Wednesday, February 17, 2021, was a sad day for American conservatives.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh died of lung cancer.

His weekday radio show, broadcast all over the United States, gave a voice to independents and Republicans who support American values and common sense.

Why millions mourn

Although Limbaugh spent nearly all his career in broadcasting, he became a household word during the Clinton administration. Adults listened to him intently. They encouraged their children to listen to him also, whether at home or on the road.

Limbaugh spoke the truth in a witty, humourous way that kept the syndication of his show on the rise.

The man with the golden microphone influenced millions of Americans, young and old, in a tie that he designed himself. He had a series of these ties, of varying designs of his own which were made in pure silk and produced in the 1990s. They sold like hotcakes:

His broadcasting company was called EIB: Excellence in Broadcasting.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis gave one of the state’s two most famous residents — the other would be President Trump — a proper tribute, including an excellent potted biography. Click on the image in the tweet to see more:

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used one of Rush’s invented terms for those who agreed with him: ‘ditto heads’. As I recall, in order to help pace calls from listeners, he encouraged them to say ‘ditto’ if they agreed with him. In time, he affectionately called them ditto heads:

Trump supporters and commentators Diamond and Silk also sent their condolences:

Limbaugh’s many millions of fans knew that he was gravely ill.

Nevertheless, he helped President Trump out by having him do a two-hour rally on air last October. As many states were on coronavirus lockdown, it seemed a sensible way to reach listeners all across the country, which it duly did. Dan Scavino’s tweet includes a link to the transcript and to the video:

On October 19, he provided his audience with an update on his health. An excerpt follows:

I just don’t like to talk about it often ’cause I don’t want to be a cancer patient on the radio.

And there’s another thing too. Folks, it’s an up and down thing. It really is a day-to-day thing. And so what I tell you one day could very well be true. And then the next day, oops, setback, oops, then I gotta go back, “Folks, what I told you yesterday, forget it. It’s not true today.” I don’t want to put you through that. I don’t want to put myself through it. But I know you’re concerned. So, it is time. I do want to provide you with a brief and honest update.

In a nutshell, there are lots of ups and downs in this particular illness. And it can feel like a roller coaster at times that you can’t get off of. And again, I want to stress here that I know countless numbers of you are experiencing the same thing. If it isn’t lung cancer, it’s some kind of cancer. If it isn’t you, it’s somebody really close to you. If it isn’t an illness, it’s something. We’re all going through challenges. Mine are no better and mine are no different and mine are no more special than anybody else. But it can feel like a roller coaster.

On Christmas Eve, his audience wasn’t sure whether he would make it back for the New Year. Thankfully, he did, for a while:

On the day of his demise, his widow Kathryn introduced the show with aplomb. All credit to her. She did a brilliant job at what must have been one of the most difficult moments in her life:

No doubt the show’s producer, Bo Snerdley, helped her with a highly professional announcement:

Speaking of family, this is David Limbaugh’s tribute. Rush was his brother:

Career success

Part of the reason Rush Limbaugh retained such great listener loyalty was that he could make boring or contentious subjects funny.

One of his early radio heroes was Larry Lujack, known during the 1970s as Chicago’s ‘superjock’ when he was employed by WLS. Lujack’s ratings were enormous, even for a top-40 station.

Another one of Limbaugh’s favourites was William F Buckley Jr, who founded National Review and hosted PBS’s Firing Line for many years.

Limbaugh came from a family of lawyers and judges, so the admiration of Buckley is understandable.

However, Limbaugh was not one for legal or serious academics, and, as a boy in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, he gravitated towards American football and radio.

Little did Rush Limbaugh know that he would be able to surpass his ‘mentors’ during his career and become one of the most famous men in the United States.

He borrowed heavily from both.

Radio

Having a career in radio is very difficult.

You get hired and fired in quick order. Even a superjock like Larry Lujack had his ups and downs before finding ratings success at WLS.

Interestingly, this is how he did it. And Rush Limbaugh did something similar during the early days of his career.

WLS used to carry farm reports before it became a Top-40 music station. When Lujack started, the station was still receiving farming magazines, so, instead of reading the grain reports with a formal farming report, he began relating stories from the farming magazines. These eventually became a regular feature on his show and were called Animal Stories.

Similarly, in 1971, when Lujack was at his height in the disc jockey ratings, Limbaugh was working at a Pittsburgh radio station which also had farm reports. Fox News has an article on Limbaugh’s career and relates how he got around farm reports:

“The last thing that the audience of my show cares about is farm news. If farm news came on, bam! They pushed the button and go somewhere else. So, we had to figure out, ‘Okay, how do we do this and protect the license?’ So I turned the farm news every day into a funny bit with farm sound effects and the roosters crowing and so forth, and I’d make fun of the stockyard feed prices or whatever it was, so that we could say, ‘We’re doing barn news,’ agriculture news. There was all kinds of things like that,” Limbaugh told listeners.

The tidbit offered a glimpse into Limbaugh’s early days, proving that he was a master of keeping audiences engaged from a young age.

Veteran talk radio host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr wrote a warm and detailed tribute to Limbaugh, which shows just how he mastered radio. Excerpts follow:

Thanks for being the absolute best lead-in any other radio-talk show host could have ever dream of having.

Thank you for all the great nicknames from old Top 40 songs, including for local Massachusetts politicians Mike Dukakis (“Nowhere Man”), Ted Kennedy (“The Philanderer”) and Barney Frank (“My Boy Lollipop”) …

Thank you for teaching all of us other hosts how to properly utilize sound cuts, even before the digital era, when it became so easy to pull up audio clips.

Thank for those unforgettable shorthand descriptions of, say, John Kerry (“who, you may not have heard, served in Vietnam”), not to mention such memorable phrases as “the drive-by media,” “talent on loan from God,” and “random acts of journalism.”

Thanks for your unfailingly good humor, and the fact that you were “up” every afternoon at noon, no matter how you may have felt inside …

Thank you being, as you used to say, America’s anchorman, not to mention, providing show prep for the rest of the media …

Thank you for driving President Bill Clinton so crazy that one morning on Air Force One, speaking to the morning hosts on KMOX, the blowtorch station in Rush’s home state of Missouri, he whined and said something like, “It’s so hard to compete against a guy like Limbaugh who has three hours a day.”

In other words, Clinton was complaining that a journeyman radio guy had a bigger bully pulpit than the president of the United States.

Thank you for giving me, and a hundred others, brand-new careers, that I might add paid so much better than newspapers or spinning 45’s on a dying Top 40 station.

One of my listeners, Jay from Chelsea, texted me yesterday afternoon:

“Forget Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, TODAY is the day the music died.” Vaya con Dios, Rush. Go with God.

Well said.

Howie also said more than once on his show that day that Rush Limbaugh was renowned as being a big tipper in restaurants.

Conservative analysis

In addition to absorbing conservative thought, particularly by William F Buckley Jr, Limbaugh took a number of trips across Europe and Asia. The Fox News article says:

Limbaugh has said he realized America was the “greatest country ever” when taking trips to Europe and Asia in his late 20s and early 30s, an experience that helped shape his political views.

Like Buckley, Limbaugh was careful to do his research before every show. Rather than conduct a continuous call-in, he gave his own views based on the news, interviews and books he had read. When he took calls, which he did daily, he engaged the listeners in conversation.

Of Buckley, Limbaugh said:

He single-handedly is responsible for my learning to form and frame my beliefs and express them verbally in a concise and understandable way.

The interesting thing is that, as was true with Buckley, both could predict things that came true several months later. That requires analysis of facts and trends. Limbaugh was able to replay clips of his previous programmes when those times came.

Dan Bongino compiled ‘The 20 Greatest Quotes From Rush Limbaugh’. Four follow. My favourite is the 17th (emphases mine):

19) “For government to give, it must first take away.”

17) “Now, what is the left’s worldview in general? What is it? If you had to attach not a philosophy but an attitude to a leftist worldview, it’s one of pessimism and darkness, sadness. They’re never happy, are they? They’re always angry about something. No matter what they get, they’re always angry.”

2) “You know why there’s a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one.”

1) “What about feeling sorry for those…who pay the taxes? Those are the people NO ONE ever feels sorry for. They are asked to give and give until they have no more to give. And when they say ‘Enough!’ they are called selfish.”

Courtesy

Rush Limbaugh never lorded himself over his audience and was very courteous to his callers.

On Wednesday, Howie Carr, who knew Limbaugh peripherally, said that, even when Limbaugh became mostly deaf, he could sense the tone of a caller’s voice. If they were worried, he reassured them. When they were happy, he laughed along with them.

Howie Carr says that during the last ten years or so of Limbaugh’s show, he employed a transcriber who could type as quickly as a caller spoke. This further enabled him to engage with those phoning in to the show, which he broadcast from a custom-built studio at his home in Palm Beach.

The show’s future

Howie Carr said that, for now, The Rush Limbaugh Show will continue with retrospective audio clips on various topics, of which there are many. He thinks there will be a presenter to oversee the show and introduce various archived pieces.

WXJB-FM, a station that carries The Rush Limbaugh Show, issued a statement on Wednesday, which reads in part:

All of Rush’s audio has been extensively archived and catalogued by subject, topic and opinion.  Given how timeless and insightful Rush’s commentary is his producers will be able to pull segments that are relevant for each day’s news cycle and allow us to feature the best of Rush for the full three hours of the program.

The familiar voices of the programs’ guest hosts will be used in the show when needed to guide Rush’s audio from one topic to another, but Rush will be the predominant voice heard for the three-hour Monday-Friday show, the AM Daily Update and The Week in Review three-hour show.

Please note that we will continue with this transitional programming until the audience is prepared to say good-bye. The long-term plan will be shared with you in the upcoming weeks.

We will mourn together in a respectful way and celebrate the incredible life of Rush with his millions of loyal listeners.  Today, a three hour tribute will air in Rush’s regular time slot.  Follow-up information will be posted on www.rushlimbaugh.com.

Thank goodness.

President Trump’s tribute

Fox News interviewed President Trump on Wednesday. This 12-minute video is very interesting, definitely worth a watch:

Here is a shorter excerpt from that interview:

President Trump said that he did not know Limbaugh until shortly after he began his presidential campaign in 2015 at Trump Tower. Sometime afterwards, a mutual friend got in touch with candidate Trump to say that he had a fan in Limbaugh.

Trump then began listening to Limbaugh’s shows. The radio host mentioned him and his candidacy frequently. Finally, the two men met. As they both had homes in Palm Beach, Florida, it was convenient. When time permitted, they shared a game of golf. Trump praised Limbaugh’s strong swing.

He also had high praise for his wife Kathryn Limbaugh and credits Rush’s ability to survive for the last few months to her good care as well as to the radio host’s indomitable spirit.

When it came time to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union Address in 2020, Limbaugh was receiving treatment in a Boston hospital. Trump wanted to keep the medal a surprise but could not do so, because allowing Limbaugh out of hospital required details of why he had to be temporarily discharged. Further complicating matters was the fact that Limbaugh was incapacitated for the most part and had to use a wheelchair. The video has a clip of the presentation. I remember it from last year. It was very moving, indeed.

Fortunately, Newsmax also has a clip. Kathryn Limbaugh is on the left of the screen. First Lady Melania Trump presented the honour:

Much applause and a standing ovation from Republicans followed:

The last time the US president spoke to the ailing radio host was a few days before his death. He called to check in on his friend, who, by then, was very ill indeed.

President Trump said that Rush Limbaugh truly loved America. He also said that America’s most famous radio host was also religious, which is why he was able to be philosophical about his illness.

Tens of millions of us can believe it.

The word most often used this week to describe him is ‘irreplaceable’. Tens of millions of us can believe that, too:

May Rush Limbaugh rest in eternal peace with perpetual light forever shining upon him.

My prayers go to his widow Kathryn, his brother David, the rest of his family and all his friends.

Rush Limbaugh was one of the last people who exemplify Americana in all its greatness.