Barry MacDonald -- Editorial
Rush Limbaugh, an Army of One, by Zev Chafets. Penguin Group, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, pp. 229, ISBN 978-1-59523-063-8, $27.80 hardbound.
One cannot be indifferent to the voice coming through the radio. If there is an impervious liberal bent, then the words carry deception and lies. If there is a conservative view, then the effect might be like having listened as English families did to Winston Churchill during the Nazi bombings: the gathering together for mutual encouragement.
And the smallest openness presents the possibility of conversion, the overturning of cherished beliefs for a new perspective. The words tumble out pell-mell and joyous, recreating a political battlefield with familiar personalities and issues, and clarity is imposed. The proud are humbled, the deceitful are revealed, and opinions presented with coherence and a command of detail. Scoffers may scoff, but Rush cannot be ignored. The listener is drawn in, transfixed.
Fifteen years ago I returned to America after a long absence to work for The St. Croix Review. I remember entering the garage with the van radio on and hearing Rush for the first time. He was responding to a hateful caller with such panache that it was as if he picked the spitting fellow up by a foot, dangled him about, and tossed him off the air.
Sometimes my work involves running a printing press; I put a radio near the press so I could listen to Rush. When delivering printing I listen to Rush on the van radio. I listen to him during lunch breaks. For fifteen years since my homecoming he has been dangling liberals by a foot and tossing them away.
Zen Chafets has done an impressive amount of research in writing this book. He has visited the important locations and interviewed hundreds of people. He has written a human portrait that includes vulnerabilities surprising to regular listeners -- Rush has struggled to find a sense of belonging. He played spin the bottle and the high school prom queen refused to kiss him. A program director in Chicago gave an unmerciful review of his early work. Larry "Superjock" Lujack, a radio personality Rush admired, said nasty things about him -- Rush hasn't forgotten.
After much struggle he arrived in New York with his techniques honed and found hostility from the famous broadcasters and entertainers he sought acceptance from. He was a nobody who wanted to be somebody on the streets of New York, and when he was recognized in rare instances he encountered rudeness. He was ambushed on the Pat Sajak Show when the topic turned to AIDs and an activist audience shouted "You want people to die!" and "Murderer!"
Rush often comments on air that he believes elected Republicans in Washington, D.C. lack fighting spirit because they crave acceptance from the media establishment and the social salons, as he had sought acceptance in New York, and Republicans are willing to compromise their principles to find belonging -- an impulse Rush would not indulge.
Rush has been divorced three times (he has recently married again), and was fired on multiple occasions from radio shows early in his career. He was summarily dismissed after a brief stint as a sports commentator for the flagship ESPN show "Sunday NFL Countdown," after expressing the opinion that Donavan McNabb was overrated as quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles because the press wanted a black quarterback do well.
He was prevented years later, in a public and humiliating way, from becoming an owner of St. Louis Rams after being portrayed as a racist and drug addict (Zev Chafets covers Rush's addiction to prescription drugs that caused his deafness -- a disability that would have ended the broadcasting career of an ordinary human). The friends who invited Rush to become an owner of the Rams deserted him when it became clear that he was unacceptable to the NFL club.
Above all, the person whose admiration Rush sought most, his father, was grudging in his approval and constant in skepticism. His father disparaged Rush's passion for radio broadcasting and told Rush that by dropping out of college, as Rush did after one year, he was limiting himself romantically and professionally. It is sorrowful to Rush that his dad died before he acquired EIB One, a Gulfstream G550 jet that might have proved to Big Rush, who was a WW II fighter pilot and an aviation buff, that Rush had made it.
Zev Chafets has provided the reader with depth of understanding. Rush's persona is a show. The bombast, the intellect, satire, drop-dead funny parodies, the everyday servings that make the show so joyful for Rush to perform, as he often expresses on air, and so much fun to listen to, come with a cost. Since his days of anonymity on the streets of New York, Rush has achieved a level of visibility equal to movie stars and presidents, but because he is famous for his outspoken conservatism he may be the most hated and feared man in America.
Four months into President Obama's presidency, at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, Wanda Sykes, a comedienne, said:
Mr. President, Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails . . . like "I don't care about people losing their homes, their jobs, or our soldiers in Iraq." He just wants our country to fail. To me, that's treason. . . I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a waterboarding, is what he needs . . .
Rush said to Zev Chafets that he knew that he was in the first place on the enemies list of the President of the United States. He said in an email:
I know I am a target and I know I will be destroyed eventually. I fear that all I have accomplished and all the wealth I have accumulated will be taken from me, to the cheers of the crowd. I know I am hated and despised by the American Left.
How many of us could live with such hatred, with privacy hard to come by? Listeners should not begrudge him his frequent vacations, because he more than anyone feels the brunt of the cultural war.
It's not possible to capture the genius of Rush Limbaugh in a book, although Zev Chafets does a good job, or in a few pages of an editorial. Rush covers the whole array of political and social issues well, but he is especially good at showing how damaging and self-defeating liberal economic policies are. Is there anything more valuable during the Obama Presidency?
A good friend and strong supporter of the St. Croix Review has said that Rush is more trouble than he is worth, because he is harsh, and gives people a negative impression of conservatism. But my friend also said that his work hours don't permit him to listen when Rush is on air, 12:00 to 3:00 eastern time; he just goes by what other people say.
This is a mistake: Don't let other people form your opinion of Rush Limbaugh -- maybe they don't listen to him either. Listen to him yourself. You can hear his show anytime by visiting his web site at www.rushlimbaugh.com. *
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." --Winston Churchill
Some of the quotes following each article have been gathered by The Federalist Patriot at: http://FederalistPatriot.US/services.asp.