Saturday, March 21, 2009

Patterico: 'The Final Word'?

"Conservatives believe that Americans understand that freedom is the foundation of this country. Too many in America started down the wrong path in the last election. But we can't hold these people in contempt, and we can't discount how they will hear the message we preach. Americans are fundamentally reasonable people. And ultimately, our message will win them over -- if we preach it in a proud, confident, and positive way."
-- Patterico
This, as he says on the Tweet deck, is what he means to be "the final word" in his long-running dispute with Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom over Rush Limbaugh and the whole question of conservative "messaging" in general.

My opinion? I'm not sure that the entire Socratic dialogue, amounting to however many tens of thousands of words over the past two weeks, is as important as any 15-minute segment of the Limbaugh show.

What makes Rush different from any other conservative spokesman is that Rush has an independent platform from which he reaches something like 20 million people weekly. There is no network CEO or programming director who can influence Limbaugh. He can't be fired or threatened by some little pencil-necked geek: "Don't say that again, or we'll put you on 90-day probation -- and you know you're coming up on your annual evaluation . . ." blah, blah, blah.

To quote Wally Onakoya, "He is a man, you know."

By virtue of his "talent on loan from God," Limbaugh has utter independence. No radio station that carries him is going to pull him off the air because of a single ill-phrased comment. Having Rush means carrying the No. 1 radio program in America. To pull Rush out of your program lineup means automatically to surrender the lead in your local market.

Therefore, what is remarkable about Limbaugh is not that he occasionally says something like, "I want [Obama] to fail," which can be taken out of context and portrayed as something unseemly. Rather, what is remarkable is that, in 15 hours of live programming weekly over the span of 20 years, Limbaugh has never uttered that one career-destroying gaffe. This suggests to me that Rush is a thoughtful person who fully understands the enormous responsibility that weighs on his shoulders, and who is determined to make his spectacular success a force for good in America.

There is an entire mini-industry of Limbaugh monitors, vile little left-wing worms who spend three hours a day recording and transcribing his broadcasts in hope of catching that one "gotcha" quote. (Pathetic, isn't it?) These nests of vermin specialize in the Ransom-Note Method of partial quotation, claiming to be "fact-checking" Limbaugh's monologues when in fact they're just partisan smearmongers. And then there is the standing offer of a handsome fee for a Newsweek cover story available to any Republican who will denounce Rush. So the man is always a target, always the object of the withering gaze of critical scrutiny.

Do I agree with everything Rush Limbaugh has ever said? What kind of question is that? The point is that Rush "is a man, you know," as the driver of Fairway Cab No. 1 so succinctly put it at CPAC. Whatever Limbaugh's faults, he has that one redeeming value: Courage to speak out, even when speaking out makes him the target of vicious personal smears.

One of the basic principles of military strategy is to reinforce success. If you see a man who fights and wins, give him reinforcements, and bid others to emulate his success. It's like the time when Abraham Lincoln was urged to relieve U.S. Grant of command because Grant was accused of having been drunk on duty. Lincoln answered bluntly: "I can't spare this man. He fights." It's also like the time when Robert E. Lee, confronted at Richmond with George McClellan's much larger Union force, decided to send a division of his little army to the Shenandoah Valley to reinforce Stonewall Jackson. Lee said, "We must aid a gallant man if we perish."

That's why when I see somebody like Kathy Shaidle -- who is to Canada what the Tasmanian devil is to Tasmania -- my instinct is to yell, "Hell, yeah! Give it to 'em, girl! Hit 'em where it hurts and force the cowardly bastards to defend themselves!" Reinforce success.

Tell you what: You find yourself a thousand David Brookses and a thousand Kathleen Parkers, and you give me one Rush Limbaugh and one Kathy Shaidle and, buddy, we'll whup your ass before sundown.

They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty . . .
-- Psalms 69:4 (KJV)
The other day on the phone, I was telling Cynthia Yockey about my admiration for George S. Patton. He was a proud, profane and hot-tempered man. His faults were many, but Patton had two saving graces: Faith in God and a determination to fight.

He believed himself destined for victory, and when he was sidelined after slapping a soldier he considered a malingering coward, Patton felt unfairly cheated of command in the Normandy invasion. He was in a low place, that dark valley that David spoke of in the Psalms, but he was steadfast in his faith.

When the Allies finally broke out of the beachhead at St. Lo, it was Patton who spearheaded the assault. He pushed all the way through to liberate the Brittany peninsula, then turned around and raced southward to crush the German forces around Paris -- a campaign that ranks among the greatest achievements in the history of American arms.

What happened next? Over Patton's vehement objections, Eisenhower reinforced failure, diverting resources for Montgomery's ill-conceived and ill-executed Operation Market Garden, which sacrificed gallant men for minor gains (a tragedy captured in Cornelius Ryan's classic A Bridge Too Far, the film of which I highly recommend.) As a result of this blunder, Hitler was able to regroup and launch the final desperate winter assault that became famous as the Battle of the Bulge. And when the 101st Airborne was besieged at Bastogne, who was it that punched through the encircling enemy to rescue them? Patton, of course.

Constitutional liberty and a free economy, the true principles that conservatives should always aim to defend, are in deep peril. We are in that dark valley. Talk to veteran Republican operatives, and you will find them profoundly concerned about the apparent disorganization at RNC-HQ. If the conservatives are going to prevail in this crisis, it will be up to the grassroots troops in the field.

A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi -- a precipice in front, wolves behind. Yet we see the wheels falling off the wobbly bandwagon of Hope, and we are certain of one thing about Obamanomics: It Won't Work. If truth can get a fair hearing, there is still hope against Hope.

What we need most in this crisis is courage for the fight. We must not take counsel of our fears (click that link to read what is probably my best effort at an in-depth analysis of the current situation). If we heed the voices of defeatism and despair, if we allow ourselves to be distracted by carping criticisms from The Dogs Who Bark While the Caravan Moves On, if we start endlessly second-guessing our gut instincts because we're afraid of offending the sensibilities of the editors at Newsweek -- well, that way lies disaster.

Patterico speaks of the American people as "fundamentally reasonable," and I believe this to be true. When I refer to The Ordinary American, it is this basic decency and the common sense of common people I mean to praise, in contrast to the viciousness and folly of the Establishment elite. (David Brooks being the most salient example of how elitism is a bipartisan problem.) The people may sometimes be misled or deceived, but they cannot be deceived forever.

As the incompetence and corruption of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid regime become increasingly evident, the Ordinary American seeks an alternative. The task of conservatives in this time of peril is to raise a banner around which the good and true will rally. We need a fighting creed, and courageous hearts with strong voices to shout it: WOLVERINES!


  1. Another insightful column into the whole conservative messaging issue which arose over Rush's comments about wanting Obama's socialist programs to fail. I agree with your take and the money quote as far as I'm concerned is, "I'm not sure that the entire Socratic dialogue, amounting to however many tens of thousands of words over the past two weeks, is as important as any 15-minute segment of the Limbaugh show."
    I for one appreciate a take no prisoners approach to the intellectual battle being waged for America's soul.

  2. Well-written and entirely correct. I've listened to Rush, off and on, since 1987 or whenever he first hit the national airwaves. Some of his thoughts seem taken right out of my cranium; others won't connect with me at all. But his galvanizing effect on his audience is unquestionable. He's alright by me.

    Patterico, bless his lawyerly heart, wants to win so badly that he would sell pieces of his soul to do so. I'd rather retain my principles and strongly oppose the ambitions of those who seek to CHANGE this country for the worst, no matter how much FAIL is written into the retort. Obama must fail for this nation to remain recognizable.

    Oh, and the "Final Word"? Please, Patterico. You're starting to sound like Al Gore.

  3. The problems in this space are more complex than anyone has yet bothered to address. In particular, it's vital to separate matters of conviction from matters of technique and style. Most persons on the Right have good convictions, but many of us -- as our styles and rhetorical toolboxes stand -- would best serve the Republic by never leaving the house without first locking on a ball gag.

    First: Does the situation demand combat or persuasion? Obviously these require quite different approaches, no matter how attached one is to one's ideas or how far from anyone's positions they are.

    Second: If we're in combat mode, what are the stakes? What one stands to win or lose by triumphing in a no-holds-barred argument isn't always perfectly clear -- and sometimes, one alienates so many onlookers with one's tactics that to win is to lose.

    Third: If we're in persuasion mode, are any of those listening to us even potentially persuadable? Many persons are more firmly attached to their political positions than to their genitals. They didn't reason their way to their postures; they adopted or acquired them by non-rational means, and so can't be persuaded from them by mere logic or evidence. A good example is the adoption of "country-club convictions:" whatever the necessary set of "convictions" and attitudes are required to fit in properly with the social set to which one aspires. Offering logic and evidence to such a person is pointless; you must offer him access to a still more desirable social circle.

    Fourth: Personal style and persuasive style must be compatible. Many persons are poor persuaders but excellent rabble-rousers; the inverse is also true. And of course, there are persons who can't do either well. Effectiveness at political discourse isn't given to all of us, once one considers personality factors, available audience, and context.

    I counsel everyone on the Right to take these matters seriously enough not to be satisfied with a simple, monochromatic answer -- especially not an answer that just plain "feels good." This is something that's worth doing well if possible, or at least no worse than we can manage.

  4. I wish this McCain had been on the ballot.

  5. Thank you for the link, Robert, and the remarks.

    Thank you also for using the quote that opens the article. From reading comments over the past few days, it's clear that many misunderstand my message -- but it's well encapsulated in that quote.

    What I don't understand, really, is this:

    "My opinion? I'm not sure that the entire Socratic dialogue, amounting to however many tens of thousands of words over the past two weeks, is as important as any 15-minute segment of the Limbaugh show."

    I'm trying to figure out what you mean by that and I can't come up with anything that makes sense unless you're talking about sheer audience numbers. That's fine if you are, but that's not how I measure the importance of ideas, and I'd be surprised to learn that you disagree.

    Now, I don't consider myself "important." I'm just a guy on the Internet spouting opinions like anyone else. But the ideas I discuss are sometimes important -- not because I'm discussing them, but because they just *are*.

    Your post also could be read to say Limbaugh is more "important" because he has "[c]ourage to speak out, even when speaking out makes him the target of vicious personal smears."

    I think you're selling us bloggers short if you think we lack that. We've all been targets of vicious personal smears. It comes with the territory. In the very post of mine you link, I defend myself against accusations regarding my honesty and even my sanity. I have faced other such attacks, and I'm quite sure you have too -- I'm right, aren't I? -- and so have others. Comes with the territory.

    Rush has suffered many, many more such smears than all of us put together, I'd wager. But that's a function, again, of his audience size -- not his superior courage.

    As far as audience size goes: if Robert Stacy McCain is saying something that Instapundit isn't saying and that needs to be said, then Robert Stacy McCain is more "important" on that topic.

    In my opinion.

    Oh, and Serr8d: I reject your implication that I am unprincipled. To put it kindly: bugger off. I *think* Robert recognizes that I am not unprincipled, and I think that fair-minded people who actually take the time to read my words (and not how they are characterized elsewhere) will agree.

    I've said that I'm tired of discussing this, so -- even if people come on here after my comment and misrepresent and/or attack me, which is not unlikely -- I don't intend to return to conduct another endless debate in your comments section. I encourage anyone who has formed the impression of me as some kind of unprincipled or wimpy person to actually read my words -- click on the link Robert provided and give me a fair chance to address you directly. If a subsequent commenter comes on here and makes my message sound unprincipled, read my actual message unfiltered by the commenter's spin.

    Thank you again for the link.

  6. HELL YEAH! What a great rally article! And now we need to make the TV ad version and play it frequently. We have much more that unites us than divides us.

  7. Mr. Patterico:

    The passage you quote seems also to have been taken the wrong way by Jeff Goldstein. I was trying to say ("intentionality"!) that we need to keep this dispute in perspective. Yes, sheer audience size matters and -- compared to Rush -- all the rest of us are just so many fleas on an elephant's ass.

    Rush has that audience because, over the course of 20-odd years, he has been the most articulate and effective spokesman for mainstream conservative arguments. His long tenure and his hard-won influence are due respect. This doesn't mean he is above criticism, but it does mean that whatever he may say that would elicit criticism from conservatives needs to be weighed in the balance against the tremendous good he has done.

    As to what good David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, et al., have done . . . give me a minute, I'm sure I can think of something . . .

  8. "Yes, sheer audience size matters and -- compared to Rush -- all the rest of us are just so many fleas on an elephant's ass."


    On a serious note: I understand your point but disagree with your formulation. For example, I have a bigger audience than most of my commenters (who don't write blogs but just read them). But I don't believe they are therefore less "important" than I am. My commenters as a collective know way more than I will ever know.

    I consider Rush's audience important. But he's just a person and while his power to influence is great, I don't concede that he (or Obama or Tim Robbins or any other single person [fill in the blank]) is thereby more "important" than any of us.

    What's important is our ideas. Rush's ideas have won many adherents, and that's a big deal. But I separate those from the man.

  9. Now, now, Patterico, you're getting increasingly thin-skinned. You've your derringer for distributing whatever flavor of Conservative ideas you espouse; Rush Limbaugh has his rail cannon. My principles are such that I immediately aligned with and supported Rush's original four words and continue to support what he said; you came out against him. You aligned, for better or worse, with foes. Fine.

    But don't cry when you get called on it.

  10. Americans like strong leaders but I think conservatism is about principles more than personalities. That puts the GOP at a disadvantage, especially at times like this last election when the GOP couldn't answer the Democrats' cult of Obama.

    I think debates such as the ones between Patterico and Jeff are good because they help us evaluate ways to communicate our conservative ideas and principles, but now each side has had its say. Thus, I applaud Patterico's decision to conclude by reaffirming his belief in the judgment of the American people. Here's hoping the 2010 midterms will return a GOP majority to Congress.

  11. oh. Yes we can hold these people in contempt. I'm contemptuous of anyone what cast a vote for president in 2008 whether they voted for the dirty socialist hungarian catspaw or for the odious geezer. Including myself. Everyone what voted needs to do that Shiite thang where they whip themselves silly. It was just so wrong.

  12. serr8d, hanging with legion of the south again, eh? I think this is perfect: two neo-confederate Southern males following Rush the III's political philosophy into increasing irrelevance is awesome!

    PS Please take happyfeet with you. He's growing increasingly unstable.

  13. He's growing increasingly unstable.

    This, from a guy who obsessively comments on any thread that involves Goldstein.

  14. Oh, and Serr8d: I reject your implication that I am unprincipled. To put it kindly: bugger off. I *think* Robert recognizes that I am not unprincipled, and I think that fair-minded people who actually take the time to read my words (and not how they are characterized elsewhere) will agree.

    Okay, let's put an end to this convenient fiction once and for all.

    Patterico used a trumped up charge of a non-existent "death threat" to ban me from his site.

    Once he'd established the pretext for disallowing me to defend myself -- and giving his commenters the freedom to attack me without my having recourse to respond directly to them (something I've never disallowed him to do on my site) -- he then encouraged people to support his "honor" at the expense of mine.

    One of his commenters, after having already declared that I was guilty of acting in bad faith with respect to debating Patterico on the issues of language (another ridiculous charge, inasmuch as I've consistently and patiently answered his questions, even going so far as to write a primer for him on semiotics, sent via email; and as anyone who's been following my posts, or who read my Hot Air essay knows, I am committed to the argument, and have always welcomed those who wish to debate it), decided he'd "look at the evidence" and decide who was at fault for the way this has all turned.

    Unsurprisingly, he ignored all evidence, provided by way of links, that militated against the conclusion he'd already reached before hand. In the end, he declared me guilty, as decided by him, using his filter, and without the benefit of my being allowed to defend myself.

    In short, a show trial.

    To recap, this "principled man" -- and lord knows he'll remind you of how principled he is at every fucking turn -- 1) used a dishonest reading of a comment I'd made (and everyone has agreed on that point, with the exception of Patterico, for who denial is key to his being able to establish his pretext) to give himself leave to ban me from his site.

    2) He then encouraged others to defend his honor.

    3) He then stepped away and allowed his apparatchiks to take whatever potshots they wanted at me, including personal shots that redounded to my family -- including vulgar suggestions that my wife was some sort of dupe who'd I'd managed to impregnate so I can keep up my unemployed life style.

    They did this knowing I was unable to respond, and they have continued to do so.

    Brave commenters that he has have no weighed in on problems with my "theory," even as they continue to misunderstand it.

    Of course, having me around to correct them has not helped Patterico's cause. And in fact, it is that he's been getting his ass handed to him on the merits -- by an "unemployed" and rather shiftless reprobate who only argues these things, as Patterico has now twice reminded us, "for the money" -- that is likely behind this pretext to ban me and "protect his honor."

    Patterico lies. He dissembles. When called on errors, he works tirelessly to gradually backtrack and reshape his argument so that it comes more into line with what the winning argument is. He then claims he's been there all along -- and that "attacks" on his arguments are really motivated by some desire to destroy his reputation.

    Those dual motivations -- money and a desire to destroy his reputation -- would come as a shock to my archives, wherein it is clear I've been making these arguments about language since I began my site at the very end of 2001, long before I knew of Patterico, long before I had ads on my site, and long before I supposedly was out solely to "destroy" Patrick Frey's "reputation."

    The faux humility he shows in this thread ("I'm not important blah blah blah") is belied by his constant efforts to turn debates on merit into battles over his honor, and to cast his interlocutors as lesser persons out to bring him down out of malice or some other base motive he ascribes to them.

    In this sorry affair, Patterico has argued precisely like a leftist.

    He has trumped up a ludicrous charge against me, one that he knows didn't match my intent; he used these charges to justify taking away both my meaning and my ability to defend myself; he then let his commenters lynch me publicly; and he yet he continues to pretend he is a principled guy.

    Ironically, Patterico's attacks perform some of the very things I argued that the right can't allow the left to do. I argued for a taking back of language.

    He has become what I was fighting against. So it's no wonder that in the scheme of things, he continues to back a faulty view of language, and that he draws his support for such a view from "pragmatists" and a progressive literary theorist on his site who presumes to hamstring my argument when I'm not around to point out his red herrings.

    Principled? I don't that means what Patrick Frey thinks it does.

    And I'm no longer going to pretend Patterico is anything other than he is.

  15. Rush Limbaugh did not wake up one day to an audience of 20 million listeners, nor did he become the standard by which all other talk radio shows are measured by trying to reason with the opposition and gently persuading them with mind-numbing argument ala William F. Buckley. From the beginning Rush employed an "in your face" strategy coupled with stinging humor that both delighted his conservative listeners and infuriated liberals all over the country. We can all take a lesson from Rush. Regardless of the size of our forum we must be willing to take the fight to liberals and beat them into submission with our ideals. You can't take a knife to a gunfight and hope to win, and win we must, our children's future hangs in the balance.

    Rush Limbaugh Rocks

  16. This, from a guy who obsessively comments on any thread that involves Goldstein.

    Yeah, except that comment was about Serr8d, a rather frightening "Southern" gent is prefers his "party" Chip Saltsman style, rather than Karl Rove style.

    Goldstein's presence is just icing, Slart, just like yours.

    Although, what is this the second or third time you've mentioned this here or at PW? You fascinated with me or with protecting the wrestler?

  17. Yeah, except that comment was about Serr8d

    Generally when one says something like "he's growing increasingly unstable", the antecedent is the most recent possible one, which was happyfeet. In this case, though, it doesn't matter all that much, because it's a classic case of McMurphy calling the kettle black.

    Although, what is this the second or third time you've mentioned this here or at PW?

    First time, here. That was the first time I've commented here, actually. I'm sure I've mused aloud about that elsewhere from time to time, though, because it's dead obvious to anyone having functional eyeballs that you've got some kind of love/hate thing going on with Jeff, and can't seem to resist telling anyone who will listen (or not) how not nice Jeff is.

  18. Mr. Patterico, I took you up on your offer to judge you based on your own words. Which were:

    1. When a commenter of Patterico's said that Jeff G. impregnated his wife so that he could live off her money, you called that commenter "decent" and indicated you took no issue with his comments.

    2. When the same commenter (who earlier threatened to show up at an event that Jeff G. would be at) said you should give Jeff G. enough rope to hang himself with, and Jeff G. said that he would bring the tree, you accused Jeff G. of making a death threat against that commenter. You banned Jeff G. based specifically on the claim of that "death threat".

    3. After that commenter (and numerous others) said even he understood it wasn't a death threat against him, you then admitted that you were banning Jeff G. because, as Jeff G. was an unemployed person who sat on his ass all day doing nothing but trying to ruin your reputation, you didn't want him posting on your blog -- but allowing the specious "death threat" charge to stand.

    So when you try to paint yourself as having been the principled victim in this exchange... I hope you fail.

  19. Goldsteins

    Its becomeing a new word for extreme victim acting, like the soccer player who throws his hands up in the air and falls, flips and rolls when slightly bumped.

    Its too bad that a war of ideas based upon freedoms and the fresh interchange of ideas has denegrated into a series of how many inches of *fake* outrage can a guy write - to (perhaps?)recreate that famous incident that gave him last 15 minutes of fame.

    Pat et al are probably not falling for it.

  20. Fake outrages, anonymous? You mean like the completely fabricated "death threat" ploy? Is that the sort of fake outrage you're referring to?

  21. You said it yourself: He has 20 million listeners and can't be told what to do.

    So how can you at once praise his independence and listening audience size and also say he's never made a career-destroying gaffe.

    By virtue of his large listener size, he has the independence to say anything he wants, like, "The NFL looks like the Bloods and the Crips," and not be fired. (ie the profit motive)