each month of before they could put any money back into their businesses.
I can't blame President Obama for doing those things that can help level the playing field a little bit. I can imagine his mother telling him, as a child who was often the new kid on the block in the many, many places they lived, "if somebody looks like they are going to hit you, get your lick in first", the same way my mother did when I was a child, because we moved a lot ourselves.
Obama cannot approach being the leader of our country as if he is on equal footing with the entrenched power structure in Congress, who are holders of the patent on turning sugar into shit, or the media establishment, who are masters of the ability to reshape reality into the political narrative of their choosing, or else the White House dining staff can go ahead and write "James Earl Carter the Second" on his place card at the head of the table.