Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rush Errs

The Rush Limbaugh Show
KTTH 770 kHz
Weekdays 9-noon
[plus overnight & Sunday afternoon replays]

Coming from a prominent southeastern Missouri family that is quite accomplished in the law, you'd expect that Rush Limbaugh would have a pretty thorough familiarity with the United States Constitution. And he does, as he demonstrates on his dominant national newstalk show pretty much daily. But just minutes ago over his Excellence in Broadcasting Network, he made a whopper of a constitutional error.

When railing against Barack Obama's apparent ignorance of civics in a Boston Globe interview from December, Limbaugh declared that the Senate isn't empowered to ratify treaties.

Well, sure it is, Rush! It's all right there in the second paragraph of Article II, Section II. True, that's the Article which delineates the powers of the Presidency, not the Senate, and the word "ratify" is never used, but it's unambiguous nonetheless. And given how prominent the Senate's ratification role traditionally has been, everywhere from the protracted SALT II debate to the plotline of Advise and Consent, this truly is a glaring factual mistake.

But maybe I should cut the undisputed king of talk radio some slack here for that uncorrected miscue, given what he's been through during the last fortnight. If you haven't noticed, his hugely influential program been at the center of extraordinary sequence of events that has emerged as one of the most interesting backstories of Campaign 2008.

As John McCain's various (and mostly hapless) rivals for the GOP nomination have fallen by the wayside over the last couple of weeks, the bombastic broadcaster's long-simmering distrust of the controversial Arizonan finally boiled over. And now, not merely the Limbaugh audience is paying attention.

Limbaugh's nasty vocal impression of an always-angry McCain has long been a daily feature of his program, along with periodic volleys of satirical brilliance against him from EIB musical parodist Paul Shanklin (scroll down for "EIB Parodies Creedence"). Now the McCain campaign is finally responding to these and all the other shots that newstalk radio's dominant program has long been firing his way.

So far this confrontation has only been through surrogates; neither the radio talk titan nor the candidate have admitted to any direct communication (though a number of GOP elders have reportedly been pushing for just such a private summit, in the interests of party unity). The most tangible evidence from McCain's end that Rush has been getting under his reputedly-thin skin may be the huge uptick recently in his mentions on the stump of the word "conservative". Of course, McCain's critics on the right suspect this promiscuous employment of the C-word just cloaks his generally centrist--or even downright liberal, if you ask Rush--legislative bent.

Despite his bitter suspicions of the former Keating Five legislator, Limbaugh remains scrupulously fair to him; he's always quite respectful of the former Navy pilot's decorated service in Vietnam, especially regarding his horrific captivity in Hanoi. But, as a Limbaugh caller pointedly pointed out last week, Benedict Arnold was also once known principally as a war hero.

The imbroglio has played out as McCain has tightened his presumptive grasp on the GOP nomination, with various cable news talking heads as bit players, and with op-ed writers from the New York Times on down second-guessing the stated motivations of both the Senator and the broadcaster. Yesterday, the affair culminated in the pair's faces landing on the Newsweek cover under the blurb, "There Will Be Blood: Why the Right Hates McCain".

The amazing ascension like the phoenix of this recently-left-for-political-dead man from Phoenix was widely seen as proof positive that Limbaugh's power has in turn waned. Rush was thus repeatedly dismissed last week as a has-been, since this all supposedly adds up to his losing the "McCain v. Limbaugh primary".

Yet now he's also finding himself portrayed as somehow still retaining enough clout to clandestinely tug the strings of the opposition party. The line of thinking here is a maneuvering that eases the Clintons' effort to by hook or by crook outlast Obama. Hillary then bests a Rush-weakened McCain in November, this preposterous theory goes, and Billary thus returns to the White House, all so as to serve as perfect foils for another four or eight years of Limbaugh lampoons.

But while he might be a bit loose with the occasional constitutional fact, Limbaugh's precisely correct when he contends that his broadcast's remarkable success is not now, nor ever has been, the least bit dependent upon who's in the White House. As he been saying for years into that EIB microphone, "No matter who's there, I'll be here." And for as long as he's able to fulfill that open-ended pledge, that's a beneficial thing-- both in general for the society, and in particular for commercial newstalk radio listeners.


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