"What’s the White House’s reaction to Rush Limbaugh saying, again, that he wants the president to fail, specifically, on his economic plans?" CNN’s Ed Henry asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today. "And how does that bode for bipartisanship in the future working with the Republicans?"
Clearly sensing an opportunity to hand-select an opponent — not quite a straw man, since Mr. Limbaugh is quite real, but certainly not the man most Republican officials want to be the face of their party — Gibbs said, "I think the question is a good one."
Pushing reporters and cable chatterers to pursue a question that is currently dividing the Republican party — RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Limbaugh have been feuding as of late — Gibbs suggested that "the best question, though, is for you to ask individual Republicans whether they agree with what Rush Limbaugh said this weekend. Do they want to see the president’s economic agenda fail? You know, I bet there are a number of guests on television throughout the day and maybe into tomorrow who could let America know whether — whether they agree with what Rush Limbaugh said this weekend."
On This Week on Sunday, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., told George Stephanopoulos that he disagreed with what Limbaugh said. "I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now. We have such challenges. What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today. And our common-sense, conservative principles of limited government, and the belief in free markets, and the belief that really opportunity can only be created by the private sector are going to undergird our proposals going forward," Cantor said.
On his radio show in January, Limbaugh said of Obama: "I hope he fails … Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’ Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: ‘Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.’ Somebody’s gotta say it."
On Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Limbaugh said "This notion that I want the president to fail, this shows you the problem we’ve got. This is nothing more than common sense and to not be able to say it? Why in the world would I want what we just described: rampant government growth, wealth that is not being created yet is being spent? What is in this, what is possibly in this that any of us want to succeed? Did the Democrats want the war of Iraq to fail? They certainly did. And they not only wanted the war in Iraq to fail they proclaimed it a failure. … They hoped George Bush failed. So what is so strange about being honest and saying I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?"
Gibbs said Limbaugh "doubled down on what he said in January in wishing and hoping for economic failure in this country. I can only imagine what might have been said a few years ago if somebody might have said that on the other side relating to what was going on in this country or our endeavors overseas … I’d like to think and I think most people would like to think that we can put aside our differences and get things done for the American people. We’ll say, in watching a few cable clips of Mr. Limbaugh’s speech, his notion of presidential failures seemed to be quite popular in the room in which he spoke."
Asked if he if was a "political tactic" to elevate Limbaugh, Gibbs said, "I think he elevated himself. He’s got, I understand, a fairly popular radio show. … I don’t think it’s a crazy question to ask about the commenting on whether or not somebody that seems to be maybe, for lack of a better word, a national spokesperson for conservative views and many in the Republican Party, what do I think about or what does this White House think about him on at least two separate occasions in front of large and applauding audiences seeking the failure of the president’s economic agenda?"