August 2010

Top of This issue Current issue


BY Sy Schechtman

Rush Limbaugh has almost always enacted a back to the future approach. That is not necessarily a negative approach. Merely a “make haste slowly” cautious way to go. Be careful of “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. Let’s stick with what has made us the greatest and most powerful nation in the world history. In the recently published book by Zev Chafits, Rush Limbaugh, An Army of One, the author lists “ten absolutely Limbaugh beliefs” that he absolutely beliefs are innate in the Limbaugh playbook.

(1)The world is governed by the aggressive use of force, and American security and prosperity rest on its unquestioned military superiority and the will to use it. (2) God, as found in the morality credo of the Judeo -Christian faiths is absolute and not a matter of individual choice and is not relative,

(3) America is an execeptional nation because of its Constitution. It is a unique force for good in the world and an example to the rest of mankind.

(4) There is a distinct American culture based on individualism, self reliance, capitalism, and a common language. Immigrants should accept and embrace this culture.

(5) economic posperity flows from the free markets, low taxes, and a minimum of government regulation.

(6) When the virtues of equality and freedom clash, generally speaking, the latter trumps the former.

(7) freedom of speech is absolute.

(8) The earth and its ecosystem is not fragile, and its ecosystem cannot be ruined by human effort. Those who claim to be saving the planet are actually motivated by schemes to get rich, redistribute wealth, weaken America or establish a one-world government.

(9) In government, character and a conservative philosophy are the most important qualities in a leader, and Ronald Reagan is the model for presidential greatness.

(10) All Democrats are liberals. The worst Republican candidate is better than the best Democrat.

In Rush Limbaugh-ese Reagan is Ronaldo Maximus—simply the greatest. And Reagan was certainly an avatar for meritocratic excellance: not the “it takes a village” (Hilary Clinton) mush. But Rush’s intransigent “no prisoners” pose is, hopefully, negotiable, for Reagan knew when to compromise and maneuver and change course when necessary. Especially after the death of over the death of 250 sleeping marines in Lebanon ---he pulled out all of our support troops helping Israel, after they were caught sleeping in their unguarded barracks. Or in the Iran Contra episode, when he diverted funds from the sale of arms to Iran and diverted them secretly to the pro American rebel group, which was against the law at that time. Rush’s last quoted “commandment”, that any Republican is better than a democratic president, certainly applies to George “W” Bush----the second Bush president. Under this latter Bush taxes were not raised, but Bush never vetoed any legislation even though in office eight years and Federal spending increased significantly, which was not in Rush’s playbook. Also he was not happy with democrat Teddy Kennedy’s input into education reform, brokered in the much heralded “ no child is left behind” joint legislation of Bush and his political foe.

Limbaugh was bored by college and dropped out after a short while and began working as a radio broadcaster in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, his hometown. At the rather tender age of 16 he began to learn the reality of the field that has so successfully fulfilled his largest dreams and aspirations. First he had part time jobs at local stations, then finally moving to Sacramento as a full fledged talk show host in l984. Finally, in 1988 he made the big jump to the Big Apple –New York City. And started his epic growth into national radio fame. Today he has an audience estimated at 15 million at any one time, between the daily three hour five day daily routine. On about 600 radio stations, for about 31 million annually for eight years plus an upfront signing bonus of $ 150 million dollars. About 400 hundred million for the next eight years. A not too happy Limbaugh critic has moaned that “the most elemental fact about the Limbaugh career might be that, outside of seriously corrupt dictatorships, nobody has made as much money from politics as Rush Limbaugh”. Rush also numbers his fans at over 20 million, but his math is not encumbered by too subtle higher mathematics; remember he is merely a high school graduate. But easily exceeding other political talk show hosts as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Michael Savage. Indeed, He is not too far behind Oprah Winfrey, the reigning gueen of all ratings, but she has a world wide network.

Along the way he has acquired and divorced three wives---all amicably---and is currently in his fourth marital union. He has no children. Also in his career are some major negatives in other areas. One is drug addiction to pain relievers such as oxycodone, which Limbaugh insisted he needed for his chronic bad back pain. The Palm Beach District Attorney started an elaborate review of Limbaugh’s medical records in pursuit of an illegal doctor shopping charge against Rush, which his very high priced defense attorneys claimed violated his privacy. Indeed the American Civil Liberty Union filed a friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief on Limbaughs’ behalf upholding his right to the privacy of confidential medical records. Eventually a compromise out of court settlement allowed Limbaugh to avoid any charges. The ironic linking of fervent minority legal rights advocate ACLU with ardent free enterprise capitalist Limbaugh is a marvelous example of the clash of democratic ideals finding solid common ground. (It is not possible, I hope, that Limbaugh had to make a substantial “under the table” contribution to the ACLU’s continually annoying civil rights minority suits in return!)

Unscathed by this negative publicity Limbaugh’s popularity is still solid, indeed enriched by the abortive attempts of the current administration’s strenuous detractors to denounce him. A particularly pathetic example being the literal broadcast fulminations nightly of Keith Olbermann, who is in the time slot on CNBC against Fox’s Bill O’Reilly. He is not quite in Limbaugh’s class but O”Reilly’s ratings far exceed those of virulently liberal Olbermann. One area, however, where Rush did not quite succeed, where he had aspirations that evidently were not realized, where his enthusiasm for sports involvement was frustrated, were episodes involving the National Football League. In the mid 90’s era Rush was already well known, besides his fame as political pundit, as a sports enthusiast, especially pro football. He was hired by ESPN for their Sunday NFL Countdown during the football season. The group, besides Rush, included three other seasoned, well known retired players. Limbaugh, would add color, and “stir the pot”. Which he did spectacularly well. By his fourth—and last—appearance the ratings for the show were the highest in more than six years.

The discussion of the commentators focused on the black Philadelphia Eagle quarterback, Donovan Mc’Nabb, an all star who was in a slump. Was this the end of the line for him? Limbaugh did not accept this premise. “Sorry to say this, I don’t think Mc’Nabb’s been that good could from the get-go. I think that what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media is very desirous that a black quarterback do well, ……and black coaches, too…McNabb got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried the team.”

Limbaugh had stirred the pot too vigorously, and it boiled over. Rush had never tried to demean the man; but that was not politically, or socially correct, when perhaps damning with faint praise would have sufficed and mollified all concerned. Limbaugh, who was part of a consortium to buy the St. Louis Rams at that time, had to bow out. Several black players vowed they would never play on a team that Limbaugh was part owner. Perhaps this was a status level somewhat beyond and above for a college drop out and who could also coin or at least propagate the brilliantly provocative term “feminazi” for those stridently vociferous alpha females of the women’s movement that most of us detested. Does anyone remember Bella Abzug?

But as of now we all remember Rush Limbaugh. The magazine Adweek chose him “radio personality of the decade” on December 22, 2009. King of the hill of modern conservative polemicists, and even prime spokesman for the Republican Party. Certainly dominant in talk radio, which is ever an important and growing medium of information sharing. Rush is the avatar of incremental change, not the frenzy of Change!,

Change!, Change! that Obama ran round the stage shouting in the primaries. We understand, with sober experience that the more things change, many times the change is evanescent, far from significant. That meaningful change does occur is true, but sometimes only looking backward at history can we tell us realistically how valid some of our dearest frenzies really were.