Thursday, January 22, 2009

Limbaugh Wants Obama To Fail

As I've said before, I'm not a rush Limbaugh fan. Although there are many areas of political thinking where we agree, I generally have a hard time with people who do not consider the possibility that they may be wrong. In this audio clip (followed by CNN kvetching), Limbaugh comes right out and says that he hopes Obama fails. I am a little conflicted by this statement, so I figure I ought to share that conflict with you.

From an ideological perspective, and from the perspective of not wanting to have one's deepest political inclinations overturned by in the face of overwhelming evidence of their wrong-headedness, I too want Obama to fail. I want his vision of activist, high-tax, we are our brother's keepers, government in the drivers' seat America to fail. I want his proclamations of healing our world reputation to be churned up in the grinding reality of anti-Americanism. I want his incredibly smug sense of destiny and self-confidence to meet up headlong with the plain truth that governing this country is hard, hard work where mistakes are part of the atmosphere.

But what is the COST of savoring that failure? It is depression. Not "I'm feeling blue" depression, but the breadlines and 25% unemployment kind of depression. It is more of the same ridiculous name-calling and stupidity that passes for political debate in Washington. It is our continuing appearance of fecklessness while China, India, and France seem to be growing in power and influence.

So to conclude (as Mr. Limbaugh has) that he would like to see President Obama fail strikes me as simply wrong. At the end of the day, I'd rather see my deepest held political ideals seriously questioned and the country on its feet and re-establishing its rightful position as the leader of the free world, than be proven right as we argue among the ruins of our once great nation.

So I wish President Obama luck. I will oppose him on each and every policy where his proposal runs up into opposition with my political beliefs. But I do not wish to remain immune to the continuing examination of my presumptions. If what he does works, and I am convinced of it by experience and data, then I need to re-examine my beliefs. It does not sound like Mr. Limbaugh is open to this.


Ace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ace said...

CW, it might surprise you that I a am faithful Democrat who listens to Rush Limbaugh almost daily (in fact, I am listening as I type this). On very rare occasions I am put off by his attitude, but these are more than offset by my recognition that his antics are crafted for entertainment purposes; his are less annoying to me personally than the ridiculously pretentious NPR-style of broadcasting which emanates a signal screaming "my thoughts are so much higher than your thoughts" with level of sophistication so great that over vocal expression of the sentiment is not required. I regularly laugh at publicly funded programs (I also listen to regularly) such as "All Things Considered" which would be more aptly titled "All Things (Except Conservatism) Considered." I grant Mr. Limbaugh a high degree of patience in light of both his success as an entertainer and his obvious talent for understanding complex issues and communicating them in an easy-to-comprehend manner.

That said, I think I can understand and somewhat sympathize with Mr. Limbaugh's statement when considered in a certain context. I think of it much like competitive sports. My team plays your team in an organized league. I wish you well and shake you hand at the beginning of the game. During the competition, I wish no success to your effort whatsoever, and I actively work to disrupt your efforts to bring about your failure. You understandably do the same to me. One of us wins, the other loses, and hopefully both of us display good sportsmanship, though it is not required.

Now, is our mutual wish for each other's failure bad for the league? Or is the league made stronger as the level of our competition intensifies? Is our performance not made better by the good opponent who wants us to fail? I suggest that both you and I join the league in becoming better by our mutual effort to defeat, or to cause to fail, the other team.

My take on this is that Mr. Limbaugh is a strong conservative who believes progressive liberal policies will do harm to the nation, and he also believes Mr. Obama advocates those policies. I would no sooner expect Mr. Limbaugh to wish Mr. Obama success than I would expect Troy Polamalu to wish success for the Arizona Cardinals offense in Tampa.

I suggest our Nation (the metaphoric league) is made stronger by the competition of ideas freely expressed in various forms, and that these forms invite adversarial relationships based upon policy advocacy. It was Secretary Clinton who taught me that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, which implies that those adversarial relationships are rooted in the National interest and a patriotic duty.

If this is indeed the case, then perhaps Mr. Limbaugh's assertions are valuable and patriotic expressions of our collective interest.

Thairish said...

Ace. I think your analogy falls apart when you consider that neither Arizona nor Pittsburgh weilds control of the direction of the NFL as whole. Furthermore, the success or failure of the NFL as an enterprise is not staked on the victory of the either team.
CWs description of failure describes at situation in which Obama's policies are applied as the new rule set, fail to prevent a nosedive. Given the political landscape with the Dems in control the adoption of this new rule set can be considered a foregone conclusion - the competition of ideas that I think you are attempting to describe will not happen.
I award you no points and may CW have mercy on you.

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Ace--nice to see you again. You've been missed.

First of all--I think I did indicate that I was conflicted on your input doesn't fall on deaf ears.

But at the end of the day, I think you've got to sublimate those competitive instincts when the future of the country is the question. Thairish does a good job of pointing out the logic flaw in your analogy, so I'll close by saying I'm glad you're back.

Ace said...

CW it is good to be back, and thanks for the warm welcome.

I am not, however, irresolute on the argument here, so I hope you'll indulge me a while longer. You know how dear Thairish's points are to me. :)

Perhaps a few words about the utility of analogies are due here. I recognize that any analogy has limits, and therefore any particular analogy is only of utility as it illuminates an object by way of mutual understanding. Inherent failure of an analogy is not, by extension, failure of an argument's overall veracity. So, I'll dismiss the analogy; I did not intend for it to constitute the whole of the argument, so I'll replace it saying I hope it served to change the perspective somewhat.

Thairish your point about control is a relevant, but dubious one. I agree that the analogy does not cover that aspect of the comparison, but that doesn't mean the "moral" to the analogy is wrong in principle. Political parties don't necessarily control the direction of the Nation, neither do individuals, but they exert influence on policies that contribute to a milieu of factors within the geopolitical environment; the environment determines success or failure.

The nature of a democratic republic is based on the free exchange of ideas in which the polity selects representatives who collectively vote to determine policy. The expectation should be of competitive rigor, not reciprocity. If reciprocity was the expectation, as you seem to argue, then shouldn't we expect the same from all involved? Clearly we do not, and the matter at stake in the Limbaugh case seems more to do with sensitivities after an overt statement of the reality rather than ideological muster.

Why then should the polity not be served by competitive debate, and why should competitors hope for the success of rival's ideas and yet not hope for their own to be ratified in the same way?

This is especially true in light of the huge precedence extant over the effects of the policies in question. If Mr. Limbaugh points to the historic record and observes the same policies advocated by Mr. Obama and can logically demonstrate negative results from those policies, are we better served if he does not disclose that evidence or state that he hopes Mr. Obama fails to achieve those policies? If he does so, does he have a reasonable expectation of reciprocity from the opposing side? In the case of the former, I do not think so, and in the case of the latter, of course not.

To me it all boils down to what is meant by failure. If we interpret failure, we can take it to mean "I hope he fails to enact the policies he favors," or "I hope that upon enactment of his policies I hope the consequences follow just as history teaches us they will, thereby validating both history and the lessons we learned," or "I hope he is a miserable leader and ruins his reputation so our side can win the next election (and by inference: we take a crack at policy equally blind to the historic record)." I think the first two are valid concerns, and the third is invalid. I suspect one of the first two reflect Limbaugh's intent.

I cannot see either CW or Thairish advocating a position that would dictate a learned scholar of history, a practitioner of political science, or an economist should leave their firmly held lessons from historic precedent on policy's effects. My hope is that anyone who dedicates themselves to learning for the benefit of society should express their view, even if in the obtuse form Mr. Limbaugh chose.

Furthermore, just because the other side isn't rhetorically foolish enough to say so, does anyone really think the other side doesn't think and act the same? If so, I report to you from that other camp... our side firmly believes in the sentiment of failure in the first two forms explicitly, and the third form implicitly. The latter point does not validate the principle, but does illuminate the valid application of the first two meanings.

I thank you for your gracious consideration, and sincerely hope to score a modicum from Thairish some day soon.

Thairish said...

Briefly, the last statement was mere funnin'. Sheesh.

Ace said...

Not only was it fun, it was an excellent Billy Madison reference! Don't misunderstand, I respect that! :)

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Here's how I distill it Ace--no one is saying lay down your ideological gun. Argue, prod, push and poke. Attempt to persuade with your ideas. I am not in any way advocating reciprocity. What I am advocating is avoiding cranky overwrought rhetoric that makes Conservatives look like bad losers and Idaho cabin dwellers (my apologies to those of you who may innocently live in cabins in Idaho). I simply cannot go that last step that says, "I hope you fail".

Ultimately, I love my country more than my ideas. He is in power, his party is behind him, they are going to rule the roost until such time as our ideas--not our wishes for failure--prevail.

Ace said...

I take your point, CW. I only prod that it depends on what comes in between the word "fail" and the period. If it is "I hope you fail [to enact policies based on your ideology]," then that is for the good of the country. If it is "I hope you fail [and your bad policies ruin the country]," then I agree with you completely.

Tom de Plume said...

I'm sure there were a few Jews in Berlin back in '32 who were hoping Hitler would fail.

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