Arlen Specter Defends Rush Limbaugh.. Sort Of

Arlen Specter is clearly trying to do what it takes to win his primary race against Pat Toomey. It’s hard to imagine him defending Rush Limbaugh – even in this halfhearted way – otherwise. It also suggests that he’s not expecting to be running in an open primary next year, and is instead planning to win a majority of Republican votes.

Howard Stern: …that crackpot Rush Limbaugh. Creep.
Specter: I never attack prominent radio personalities like Howard Stern or anybody else or people who buy ink by the barrel.
Stern: You okay with Limbaugh? You like him?
Specter: Do I like Rush Limbaugh?
Stern: Limbaugh, yeah.
Specter: Yeah, I like him.
Stern: You do?
Specter: Yeah.
Stern: You met with him?
Specter: Yes, I have.
Stern: Is he a crackpot?
Specter: No. No, he’s not a crackpot.
Stern: He’s an enemy of the country.
Specter: Nah. No, he’s not. He’s expressing his opinions.
Stern: He wants the president to do poorly.
Specter: Now, Howard, I –
Stern: Wait a second. Senator –
Specter: Howard, I once heard someone criticize you.
Stern: Well, you don’t see him around any more do you? Don’t ask where he went. Senator, wait a second, in all serious, he wants the president to do poorly. Listen, I never voted for Bush but I always wanted to see him do well. I’m an American. I want my president to be successful. Who says “I don’t want my president to do well?” That’s anti-American.
Specter:: Well, I haven’t heard Rush Limbaugh say that but there’s a lot of talk which is provocative. There’s a lot of comment. You fellows – and I know this doesn’t apply to you, Howard –
Stern: Of course not.
Specter: Probably doesn’t apply to Rush. But some of these talk shows guys want to attract an audience.
Quivers: Oh. Is that what they’re up to?
Stern: I don’t want to do that.
Specter: The more provocative –
Stern: That’s true.
Specter: The more audience, the more [crosstalk], the more money.
Stern: But we are Americans –

Specter doesn’t really say anything good about Limbaugh, per se, but it probably represents movement on his part. At the same time, it’s hard to believe he doesn’t know what Rush Limbaugh actually said about wanting Obama to fail; for him to beg off with a lame comment like ‘I haven’t heard him say that’ comes across as disingenuous. In the same way, he won’t win any votes among Limbaugh listeners by suggesting he’s nothing but a conservative shock jock, intent on building an audience by creating controversy. Rather than thinking of Limbaugh as a conservative Howard Stern (so to speak), he might want to think of him as a conservative NPR; Limbaugh says what he says not to start a fight, but because he actually believes it.

While this baby step is welcome, it’ll take more to convince Pennsylvania Republicans that they’re better off with Arlen Specter than Pat Toomey