"The poor of New Orleans will storm the levees and steal the bags, thereby putting themselves at risk for the eventual flooding that will happen once they remove the bags of money. And that way the Republicans can get rid of even more Democrats in Louisiana and shore up the state for themselves." - Rush Limbaugh, Aug., 28, 2012, Rush Limbaugh Show
The blogosphere is awash with condemnations of Rush Limbaugh's latest attempt at dark levity: positing that the Obama administration tampered with forecasts to ruin the Republican Convention, Limbaugh added fuel to the fire by adding a "final solution" to the African-American poor of New Orleans worthy of Hitler.
Lampshades made from the skin of the victims maybe next. But don't worry, the entire incident will all go down as folksy conservative humor, tasteless, but certainly not noteworthy.
For if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can ride the waves of criticism to their lack of concern for the poor, certainly Rush Limbaugh can survive this latest bit of tastelessness. He has before. He'll do it again. Why? Because "compassionate conservatism" was thrown out the window years ago, and the GOP's obvious disdain for the poor has become fashionable among conservative elites: the poor, elderly, entitlements - all serve as a drain on the economy, the real focus of the country's future.
Trickle Down Compassion With A Racist Tint
The memes of the convention have been "bootstraps" and "we built it" with no mention of how the nation's poor are to be provided bootstraps. The "safety net" of which Romney speaks is elusive: Ryan's budget cuts would all but eliminate any such net. And even with tax cuts, Ryan could not prove anything vaguely akin to the "trickle down compassion" he asserts. After all, the miserly Ryan has demonstrated through his own tax returns that charities would never be able to "pick up the slack."
Limbaugh's statement brought another uncomfortable aspect of the Republican platform to the fore with a hint of racism: it was a Democratic African-American President who manipulated weather forecasts and, as with Hurricane Katrina, the victims of Isaac would be Democratic African-Americans, the very same people who obviously take so much advantage of the system, food stamps and other ill-conceived entitlements.
The reaction to Limbaugh's callousness will be swift and vehement and ... short-lived: erstwhile conservatives will say "we're not like that, of course", some will call for some form of condemnation (but not for advertisers to withdraw) and FOX News will still tout free speech, saying that coverage of it is a liberal media ploy to divert attention from the real issues: the economy and demonizing of rich people (e.g. Romney).
While Limbaugh is sure to issue a half-apology with a can't-you-libs-take-a-joke addendum, the evil intent of the "joke" and the mindset behind it will resonate for a while. And it may even cause a stir beyond America's shores*, but to think that it will become as big an issue as Chick-fil-A in the American psyche is rather foolish. The Republican Party machine will divert attention quickly as it did with Tod Akin's "legitimate rape" commotion. The economy, after all, is more important than one candidate's junk-scienced views on rape or one pundit's tasteless comments involving disaster and genocide.
As with all the past commotions and comments, the Democrats should keep them in the forefront, but to do so without looking like it's using diversionary tactics would be too difficult: the American political psyche can focus on only one issue at a time and if it's the economy, shifting it to social issues is risky. But it's a risk that Democrats have to take.
Rush Limbaugh has added to his gallery of tastelessness. He'll be duly slapped upon the wrist. Entertainment will cease until the next extremist gaffe. The Republicans will refocus on the economy.
That's all, folks.
*Romney's social gaffes in England still linger.