More Thoughts On Rush: Do We Want To Be Right Or Do We Want To Win The Argument?

Whenever I’ve finished recording a Radio Free Delingpole podcast, I’m always struck by the billion and one clever things I wanted to say but never quite got round to articulating.

One of them concerned the latest Rush imbroglio, which Lance mentioned yesterday.

As a conservative, I do of course totally see where Rush was coming from. His base position is one almost all of us would agree with: the State – ie the taxpayer – has no more business paying for contraception than it does subsidizing college kids to drink cheap booze or buy cut-price marijuana. If kids want “fun”, they should darn well work for it and pay for it.

And as a polemicist, I do have a sneaking admiration for the daisycutter bomb subtlety of El Rushbo’s attack. Here in this Fluke woman was another incredibly annoying liberal agitator doing what liberal agitators always do which is to hijack social issues and use them as a way of increasing by stealth the power of Big Government. Clearly such irritants need squashing: squashing brutally.

As someone who wants Tea-Party-style conservatism in government, on the other hand…..

See, here’s the problem – and it’s something my wife (not to mention the various therapists I’ve seen over the years) is often saying to me: “What are you trying to achieve?”

Sure, if your war aim is simply to mouth off, vent your spleen, show the home team how incredibly right and funny you are, and make the enemy feel really unhappy then, yes, do what Rush did. (And what I do in arguments most of the time too….)

If, on the other hand, you actually want to achieve something useful for your cause than you simply have to think more strategically. In Conservative-land, Rush’s response was funny and apt and hilariously but justifiably over-the-top. But for anyone who is not a conservative – which is at least half America, not to mention most of the rest of the world, it was pure poison.

It gave, not least, the impression that conservatives are so stuck up that they even think kids messing around with sex before marriage are at best sluts, at worst prostitutes. Now I know this isn’t exactly what Rush meant, but it’s how it sounded to liberal ears and how it’s being spun in the broader media.

Trust me, it doesn’t make conservatives look good. It makes us look like unelectable freaks.

  1. Lance

    I really should not be up at the hour necessary to be the first to comment.   I listened to your podcast earlier this evening and thought you hit the nail on the head pretty well.  Your follow up, even more so.  

    As a conservative father, social issues concern me.  But I work everyday to make sure my girls are best equipped to deal with their days, every day.  In this regard, I have immediate, if limited control.

    As a conservative father, I am more concerned however, that there is an America worthy of its name and its Constitution  for my girls to raise their own kids in.  

  2. EThompson

    Trust me, it doesn’t make conservatives look good. It makes us look like unelectable freaks.

    Bit of an overstatement, methinks, but surely do wish you would have refrained from using the sl*t word.

  3. genferei

    Ah – the old ‘think strategically’ move. By all means, let’s cede the choice of ground and territory to the enemy and fool ourselves we’re being ‘realistic’. Meanwhile the ground moves ever leftward.

    The left knows that shouting loudly and continuously changes reality. Sometimes you have to shout loudly and continuously back. (Not that I’m saying Rush wasn’t suckered in this particular case.)

    Thank goodness that scourge of warmenism James Delingpole didn’t take this ‘pragmatic’ advice not to look uncool.

  4. Franco

    There is little or nothing “we” can do about this. Rush has a huge following and rightly so. Even if his ratings drop off dramatically (which I doubt will happen anyway) his every word will be used as a cudgel against Republicans , forever.

    If his ratings drop down to 1 million listeners from 15 million, the left won’t give Republicans a pass until he’s off the air. Then they will gleefully cite him out of context for another 50 years. In fact they will do their utmost to keep his distorted legacy alive, and keep their enemies closely associated with him, even if these same people publicly denounce him. 

    There is nothing wrong with Rush. He talks for over 500 hours a year, mostly extemporaneously. He has apologized.

  5. Aodhan

    Everyone is saying the Fluke was shamed. To the contrary, Rush was shamed. He was the one who apologized. Fluke was insulted.

    Andrew Breitbart was never shamed and felt no shame. This is also the one merit Gingrich possesses. Narcissism helps.

    One rhetorical strategy is to be super-careful about what one says. Never overstate, lest one be misconstrued. Capitulate to PC.

    The other strategy is to forget about all that. When an opponent attempts to obfuscate by emotional deflection, clarify by refocusing the rational attack.

    Rush should have apologized for what he called her, but then called her a contraceptive sponge(r) instead.

    He should have ridiculed her for a week, on these more precise grounds, until his epithet hit home, and the absurdity and indulgence of the proposed subsidy was patently obvious.

    Maybe it’s still a bit tasteless. But not as tasteless as taxpayers funding Fluke’s preferred sex life.

    Leftists will not respect apologies. They will interpret them as vindication of their critique. Look! Rush is a foul-mouthed bigot, who apologizes when forced to!

    They will, however, reluctantly fear and respect someone who bests them rhetorically, even if they hate and revile that someone.

  6. Guy Montag

    Sure, there might be more tactful language employed when describing people. However, the nature of the testimony given by Ms. Fluke should give us pause. She was on Capitol Hill testifying as to the expense of birth control.

    I was raised in a household in which the phrase ‘birth control’ was met with derision and hostility. I often loathed it but as time has passed, I have come to appreciate that there are some things that should be, at best, kept private and at worst, not done. Ms. Fluke giving testimony about her choice to use birth control and then lamenting its cost is beyond ridiculous. 

    Society used to provide a valuable service: shame. It kept unscrupulous practices clandestine. Ms. Fluke’s decision to use birth control is her decision to make but to either allow herself to be used as a tool or to actively participate in a debate as an agitator brings about consequences.

    The argument being made is an attempt to argue that personal choices should be paid for by others. Word choice could have been better but the principal is all the same: Her choices have consequences and they should be hers and hers alone.

  7. Fake John Galt

    When confronted by a jabbering lib, my line on this has been “the government is making the biggest grab against personal liberty in your life time and your worried about what a shock jock said to a political operative? Seriously? That’s it”? If you can channel Newt while saying this it usually leaves their jaw flapping for a few seconds.

  8. Black Prince

    The personalities on the left use more vulgar terms (and, unlike Rush, actually mean it) to describe people on the right every day.  The reaction to Rush’s comments by both the left and the right is just another example of why America is doomed…the brainwashing (ideological subversion) of America is complete.  According to ex-KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov (aka Tomas Schuman):

    “[the goal of ideological subversion is to] change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community and their country.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvoZCtpYCRI&feature=related

    I hate to say it folks, but America is finished.  The damage that the left has done over the past century is too great and cannot be undone in time to save the country.  It’s over.

  9. Black Prince

    @Aodhan: I totally agree with your analysis of the situation.  The only mistake that Rush has made is to capitulate to the left and play their sick, subversive game.  Rush should have gone nuclear (in terms of making jokes) about this whole “incident”, and your suggestion that he call her a “contraceptive sponger” is simply brilliant.  Quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised that Rush didn’t come up with this strategy himself.

  10. Herkybird

    Very early in his career as a radio polemicist Rush Limbaugh, in his book, The Way Things Ought To Be,  revealed the kernel of what he wanted to do with his radio show. His goal, he explained, was to say important things, but say them in an entertaining way, with humor, so that people would remember his words. We humans are, after all, much better at remembering  jokes than we are at recalling the words of a blistering scolding.

    His job, Rush continued, was to keep his audience from pushing the button on the car radio and changing stations when the commercials came on.  He wanted to capture their interest so they’d patiently wait to hear what he had to say next.  He has succeeded brilliantly with this approach for over 20  years.  People remember what he says and, more important, his words echo over the water-coolers of the nation and reverberate throughout the public square.

    James, I’m afraid, you’re behaving like so many self-styled ‘Conservatives,’ declaiming at great length on a preference for bold flavors only to reveal,  when the time for choosing actually arrives, that what you really prefer is vanilla.

  11. BKelley14

    Herky, James is right. Rush went way, way over the line. His words will haunt us, and do make us look like “unelectable freaks”. He has done much damage to Conservatives and Conservatism, sadly, with this latest episode. 

  12. Valiuth

    Rush is what you get when you mix entertainment and politics. Rush’s job isn’t to lead anything or anyone, it isn’t to win elections, or even come up with policies that a majority of Americans will like, he doesn’t even have the job of convincing people that conservatism is right, he has the same job Howard Stern does. Get people to talk about his show and listen to it. He cares more about getting a loud applause line form people who already agree with him then nodding heads from people who don’t know who he is. He is no better than Susan Sarandan or Keith Olberman. He isn’t serious. 

  13. Franco
    BKelley14: Herky, James is right. Rush went way, way over the line. His wordswill haunt us, anddo make us look like “unelectable freaks”. He has done much damage to Conservatives and Conservatism, sadly, with this latest episode. 

    You make the mistake of allowing our enemies to define us in their own way and on their own terms. Under such a regime, you and your allies will never thrive. It won’t matter how many times Rush is denounced or how low his ratings go. It will be someone else next. 

    Please ask yourself, how is the GOP effectively labeled as racist? Hasn’t the Republican Party denounced and marginalized every racist ever to reveal himself and associate himself with the party? 

    Racism, of course, deserves to be renounced, but that is irrelevant. They still use it, even when it’s not even remotely true. 

    Besides, Rush apologized. If they refuse to accept his apology, that’s their problem.

  14. Mr. Dart

    Kids?  This Fluke “kid” celebrates her 31st birthday next month.  Maybe she should finally stop going to school and get a job so she can fork over $9 a month for her pills. 

    This story is over.  She’s Joan of Arc and all Republicans are the old fuddy duddies we always suspected they were.

    Dylan said not to trust anyone over 30… like Sandy Fluke.

  15. Herkybird
    BKelley14: Herky, James is right. Rush went way, way over the line. His wordswill haunt us, anddo make us look like “unelectable freaks”. He has done much damage to Conservatives and Conservatism, sadly, with this latest episode. 

    I will not defend Limbaugh’s choice of words, nor will I rehearse the litany of others who have used much worse language characterizing Conservative women.  It is all a part of the coarsening of our culture and public discourse that I (and Charles Murray) find depressing.

    However, I will say that if a crude jibe is all it takes to damage the conservative cause beyond repair then maybe what you call conservatism is too frail to survive in this rough and tumble world.  If conservatism is only about “Electability” then it has no core, no real meaning, no rudder.  It is simply another bit of flotsam to be tossed about on the waves of transitory popular enthusiasms .

  16. Eric Rasmusen

    Genferei said

    Ah – the old ‘think strategically’ move. By all means, let’s cede the choice of ground and territory to the enemy and fool ourselves we’re being ‘realistic’. Meanwhile the ground moves ever leftward.

    The left knows that shouting loudly and continuously changes reality. Sometimes you have to shout loudly and continuously back.

      That’s important. In this case, what would have happened if all the cautious, careful, conservative pundits had said,”What are you complaining about? Isn’t she a slut? What else do you call somebody who talks about her birth control in public?”.  The liberals would have gone a very little crazier– n0t much. They aren’t brave either, and pushback scares off bullies. What is more important is that the conservative position would have been proudly held, and would be seen as a legitimate position, not one that conservatives are ashamed of.

         As it is, the timid conservative response tells liberals,”Conservatives all DO believe that, since they won’t defend it and won’t lynch Rush Limbaugh. They  know it’s wrong,  so they’re ashamed and won’t even try to defend it.”

  17. James Of England
    Eric Rasmusen:

      That’s important. In this case, what would have happened if all the cautious, careful, conservative pundits had said,”What are you complaining about? Isn’t she a slut? What else do you call somebody who talks about her birth control in public?”.

    I think that you and James are mischaracterizing Rush’s point, which is that she was wanting her sex to be subsidized, or, in other words, she was wanting to be paid by the government for her sex. James is right that premarital sex is not close to prostitution in modern mores (although as someone who both has sex worker friends and disapproves of premarital sex, I surely come a good deal closer than most here to thinking of them as similar).  Asking to be paid for sex, though, is legitimately compared to prostitution and sluttery.

    Rush lost the war for the characterization of what he said, and was thus right to apologize and mitigate the harm as best he could. I’m not convinced that he should have been more careful before saying it; Rush does a lot to win arguments by being creative and right. Becoming cautious would lose more than we gain.

  18. Mothership_Greg

    Boy, this Delingpole fellow doesn’t do conservatives any favors when he writes things like this:

    I’ve argued before that Tony Blair and Barack Obama have an awful lot in common. Both are lawyers; both are snake-oil-salesman; both claim to be post-partisan, and Third Way and consensual; both play the acceptable, moderate-seeming public face of a regime chock full of Communists, class warriors, single issue rabble rousers, malcontents, communitarians and eco-loons hell bent on destroying every last vestige of what once made their country great.

    Language like that makes us look like unelectable freaks, who believe that Obama is about to institute Cloward-Piven or whatever.  Everyone knows Obama is just in over his head.  Come on people, get with the program.  

    And I didn’t even quote the part where he compares Obama to Mandingo.  Oh, the dog-whistles!  Oh, the context!

  19. Spin

    We often fall into this trap, that if we’ve said something that is a bit over the line, then if we apologize then well somehow now have some relevance to the main stream media and the liberals. It’s a trap. It’s a lie. If they aren’t stamping their feet and crying foul about this, they will be doing it about something else. Rush may have landed a low blow, but then he let his dukes down so he could take one on the jaw. I say keep your dukes up and keep fighting and people will forget about the low blow. This ain’t church, people, and we ain’t talking about the home owners association. This is real, serious stuff here. We may make mistakes, as I think Rush did, but we cannot let that out us othe defensive.

  20. Ansonia

    I have a 34 year old daughter who uses birth control and is not opposed, on principle, to other people using abortifactants. She attends a very “nonjudgemental” Protestant church. She voted for Obama. But she has grown unenthusiastic about subsidizing other people’s choices. (That change was inevitable. She grew up in ” Fishtown”, and was already working on weekends at a flea market by the age of 12.) More importantly, she thinks it’s frightening that people like Ms Fluke would trade a society in which people have freedom of conscience for pills and devices. My daughter also thinks a woman who demands that anyone–other than her significant other–pay for the requirements or consequences of her sex life is a…[somebody does have to say it].

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