Taking advantage of taking advantage…

Spinsanity comes to Sen. Daschle’s defense regarding his questioning of the success so far of the war on terrorism. What I found interesting in the column was this extended quote by Rush Limbaugh (link to audio file available at Spinsanity):

There’s a very high likelihood we’re going to even face additional terrorist attacks … No country is safe from this threat, not even us, no country is going to be perfect in its efforts to fight it. And Senator Daschle, you know this. Just as you know that you are hoping to benefit politically when our economy stagnates and people lose jobs, you are hoping to politically benefit with the next terrorist attack. And that’s what this comment of yours was about yesterday, Senator, and that’s what make it so despicable. This is almost the Wellstone memorial all over again. You know another attack is going to happen and you’re setting it up so that you can say, “See I told you so and this President [did] nothing to stop it.” You are seeking political advantage in the war on terrorism just exactly as you sought political advantage after the war on terrorism started on September 11. Just as you sought political advantage with the economy plundering [sic], just as you sought political advantage with the stock market collapse, just as you sought political advantage with the corporate scandals.

There’s more to this rant, but this portion highlights something interesting about politics and the rhetorical battle for hearts and minds. Notice the anaphora “just as you sought political advantage.” This scheme of repetition is a favored figure of speech in political address and punditry. When used well, this scheme is a powerful persuader because it tends to supercharge the content. For example (and I digress), remember M. L. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech? Well, it had a different title before he delivered it. But that powerful anaphora took over even the controlling metaphor of that address, which was African-Americans coming to Washington to cash a check for a debt long overdue.

Back to Rush. Look at what that anaphora hides in plain sight. Politics is about winning. You can’t lead (govern) if you don’t win. Seeking political advantage is a normal exercise of political/rhetorical effort. Happens every day. Democrats and Republicans alike do it. And, when it seems to their political advantage, Democrats and Republicans will point out when the opposition is doing it–as if seeking political advantage were something unseemly.

We can certainly argue about what topics should properly be off limits to attempts at political advantage. I hardly think anything Daschle said recently qualifies as an unpatriotic act or an improper attempt to take political advantage. And just so you don’t think I’m picking on conservatives or Republicans…eventually the liberals or Democrats, or some aligned pundit, will try the same trick when it appears to be to their political advantage. It’s standard. It’s politics.

UPDATE (9:35 p.m.): Daschle fires back. I think this is a big mistake. Politicians should always defend themselves against political attacks by other politicians. But Limbaugh is an entertainer. By responding, Daschle is dignifying Limbaugh and all the other radio wind-bags…right or left.