The Republicans strike back

Top GOP'ers are trying to deflect some of the Democrats' Rush Limbaugh-inspired attacks on the party.

Published March 5, 2009 3:00PM (EST)

Republicans have apparently settled on a new strategy for responding to the Democrats' use of Rush Limbaugh as a weapon against them: Respond in kind.

No, they're not attacking Michael Moore. They're just accusing Democrats of being partisans who are attempting to distract Americans from what they're doing by bringing up Limbaugh, and they're hitting President Obama hard, saying he's not living up to his campaign message.

In an op-ed in Thursday's Washington Post, House Minority Leader John Boehner writes:

In the first two months of 2009, the Democratic Congress and the White House have spent more money than the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the response to Hurricane Katrina. After they doled out taxpayer dollars at such a blistering pace, the instinct of many inside the Beltway is to do what's most convenient: desperately try to change the subject by creating straw men -- called "the party of no" -- to rally against.

And in a carefully calculated campaign, operatives and allies of the Obama administration are seeking to divert attention toward radio host Rush Limbaugh, and away from a debate about our alternative solutions on the economy and the irresponsible spending binge they are presiding over. This diversionary tactic will not create a single job or help a single family struggling in today's economic crisis. And that is where our focus should be...

President Obama has said that we must change the way Washington operates in order to address the unprecedented challenges of today. I hope that those inside and close to the administration begin heeding his advice, because the change-the-subject campaign they are employing is the oldest trick in Washington's book. This isn't about the leadership of political party officials or the influence of radio hosts. It's about the need for both parties to work together toward real solutions to end this recession and put Americans back to work.

Meanwhile, in an e-mail sent to supporters, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote:

During his campaign last year, President Obama promised to bring a new tone to Washington. He decried partisan politics and in a speech last September said, “We have real problems in this country right now and the American people are looking to us for answers, not distractions, no diversions, not manipulations.”

Yet, just weeks into his Administration the President’s staff has been caught engaging in a coordinated and cynical political attack game – the very diversion and manipulation then-candidate Obama attacked the McCain campaign for last year.

The apparent goal of this strategy was to distract public attention from the Democrats’ massive spending proposals by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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John Boehner R-ohio John Cornyn R-texas