The Friday Rush: Following Limbaugh on his journey to the edge

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

Rush Limbaugh has begun to run contrary to prominent conservative thinkers on constitutional issues; he's ineffective at pushing new smears into the mainstream; and, as we addressed last week, he has shown impotence in helping to get conservative politicians elected. That's what happens when you put yourself on the fringe -- people stop listening to you, and you stop listening to them.

It's like Rush Limbaugh is actively trying to push himself to the margins of the country's political discourse. There's simply no better explanation than when he said this:

LIMBAUGH: But if we're going to ask, "Why did [Hasan] do it?" knowing full well that he's in the same mosque in 2001 with the radical preacher going nuts, we're going to also have to believe that the guy was just like Obama and didn't hear Reverend Wright's words when he was in his church.

You read/heard that right. Rush Limbaugh likened the president of the United States to a mass-murdering lunatic.

Usually when Limbaugh says something that outrageous, he kicks up a media frenzy and has a chorus of conservatives all making a similar point. For example, when he went through his little health-care-reform-is-like-Nazism phases, it was pretty much in line with what other conservatives were saying. His rhetoric in that case wasn't even in a league of its own. If you take a trip down memory lane to this past summer, you'll remember how it was a race to the bottom for conservatives when it came to criticizing health care reform.

But this week, Rush was alone in his extreme criticism of the president's handling of the Fort Hood shooting.

True, there was some criticism lobbed at President Obama from the right for his two-minute "shout-out" preceding his first public remarks about the shooting. And a lot of conservatives have hammered the press and Obama alike for their reluctance in labeling the tragedy an act of "terrorism."

However, outside of The Rush Limbaugh Show, it's hard to find much ire over how Obama handled the situation; and many conservative commentators who usually make no bones about their dislike for the president thought that Obama's speech at the Fort Hood memorial service hit the right notes.

"I think it was a very sober speech. It was respectful to the fallen, and he did have that reference that we saw to the element of jihadism in this attack," said Fox News "All Star" Charles Krauthammer on a recent broadcast of Special Report.

"A good speech with a superb ending," wrote conservative blogger Allahpundit.

But Rush reverted to kneejerk, angry partisanship, calling the speech "empty" and "meaningless" and using it as an opportunity to trash former President Bill Clinton. Granted, we're not predisposed to liking Rush, but it sounded gratuitous and grating.

On Friday's show, Rush doubled down on his weeklong efforts to paint himself into the fringiest part of the fringe conservative movement. For example, he tried to suggest that the trials of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers somehow led to the 9-11 terrorist attacks:

LIMBAUGH: There've been all kinds of people on television today being asked, but, wait, you're bringing them into New York, doesn't that make New York any -- a bigger terrorist target? Hey? And they all say, well, no, no, New York's always a terrorist target. Look at '93. We tried those guys in 1993 and nothing happened. What do you mean, nothing happened? You ever heard of 9-11? We tried these guys and convicted the Blind Sheikh in 1993 and nothing happened except 9-11.

On the upcoming criminal trials for 9-11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and other Guantánamo detainees, Rush found himself at odds with a flotilla of actual conservative scholars. Rush declared Obama's decision to try KSM in the U.S. criminal justice system a "disgusting travesty." He later added that the trials were "being done to satisfy the rabid radical far left that hates this country, that hates George W. Bush, that hates the U.S. military."

But numerous prominent conservative scholars and statesmen disagree. Take for instance the "Bipartisan Declaration" by the Constitution Project, "Beyond Guantanamo," which states that "[c]ivilian federal courts are the proper forum for terrorism cases." And what kind of pinko-commie leftists would sign such a declaration? Just to name a few: Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, former Rep. Thomas B. Evans Jr., a former co-chairman of the RNC, David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and National Rifle Association board member, and former Reps. Bob Barr and Barry Goldwater Jr.

Limbaugh also spent the week pushing some pathetic falsehoods that failed to get any mainstream traction, even with a heavyweight like himself behind them. First, he ran with Jerome Corsi's flat-wrong scoop that Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan advised the Obama transition team. Nothing enhances your credibility like repeating a smear that was debunked from the start by Corsi himself.

Then, doing his best to buck up Politico's claim that RedState is an influential conservative blog, Rush ran with the website's false claim that the Obama administration was trying to purge Republicans from civil service positions. Unsurprisingly, the claim turned out to be completely baseless, and despite Limbaugh's best efforts, the smear never really garnered much attention outside the fringe blogs.

So we've established that Rush has begun to run contrary to prominent conservative thinkers on constitutional issues, that he's ineffective at pushing new smears into the mainstream, and as we addressed last week, he has shown impotence in helping to get conservative politicians elected. Could it be that all of these factors have contributed to Republicans no longer showing fear of him?

Last Friday, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) criticized Limbaugh's aforementioned Nazi rhetoric. Earlier in the year, that would have been cause for Rush to call Cantor out on the air. And following such public humiliation, Cantor would have issued some sort of apology to Maha Rushie and cowered away from the spotlight with his tail between his legs. We remember vividly the days when Limbaugh left a trail of Republicans in his wake begging for forgiveness. But that didn't happen this week. Cantor, a reliably conservative Republican, faced no repercussions from Rush, who even returned to the Nazi imagery during the week, but with no mention of Cantor or his remarks.

That he no longer crusades against the Republicans who dare speak out against him is telling, as is the fact that Cantor didn't feel the need to kiss Boss Limbaugh's ring in forgiveness. But, of course, that's what happens when you put yourself on the fringe -- people stop listening to you, and you stop listening to them.

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