President Barack Obama's chief of staff cast radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh as the top figure in the Republican Party on Sunday, suggesting that his desire for the president's economic policies to fail is a position held by the GOP. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Limbaugh is the "intellectual force" of the GOP and Republicans now have to live with that choice.
"He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. And he has been up front about what he views, and hasn't stepped back from that, which is he hopes for failure. He said it. And I compliment him for his honesty, but that's their philosophy that is enunciated by Rush Limbaugh. And I think that's the wrong philosophy for America," Emanuel said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
On Saturday, Limbaugh gave an hour-and-a-half speech to cap off the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Limbaugh said it's fine for Republicans to criticize Obama's plans and Republicans must return to their core philosophies.
He added that Obama's plan won't restore prosperity and that's why he wants it to fail.
"Did the Democrats want the war in Iraq to fail? Well, they certainly did. And they not only wanted the war in Iraq to fail, they proclaimed it a failure. ... The last thing they wanted was to win. They hoped George Bush failed. So where is it -- what is so strange about being honest and saying, I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation? Why would I want that to succeed?" he asked, noting that he considered Obama a gifted communicator.
Limbaugh also laid into Republicans who work "around the edges" of the president's policies to try to make them work, saying that they are giving up their beliefs. He added that bipartisanship is a "false premise" because it is something that is demanded by the victor of elections.
"In other words, let's say as conservatives, liberals demand that we be bipartisan with them in Congress. What they mean is we check our core principles at the door, come in, let them run the show, and then agree with them. That's bipartisanship to them," he said. "To us, bipartisanship is them being forced to agree with us after we have politically cleaned their clocks and beaten them. And that has to be what we're focused on."
But Emanuel said Americans want Republicans and Democrats to work together.
"It's our desire that the Republicans would work with us and try to be constructive, rather than adopt the philosophy of somebody like Rush Limbaugh, who is praying for failure," Emanuel said.
"We may take different roads to get to that goal, but be clear on what we have to do to build this country, by investing in our people, changing the health care system, having an energy independence policy that clearly weans America off its dependence on foreign oil," he said.
Emanuel suggested that Republicans who defy Limbaugh have to bow down to the commentator and seek forgiveness. If true, Rep. Eric Cantor, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, could be next on the list. He said Sunday he does not take the Limbaugh approach of supporting failure.
"I don't think anyone wants anything to fail right now. We have such challenges. What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today. And our common-sense, conservative principles of limited government, and the belief in free markets, and the belief that really opportunity can only be created by the private sector are going to undergird our proposals going forward," Cantor told ABC's "This Week."