In an interview that aired on CBS’s Early Show this Friday, President Barack Obama expressed his concern with the rhetoric employed by right-wing commentators specifically on radio who routinely describe or portray him as a “socialist”, or worse.
The president called the programs of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck “troublesome” and “vitriol” but added that their views do not represent those of most Americans. “I think the vast majority of Americans know that we’re trying hard,” he said, “that I want what’s best for the country.”
A sensible and reasoned response, you might think, considering what words men as Beck and Limbaugh employ? Think again.
The New York Daily News praised the president for “hitting back and naming names.” An article for the Examiner went a step further, after denouncing Beck and Limbaugh as “liars, traitors, false prophets,” stating that no administration previously “faced such hatred and racial bigotry.” At The Huffington Post, someone compared the scaremongering of Beck and Limbaugh with the anti-socialist crusades of Friedrich August von Hayek and Milton Friedman. Evidently, as far as The Huffington Post is concerned, those who speak out in favor of individual liberty and capitalism are all members of the same, nefarious cabal.
Even Politico weighed in on the story, defining Obama’s words as the “tongue-lashing of conservative talk show titans” and claiming that he “cast Limbaugh and Beck as demagogues who cash in on the fears of Americans struggling through a rough economy.” Some Democratic strategists apparently believe that the president’s words were part of a broad attempt to parody the whole of the Republican Party as little more than “a reflection of the most well-known and extreme elements of the conservative movement.”
“The White House declined to discuss Obama’s strategy in detail,” Politico reports. Let’s hope that’s because there is no stategy here.
Amid the frenzy, one may be quick to forget that the president made perfect sense last week. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are putting incendiary and offensive language out on the airwaves day after day and that is a troublesome fact. He didn’t “hit back,” he didn’t “cast them as demagogues,” he merely expressed his concern with the current state of public debate in America for which his administration is, in part, to blame.
Truly troublesome is how so many media outlets picked up on the story and tried to frame it as part of a long-term strategy aimed at derailing public criticism of the president and his policies. As far as we know, there is no such effort being undertaken, nor should there be. It is the president’s job to govern, not to thrust himself into the madness that is daytime talk radio.