The story of Rush Limbaugh reminds me of a movie you wouldn’t believe could ever happen in real life. Forging his own path against all odds and under constant attack, in the end, the hero triumphs!
I knew about the prominent Limbaugh family before I ever heard of Rush. I clerked for a federal appeals court judge in Kansas City after law school, and every lawyer in the Midwest has heard of the Limbaughs–the Limbaugh judges, the Limbaugh lawyers, the Limbaugh courthouse.
But Rush spurned the law, spurned college and went on radio. He wanted to be on radio, so that’s what he did. He was a conservative, so that’s what he was.
As obvious as it seems now that Rush would be a huge success on radio, it was far from obvious for many years. He was fired repeatedly, until, eventually, his distinctive brand of conservative talk radio that no one believed would work, worked.
When Rush came along, it’s not just that there was no conservative talk radio to speak of. AM radio was dying. And the idea of a national show three hours a day at a time of day when Republicans are at work must have seemed ludicrous to even his friends.
But the moment Rush became a huge success, liberals said he was just in it for the money!
Yes, what surer path to fame and fortune than announcing that you are a conservative and taking on the entire mainstream media while being repeatedly fired?
Perhaps some of Rush’s imitators are in it for the money, but when Rush was coming up, there was absolutely no reason to believe three hours of conservative talk radio was the path to big bucks. (Judging from Air America radio, liberals sure aren’t going into talk radio for the money.)
This is why I have a rule: Never trust a conservative public figure who hasn’t been fired, at least once, for being a conservative. Apparently, we can trust Rush!
By being the first and the most successful public conservative, Rush made it leagues easier for those of us who followed him. Among other things, he flushed out liberals and forced them to deploy all their idiotic talking points against him. By now, we’ve heard the same denunciations so often, we can lip-sync liberal attacks on us.
But when Rush started out doing conservative radio, there was no Fox News, there were no other national conservative talk-radio hosts, there was no Drudge Report. Rush just had to stand there taking bullets by himself.
And he had no shortage of critics, on the left and a few envious souls on the right. They’ve never changed, even as Rush became more and more popular and other conservatives followed Rush into various branches of the media and they too became more and more popular. Luckily, Rush’s critics have tended to disappear when their newspapers fold or their columns get cancelled, but new ones always pop up spouting the same drivel.
Back in 1991, The Syracuse, (N.Y.) Post-Standard unleashed almost all of the standard liberal clichés against conservatives in a single editorial denouncing Rush. I have categorized them here:
1. His shtick is getting tiresome. “By next year at this time, we may be saying, ‘Rush who?’"
(Actually, by that time the following year people were saying “They’re paying Rush Limbaugh how much?" and asking ,“The Syracuse Post-what?”)
2. Thinking conservatives reject him. “He bills himself as a conservative, although thinking conservatives, after an initial chuckle or two, should want to put as much distance between him and themselves as possible.”
(That would explain the 22 million listeners every week, the top-selling newsletter, and the two No.1 bestselling books.)
3. He makes personal attacks! “His favorite technique for discrediting an idea with which he disagrees is to make petty personal attacks against the people who espouse that idea.”
(Yes, who can forget Rush’s bestselling Book "Al Franken Is A Big, Fat Idiot"? Wait –that wasn’t his book? What liberals mean by a “personal attack” is any comment about a liberal. )
4. He’s mean. “He is not a nice man, and he doesn’t pretend to be. . . . And he’s nasty.”
(This would explain the legions of female callers who breathlessly call Rush every day, cooing, gushing, and all but proposing to him over the airwaves. Of course, if by "nice" liberals mean "someone who cares about what liberals think," then they’re right: Rush is not nice, not nice at all. Neither am I!)
5. He’s a fraud who just does it for the money. “Limbaugh admits he’s in it for the money.”
(This is as opposed to newspaper editors and reporters who work pro bono.)
6. He’s not as good as [fill in the blank] “Plainly, he’s no Edward R. Murrow.”
(And yet, he’s inexplicably more popular than Murrow was.)
7. He’s more like these other losers. “Limbaugh reminds us of Morton Downey, Jr., the celebrated TV hatemonger of a few years ago.”
(Really? Okay, name one similarity. Besides the fact that Rush Limbaugh and Morton Downey, Jr. are both more popular than the Syracuse Post-Standard.)
Even writing a cliché, The Syracuse Post-Mortem couldn’t get it right. They missed liberals’ famed “fact-checking” of conservatives and the deft counterargument: “he’s stupid.” So, I’ll add two more from the standard attack on conservatives:
8. He gets his facts wrong! A 1994 article in Newsweek claimed to have found a study showing that “Limbaugh often disdains facts.” Among the examples was this quote from Rush: When "the [black] illegitimacy rate is raised, the Rev. Jackson and other black leaders immediately change the subject."
But according to Newsweek: “For years, Jesse Jackson and others have decried ‘children having children.’"
(Say, wasn’t there a story recently about Jackson threatening to cut someone’s “n–s off”? Oh yes, I remember now! That was what Jackson said he wanted to do to Obama for talking about the black illegitimacy rate.)
9 He’s stupid! Or as Ken Bode put it in a 1993 New York Times article: “Mr. Limbaugh is not hobbled by intellectual consistency.”
(22 million listeners a week.)
Attacks like these gave the rest of us something to aspire to! Conservatives, if you’re not being called a mean-spirited has-been, who’s in it for the money, engages in personal attacks, gets his facts wrong and plainly is “no Edward R. Murrow”–you ’re not doing it right.
Liberals have had nearly two decades to come up with some fresh libel of conservatives, but it’s always the same thing. Thank you, Rush Limbaugh! This has been a big help.
Like Jerry Seinfeld’s mother, who can’t understand why everyone doesn’t love Jerry, my mother is constantly perplexed by any criticism of me. I always tell her: “Remember how much you love Rush Limbaugh, Mother, and think of all the terrible things they’ve said about him. Notice how no one ever criticizes Rich Lowry.
This always works, but it makes me wonder: What did Rush tell his mother?