CANTOR’S SUBTLE CRITICISM OF LEADER LIMBAUGH…. Congressional Republican leaders are generally reluctant to criticize right-wing tactics and efforts, so I suppose Eric Cantor deserves some credit for yesterday’s mild and indirect rebuke. I’m just not sure if he’ll stick to it.

The second-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, Eric Cantor, criticized some comments by talk-show host Rush Limbaugh as inappropriate and said his party needs to be inclusive.

“The Republican Party in its roots is a party of inclusion and we ought to be promoting that and making sure that voices are heard,” Cantor, of Virginia, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.

Cantor, when asked about Limbaugh’s comments that “Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate,” and his comparison of the administration’s health-care logo to a swastika, said the comparisons were wrong.

“Do I condone the mention of Hitler in any discussion about politics?” Cantor said. “No, I don’t, because obviously that is something that conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful.”

Now, this is obviously far from a stinging rebuke. Cantor didn’t mention Limbaugh or anyone else by name; he made his assessment as general as possible; and he could only bring himself to describe disgusting rhetoric as “not … very helpful” and something he doesn’t “condone.”

Cantor, in other words, didn’t exactly go out on a limb, taking a firm stand in support of decency.

As for the conservative activists Cantor addressed on Thursday, some of whom carried signs featuring photos of Jews murdered by Nazis at Dachau, a spokesperson for the House Minority Whip called the imagery “inappropriate.”

Given the larger context, Cantor deserves at least some credit for his willingness to distance himself at least a little from some of the madness from the Republican base. But let’s not forget that Limbaugh’s Hitler comparison was made in August. When Jewish groups urged Cantor to repudiate the host’s on-air remarks, Cantor ignored their appeals.

For that matter, in March, when Limbaugh led the charge in rooting for failure in the midst of a domestic crisis and foreign wars, Cantor indirectly distanced himself from the remarks — only to subtly walk back 48 hours later.

As a rule, prominent GOP officials who dare to offer discouraging words of Leader Limbaugh reverse course soon after. It’ll be interesting to see if Cantor feels compelled to do the same now.

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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.