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Editor’s note: This column is one in a series of WND tributes this week to Rush Limbaugh by our columnists in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of his national radio program Aug. 1.
Rush Limbaugh is a patriot. Pure and simple, a patriot.
I see him in the select company of other patriots like Paul Revere, Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin. Thankfully, he hasn’t been asked to make a dying proclamation like Nathan Hale – “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country” – but I suspect he would, if it came to that.
Oh, I know he’s the big dog in radio, all radio, and not just conservative. And I know he’s paid big bucks because of the millions that listen to him every week. And I’m aware of the self-named Excellence in Broadcasting network and the frequent bombast and braggadocio that’s grown and developed through the years as an outcropping of his exuberant personality – and it’s meant to be entertaining. And to multiplied millions of “ditto heads,” it is.
Pat Boone dons Rush Limbaugh T-shirt
And of course, I’m aware of the savage and disparaging descriptions of him and his outspoken convictions, voiced angrily by liberals and leftists who hate him. They hate and envy him because he now wields such huge influence across the country. They’ve tried and failed to mount their own broadcasts and networks, having to gnash their teeth in recognition that their products aren’t appealing to heartland America.
But for an amazing 20 years now, Rush’s brand of unabashed love of his country and a conservative approach to its government – his patriotism – have resonated deeply with great multitudes of his fellow citizens.
Twenty years! I’m startled by that number. Nothing lasts that long in radio and television, especially in today’s fast-food, immediate-gratification society, in which yesterday’s stars are today’s doormen and parking attendants. But Rush has hit the mother lode of deep-seated patriotism among our 300 million Americans, and he’s mining and developing and expanding it, refusing to let “progressives” and modernists and revisionists sweep it away.
I’m old enough to have lived through a sobering metamorphosis in media reportage. Growing up in Nashville, I remember that we all had complete confidence in the objectivity of the news programs on radio and the reporting in our newspapers. “Just the facts, ma’am” seemed to be the credo.
Then, gradually, as the news became an important money and ratings feature for TV and radio, personalities and opinions worked their way into prominence – and sometimes seemed as important as the news itself. For a while, that seemed benign; Walter Cronkite and Ed Murrow and MacNeil and Lehrer and Huntley and Brinkley became household names. And why not? They were often named among the “most trusted” people in the country.
But gradually, many recognized that these “reporters” – whether on TV or radio or in print – were tending to slant reportage selectively, picking stories they felt were important and neglecting others. And even as they read or wrote facts, there was a discernable tone of approval or disdain, depending on their own personal bias.
During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the media – and to a disturbing degree, an impressionable public – bought into the depiction of “malaise” and loss of confidence he described.
Then came Ronald Reagan and his “morning in America.” He utilized the “bully pulpit.” And his contagious faith in America and it citizens, his continual reference to our past achievements and our continuing capability, sparked an enthusiastic revival of our spirit. Flags flew again, and a nation came to life. Businesses flourished, communism faltered and eventually failed, traditional values seemed no longer outmoded – and our international respect grew exponentially.
It almost seemed that the media reported this because they had to, but with little enthusiasm. This wasn’t the vision they’d espoused. And it wasn’t exciting enough to grow ratings and sell newspapers.
But a young guy was making noise out in California, Reagan’s home state. He was on radio, cheering for the home team, decrying liberal policies that were at odds with our best national interests, and very articulately reporting facts and figures people weren’t hearing on the nightly news – or anywhere else. He seemed “a voice crying in the wilderness,” very unlike the other radio personalities who droned on about the negatives and seemed to parrot the liberal notions and policies of only “progressives” in government.
His audience grew, a radio syndicator realized it could be a very big national audience, and the rest is history. Twenty years later, Rush Limbaugh is the very same person, with the very same message, the one that caught the ears and hearts of a local audience in California. Speaking so well for most of us, he calls for responsibility in government, consistency in policy, and confidence in Americans to make their own decisions without the stifling interference of politicians and lobbying groups – in short, for the kind of sleeves-rolled-up, patriotic, “can do” spirit that made America great!
I compare Rush to Paul Revere, the colonial silversmith who rode across the night proclaiming, “The Redcoats are coming!” His loud alarm may have irritated some. (We forget some 30 percent or more of the colonists actually preferred to remain British subjects, not to rock the boat or risk war.) But he and our Founding Fathers had a vision of a free and independent republic – and they pursued it, with everything they had.
I compare Rush to Thomas Paine, the American Revolutionary author who wrote the famous 16-pamphlet series “The American Crisis,” which he signed “Common Sense.” Greatly fanning the flames of colonial independence, his first essay, issued Dec. 23, 1776, was read aloud to the Colonial Army at Valley Forge by order of Gen. Washington. In it, Paine wrote:
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us – that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Rush, like Paine, has not shrunk from the conflict; indeed, he is energized by it, believing in the triumph of the true American will. He brings the humor and wisdom of Ben Franklin to the battle, and we cheer him on.
Someday there may be chiseled a Mount Rushmore of influential broadcasters. May it be so; and who do you suppose might occupy a pre-eminent position in that monument?
Congratulations, Rush Limbaugh. Long may you live. And loudly.