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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.


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.”


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

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.

Trooper Thompson of Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights found a Firing Line episode from 1969 featuring the show’s host William F Buckley Jr and guest Noam Chomsky.

If your family is out shopping for bargains and you have an hour, this is well worth your time. I watched the entire programme, which I used to do quite regularly in the 1980s.

Firing Line ran on America’s PBS from 1966 to 1999.  Whilst a number of everyday conservatives living away from the East Coast dislike Buckley, he did much to advance the intellectual cause of conservatism from the 1950s onward with his magazine National Review.

Buckley’s death in 2008 was a sad day for me personally, as it signalled the end of an era.  National Review made its debut a few years before I was born and is still around today.  Prior to that, Buckley achieved fame with a best-selling book at the time, God and Man at Yale, in which he criticised his alma mater for abandoning its founding principles.

God blessed Buckley with a charmed life, an abiding faith, a sharp intellect and an extraordinary use of the English language, which you will see on display in these YouTube segments.

As I wrote here in 2009 about his family:

If you want to get a good idea of who the Buckleys were, read Bob Colacello‘s article in the January 2009 edition of Vanity Fair

Bill Buckley was one of the greatest Catholics of the 20th century.

He attended Latin Mass locally every Sunday and took his Catholic servants along as well as any houseguests. His late wife Pat, by the way, was a lifelong Anglican born and raised in Canada.

You can read and view more photographs in a New York Times article which Buckley’s son Christopher wrote.

What follows are the segments from the 1969 debate between Buckley and Noam Chomsky. This was a momentous year for Firing Line as it won an Emmy Award, the Vietnam War was raging, students were deeply unhappy with the war and Richard M Nixon began his first term as Presidency.

You will also discover how much of the art of debate we have lost in the West. Buckley invited people on who disagreed with him, yet he lost his cool only once and that was with Gore Vidal in 1968.

I particularly appreciated the third through the fifth segments as the two men discuss Marxism in the 20th century and the independence of former British colonies in Africa.

Note that Chomsky admits that he is not interested in atrocities which the Viet Cong committed, only those for which America was responsible.

One wonders if any television channel today — including PBS — would show such a balanced discussion on such a variety of world issues.

Without further ado, here is another episode of Firing Line. (Here is another one I featured with Buckley and Hugh Hefner – Part 1 and Part 2.) And, yes, as I recall, the doorbell sound signalled the end of each segment in the show for a time:

Yesterday, I featured the first three parts of a 1966 episode of Firing Line where host William F Buckley, Jr debated Playboy‘s Hugh Hefner on the sexual revolution.  These three videos are the second half of the discussion.

Note how WFB asks Hefner why he has a double standard in his Playboy clubs. (Hefner famously forbade his Playboy Bunnies — waitresses in tight satin swimsuit ensembles with fluffy cottontails — from fraternising with the customers, even off-hours.  He instituted an older ‘den mother’ to keep tabs on them.  This was common knowledge at the time.) WFB also mentions the fact that sexual congress isn’t just about one’s personal happiness.  There is always at least one other person involved — one’s partner.  What about their wellbeing?  What about any children in the family? 

Also, note how the two answer questions from the audience in the last segment, especially the one about a correlation between sexual promiscuity and rising crime rates.  Very telling — WFB, the late founder and publisher of National Review, was a devout Catholic who voted Republican whilst Hefner is a left-wing Democrat.   

Playboy was still the men’s magazine of the day and had been on the market for 10 years by the time this programme had been filmed.  Hefner would go on to have a series of Playboy Clubs and his own television chat show, Playboy after Dark.  He brought sexuality to the masses in a very clever way, acquainting readers with Kinsey and the psychology of sexuality — making them feel somehow enlightened and empowered.  This is not a defence of Hefner by any means, but it illustrates how well the Devil’s works deceive people.  Keep in mind, too, that the birth control pill had only started to become more widely available — it, too, had a big role to play.  Hefner discusses the emancipation of women and female sexuality.  It’s all here, intelligently discussed.  WFB unravels Hefner’s arguments masterfully.

Important viewing for those who are trying to keep their adolescent and university-age children sexually continent.

Part 4 (WFB presses Hefner on the liberated stance he expects his readers to take versus the puritanical rules he has for the Bunnies):

Part 5 (WFB moves in for the closer, poking holes in Hef’s Playboy ‘philosophy’):

Part 6 (Q&A segment — still pertinent to our times):

William F Buckley Jr was one of America’s great Catholics.  I still mourn his and his wife Pat’s deaths.

WFB, as he was frequently known in print, founded and published National Review magazine, which gave birth to a modern intellectual American conservatism.  He and Pat alternated between homes in Manhattan and Connecticut.  WFB was a devoted husband, father and employer.  On Sundays, he took those of his servants who wished to attend to Latin Mass in Connecticut. 

WFB also had a television show that ran for many years.  It was called Firing Line.  I used to watch it on PBS on Sunday afternoons.  WFB was a devout Roman Catholic.  His wife Pat remained a lifelong Anglican.  Their son, Christopher, is an agnostic with marital problems.

Recently, I found some Firing Line clips on YouTube, including an entire show from 1966 which features a discussion between WFB and the Playboy empire’s Hugh Hefner.  Here we have two magazine founders and publishers, two smokers (WFB doesn’t light up on screen but he always holds onto his pen), two intelligent men discussing what was known in the 1960s as the sexual revolution.

This interview — the first three parts of which are below — is done in a characteristic WFB style.  Posit questions, develop the discussion such that the interviewee thinks he is winning the argument, then go in for the closer. Also, WFB argues from the outset in support of Judaeo-Christian teachings on the matter. One of the YouTube comments says that it is unlikely we’d ever have such a rich, measured, intellectual televised debate today. Sadly, that person is correct.  Those days are gone. We’d also never see a reasoned defence of Christian teachings today. If you have never seen Firing Line or WFB in action, please don’t miss this.  Parents, especially, will be able to use some of WFB’s reasoning for sexual continence when discussing the subject with their children.

Part 1 (Hefner mentions ‘situation ethics’ (!) at 5:00):

Part 2 (the Kinsey Report — true or false?):

Part 3 (WFB probes Hefner’s sexual ethics — does Hef have a double standard?):

Tomorrow: Parts 4 through 6

Sometimes it’s difficult to fathom where we got lost with Christianity.  Yet, there are clues, some of them surprising.  Here are two television interviews from the 1960s which signposted our future.

The first is from the late William F Buckley (WFB), whose Firing Line programme I’ll feature more of this week.  WFB was a devout Catholic and, like the majority of Americans, deeply respected the Revd Billy Graham.  I do wonder, though, what he made of Dr Graham’s final statement about there being life on other planets.  Note the mention of Christianity’s passing in this 1969 interview.  But, even more importantly, Dr Graham says that more scientists were arriving at a belief in God:

Now, in stark contrast, here’s a clip from Joe Pyne‘s eponymous show (more about which later this week) where he interviews the then Episcopal Bishop of California, the Right Revd James Pike.  Dearie me, what a fellow.  Pyne asks him questions which he throws right back.  Pyne rightly says, ‘Well, I’m asking you.  You’re supposed to show us how to get to wherever it is we’re going.’  Heresy in action at the 0.32 marker:

Unfortunately, the follow-up to the interview has not been digitally reproduced. Having said that, Bishop Pike appeared three times on Joe Pyne; on the last occasion, his wife joined him on screen. Bishop Pike met with a mysterious death in Israel soon after that final interview was recorded. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery there. I hope that he made his peace with God before departing from this earthly realm. 

My point is — our modern-day error as seen through the Pike interview is nothing new.  In fact, it is quite old.  Did Episcopalians in the pews find Bishop Pike as irritating?  Yes, they found his views embarrassing.  Unfortunately, his legacy lives on today.

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