Review of: The Greatest of All Time. Rush Limbaugh, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh, and David Limbaugh


As a youngster, Rush Limbaugh loved listening to the radio each morning. The grade schooler didn’t like school. He could see, however, that the fellow behind the microphone was having a blast, plus he didn’t have to go to class once the program ended.
Limbaugh, the son of a small-town Missouri attorney and Republican Party partisan, was hooked. In high school, he worked at the local radio station. Much to his father’s chagrin, he dropped out of college to take a job at a radio station in a Pittsburgh suburb.
Limbaugh wanted to do more than spin records and perform satire. Also as a youngster, he read William F. Buckley, Jr.’s syndicated column. Buckley also had a weekly syndicate, Firing Line, an award-winning television show. Limbaugh had his model. By the 1990s, the man was famous enough to sit in on a National Review editorial meeting at the Buckley manse on the Upper East Side. Limbaugh was so nervous that he had to walk around the block twice just to get his courage up.
The Greatest of All Time can be an embarrassing read. On page after page, transcripts have a grateful Limbaugh thanking listeners for their loyalty. Callers, in turn, hail Limbaugh as an inspiration for changing their lives for the better. Other than paeans to capitalism, American-style, the man said little of substance. Apparently, Limbaugh’s widow and the man’s younger brother are afraid that the broadcaster will be forgotten. And so, the book sings the greatness of Limbaugh.
Bombastic as it is, the book is for Limbaugh fans, of whom there are legion here on Long Island. Limbaugh’s impact can never be underestimated. The man clearly loved what he was doing. In the process, he literally saved AM radio from extinction. He spawned numerous imitators. Without Limbaugh, there wouldn’t be FOX News or for that matter, the equally partisan broadcasting in CNN and MSNBC. Social media can’t be placed on the man’s head.
Limbaugh was persistent. He went from job to job, working also in a promotional role for the Kansas City Royals. In 1984, he landed a job in Sacramento, CA. Right man, right place, right time. Ronald Reagan was cruising to re-election and the former Golden State was the birthplace of Reaganism. In 1988, Limbaugh secured a nationally-syndicated show based in New York.
The real story, however, came in 1992. Limbaugh was an established star. That year, Pat Buchanan threw a scare into President George H.W. Bush’s re-election bid through a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary. Then came Ross Perot’s third party run. Following Buckley’s lead, Limbaugh issued a tactical endorsement of Buchanan’s run, while later praising Perot’s candidacy. The Bush people got wind of this. They urged the president to appear on Limbaugh’s program. Bush declined, deeming it un-presidential. It took a single day for the president to change his mind.
The Bushies invited Limbaugh to a night in the Lincoln Bedroom. That did it. The man excitedly called his parents in Missouri with the news. Limbaugh was now a committed Republican. In 1991, he had supported the Persian Gulf War. A decade later, he supported another Bush war against Iraq. On trade, he joined Newt Gingrich in supporting the NAFTA and GATT free trade deals. On immigration, he was equally conventional, saying “no” to illegal immigration, while boasting of the millions of people from all over the world who wanted to come to America.
Limbaugh could occasionally think for himself. He refused to join the “Never Trump” crowd, endorsing and then building a friendship with the 45th president. Too late. America had changed right under his nose without the man ever seeing it. The New York and California that voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan has disappeared, something Limbaugh, to the end, remained ignorant about. Before being a conservative or a Republican, the man was an entertainer, racking up as many AM stations to his standard as he could. On that score, an impressive success.

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