Joe Conason's Journal

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

By Salon Staff
Published December 5, 2002 5:57PM (EST)

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]

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