“But He Said it First!”

In the hip-hop parlance that Michael Steele has promised to use to raise the GOP’s popularity, on Monday evening he became Rush Limbaugh’s beyotch. That’s not the point of this post, but I made the joke earlier and it got a chuckle, and in the parlance of nineteenth-century British literature (what I “do” for a living) the word “beyotch” does not come up very often. The phrase “smack down” is oddly appropriate, especially when discussing Jane Austen, but “beyotch”—not so much.

Anyway, the news from the GOP trainwreck on Monday that in an interview with D. L. Hughley, Steele, while claiming he was the de facto leader of the GOP, called Limbaugh an “entertainer” and “incendiary” and…who knows what else. It doesn’t matter because hours later he took it all back. What I found interesting, besides the sight of two black men discussing the GOP (it was like a bizarro episode of Seinfeld, and I actually mumbled, “I never thought I’d live to see the day.”) was Steele’s response to Hughley’s challenge that it was wrong for Limbaugh to say he wanted President Obama (black man #3 in the conversation in case anyone is counting) to fail.

Hughley did an admirable job of contextualizing Limbaugh’s statement, explaining that there is a difference between resisting ideology and wishing for failure. Steele’s response was classic and infuriating: “How was that any different than what was said about George Bush?” I couldn’t hear anymore for a minute. Here you watch it:

While everyone is focusing on Steele’s accurate characterization of Limbaugh (and now his spectacular failure to lead), I’m wishing we could get away with this logical construction:

A: You’ve said something bad
B: But he/she/they said it too

That can’t be the end of the discussion. Just because someone else might have wished for Bush’s failure eight years ago does not make Limbaugh’s wishing for Obama’s failure okay. Just because one person says or do something unethical, stupid, or wrong does not others can do the same thing without being challenged. It was an especially stupid thing to say to Hughley because in addition to the occasional guest spot on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” he’s been on CNN for about fifteen minutes. He wasn’t a political commentator with the opportunity to ask…oh wait. To ask whom? Steele never named a lefty liberal who wished for Bush’s failure. I’m not saying such a person doesn’t exist, but given how elected Democrats rolled over for Bush for eight years, I actually don’t think anyone did wish for Bush’s failure.

Of course all of this eclipsed by how well Obama and the left have been toying with Limbaugh and the right. What with Rahm Emanuel, their own tone deafness, and Robert Gibbs those beyotches are getting schooled every day.

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