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During a discussion with a caller a few moments ago, Rush Limbaugh said he was on National Review's web site this morning and came across an article (he didn't name the author) praising Mitch Daniels for not being "combative." Limbaugh mocked the notion that a conservative should be praised for not being combative and asked his Long Island, NY, caller what he thought of the idea. The caller said it made him think Daniels was a wimp. And then Rush got whipped up and riffed on how our founding fathers were combative enough to go to war, etc. etc.
The National Review article in question must be this one by Ramesh Ponnuru from yesterday. Here is the passage in question from a read-out by Ponnuru of a Bloomberg View journalists roundtable with Daniels:
His conservatism is not combative. Daniels was pressed repeatedly about the role of the Bush tax cuts in building today’s federal debt, about the failure of his fellow Republicans to recognize the need for tax increases, about the nuttiness of his party’s birthers, and about its general “reality-denial problem.” Daniels politely disagreed on the Bush tax cuts, said that Republicans weren’t the only people with nutty ideas, and suggested that Obama’s budget was “disappointing” in its denial of reality. But there was no forceful pushback of the type one might have gotten from other conservatives.
Being polite while saying the President of the United States is in denial about reality is hardly something to criticize. One can even hear the ironic undertones: some Republican birthers might be nutty, but isn't it even nuttier to pretend a coming fiscal catastrophe won't occur if we ignore it?
But here's what amused me. Ponnuru's following bullet point reads this way:
He is passionate about cutting entitlement payouts to the affluent. “Why are we sending Warren Buffett a welfare check?” Universal programs have been defended as a means of building social solidarity. What Daniels sees, however, is “cynicism.” The theory that well-off voters won’t support programs to help the poor unless they get a cut themselves is “politically manipulative”: “People are led, still are led, to believe things that aren’t true.” He adds, “The assumption it makes about the American people”—that they are purely self-interested—“is very unfair.”
The non-combative Indiana Governor is passionate. So what about "passion," Mr. Limbaugh? Does that count for anything?
This isn't the first time Limbaugh has embarked on a mini-tirade against Daniels, so it's not too surprising that he would pick on him again.
But perhaps the larger point is this: as the GOP moves more and more to reclaiming its once-lost-now-found banner of "The Party of Ideas," those who make a living stoking passions feel a bit threatened. When the GOP struggled to define itself, the Limbaughs of the world thrived as the principled ones, those who were protecting the world while elected Republicans went soft. Now, though, people like Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, and others are showing principled resolve, policy creativity, and new ways of appealing to voters that make Rush Limbaugh sound dated, reactionary, and predictable.