The dominate story of the Sunday morning talk shows was the moderate Republican counter attack led by Colin Powell and Tom Ridge against Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney. On CNN’s State of the Union, Ridge called Limbaugh “shrill and divisive,” and on Face the Nation, Powell called Limbaugh an entertainer who should be open to criticism.
Here is the video of Tom Ridge:
On CNN, Ridge said of Rush, “It does get the base all fired up and he’s got a strong following. But personally, if he would listen to me and I doubt if he would, the notion is express yourself but let’s respect others opinions and let’s not be divisive.”
Powell was much more direct in his criticisms of Limbaugh, “Powell said that Limbaugh is an entertainer, but he also has power within the GOP, “Mr. Limbaugh is entitled to his opinion, and I don’t say he shouldn’t have an opinion…but he shouldn’t have a veto over what someone thinks. He is an entertainer. He is a radio figure, and he is a significant one, but he is more than that when the chairman of the RNC Michael Steele issues the mildest of criticisms concerning Mr. Limbaugh, and then 24 hours later the chairman of the RNC has to lay prostrate on the floor apologizing for it, and when two congressman offer the mildest criticism of Mr. Limbaugh, they too within 24 hours have such pressure brought to bear on them that they have to change their view and apologize for criticizing him. If he is out there he should be subject to criticism just like I am subject to criticism.”
The timing of this counter offensive by the GOP moderates is interesting. Both Ridge and Powell spoke out over a holiday weekend, when Limbaugh won’t be on the air tomorrow, thus giving their message to their party an extra uncontested day. The moderates are endangered minority in the GOP right now, but they are making the correct argument for the future of their party.
Ridge and Powell are free to speak out because they have nothing to lose. Neither is serving in office, or looking at running for office, which means that all Limbaugh can really do, is talk badly about them on the radio. The two moderates willingness to attack Limbaugh revealed the limits of Rush’s power. He is only effective against those who aren’t clearly defined long term incumbents.
There is a long list of Republicans who could put Limbaugh back in his place if they wanted to, but they have chosen to avoid the headache that comes with a confrontation of Rush. Limbaugh’s power is more perception than reality. I thought the overwhelming failure of his Operation Chaos would have proven that to all, but some Republicans are too afraid of a talk show host to stand up.