Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Three Cheers for Rush Limbaugh

Last Saturday afternoon Rush Limbaugh delivered a remarkable one-and-a-half-hour speech to CPAC. It was broadcast live by FOX, CNN, and a few other outlets. The speech ignited a storm of commentary on the Sunday talk shows and throughout the country. In it, Rush said he "hope(s) Obama fails." Rush said he felt that way because Obama's policies, particularly in economics, are bad for the country -- and at variance with the traditions that have made this an exceptional country.

I watched the well-received speech on CNN, a network Limbaugh intentionally failed to mention in his speech (he mentioned FOX several times). The CNN reporter and news reader seemed miffed that Rush had omitted any reference to their network.

CNN also read several e-mails from viewers hostile to Limbaugh. One called him a "fascist"; another likened him to Hitler. Later, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele called Limbaugh an "agitator" and "incendiary." (Subsequently, Steele apologized and praised Rush.)

Time out, folks. Limbaugh's could have been "A Tribute to America." He spoke in support of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, two documents he believes Obama is ignoring in his rush toward a nanny-state. Rush allied himself with the Declaration's commitment to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." He called for a government that respects the Constitution, which Obama clearly does not. He saluted Americans' self-reliance and their belief in liberty and opportunity.

In short, the speech Limbaugh gave was one Barack Obama should have delivered -- but won't -- ever. There was nothing fascistic or Hitlerian about Rush's call for equality of opportunity and fairness. There's nothing dictorial about a love of democracy. Yes, it's possible to disagree with Rush on some issues -- and I do myself.

However, he cherishes dissent from his views, because he realizes that conflict draws attention., and attention draws radio listeners. As Rush suggested, if people want boring, they can tune into C-Span or PBS. If he didn't have an audience, he's end up like so many of us, basically talking to ourselves. When Rush talks, people listen, and that's the main goal of his profession.

If Limbaugh is an "agitator," then the nation could use a lot more agitation. If he's an "entertainer," as he has often admitted he is, Rush demonstrates that there's nothing wrong with being entertaining. Making a thoughtful statement on politics and society does not require one to be as boring as John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Michael Steele.

Limbaugh is passionate about all the right things: liberty, equality, opportunity, innovation, and wealth creation. He's deeply rooted in American traditions and values. Other Republicans could learn a great deal from him.

In fact, part of Sarah Palin's great appeal is that she touches hearts. She doesn't confuse a political speech with a tedious repetition of facts in a graduate course in public policy. She feeds off her audience -- and this true of Limbaugh -- as it feeds off her. Her audiences, like Rush's tend to end up chanting "USA! USA!" Obama's mesmerized audiences often turn into zombies, mindlessly and metronomically intoning something meaningless ("Yes we can." Well, "yes you can . . . WHAT?)

Does Rush rely heavily on emotion? Of course, and he's wise to do so. Most Americans (70%? 80%? More?) don't on their intellect -- the rationality -- in making political decisions. Instead, they respond vicerally, emtionally -- with their hearts first and their heads second. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with feeling strongly about issues. Other Republicans -- in general, we're an unexciting lot, alas -- could learn a lot from Limbaugh.

Rush's point -- and my point -- is this: We hope Obama fails in his effort to socialize the country. Insofar as Obama fails, the nation succeeds. Insofar as Obama fails, the Constitution will remain the foundation of our nation's greatness.

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