Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Anti-Rush

Ed Schultz is making waves – radio waves – in North Dakota with a liberal talk show on AM radio. According to the article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, he’s been getting quite an audience and now he’s gone national via syndication, XM and on-line. The best part is that he’s a reformed right-winger.

Hoping to wrest AM radio listeners from Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives, progressives are touting a liberal alternative: the Ed Schultz Show, a three-hour shootout that premiered last month.

If the prairie’s-edge setting seems unlikely, consider the man chosen as the great progressive hope: Big Eddie Schultz, a onetime football star turned apoplectic sports broadcaster turned rabidly conservative talk-show host — a guy who mocked the homeless and raged against illegal immigrants — until, he says, love and life knocked him clear across the political spectrum.

He’s on just a half-dozen small-market stations so far, but Schultz’s goal is 40 to 60 by year’s end — as well as making a mark in the Twin Cities.

While baffling to some regional listeners, the transformation has been enough to land such guests as Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (twice). Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, was on Schultz’s show the day President Bush’s budget came out.

“I’m a meat-eating, gun-toting lefty,” he says, grinning. “I used to be a hard-line conservative. I had a real concern about my own wallet. I’m still hawkish on the military, and I’ve always been pro-life. Never done a show on abortion, though. I don’t think it would be good radio.”

And don’t confuse his guest list with being a tool for the Democrats, Schultz adds. “I’ve said that Howard Dean gives me the willies. And if I have a senator on the show, it’s got to be because there’s news.”

His conversion from rabid conservative to rabid progressive began in 1998 when he met Wendy, now his wife. A nurse, she was director of a health clinic for homeless people, and she introduced Schultz to the clients of shelters and soup kitchens.

Love conquers all.