By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Newly installed Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is drawing sneers from some GOP advisers for his rap on outspoken conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. In a CNN interview, he called Limbaugh's approach "incendiary" and "ugly" and dubbed him simply an entertainer. "Steele is playing with fire," said one longtime Republican adviser close to House Republicans and both Bush families. Of concern is that Steele, the party's first black chairman, will be attacked by Limbaugh and other talk show hosts, further splitting the party.
It began today already when radio talk show hostess Laura Ingraham took a shot at Steele, who in his CNN interview said this about Limbaugh: "Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh—his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it's incendiary. Yes, it's ugly." Republicans are concerned that a feud between the national party and conservative talk radio would upset donors, who would stop giving to the party. "One possible outcome is that giving by the base, sickly for the last few years, could get even worse," said a key GOP donor. Steele's supporters, however, say that he is not trying to pick a fight with conservative radio and is just trying to counter Democratic charges that Limbaugh—who has engaged in a verbal war with President Obama—is the de facto boss of the party. He is also trying to put the word out there that the GOP is open to other viewpoints.
Party spokesman Alex Conant, meanwhile, said the real fight is between the White House, especially Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and Limbaugh. "Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats know they lose an argument with the Republican Party on substance, so they are building straw men to attack and distract," he told Whispers. "The feud between radio host Rush and Rahm makes great political theater, but it is a sideshow to the important work going on in Washington. RNC Chairman Michael Steele and elected Republicans are focused on fighting for reform and winning elections. The Democrats' problem is that the American people are growing skeptical of the massive government spending being pushed by congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi."
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