Hey, I can't help it.
I have spent the past few days with a gigantic smile on my face, deriving the utmost pleasure from the travails of Rush Limbaugh -- the man who had me convinced for nearly 15 years that global warming was a hoax. Honestly, this stuff couldn't have happened to a nicer liar.
Limbaugh's slurs against Georgetown University Law Center student Sandra Fluke aren't the most offensive thing to fly out of his toxic mouth. His declaration that evangelical Christian climate scientist/Newt Gingrich scorn target Katharine Hayhoe was just a "climate babe" was arguably far more repulsive, since that insult precipitated a torrent of obscene hate mail against Hayhoe from the kindergarten-dropout wing of the GOP.
"El Rushbo" is on the downward spiral, even if he manages to survive this current controversy. After nearly 25 years of partisan bombast and shameless deception on issues such as climate change, it's clear that the talent God loaned Limbaugh is beginning to run out.
I wasted nearly 15 years of my life listening to Limbaugh, defending him against progressive criticism, laughing at jokes that weren't all that funny, supporting a man undeserving of support. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me far too long to acknowledge Limbaugh's bigotry.
After I declared last year that I would no longer defend Limbaugh against allegations of bigotry (on the heels of his depiction of President Obama as a burglar on the cover of his August 2011 newsletter), I was contacted by a few readers who insisted that I must have heard racist rhetoric on Limbaugh's show prior to the early-2010s. I'm afraid that they're right.
I remember two broadcasts in particular, one in 2001 and the other in 2006, where Limbaugh went on lengthy, nasty rants against Oprah Winfrey and her influence on the American public. The rants were so sick, so unpleasant, so ugly, so vicious that I was forced to turn the radio dial. There was something, well, unbalanced about Limbaugh's attacks on Winfrey's success.
Why would Limbaugh attack Winfrey with such vigor? One would figure that Limbaugh would praise Winfrey as proof that America was not institutionally racist, that the American Dream was available to anyone who worked hard enough and had enough intelligence. Why was he attacking her as worthless and undeserving of tremendous wealth and prestige? I didn't want to admit it to myself at the time, but looking back, racial resentment had to have been a motivating factor. (He attacked her viciously again in 2010, after I had decided to stop listening to the show.)
I should have called out Limbaugh back then for his racially charged assaults on Winfrey. Instead, in the name of conservative solidarity, I kept my mouth shut, even going so far as to defend him against allegations of racism in articles written for Human Events Online in 2008 and 2009. I wish to apologize for writing those two pieces, as well as for not realizing just how much of a schmuck Limbaugh really was all along.
Regardless of the outcome of this current controversy, history will remember Rush Limbaugh as the man who murdered conservatism, the man who made the American right cheap and chintzy and sleazy and scummy, the man who destroyed what William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, Whittaker Chambers and so many other men and women worked so hard to build.
I still remember listening to Limbaugh's show on Feb. 27, 2008, the day Buckley passed away, and hearing Limbaugh describe the number of emails he had received from folks who declared that he was the rightful heir to Buckley's conservative throne. One wonders what the folks who wrote those emails are thinking now: While Buckley could engage in some dicey rhetoric himself, it's impossible to envision him fantasizing about watching sex tapes.
Today, there are only two high-quality national talk radio hosts: Progressive Radio Network's Betsy Rosenberg (full disclosure: I have had the honor of joining Rosenberg in interviewing Hayhoe and other prominent environmental figures) and Michael Smerconish. Rosenberg and Smerconish emphasize civility, reason, honesty and intellect -- qualities that haven't manifested themselves on the Limbaugh program in years, if ever. If it were up to me, Limbaugh would be banished to the hinterlands and Rosenberg and Smerconish would be promoted as the future of talk radio. They're so much better than the past.