John Derbyshire on the negative consequences (he notes there were positives as well) of the Rush Limbaugh radio revolution:

“Did the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Savages, and Ingrahams lead us to this sorry state of affairs?

They surely did. At the very least, by yoking themselves to the clueless George W. Bush and his free-spending administration, they helped create the great debt bubble that has now burst so spectacularly. The big names, too, were all uncritical of the decade-long (at least) efforts to ‘build democracy’ in no-account nations with politically primitive populations. Sean Hannity called the Iraq War a ‘massive success,’ and in January 2008 deemed the U.S. economy ‘phenomenal.’

Much as their blind loyalty discredited the Right, perhaps the worst effect of Limbaugh et al. has been their draining away of political energy from what might have been a much more worthwhile project: the fostering of a middlebrow conservatism.”


  1. Gray

    I have the up most respect for John Derbyshire. He knows Rush Limbaugh and I guess he believes what he writes. But Mr. Derbyshire is off base.

    Rush was no lap dog for George W. Bush. He was in favor of the Iraq War. He opposed the ‘Compassionate Conservativism’ of the early Bush 43 administration. He opposed the expansion of Medicare prescription drug plan. He regularly criticized George W. Bush for policy plans that were contrary to conservative principals. Rush is guilty of having great affection for Bush 43.

    I have listened to Rush Limbaugh for 20 years. He is the first person that I herd on a regular basis on the national stage that said things I agreed with (George Will on This Week with Brinkly was at most 15 minutes per week). That doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that he says. Particularly I don’t like the way that his show has grown more crass over the years with comments and language that is not appropriate for my children.

    What I disagree with, that I see more and more, is a version of jealous (of Rush) milk toast inside the beltway ‘conservativism’ from the likes of Fred Barns, Bill Kristol and most especially David Brooks. I am sick to death with conservatives who want to be liked or thought of as intelligent by liberal media pundits. I believe that Rush needs to be view for exactly what he is. Which I believe is a very well grounded conservative who may be the best communicator of ideas that we have in this current time.

    Regarding what got us in this current mess. Liberal spending and unscrupulous desire for power by leaders in the congress, both Republican and Democrat and complicity by Bush 43. To Bush 43s defense I don’t believe that he ever viewed himself to be a conservative. As Rush said many many times George W. Bush was not a leader of movement.

    Rush Limbaugh I believe makes if very easy to not like him. He has human flaws. Thrice divorced, prescription drug addiction and an ego that never goes away are not endearing facts. But he is if nothing else consistent. He is funny. Heis right most of the time. And most important to me, he is a defender of LIFE.

    So with all due respect to these pages and John Derbyshire I say that there is a lot of blame to go around for the mess that we have, but it is not Rush’s fault!

  2. kaba

    True, except Limbaugh, Hannity, and others strongly and repeatedly opposed Bush and the Republican Congress for their free spending and center-left social policy.

  3. Billy M.

    TONY – Wanted to let you know that I ordered your pamphlet back in early January. It never came and when I tried the 2 phone numbers listed on the pamphleteer site, 1 was disconnected and the other was a some sort of “chat” line. I emailed them a week ago as well and received no response. I’m not going to go nuts over the lost $5.00, but I thought you should know and didn’t know how else to contact you (or them). – Bill

  4. Donna B.

    As a conservative who has disliked Rush since his ill-advised attack on 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton, I think he’s useless as a political icon, weather-vane, or commentator.

    Oh yes, I may agree with his proclamations from time to time, but I still find him despicable. Even Keith Olberman can be correct on (rarer) occasions.

  5. Peter Nelson

    Derbyshire wants the impossible. He wants conservative radio to be more polished and middle-brow, like NPR or the BBC. Well, sure, I do too, in a perfect world. But ask yourself: is a state-sponsored media outlet ever going to be for small-government conservative principles? Not in this life. Conservative radio, in order to be conservative, must eschew government subsidies. It must succeed or fail in the real world, and therefore appeal to a mass audience. And as H.L. Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste the American public.” Therefore, alas, conservative radio will always be low-brow.

  6. cfc

    Based on the excerpt, Derbyshire comes across as a bit on the clueless side himself. Of the first issue he singles out, the “great debt bubble” – yeah, lots of people on the right were angry at Republicans for their free-spending ways and at Bush for not reining them in. I don’t listen to talk radio, but I’d be surprised if the folks mentioned were not part of that crowd. That said, there was no chorus of voices warning of an impending financial crisis. And the Bush Administration deserves a modicum of credit for trying to restrict Fannie and Freddie.

    I suspect Derbyshire’s second issue, the “decade-long effort to build democracy in no-account nations”, is also inaccurately reported. If he indeed dates this back to the Clinton Administration, I’d guess there would be some criticism from talk radio of the decision to enter the Balkan war or Somalia.

    As for his specifics, I’d argue that there is plenty of reason to regard the Iraq War as a huge success in terms of tactical goals and now, after the surge its change of tactics, strategic goals as well. Afghanistan is another story – only tactical success so far.

    And, back in the beginning of 2008, the economy could fairly be judged to be phenomenal. Hindsight is always 20-20 – it took NBER almost a year to retroactively decide the economy was actually in a recession back then. According to the traditional measure of a recession, two quarters in a row of declining GDP, the economy did not reach that until late 2008.

  7. Connie

    Hmmm. A discussion I would usually relish. When Mr. Limbaugh first came on the scene I was glad to hear some of my beliefs proclaimed loudly and intelligently.
    However, watching the effect he had on middle-class, usually religious, white family men was tragic. It changed the face of American conservatism for the worse.
    Rush’s disrespect of women, children anyone he didn’t understand or felt threatened by was humiliating and so not what I believe in.
    In a 40 year, Christian marriage, I have often been tagged as a feminazi, now that Rush gave them something to use.
    In reality, mine, I am not. Hurt fourteen years ago by a legal pesticide, applied by a Christian, recommended by my church, registered exterminator, I became something that warehouse Baptists and conservative people like Rush don’t understand and feel threatened by.
    The pesticide that hurt me has been taken off the indoor market. It is still hurting people, though. Rush would allow it to continue.
    Anyway, this is my soapbox and it is your blog. I must learn to blog.
    These discussions are precious to me, even if I keep my opinions to myself. I am isolated by my illness. My husband gets tired of hearing my banter. He is a good, patient, godly man, though stretched to the limit. I am grateful for his godliness.
    God bless you and your family and all those who contribute their opinions.

    Low brow or high brow, let’s respect other people even if they don’t respect us. We can have strong opinions without disparaging, name-calling antics that don’t solve anything.
    And Rush has not defended my life…his humor is at the expense of those weaker and less fortunate than he is…I call that a bully. He didn’t start out that way. Maybe it was the difficult marriages and the drug addiction that colored his once articulate delivery. In any case, if he was my child or my friend, I would not let him continue to embarrass himself and his conservatism in such a public way.

  8. Terro

    Rush Limbaugh is well defended in several comments here, so as an occasional listener, let me move on to considering John Derbyshire’s comment about George Bush’s attempts to “‘build democracy’ in no-account nations with primitive populations.” I hope Derbyshire regrets his own tone here. If a new middlebrow conservatism is to consider an oppressed nation “no-account,” we should all be ashamed. Michael Barone writes in “Liberals Turning Blind Eye to Human Rights” ( Barack Obama mentioned “freedom” only once in his Feb. 26 speech,that he appointed “a man who has endorsed China’s 1989 suppression of pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square” to be head of the National Intelligence Council, and has “noted [only] with cold indifference the success of the provincial elections in Iraq.” And certainly, Hillary Clinton has downplayed pressing human rights (those issues that “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis”) in outlining American policy toward China.

    A middlebrow conservatism should not be indifferent to human rights in even “no-account” nations, as to their credit, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and George W. Bush have not been.

  9. RockThrowingPeasant

    I think Rush goes “to the street” so often on his show because other conservatives, like Mr. Derbyshire, let the press whip the ocnservative voice du jour. Mild pronouncements of bad form and hypocrisy are the “accepted” counter to vicious campaigns to destroy people. So, Limbaugh uses his show as a platform for a counteracttack. Does he go too far? I’m sure he does, at times. I’m also sure he does far more good for conservatism than Mr. Derbyshire, which may be at the root of the issue.

    There is no major platform or vehicle that conservatives can count on to make their case public, other than AM radio. The Sunday shows are hosted by former staffers of Clinton, Carter, etc. The editorial pages of the larger newspapers will only suffer a conservative like Brooks, who will “grow” into his position and become more and more Leftist.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Mr. Derbyshire is more upset that no one is listening to him, yet he fails to connnect to the base. Is that a problem with the base or with Mr. Derbyshire and his frustration with Americans being so dang “American.”

    Regarding the “nation-building” business, let’s make some things clear. Going into a dysfunctional region and crafting a government is nation-building. Establishing a government after knocking the existing one from power by force is rebuilding.

    Iraq is “nation-building” in a real sense, but our option was to rebuild the country or leave it in anarchy after we had placed it in anarchy. Same goes with Afghanistan. Haiti was a different story, for example.

  10. Dave D

    Middlebrow conservatism like noonan, frum, douhat, brooks, and christopher buckley quickly morphed into obama conservatism, so I don’t think derb has a leg to stand on.

  11. Travis S

    I listened to Rush on an almost regular basis through George W. Bush’s presidency. As Gray said above, He was in favor of the way but was highly critical of the record-level spending of the administration. In fact, it was during that time period that he more regularly distanced himself from the Republican party and insisting on the Conservate label. All the Limbaugh criticism just seems to be a way for Conservative’s to get some stroking from more popular areas of the press. C’mon guys, even Camille Paglia respects his work.

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