Obama's Diversionary Tactics: Stickers and Straw Men

Speaking of diversions, how do you like the latest version of "let's pile on Rush Limbaugh?"

Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s. ...

The seeds were planted in October after Democracy Corps, the Democratic polling company run by Carville and Greenberg, included Limbaugh's name in a survey and found that many Americans just don't like him.

"His positives for voters under 40 was 11 percent," Carville recalled with a degree of amazement, alluding to a question about whether voters had a positive or negative view of the talk show host.

Paul Begala, a close friend of Carville, Greenberg, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, said they found Limbaugh's overall ratings were even lower than the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor, and William Ayers, the domestic terrorist and Chicago resident who Republicans sought to tie to Obama during the campaign.

And by portraying Rush as the leader of the Republican Party, Democrats hope they can further tarnish the Republican brand. Think about it: Rush is that really mean guy who said he hopes Obama fails. What's this? A heretic in our midst? Beware: nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! But is Rush really the leader of the conservative movement and thereby the leader of the GOP? No. As my PJM colleague Adam Graham points out:

When many on the right say they hope Obama succeeds, they don't mean, "I hope Obama is able to socialize medicine, get card check, and the Freedom of Choice Act passed, while getting every Christmas tree item he mentioned during the campaign passed through Congress." Usually Republicans mean, "I hope Obama doesn't crash the economy or make a foreign policy mistake that leads to thousands of Americans dying." Or they hope he succeeds by forgetting everything he campaigned on and becoming a supply-sider.

Rush's "I hope he fails" is far closer to the hearts of conservatives who really do not want Obama to succeed in pushing through his agenda, even if they're not cheering for the country to go down in flames.

Rush Limbaugh isn't perfect, but he's closer to the minds of most Americans than the party's leaders in Washington are. This doesn't mean he should be the leader of the conservative movement. ...

Limbaugh isn't the next great conservative leader. Like most conservatives, he's waiting for that leadership to emerge. Unlike another prominent American, I think it's very unlikely that Limbaugh will conclude, "I'm the one I've been waiting for."

Rush provides a convenient straw man for the left, but he won't be quite as easy to knock down. He thrives on this kind of controversy, attempting to turn the tables by challenging President Obama to a debate on the issues -- just as he turned the tables on Harry Reid when Reid tried to get the Clear Channel CEO to force Rush to apologize for, according to Reid and the other senators who signed the letter, insulting American soldiers. Obama won't take the bait, of course, but those behind this strategy should think long and hard before deciding to pursue it further. By focusing on Rush, they are probably driving new listeners to his show just to see what the fuss is all about. Who knows how many Rush will be able to "convert"?

Stickers and straw men might look good on paper and even be effective for a little while. But eventually the people catch on. Heck, Chris Matthews is beginning to understand that Obama really didn't mean it when he said he'd do away with earmarks, and even Maureen Dowd knows that all is not what it seems in the land of Hopenchange. If they can figure it out, imagine how loud the uproar will be when the American voters do.