Over the last eight years, even though it often made me break out into hives, I've listened to a lot of Rush Limbaugh. I've heard him express the full gamut of his emotional range: from hateful to very hateful. But over all this time, I've never known him to be pathetic until yesterday.
As the media has now endlessly dissected, Rush was thwarted this week in his efforts to buy the National Football League's St. Louis Rams. His ownership group, led by St. Louis Blues boss Dave Checketts, dumped Rush without ceremony or pity. Checketts issued a statement saying, "It has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions; endangering our bid to keep the team in St. Louis. As such, we have decided to move forward without him and hope it will eventually lead us to a successful conclusion."
His comments came the day after Rush insisted on his show that they would fight this to the bitter end. But Checketts, like most owners a long time donor to right wing causes, had no desire to link arms with Limbaugh for a public crusade. You might think Rush would have gone on the air to slam Checketts's absence of a spine. You might think he would have called out the hypocrisy of NFL owners who give prodigiously to right wing candidates and causes, but insist on doing it in the shadows. You might think he would rail against those who see their conservative support as something sordid and best done behind closed doors. You might think Rush would howl at the moon at those who think that being an open, unreconstructed right winger, actually hurts the almighty bottom line. You might think he would say that the right wing has failed a major test by refusing to back him. Or maybe you might think he would take a different tack and accept personal responsibility for why a group of billionaires wouldn't want his presence affecting their bottom line.
But no. Rush instead had this to say about why his defeat occurred:
This is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we're going to have.....This is the latest assault on people who believe in rugged individualism and liberty and freedom who threaten the whole notion of state control tyranny and central authority which is typified by the Obama administration and the Democrat Party.
It boggles the mind. For someone who claims a belief in rugged individualism and rails against "victim politics" while he preaches personal responsibility, it was almost jarring to hear Rush whine about "tyranny" on the left when it was his compadres on the right who just said no.
It was even worse to hear MSNBC's Pat Buchanan defend Rush, comparing this episode to the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1950s, saying "this is blacklisting," which "liberals used to condemn." To compare a crew of billionaires throwing Rush under to bus to McCarthy's persecutions, is about as offensive as Glenn Beck's efforts earlier this week to compare Fox News to the Jews in the Holocaust. Yes, it hasn't been a banner week for conservative metaphor.
Let's be absolutely clear: there is nothing in the First Amendment that covers the right to own an NFL team. Owners have the right to protect their brand and Rush needs to deal with the fact that in 21st century America, he is a liability and not an asset.
As for the position "liberals" should take in such a manner, it seems more than obvious about what side we should be on. I would rather stand with the growing handful of players who were going public with the sentiment that they would never play for someone so noxious. Remember, NFL players have next-to no control over what team they play for. They don't have guaranteed contracts. A recent study showed that many suffer dementia or Alzheimer's when they hit their mid 40s. According to their collective bargaining agreement, they only have the right to view their own medical records twice a year. It's a situation that former player LaVarr Arrington called "slavery" on his radio show on Thursday. Any time they make an effort to exercise any kind of control over their professional lives, we should support that. They didn't want to play for someone who said that they "looked like the bloods and the crips without the weapons." Good for them.
As for Rush, maybe he just went about this all wrong. After all, this is a man who once said,
"Holocaust? Ninety million Indians, only 4 million left? They all have casinos...what's to complain about?"
Maybe he should have tried to just buy the Redskins instead.