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Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Reuters via the Washington Post:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh raised $2.1 million for children of fallen Marines and law enforcement officers on Friday by auctioning off a letter from Senate Democrats denouncing him for a remark about 'phony soldiers.'"

An important story meriting prominent placement?

The Washington Post did not think so; they chose to bury the item on its "Nation" page under the "Wire" link. As of this writing (Friday night), the wire service account is underneath more than thirty other such stories.

When is Rush Limbaugh more newsworthy?

Very frequently--but mostly when he is in trouble.

He is front-page news when he demonstrates insensitivity toward an enfeebled celebrity venturing into the political arena (the Michael J. Fox tumult). Limbaugh has also found himself at the top of the page concerning his personal life, when his battle with addiction to prescription drugs found its way into the public domain or later when authorities detained him for carrying Viagra on an international flight. Evidently, those incidents were stories with high news value.

So, Limbaugh is a person of general public interest. Is there anything special about this particular story?

I think so. Limbaugh earned a record-breaking amount of money for a worthy cause. The ebay auction netted the biggest charitable contribution in the history of the online-bidding enterprise. Limbaugh more than doubled the previous record.

Did the story involve any other persons of note? Were there any compelling special interest angles?

You bet. The online charity auction was the ensuing chapter to a major imbroglio from the recent past. Fifteen days ago, Limbaugh found himself on the defensive when the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and forty fellow Democrats in the Senate, charged him with making "outrageous...unpatriotic and indefensible comments" directed at soldiers dissenting against the war in Iraq. The story was above-the-fold news in all the major dailies and the network news shows.

The developments today unquestionably constitute a noteworthy follow-up to that featured story.

But what did all that add up to for the mainstream network news desks tonight? A big fat zero. I could find no coverage on the big three nightly news broadcasts or on the Newshour.

In fairness, I must accord some left-handed praise for the New York Times for at least covering the culminating event. They currently feature a full-length, in-house story on the front page of their website: Limbaugh Sells Critical Letter for $2.1 Million.

However, the story begins and develops with a pungently hostile slant. Check out this lead:

"After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as “phony soldiers,” he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators."

TWELVE (let me repeat, TWELVE) graphs later, we get Limbaugh's side of the story:

"Mr. Limbaugh has said that he was only referring to one soldier who was critical of the war and had served only 44 days in the Army and never seen combat."

In between, we learn that Harry Reid is a big enough person to applaud the charitable gift. Quoting Reid:

"I strongly believe that when we can put our differences aside, even Harry Reid and Rush Limbaugh, we should do that and try to accomplish good things for the American people."

We also learn that Rush was dead wrong in his character assessment of the Leader:

"He [Limbaugh] predicted the sale’s success would anger the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a signer of the letter, who[m] Mr. Limbaugh calls 'Dingy Harry."

But no--Reid was just tickled pink over the news.

In a truly bizarre conclusion, the Times, consulting a purported tax law expert, insinuates:

"the Casey foundation [the high bidder] might be liable for taxes because it would have difficulty demonstrating that the purchase of the letter furthered a charitable purpose. [Quoting the tax attorney]: 'They’d have to establish the link between the transfer of money for that letter and promoting free speech, and that’s going to be tough.'"

Say what? I don't have a law degree, and I have no experience with the IRS--but come now.

A 2.1 million-dollar gift to a registered charity is going to be tough to justify?

Bottom Line: No fair-minded person can say that the mainstream media is a level playing field for prominent conservatives like Rush Limbaugh. In other words, objectivity is always subjective.

UPDATE: Thomas Lifson (link via RCP here) asks a question to which we all know the answer, but it is nevertheless brilliantly illustrative: what if a Republican leader had attacked a liberal media favorite in a similar manner, using the power of Congress to intimidate a major media outlet? Would the smashing return shot have been news?
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I refrained from extensive commentary concerning the "General Betray Us" ad. Briefly and indirectly, on a few occasions, I made a few cursory and cryptic observations regarding the unfortunate incident. But I also predicted that the ad would have no long-term meaningful impact on the 2008 election.

However, I certainly could have commented on the NYT's hypocrisy and blatant partisanship for facilitating the ludicrous attack. I could have commented on the calculating Democratic presidential candidates who painfully contorted themselves to avoid incurring the wrath of the irrational radical fringe within their party now so vital to securing nomination. And I could have written about the cowardly silence of Democratic Party leaders, who ruinously enable that same cretin-like and corrosive coterie within their ranks.

Why did I lay off the "General Betray Us" ad?

Frankly, the entire imbroglio was beneath our mission and my talent. To quote myself: "The Okie Gardener and I envisioned this blog as an electronic salon where reasonable and earnest people might come and exchange beliefs and impressions regarding important issues."

The "General Betray Us" ad was not an important issue. It was an abomination and an embarrassment and a national humiliation--but it did not quite rise to the level of worthwhile political discourse. For me, the "General Betray Us" was akin to walking down the street and encountering hoodlums engaging in vile language. Should we take the time to instruct these barbarians in civil conduct--or do we just keep walking, choosing not to cast our pearls among swine. What really is there to say to MoveOn? And who is there to persuade who is not already immutably convinced one way or the other?

But then things got stickier. The opposition struck back. Media Matters and other liberal "watchdog" groups regularly troll the airwaves of conservative radio, listening to hundreds of hours of conversation per week, and looking for something incendiary to use against Republicans. This week they hooked a big fish: Rush Limbaugh.

They caught Rush intimating that servicemen who speak out against the war are somehow less loyal, worthy, and/or patriotic: "phony soldiers."

Lefty blogs and Democratic Party leaders in Congress, raw from the "General Betray Us" excoriation, gleefully pounced on the Rush assertion. Rush claims that his persecutors have the quote out of context.

An aside: Rush is right about this incident. The quote is out of context and much ado about not much. More importantly, a thoughtless characterization in the midst of a heated and unrehearsed conversation is categorically different from a full-page ad placed in the New York Times. Having said that, it is also true that Rush is a flamethrower and often imprecise in his speech.

As Steny Hoyer said on the floor of the House this week, "what’s good for the goose is good for the gander."

The Democrats are anxious (perhaps desperate is a better word) to make a point. They want to send a message that Republican politicians are similarly vulnerable to guilt by association. did not invent calumny. In truth, Rush and Sean et al are as good at political vituperation as any member of the party of Jackson. In the words of Robert Deniro's Al Capone, "somebody messes with me, I'm gonna mess with them." Are the Dems going to the mattresses? Maybe.

Nonetheless, "let not your hearts be troubled." Rush is safe. We take care of our own. Not because we are cravenly beholden to talk radio like the Democrats are to their lunatic fringe--but because Rush has earned our loyalty over nearly two decades of stalwart service to conservatism. He is a hero of the revolution.

Granted, Rush is not an intellectual wellspring for conservative thought, but he is a bright, self-educated, entertaining, and articulate "popularizer" of the faith, and he deserves our admiration and protection. Before there was a blogosphere, a conservative cable news channel, or a vast network of right-wing talkers, there was Rush. Standing fearless in the face of the enemy like a stonewall, Rush broke the liberal monopoly on the mainstream media. When pressed, the hip progressives who liked to pal around with Don Imus gave him up like a bad habit. That won't happen to Rush. We owe him too much. And that brand of personal allegiance still means something in Red-State America.