Off the Cuff: Rush Limbaugh and Political Division

Rush Limbaugh was an important voice in the conservative movement, though he never held Donald Trump accountable — and may be the reason Joe Biden is president.

That’s the topic of my Off the Cuff audio commentary this week. You can listen to it by clicking on the play (arrow) button below.


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What They’ll Do for Donald Trump …

In Robert Bolt’s 1960 play A Man For All Seasons, an overly ambitious little man named Richard Rich commits perjury against his friend, a great man of conscience, Sir Thomas More – perjury that he knows will send Thomas to his death.

And why does he do it? Because Richard Rich needs to be somebody bigger than he is. He needs recognition. He betrays his friend in exchange for a job he thinks will give him status – Attorney General of Wales.

After the trial, when Sir Thomas knows he is doomed, he confronts Richard Rich and utters a verse from the Bible – with a twist.

“It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Wales?” – making sure Richard, a status-seeking careerist, understands what he has just done:  that he gave his soul not for the whole world – but for a trivial job in a trivial place.

None of us is pure. Few of us are as noble as Sir Thomas More. We make accommodations. Sometimes we convince ourselves that our motives are noble, when in fact they’re selfish.

But if we’re going to sell out our principles, we should be motivated by something of great significance. Each of us can decide what that might be, what would cause us to abandon our long held beliefs.

Selling out always comes with a price.

Sir Thomas lived in the 16th century, but his stinging observation holds a message even now, some 500 years later. And so in his final days in office, a question comes to mind about our current president: If it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … why do it for Donald Trump?

Donald Trump no longer fascinates me. By now, I know who he is and I wish he would just go away and leave us alone, his legitimate accomplishments notwithstanding.

But his most loyal supporters are another matter. Not his rank and file passionate allies, many of whom aren’t as formally educated as the liberal and progressive elite. They aren’t as sophisticated, at least not as the elite define sophistication. They’re more likely to vacation in Branson, Missouri than in Martha’s Vineyard. They felt the scorn, the disrespect of the elite class. And they saw Donald Trump as a man who cared for them.

They also understood that he wasn’t the Hitler or Mussolini his unhinged critics claimed he was.

And I’m not talking about the Latinos or African Americans who voted for Donald Trump in numbers many on the left found both surprising and troubling. Under Donald Trump’s stewardship the economy helped minorities and they understandably wanted four more years with him at the helm.

They’re not the ones who fascinate me. I understand why Donald Trump was and still is a hero to many of them. But the media elite, the ones who abandoned their conservative principles for Donald Trump; the ones who sacrificed their dignity for Donald Trump … they fascinate me.

In a recent column on this site, John Daly names names. “People like Mollie Hemingway, Mark Levin, and Greg Gutfeld, who were once outspoken Trump critics, turned into some of the president’s most shameless sycophants and defenders,” he writes. “When one looks back at National Review’s famous ‘Against Trump’ issue from 2016, they’ll find contributor names like Glenn Beck, Ben Domenech, Brent Bozell, Katie Pavlich, and Dana Loesch … all of whom now bend over backwards not to say anything the slightest bit disparaging about Trump. Some [were] even busy … promoting Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy theories.”

There are others in the media who sold out for Donald Trump, a man who if it suited his purpose would abandon them without a second thought.

Does Rush Limbaugh really admire a chronic liar and narcissist like Donald Trump? I have trouble believing that he does. Yet Rush can’t say enough good things about Mr. Trump. Such is the hold our soon-to-be former president has on otherwise strong willed individuals.

Evangelical leaders are just as bad, maybe worse. I understand why they believe Donald Trump would be more in tune with their conservative values than Joe Biden.

But surely they know that Donald Trump maliciously ridicules and humiliates his opponents. That he mocks their looks. That he makes fun of their physical disabilities. That he lacks empathy. If white evangelical leaders don’t like Joe Biden, fine. But enthusiastically supporting a man like Donald Trump who has trashed so many Christian values strikes me as shameful.

And in Donald Trump’s world, no one is safe, not even his political allies. Just ask Jeff Sessions, his earliest supporter in the U.S. Senate. One “wrong” move and he was banished — and humiliated by his former boss on the way out.

Or more recently, ask the president’s treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who spent many long hours negotiating a COVID relief bill with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer only to have Donald Trump blow the deal up at the last minute, calling it a “disgrace.”

Loyalty is important to Mr. Trump – but it’s a one-way street.

In addition to everything else, “Trump has taught his opponents not to believe a word he says, his followers not to believe a word anyone else says, and much of the rest of the country to believe nobody and nothing at all,” as Bret Stephens put it in the New York Times.

The sycophants must know this. Maybe they’re afraid of Donald Trump, afraid of what he might say about them if they held him accountable. Maybe they just like being close to power, to give the president advice, to convince him that he’s as wonderful as he thinks he is. Don’t overestimate the lure of a pat on the head from the man at the helm. Maybe the pols fear retribution from his adoring base if they stand up to him. But is any of that worth their dignity?

Or to put it another way: “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world” … but for Donald Trump?

Bernie’s Q&A: Pence, Schumer, Limbaugh, Trump, COVID-19, and more! (3/13) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)

Welcome to this week’s Premium Q&A session for Premium Interactive members. I appreciate you all signing up and joining me. Thank you.

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Now, let’s get to your questions (and my answers):

Hi, Bernie…..I figured you need a break from the incessant political questions so…I just watched your HBO Real Sports feature on the deaths in horse racing. I live in Arcadia, CA, very close to Santa Anita, and so have been aware of the deaths this year and the protests. I must say that your report opened my eyes to the shameful, shameful treatment of these horses. Do you have any updates on any movement to do something legislatively? THANK YOU for doing this feature! Unrelated….who is the dog at the top of your question submission page? He looks like your typical reporter at a Trump press conference. — John F.

Thanks for the kind words about my HBO story, John.  Much appreciated.  I know of no active legislation to address problems in the horse racing business. A bill to create uniform rules in all 50 states has been lingering for years — but I have no new information regarding any progress.  As for the dog, he’s an accredited journalist who works for Dog News Daily and the picture was taken at a press conference.

Mr. G, From a Queens guy to a Bronx guy; if Schumer who is from Brooklyn used that as an excuse for a pass regarding his threats to the Supreme Court, why then can’t he and the Dems allow Trump from Queens a pass, or many passes, for all his crass comments? Why can’t we all “Fugghedabout” the trash talk and exaggerations and just debate policy? — ScottyG

If coming from an outer borough, as they call everyplace in NYC except Manhattan, were a legitimate excuse for stupid behavior, there would be a lot fewer dopes in NY.  Schemer’s excuse was pathetic.  He should have said, “I got caught up in the moment ,.. and I’m sorry for what I said.”  But apologizing is seen as weakness in the world of politics, so he didn’t say I’m sorry.  By the way, Mr. Trump is no better.  He doesn’t believe in apologies either.

Bernie you always call the Democrats and the media “allies.” But Trump and the Republicans have media allies too. — Douglas S.

You’re right Douglas, but far, far fewer.  Trump has Fox and talk radio (and some places on the web).  The Dems have most of the so-called mainstream media.

Many resent that Trump awarded Rush Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom because of their disdain for Rush’s politics. I get that. I also keep hearing that “Rush is a racist.” While I know that Rush says controversial things that can be seen as pushing the envelope, I don’t think he’s a racist. I just think he likes people who agree with him (including black people like Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, and Thomas Sowell), and he dislikes people who disagree with him (Jesse Jackson, Obama, et al). One of the racist accusations is that he called some black people “uppity.”

So here are my questions: Why exactly is the word uppity a “racist” expression, even if the person being described actually IS uppity? AND…in your opinion, do you think Rush Limbaugh IS a racist? Do you think he is undeserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Or do you think he just calls it as he sees it through his right-wing viewpoint? — Talk Radio Regards From The Emperor

I don’t think Rush is racist but I do think he’s needlessly provocative and brings some of the criticism on himself.  I think it’s a conscience decision he’s made — for ratings.  Uppity:  The word has historic baggage.  Advice:  Don’t use it despite its literal meaning.  Is he deserving of the Medal of Freedom? Rush has been very good to me when others weren’t.  I don’t like bashing him  But given some of the things he’s said, he wouldn’t have been high on my list.  Had Barack Obama given the award to Michael Moore, we know how conservatives would react.  The president knew what he was doing.  He was giving the award to a man with a serious illness — but also playing to his presidential base.

Bernie, do journalists have any sense of responsibility at all these days? The coverage of Coronavirus has been completely ridiculous and it seems most of the problems are driven by the press. Last week, the Daily Mail ran a headline that implied Corona was just as bad as Ebola and AIDS. How in the world is running that headline responsible? This morning, Dan Patrick said on national radio that there is, “no test for Coronavirus” which is absolutely false. It seems the journalists now are more interested in throwing grenades in a crowded room and covering the carnage that results instead of drilling down deeper into the facts of a story and seeing what is a real threat and what is nothing more than fear mongering. Will there ever be sanity again in journalism or is getting clicks and ratings all that matter? — Joe M.

Let’s get the easy part out of the way first, Joe.  When journalists are irresponsible I obviously am against it.  When they hype the news for clicks, I’m against that too.  But when you say “most of the problems are driven by the press” you leave me confused.  The problems are real.  People are getting infected all over the world.  People are dying.  This is not “fake news” made up by journalists.  Criticize them when they get it wrong.  And criticize the president when he gets it wrong.  But it’s not a good idea to take the most blatant examples of bad journalism and draw conclusions from that.

In today’s hot political climate where so called journalists are clearly on one side or the other (well many of them anyways) which one would you want to interview and what one or two questions you would ask? Given they had the guts to be interviewed by you. — Tim H.

There are some fools on cable television who would make for good interviews, but only because they’re so biased that it would be both easy and fun to expose them for what they are.  But they’re not important enough — if i had to pick only one.  To answer your specific question, Tim … I guess I’d pick Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the NY Times, because he has so much influence.  Brian Stelter of CNN interviewed him and if they gave out Worst Interview of the Year Award, Stelter would have won it because he didn’t ask a single tough question.  All he did was lob softballs at Baquet who hit them out of the park.  I’d also like to interview Stelter because he’s so pathetically bad in his job, but as I said, cable news fools don’t make the cut.  As for what questions I’d ask, I listed a few in a column I wrote.  Here’s a link to it.

Prior to his address to the nation on Wednesday, Trump had been saying (to downplay the threat) a number of things about the coronavirus that contradicted what his top medical experts had been telling Americans. And following his address, the White House had to immediately walk back THREE of Trump’s major policy announcements that he had stated quite incorrectly (the false information tanked stock futures). Being how extremely important this public safety issue is, should he just let Mike Pence do all the talking from now on? — Ben G.

Yes.  On second thought, make that YES!!!!!!

Hillary supporters love to bash the electoral college and point out that she won the popular vote. They’re basically saying that she won a contest by a set of rules that doesn’t exist. The electoral college is still relevant and useful. It requires a presidential candidate to build a large coalition over a broad set of cultures and geography. It also doesn’t allow the 51% to steamroll over the 49%, something the founders wisely put into several areas of constitutional law. Yes, Hillary won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, but she won California by more than 4 million. Trump won the popular vote in the other 49 states and also carried more than 82% of U.S. counties. While it’s troubling that an elected president lost the popular vote by a substantial margin, it equally doesn’t seem fair that another candidate almost carried the election without even winning 1 in 5 counties. To me the electoral college is extremely relevant and a bulwark of our representative democracy. What is your opinion? — Steve R.

First let me say, Steve, that you are a perfect example of how intelligent so many of you, who submit questions, are.  You state the facts not only correctly, but with nuance and, as I say, intelligence.  And for that I thank you.

Now to my opinion:  I’ve long had mixed feelings about the Electoral College.  Part of me says one person, one vote.  End of discussion.  If  California is a big state with a lot of people, most of whom vote for Democrats, well that’s the way it goes.  But that leaves us with the problem you outline. The Founding Fathers came up with the Electoral College for a good reason.  I’m not going to second guess them.  But honest, Steve … I’m torn on this.  I could go either way.  I know that’s not a solid answer but it’s an honest one — and that’s the best I can do right now.


Thanks, everyone! You can send me questions for next week using the form below! You can also read previous Q&A sessions by clicking here.

The Conservative Media Impeaches Taylor and Kent

President Trump’s impeachment hearings began on Wednesday, and after some fairly partisan opening statements from congressional leaders, we were introduced to the proceedings’ first two witnesses: William Taylor (our U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine) and George Kent (a deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs).

Both men were there by subpoena, and answered questions on what they knew of (and had previously expressed concerns over) the hold Trump placed on Ukraine’s security assistance, as well as the president’s controversial communications with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. (Much of the Democrats’ stated basis for impeachment is the implication that the congressionally approved assistance was contingent on Zelenskiy digging up political dirt on Joe Biden).

Taylor and Kent seemed to quickly establish themselves as credible, highly competent individuals — men who’ve served their country honorably, and under multiple administrations. And early in their testimony, they even gave supporters of President Trump some nuggets to cheer for:

But as things continued, and the two described their concerns over the president’s irregular maneuvering (which included the firing of an ambassador, and Rudy Giuliani leading a politically-motivated “investigation” under the mantel of U.S. foreign policy), it became clear that their testimony was rather compelling…and potentially damaging to President Trump.

That didn’t stop some on the right from continuing to find bright spots:

Of course, pretending that this was an important exchange is rather silly. Ratcliffe’s question is a perfectly legitimate one when asked of the Democrats holding the impeachment hearings, but not of the witnesses. Taylor and Kent were subpoenaed fact-witnesses, called on to testify to what they know. They aren’t the ones pursuing impeachment, nor are they burdened with having to make that determination.

To Fleischer’s credit, he didn’t attack the credibility and character of the witnesses. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some of his colleagues in the conservative media.

While the hearings were underway, Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, tore into Taylor and Kent, calling them “deep state” operatives and “professional nerds who wear their bow ties, and they have their proper diplo-speak.”

“These guys are simply ticked off that they were not listened to,” Limbaugh added. “They are ticked off that they were not heard… There hasn’t been anything but a bunch of self-important, narcissistic, ‘we run the world’ kind of guys really ticked off that they were ignored, that they were not listened to.”

This went on for some time. Here’s a little more:

“They are from a different world, and it’s a world where they think they are in charge. It’s a world they think they run. They don’t get to determine foreign policy. But in their world, they do. In their world, they are in charge of foreign policy. They believe in their own superiority. They believe in their own competence and importance with a complete cluelessness.”

For a little perspective, one of those “clueless” “self-important nerds” (as Limbaugh referred to him), who had the gall to express his concerns over what he believed to be improper government conduct, is a former captain and company commander in the U.S. Army, who voluntarily served in Vietnam. I’m talking about Taylor, who also happened to earn a Bronze Star and an Air Medal for valor.

Regardless, Sean Hannity shared Limbaugh’s sentiment on his own radio program:

“What you’re really watching are these nerdy guys that don’t know President Trump, never met with President Trump, that speak to the European Union ambassador, make interpretations out of his conversations that actually contradict his testimony, and obviously they have a level of self-importance that is just nauseating to me.”

Aside from the obvious takeaway — that it’s pretty darned funny for Limbaugh and Hannity to be calling anyone “nerds” — it’s interesting that they appeared to be reading from the same script.

Hannity, carrying that script over to his Fox News show, later called the two witnesses “self-important” and “uncompelling.” He said they “seem to care more about Ukraine-first policies than America-first policies.”

Mark Levin, a guest on Hannity’s show agreed, describing Taylor and Kent as “two homeless guys.”

On Tucker Carlson’s show, guest Christian Whiton called the witnesses “deep state crybabies” and said they “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.”

Carlson himself described them as “washed up bureaucrats.”

Fox News’s Chris Wallace had a very different take earlier in the day, saying that “William Taylor was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the president.”

This royally upset frequent Trump defender, Sean Davis of The Federalist:

Yes, Davis, who prides himself as someone who exposes unfair media narratives, said that Chris Wallace, one of the most evenhanded national journalists we have, “is every bit as deranged with Trump hatred as the nuttiest guests on CNN or MSNBC.”

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

There’s a perfectly reasonable (and probably effective) argument to be made that what Trump did doesn’t rise to the level impeachment, and that the Democrats are pursuing this initiative for purely political reasons.  But as is often the case with the conservative media these days, it’s not enough to simply make such an argument. Anyone of notoriety who puts forth potentially detrimental information (or even detrimental commentary for that matter) on this president must be both discredited and burned at the stake.

This serves as a regular reminder that Trump Derangement Syndrome goes both ways, chronically suffered not just by those who can’t find anything right with the president, but also by those who can’t find anything wrong.

Megyn Kelly, on John A. Daly’s new novel, Safeguard.

Donald Trump — Conservative Radio’s Fairness Doctrine

collageWe all remember how big of a topic the Fairness Doctrine was with conservatives, back in the Bush era. As you’ll recall, some in the Democratic party were hoping to reinstate the long-dead FCC policy out of an expressed need to restore political balance to the public airwaves. The regulation, which originally required broadcasters to air opposing points of view on controversial issues, was seen by some on the Left as a way of leveling the playing field against the runaway success and heavy political influence of conservative radio.

Of course, the field wasn’t the problem. The progressive Air America radio network had the same opportunities to succeed as the conservative-media giants, but it simply couldn’t find an audience. It was an abysmal failure, and shut down after six years.

Where free-market attempts to diminish influential conservative voices (and promote liberal ideology) had failed, some liberals felt that they could do it through government regulation. Fortunately, their efforts didn’t get very far in Washington, and there hasn’t been any meaningful revisit of the Fairness Doctrine for about ten years.

Thus, Talk Radio has remained the one information medium in this country where conservative thought has a competitive edge. And it’s a dominant edge — an arena where progressives can barely manage a foothold.

At least that used to be the case.

Things changed in the summer of 2015. That’s when some of the biggest names in conservative radio decided to do the Left a major favor by handing it a gift far more valuable than anything liberals could have gotten out of the Fairness Doctrine.

That gift was The Donald Trump Show.

If you would have told me 18 months ago that some of conservative radio’s top dogs (like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham) would one day show up to work, and start doing everything they could to get Hillary Clinton into the White House, I would have said you were crazy. If you would have told me that they would abruptly suspend their long-preached principles (defending the Constitution, preserving personal liberty, and embracing small-government fundamentals), I’d have laughed you out of the room.

After all, these people were so committed to conservative purity within the Republican party that they had been pressuring political leaders to shut down the government in order to rein in federal spending. They had branded GOP moderates (and not-so-moderates) as “RINOs” and “squishies.” Some had even joined primary campaigns to remove sitting Republicans in congress who they decided were insufficiently conservative.

Yet, when Donald Trump (a personal friend to some of them, and an identified ratings-magnet to others) entered the presidential race, the ideological sanctimony essentially dropped by the wayside.

These people began elevating and normalizing a big-government autocrat, who knew virtually nothing about conservatism (or even relevant policy). They even diminished his genuinely conservative primary opponents. And when the polls and Trump’s hopelessly undisciplined, adolescent behavior made it painfully apparent that Trump couldn’t beat Hillary in the general election, they pushed him even harder.

They lent conservative credentials to a fan of single-payer healthcare and eminent domain, who vowed not to reform our nation’s entitlement programs. They excused his opposition to free trade and freedom of the press. They glossed over his moral and ethical shortcomings, and his advancement of reckless conspiracy theories. The rationalized even his most ridiculous rhetoric, and they forgave him for his political past — a luxury they granted to no other presidential candidate.

Above all, these people knew that Trump wasn’t going to be the next president. They knew his nomination would lead to another decisively liberal U.S. president. Yet they refused to use their conservative clout to keep that from happening.

Rather than practicing what they’d been preaching for years (in some cases, decades), they turned into some of Trump’s most valuable surrogates. The Donald Trump Show (which extended to the blogosphere and cable news) was just too big to fail, or perhaps too big to pass up from a monetary standpoint. Trump’s brand became more important than the conservative cause, and certainly more important than taking back the White House.

Amusingly, now that pretty much everyone is seeing the writing on the wall for November 8, these same media-conservatives are trying very hard to pin the blame for their guy’s approaching loss on those of us who opposed the Republican party’s forfeiting of this election from the beginning.

Talk about pathetic. I would hope that their listeners would eventually come to realize who it was that really betrayed them. I think many already have.

The Democratic party and the progressive movement couldn’t have asked for better allies than those in the conservative media who’ve been carrying Trump’s water for almost a year and a half. The Left knows they have their own terribly flawed candidate in Hillary Clinton, and that she would have been easy pickings for any remotely capable GOP nominee.

But that didn’t happen, in significant part, because the Democrats finally got their Fairness Doctrine. And it has gone a long way toward advancing the liberal agenda.

From a Dead Sleep

From a Dead Sleep — A Sean Coleman Thriller, by John Daly