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It’s become a highly anticipated event, if a somewhat head-scratching one.

Just why a British newspaper insists upon listing the “Top 100 Most Influential American Conservatives” is bit of a mystery, but who cares why? The list is too much fun, as political junkies spend the week arguing about it online and around water coolers.

As a testament to the enduring power of conservative talk radio, a number of big name hosts made the list again this year: Sean Hannity is No. 23, Mark Levin No. 26, Laura Ingraham is No. 28 and Glenn Beck made it to No. 6 (a leap from No. 18 in 2007).

The big surprise was that Dick Cheney beat out Rush Limbaugh for the No. 1 spot. Rush is sure to have fun on the air with his “No. 2″ designation, and will no doubt have something to say about the errors in his entry; for example, his 2008 election mischief was called “Operation Chaos,” not “Terror.”

The Telegraph did make a much-needed point: “the vast majority of [Rush's] critics clearly never listen to his show.”

Rush Limbaugh

In the wake of Rush’s recent health scare, Kenny Burgamy of Macon.com penned an insightful column about Limbaugh’s impact on the broadcasting industry:

Because of Limbaugh’s brilliance of delivering entertaining ear candy, while at the same time presenting the issues of the day in an irreverent style, he helped propel many broadcast facilities back into profitability.

I recall a speech he delivered to the National Press Club several years ago. Rush noted there are three reasons (and only three) that draw listeners to radio:

No. 1. To be entertained.

No. 2. To be entertained.

No. 3. To be entertained.

Rush approvingly quoted another column about himself on the air this week. Asking rhetorically, “Is Rush Right?” blogger Kathleen McKinley wrote:

Through the years I’ve always been amazed how right he was, and I’m not talking about issues or personal beliefs. I’m talking about predictions and the reasons behind political decisions. He warned us during the primaries that nominating anyone but a true conservative would be the wrong candidate. I didn’t believe him. … But I was wrong, and Rush was right. When we stick to our ideals and principles, we win.

But for the last year Rush has been saying something about the Obama administration that I can’t wrap my mind around. I just can’t believe it could possibly be true. What is it? Well, if you have been listening to Rush you know.

For Limbaugh, Harry Reid is the gift that keeps on giving. A few years ago, Rush auctioned off a nasty letter Reid wrote about Limbaugh and raised over $2 million for charity.

This week, Reid’s controversial statements about Obama’s “light skin” and lack of a “Negro dialect” have given Limbaugh hours of terrific material.

In one of his funniest bits in a long time, Rush mused about his idea for a movie called “When Harry [Reid] met Robert [Byrd]” (Transcript – audio is members only).

Rush’s crew celebrated his 59th birthday on Wednesday by presenting him with a “light skinned” (i.e., white) cake (FREE video).

That joke about the cake was African-American call screener “Snerdley’s” line. Rush asked him to comment on the air about Harry Reid’s racist comments, and Snerdley obliged (FREE video).

On Thursday, Rush was challenged by a young female caller who asked why he’d told listeners not to donate to charities helping suffering Haitians. When Limbaugh explained he’d been misquoted, the caller didn’t want to hear it. Finally, Limbaugh dismissed the caller as a “blockhead” with “tampons in her ears.”

Unfortunately, the misquote had by then made it all the way to the White House and been denounced. No surprise, since Rush had actually told listeners not to donate to Haiti through WhiteHouse.gov – but directly to the charities of their choice.

Glenn Beck

I just can’t get used to Glenn Beck’s new radio theme song. But I forgot all about it when he announced that he was going to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (FREE video).

More commonly known as CPAC, the annual meeting is sometimes called “Right Wing Woodstock” and “Republican Spring Break.”

Rush Limbaugh’s keynote address at the last CPAC (FREE transcript) was televised live and quickly became the stuff of legend (I also think seeing himself on tape prompted Rush to lose all that weight, but that’s just me).

Before and after his televised interview with Sarah Palin on Fox News this week (FREE video), Glenn Beck talked about his encounter with the conservative phenom on his radio show.

“Could Palin be ‘the one?’” he wondered (Transcript).

Beck also had fun with an atheist caller, who asked, “How would you classify us?”

Beck joked that the caller should call the Ten Commandments, “Mo’s Ten Safety Tips” (FREE webcam video).

Michael Savage

Michael Savage continues to make headlines. In her review of his new book, Deborah Weiss relates the sordid tale of how Savage was “banned in Britain.” She warns, rightly, that Americans shouldn’t take their Constitutional rights for granted; what happened in England and across Europe can happen here – and already is.

Ironically, in that British paper’s list of “100 Most Influential Conservatives,” Michael Savage jumped from No. 63 last year up to No. 47.

Dennis Miller

If I’ve been smiling more than usual, it’s because Dennis Miller returned from a long Christmas break last week. Along with his usual roster of great guests – Rich Lowry, Charles Krauthammer, Tucker Carlson and big names in sports and entertainment – Miller also has particularly funny callers, who phone in with jokes of their own.

On Tuesday, Miller asked listeners to come up with names for an imaginary all-Muslim-terrorist airline, and one fellow quipped, “Paradise Express,” promptly cracking the host up and winning himself a prize.

Alas, Miller’s audio archives are available to paid members only, but brief excerpts from his occasional “web cam” bits are around if you look for them (FREE video).

Hugh Hewitt

This week, Hugh Hewitt is covering California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8, which is now being challenged in court. Hewitt, an attorney, is particularly well suited to serving as listeners’ guide to the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case.

Always at the forefront of humanitarian causes, Hewitt is also calling for
“an immediate, ongoing and large airlift of injured Haitians to hospitals across the U.S.” – an idea that not everyone is enthusiastic about.

He’s opened up a thread on his blog for comments and invites readers and listeners to tell him their thoughts, pro and con.

On Thursday, Hewitt talked to author Mark Steyn about Haiti, Harry Reid and more.

About Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for “Ted Kennedy’s seat,” Steyn didn’t mince words:

“Even a decrepit one-party state like Massachusetts can do better than this pathetic husk, brain dead, non-functioning husk of a politician,” Steyn said.

G. Gordon Liddy

Explaining his absence from the show of late, Liddy shared the sad news that his wife is suffering from terminal breast cancer.

“Just a few more days,” Liddy told listeners, his voice cracking.

Our prayers go out to Liddy and his family.

Liddy also spent an hour with “the smartest man in America,” economist Thomas Sowell, in a bracing, must-hear conversation.

Laura Ingraham

Laura spoke to Mark Halperin, the co-author of the political tell-all book, “Game Change,” that’s been making headlines all week. She also covered Harry Reid’s “apology” for his remarks about Obama, spoke to John Yoo about “Obama’s lame approach to national security” and spent much of Thursday encouraging listeners to help those suffering in Haiti (FREE audio).

Ingraham also continues to call for radical change in Washington and beyond, striking a stirring populist note that is resonating with so many Americans:

“We cannot wait for the ‘powers that be’ in Washington to reset our nation in the right direction,” she said. “Taking cues from the RNC or career politicians is a loser strategy. We the people are ready to deliver real ‘change.’ This begins now.”

Dennis Prager

“Who cares whether Harry Reid holds ‘racist thoughts’?” asked the always-thoughtful yet provocative Dennis Prager on Monday. His take on the charges leveled in the book “Game Change” was a little different than those of many of his talk radio colleagues (FREE audio).

In one of his ever-popular “Male/Female” hours, Prager explained why “men taking out the garbage” is so important to women. He also spoke to Larry Elder this week – alas, we’re still waiting for Elder to return to the airwaves with that new podcast he’s said is in the works! Visit Elder’s website for more information.

On the left side of the dial

Listeners to conservative talk radio might be surprised to hear that, according to Radio Equalizer Brian Maloney, “While libtalkers remain oddly quiet on [the hotly contested Massachusetts Senate race], even ignoring the topic altogether (near silence from Air America), with one exception … conservative hosts from coast to coast are devoting entire programs to the latest news.”

Weirdly, the Democratic candidate flashed an almost subliminal image of Rush Limbaugh in a TV commercial attacking her conservative opponent, even though, by all accounts, Limbaugh and Republican challenger Scott Brown have never even met (FREE video).

It’s another bizarre indication of just how powerful Limbaugh is, despite liberals’ attempts to marginalize him.

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