The Indispensable Man – Rush Limbaugh, 1951-2021 by Mark Stein…
by Mark Steyn
Ave atque vale
February 17, 2021
It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of Rush Limbaugh, a giant of American broadcasting, a uniquely talented performer, and a hugely generous man to whom I owe almost everything.
Rush died this morning, after a year-long struggle with lung cancer. I was scheduled to guest-host today’s show. Instead, as you can hear, his beloved Kathryn will be introducing a special program put together by the EIB team to celebrate a great man’s life and legacy. It’s a hard thing to do – compressing a glorious third-of-a-century into three hours – but Snerdley, Kraig, Mike, Allie and everyone else I’ve worked with there for so many years will do their best.
Usually, in this line of work, if you’re lucky, you get a moment – a year or two when you’re the in-thing – and you hope to hold enough of that moment as it slowly fades away to keep you going till retirement. Rush did something unprecedented in the history of TV and radio. Commercial broadcasting began in the United States in 1920: The Rush Limbaugh Show came along two-thirds of a century later, became the Number One program very quickly, and has stayed at the top all the way to today – for a third of the entire history of the medium. And throughout all those decades Rush and his show stayed exactly the same: a forensic breakdown of the day’s news, punctuated by musical parodies, satirical sketches, and Rush’s own optimism and good humor, even through this last terrible year.
The comedy is what his many enemies and half his own side missed: Rush took politics seriously but not solemnly. In the early years of the war on terror, he introduced an Afghan version of himself “with talent on loan from Allah” and sold Club Gitmo merchandise for those seeking a tropical retreat from jihad. When Brokeback Mountain was in the news, the show ran trailers for Return to Saddle-Sore Canyon: “It’s John McCain and Lindsey Graham as you’ve always wanted to see them!” Which, in my case at least, is true.
I know precisely when I first heard Rush. It was not long after he started the show and not long after I bought my pad in New Hampshire. I was driving some visitors from London through the North Maine Woods toward New Brunswick in that dead zone where the only thing that comes in is the soft-and-easy station on 94.9 FM from the top of Mount Washington. And then that died, and there was nothing, and I forgot to switch it off so it was automatically scanning up and around the dial as we chit-chatted in the car. And then suddenly it found some guy, and there he was talking about “the arts-and-croissants crowd” moving into your town, and reading out press releases from NOW (the National Association of Women), whom he called the NAGS (National Association of Gals), and playing Andy Williams’ version of “Born Free” punctuated by gunfire to accompany any environmental story.
And, in my car, conversation ceased. My friends were what you might call slightly skeptical lefties, so they disagreed with what Rush said on the issues but they were rapt by the way he said it. Because they had never heard anybody say it like that before. It was a unique combination – absolute piercing philosophical clarity, and a grand rollicking presentational style honed through all the lean years of minor-market disc-jockeying. First, he perfected the style, and then he applied it to the content. When Clinton was elected, Rush opened his shows, for years, with “America Held Hostage, Day Thirty-Nine… Day Seventy-Three… Day Hundred-and-Twenty Four…”, and when Newt’s Republicans won the 1994 mid-terms he started with James Brown singing “I Feel Good”.
One man doing what he wanted to do saved an entire medium – AM radio – and turned all its old rules upside down: Traditionally, morning drive is your big audience, and everything tapers off from there. Rush figured that everyone needs a local guy at that time, with traffic and weather updates, and that the opportunity to build a national show lay in the hitherto somnolent slot of noon-to-three Eastern/nine-to-twelve Pacific. And within a couple of years hundreds of stations were building the entire schedule around the midday guy. In the scheme of things, I am not sure how many of those stations will be able to keep that going without him.
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if Rush was a racist like the other lies told about him from Snowflakes, why would he have a black man as his producer? hmmm