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Thursday, November 9, 2006
Limbaugh’s Confession (and Other Musing on Simplistic Partisanship)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:35 pm

As I have noted in several posts, I have largely given up on listening to political talk radio, so I did not here this live, but rather (ironically enough) heard it mentioned on ESPN Radio.

The “it” in question is Rush Limbaugh’s rather odd statements from his show yesterday, in which he basically admits that he was shilling for Republicans who didn’t “deserve” his support, and now that the GOP had lost, he doesn’t have to do that anymore.

Now, I am not all that surprised, but the revelation is remarkable and underscores the notion that Limbaugh isn’t an intellectually honest conservative commentator, but rather that he has been (or had evolved into) nothing more than a cheerleader for the GOP.

From Rush’s own site (link above at his name and all emphases mine):

The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I’m going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, “Well, why have you been doing it?” Because the stakes are high. Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country’s than the Democrat Party and liberalism does.

I believe my side is worthy of victory, and I believe it’s much easier to reform things that are going wrong on my side from a position of strength. Now I’m liberated from having to constantly come in here every day and try to buck up a bunch of people who don’t deserve it, to try to carry the water and make excuses for people who don’t deserve it. I did not want to sit here and participate, willingly, in the victory of the libs, in the victory of the Democrat Party by sabotaging my own. But now with what has happened yesterday and today, it is an entirely liberating thing. If those in our party who are going to carry the day in the future — both in Congress and the administration — are going to choose a different path than what most of us believe, then that’s liberating. I don’t say this with any animosity about anybody, and I don’t mean to make this too personal.

When one thinks about, Rush’s attitude mirrors key problems evident in the outgoing Congressional majority: the notion that the most important thing was holding on to power, not an honest assessment of the country’s situation.

Further, this underscores an ongoing problem in American political commentary: allowing partisanship to trump ideology/philosophy.

It is one thing to have a point of view, it is quite another to become a shill for a given political party no matter what it does. I briefly listened to Hannity’s radio show on Tuesday and he was nothing more than very loud booster for Republicans. Now, one would expect Hannity to be pro-GOP but there is a point where one ceases to be an ally of a given party and one because nothing more than a propaganda tool for them. Once one has crossed that line, it is impossible for me to take them seriously at all.

If I am going to spend a lot of time reading or listening to a given commentator, I want an honest examination of ideas, not just rah-rah for a party. A conservative or liberal will be biased, yes, but they should be biased on the basis of ideas, not because one prefers Elephants over Donkeys, or vice versa.

I know I say this probably too much, but the only place where it is legitimate (indeed, requisite) to pick a set of symbols and then root like crazy that those symbols prevail is in sports. The reason it is legitimate is because a) the choice of Longhorns over Trojans or Colts over Patriots is not a moral one (indeed, it is probably a sentimental one), and b) it ultimately doesn’t matter in any substantive way. It is all for fun; it’s entertainment. Yes, politics can be fun and entertaining, but that is not it’s sole purpose-not by a longshot.

Let’s face facts: when it comes to sports, we are often rooting, as a friend of mine used to acknowledge, for the clothing. Ultimately it isn’t even about the people on the field because the people come and go, but the clothing remains the same. Sadly, there are many out there who do the same thing with politics. And yes, Hugh Hewitt, I’m looking at you.

Update: James Joyner weighs in:

Commentators, whether they be syndicated columnists, talk show hosts, or bloggers, build audiences by putting themselves on the line arguing for things that they believe in. Those who are perceived to merely be ranting for the sake of outrageousness, like Ann Coulter, are quickly dismissed as frauds.

It’s one thing to be a partisan and quite another to be a partisan hack. If a commentator believes that their party’s leaders are failing to live up to their self-proclaimed values, then it’s incumbent upon him to say so. That’s how you build credibility.


James also validates my reference to Hugh Hewitt above. Wrote Hewitt on his Townhall blog yesterday:

And it is a wonderful day for new media, especially talk radio. For two years we have had to defend the Congressional gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Now we get to play offense.

And why, precisely did he, or anyone else, have to “defend the Congressional gang that couldn’t shoot straight”? I suppose because he really is nothing more than a GOP shill who perceived his job as defending the Party no matter what.

Filed under: US Politics | |Send TrackBack

The Moderate Voice linked with 2006 Elections Hit Lockstep Conservative Talk Hosts' Credibility
Jon Swift linked with No Holding Back
PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Even More on Talk Radio linked with [...] If you are following the trackbacks from Sullivan’s site, my extended thoughts on the subject are here and here. [...]


  1. I think you may be deliberately misunderstanding the comments you quote from Limbaugh and Hewitt. I also suspect you don’t listen to either as much as you say, especially Rush. I have heard MANY comments from him that are critical of Bush, for not being conservative enough. Since you don’t mention that, either you don’t know it (do your homework next time) or it doesn’t help you make your case… now who’s being intellectually dishonest?

    Re: Hugh, yes, he’s more partisan than Rush…. but no more so than the NYTimes, WAPO, LATimes, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, et. al… he simply admits it. At the time he’s making the comments he makes. Again… WHO is intellectually dishonest here?

    Comment by harmonicminer — Thursday, November 9, 2006 @ 9:52 pm

  2. See, I disagree that it is such a bad thing to be partisan. Personally, I can see why Hewitt and Limbaugh would defend the Republicans as a party until they lose. First off, someone has to do it. Secondly, I think Hugh at least views the Republican platform as worth preserving and saving - and that does trump individuals for him. He’d be right at home in England. ;)

    Heck, its nice to have Hewitt - he states he’s a partisan, and it is interesting to see what his positions are.

    Comment by B. Minich, PI — Thursday, November 9, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

  3. No Holding Back

    When Republicans had both houses of Congress it was actually quite a burden. But now the gloves can come off and for the first time in 12 years we don’t have to hold back any longer. We can tell you what we really think and we are ecstatic about our …

    Trackback by Jon Swift — Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 4:41 am

  4. harmonicminer,

    As I have noted, I haven’t listened to Limbaugh lately, save for a snippet here and a snippet there. I did listen weekly, and often daily, for a rather long time-over a decade, in fact. Odds are quite good that I was listening to Limbaugh before you had even heard of him.

    What motivation would I have for “deliberately” misunderstanding either of them? What’s your interpretation?

    And while I recognize that there are a panoply of different biases that exist in mass media, you cannot generalize entire organizations and compare them to two individual commentators. The reality of the situation is far more complicated than that.

    Indeed, I think we (meaning all of us who observer politics) make two key errors when we discuss bias. One is the individual v. entire network error, and the other is the commentary v. news coverage error.


    I have no problem with the notion of partisan affiliation, connection, identification, or whatever. But I can’t take seriously the “analysis” of someone who simply is a cheerleader.

    Further, the reason to be partisan is to promote key values and policies. The test of true simplistic partisanship (and not, that I used that adjective above) is that even when your party is deviating from those values you defend it anyway.

    As James’ noted in the quote above: there’s being partisan and there’s being a partisan hack.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 9:00 am

  5. 2006 Elections Hit Lockstep Conservative Talk Hosts’ Credibility

    You can add another casualty to the 2006 elections: the credibility of lockstep conservative talk show radio hosts.

    There’s a difference between …

    Trackback by The Moderate Voice — Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 10:46 am

  6. harmonicminer wrote that “Hugh, yes, he’s more partisan than Rush…. but no more so than the NYTimes, WAPO, LATimes, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, et. al… he simply admits it. At the time he’s making the comments he makes.”

    The best response I’ve ever heard to this sort of “argument” is the following:

    “I have never been impressed by the argument that, because complete objectivity is impossible, a person should just let his sentiments run loose. This is like saying that because you can never have a completely germ-free environment, you may as well perform surgery in a sewer.”

    Comment by Dan — Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

  7. […] If you are following the trackbacks from Sullivan’s site, my extended thoughts on the subject are here and here. […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Even More on Talk Radio — Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

  8. Hugh Hewitt’s reference to talk radio as “new media” is laughable. Talk Radio is as old as the hills.

    Comment by Bryan S. (guestblogger) — Saturday, November 11, 2006 @ 8:19 pm

  9. Bryan,


    Of course, Hugh sometimes acts like he invented blogging, so I think he likes to conflate talk radio with that.

    Although more to the point, I think a lot of conservatives, especially of a certain ilk, like to think of conservative media (Rush and friends, Fox News Channel, etc.) as the “new” media.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Saturday, November 11, 2006 @ 8:44 pm

  10. The fact is, Rush has not been carrying water for the GOP for years.

    He’s just puking this stuff up because he believes it will help his ratings, which are down.

    After all, who isn’t going to tune in NOW, to hear Rush go off on Republicans? etc etc etc.

    It’s good for (show) business, and I’m very amused to see how many people have bought it, apparently choosing to believe he was serious.

    He must be having a huge laugh this weekend.

    Comment by Guesst — Saturday, November 11, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

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