President Obama and his enforcers are right. Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the Republican Party. And now that Bill Buckley's gone, he's the leader of the conservative movement too.
Technically, of course, you could say that the Republican Party doesn't have a leader right now, and it won't have one until its presidential nominee is picked in the summer of 2012.
But like it or not, Rush Limbaugh is Mr. Republican for the next few years. He, and not some politician, will be the face of the Republican Party and of conservatism.
Obviously the president and his political Rottweilers think that Rush Limbaugh is a big fat juicy target for them to sink their teeth into. They have conducted polls, and the polls show that Limbaugh has high negatives and that independent women think he is too bombastic.
No doubt the Obamunists think that, by painting Limbaugh as the leader of the Party of No, they will intimidate Republicans into softening opposition to the president's programs.
I say good luck to the president and his hunting dogs. But they shouldn't forget that there's a risk in hunting Rush Limbaugh.
If they challenge Republicans on courage and leadership, who knows, Republicans might one day surprise them.
The great elephant in the room of US politics today is that 99.9 percent of people are scared to death of being called a racist--or a sexist or a homophobe or exclusive or mean-spirited. That's why liberals sic the Rottweilers on anyone who dares to raise the mildest question about any government social program.
But Rush Limbaugh is not afraid. Or, at least, he acts as if he is not afraid.
There is a word that means: acting as if you are not afraid. That word is: Courage.
Now, nobody except Rush Limbaugh knows if he was just born with the courage to say on ESPN that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb got a pass from the sports media because of his race. Maybe he had to teach himself to put up parodies on his show like "Barack the Magic Negro." My own guess is that it's a bit of both. Rush was ornery enough to drop out of college and defy his rather opinionated father. But Rush is also reported to be quite shy. By his own admission he had his chauffeur in Manhattan drive around the block a few times while he summoned up the courage to go in and meet Bill Buckley for the first time.
Courage is what you look for in leaders. Ronald Reagan had it. He had the courage to develop and hold on to his conservative agenda through the long years of ascent and through his tumultuous presidency. President Bush had it. He had the courage to invade Iraq and then the courage to implement the surge when "everyone" said that the Iraq war was lost.
We don't know yet if Barack Obama has this sort of courage. The president has lived a rather sheltered life thus far, being helped along by well-meaning liberals. He never seems to have had a serious career reverse to overcome. In this he is unlike Rush Limbaugh, whose career as a radio personality was a failure until he started his local talk show in Sacramento in 1984.
We don't have much of a record yet on President Obama. But we have one significant decision to analyze.
After the election in November 2008 the Obama team had a choice. It could have announced that, given the financial crisis, all bets were off. Job One would be the credit crisis. Until the crisis was over there would be no politics as usual. But the Obama team did not change strategy. It encouraged the Reid-Pelosi Congress to write a monster special-interest "porkulus" bill. It produced a federal budget that could have been written back in July 2008.
In President Bush and his Iraq strategy, our liberal friends analyzed this sort of behavior as "stubbornness" and "obstinacy." They have not, of course, characterized the Obama transition in these terms. President Bush's "obstinacy" took courage. President Obama's steady-as-she-goes transition did not take courage. It might even suggest weakness.
So there's a danger in the Obama team's tactic of painting Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the opposition. People might find out how courageous he is. They might like that. They might even get to like the idea of No, not one dime more of my money.
Rush Limbaugh is setting a leadership example for all conservatives. Sooner or later, we conservatives are going to have to summon up the courage to say to the next liberal that calls us names: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
When we have summoned up that courage we will know that we are ready, once again, to lead the people of the United States, the last best hope of mankind on earth.
What is the point of being a Republican In Name Only, or even a Conservative In Name Only?