TAYLOR CROSSES RUSH LINE, FACES WRATH…. The other day, I teased Jerry Taylor for a post at the National Review in which he said President Obama wants to convince the public that guys like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh “are the leaders of the GOP at the moment.” Taylor said this is premised on the notion that these personalities “are thought to be relatively unpopular with non-movement Americans.”

I joked that there isn’t any real mystery here; clowns like Limbaugh really are unpopular with Americans outside the conservative “movement.” Taylor responded yesterday, and after encouraging me to “cut back on the coffee,” he conceded he is “no fan” of Limbaugh and Hannity.

While I will admit to not listening to their shows, the snippets that I have caught over the years have irritated. One can agree with a majority of their vision regarding what constitutes good public policy and who is worthy of my vote while being annoyed by the manner in which their arguments are being made and chagrined by the dubious logic and dodgy evidence being forwarded to buttress their arguments. One can also be driven to frustration by the seemingly endless parade of political red herrings and conspiracy-minded nonsense that I have heard both of them traffic in.

Good for Taylor for having the courage to say so publicly. Indeed, after taking a few mild shots from fellow conservatives at “The Corner,” Taylor returned to the subject.

[T]he more people who think Rush Limbaugh leads the GOP, the fewer votes the GOP will get. […]

Just because Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh agree with us more often than not doesn’t mean conservatives should shout “Amen!” when Obama coronates them as leaders of the Republican party or the conservative movement.

Regarding my claim that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity often use “dodgy evidence” to back their claims, I can only plead that on the rare occasions that I’ve listened, this is exactly what I have found…. [I]f you want chapter and verse on that score, you can’t do better than Al Franken’s two books on this subject (Lying Liars and Rush Limbaugh). Now, I know that this will double my hate mail, but the fact is that Mr. Senator-Elect is often spot-on regarding the facts when he goes after these guys.

He added that many of Hannity’s bizarre attacks on the president are “bark-at-the-moon crazy,” which makes Hannity a poor banner-carrier for conservative ideas.

This, not surprisingly, also did not go over well at “The Corner.” In fact, Mark Stein called Taylor’s arguments “pathetic,” and “an embarrassment to National Review.” So, Taylor returned to the subject once more.

The question for conservatives is this: Do you want President Obama to succeed in painting the Republican party as the party of Rush Limbaugh? Given his sub-Nixon popularity figures, I can’t believe I’m causing a firestorm by suggesting the answer here is probably “no.”

Except, of course, he was causing a firestorm by crossing the one line conservatives aren’t supposed to cross — he questioned the value of letting a deceptive, drug-addled radio shock-jock lead a party and movement.

The irony here is that Democrats have worked for months to carefully characterize Limbaugh as the right’s driving force and leading authority. Corner-ites, by slamming their conservative colleague for questioning the utility in following Limbaugh, only help reinforce the Dems’ point.

The left keeps arguing, “Conservatives are a bunch of mindless ditto-heads, reflexively taking orders from a man who lies on the radio for a living.” And the right keeps responding, “You’re damn right we are!” It just never seems to occur to the right, Taylor’s valiant efforts notwithstanding, that it’s rarely a good idea to let Democrats call their shots for them.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.