A Difficult Goodbye

rush limbaugh
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, file )

From the diaries by streiff

One day towards the end of my freshman year of high school I came home and, for some reason, the Phil Donahue show was on. His guest that day was some radio talk show host I had never heard of. Whoever this guy was, he was articulate, funny, and best of all, promoting conservative values. So the next day I tuned into this guy’s radio show, from his home base channel of WABC in New York, at noon the next day.


And for 23 years my radio dial was almost always tuned to the Rush Limbaugh show, no matter where I was.

He had me hooked from that first moment. I remember laughing uncontrollably the first time I ever heard his “feminist update” theme song, with the sound of Rush cackling over some woman screaming “We’re fierce, we’re feminist, and we’re in your face.” He had (has) this amazing gift to add humor to a substantive analysis. I remember him roasting not just Bill Clinton but H. Ross Perot, and doing so in a way that made you laugh but also provided you with real insight into who these men were.

Rush was with me everywhere. When I went running, there was Rush on my Walkman. Anytime I was home from school, there was Rush. When his television show aired, I even stayed up sometimes all the way into the middle of the night just to catch a few moments of it. Naturally I bought both of his books – The Way Things Ought to Be and See, I Told You So, and I read them cover to cover practically in one sitting.

One of my favorite memories of Rush has to do with my father. My dad was a lifelong Republican, but he had come to hate George HW Bush, and so supported and eventually voted for Bill Clinton. My father mocked Rush and his critiques of Clinton, and it would sometimes be a chore to have to listen to my father yell back at Rush.

I don’t think it took my dad even three months into Clinton’s presidency to regret his vote, and eventually he would come to despise the man more ferociously than I had. My father was mainly homebound because of his heart condition, so he had my mother buy him a walkman. Why? So he could listen to Rush Limbaugh. When Rush published See, I Told You So, my dad said that the book must have been written for him.


My dad died about a year after that, but for some reason I would always associate Rush and my dad and the way Rush had converted at least one disciple.

When I went to college in Atlanta, one of the first things I did was locate the channel Rush was broadcast on. Ditto when I moved to DC. If I’m in the car on a road trip, you bet that at 12:06 eastern I’m scouring the dial trying to find where Rush is on. I’ve purchased radios specifically so I can listen to Rush at work.

As I said, for 23 years, I was almost always tuned to Rush. I’ve listened to a lot of talk radio over the years, but no one as consistently and as steadily as Rush. His brand of conservatism mixed with his engaging style was the perfect combination of substance and entertainment. Putting aside ideology for a moment, just listen to other talk show hosts. Many of them are downright terrible, and no one is as good at Rush at the art (yes, it’s an art) of talking. You’ve got your screamers (which Rush never does). You’ve got the overly serious types. You’ve got the people who feel the need to pause dramatically after nearly every sentence. You’ve got the schlocky types, or the simply insane talkers. And others are just simply boring. Rush was not only a great conservative voice, he remains the best in his craft.

Yet Rush is not just an entertainer. The man is much more insightful than even his fans give him credit for. In my first year of graduate school I wrote a  paper on American conservatism, and Rush Limbaugh was a big part of the paper. Re-reading his books it’s actually amazing to see how thoughtful he really is.


This is why the last eight months have been brutal. In a way it shouldn’t have been surprising that Rush would have an affinity for Trump. Trump hits the great sweet spot for Rush in being (ostensibly) anti-Establishment and non-pc. Rush was hardly the only conservative media voice applauding Trump’s refusal to back down from the media. Even those of us who have opposed Trump right from the start could respect at least that part of Trump’s schtick.

Unfortunately Rush’s defenses of Trump became more and more tiresome. It felt at times that it was simply the Donald Trump show featuring Rush Limbaugh, as Rush turned any attack on Trump, from whatever source, as simply the Establishment and/or the media trying to tear down the great Donald.

I couldn’t take it any more, and so what was once a daily ritual ceased. I’d tune to Rush every now and then, and inevitably he’d be discussing Trump and the latest “Establishment’ hit on Trump.

For a shining moment I had hope. When Trump initially attacked Ted Cruz, referring to him as a maniac, that was the first time Rush really ever criticized him. But even that should have been a sign, because he mainly criticized Trump for attacking Cruz with leftist talking points. He stopped short of fully criticizing Trump as I had hoped he would, and as Mark Levin would. And while Levin would eventually (if too late, according to some) recognize Trump for the fraud he is, Rush continued to defend Trump at every turn.


Some will point out that Rush has never outright endorsed Trump, and this is undeniably true. Rush doesn’t technically do endorsements, though one can often read between the lines with him. And Rush has labelled Ted Cruz the most conservative person in the race, and some have read into that as being a subtle endorsement of Cruz. But the odds are that at any given moment of the day, if you tune into the Rush Limbaugh show, he is talking about Donald Trump, and moreover, he is attacking those who would deign criticize the Donald.

What has been the most infuriating aspect of Rush’s Trump lovefest is his steadfast refusal to grant legitimacy to the concerns about Trump. Or, to put it a little differently, he continues to chalk up almost all critiques of Trump is simply the “Establishment” expressing its fear of losing power. He seems unable or unwilling to concede that many  grassroots conservatives, who sure as hell have nothing to do with the Establishment, are even more disgusted with Trump. He brushes off all legitimate criticism of Donald, and focuses instead on the media and other boogeymen, not the millions of us who are fighting in the trenches for conservatism and who believe Trumpism is an utter rejection of all our values.

Today may have been the final straw. Not only did Rush misrepresent the media’s reporting on Trump’s riot comments, but he persisted in this false narrative that all the anti-Trump backlash is a manifestation of Establishment fears.


I would think, if I’m a consultant, if I’m a spokesman, if I’m a policy analyst, I’d look at this whole Trump phenomenon and go, “I’m not needed. People are gonna realize it. People are gonna realize I’m not needed.” Let’s say you’re a foreign policy advisor for candidate X. Trump doesn’t have any. He’s leading the pack. So it’s no wonder he’s gonna be criticized for everything he’s doing. People have turf to be protected here, folks. This is huge, what’s happening here, in all kinds of ways.

So explaining the anger, the envy, the resentment, the jealousy, the fear, I mean, it’s all there. People are afraid of Trump, people are envious, people are jealous, people are frightened, people are fearful, people are threatened. It depends on where you go, but all those facets are accurate, and it’s upsetting and unnerving, which is why so many of these people are hoping and praying that Trump implodes. They are hoping and praying that Trump loses in a landslide.

They are hoping that disaster comes to Trump, because if disaster comes to Trump in one way or another they will be validated as still necessary. They’ll be able to say, “Trump, he tried to do it without us. He tried to do it without a consultant. See what happens to you? He tried to do it without a good spokesman. See what happens you? He tried to do it without a foreign policy. See what happens to you? He tried to do it without the pollsters.” That’s what they want to be able to say down the road.


As AllahPundit asks, is he saying there is no good-faith opposition to Trump? Is Rush really this blind? Does he not realize he’s basically insulting a good chunk of his audience, or what had consisted of his audience?

Rush’s actions this primary season have felt like a betrayal, moreso than the fawning coverage of Trump provided by other right-wing media sources. Sean Hannity is a talentless hack who merely spews talking points. Michael Savage is as phony a conservative as Trump. Bill O’Reilly has long been insufferable. None of the other conservative media types who have hitched their wagon to Trump have nearly the talent or the positive reputation within the conservative movement as Rush.

I’ve been a loyal Rush listener through it all. He was the background of most of my life – at least in the middle of the day. I really don’t want to listen to DC sports talk because, really, who wants to hear non-stop talk about the Washington Redskins, any time of year let alone March? Yet at this point I can no longer listen to Rush Limbaugh, and he’s lost so much credibility with me that I don’t know that I can ever go back, no matter what happens for the remainder of the election season. And saying goodbye after all these years is truly painful.


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