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Rush Limbaugh Attacks: Obama, the Joker and Me

5 years ago
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Rush Limbaugh has drawn me into the controversy over the mystery poster that depicts Barack Obama as the Joker (Heath Ledger's Joker, that is) above a single word: socialism. Sort of.

The Obama-as-Joker poster, which has appeared on utility poles in Los Angeles and throughout the Internet, has enraged Democrats and bloggers, some of whom have blasted it as racist. And anything that peeves these folks has to be gold for Limbaugh, right?

So during his Tuesday broadcast, Limbaugh declared there's nothing racist about the poster. But he went further, comparing Ledger's Joker, one of the most evil villains in movie history, to the current president of the United States. Yes, he did. Nothing implied, nothing insinuated. Here's what the King of the Dittoheads said:
[The Joker] had a big damn chip on his shoulder about his childhood and about a bunch of other things. His goal was to undermine the whole system. . . . And to effect the change that the people of Gotham City didn't want, the Joker created chaos upon chaos. The whole city was focused on him and what he was going to do next. He viewed crisis as an opportunity. So the Joker orchestrated crisis after crisis after crisis. And the Joker wore a mask. I mean whoever put this poster together is pretty smart because there are some similarities here to what the Joker did in that movie and what Obama is doing to this country.

Limbaugh claimed that Obama and the Joker share a fundamental trait:
Obama has admitted to wearing masks. In "Dreams from My Father": (paraphrasing) "It was usually an effective tactic, another one of those tricks I had learned. People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied; they were relieved, such a pleasant surprise to find a well mannered young black man who didn't seem angry all the time." This is his tactic for fooling white people. This is the mask.
Limbaugh was explicit: Obama has been conning whites. Is that a racist attack? I'll let you decide. But with such powers of analysis, Limbaugh, no doubt, will soon be likening Obama to other Batman enemies: Mr. Freeze, the Riddler and Two-Face. There's a whole line of posters waiting.

Limbaugh's racial-tainted assault on Obama is what deserves scornful attention. Yet how do I fit into all this? After finishing his Obama-as-Joker riff, Limbaugh noted that a previous piece of Joker-inspired political art -- a Vanity Fair illustration of George W. Bush as the Ledger character -- prompted no popular outrage when it appeared last year. Hypocrisy, he shouted. What's more, he added, the VF drawing was of low artistic quality. He huffed:
This thing that Vanity Fair ran doesn't even look like Bush. It looks like David Corn, the guy who used to write for The Nation. On a normal day it looks like David Corn.
Ouch. But having one's physical appearance besmirched by Rush Limbaugh is like having one's moral fiber questioned by . . . well, Rush Limbaugh. (For the record, I now work for Mother Jones, not The Nation.) One stoops to Limbaugh's gutter level at some peril. But I will say that if a casting director had to choose between Limbaugh and me for someone to play the role of The Penguin, another Batman nemesis, there's no doubt who would get the nod. By the way, what word did GOP Chairman Michael Steele reach for in March to describe Limbaugh? Oh, yes, it begins with a "u."

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