Why Obama has Rush right where he wants him.
To paraphrase Michael Woolf, of course Obama is "playing" Rush Limbaugh. The louder Rush brays (and the more apparent "authority" he seems to yield), the more the moderate middle of American politics . . . recoils in horror at the (still) fat man.
Rush is smart like Kasper Gutman (of The Maltese Falcon--and played to a capital "T" by Sidney Greenstreet in the movie). He conniving, somewhat craven, thinks he is one step ahead of everyone else when in fact he isn't. He's all front, he's all bluster. He doesn't have a clue about retrieving the Falcon.
Nor does Rush have a clue about retrieving the Republican party ideology. Small gov't, low taxes, big stick diplomacy sell about as well these days as they did when Wendell Wilkie was pushing them during the Depression (except for big stick diplomacy--that didn't become a foundation of the GOP until the military-industrial-complex got a stranglehold on supposedly "conservative" party).
Obama and his team don't need to worry about Harry Reid or other "unattractive" Democratic pols. They've got Rush as the face of the GOP and Sarah Palin as its brainless body. (Just imagine the two of them put together in a single body and you can imagine why the GOP is a lost cause.)
Why doesn't Rush have anything to say about "shameless" Wall Street bonuses (given out under the Bush presidency's bail-out)? Where is the indignation? Why doesn't he call Hank Paulson to task?
I have a feeling that Rush's audience will shrink as those truck drivers, salespeople (and other "entrepreneurs" who work out of their cars) start to see their jobs evaporate while their CEOs get multi-million dollar bonuses.
Rush's success has little to do with politics or ideology--or it has to do so only indirectly. As Oprah has mass-marketed instant enlightenment to her audience, so Rush has mass-marketed the myth of rugged-individual capitalism to his. Just like the non-self-employed Joe the Plumber, the average Rush-listener gets the vicarious thrill that they are self-employed (that they have made it on their own)--and that bogeyman of Big Gov't and Tax-and-Spend Liberals are the only thing keeping them from achieving their mostly self-centered, materialistic dreams.
But when you move from being non-self-employed to unemployed, the dynamics change. Sure, you want a scapegoat, but you don't want to bite the scapegoat's hand that's feeding you. Put the other way, once you are truly self-employed (out of a job), self-employment loses its allure and that fat guy on the radio talking is just another fat guy on the radio talking.