Joe Conason’s Journal

Rush -- nailed on his own show! Plus: Will disclosure requirement cause Kissinger to resign?


Squawk radio
A plucky Salon reader — let’s just call him “Greg from Orlando” since that’s how his friends over at the EIB network know him — sent a fascinating memo Wednesday about the methods he has used to bring a bit of balance to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. This is his version of their most recent encounter:

“Scored a direct hit on the Hot Air Hindenburg today, making the kind of call to Rush Limbaugh halfway through his show that [made] him a stuttering fool and [had] all of the callers who followed trying to repair the damage. His show started with the usual relentless demonizing of liberals, this time John Kerry from Massachusetts, a Vietnam War hero whom Rush was mocking as ‘Lurch,’ using the Addams’ Family theme song. But when he tried to twist Kerry’s words [from] Sunday on Meet the Press — about how ‘Sometimes in war a leader looks behind him and the troops aren’t there,’ as somehow showing [Kerry] as incompetent or a failure — I’d had enough.

“I jogged to the nearest phone and dialed a dozen times till I got through, then told his call screener that I’d like to make the case that Kerry isn’t going to be painted as a garden-variety liberal as easily as they think, given his war-hero status and foreign policy credentials. Guess I sold the screener, because I was put through onto the air within seconds …

“I told Rush the same thing on the air and then asked him if he’d seen the New Yorker piece on Kerry. [A penetrating, thoughtful profile by Joe Klein that I ought to have mentioned last week.]

“Slowly and deliberately I told the story about how in response to the Vietnam War, John Kerry had gone down to the recruiting office to sign up to fight along with his two best friends, John J. Pershing III and Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express. When Rush tried to bring up the smear about him not having his troops behind him, I explained that Kerry had been referring to how he won his Silver Star rescuing crew members of his fast-boat who had fallen overboard, and been wounded even while fending off a Vietcong machine gun nest.

“I then asked Rush how Bush might respond if, in the debates, Kerry asked him where he had been when he didn’t show up for his plum [National Guard] assignment for a year. Or for that matter, how [Rush] could disparage a war hero when he himself had dodged the Vietnam Draft by claiming to have a boil on his butt.

“He tried to lie [his way] out of this but I explained that his 4-F form listing a ‘pilonidal cyst’ was printed in books for all to see [i.e., "The Rush Limbaugh Story" by Paul D. Colford, St. Martin's Press, 1993, in Chapter 2: Beating the Draft]. At that point, I was cut off the air and as Rush stuttered and stumbled around like I have never heard him before, his screener came back online and told me, ‘You’re out of here, buddy — we’ve got you pegged and you’ll never call again.’

“As with a previous call, when I nicknamed Rush ‘The Jabba the Hut of American Politics’ (which stuck and caused him to lose 100 pounds over a year’s time), all of the rest of the show was dominated by damage-control over my call. A number of callers took issue with the correct labeling of most right-wing war-hawks as ‘Chicken Hawks’ — and this allowed Rush to obscure the issue by claiming that he’d merely not served, rather than dodged the draft with a bogus 4-F status. At least nine times that I counted, he referred to me by name with the usual cheap smears, and I collected each as a badge of honor I’m sending to John Kerry to add to his uniform.”

Please feel free to try a similar experiment in the comfort of your home. Greg also had some advice for anyone who would like to debate El Rushbo:

“I was on the air live around 1:30 p.m. [EST]. In order to get onto Rush’s show as a liberal, you have to fall within usually a 1-2 day window where he has recently claimed, on the air or to friends and colleagues (falsely), that he ‘always puts liberals at the front of the line’ — when in reality they screen out almost anyone who they even suspect disagrees with them on 99 out of 100 days …

“His and ALL of the right-wing shows … carefully screen [and] filibuster the calls, so that opposing views are quickly cut off and a balanced view cannot be reasonably entertained. It is almost as if they know that if the other side can be fairly aired beside their own far-right viewpoint, they would lose a significant [percentage] of sycophants.”

Like other satellites of the RNC propaganda network, Limbaugh is testing various assaults on Kerry — which suggests how threatening they consider his candidacy. The radio demagogue’s written response to Greg — plus audio — can be found on the Limbaugh Web site. Click there and you’ll see that the “chicken hawk” tag obviously stings. That’s why it should be applied whenever Limbaugh slurs a patriot like Kerry, Daschle, McCain, Harkin — or any of the very long list of Democrats who served, unlike him.
[2:42 p.m. PST, Dec. 5, 2002]

Another law to dodge
If he read this morning’s Financial Times, Henry Kissinger probably doesn’t feel so enthusiastic about his appointment to run the independent 9/11 commission. Even another opportunity for public “service” may not be enough to convince the international business consultant to reveal the names of all his clients. Yet that is what he must do, according to a legal opinion delivered on Wednesday evening to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

The Congressional Research Service determined that government ethics rules require the commission chairman to disclose the names of companies and individuals who have paid him more than $5,000 over the past two years. The White House, which came up with the Kissinger gambit to neutralize the unwanted commission, had already excused Kissinger from any disclosure requirements because the chairmanship is part time. But the CRS opinion says that if he works on the commission more than 60 days a year, he must disclose.

It may be time to take bets on this. If he is required to disclose his clients, will Kissinger resign in a public tantrum? Or will he quit quietly, expressing deep regrets over his inability to serve his country and his clients at the same time?

Either way, he’s out under those circumstances. He is still likely to escape the requirements of the law, of course, as he usually does. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will soon revert to Republican control — and the chairman now is Joe Lieberman, a toothless watchdog if there ever was one.
[9:51 a.m. PST, Dec. 5, 2002]

For your regular Joe, bookmark this link. To send an e-mail, click here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>