I like Barack Obama. I have a picture of him prominently displayed on my office wall. I respect him as the forty-fourth president of the United States. I appreciate his style and bearing, and I am at times utterly enthralled with his eloquence. I wish him good health and happiness. I hope he succeeds grandly as a father, husband, and a child of God.

But that does NOT mean I support his recently revealed ambition to transform American government into a post-Reagan liberal leviathan. Moreover, my admiration for the President does not keep me from noticing that he indulges in some intellectual sloppiness: misleading rhetoric, a propensity for false choices, and he never met a straw man he didn't like.

However, in addition to those quibbles, I am starting to wonder if our President does not have a fatal flaw. I am not sure if he is just thin-skinned or egregiously egotistical, but he possesses a destructive inclination to pick fights with right-wing talkers?

Exhibit A: have you ever heard the opening of the Sean Hannity show? It includes a montage of our President criticizing the host by name (audio here via YouTube). I cringe (for Obama) every time I hear it. I ask myself: what was he thinking? Why did Obama allow himself to go on-record lashing out at Sean Hannity?

Exhibit B: inconceivably, the President and his White House advisers have NOW concocted a strategy to "call out" Rush Limbaugh.

The President of the United States versus Rush Limbaugh? Really?

Why would the President lower himself to the level of a talk-show host? Once again, what is he thinking?

An Aside: I don't remember George Bush ever mentioning Dan Rather or Chris Mathews or Keith Olberman. Ironically, Bush-43 was either too smart or too well-raised for that kind of self-indulgent and destructive political behavior.

From the recent reportage available from Politico and other reliable sources, this appears to be a "Clintonista" operation led by Rahm Emanuel, the President's White House chief of staff, and partly executed by his old Clinton-era compatriots Paul Begala and James Carville (although they deny it--sort of). According to Jonathan Martin's reporting, an attack on Rush polls well for the President, and the old Clinton hands are just the crew to take the fight to the venerable but perhaps now vulnerable King of Conservative Talk. The Clinton connection is significant, for we have seen an earlier version of this tawdry drama once before--back when the Clinton administration went to war with Rush during the mid-1990s (back then a few cards had Rush slightly ahead on points, but I would call it a draw in retrospect).

Now, evidently, the old gang in the new White House is taking another pass at settling an unfinished score. There was a frenzied bloodlust in the air over the weekend and earlier this week. With their quarry in the open and on the run, the President's men seemed positively giddy as they breathlessly stalked this biggest of all big game trophies. But, I cannot help but believe that this great quest can only end in tragedy--and possibly for the hunters. "Call me Emanuel." Let me tell of the pursuit of the great white obsession, Maha Rushie. I fear that Captain Obama "has that that's bloody on his mind."

Once again, the nagging question: why elevate Rush Limbaugh to the status of heroic antagonist? Suddenly, this imbroglio has the quality of an epic Thomas Jefferson- John Marshall clash of the titans, or, perhaps more analogous, the FDR versus Charles Lindbergh death-match. Moreover, regardless of the polling that assures the White House that Rush is wildly unpopular with the people who count most, bullying rarely plays well in the long run. Make no mistake: this is David and Goliath. Every time the President of the United States picks up a rock to sling at somebody--he is Goliath, and the intended recipient is David. The Obama White House runs the risk of making the not especially lovable Limbaugh into a much more sympathetic character.

And here is the crazy thing: it is a terribly odd and unnecessarily risky gambit on the part of the President, who had this historic opportunity to truly unite some disparate constituencies. A few weeks ago Hannity and Rush were seemingly on the ropes. One could tune in and almost hear the approaching obsolescence in their voices. They were swinging wildly and not connecting, growing increasingly frustrated and embarrassingly out of touch. For a fleeting instant, Rush looked like he might soon be down to leading only a small band of dead-enders.

Obama had stumbled onto this wonderful moment in American history in which the vast majority of us really did want him to succeed and hoped for a political revolution of pre-partisan statesmanship on a scale envisioned by the founders but never executed. Obama had me and Judd Gregg and David Brooks and a lot of others including my friend and colleague, Paul Holder. We were willing to give this new Democrat the benefit of the doubt. He wanted to be our president, and we were almost persuaded.

Then, the stimulus of abominations came to fruition--surprising us like a Southern California tremor in the late afternoon. We all looked around a bit stunned and said, "what was that?" Then the early morning 8.0 earthquake hit soon after--and we suddenly understood that Obama meant revolution, but not the kind for which we had foolishly hoped.

If you turned on the radio during all this, you could feel Rush and Hannity getting well and gaining strength. By the time Obama rolled out his 3.6 trillion-dollar "New Deal 3.0" budget, they were on fire. Once again relevant, reinvigorated, and vindicated.

"Bamp, baump, baump, the Radicals have taken over..."

Sometimes our president makes some curious choices. Joe Biden as veep was one that still has me scratching my head (and keeps me up at night). Perhaps worse, picking Nancy Pelosi over my optimistic band of well-intentioned conservatives strikes me as a decision with tragic consequences. But the decision to go to war with Rush seems just plain silly. It demeans the presidency--and it elevates Rush Limbaugh.

I don't own a picture of Rush. I would not enumerate him in my pantheon of personal heroes. Nor is he an intellectual wellspring for conservative thought. But he is a bright, self-educated, entertaining, and articulate "popularizer" of the faith. I respect him as a modern Horatio-Alger story and an exceptionally gifted polemicist. Moreover, give him his due; he was conservative media when conservative media wasn't cool. We all owe him a debt for his courage and implacable tenacity in the face of twenty years of vicious enemy fire. He deserves our protection.

For those reasons, as well as the sheer unseemly character of this presidential assault on a political enemy, I support Rush and his right to speak truth to power.