President Obama’s chief of staff on Sunday called radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh the de facto leader of the Republican Party, saying that party lawmakers look to him for guidance and inspiration in lieu of strong leadership in their own ranks.
“He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party,” said Rahm Emanuel on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Mr. Emanuel blasted Mr. Limbaugh’s recent comments that Mr. Limbaugh hopes the new president and his policies fail, adding that Republicans are wary of crossing the powerful radio personality, whose daily show millions of Americans listen to.
Mr. Limbaugh has “called for President Obama to fail. That’s his view,” Mr. Emanuel said. “And whenever a Republican criticizes him, they have to run back and apologize to him, and say they were misunderstood.”
When Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, in January criticized Mr. Limbaugh and called for him to “back off,” Mr. Gingrey quickly recanted in a written statement and with an-air apology.
“I want to express to you and all your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments I made,” Mr. Gingrey told Mr. Limbaugh on his show a day her the lawmaker’s comments appeared in a Washington political publication. “I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments.”
Mr. Emanuel said it would be political suicide for Republicans to follow the radio personality’s lead in wishing ill on Mr. Obama.
“I think that’s the wrong philosophy for America, because what Americans want us to do and what President Obama has been very clear about is working together, setting our goals,” he said.
But House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, on Sunday was quick to dismiss accusations that Republicans take their cues from Mr. Limbaugh. He also said that Republicans do not want the president to fail.
“Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now,” Mr. Cantor said.