Joe Conason's Journal

Rush Limbaugh's outrageous smear: The full transcript. Plus: Keillor boycott fails miserably.

By Salon Staff

Published November 22, 2002 10:01PM (EST)

Rush to judgment on Daschle
One of the nice things about being Rush Limbaugh is that there's no paper trail. So if you're El Rushbo, you can blather on nastily about your political adversaries for hours, then sit back and grin while the country's most prominent media critic defends you as a "mainstream" figure who mostly discusses "policy." Having criticized both Howard Kurtz and Limbaugh in the Daschle flap, I received a letter from a reader complaining that I had provided no specific examples of the talk jock's "bile." So today I offer a citation from the nonpartisan Spinsanity, where an audio file can be downloaded. (The same remarks also appear today on the incomparable Daily Howler.)

What Limbaugh said a week ago about Daschle needs to be reproduced in full:

"There's a very high likelihood we're going to even face additional terrorist attacks ... No country is safe from this threat, not even us, no country is going to be perfect in its efforts to fight it. And Senator Daschle, you know this. Just as you know that you are hoping to benefit politically when our economy stagnates and people lose jobs, you are hoping to politically benefit with the next terrorist attack. And that's what this comment of yours was about yesterday, Senator, and that's what make it so despicable. This is almost the Wellstone memorial all over again. You know another attack is going to happen and you're setting it up so that you can say, 'See I told you so and this President [did] nothing to stop it.' You are seeking political advantage in the war on terrorism just exactly as you sought political advantage after the war on terrorism started on September 11. Just as you sought political advantage with the economy plundering [sic], just as you sought political advantage with the stock market collapse, just as you sought political advantage with the corporate scandals.

"You seek political advantage with the nation at war. There is no greater testament to the depths to which the Democratic Party and liberalism have fallen. You now position yourself, Senator Daschle, to exploit future terrorist attacks for political gain. You are worse, sir, than the ambulance-chasing tort lawyers that make up your chief contributors. You, sir, are a disgrace. You are a disgrace to patriotism, you are a disgrace to this country, you are a disgrace to the Senate, and you ought to be a disgrace to the Democratic Party but sadly you're probably a hero among some of them today ...

"Way to demoralize the troops, Senator! What more do you want to do to destroy this country than what you've already tried? [pounding table] It is unconscionable what this man has done! This stuff gets broadcast around the world, Senator. What do you want your nickname to be? Hanoi Tom? Tokyo Tom? You name it, you can have it apparently. You sit there and pontificate on the fact that we're not winning the war on terrorism when you and your party have done nothing but try to sabotage it, which you are continuing to do. This little speech of yours yesterday, and this appearance of yours on television last night, let's call it what it is. It's nothing more than an attempt to sabotage the war on terrorism for your own personal and your party's political gain. This is cheap. And it's beneath even you. And that's pretty low."

Whether Daschle was right or wrong in his criticism of the war on terror, he was hardly the first to politicize national security issues this year. This time he waited until two weeks after the election to make his criticisms of Bush, so they seem considerably less "political" than the way Gen. Rove and his candidates used homeland security and Iraq. Daschle certainly never sought "political advantage" during the period after Sept. 11, unless Rush thinks he sent the anthrax to himself. It is a sickening lie that Democrats have tried to "sabotage" the war on terror or hope to benefit from another terror attack.

It's also worth recalling the kind of criticism Bill Clinton faced from Limbaugh and the Republicans when he intervened in Kosovo -- or for that matter, whenever he acted against al-Qaida or Saddam Hussein. "Patriots" like Limbaugh always questioned Clinton's motives, scoring political points regardless of the international repercussions. They didn't worry how the troops or the rest of the world would regard such criticism. Nobody accused them of treason for speaking their minds. That was certainly their right -- just as it's Daschle's right and responsibility to raise questions and seek answers about this administration's actions.

I still think Daschle was mistaken to complain publicly about Limbaugh, because it only encourages him and his "dittoheads." But there is no reason to pretend that Limbaugh is anything other than what he seems to be: a demagogue.

Keillor "boycott" fizzles
Speaking of radio bullies, a gang of them in Minneapolis and St. Paul tried to instigate a boycott of Minnesota Public Radio, to punish Garrison Keillor for his Salon rants (this one, and this one) about Norm Coleman. They failed miserably, making no dent whatsoever in the record $1.7 million raised by the excellent network during their recent fund drive.
[1:58 p.m. PST, Nov. 22, 2002]

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