Obama's Diversionary Tactics: Stickers and Straw Men

President Obama announced this week that projects funded by the so-called stimulus bill will receive a special emblem so the unwashed masses will be able to recognize the effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I'd suggest a design that includes a toilet with a wad of cash inside, but Newsweek might sue me for "stealing" my inspiration from one of their more infamous news items back in 2005. Besides, a more tasteful and restrained design has already been chosen -- one that gives Americans more reassurance from that "official" look rather than the reality of hard-earned cash being flushed away.

Frankly, I'm surprised they don't either use the stylized "O" from the campaign (Pepsi seems to like it) or just use Barry's face. I mean, doesn't the whole scheme smack of free advertising for The OneTM? Not that he needs it, what with all the sycophantic coverage he receives in the mainstream press. Even his sipping a beer at a basketball game is cause for excitement. Perhaps Rahm Emanuel will organize a contest challenging us to guess which kind of beer Obama likes the most. Out of the correct answers, a drawing will be held and the winner will not only get a ride on Air Force One, but will get to sit next to Kathleen Parker. Apologies to the cheerleaders over at MSNBC: if you're employed by a media outlet you're not eligible to enter.

Obama's need to use special emblems may trace back to kindergarten, where he got gold stars or smiley faces on his chart when he shared his peanut butter sandwiches and his toys. Unfortunately he received frowny faces when he tried to appropriate everyone else's lunches and playthings and divvy them up on the playground as he saw fit, but he doesn't like to talk about what he calls "the dark days."

Actually, the whole thing brings to mind the "royal warrant of appointment," used in Britain and a few other nations that still have monarchies. Basically, if the royal family uses a particular product and really likes it, they give the company permission to put a special seal on that product, lending a certain level of prestige to the product and the company that creates it. Hyacinth Bucket can attest to the importance of the royal warrant when picking out new living room furniture.

All hail King Obama? It's beginning to feel like it. Perhaps the old European custom of being received at court will be revived right here in the United States. I'd better start practicing my curtsy.

Seriously, though, think about it: if you have to advertise that something is working, it's probably not. It's like putting a smiley face sticker on the gas pedal in your car. If it does what it's supposed to do -- make your car go -- then there's no need to call attention to it, as the car's moving down the road would be self-evident, just as an economic stimulus would be indicated by a steady rise in the stock market, a rise in consumer confidence levels, and a leveling off of unemployment.

The emblem and its unveiling is simply another diversionary tactic used by the Obama administration. "Lookee here, the stimulus is working. We have special emblems and everything!" Meanwhile the stock market continues to plunge up and down like a bucking bronco, with the American investor holding desperately to the saddle horn.

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.