Thursday, March 5, 2009

Obama vs. Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh extended an invitation to President Obama to debate the issues with him. It won’t happen — and Mr. Limbaugh will claim that the president is afraid to do it — but I’ve been wrong before.

If it does happen, may I be so bold as to remind Mr. Limbaugh to be careful what he wishes for. Mr. Obama at least has some experience in debating, whereas Mr. Limbaugh has never publicly debated anyone one-on-one. He sits in his glass booth and talks into a microphone. There are no guests in the studio; he doesn’t do interviews unless he’s in charge, and while I have no doubt that he is both intelligent and quick-witted, he has yet to demonstrate that he has the ability to go beyond the ten-word answer, carry on about how brilliant he is for coming with it and how stupid everyone else is for not following him, and then cut to a commercial.

There would be risks for the president if he should pick up the thrown gauntlet, such as elevating Mr. Limbaugh to his own level, but sometimes it’s a good tactical move to do that just so that when he knocks him down, there’s that much farther to fall. Besides, despite his protestations, Mr. Limbaugh is the closest thing the Republicans have to a national leader… which tells you more about the sad state of the party than it does about Mr. Limbaugh’s popularity. The president would, as he always does in situations like this, come across as cool, calm, and occasionally bemused. If Mr. Limbaugh comes across as the braying boor that he is on his show — and yes, I’ve listened to him — then all it will do is reinforce the impression that the non-dittoheads have is that he is just that; boorish and divisive and not what the Republicans need if they ever hope to become the majority of anything again.

As for disgracing the Office of the President for deigning to do something that has all the earmarks of a National Lampoon movie — without the obligatory nudity and fart jokes — I’m pretty sure that after the last eight years of “restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office” by George W. Bush, Mr. Obama doesn’t have a thing to worry about.