The Friday Rush: Limbaugh, LaRouche, and Laffer

As a general rule, when you point out that a person you consider an extremist is using the same talking points as you, that pretty much undermines whatever argument you're trying to make.

Do you remember how last week Rush was all about comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler, denying that anyone was comparing Obama to Hitler, and repeatedly lying about health care reform? Well, get ready for déjà vu all over again ...

“I never said Obama hates white people. He's got a chip on his shoulder about the unjust and immoral past of this country. I never called him Hitler.” That was how Rush got things rolling on Monday, and while it might be literally true that he's never said the words “Obama hates white people,” he did call the president “the greatest living example of a reverse racist.” If Rush wants to argue that there's a distinction between the two, best of luck to him. But let's talk about Hitler, since he seems to be on everyone's mind these days. First off, Rush's blanket assertion that he “never called [Obama] Hitler” is a bit different from what he was saying last week, when he acknowledged that he compared Obama to Hitler, but nonsensically made the case that he was not comparing Obama to “the genocidal Hitler.” To further confuse things, Rush later returned to this absurd subdivision of Hitler, telling the Ditto-head faithful: “I mean, when you're dealing with a guy like Obama and the Democrat Party, who are going to impose Nazi-like socialism policies on this country, you've got to say it. And the same time you say it, you have to go out and point we're not talking about the genocide -- that's at the tail end of Hitler.”

Speaking of Obama's Nazi-like socialist policies, on Wednesday, Rush offered a uniquely schizophrenic take on just that topic. Leading off the show, he aired the audio of the now-famous confrontation between Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and a town hall questioner who compared the president and his policies to Hitler and Nazism, during which Frank said to the woman: “On what planet do you spend most of your time?” After making the requisite “Uranus” joke (lame and homophobic ... a twofer!), Rush called the woman's question “fabulous” and launched into his aforementioned diatribe about how Obama's policies are very much like those of the pre-genocide Nazis. He essentially agreed with everything the woman at Frank's town hall meeting said.

But later in the show, Rush shared with us a “tidbit” of information about that very same woman -- she's a “Lyndon LaRouche Democrat,” said Rush, and “not a conservative.” There are two points to be made here. First, as David Weigel pointed out, “It means something that deranged political activists are showing up to these rallies and mouthing some of the same rhetoric as conservatives.” The second point follows from the first -- Rush himself was making this exact same argument not one hour before exposing this woman as a LaRouchite and “not a conservative.” He was attacking Frank for smacking down her absurd rhetoric, and praising her for her “fabulous” line of questioning. As a general rule, when you point out that a person you consider an extremist is using the same talking points as you, that pretty much undermines whatever argument you're trying to make.

And, as was the case last week, the motivating factor behind all this Nazi silliness was health care. Specifically, lies about health care. For example, one of Rush's favorite anti-reform scare tactics is to say that “you don't spend health care money on the healthy ... you spend it on the sick,” and therefore the only way to cut costs is to “stop spending as much money on the sick.” Rush says this is the only “logical” way to look at it -- and that should be your first clue that what he's saying is flatly untrue. One way in which health care reform proponents are looking to save a whole lot of money is by transitioning to electronic health records systems, which has the potential to save up to $50 billion per year by removing inefficiencies that come with reams of paperwork and allowing easier transfers of medical histories. Additionally, the implementation of health IT systems -- properly done -- can drastically reduce infection rates, waiting times, and misdiagnoses, which saves additional time and money.

Another of Rush's favorite health care talking points is that we should treat health care like any other commodity -- let consumers pay doctors for their own health care and get third parties, like the government, out of the way. The problem with this line of reasoning is that health care is not like any other commodity -- it's not like dog kenneling, it's not like oil changes, and it's not like hotel rooms. Health care is its own beast because of the moral and societal aspects of medicine. No one considers it a tragedy when you can't afford to put up your dog for the weekend. But when you can't afford chemotherapy, that has lasting impacts not only on your own well-being, but on the well-being of those close to you. And not just your dog.

Anyway, Rush made this case on Thursday and picked up on one of the more amusing anti-health reform talking points, telling a caller: “Get the government out of it. Get the government, their stupid regulations, get the government out of Medicare. Look it -- the only way that cost-price ratios make sense is based on the consumer's ability to pay.” This one has been bouncing around the town halls as angry senior citizens have demanded that the government keep its hands off their government-run Medicare, but Rush likely picked it up from noted conservative economist Art Laffer, who appeared on The Rush Limbaugh Show a couple of weeks ago.

And what would another fun-filled week of Rush Limbaugh rantings be without a little race-baiting? Obama this week happened to use the word “brother,” so Rush took that as a cue to bring up, yet again, the president's half brother who lives in a slum in Kenya. There are two easily discoverable facts about the president's half brother: his proper name is George Hussein Onyango Obama, and he chooses to live in poverty as part of his advocacy for the poor. But in Rush's world, the president's brother is named “George Hussein Onyongo Obongo Obama -- whatever,” and he lives in poverty because his cruel-hearted brother won't lift a finger to get him out. Of course, Rush's only real concern in bringing up Obama's brother and mangling his name is to make clear that President Obama, as Rush himself put it, is “not at all similar to the core of the American people.”

But why limit the racial demagoguery to relatives of the president? Just today, Rush professed to be incredulous that the proposed health care reform will not cover illegal immigrants, as Obama claims. His line of reasoning was that if “illegal immigrants are not gonna get Obamacare, how come all of these Hispanic groups are lobbying for it?” Ah yes, because everyone knows Hispanic = illegal immigrant. The likely reason that Hispanic groups support health care reform is because Hispanic Americans, according to Gallup, “are, by a significant margin, the demographic segment of the adult population most likely to be uninsured.”

And there's one last thing that has to be mentioned, largely because it's just plain funny. Despite a storied history of conservative hippie-bashing, it's actually rare these days to hear someone on the right launch into a full-throated denunciation of the flower children. But Rush came through in fine, curmudgeonly fashion this week, railing against the “Woodstock generation” on the 40th anniversary of the music festival, saying that Woodstock itself had no impact on America, denouncing " '60s lingo" and joint-smoking hippies, and insisting that the only reason people thought Bob Dylan could sing was because they were so “stoned” all the time. It was pretty special.

Have a great weekend. Peace, love, and mega-dittos.