If you are reading this newspaper, the likelihood is that you agree with the Obama administration’s recent attacks on conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh. That’s the likelihood; here’s the certainty: You’ve never listened to Rush Limbaugh.
Oh no, you haven’t. Whenever I interrupt a liberal’s anti-Limbaugh rant to point out that the ranter has never actually listened to the man, he always says the same thing: “I’ve heard him!”
On further questioning, it always turns out that by “heard him,” he means he’s heard the selected excerpts spoon-fed him by the distortion-mongers of the mainstream media. These excerpts are specifically designed to accomplish one thing: to make sure you never actually listen to Limbaugh’s show, never actually give him a fair chance to speak his piece to you directly.
Putting aside any quibbles about the meaning of Rush’s recent comments, I agree with Klavan that, if you’re going to criticize someone, you should do them the favor of listening to their actual words.
I thought about this recently when a reader wrote me and asked:
Patrick: Just what is it about Rush that you dislike? . . . [T]here seems to be something in his personae that just has gotten under your skin?
Not at all. How could someone ask me that, when I have a long history of defending this man on my site?
If you’re going to criticize my attitude towards Rush, maybe you should do me the favor of looking at my actual words. Let me briefly set forth some of the history of my mentions of Rush Limbaugh on this site:
In August 2003, I attacked the Fairness Doctrine as the “Hush Rush” doctrine.
In April 2004, I praised the Dallas Morning News for noting that liberal media bias is not just a figment of Rush Limbaugh’s imagination.
In August 2005, Rush read from a piece I had published in the Los Angeles Times. I memorialized this proud moment on the blog.
In October 2006, I defended Limbaugh against an outrageous attack perpetrated on him by Glenn Greenwald.
In October 2007, I defended Limbaugh against a phony Tim Rutten attack regarding the use of the phrase “phony soldiers.”
In January 2008, I noted that Rush had mentioned an issue that I had done some work to popularize on this blog: thermostat madness, in which the government of California had arrogated to itself the right to control your thermostat in your home.
In February 2008, I mocked John McCain as indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton — in part because he was hated by Rush Limbaugh. That same month I busted Bill Maher for making the outrageous comment that he wished Rush Limbaugh had croaked from Oxycontin.
In September 2008, I boasted that the term “Tasergate,” which had originated on my site, had been used on the Rush Limbaugh program.
In November 2008, I defended Rush against an unfair set of attacks by L.A. Times columnist James Rainey.
My valued guest blogger Jack Dunphy defended Rush in February in a spirited fashion.
In March of this year, I mocked David Frum for his unnecessarily personal attacks on Limbaugh.
Sometime after that came my posts about Rush’s “I hope he fails” formulation. In my first post on the issue, I said that “he articulates conservative principles very well” and added: “I love hearing the guy hold forth. I wish him all the success in the world for his radio program.” In my next post I added the observation: “Rush obviously doesn’t want to see Americans suffer.”
But, I argued, “he sacrificed clarity for controversy.” I also noted that Democrats had no right to be snooty on this issue, as they had said they wanted Bush to fail. (I believe this post was read on Mark Levin’s show.)
I’m sick of explaining why I thought Rush didn’t express himself in the best manner. I have made it clear that, in my view, “Speakers have no responsibility to self-censor to prevent unreasonable and bad faith misinterpretations of their words.” So don’t tell me that I’m covering for those who wish to distort Rush’s words. I’ve been quite clear I’m out to do no such thing.
I think my track record merits a defense, with links. Because I keep reading about how I hate the guy — even from my own readers like the one who e-mailed the question above — and I don’t. I don’t hate him. I have been a defender of Rush Limbaugh for almost 5 years on this blog. My track record is clear.