Three and a half years into the Iraq war, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly appeared on David Letterman's show. He asked Letterman, "Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?" Letterman gave a long-winded answer about the evolution of his thinking on the war.
"Do you want the United States to win in Iraq?" repeated O'Reilly. Letterman paused.
O'Reilly said, "It's an easy question."
"It's not easy for me," said Letterman, "because I'm thoughtful."
The New York Times recently printed a piece about David Axelrod, the Chicago newspaperman turned political consultant turned senior adviser to President Barack Obama. According to the Times, "The recent back-and-forth with Rush Limbaugh … was explicitly authorized by Mr. Axelrod, who told aides that it was not a moment to sit quietly after Mr. Limbaugh said he hoped that Mr. Obama would 'fail.'" Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wrote, "Republicans hope to break the new president's momentum — make him 'fail,' as de facto GOP chairman Rush Limbaugh urged."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Reg Henry wrote: "When Rush Limbaugh said he wanted Barack Obama to fail, the clanging of the stupidity meter roused me to action. Usually, I have the stupidity meter set to mute when it comes to the Vesuvius of Vacuity because everything he says is bound to set off the alarm and the dog can't sleep with all the stupid racket. … After all, it is the polar opposite of what some of us believed about the last president as he instituted one fool policy after another to please the right-wing crank community. Those were years when I had to buy extra batteries for the stupidity meter and the dog took to sleeping with his paws over his ears."
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., said: "It's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party. … You're just on these talk shows and you're living well, and plus you stir up a bit of controversy."
One columnist considers rooting for failure an act of disloyalty. The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts wrote: "Do you ever say that about your president if you are an American who loves your country? Would you say it about George W. Bush, who was disastrous? … You may think he's going to fail, yes. You may warn he's going to fail, yes. But do you ever hope he fails? Knowing his failure is the country's failure? Isn't that, well … disloyal?"
But what of Democrats who rooted against the success of George W. Bush?
"Would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?" asked an August 2006 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. The result? Ninety percent of Republicans wanted Bush to succeed, versus 7 percent who did not. Among independents, 63 percent wanted the President to succeed, compared with 34 percent who did not. What about Democrats? Forty percent wanted him to succeed, but 51 percent did not .
Did anybody care? One guy — Rush Limbaugh — publicly wishes for Obama's liberalism to fail, and it's call out the dogs. But when the majority of Democrats rooted for Bush's failure, where was the outrage?
A Dow Jones Factiva search of all publications, Web news and multimedia reveals the mainstream media completely ignored the 2006 poll — save for one Associated Press story (picked up by about five papers), which mentioned a different question from that survey.
As for Limbaugh, he clearly stated that he wants "liberalism" to fail. He believes that an intrusive government — which, among other things, props up failing businesses — results in less prosperity. Imagine.
"Do you want (Obama) to succeed?" conservative host Sean Hannity asked Limbaugh.
"I would hope he would succeed," said Limbaugh, "if he acts like Reagan. But if he is going to do FDR … why would I want him to succeed? … If he is going to implement a far-left agenda … $2 trillion in stimulus, the growth of government … nationalized health care, I mean, it's over. … That's the end of America as we have known it because that's then going to set the stage for everything being government-owned, -operated or -provided. Why would I want that to succeed? I don't believe in that. I know that's not how this country is going to be great in the future. It's not what made this country great. So I shamelessly say, 'No, I want him to fail.' If his agenda is a far-left collectivism — some people say socialism — as a conservative, heartfelt, deeply, why would I want socialism to succeed?"
So when Republicans want Obama's liberalism to fail, critics call it a death wish — an effort to undermine Obama and the nation. When, however, the majority of Democrats wanted Bush to fail — with our country at war in Afghanistan and Iraq — it reflected a "thoughtful" matter of principle.
Larry Elder is a syndicated radio talk show host and best-selling author. His latest book, "Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card — and Lose," is available now. Creators Syndicate Copyright 2009 Laurence A. Elder