Over the past month, I’ve raised suspicions here about the nature of lefty attacks on Rush Limbaugh, suggesting they may be emanating directly from the West Wing.
Citing a Politico story that detailed daily phone calls among White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, CNN “analysts” James Carville and Paul Begala, and former Clinton operative/ABC host George Stephanopoulos, I theorized that this miniature left-wing fraternity had made a conscious decision to try to isolate Rush by annointing him the leader of the GOP.
Today (as mentioned below by Kevin) Jonathan Martin confirms the theory:
If Limbaugh himself were to coin a phrase for it, he might call it Operation Rushbo – an idea that started out simply enough but quickly proved to be deeply resonant by a rapid succession of events, say Democrats inside and outside the West Wing.
The seeds were planted in October after Democracy Corps, the Democratic polling company run by Carville and Greenberg, included Limbaugh’s name in a survey and found that many Americans just don’t like him.
“His positives for voters under 40 was 11 percent,” Carville recalled with a degree of amazement, alluding to a question about whether voters had a positive or negative view of the talk show host.
Paul Begala, a close friend of Carville, Greenberg and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, said they found Limbaugh’s overall ratings were even lower than the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s controversial former pastor, and William Ayers, the domestic terrorist and Chicago resident who Republicans sought to tie to Obama during the campaign…
…Liberals quickly realized that trying to drive a wedge between congressional Republicans and Limbaugh was unlikely to work, and their better move was to paint the GOP as beholden to the talk show host…
…By February, Carville and Begala were pounding on Limbaugh frequently in their appearances on CNN.
Neither Democrat would say so, but a third source said the two also began pushing the idea of targeting Limbaugh in their daily phone conversations with Emanuel.
Conversations and email exchanges began taking place in and out of the White House not only between the old pals from the Clinton era but also including White House senior adviser David Axelrod, Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Woodhouse.
Now Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, has jumped into the fray, advancing the meme-du-jour in the Washington Post:
The 2008 election sent many messages. At the top: Americans wanted to turn the page on the politics of division and partisan pettiness, and they wanted a government — and country — that would put the middle class first.
Watching the Republicans operate this past month, it would appear that they missed that unmistakable signal.
Instead, Rush Limbaugh has become their leader.
This is remarkable. The White House, surely with the president’s blessing (after all, he fired the first shot at Rush), has mounted an all-out PR assault against a single private citizen. Liberals often fret about vast right-wing conspiracies designed to take down Democrats. Yet here we have a genuine left-wing conspiracy with the aim of undermining the GOP’s image by intentionally, artificially building up the profile of one of their harshest critics.
Once Rush’s perceived usefulness to them has run its course, they’ll need a new bogeyman. Rush, meanwhile, won’t be going away, nor will he lay off the president. That, perhaps, will be the moment when America is reintroduced — boldly and swiftly, as the president loves to say — to the Fairness Doctrine.
Stay tuned, America. This isn’t over.