NY Times quoted Limbaugh falsely suggesting Obama is a "blank canvas" on taxes, abortion

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Reporting on Rush Limbaugh's mock endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama for president, The New York Times' Jacques Steinberg quoted Limbaugh saying: "Barack Obama is pro-life" and "Barack Obama is a tax-cutter extraordinaire." Steinberg then suggested that Limbaugh's comments on taxes and abortion were not "descriptive of Mr. Obama, a liberal Democrat," and explained that the "point" of Limbaugh's "endorsement," according to Limbaugh, "was that Mr. Obama represented 'a blank canvas upon which anyone can project their fantasies and desires.' " But, Obama has, in fact, proposed tax cuts for "middle-class workers, homeowners and retirees" and has made it clear that he supports abortion rights.

A February 15 New York Times article by Jacques Steinberg on radio host Rush Limbaugh's "smackdown he has been waging from afar against Senator John McCain" reported that Limbaugh offered a mock endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama, and quoted Limbaugh saying: "Barack Obama is pro-life," "Barack Obama is a tax-cutter extraordinaire," "Barack Obama will establish a college football playoff, once and for all," and "Barack Obama will offer free-beer Fridays." Steinberg then suggested that Limbaugh's comments on taxes and abortion were not "descriptive of Mr. Obama, a liberal Democrat," and explained that the "point" of Limbaugh's "endorsement," according to Limbaugh, "was that Mr. Obama represented 'a blank canvas upon which anyone can project their fantasies and desires.' " But, Obama has, in fact, taken positions on the specific, serious issues in the Limbaugh comments that Steinberg cited: He proposed "$80 billion a year in tax cuts to middle-class workers, homeowners and retirees" according to the Times' own reporting. On the issue of abortion rights, Obama has made it clear that he supports them.

From the February 15 New York Times article:

Rush Limbaugh took his show on the road this week, forsaking his main broadcast studio in Palm Beach, Fla., for one in Midtown Manhattan. But the change of scenery did nothing to dampen the Republican-on-Republican smackdown he has been waging from afar against Senator John McCain, the party's likely presidential nominee, whom Mr. Limbaugh considers too moderate.

As he opened his radio program Wednesday, Mr. Limbaugh lobbed yet another grenade.

"I would like today to announce a tentative decision -- I'm still thinking about it -- to endorse Barack Obama," he said, his head cocked slightly toward his 18-karat-gold-plated microphone, his hands spread wide like the wings of his sleek G4 jet.

Mr. Limbaugh then listed nearly a dozen qualities he said he found admirable in Mr. Obama. "Barack Obama is pro-life," he began. "Barack Obama is a tax-cutter extraordinaire."

If neither statement was descriptive of Mr. Obama, a liberal Democrat, nor was there much hope for what followed. "Barack Obama will establish a college football playoff, once and for all," Mr. Limbaugh said. "Barack Obama will offer free-beer Fridays."

His point, Mr. Limbaugh said, was that Mr. Obama represented "a blank canvas upon which anyone can project their fantasies and desires."

Regarding taxes, Obama has proposed tax cuts for "middle-class workers" and senior citizens, as the Times reported on September 19, 2007:

Senator Barack Obama proposed a plan on Tuesday to provide at least $80 billion a year in tax cuts to middle-class workers, homeowners and retirees, saying if he was elected president he would ''end the preferential treatment that's built into our tax code.''

Mr. Obama said he would give a $500 tax credit to more than 150 million workers, create a tax credit for homeowners who do not itemize their deductions and eliminate income taxes for older taxpayers who make less than $50,000 a year. To pay for the plan, he said he would raise capital gains taxes on the wealthy, close corporate loopholes and abolish tax breaks that have saved hedge fund and private equity managers billions of dollars.

''If you talk about this in polite company, sooner or later you'll get accused of waging class warfare,'' Mr. Obama said. ''As if it's distasteful to point out that some C.E.O.'s make more in 10 minutes than a worker makes in 10 months.''

In his book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Crown, 2006), Obama explained his position in favor of abortion rights in retelling an encounter with an "antiabortion protester" (Pages 197-198, hardcover):

"You folks want to come inside?" I asked.

"No, thank you," the man said. He handed me a pamphlet. "Mr. Obama, I want you to know that I agree with a lot of what you have to say."

"I appreciate that."

"And I know you're a Christian, with a family of your own."

"That's true."

"So how can you support murdering babies?"

I told him I understood his position but had to disagree with it. I explained my belief that few women made the decision to terminate a pregnancy casually; that any pregnant woman felt the full force of the moral issues involved and wrestled with her conscience when making that heart-wrenching decision; that I feared a ban on abortion would force women to seek unsafe abortions, as they had once done in this country and as they continued to do in countries that prosecute abortion doctors and the women who seek their services. I suggested that perhaps we could agree on ways to reduce the number of women who felt the need to have abortions in the first place.

When asked about so-called "partial-birth" abortions at the April 27, 2007, Democratic presidential debate, Obama said:

You know, I think that most Americans recognize that this is a profoundly difficult issue for the women and families who make these decisions. They don't make them casually. And I trust women to make these decisions, in conjunction with their doctors and their families and their clergy, and I think that's where most Americans are.

Now, when you describe a specific procedure that accounts for less than 1 percent of the abortions that take place, then naturally people get concerned and, I think, legitimately so.

But the broader issue is, do women have the right to make these profoundly difficult decisions? And I trust them to do it.

Now, there's a broader issue, though, and that is, can we move past some of the debates around which we disagree and can we start talking about the things we do agree on? Reducing teen pregnancy, making it less likely for women to find themselves in the circumstances where they've got to anguish over these decisions -- those are areas where I think we can all start mobilizing and move forward, rather than look backward.

Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Person
Rush Limbaugh
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.