The president is trying to trick Rush Limbaugh into talking about himself and would rather engage in "character assassination" than debate conservatives in the "Arena of Ideas," the conservative talker charges in an e-mail to POLITICO.
Two days after President Barack Obama labeled Limbaugh and conservative television host Glenn Beck "troublesome" in a CBS interview, Limbaugh says Obama is trying to get him off his game.
"I think the president is trying to distract me, to get me talking about ME on my show instead of talking about him and the regime's agenda. But it won't work. I'm wise to their tactics," he wrote. "I know that a majority of Americans are angry at the regime's (and the Democrats') constant attempts at character assassination of their opposition. They want no part of engaging us in the Arena of Ideas. They seek instead to discredit and marginalize us, and it has gotten old."
Obama's shot at Limbaugh and Beck demonstrates that a long-running White House effort to undermine influential elements of the Republican coalition remains in effect.
Asked generally about the "level of enmity that crosses the airwaves," Obama slammed Limbaugh and Beck by name.
"Well, I think that when you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, it's pretty apparent, and it's troublesome, but keep in mind that there have been periods in American history where this kind of vitriol comes out," Obama said. "It happens often when you've got an economy that is making people more anxious and people are feeling like there is a lot of change that needs to take place. But that's not the vast majority of Americans. I think the vast majority of Americans know that we're trying hard, that I want what's best for the country."
Democratic strategists say the president can rally his liberal base by taking on icons of the conservative movement and also appeal to independents and moderate Republicans who are turned off by the style — and substance — offered by talk show hosts who run hot.
Though some analysts predict that Obama's most recent remarks will raise Limbaugh's profile, Limbaugh said that's no longer possible.
"How can I possibly be elevated as a voice of the opposition?" he wrote. "I'm already on the top of the mountain, and the regime put me there shortly after they took office."