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The Real Deal

Via John Cole comes this bit of Limbaugh insight:

[T]he people on our side are really making a mistake if they go after Bobby Jindal on the basis of style. Because if you think — people on our side I’m talking to you — those of you who think Jindal was horrible, you think — in fact, I don’t ever want to hear from you ever again. … I’ve spoken to him numerous times, he’s brilliant. He’s the real deal.

Limbaugh said elsewhere in the broadcast:

We cannot shun politicians who speak for our beliefs just because we don’t like the way he says it.

Of course, no one is talking about shunning Jindal, much less doing so because of how he gives a speech. That would be a bizarre reaction for someone to have. It’s almost as bizarre as people who wanted to shut down all substantive criticism of Sarah Palin because she could give a good stemwinder. Limbaugh is saying that he will shun people who have a different interpretation of one speech by a politician he likes. Perhaps because this is not how he operates, Limbaugh cannot quite grasp the difference between shunning someone and judging and criticizing a speech on both substance and performance.

There is such a thing as constructive or at least healthy criticism, and there is such a thing as lamenting a bankruptcy of ideas, especially when it is a case of someone as genuinely talented and smart as Jindal reciting the no-earmarks-plus-more-tax-cuts catechism. It is all the more frustrating and painful to listen to the boilerplate when it is coming from someone we know could offer so much more that would be worthy of serious debate. Limbaugh is also more out of it than usual if he thinks that most critics on the right objected only to his delivery and style. It was the substance of what Jindal said, or rather all of the things he could have said as a policy expert but failed to say, that is driving us to distraction.

We could not have asked for a more compelling confirmation of the thesis of John Derbyshire’s cover story for the current issue on the debilitating effects of talk radio on the American right than this latest Limbaugh outburst. Perhaps the most relevant passage from the article was this one:

In place of the permanent things, we get Happy Meal conservatism: cheap, childish, familiar. Gone are the internal tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right.

Whatever else one might say in support of any of the positions Jindal took last night, not one of them could be described as being in any way thought-provoking, unless we mean that one was often provoked to think, “Why is he saying this?”

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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