Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)


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It is painfully clear that none of the GOP presidential candidates is capturing the imagination of fellow Republicans. Of course, that doesn’t count all of those in their party who imagine a better selection.

Right now, many despair at the choice between boring and loopy. How excited can one get about someone like a Mitt Romney, who seems to be about as genuine as a tourist at a dude ranch; a Rick Santorum, who informs us that separation of church and state makes him want to “throw up”; or a Newt Gingrich, who simply makes a lot of people want to throw up?

All of them don’t measure up in one way or another. But there is one man who does capture the harsh essence of the conservative movement. Is there anything more that needs saying? Of course not. That man is Rush Limbaugh, the Tin Man of rhetoric. He gets the juices going, and never mind that they are pure poison.

The fact that Democrats have been pouncing all over Limbaugh reinforces the extremists’ perverted sense of victimhood, because they can cling to their tale of woe that they’re under attack from sinister forces. Oh sure, Limbaugh called a young woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she supported paid coverage of contraceptives, but a lot of them took secret delight in his words. After all, if you can’t stand being barefoot and pregnant, get out of the kitchen.

And Rush Limbaugh is not a one-hit wonder. He has built up a record through the decades … speaking the far-right version of “truth” with his gratuitous attacks against women, minorities and Michelle Obama’s “uppity-ism.” He knows full well that “uppity” has long been a favorite word of racists, but whatever appeals to his devotees. Millions hang on his every word; how many millions is subject to debate, but a whole bunch of people love his hate. And the way that nearly all Republican candidates crawl in his presence shows how much they believe that to capture the base, debase.

So isn’t it time to get rid of the middlemen? Why not let the party standard-bearer be a man who has proven through many years to not bother one bit with decency? Republicans don’t care. They only want somebody who will not hold back in the fight to unseat Barack Obama, a person who will tell the world just how “uppity” this president has been.

There is a school of thought these days that the GOP is on a downward spiral, addicted to the extremism that has taken over and sapped all the rational lifeblood. Those who advocate that point of view — mainly Democrats, of course — suggest it will be only after the Grand Old Party hits rock bottom that it can return to a productive life. Rush knows the way. He is a longtime bottom feeder.

Yes, I know. There are doubts about whether Mitt, Rick and Newt will simply step aside. Why not? Surely their egos wouldn’t get in the way, right?

There are, however, at least two other problems gambling with this hazardous waste: First of all, there is no guarantee the party would rebound. There could be a push to go even lower. That’s what’s been happening for the past few decades. Secondly, there is a huge risk that he or someone like him actually might win. Remember, we’re talking about their opposition from liberals, who usually can’t resist blowing any advantage. No matter how unpopular the conservative policy, when those on the right play rough, time after time, the left usually forfeits.

The primary this year continues mining a partisan mean streak that is leaving the country bitterly divided. About the only thought that unites us these days is disgust. It’s what makes a Rush Limbaugh possible. It makes governing impossible.

© 2012 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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