By now, you've heard the news of Rush Limbaugh making history with an eBay bid of $2.1 million for the letter sent by 41 Senate Democrats asking Clear Channel to demand Limbaugh apologize over his "phony soldiers" comment, of which Rush has said he will match. Beyond the wonderful outpouring of generosity, the flap over Rush's statement is instructive because it shows how Rush was able to turn the tables on the Democrats yet again, and how conservatives can do the same when faux liberals come after them.
1) Refute the charge early and often. From the moment the faux left targeted him, Rush didn't let his critics define what he said. He went back and explained it, even adding in context that someone who only heard part of the conversation wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Then, he repeated it to anyone who would listen. By doing that, he refuted the charge and started turning the scandal in his favor.
2) Test your opponent's mettle. After taking command of the situation, Rush took the next step and put the letter Harry Reid and 40 other Senate Democrats signed up on eBay. Then, he went a step further and said he would match the winning verified bid. And then he challenged the Democrats who signed the letter to match his bid. Three steps, one moment that puts the Democrats on the spot. To date, the Democrats have not said whether they would rise to Rush's challenge. And I don't think we will.
3) Let your opponent make the mistakes. While Rush was promoting his charitable giving idea, Democrats tried to regain the momentum by attacking the "phony soldiers" comment more. When that didn't work, they got quiet. And after the bidding was over, Harry Reid came out and praised Rush's generosity. All three moves were mistakes in my view. First, you rehash something that was suitably debunked, so nobody else was paying attention. Second, when you realize nobody else was paying attention, you stop talking altogether, which gave Rush additional credibility especially after he issued the challenge to the 41 Senate Democrats to match his matching bid. And Reid's comments? Total damage control moment. And don't be surprised if nobody, not even Reid himself, buys it.
Put simply, Rush turned a potentially bad PR situation into a winning PR and politicial situation. And once again Democrats are left wondering how they got beaten again.