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Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM PST

How Rush Limbaugh Damaged The GOP Brand

by wobbly

(Cross-posted from BeggarsCanBeChoosers.com)

When Rush Limbaugh first began spewing his daily dose of bigotry, lies and GOP propaganda back in the mid-80s, Republican leaders rejoiced. In Limbaugh, the GOP had a powerful spokesman who managed to persuade working-class white men to vote against their own interests.

In Limbaugh, the GOP also had a powerful political weapon. In the 1990s, they needed to tarnish President Clinton's reputation. And Limbaugh was on the case, sliming Clinton on everything from Vince Foster to Whitewater. No facts or truth was required, just smears.

Limbaugh's success spawned an entire industry of like-minded right-wing talk radio propagandists, each more extreme and outrageous than their predecessors. They proceeded to take over the AM radio dial. Then Fox News appeared, as well as the likes of Drudge and other right-wing Web sites.

Limbaugh, however, remained the King of GOP Propaganda. And millions of ditto-head listeners across the nation lapped up everything he dished out.

Throughout the 1990s, Limbaugh appeared to be an invaluable asset to the GOP.

But it was all a mirage. In reality, Limbaugh was a growing problem for the Republican Party. And today, he's become a serious liability that continues to damage the GOP brand.

The first signs that Limbaugh was poison for the GOP occurred during the administration of George W. Bush. Of course, Bush was a disaster for the GOP. Which made things decidedly awkward for Limbaugh, the de facto spokesman of the GOP.

With Bush, Limbaugh had two options. The first was that he could criticize Bush and retain whatever few shreds of credibility he had left. The second was that he could support Bush.

Limbaugh, of course, chose to continue backing Bush. In desperation, Limbaugh continued to cling to the faint hope that the long train wreck that was the Bush presidency would eventually turn itself around and that Bush's approval ratings would halt their long descent. Of course, that never happened.

Bush never regained favor with the public. And since he blindly supported Bush to the very end, Limbaugh lost whatever credibility he had left.

Since the 2008 election, Limbaugh has relentlessly pounded away at President Obama every day. But Limbaugh's attacks on Obama are increasingly toothless and impotent and often reach the point of self-parody.

Today, Limbaugh has become a clown and a laughingstock to the general public. Sure, the shrinking numbers of ditto-heads continue to lap it all up. But nobody else takes seriously anything that Limbaugh says.

In short, Limbaugh is no longer converting anyone to the GOP's cause these days. And his once-powerful ability to spread GOP propaganda has been greatly weakened.

Even Limbaugh's once-formidable smear tactic skills have all but vanished. Over the years, Limbaugh has promoted so many discredited smears that nobody takes him seriously any more, outside of the ditto-head base.

Today's Limbaugh has become a pathetic shell of his former self. But for the GOP, it actually gets much worse. The fact is, these days, Limbaugh has become a major liability for the party.

This became evident around the time of the Sandra Fluke controversy. For years, Limbaugh had possessed a special talent to use sexist, racist speech and somehow not pay a serious price for it. But all that came crashing down when Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute."

Unlike previous Limbaugh controversies, the Fluke case didn't simply go away after a couple of news cycles. The controversy dragged on and on for months. It wounded Limbaugh deeply and led to a massive exodus of advertisers.

Of course, the Fluke case didn't merely damage Limbaugh. It damaged the GOP brand. After all, Limbaugh has been GOP's most powerful and high-profile voice for over two decades. Try as they might, GOP leaders were unable to effectively distance the Republican Party from Limbaugh's remarks.

It was one thing for Limbaugh to alienate African-Americans with his racist comments. It was quite another to alienate women (who, of course, make up a majority of U.S. voters).

I suspect that around the time of the Fluke controversy, the GOP's party leaders began to realize that they had a big, big problem on their hands with Limbaugh.

And it's a problem that's not going to go away. For all the talk about Republicans trying to become more mainstream, the fact is, Limbaugh today is as extremist and offensive as he's ever been. What's more, there's now an entire army of radical right-wing talk show hosts on the radio dial, along with the likes of Fox News and Drudge.

The right-wing propaganda apparatus shows absolutely no sign of moderating its extremist views. Listen to today's talk radio and you'll find hosts like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin, who are even more extremist and crazy than Limbaugh.

Besides damaging the GOP brand, the likes of Limbaugh and his talk radio clones are also a powerful force in pushing today's GOP to maintain its hardline, extremist positions. If any individual GOP politician dares to step out of line, he or she can expect torrents of abuse from the likes of Limbaugh.

I suspect today's Republican leaders realize that, in Limbaugh and his ilk, the party has created a Frankenstein that is doing far more damage to the GOP than it ever did to the Democrats.

It's hard for me to conceive of how the GOP will ever solve this mess. Even if they ever somehow persuade Limbaugh to tone down his extremist hate speech, a dozen other right-wing talk hosts will immediately step up to fill his shoes.

Indeed, I suspect Limbaugh realizes this dilemma himself. He likely knows that, if he tones down his radical views, he'll lose his audience to the other right-wing talk radio sharks who are circling in the water. On the other hand, surely even Limbaugh has grasped the fact that his extremism has severely damaged his beloved GOP in recent years.

Discuss

(Cross-posted from BeggarsCanBeChoosers.com)

It has now been 49 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Since then, thousands of books have been written about what is probably the single biggest unsolved mystery of the 20th century. After nearly half a century, it's becoming increasingly clear that we may never fully understand what happened that day.

I myself have long harbored doubts about the government's own seriously flawed version of what happened in Dealey Plaza. The 1964 Warren Commission Report has rightfully been criticized over the years for the inaccuracies and flawed information it contained.

The vast majority of Kennedy assassination books over the decades have concluded that there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. However, many conspiracy theories themselves have been debunked over the years. In fact, sloppy work by conspiracy writers has, in my view, damaged the quest for truth in the case.

Authors like Gerald Posner, who have worked to debunk conspiracies, have in turn been harshly criticized by the pro-conspiracy community. Posner's book, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK was once praised as a solid rebuttal to the conspiracy writers. But in recent years, Posner has increasingly come under fire and his reputation has taken a beating (even among those who believe Oswald acted alone).

One problem that plagues works like Posner's book (as well as pro-conspiracy works like Oliver Stone's JFK film) is that the case is simply too vast and complex to be adequately addressed in a single work.

After reading numerous JFK assassination books over the years, both pro and con, I still keep an open mind about the case. I'm not 100 percent convinced, either way, although I do lean toward the theory that Oswald did not act alone.

In any case, there are still unresolved mysteries surrounding the JFK assassination that haven't been adequately explained to this day. Here are five of them.

1. What happened to Mary Moorman's missing fifth photo in Dealey Plaza? Moorman is known for her famous Polaroid photo that captures the JFK assassination at nearly the precise instant the head shot occurred. What is less well-known, though, is that Moorman took other photos that day. One photo she took moments before the assassination reportedly depicted the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. The photo was reportedly turned over to Secret Service agents shortly after the assassination and vanished from sight. It has never been published and it remains missing to this day.

2. Why was Oswald's handwritten note to FBI agent James Hosty destroyed? Oswald wrote a note to Hosty a week or two before the assassination. Within hours of Oswald's death on Nov. 24, 1963, the note was torn up and flushed down the toilet by Hosty. Hosty had claimed his superior, Gordon Shanklin, had ordered him to destroy the note. However, Shanklin denied this. The lingering mystery, though, is exactly what the contents of Oswald's note were and why the note was destroyed in the first place.

3. Whatever happened to the mysterious "Babushka Lady," who was seen in the Zapruder film of the assassination? Zapruder's film depicts a woman wearing a head scarf who in turn is filming the JFK motorcade at the moment of the assassination. Given that the Babushka Lady is very close to the motorcade, her film would offer invaluable evidence if it could be located today. The problem is, shortly after the assassination, the Babushka Lady and her film vanished from history. In 1970, a woman named Beverly Oliver came forward and claimed she was the Babushka Lady and that her film was confiscated by the FBI. But her story has never been confirmed.

4. What happened in the mysterious death of Oswald's friend, George de Mohrenschildt? A noted member of the Russian emigre community in Dallas, De Mohrenschildt became an unlikely friend of Oswald in 1962. He testified at length before the Warren Commission in 1964. In later years, he became increasingly depressed and distraught and believed the CIA was persecuting him. On March 29, 1977, de Mohrenschildt was contacted by an investigator with the House Select Committee on Assassinations, asking for an interview. That same day, de Mohrenschildt was found dead from a gunshot wound. De Mohrenschildt's death has been called a suicide, but its timing does seem mysterious.

5. Did Joseph Milteer have foreknowledge of the assassination? 13 days before the assassination, right-wing extremist Milteer gave tape-recorded comments to a Miami police informant that eerily predicted key details of the JFK assassination. Milteer claimed that a conspiracy to kill Kennedy was in the works and described a scenario in which the president would be shot "from an office building with a high-powered rifle." Milteer also predicted that, in the aftermath of the assassination, the police would arrest a patsy "to throw the public off." Amazingly, the Warren Commission gave very little attention to Milteer's interview. Milteer remains a shadowy and mysterious figure to this day. His 1963 tape-recorded remarks can be heard here.

Discuss

(Cross-posted from BeggarsCanBeChoosers.com)

Thanks to tireless efforts by historical revisionists over the past two decades, Ronald Reagan has gotten a lot of credit for achievements that he had nothing to do with. "Winning" the Cold War is a good example.

In reality, Reagan's policies had little or nothing to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, the last thing the Military Industrial Complex ever wanted was to see the Cold War's end (and with it the trillion-dollar gravy train of "defense" contractor funding).

On the other hand, Reagan should get credit for something that he actually did achieve: laying the groundwork for the death of capitalism as we know it.

Capitalism had its first near-death experience during the Great Depression. Ironically, it was saved by the most progressive president that the U.S. ever had: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although attacked by the business community at the time, FDR's New Deal in fact resurrected capitalism and gave it new life. The New Deal created the Great American Middle Class: tens of millions of well-paid workers that actually had the money to buy the products that the system produced.

It was a wonderful arrangement that made America a superpower and the most envied nation on the planet for decades to come.

However, America's wealthy never got over their hatred of FDR and the New Deal---despite the fact the latter saved capitalism from itself. The Rich & Powerful constantly plotted to abolish the New Deal. And in 1980, with Reagan's election, the wealthy class finally saw its chance to begin the attack on the New Deal---a process that continues to this day.

Under Reagan, middle class entitlements were slashed, as were programs to assist the poor. And sweeping changes in tax policy began to favor the very wealthy, at the expense of the middle class and the poor. Also, labor unions and labor laws were gutted. Lastly, under Reagan's disastrous "free trade" policies, America started shipping all its good-paying manufacturing jobs overseas.

The result of all this was that, under Reagan, the Great American Middle Class began to shrink---a process that continues to this day. And with a much-weakened middle class, U.S. capitalism has hit a major crisis in that fewer and fewer consumers are able to buy the products that the system produces.

The latter is a crucial component of capitalism that has long been curiously overlooked by the "free market" Chicago School zealots who've long championed a completely deregulated economy. I find it interesting how these zealots are always so concerned about the plight of the "over-taxed, over-regulated" rich (who they claim are the only necessary ingredient for successful capitalism).

Of course, what these ivory tower zealots overlook is that capitalism as we know it simply can't function unless there is a strong, prosperous middle class around to buy the products created by the system.

Although Reagan's policies gutted the U.S. middle class, the resulting devastation to capitalism didn't become readily apparent until much later on. This was because the whole crisis was masked by America's increasing embrace of credit-fueled consumption, which created the mirage of prosperity.

Under Reagan, America simply stopped paying its bills. The government started borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars from the likes of Japan. And consumers increasingly started pulling out their credit cards to pay for purchases, rather than using cash.

Finally, a series of bubbles came along to further create the illusion that the American economy was much more prosperous that it really was. These included the Dot Com bubble and the more recent housing bubble.

Of course, the whole Ponzi scheme all came crashing down in 2008. Since then, the U.S. economy has remained on life support. The nation continues to plunge further into debt, even as the U.S. dollar continues to hit new all-time lows. The middle class is all but extinct these days, as are the good-paying jobs that once help make the American economy the mightiest on earth.

Virtually all of this is a legacy of Reagan's policies. And unlike capitalism's first near-death experience, in the 1930s, it's extremely unlikely that we'll see another FDR ever come along to give the whole system a new lease on life. In our Citizens United era, that's simply not ever going to happen.

Reagan (or more specifically, his wealthy backers) originally aimed to crush the New Deal and return the U.S. to an unregulated 19th century dog-eat-dog form of capitalism. They hoped that this would propel capitalism to new heights. But by ignoring the key role of middle class consumption in their calculations, they unwittingly severely damaged capitalism itself and turned America into a second-rate power.

We continue to see the corrosive effects of the Reagan legacy to this day. The serious problems that began to emerge during his presidency (out-of-control fiscal and trade deficits, a shrinking middle class, the loss of good manufacturing jobs, and a plummeting dollar) continue to this day.

Of course, the wealthy class to this day continues to live in denial that the whole capitalist party is now over. They continue to cling to the hope that the crisis caused by the 2008 economic collapse will eventually be fixed and the capitalism will somehow continue.

The problem is that the good-paying manufacturing jobs are gone for good. And the much-hyped service economy jobs that were supposed to replace the latter have in fact been poor substitutes, offering vastly lower pay and benefits, for the most part. In fact, to this day, America continues to bleed what few good manufacturing jobs it has left, thanks to the utter absence of any kind of intelligence trade policy.

What's more, given the ever-weakening dollar and the ever-growing trade and fiscal deficits it faces, America has less and less clout on the world stage. For the entire post-World War II era, America could simply print more dollars to bail itself out of fiscal crises, given that the dollar was the world's international reserve currency. That era, clearly, is near an end.

With the demise of the dollar, America will be a much weaker and less wealthy nation. For the entire post-World War II era, America has been the standard-bearer for capitalism. With the latter now discredited, it's clear that the rest of the world is increasingly rejecting the U.S. model of economics and is instead turning to the regulated, technocrat-led economies of China and Singapore as the new role model.

Not only did Reagan's era doom capitalism, but his toxic legacy ensured that America will find it extremely difficult to remedy the crises that resulted from his administration. These range from the deterioration of public education that resulted from Reagan's budget cuts to America's crumbling infrastructure. These two factors alone will make it increasingly difficult for America to compete globally in the years to come.

But perhaps the most toxic legacy of all was Reagan's abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine. This ensured that America's mainstream media would increasingly do little more than parrot the official corporate line. Americans today are hopelessly misinformed on the issues these days. And a nation that is misinformed is going to find it difficult to ever take the necessary steps needed to fix the crises unleashed by Reagan's policies.

Discuss
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