As the nation tries to talk about pragmatic solutions to the economic crisis, leading voice advises GOP to bring back Bush-era rhetoric of 'good and evil.'

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 03/02/2009

After watching Rush Limbaugh's speech to CPAC, I wondered why not a single reporter in the broadcast media commented on how much he sounded like George W. Bush. 

Remember how our last president used to speak?  George W. Bush spent his entire presidency talking obsessively about the struggle between 'good and evil'--the main thrust in Rush Limbaugh televised speech. 

Is this news to anybody? Apparently, the broadcast media have forgotten--as if by evil potion--the hundreds of speeches Bush made where he reduced the complexity of all domestic and foreign policy down to 'good 'n evil,' not to mention all the Saturday Night Live and Daily Show segments that ridiculed him for doing it.

If you go over our Bush's transcripts, the word 'evil' is mentioned literally hundreds of times.  Over and over again, Bush talked about the struggle against evil, the ideology of evil, evil-doers, evil this, evil that.  In his very last speech to the nation, Bush said,"I've often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable.  But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise."  

That sounds so familiar.  Where have I heard that recently?  Oh, that's right.  I heard it in Rush Limbaugh's speech to CPAC:

Where is the compromise between good and evil?  Should Jesus have cut a different deal?  Serious. From the standpoint of what we have to do, folks, this is not about taking a policy or a process that the Democrats have put forward and fighting around the edges. If we're going to convince the minds and hearts of the American people that what's about to happen to them is as disastrous as anything in their lives in peacetime, we're going to have to discuss philosophy with them. We are going to have to talk about principles, because our principles are not present in what's happening here. So where the hell do we go to compromise what we believe in when our principles are not their principles, they're just the opposite of what's happening? (link)

Summing up:  Limbaugh advises his charges that they revive Bush's favorite rhetorical tactic. The Republican Party should not talk about policies or even address what Democrats or anyone else is actually doing.   Instead, says Rush, the GOP should drag the country--kicking and screaming if necessary)--back to the same, non-productive conversation about 'good and evil' that Bush forced on the American public for eight long and destructive years.

Fun for us!

So, when Democrats offer solutions to unemployment--Limbaugh advises Republicans to talk about 'good and evil.'

When Democrats propose ways to revive the banking industry--Limbaugh advises Republicans to talk about 'good and evil.'

When Democrats try to stop the spread of house foreclosures and keep families from going homeless--Limbaugh advises Republicans to talk about 'good and evil.'

When Democrats try to make affordable health care available to all--Limbaugh advises Republicans to talk about 'good and evil.'

No matter what the Democrats try, no matter what problem needs solving, no matter how many people depend on the solution--Limbaugh advises Republicans to talk about 'good and evil.'

Is Limbaugh the new leader of the Republican Party?  Not really.  Rush Limbaugh is still just a successful drive-time radio entertainer with an audience he maintains due to the staggering number of markets his show dominates.  In politics, Limbaugh is anything but a leader.  He is just trying to resurrect the approach Bush used to divide the country and win elections in 2000 and 2004.  And who can blame him?  When Bush used the 'good and evil' tactic, it was remarkably effective.

Truth be told, if all you want to do is win elections to elect Republicans who will pass laws filled with giveaway tax cuts for the people making more millions of dollars per year, Bush and Limbaugh's 'good and evil' approach is a good way to go.

On the other hand, if you want lead a productive national discussion about real solutions to real problems Americans face--unemployment, cost of eduction, health care, home foreclosure, banks collapsing--the whole 'good and evil' approach will not work.    Why?  Because Bush and Limbaugh's 'good and evil' approach to debate suffocates any pragmatic discussion that may be out there.  It is the poison pill that can bring any debate to its knees.

Here is a scenario, for example, that I have found myself in dozens of times over the past few months.  In a discussion about potentially crippling rates of national unemployment, I try to engage Republicans in a conversation about investing in shovel-ready public infrastructure and green energy projects to put people to work.  They respond, "Socialism is bad."  The conversation dies.

Here is another scenario similar to the first.  I try to talk to a Republican about improving America's health care system by pushing for a single-payer system or a combination of single-payer and private options that gives everybody coverage.  They respond, "Big government is bad, we'll end up with a system worse than the communists."   Converstion on health care:  RIP.

When I try to talk about reviving automotive industry, Republicans respond, "Unions are corrupt." Conversation, adieu.

When I try to talk about improving education, Republicans respond, "Teachers are elitists." Conversation, bye-bye, Birdie.

The sticking point in all these "quick death to conversation" scenarios is not that I disagree with Republicans on policies.  We  never even get to the policies. Following the lead of Bush, and now the advice of Limbaugh, these Republicans simply crash the conversation into the tree of 'good and evil' instead of actually stepping up to offer something pragmatic and useful. 

So, here we are in March of 2009--almost six months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent the world economy spiraling down into its worst crisis since the Great Depression--and the loudest Republican voice advises his party to avoid any pragmatic discussion in favor of reviving the conversation-killing tactics of George W. Bush.

Will it work?  Will a majority of the country follow Limbaugh back over the cliff and lose themselves in go-nowhere, do-nothing 'good and evil' banter? 

Not a chance.

Radio listeners may enjoy Limbaugh's one-liners, occasionally, but we are finished with the Bush Presidency 'good and evil is all we get to say' thing.   Americans are pragmatic people.  We have solutions to offer, ideas to debate, work to get started.    Plus, after listening to Bush and Limbaugh talk 'good and evil' for eight, long years, we have simply moved on.  We have turned our attention away from entertainment and towards finding ways to fix the problems we face right now: putting people back to work; ending the fear and greed that cripples our health care system; reviving American manufacturing with a new vision for the future.  

In light of those challenges and the millions of Americans ready and willing to get to work on them, following Limbaugh back into the dead-end zone of Bush-era 'good and evil' talk seems like a waste of time.

And we have wasted far to much time already.

© Jeffrey Feldman 2009, Frameshop

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