One of the most unfortunate forms of fallout from the recent uproar over the US Senate's attempt to pass a highly flawed immigration 'reform' bill, is the sense of outrage directed at talk radio by Washington insiders, Democrats and Republicans alike, specifically conservative talk radio, and especially conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Now, let's get one thing on the table right from the outset. Saying that Rush Limbaugh needs any help from my website is like saying a battleship needs help from a rowboat. But it's the thought that counts so here are a few of my thoughts.
One of the most surprising sources of attacks on talk radio, which primarily is is aired on A.M. stations, came Thursday night on the cable television Fox News Special Report hosted by Brit Hume. It wasn't Hume who attacked talk radio, in fact I believe he was as shocked as I was to hear it.
Rather it came from commentator Mort Kondracke, who with conservative author, columnist and editor Fred Barnes, hosts the Saturday evening Beltway Boys, also on Fox. Kondracke is strong in his opinions, a requirement for what he does, but in this case he came across as being angry, perhaps even outraged. And his sense of indignation over the failure of the Senate bill was nearly matched by Barnes'.
I have been asking for some time now, exactly what is going on behind the scenes with this immigration bill? It is unlikely that President George Bush would align himself with his most strident of political enemies, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for instance, without a major overriding reason. It is equally unlikely that a staunch conservative like Fred Barnes would be found singing Kennedy's praises and supporting a bill that was so fundamentally flawed.
Yet that is exactly what was happening in D.C. over the past two months, and it raises all kinds of red flags in my mind. Moreover, when the bill failed, the vitriol that usually comes only from the extremist Democrats was matched by that coming from Republicans!
It really spilled over on the commentary segment of Special Report Thursday night, and even though it was offset a day later when columnist Charles Krauthammer appeared and weighed in supporting the bill's defeat, it was obvious that Kondracke and Barnes were still upset over the issue.
OK, there is more here than meets the eye and eventually when people like me get our hands on the hundreds of pages of legalise and obfuscation that most likely define the bulk of the now-dead immigration bill, we'll get some idea of what was in there that so many Washington insiders wanted passed.
But the thing that caught my attention and raised my ire was the constant refrain that people who listen to conservative talk radio are nothing more than sheep who are easily and regularly bent to the wills of commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Michael Savage to name but a few.
I have made no bones about listening to Rush Limbaugh regularly, and there are many reasons why I do. He is accurate, and timely, and irreverent. He usually targets liberal Democrats, but he has no qualms about aiming at Republicans who claim to be one thing in their campaigns but show themselves to be quite different in their actions.
Although he can be found on several A.M. radio stations in my area, I usually listen to him on the Internet when I am in my office, primarily because the Internet fillers that play when commercials are on the radio are creative and funny and much more entertaining than product endorsements.
But I also listen to Rush because my wife and I home-school our daughter, and among my areas of responsibility are instruction in civics and politics. I have found Rush to be an unequalled source of accurate and in-depth information on the workings of our government, as well as a font of historical information on what drove the founding fathers to make some of their decisions.
It is easy to listen to Rush and teach my daughter since the first hour of his show matches up with our one-hour exercise period. I am a certified fitness instructor and power lifter, and have a gym set up in our basement.
When we are working out we listen to Rush on the radio. Since he is focused on current events, I find I often can dovetail my daughter's civics instruction with his commentary. I'll give you a recent example.
In late spring, the House of Representatives was holding another one of its mindless, endless, going-nowhere inquiries, highlighted by a very public hearing, into Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales' firing of a handful of federal prosecutors. I had been watching the proceedings on Fox News on my office television, and when we started our exercise program for the day I still was grousing about the incredible waste of public money and resources.
When my daughter asked what about this issue had me so disgruntled, I pointed out that President Bill Clinton fired 93 prosecutors without so much as a peep from Congress, that the prosecutors work at the pleasure of the president, and that they can be fired any time for any reason or no reason at all. Further I noted, and this is true to this very day, these interminable hearings have produced nothing save for the unbelievably stupid commentary that lack of evidence of any wrongdoing only indicates the depths to which the administration would go to cover up something that can't be found.
I told her the background of the controversy, and in doing so explained about executive privilege versus Congressional authority, reviewed the separation of powers, and referenced it to the Watergate hearings in the Nixon administration. I was careful to note that in Nixon's case Congress was investigating administration ties to a criminal act, while in the present case Congress is engaged in a witch hunt that only succeeds in displaying the archaic mindset in Washington, since hanging and burning witches went out of fashion centuries ago.
Not five minutes later, while my daughter was engaged in cardio exercise and I was performing overhead presses, Rush began commenting on exactly the same issue, and raised many of the very same points about executive privilege, even going over the Watergate issue. He had some additional points that I found helpful in explaining the overall situation, and what was really nice was the look on my daughter's face when she heard her civics lesson being repeated on national radio!
Not for a minute, even with all the paranoia about homeland security and terrorist eavesdropping methodology, do I think that Rush Limbaugh has bugged my basement gym to get ideas for his commentary. I think we both discussed the Gonzales hearings that day because it was current, and we share a common interest in the workings of our government as well as a common point of view on the role of government in our society.
I don't believe talk radio drives opinions in this country, I believe talk radio reflects opinions in this country. I don't believe conservative talk radio succeeds while liberal talk radio fails because of a lack of government oversight.
I believe liberal talk radio fails in the commercial marketplace because it tends to offer diversions and distractions to the real issues, and it exists in a vapor-locked atmosphere of fairy tales and hallucinogenic dreams. Liberal talk radio exists to further the concept of overwhelming government control, and far too often plays fast and loose with facts in the belief that the ends justify the means.
Does that mean that Rush Limbaugh is right 100 percent of the time? No, but he admits it and immediately corrects it when he has made a mistake. Try getting that service from Air America radio.
It was tremendously disappointing to hear so many Washington insiders join the anti-talk radio refrain and lend their support, directly or indirectly, to attempts to create government control over information dissemination via the so-called Fairness Doctrine. It is short-sighted to believe that government control over someone with whom you disagree today, can't backfire and be aimed at you tomorrow.
Here is something for Washington to chew on. I was opposed to the latest incarnation of the immigration bill for numerous reasons, but the one that resonated the most with me was the section setting 24 hours for immigration authorities to do background checks on suspected gang members. Twenty-four hours for a background check on an illegal immigrant with possible ties to criminal gangs?
I can't legally buy a firearm in Connecticut without a two-week wait for my background to be checked, even though I have lived in this country my entire life, I have served in the Marines, fought in a war, and at one time had a secret security clearance.
It takes two weeks to clear me if I want to buy a new shotgun, but only 24 hours are allocated for a person who already is a criminal by being here illegally, and may well be engaged in far more destructive behavior?
Here's another thing I don't like. Border patrol agents being arrested, tried and jailed for shooting a foreign drug smuggler in the ass when he's trying to bring hundreds of pounds of marijuana across the border. I consider the influx of illegal immigrants to be an invasion, and thus we are at war.
The border is a war zone, and those crossing illegally are enemy combatants. If they are armed, and smuggling in illegal substances to help undermine our citizens and our country, they damn well ought to be shot on sight. The agents who shoot them should get medals not prison sentences.
I got my information on both of those issues from a plethora of sources, including but not limited to Rush Limbaugh. What Rush did was fill me in on numerous other reasons why the immigration bill was flawed. I found it helpful and quite supportive.
To accuse talk radio and any of the hosts, national or regional, of creating the atmosphere of distrust of Congress is specious at best. To accuse the ocean of Americans who listen to talk radio of being ignorant, mindless sheep is petulant and arrogant.
I would suggest to those who have such a problem with talk radio, especially in light of the eruption of passion over the immigration bill, that there is a far more accurate method of finding the source of all this dissent. Try looking in a mirror.
Saturday, June 30, 2007