A RINO vs. El Rushbo

Since the presidential election, former Secretary of State Colin Powell has not been making rounds on Sunday morning talk shows with the frequency he did when supporting Barack Obama for president. But last Sunday, he popped up on CNN to criticize Rush Limbaugh for misleading, if not destroying, the Republican Party.

Powell tried to make the rejection of Limbaugh the path Republicans need to take to win elections again. Thus he asked rhetorically, “Can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh?”

Of Limbaugh’s supposed influence on the Republican Party, Powell said: “Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?" This is the language of an elitist, or what Limbaugh calls a “Washingtonian.”

And what are the “lesser instincts” to which Limbaugh appeals? I wonder if there’s any way Powell is referring to that instinct to defend life — both of the born and the unborn? Powell is pro-abortion; Limbaugh is pro-life.

Though Powell hinted that he’s a conservative on CNN by saying “There is nothing wrong with being conservative,” it is clear that he neither understands nor holds to the tenets of conservatism; rather he wishes to make conservatives more like himself. Which is more liberal.

Powell, like former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson, wants to remake conservatism into something without form or substance, something that is liberalism in all but name. They say the only conservatism that can be effective in future elections is conservatism divorced from conservative principles.

Powell and Gerson — and too many other phony conservatives — are the problem, not the solution. It was by their philosophy and political strategy that the Republican Party ended up abandoning conservatism in favor of McCainism. And that was the path to failure, not victory.

How many times during the last presidential campaign did Limbaugh warn of the dangers of redefining conservatism? Over and over he reminded us that Senator John McCain wasn’t conservative and that allowing McCain to describe himself as one was tantamount to allowing McCain to change the definition of conservatism.

But virtually no one listened. And more importantly, no one — especially conservatives — believed.

Although Limbaugh spoke loudly, clearly, and often about the fact that McCain would be bad for the conservative movement and the Republican Party, McCain secured the nomination via the promise of “maverick-hood” and then got hammered in the general election.

The fact that the majority of Republicans didn’t heed Limbaugh’s warnings about giving the candidacy to McCain is proof positive that Powell erred in asking Republicans to quit listening to Limbaugh; as Limbaugh is the first to admit that the Republican Party hasn’t listened to him for years. If only they had.

Cartoon by Brett Noel

Powell’s criticism of Limbaugh also rests on his disdain for the conservative emphasis on “principles and dogma.” (Powell’s words) Would you rather us be unprincipled and willing to bend on every issue General Powell? Should we drop our opposition to abortion and then go a step further and support infanticide as your man Obama did? Should we drop our opposition to gay marriage and go even further and promise to dismantle the Defense of Marriage Act as Obama did? Should we drop our opposition to confiscatory taxes and support spreading the wealth as Obama did? Once we let go of our principles, where is the downward slide to stop General Powell?

It seems the downward slide has yet to stop for Powell who, upon announcing his support for Obama during a CNN appearance on October 19, 2008, said, “Taxes are necessary for the common good. And there is nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more, who should be paying less. … Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who paid them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools.” So pork is good, and Washington can spend our money better than we can?

Not surprisingly, Limbaugh’s longevity and success are products of his refusal to compromise principles and his ongoing, relentless adherence to conservative principles. And anyone who’s read a dint of history knows that Limbaugh’s hero, President Ronald Reagan, achieved everything from winning the presidency to destroying the Soviet Union by holding to principles and conservative ideals as well.

It was Reagan’s adherence to principles that forced him to get up and walk out of meetings with Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev when the Soviet leader sought last minute compromises on nuclear armament bans. And it was his commitment to conservative ideals that guided him in shrinking government and re-lighting the fire of “American exceptionalism” in the hearts of citizens across this land and around the globe.

Powell, on the other hand, appears to be guided by no principle greater than personal advancement. And what has that gained him but the praise of news outlets like CNN and politicians on the Left?

Such a pragmatic approach to politics placed Powell in the position of judging presidential candidates based on who was “inclusive” and who was divisive. Therefore, after supporting McCain in the primaries Powell stepped back late in the campaign and said that “Mr. Ayers” was the last thing McCain should have brought up. He said that McCain’s “negativity troubled [him].” Conservatives, on the other hand, were pulling their hair out in frustration over the fact that McCain would not go after Reverend Wright as well. They didn’t view the “attacks” on Ayers as “negativity,” but as one of the few glimmers of hope in his otherwise unexciting, “politically correct” campaign.

And who warned us that McCain was losing the election by not being more aggressive? Limbaugh did of course. He regularly told his 20 million listeners that Obama was an empty suit, and that he was beatable if only the Republicans would step up and take it to him. Yet McCain remained more worried about appealing to the Powell’s in this country than he did to the Middle Americans who share Limbaugh’s passion for conservative ideals. In retrospect, McCain should have listened to Limbaugh.

But McCain isn’t the only person who should listen to Limbaugh. Every one who claims the name conservative and equates the Reagan years with America’s best years should be listening as well.

Contrary to Powell’s contention, the Republican Party’s problem is not Limbaugh or conservatives like Limbaugh, but large segments of the party that have inexplicably come under the spell of moderates and social liberals like McCain and Powell. These are the Republicans who consider the praise they receive from mass media personalities at posh dinners to be more important than adhering to fixed, unchanging principles come what may.

As Limbaugh said in response Powell’s asinine comments on CNN: “[Powell] insists that conservatives and Republicans move to the center like McCain, who [called] himself a maverick for doing so.”

But conservatives don’t need mavericks — they simply need leaders with the “courage of their convictions.” And we’ve got just such a leader in Rush Limbaugh.