Thursday, June 4, 2009

Say hello to his little friend

If you’ve watched MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” recently, you’ve probably seen him, Olbermann’s on-screen dancing compadre, the little videogolem that appears every so often, embedded there in the lower right hand corner of the screen during Olbermann's program. You have to look closely; the little fellow to Olbermann’s left is in constant motion. It takes a moment to make out who you’re looking at. Is that … Rush Limbaugh?

Yes, the celebrated talk-radio Doberman and former recreational pharmaceutical enthusiast has another gig, with MSNBC, as Little Rush, the prisoner of a loop of a videotape made during Limbaugh’s recent February address before the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington.

In the original CPAC videotape Rush the Hutt is waxing belligerent, relishing in his financial success, dismissing allegations of pomposity and feeding a crowd of conservatives the anti-media, anti-progressive red meat they've come to thrive on. “Rush! Rush! Rush!” the cry goes up, as Limbaugh, high on the adulation, obeying his inner rock star, stood there and did what the profoundly heavy-set are advised not to do: bounce rapidly up and down in a standing position, arms waving in frantic rhythm.

That’s the miniaturized Rush who shows up occasionally in the corner of the MSNBC screen.

As you’ve no doubt guessed from reading this (and if you’re a regular “Countdown” watcher you already know), Olbermann is no friend of Limbaugh or the strident, xenophobic, borderline-racist or past-borderline racist remarks that have endeared Limbaugh to conservatives for years. That fact alone has made Limbaugh a perfect target of opportunity in the dawn of the Obama administration, and the apparent twilight of the GOP.

That’s probably why Limbaugh made the appeal to Olbermann to program his show “without doing a single story on me,” to leave him out of “Countdown” programs for 30 days from May 20.

“He’s suddenly gone all Greta Garbo on us,” Olbermann said that evening. “Suddenly the impact of being called out day after day, hour after hour as a faux-populist, press-release-regurgitating lackey of repressive and regressive political flunkies — that has hit bone. Finally.”

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But square that with the fact that Limbaugh, gamely attempting to fill the philosophical vacuum that’s plagued the GOP for years, has lately gone on the offensive, making a variety of comments that suggest he’s returned to his recreational pharmaceutical enthusiasms. Just today in an interview with (who else) Fox News, Limbaugh proffered a cheap alignment of President Obama and the al-Qaida cabal.

“If al-Qaida wants to demolish the America we know and love,” he said, “they better hurry, because Obama is beating them to it.”

Rush, Rush, Rush. Trying to have his sheet cake and eat it too.

So Olbermann’s little visual thrill all makes sense. The best way to take down a blowhard is with a reflection of his own hubris; the best way to deal with a bully is to bully him back. Little Rush is a figurative thumb in the eye of the real Limbaugh, a malcontent without principles. It’s just one of the barbed traps and whoopee cushions Olbermann sets out for only the most deserving.

And Rush Limbaugh is truly deserving.

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