'Mr. Obama, Tear Down These Walls!'
When Rush Limbaugh addressed CPAC on February 28, his detractors heard the same old "brash" speech they always hear when he speaks. Astute political commentators like Whoopi Goldberg called it "crappy," and even RNC Chair Michael Steele, a conservative by almost any measure, called some of Limbaugh's comments "ugly."
Although Steele has retracted his criticism, he and those criticizing Limbaugh's address missed something very important: this was Limbaugh's moment. It was his equivalent to President Ronald Reagan's speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. And just as Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down" that wall, Limbaugh spent a considerable amount of time calling for Obama to tear down the walls he has erected between Americans and their freedom.
When Reagan spoke in Berlin in 1987, he said:
Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. ... [And] as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind.
He spoke of the liberty-quenching nature of communism and voiced his conviction that:
Just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom.
And Reagan, ever the Great Communicator, illustrated the distinction between free nations and those that are not, through an appeal to history:
Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany -- busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of parkland. ... Where there was want, today there's abundance. ... [But] in the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind -- too little food.
Reagan hated communism, and he wanted it to fail because he recognized it as a tool used by tyrants and egomaniacs set on ruling instead of representing their citizens. Not surprisingly, his criticism of communism was called "crappy" in its own way, and to this day there are still attempts to explain it away as one of Reagan's lesser moments by writers like NPR's Will Bunch.
Limbaugh's goal at CPAC couldn't have been more consistent with Reagan's goal in Berlin. And like Reagan, he spoke according to his convictions rather than polls when he said, "Our beliefs are not the result of calculations and contrivances. Our beliefs are not the result of a deranged psychology. Our beliefs are our core."