Thursday afternoon, the press office of Maness’ campaign trumpeted that Bill Cassidy had been savaged by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show earlier in the day. Maness offered this audio clip the campaign put on its YouTube page…
Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
Except those aren’t Limbaugh’s words. He’s saying them, but it turns out he’s actually quoting TIME Magazine’s Joe Klein – who wrote a particularly execrable piece on how conspiracy theories and stupid Southerners who hate Obama are going to make it so the Democrats can’t hold the Senate.
Here’s a paragraph from Klein’s article you might recognize from Limbaugh’s audio…
Democrats are swimming against the prevailing cynicism as they attempt to retain the Senate this year. Across the South, their candidates are placing a heavy bet on women’s issues, especially equal pay, and education. In some places, like North Carolina, where a traditional emphasis on education spending has been violated by the Republican state legislature, they have a chance to win. In Louisiana, where Senator Mary Landrieu is facing a virtual candidate named Bill Cassidy–local reporters claim they can’t find the guy, and I couldn’t either–the incumbent is facing a real hurdle. The hurdle is Barack Obama, about whom the crazy rumors are–still!–thick, and the ads are constant: each of the incumbent Democratic Senators running in the Southern states I visited has voted with the President more than 90% of the time. That is one thing every voter who enters the polls will know next month.
And here’s the full transcript of Limbaugh’s treatment of Klein’s article. We offer this lengthy excerpt so our readers can get the full context of what the nation’s most listened-to radio host was saying…
RUSH: Joe Klein. I just printed this. Drudge highlighted this on his page today. Joe Klein, TIME magazine, a well-known liberal, has constantly made fun of people in the South and rubes and hayseeds and basically anybody he thinks is not properly sophisticated enough to understand the workings of the political class and the elites, the really smart people that run the country.
If you don’t respect that, then you’re a hayseed hick. “A Troubled American Moment — As conspiracy theories abound, voters are uncertain about what to believe.” Now, I’ve only had a chance to scan this. I haven’t read it in depth. So I could be wrong, but my original interpretation is that Klein’s a little bit more worried about the now. He’s not just chalking this up to the lunatic fringe. But I could be wrong.
Let’s delve here a little bit. He’s at a town meeting in Shreveport, Louisiana. And he’s out as a journalist, learning about people in places where you need a visa to go if you’re a journalist, like Louisiana. (interruption) “Like it’s a zoo exhibit,” exactly. The first question he got at a town meeting in Shreveport, Louisiana was, “How do you feel about the federal government buying tons of ammunition for the post office in order to raise the price of ammo for gun owners?”
Now, if that’s first question he got, I guarantee you he’s up there rolling his eyes. “Oh, my God, what a copy of insane asylum have I found myself in today? The first question he got: “How do you feel about the federal government buying tons of ammunition for the post office in order to raise the price of ammo for gun owners?” I’m reading from the piece now:
“Kevin and Lois Martello, a dentist and speech therapist, respectively, had put together a group of 15 friends and neighbors to talk politics, and it was pretty intense from the start. I asked Lee Foshee, who had raised the post-office question, where he’d heard that. He told me he had several sources. One of them may have been the right-wing Breitbart website, I later learned, which has been tracking ammo sales to federal agencies.
“Breitbart didn’t mention the price-raising strategy, but Bill Kostelka, a certified public accountant, confirmed that he’d had to stand in line to buy .22-caliber rounds recently. (For the record: the US Postal Inspection Service is armed and needs ammo from time to time.)” That’s what Klein says. “‘It’s hard to know what to believe,’ said Lois Martello, the host [and a dentist], who seemed as nonplussed by the post-office-ammo conspiracy as I was.
“She and her husband were a bit more moderate than some of their friends. ‘Especially in the election season,’ she continued, ‘when all the ads are on the air. But even on the news, it’s hard to tell what’s real.'” Klein writes, “I was tempted to defend my profession, but we seemed to be in a full-fledged American Moment, and I didn’t want to kill the buzz. Anyway, Kevin Martello [the speech therapist], Lois’ husband, tried to take the conversation ‘in a different direction,’ he said.
“‘I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty concerned that the top 1% of the population controls 40% of the wealth in this country.’ There were a couple of head nods but not much commentary. There was more concern about government waste than about unseen wealth. Indeed, another chorus of consternation ensued, this time about food stamps. Waylon Bates, the principal of the local middle school, said he’d seen people ‘buying T-bone steaks and giant bottles of orange soda’ with government scrip.
“Others said they’d seen the very same thing. And Foshee said he’d seen long lines at a combination liquor store and check-cashing place — a fine establishment, no doubt — on the day the Social Security disability checks came out each month.” Klein writes, “I have heard the T-bone steak and orange-soda riff a number of times on road trips in recent years. It is always T-bone steaks.
“Sometimes it’s dog food too. Is it true? Maybe so; there are food-stamp abuses, no doubt. Or maybe it happened once, someone saw it, and the story spread, sprayed into the atmosphere by talk radio. It is now an urban (and rural) legend. The food-stamp stories mix with more purposeful fantasies spread by interest groups, like the National Rifle Association’s constant spew that the government wants to ‘take away’ your guns rather than merely regulate their use.
“And then there are the immigrant stories: Kostelka heard about a carload of Mexicans stopped by the local police without driver’s licenses or proof of residency. ‘And they were given a fine and set free,’ he said. True, no doubt, but incomplete: fewer would-be immigrants have been crossing the border in recent years, and the [Regime] has been sending record numbers back home.
“Democrats are swimming against the prevailing cynicism as they attempt to retain the Senate this year. Across the South, their candidates are placing a heavy bet on women’s issues, especially equal pay, and education. In some places, like North Carolina, where a traditional emphasis on education spending has been violated by the Republican state legislature, they have a chance to win.
“In Louisiana, where Senator Mary Landrieu is facing a virtual candidate named Bill Cassidy — local reporters claim they can’t find the guy, and I couldn’t either — the incumbent is facing a real hurdle. The hurdle is Barack Obama, about whom the crazy rumors are — still! — thick, and the ads are constant: each of the incumbent Democratic Senators running in the Southern states I visited has voted with the President more than 90% of the time.
“That is one thing every voter who enters the polls will know next month.” Damn it! “There is also an undercurrent of fear — about ISIS and Ebola — that does not help the Democrats. Most of the people…” See?
See? It does not help. Ebola. Yep. Oh. It could hurt the Democrats. (gasping) Oh, damn. Oh, no. Ebola could be the undoing of our party? Oh, no.
“Most of the people I talked with don’t think this federal government is competent to handle anything. And there is an undercurrent of exhaustion, especially among Democrats who have talked themselves silly trying to dispel the rumor fog that has engulfed political discourse. These are stories that stick in the mind and rot the body politic. They are a dominant political currency, and not just in the South.”
Okay, so I misinterpreted it. He’s still ticked off about it and they’re still rubes and they’re still hicks and hayseeds and we’re losing to ’em now. That’s his point. Because some of what they believe might actually be a reason for them thinking it, damn it. Ebola, oh, my God, whoever thought an African disease could wipe out our party?
Limbaugh was actually mocking and disparaging Klein’s article for its parochialism and partisanship, and thus anything Klein might have said in that piece Limbaugh was quoting could not be taken, by anyone in good faith, as an endorsement of Klein’s words.
Which is precisely what Maness’ campaign did.
The naked dishonesty of this is breathtaking – not in the breach of faith with the voting public it represents, but in its thorough stupidity.
What do you think Limbaugh’s reaction is going to be when he finds out a candidate he’s barely, if ever discussed on his show has misused his words to disparage a candidate that he likely supports as a vehicle for getting rid of Harry Reid?
Let’s not forget that Limbaugh has three hours to kill on the air, and often kills much of that time sounding off about others who misuse his words. If he decides to correct Maness, he could make him famous as a liar. And if Rush Limbaugh calls Rob Maness out on his air, that’s the end of Maness’ direct-mail fundraising efforts and the end of his virtually nonexistent chance to make the runoff.
This isn’t some local radio show nobody’s ever heard. It’s the Rush Limbaugh show – the most documented three hours of radio in the world. You cannot lie about what Rush Limbaugh says without it being immediately corrected. Even the Times-Picayune’s Bruce Alpert hammered Maness for his fabulist press release – after Alpert initially got it wrong and had to correct his story, of course.
When you tell immediately provable lies, you lose credibility. This was a provable lie that didn’t even have any particular value to it – even if Limbaugh had said Cassidy was a virtual candidate, it’s hard to see how that would have changed anything in the race. So this was a cheap gimmick to get attention that had very little value, but lots of downside when Maness inevitably was exposed for spreading it.
And if Limbaugh decides to talk about it on his show Friday or Monday, that downside takes on a dig-a-hole-to-China quality.
This is political stupidity on a scale previously unknown in Louisiana – which isn’t a surprise, since Maness’ campaign is made up of people who don’t come from here. None of these people should ever work in Republican politics again; the danger is too great that they might ruin an actual electable candidate.