Calling the shots

CALLING THE SHOTS…. Roll Call‘s Christina Bellantoni has a good piece today, noting that “outsized personalities based far outside the Beltway” — most notably, in Republican circles, Rush Limbaugh — “have become as much a part of Washington’s political ecosystem as the lawmakers themselves.”

That’s not necessarily new or surprising, of course — if Limbaugh weren’t helping run the show, Republicans wouldn’t rush to apologize if they think they’ve offended him — but it’s worth appreciating the extent to which this dynamic continues to influence events.

After Fox replayed “sting” videos showing alleged fraud at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) introduced a measure to cut ACORN’s government funding. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) wrote a resolution honoring James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles for producing the ACORN videos, and 31 of his GOP colleagues signed on. It never received a vote.

When Beck suggested on his show in June that an Obama administration drilling decision helped liberal billionaire George Soros, two Republican Members repeated the claim using similar language on the House floor. Limbaugh called the BP oil spill fund set up last year a “slush fund,” a term repeated by Members in television appearances and during floor debates.

With the addition of the tea party movement to the national conversation, the spin cycle has added a setting that could be labeled “outrage.” Ideas that hosts use to gin up their base go from television to the House floor to the cardboard signs displayed by tea partyers on the National Mall.

Several GOP lawmakers quietly acknowledged that members “carefully monitor what’s being said on conservative airwaves to make sure they aren’t contradicting it or enraging talkers.”

When we talk about the reach of the Republican Noise Machine, it’s really not hyperbole. Ridiculous right-wing media personalities and far-right GOP members on Capitol Hill spew nonsense, both echoing and reinforcing one another. More often than not, though, it appears Republican officials are taking the orders on what to say and when, not giving them.

And as we know, there is no comparable infrastructure on the left.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow told Roll Call she believes the right “has long had a wider-reaching, more fully-formed messaging apparatus than the left.”

“It may be that there’s more rightwing media echo in their politics simply because the right’s echo-chamber works better,” Maddow said in an e-mail. “Comparatively speaking, messaging on the left is much more ad hoc, much less disciplined and repetitive, and much less wide-reaching.”