By now, I’m sure you all have heard the sound bite of Rush’s latest comment regarding Barack Obama: at his closing speech at the CPAC conference, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh doubled down on his widely-controversial claim that he wanted President Barack Obama to fail, insisting that he meant what he said, and chastising those who were critical of him. But, what exactly did we hear? More importantly, didn’t get to hear? My point is that just like you can’t always judge a book by its cover; you can’t always judge a person by a sound bite. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Rush fan, but I am one of the truth—now matter who it favors at the time.
Now, I think it's a forgone conclusion that Rush wants “Liberalism”, to fail. At issue here, is just what does he mean by “Liberalism”? To address that question I think we need to look at Rush’s comments historically. For brevity’s sake; I’ll only start with this year.
According to Think Progress, on January 16, “Limbaugh told his listeners that he was asked by 'a major American print publication' to offer a 400-word statement explaining his 'hope for the Obama presidency.' He responded: So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, 'Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.' (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here’s the point. Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, 'Oh, you can’t do that.' Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here.” Problem is; there was no definition of the term so what was meant was left to one’s perception of Rush.
On January 19, Rush did an interview with Sean Hannity. I took the liberty of reading the full transcript of Rush’s interview with Sean Hannity and provide you his full comment: …"Sean, he is our president now, and he's not black. He's not from Mars. He's our president. He's a human being. We're a country comprised of human beings that the Democrat Party and the left have attempted to arrange into groups of victims, and that's who he appeals to, and the victims are the people waiting around for some grievance to be resolved. They're waiting around for something to happen for them, and he is parlaying that. So I think the fact that he's African-American -- his father was black -- to me, it's irrelevant. This is the greatest country on earth. We want to keep it that way. It is that way for specific reasons. Now I look at the things that he has said, and I'm very much concerned that our greatness is going to be redefined in such a way that it won't be great, that we're just going to become average. "
So, are these comments racist, or a legitimate opinion against a policy or political direction that he disagrees with?
On February 28, Rush addressed CPAC (full transcript) and attempted to clarify his position. Read it and decide for yourself. It’s long, but a factual account of what Rush said—in its entirety.
What am I getting at here?
Racism does exist, yet even a racist has the right and civil obligation to question political policy and direction…just not a person’s right to exist and thrive.
What people take from Rush’s speeches (aside from the outlandish sidebars) has more to do with what's in their hearts and minds in the first place rather than what he says—we hear what we want to hear.
The time for demagoguery has past. No one should twist facts to support their position—people want solutions, not emotions.
No one has demanded that Rush defend, from a public policy perspective, what he means by Liberalism as it relates to creating America’s problems—but he has attempted to do that on his own.
The real issue here is that many of us assume we know Rush Limbaugh, what he stands for, and what he means when he makes one of his outlandish statements. Part of the problem is Rush. Consider this comment (according to Media Matters) made on the January 24 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, where he referred to then Sen. Barack Obama and actress Halle Berry as "Halfrican American[s]." What can one take from the comment except that he was insulting their ethnicity…or worse? But I believe the real Rush Limbaugh has been overlooked—that of master showman. You see the outlandish sales whether you’re on the right or left. So next time you hear Rush, ask yourself; do you want a good show or a good solution?