A Slow Rush to Judgment

When Rush Limbaugh first took to the national radio airwaves back in the late ’80s we found his shtick somewhat amusing, and during many of the controversies he deliberately provoked over the years we came to his defense. He was espousing what were then mainstream conservative views, which we usually agreed with, and we found it slightly amusing how apoplectic the left would become over it.
Since the nomination and election of President Donald Trump, though, Limbaugh has taken an infuriating turn toward a more newfangled conservatism. Limbaugh was once an outspoken advocate of the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade in general, he defended President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and Bush’s presidency in general, and railed constantly against the federal government’s mounting debt. Trump called NAFTA the worst deal ever and started protectionist trade wars with just about every country, accused Bush of lying America into the Iraq War and said it was the worst foreign policy decision ever, and is racking up the national debt at an unprecedented pace, but Limbaugh has capitulated to Trump on every issue.
We usually sleep late and don’t drive around with the car radio on these days, so we only occasionally hear Limbaugh’s broadcasts, but when we have we’ve become very disenchanted. The first time was when a video showed a high school girl losing a state track championship by stopping to help a fellow competitor who had stumbled, which went “viral” as an example of sportsmanship, and Limbaugh castigated for her compassion and lack of a win-at-all-costs ruthlessness, which is now inconsistent with the newfangled conservatism, which don’t much like. After that he assured his listeners that whoever was sending pi0e bombs to Democratic politicians and various media would surely turn out to be a lefty trying make Trump look bad, and when the feds arrested a guy whose van was covered in pro-trump decals he embraced his callers’ conspiracy theory that the decals weren’t sufficiently faded so it must have been a “deep state” conspiracy.
One day we happened to be listening Limbaugh asked if any of his listeners had seen and heard the press conference by several women who allege that Trump had sexually assaulted them, and by coincidence we had, so we were interested to hear his account of it. He said that one of the “babes” had complained that Trump asked for her phone, and wondered what’s wrong with a world where a man can’t even ask for a woman’s phone number. He said another was a contestant in of one Trump’s beauty pageants who complained about being ogled, and remarked that the being ogled whole point of beauty pageants. Limbaugh didn’t mention that the first women alleged Trump was grabbing her and kissing her without consent, as Trump bragged about doing on the infamous “Hollywood Access” tape, and thought the request for her phone number added insult to injury. Nor did Limbaugh explain that the beauty pageant contestant said Trump’s ogled her in a state of undress when he invaded her dressing room, as he had bragged about doing on Howard Stern’s pornograahic radio show.
Limbaugh proudly claims to be a fearless truth teller, but on that day he was flat out lying to his 20 million or listeners, and exactly the sort of sexist pig that all of his critics have long alleged.
He later told a caller who was concerned about the growing national debt that it’s no big deal, and that he and other conservatives never really cared about it and only used it as an arguing point with Democrats. That pretty much ended our regard for his commentary, but last week he went on air and said that Trump shouldn’t be heeding the advice of government experts about the coronavirus epidemic, as they’re part of a conspiracy to undermine his presidency, so we’re now done with him entirely.
Limbaugh has bravely announced that he has stage-4 lung cancer, and we’re hoping and praying for his recovery, as we don’t wish that on anyone. Even so, we won’t be listening to his daily diatribes.

— Bud Norman

Things Go Further South Down South

That awful Senate race down in Alabama somehow got more awful yet on Wednesday, and by now it’s hard to see how it ends well for the Republican party. Two more women came forward to the Washington Post alleging Republican candidate Roy Moore acted quite creepily toward them when they were teenagers working at the mall Moore was said to hang out at, yet another woman told a similar but even creepier story to the Alabama-based and widely read AL.com site, which brings the running total to eight accusers.
None of the women have any apparent reason to risk their reputations among their mostly Republican Alabama neighbors by telling a lie, all have named and unnamed women who recall them telling the very same stories from time the incidents allegedly happened, and the national and state media have found co-workers of Moore who recall his well known predilection for teenaged girls, along with workers at the mall who recall that Moore was not welcome there because of frequent complaints about his behavior there. Already it adds up a compelling case, with more sure to come, and so far the rebuttal hasn’t been at all convincing.
Moore himself went on Sean Hannity’s exceedingly friendly radio show ┬ábefore the latest accusations, and wound up answering questions about whether he’d ever dated teenage girls while a 30-something assistant district attorney by saying “not generally, no,” and “it would be out of my customary behavior,” and regarding one of his specific accusers he replied that “If we did go out on dates, then we did, but I don’t recall that,” and offered assurances that “I don’t remember dating any girl without permission from her mother.” The former state Supreme Court justice’s lawyer has proved just as inept, trying to ingratiate himself to the dark-skinned and funny-sounding-named host on a liberal network by noting that different cultures have rules regarding courtship, which prompted his co-host to note that “He’s from Canada,” and he kept referring to an even-darker skinned host on another liberal network by constantly calling him by a chummy nickname, which prompted his host to say “That’s what not what my mother named me, and I’d never call you by anything other than your given name,” and the rest of it went as badly.
Moore still has his defenders in the most die-hard redoubts of the conservative media, but they’re also having a hard time of it. Even Hannity expressed doubts after some advertisers threatened to pull out, although he’s gone back to his presumption of innocence after winning one back. On Wednesday he led his Fox News show with decades-old news about Presidents Bill Clinton’s hound dog ways, rightly recalling how many Democrats who are now offended by Moore’s behavior were willing to give their a man pass for purely partisan reasons, and so far as we can discern the argument is that Hannity and other Moore apologists are therefore entitled to do the same for their man. Right-wing talk radio king Rush Limbaugh reminded his audience that Moore was a registered Democrat at the time he was alleged to have been the creepy 30-something guy hanging out at the mall, and as far we can discern the argument is that whatever Moore might have done it should be held against his Democratic opponent, then went on a longer rant about how it’s all being cooked up by Republican majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and the rest of the rascally Republican establishment, which fears the populist insurgency that President Donald Trump has unleashed.
That’s a popular theory among all the talk radio show callers and the commenters on every conservative web site, too, but it’s a hard sell to the rest of the country. McConnell has indeed clearly stated that he believes the women who have accused Moore, the official national Republican party has withdrawn its financial and logistical support for Moore’s campaign, and several other prominent officials have taken the same stand, but so have such grass roots old-fashioned heartland Republican conservatives such as ourselves. Those establishment Republicans have also let us down more than a few times over the past years, but they’ve a won a few battles along the way, and we have to figure that if they were smart to enough to come up with eight ordinary Alabama women and former district attorney office employees and mall workers with corroborating witnesses and documentary evidence in their devious plots they probably would have been able to repeal and replace Obamacare and pass a massive tax cut by now.
Those establishment Democrats are by now admitting that Clinton was an indefensible hound dog, as Hannity and Limbaugh and the rest of die-hard insurgents gleefully note, but the only ones who have consistently maintained an anti-hound dog stand up to now are those establishment Republicans and such grass roots types as ourselves. Way back before the biggest Clinton scandals McConnell led the effort to expel Republican Sen. Robert Packwood from Congress for sexual harassment, he voted to impeach Clinton for lying under oath about his well-documented hound behavior, he’s applying the same standards of proof during the current imbroglio, so we’re pleased to see he’s earning some begrudging respect from his die-hard Democratic critics.
There’s a big chunk of the party that hates him and the rest of the Republican establishment all the more for it, though, and it’s not clear where the party is heading. Putatively Republican President Donald Trump has only warily waded into the controversy so far, citing his preoccupation with a trip to Asia, and upon his return he pretended not to hear any of the reporters’ shouted questions about Moore, so it’s not at all clear what he’ll do. Trump supported McConnell’s choice in the Republican primary, which mightily annoyed his supporters in the die-hard redoubts of the right wing, and although he did so half-heartedly and with open reservations he’s not tied to Moore, but he did endorse Moore after the primary, and fully cutting ties will be troublesome.
Trump is politically savvy enough to know that he doesn’t want to associated with a candidate who is credibly accused by numerous women of creepy behavior, but he can’t join with his party’s Senate majority leader or his own Attorney General in saying “I believe the women” without the next question asked by those pesky reporters being why the public shouldn’t also believe the larger number of credible women who accuse him of creepy behavior. After an audiotape of Trump boasting to an “Access Hollywood” host that he grabbed women by their wherevers several witnesses went on the record about how he had done just that. A short time later the media dug up an old tape of Trump yukking it up with shock jock Howard Stern about how he liked to invade the dressing rooms at the teenaged beauty pageants he produced, which was followed by by interviews with several former pageant contestants who recalled Trump doing exactly about what he’d bragged about.
Trump won anyway with the Hannity defense that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s hound dog husband had gotten away with worse, because of course none of those women were lying, and therefore Republicans are entitled to a pass, but these days even the Democrats aren’t defending the formerly lovable rascal and most of the American seems fed up with such behavior no matter the hound dog’s party affiliation. The official statement from Moore’s campaign about the latest accusations says that “If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you. If you are a conservative and love Judge Moore, you know these allegations are a political farce.” It’s true enough that if you’re the sort of conservative who loves Moore you probably somehow know these allegations are untrue, and might eke out a win in Alabama, but around the rest of the country and even in the establishment sort of Republican households that’s not a winning electoral majority.
Which seems to leave Trump and the rest of party he putatively leads in a no-win situation. They can enrage a vocal and energetic and significantly sized part of the conservative coalition by jettisoning Moore, or embrace a candidate who was the Democrats’ dream caricature of a Bible-thumping and gay-bashing and law-defying theocrat even before he started looking a lot like the creepy 30-something guy who used to hang out at the mall. The Republicans were already stereotyped as the party of old white men, and as much as it would pain us all to lose a Senate seat in Alabama of all places it might be worth it to avoid the reputation as the party of dirty old white men.

— Bud Norman