On January 23, President Obama — I can’t believe how much I like saying that — made some disparaging comments about radio host Rush Limbaugh. You can read a New York Post piece all about it.
I’m an independent. I will listen to both sides — how I wish there were truly three sides or more! — and I will vote for the candidate whom I think will do the best job. I’ve voted Democrat and Republican, for and against. I will not be dictated to by any party. In the words of the ultimate politician, Groucho Marx, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh before, at first because I was told he could be funny. I had heard about him in the year or so before Bill Clinton was elected President, and Limbo did everything he could to derail his chances. In the subsequent eight years, Limbo became more and more spiteful and hateful. He would say anything to hurt Clinton, whether it was true or not, and I eventually clicked him off permanently.
Limbo’s response to President Obama is chronicled in the National Review Online, the online version of the ultra-conservative National Review magazine. You can click on the link, but I’ll reproduce the piece here, in its entirety:
Limbaugh Responds to Obama [Byron York]
According to an account in the New York Post, President Barack Obama yesterday told Republican leaders, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.” With George W. Bush now off the stage, it may be that Obama and some of his fellow Democrats view Limbaugh, and not John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, or any other elected official, as the true leader of the Republican opposition. This morning I asked Rush for his thoughts on all this, and here is his response:
There are two things going on here. One prong of the Great Unifier’s plan is to isolate elected Republicans from their voters and supporters by making the argument about me and not about his plan. He is hoping that these Republicans will also publicly denounce me and thus marginalize me. And who knows? Are ideological and philosophical ties enough to keep the GOP loyal to their voters? Meanwhile, the effort to foist all blame for this mess on the private sector continues unabated when most of the blame for this current debacle can be laid at the feet of the Congress and a couple of former presidents. And there is a strategic reason for this.
Secondly, here is a combo quote from the meeting:
“If we don’t get this done we (the Democrats) could lose seats and I could lose re-election. But we can’t let people like Rush Limbaugh stall this. That’s how things don’t get done in this town.”
To make the argument about me instead of his plan makes sense from his perspective. Obama’s plan would buy votes for the Democrat Party, in the same way FDR’s New Deal established majority power for 50 years of Democrat rule, and it would also simultaneously seriously damage any hope of future tax cuts. It would allow a majority of American voters to guarantee no taxes for themselves going forward. It would burden the private sector and put the public sector in permanent and firm control of the economy. Put simply, I believe his stimulus is aimed at re-establishing “eternal” power for the Democrat Party rather than stimulating the economy because anyone with a brain knows this is NOT how you stimulate the economy. If I can be made to serve as a distraction, then there is that much less time debating the merits of this TRILLION dollar debacle.
Obama was angry that Merrill Lynch used $1.2 million of TARP money to remodel an executive suite. Excuse me, but didn’t Merrill have to hire a decorator and contractor? Didn’t they have to buy the new furnishings? What’s the difference in that and Merrill loaning that money to a decorator, contractor and goods supplier to remodel Warren Buffet’s office? Either way, stimulus in the private sector occurs. Are we really at the point where the bad PR of Merrill getting a redecorated office in the process is reason to smear them? How much money will the Obamas spend redecorating the White House residence? Whose money will be spent? I have no problem with the Obamas redoing the place. It is tradition. 600 private jets flown by rich Democrats flew into the Inauguration. That’s fine but the auto execs using theirs is a crime? In both instances, the people on those jets arrived in Washington wanting something from Washington, not just good will.
If I can be made to serve as a distraction, then there is that much less time debating the merits of the trillion dollar debacle.
One more thing, Byron. Your publication and website have documented Obama’s ties to the teachings of Saul Alinksy while he was community organizing in Chicago. Here is Rule 13 of Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals:
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
The last item is the most interesting to me. I had heard of Alinsky before, but never his Rules For Radicals, which I immediately Googled. Here they are, reprinted in concise form — Alinsky wrote a book about them, but this will give you the idea:
Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals
By Craig Miyamoto, APR, Fellow PRSA
(This is an expanded version of the 2000 Third Quarter issue of Public Relations Strategies, a quarterly publication of Miyamoto Strategic Counsel)
To paraphrase some sage advice, “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” If your business or organization ever becomes a target of radical activists, it will be extremely helpful to know what strategies of attack will used against you. Short of having spies infiltrate their organization – a practice that is sure to be found out and exposed to your discredit – it would help to study their methods.
Known as the “father of modern American radicalism,” Saul D. Alinsky (1909-1972) developed strategies and tactics that take the enormous, unfocused emotional energy of grassroots groups and transform it into effective anti-government and anti-corporate activism. Activist organizations teach his ideas widely taught today as a set of model behaviors, and they use these principles to create an emotional commitment to victory – no matter what.
Grassroots pressure on large organizations is reality, and there is every indication that it will grow. Because the conflicts manifest in high-profile public debate and often-panicked decision-making, studying Alinsky’s rules will help organizations develop counteractive strategies that can level the playing field.
Governments and corporations have inherent weaknesses. And, time and again, they repeat mistakes that other large organizations have made, even repeating their OWN mistakes. Alinsky’s out-of-print book – “Rules for Radicals” – illustrates why opposition groups take on large organizations with utter glee, and why these governments and corporations fail to win.
Large organizations have learned to stonewall and not empower activists. In other words, they try to ignore radical activists and are never as committed to victory as their opposition is committed to defeating them. Result? They are unprepared for the hailstorm of brutal tactics that severely damage their reputation and send them running with their tails between their legs.
Some of these rules are ruthless, but they work. Here are the rules to be aware of:
RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)
RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)
RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)
RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)
RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)
RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)
RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)
RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)
RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
I am absolutely astounded at Limbo’s acknowledgment of Alinsky’s Rules — not because he knows about them — he ought to, since this stuff is his stock in trade — but that, item by item, the tactics, as outlined by Alinsky, were used against Bill and Hilary Clinton for eight years by Limbaugh, Fox News, the National Review, and every other conservative mouthpiece.
He just gave away the right wing’s modus operandi.
In other words, because the Democrats held control then, the conservatives had to become the new radicals. Hilary was absolutely right about her “vast right wing conspiracy” — ultraconservatives were rich, organized and angry — and they weren’t about to lose to a couple of hicks from Arkansas.
Expect more of this behavior in the years to come — which I predict will be eight years. If the actions of the right wing have shown us anything since the election of Bill Clinton, it’s that they will do anything to regain power . . . and that they are sore losers.
And Limbo once again gets things wrong.
As far as I can discover, Alinsky only wrote twelve rules for radicals.
Thirteen, I think, is Limbo’s unlucky number.