What Ever Happened to Rush Limbaugh?
By L. Neil Smith
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
There was a time (was it really a generation ago?) when Soldier of Fortune was my favorite magazine. During a national embarrassment called the Carter Administration (little did we imagine that something unspeakably worse was waiting over the horizon) SOF was refreshingly countercultural, the one publication in America where you could learn what the Russians and the Mujahideen were really up to in Afghanistan.
Then came disaster: Ronald Reagan was elected and SOF fell upon good times. In his jubilant days as President Elect, Reagan led us to expect repeal of drug laws even then eroding our institutions, an end to Selective Slavery, abolition of the FCC, maybe even Bill of Rights enforcement. What we got was Nancy's War on Drugs and a relentless search for a winnable war by which the government might vindicate its loss in Vietnam and the humiliation suffered in Iran. From counterculturalism, SOF transformed itself into an apologetic organ, another mouthpiece for policies begun on libertarian premises but which, with each passing day, seemed more dedicated to controlling our lives than restoring our liberties.
More recently, thanks to an even more cosmically imbecilic Democrat administration (which Republicans, in their own imbecility, brought on themselves), SOF has begun serving its readership again, particularly concerning the atrocities at Ruby Ridge and Waco. I've had occasion to converse at leisure with publisher Robert K. Brown, whom I found to be a gentleman and entertaining storyteller. I've bought copies off and on, but my fondness for his magazine never entirely returned.
I first listened to Rush Limbaugh in the spring of 1992. The expression "refreshingly countercultural" is inadequate to describe the way he hammered at the socialists who call themselves Democrats and at a Bush regime even more liberal (or more dimwitted) than the lefties controlling Congress. I often differed with the Man from Cape Girardeau (he called himself a conservative; I'm a lifelong libertarian) but he was funny, hard-hitting, as upbeat, purposeful, and combative as I've always wished libertarians could be.
I could even forgive his last-minute loyalty, once the 1992 campaign began, to "Poor George". Rush had made it plain in the time I'd been listening that he was a team player. He never tried to hide his partisanship under a cloak of phony "objectivity". As it was to him (or anybody playing with a full deck) the idea of a President Bill Clinton was too disgusting for me to contemplate. But as an experienced Lip Reader, I knew (and on the strength of GOP performance to date, still believe) that a reelected Bush would be no better. The First Wimp had shown his colors, to gun owners and then to taxpayers. As they had with Reagan, things would only get worse during a second term.
I voted for Andre Marrou and never regretted it. I sleep at night and can look myself in the mirror in the morning. Does anyone who voted for Clinton, Bush, or Perot deserve to say the same?
Adversity being what it is, Clinton's more or less accidental election was the best thing that ever happened to Rush. We all had reason to moan and gnash our teeth under the grimy thumbs of those we came to call "Waco Willie" and "Jackboot Janet". (The best thing I ever heard la Clinton called was "Hitlery".) Rush kept us laughing through two gruesome years by growing funnier, harder-hitting, and even more upbeat, purposeful, and combative.
Then disaster struck again. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Rush himself, America saw a dramatic turnover in its national legislature. Following the most exciting off-year election in history, Foley and his lot were out, Gingrich and his lot were in.
Rush would never be the same.
The signs had been there all along, of course, but if anybody noticed (present company excepted) they never said anything about it. The simple fact is that Rush was never a conservative, merely a middle-of-the-road Republican. In the years I've listened to him almost daily, read his books, an occasional borrowed newsletter, and watched him at inconvenient hours on TV, I've never heard him utter a word that couldn't have passed the lips of President Eisenhower.
This is not so much a judgement against Rush as a measure of how Republicans, despite their constant, nauseating blather about tradition and religion, allow themselves to be ideologically pushed around. I remember Rush playing bits of a Kennedy speech on taxes as an economic disincentive and misunderstanding the significance of his apparent accord with today's GOP. If you take nothing else from this diatribe, remember: conservatives drift; they lack any philosophical rudder; they're always defending the very policies they hysterically opposed a generation ago.
And so it was with Rush.
He ignored what happened to the Weaver family (it had begun on a Republican watch). He poked cruel fun at the Davidians, whom the Clinton administration had viciously assaulted, referring to them as "wackos from Waco" even as they and their children suffered and died in a defense of their rights that was beyond his comprehension. Worse, he cravenly denied it later, demanding that a fan confronting him about it name the day and hour he had done it, knowing that nobody keeps records like that but his own staff.
But I remember what the listener was referring to. (I can't name the day and hour, but I wrote about it then and could pin it down to a week if I had to.) So do those who work for Rush. It couldn't have been a proud moment for them, hearing him deny what they knew to be the truth.
Courage and integrity were ammunition Rush brought to a Second Civil War raging across America. Now he seems to have run out. Others have predicted it and been proven wrong, but I think we've seen the beginning of the end for Rush.
Thanks again to the usual Republican cowardice and duplicity (not to mention stupidity), the "revolution" of 1994 will be reversed in 1996.
Thanks for nothing, Rush.
L. Neil Smith is an award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the movement for 34 years.
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