Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Book of Common Preyer

David Frum reviews Zev Chafets’s biography of Rush Limbaugh and takes a peek into the lifestyle of someone who makes millions of dollars and has no one but himself to spend it on.

“Largely decorated by Limbaugh himself, [his Palm Beach house] reflects the things and places he has seen and admired. A massive chandelier in the dining room, for example, is a replica of the one that hung in the lobby of New York’s Plaza Hotel. The vast salon is meant to suggest Versailles. The main guest suite, which I didn’t visit, is an exact replica of the Presidential Suite at the Hotel George V in Paris. There is a full suit of armor on display, as well as a life-size oil painting of El Rushbo. Fragrant candles burned throughout the house, a daily home-from-the-wars ritual.”

Clearly this is a man with issues, not to mention bad taste by the barrel.

Mr. Frum then proceeds to psychoanalyze both Mr. Chafets’s revelations and the subject of the book with a worried look at what Limbaugh represents as the de facto leader of the Republicans.

It might seem ominous for an intellectual movement to be led by a man who does not think creatively, who does not respect the other side of the argument and who frequently says things that are not intended as truth. But neither Limbaugh nor Chafets is troubled: “Over the years, [Limbaugh] has endeavored to carry forward the banner of Ronaldus Maximus, which he always credits as ‘Reaganism.’ But as time moves on the memory of Reagan fades. It is Limbaugh’s voice conservatives now identify with. For millions, conservatism is now Limbaughism.”

That is Limbaugh’s achievement. It is Chafets’s story line. And it is American conservatism’s problem.

At the risk of being overly cynical, there really isn’t all that mysterious about the success of Rush Limbaugh; history is replete with charlatans and hucksters who have the singular genius to know exactly how to exploit the fears and gullibility of the American people. I may admire him for his skill, but it’s obvious from his inability to tolerate criticism or scrutiny that he is nothing more than a schoolyard bully raised to an exponential level. He creates nothing but discord and deception and he preys on others for his own gain. He suspects others of dark motives, deception, conspiracy and conceit because that’s all he is capable of understanding. Mr. Frum is right; if this is the future of American conservatism, they are up the creek because fear and bigotry is a beast that needs constant feeding, and it often turns on its own.

A bleeding-heart liberal would say that all Rush Limbaugh needs is to be hugged and nutured. Nah. He needs a hard kick in the ass, and often.