- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009

UPDATED:

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 is listened to by millions of Americans.

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 after 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.”

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, told The Washington Times on Sunday that Mr. Emanuel’s comments about Mr. Limbaugh was a political red herring designed to distract the public from the Democrats’ failed policies.

“Americans won’t be distracted from congressional Democrat ‘leaders’ nearly $4 trillion budget, over $1 trillion in tax hikes and over $1 trillion of taxpayers’ money spent in less than two months,” Mr. McCotter said.

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.

Mr. Limbaugh was the main attraction when speaking Saturday on the final day of a three-day Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. His appearance drew more interest and excitement than any speaker in the 36 years of the event, organizers said, attracting almost 2,000 people crammed into a ballroom while hundreds more watched on big-screen televisions set up in two overflow rooms.

Opening his speech, which was covered live by Fox News, C-SPAN and other networks, he joked that “this is my first ever address to the nation.”

Mr. Limbaugh said it was not unpatriotic to want the new president to fail because his policies - if successful - will cause the nation to fail.

“I want anyone who believes in life, liberty, pursuit of happiness to succeed,” he said. “And I want any force, any person, any element of an overarching big government that would stop your success, I want that organization, that element, or that person to fail.”

Mr. Emanuel, a former Democratic House member from Chicago, said he appreciated Mr. Limbaugh’s “honesty,” saying that the talk show host “has been up front about what he views, and hasn’t stepped back from that.”

But the former lawmaker said Republicans would be ill-advised to follow the radio personality’s position on Mr. Obama because the president - and the Democratic Party - had been given a mandate by voters in November.

“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.

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