Washington Babylon — March 6, 2009, 9:24 am

Media Fuels Tale of Obama-Limbaugh “Feud”

“GOP Fights Back Over Criticism of Limbaugh,” ran the headline in today’s Washington Post. “White House Is Accused Of Cynicism, Hypocrisy.” The accompanying story was written by Howard Kurtz and was an epic example of building a “conflict” around partisan talking points, which are accepted at face value instead of being treated as self-evident political spin.

Kurtz’s latest effort was highly similar to a campaign piece he wrote last year in which Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s top campaign strategist, complained bitterly (in an exclusive interview with water-carrier Kurtz) that the news media was “on a mission to destroy” Sarah Palin and that the McCain camp was in the middle of the worst media “feeding frenzy” that Schmidt had ever seen. Kurtz dubbed Schmidt’s banal and self-serving remarks as “extraordinary and emotional” and expressed amazement that McCain’s man had “talked openly about his frustrations.” Stunning stuff, indeed.

Now, Kurtz has again found angry Republicans, this time Senator John Cornyn, who calls the White House’s attacks on Limbaugh an “outrage” that “reeks of hypocrisy coming from a president who campaigned against these very cynical political tactics last fall.” House Minority Leader John Boehner is also upset; he’s “accusing the White House of cynicism.” In another shocking discovery, Limbaugh says he is mad too, comparing his treatment at the hands of White House ruffians to Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.” (The Nixon White House, as described in a memorandum written by John Dean, was examining “how we can [secretly] use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies,” whereas the only impact of the Obama administration’s open attacks on Limbaugh thus far have been to double his dwindling ratings.)

Is the Obama administration actually being cynical in attacking Limbaugh and seeking to exploit this “feud” for political purposes? Of course it is — this is politics, what else is new? The Republicans do the same thing all the time, as one would expect. As noted in the Kurtz piece:

Mark McKinnon, a top adviser in President George W. Bush’s campaigns, acknowledged the value of picking a divisive opponent. “We used a similar strategy by making Michael Moore the face of the Democratic Party,” he said of the documentary filmmaker. “That’s why we gave him credentials to cover the 2004 convention and then turned the spotlight on him.”

Were Cornyn and Boehner outraged about that? Was the media?

Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada



September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today