Rush Limbaugh: Anatomy of an Obsession

It’s important, as we careen towards November, that Rush Limbaugh‘s single-minded focus on the Clintons is the main reason that his media empire grew to such great heights during the 1990s. At this point, lobbing verbal bombs at Hillary seems almost reflexive. Listeners would tune in on their radios daily during the Clinton administration to hear Rush attacking Bill and Hillary for any number of sins (Whitewater, Travelgate, etc.)

And so it came to pass that the radio show wasn’t enough of a platform for spotlighting the sins of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Rush Limbaugh, the TV show ran in syndication for four years and was produced by future Fox News head honcho Roger Ailes. In fact, there has been much speculation that had the Limbaugh TV show been more successful, Ailes would not have been available to crank up Fox News

Limbaugh’s television show was supposed to be an conservative alternative to those late night shows that were (allegedly) brainwashing America with their liberal slant. After all, how many times did parents shake their head in horror at some lefty drivel spouted by Arsenio Hall (answer: None)

One particular incident from the Limbaugh TV show is particularly instructive and we’ll work from this source material

It was November 6, 1992 and America had just elected it’s first Baby Boomer president. Millions of Americans were becoming comfortable with the First Family to be and the prospect of having the first child in the White House since Amy Carter in the 1970s. This You Tube video is our best visual preservation of Mr. Limbaugh’s TV show from 11/06/92 and a transcript will help us navigate what happened

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It’s unclear why Mr. Limbaugh is wearing a hat which appears to rep Yale. I’m not sure if he’s paying tribute to his fallen leader, George H.W. Bush or sending a bat signal to his future leader, George W. Bush, but I’m sure that, whatever the reason, it’s hilarious. Perhaps Yale had just instructed women on campus that “no means no” or some other liberal claptrap

In any case, the master is riffing on a piece by David Hinckley of the New York Daily News

So, my friends, in today’s New York Daily News right here, holding it here in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers, it’s the obligatory in-out list. Every time there’s a massive change somewhere, people are in, people are out. I’m now out. It says about me on here, Rush Limbaugh, loud-mouthed conservative and Bush favorite, trusts no one to the left of Pat Buchanan. He’s out.’ You know, they wish. In their dreams

The crowd slavishly applauds, as though fed their cue from a blinking sign in a television studio. Oh, wait!

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David Hinckley of–of the New York Daily News wrote this, and what he has–he’s got–it’s very strange. He says, In: A cute kid in the White House. Out: Cute dog in the White House.’ Could–could we see the cute kid? Let’s take a look at–see who is the cute kid in the White House

He pivots, like a true pro, to see what’s on the monitor. This pops us

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He then mock protests, as though he is terribly offended

No, no, no. That’s not the kid

Then, this picture shows upLimbaugh4

That’s–that’s the kid. We’re trying to..

Crowd applauds because the sign tells them to

Later, El Rushbo pleads

There I go. My friends, I apologize again. I — that’s the third time the crew makes a mistake by showing you Millie the dog when I intended to show you Chelsea Clinton, and then I followed with that terrible story. I’m — I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m fatigued. I’m tired. I really don’t — in fact, you know what I’ll do? Let’s pretend this is a daytime talk show and that I’m a guest on, say, Sally, Phil or whatever. How can I make amends to you for what I just did? I can spank myself. People who spank themselves, next RUSH. Watch this. (Rush stands)

I’ll do it with my left hand. I — I’m right-handed, so it won’t hurt as much. Do it with my left hand.

(Rush spanks himself, screaming and crying; written on screen, Ouch!!!’)

It’s actually much worse when you realize that he admitted they did that joke three (3) times. In various forums over the years, Limbaugh has claimed it was a technical error, which is a lie because:

  1. His television show was pre-recorded (vs. live), so any technical errors could have been fixed with editing before air
  2. Otherwise, what’s the damn joke

On November 10, 1992, Limbaugh offered a “heartfelt” apology

And I’m terribly sorry. I don’t — look, that takes no talent whatsoever and I have a lot of talent. I don’t need to get laughs by commenting on people’s looks, especially a young child who’s done nothing wrong. I mean, she can’t control the way she looks. And we really — we do not — we do not do that on this kind of show. So put a picture up of her now and so we can square this.

(Photo shown of Bill and Chelsea Clinton, who is making a sour face)

(Laughter and applause)

Bearing one’s soul is often an emotional exercise

One of my favorite stories from the Limbaugh canon is when Rush and Bill came face-to-face at a New York restaurant in 2007. Longtime Limbaugh listeners might have expected Rush to spew invectives at Clinton, detailing how he’d ruined the country, or some such thing

Instead…

I reached out my hand, “Mr. President, it’s a pleasure to meet you”. We shook hands and so forth , and he hung around for two or three minutes, maybe five

Here’s hoping that in the future, Limbaugh comes into contact with former President Hillary Rodham Clinton at some swanky Manhattan steakhouse. And, in my mind’s eye, they exchange pleasantries and chat amiably for a few minutes, as Limbaugh’s current wife tells him to turn up his hearing aid

But, would you really blame her if she slapped the snot out of him?