I’ve never really had a problem with Rush Limbaugh. The talk show guru is incendiary and at times crass, stoking the flames of partisan warfare while throwing out ridiculously erroneous claims, like “I have a 99.6% accuracy rating.” But in the end, he’s an entertainer, no different in his never ending quest for infamy and attention than Howard Stern or Opie and Anthony, and no less provocative with his treatment of social issues like race and religion.
But the first time I ever really had a problem with the pudgy pundit was when he stole my best friend’s soul.
I don’t know if I could ever really say that my friend (let’s call him “Pete”) was liberal, or even-left leaning. He never really spoke about politics one way or the other. But when we went away to college years ago, he headed for the venerable Ivy League institution of Dartmouth College and settled down slightly to the right of center. No problem there.
In fact, it made my relationship with him quite interesting. Whatever my slightly-left-of-center opinion on social issues, or issues of defense, foreign policy, domestic policy, or the economy, he had another viewpoint. We’d exchange these kind of long treatises on government and policy (no doubt filled with delusions of academic grandeur), and I could always count on what was essentially a respectful exchange of differing ideas.
But when he graduated from the “Big Green” university in Hanover, New Hampshire, he took up a new hobby- talk radio. And the corpulent Limbaugh headlined his daily dose of political “information.”
What started off as, “I disagree with you on this, and here’s how I see it,” deteriorated rapidly into complaints about “liberals” and their quest to deceive the public. Next thing I know, he’s accusing me of being a socialist (just a note, I’m probably one of the most conservative- albeit loyal- Democrats in the state of California…which is quite an accomplishment if you ask me) and talking about vast left-wing conspiracies to hijack the media and put a reincarnated Joseph Stalin on the throne of Amerika.
And where is all this coming from?
“Rush says that liberals are all (fill in the blank).”
“You don’t believe me? You should listen to Rush, because he says…”
“If you support gay marriage, you also support polygamy and incest. Rush says…” Of course, I fired back at him that if he supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, he might as well support one banning interracial marriage while he was at it. He didn’t have an answer for that one. I guess Rush hasn’t covered that yet.
The rate of degeneration of Pete’s mind is pretty astounding. When the late Republican Senator Craig Thomas was diagnosed with cancer back in late 2006 and a few insensitive media figures began running stories about the appointment process by the Democratic Governor (who would ostensibly have appointed a Democrat to replace Thomas) if the Wyoming legislator were to pass, Pete decried the moral repugnance of politicizing this man’s disease. I agreed. But last week when Limbaugh predicted that Senator Ted Kennedy- himself battling a particularly challenging form of brain cancer- would die before the implementation of any health care reform, my good friend was howling with laughter, praising Limbaugh for sticking it to “the drive-bys” (that’s Limbaugh’s less-than-affectionate term for the media).
The funny thing is that I can tell when he’s quoting Limbaugh (or more accurately, passing Limbaugh’s faulty logic off for his own), because he’ll mimic His Rotundity’s stupid buzz words- "drive-bys," "MSM" (that's main stream media), and "libs" among them. But the heavier evidence of the incredible atrophy Rush has had on this “Ditto-Head’s” brain is that when Pete’s backed into any kind of ideological corner, he starts talking about how much he loves America and how he wishes I could, too, but that liberals are inherently unpatriotic. They’re also racist (even though they try to pretend they’re not), government-loving, freedom-hating socialists who want to punish average hardworking Americans with higher taxes. (Wrong, we just think people like Rush- who just signed a $400 million contract over eight years- should have to pay a little more than a family struggling to put together $40,000 each year. In case you didn't know, that's the average US household income and about .08% of what Limbaugh pulls in annually...not 8%, but less than 1/100th of 1%).
Pete is a perfect example of the Limbaugh effect. Take a respectful, informed political discourse, and he’ll turn it into a display of ugliness and pettiness. That’s why, less than a month into Barack Obama’s first term, Limbaugh proclaimed his desire for the president to fail (this, notwithstanding Limbaugh’s whining eight years ago that Democrats wouldn’t get behind George W. Bush…which they eventually did). Pete, of course, readily agreed.
Limbaugh is everything that is nasty in American politics, rolled into one huge talking…well…thing. He eschews the kind of sound and reasoned debate put forth by conservatives like William F. Buckley and Brit Hume in favor of knock-down ratings boosters, no matter how much damage they do to the American landscape.
Former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) and host of Morning Joe wrote an incredible piece called “The Loyal Opposition” that every person who fears that deep down he or she might be a political hack (myself included) should read. But if you don’t, at least take a look at this part:
“I am greatly concerned that it will put us deeper in debt without giving us enough bang for the buck. In fact, that bill violates just about every economic belief that I hold dear. But that doesn't mean I question Democrats' character any more than it means I am cheering against the president. For the sake of America, I hope I am wrong. If I am, it wouldn't be the first time.
In 1993, I had great concerns about Bill Clinton's tax increase. I thought it would harm the US economy. I was wrong. Two years later, Bill Clinton and Democrats across America were sure the Republican budget cuts would cripple the economy. They were wrong...That creative friction did great things for America's economic strength.”
Bravo, Joe, well said. Rush, Pete…I hope you’re reading this.