Otherwise reasonable people

On a long drive through red-state country yesterday I decided to listen to talk radio. I heard Rush Limbaugh mock the First Lady, in his extended rant about her lobbying Olympic officials to place the 2016 games in Chicago, because she said sports can give children a sense of what they can accomplish, that they can be the next David Robinson, Barack Obama, or Oprah. His mockery consisted of indignation that Mrs. Obama could be so stupid to forget that neither her husband nor Oprah are sports stars. Of course her point wasn’t that sports open up only sporting-related careers to children, but that sports can build self-confidence which helps them in all avenues of life. His criticism was mean and petty and helped me understand why people on the left absolutely loathe this man.

Worse, he took a statement she made about trying to open the White House to children who in the past might not have had a chance to visit, and used it to justify his claim that she is seething with anger about perceived racism. There’s no barriers to the White House, he said. Anyone can visit. You just call your congressman.

Right. The twelve year-old in Watts can call her congressman, whip out her platinum American Express card, and book a flight to Reagan Airport. Maybe she can even use her frequent-flyer miles to get a seat in first class, next to Rush. His hopeless ignorance about the constraint on possibilities that is poverty aside, it was shocking to hear his hate-filled voice denounce Michelle Obama for being a hater. No reasonable person could listen to Limbaugh’s evidence and conclude that Mrs. Obama is filled with “seething anger.”

That’s where Rush comes in, I suppose, to help otherwise reasonable people come to unreasonable conclusions.

From there he cleverly, maliciously suggested that the Obamas are lobbying Olympic officials to place the 2016 games in Chicago because their friends who own property in Chicago will benefit. “It’s just how I think,” he said, as if that were a disavowal. By the end of his show, people were calling in to express their outrage at this Obama plot to enrich their cronies. Because when you’re President of the United States, the best way you know to sling pork to your friends is fly to Copenhagen in hopes that you can increase parking lot values in your hometown. Sounds far-fetched, I know, but Rush said it, so it must be true.

To be clear, I can’t think of a single policy position on which I agree with Barack Obama. His health-care machinations — insofar as he has the inclination to actually back a literal proposal — are disastrously shortsighted, he has no economic understanding, and he seems to think that chatting with tyrants and thugs will make them reasonable. But he’s not the devil. It’s not that everything he says or does is evil or stupid. I suppose that’s what you have to stoop to when you have three hours a day, as does Limbaugh, to fill with vituperation. But to go after the man’s wife the way he did, twisting her words to make her look ignorant and hate-filled, is stomach-turning.

And please, please, spare me the comments about how the Left is no better. I know. It’s what we’ve sunk to, and I don’t see any changing it. I find Rod Dreher dead on about this sort of thing, as he is about most things:

“Here we have the economy teetering on the brink of disaster, we have a losing war in Afghanistan, we have Iran doing its best to get nuclear weapons, but that jackass [Glenn Beck] wants people to think the greatest threat to the Republic comes from minor officials in the Obama administration. And conservatives who ought to know better than to fall for this penny-ante crap go along with it because it works to make life difficult for the president, because they can. I was pleased to see Van Jones be sent down, but watching the Kevin Jennings thing, and watching Beck go after Valerie Jarrett, I wonder if that’s the new conservative m.o.: to find whatever they can on Obama appointees, and hammer away until they ruin these people’s lives. Do they not understand what they’re doing here, what they’re legitimating? Do they really think that the next Republican president is only going to be able to find saints to staff his administration? Do they really believe that the left is going to be discerning about its targets? What they’re doing is making it impossible for normal people to serve in public office, or in a public appointment.”

One of Limbaugh’s great shticks is to take a statement by a leftist and turn it into a thought experiment — what if someone on the right had said this? It’s powerful. I wish he would do that with his own voice. What if someone on the left hyper-analyzed those same statements by Laura Bush, and spoke about her in the same tone of voice, and drew the same conclusions? Would we call it fair-minded, or would we conclude that the person doing it is a spiteful little troll?

Comments

  1. Phil Martin

    Right on!
    I might not agree with the president’s policies either, but to attack his wife is low. Family should be off limits. Thanks God the President’s daughters have not been smashed.

  2. nichole

    Another direct hit. It’s that behavior which makes me stay away from politics as much as humanly possible. Too much poo to wade through to find the substance.

  3. Jaron

    Tony, I believe you’ve hit on a great point by looking at the human consquences of the ‘hate’ or targeting going on. However, Van Jones being taken down was not done for hateful reasons, imo. Look at the questions that were never answered! Signing a 9/11 Truther petition, being pro-communist, his radical racial views and encouraging his followers to see racial issues where there are none, the radical environmental agenda. Beck is a nut in many ways but he was asking a lot of questions about Van Jones and without answers anger and confusion was bubbling up. Van Jones resigned/was kicked out without the situation never being handled head on. That is the administrations fault not Becks.

  4. Beth

    Thank you, Tony. The scary thing is that people assimilate what they hear on these vituperative talk shows and then spout this crap all over the place, thinking they thought of it themselves.

    I am a euphoric liberal who used to be a clinic-picketing, parade-marching, election-canvassing, envelope-stuffing card-carrying Republican. It’s such a relief not to have to believe in right-wing ideology anymore. The only thing I kept is a love for and committment to the unborn…except now I care about their mothers too.

    I’m a pediatric nurse…I’ve seen too much to be right-wing anymore. Thank you for at least considering what it might be like to be poor and disadvantaged. Obviously Rush and his ilk have no clue.

  5. Llana

    I still worry about you stroking out before your time, Tony. That jackass has been around for a long, long, time. Just turn him off.

  6. Marc V

    At the risk of alienation, lets rewind the tape (http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_100109/content/01125106.guest.html).
    Here’s the “mean and petty attack” from what Michelle Obama said:
    “Finally, having the Olympics in Chicago would be important to ‘let people know that we understand that sports saves lives, that it makes dreams come true, that it creates visions in kids’ heads to make them think they can be the next David Robinson, the next Barack Obama,” who is a well-known sports figure, by the way. Barack Obama is a well-known athlete. Yes, that’s what he’s known for. “‘[T]he next Nadia Comaneci, the next Oprah Winfrey…'”
    She was the one who went out there to lobby for Chicago, slogging it out in the political arena, so she leaves herself open to criticism. Rush was simply picking on her for talking about sports figures and then inserting BO, as if he needed another plug.

    For the Chicago politics and land valuation theory, here’s how Rush started:
    The reason they want the games — and I’m just guessing. I’m just throwing this out. I have no evidence to back this up. This is just the way my mind works. How many people in Chicago that are part of the Daley machine, how many people in the Obama administration from Chicago own some property that will have to be sold at premium prices to build the Olympic complex in Chicago?
    BO is the one who profited from a shady real estate deal with Tony Rezko, so is it unreasonable to speculate on BO’s motives?

    I’m not going to wade into the racist comments, as continuing to harp on it does not help the situation. I will mention that it would be nearly impossible to upgrade your airline tickets to sit in first class next to Rush, as he has his own private jet.

    I do wonder how many future effective leaders are being scared away from serving this country by the intense scrutiny both parties put on candidates from the opposition. It has gotten to the point where if they don’t find something then they make up some junk, and we all know how much the public loves a scandal. With the lack of credibility for the MSM, people now rely on instant internet news and twittering tweets.

    Looks like Chicago did not make it past the first round in the IOC selection process. So much for cashing out on all that prime Chicago real estate.

  7. Donna B.

    Michelle Obama keeps presenting herself to the public with a few comments that are either incendiary or just not well thought out.

    I wish she wouldn’t be an activist first lady. Much the same that I did not like Hillary Clinton being an activist first lady.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think we elect a married couple to be president. On the Republican side, Nancy Reagan was somewhat of an embarrassment.

    Yes, children of the president should be off-limits regardless their age (Amy, Chelsea, the Bush twins, etc.) UNLESS they purposely put themselves in the political limelight as Meghan McCain did. These are examples, not definitive lists.

  8. Gray

    I love you man… You know I do, but you are cherry picking here.

    It seems to me and Rush Limbaugh hits on this fact often, that we have a President who has no real clue how to lead.

  9. Sarah Joy

    Hi, I just read your story in Ruminate. Fantastic! Beautiful! Everything I wish I could include in my short stories. Thanks for sharing,

    Sarah

  10. Steve

    Tony, the people President Obama has gathered around him as his advisers have not been targeted by Glenn Beck and others (see David Horowitz’ FrontPageMag.com for instance) for falling below the level of sainthood. These are people who have openly joined with, admired or endorsed those with political philosophies that are explicitly contrary to the republic established by our country’s founders. They have attacked our nation, sometimes literally, to bring about an new form of government or “social justice.” This anti-American philosophy has usually been documented by quoting President Obama’s advisers directly. This effort has not been a matter of taking out a political opponent by personal attacks on their humanity. You and Mr. Dreher need to look more carefully at the purpose and content of the criticisms of Van Jones and others like him.

  11. RockThrowingPeasant

    I don’t listen to Rush. It’s not due to ideology or tone. I simply don’t have the time at work when he’s on. I’m also not sure if I would listen to him, if I had the time. Again, it’s a matter of how I like to spend my time and is nothing against those that enjoy his show.
    That said, I think the larger point is being lost as we discuss character and minor actions, which has an odd sense of irony, given the original intent of the post.
    We do have a faltering economy. Our war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Horn of Africa, and all other places is being ignored by the Commander in Chief, or at least delegated as if it is the census (just do it and give me a memo every 6 months). We should be having serious discussions on healthcare, taxation, illegal immigration, Social Security solvency, etc. Instead, even when decrying the silliness of politics, we slip into discussions about the personal character of those who engage in silly season stuff.
    We’re stuck in a state of limbo because there is no consistant voice of counterargument to the administration on a national level (who is in the political game and not commentor). Of course, when that person steps up, they can expect to be ripped by the media pack over the same unserious issues.
    It’s as if everyone is waiting for someone to step forward, but they know the first one will be skewered. So, they all stare at each other behind the curtains.
    Sorry if I rambled a bit. I understand where you’re coming from, folks. It is frustrating and it would be very helpful if vocal leaders, if not political leaders, focused on national topics and not personal issues.

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