Thursday, December 1, 2011

New York: Rush Limbaugh at Town Hall, Tuesday night

Text and photos by George Molé

I knew we were in for an interesting evening when I saw the protesters across the street, ten or 20 raggedy-looking Occupy types, keeping it spontaneous and real with their professionally-printed signs.

The brilliant and controversial radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh--philosopher, satirist, humorist and scourge of leftists everywhere--was making a rare public appearance Tuesday night, November 29, in ultra-liberal Manhattan.  A single show for his New York fans, at the historic Town Hall theater, that he billed as "going behind enemy lines."  And I had tickets.

"Racist, sexist, anti-gay.  Rush Limbaugh, go away," the demonstrators chanted sporadically, kept behind police barricades on the opposite side of West 43rd Street from the theater.  The Ditto-heads, as Limbaugh's fans are known, jeered back good-naturedly.  ("I understand it's raining very hard outside," Limbaugh would crack later during the show, "which means that the Occupy people are finally getting a shower.")

For show-goers, any spirits that might have been dampened by the wet weather...

...were raised as we drew closer to the theatre, with its classic, warm exterior...

...which is matched by the understated beauty of the interior.

Limbaugh, scheduled to begin at 7:30, took the stage about 8, having waited for the entire audience, many of whom arrived late, to be seated before he began.  "I really want to apologize for getting a late start," he joked, "but it was your fault."

The show's format was not announced in advance, and I imagined Limbaugh would give us some sort of multi-media mix--perhaps some short monologues interspersed with video clips, guest appearances and music.  How else could a radio host entertain an audience in a theatre?  But instead, Limbaugh stood at a podium, on a sparsely-decorated stage, and did nothing but speak, apparently with no notes, for an hour-and-a-half--and with wit, passion and sharp insight kept his audience enthusiastically, raptly attentive for the entire time.

Limbaugh is a verbal jazz artist, and I found myself amazed, both in the moment and upon reviewing the transcript later, by the free-form nature of his monologue.  (And, I've noticed, his words don't translate too well to the written page; they're best heard in his voice, projected through the  prism of his personality as he speaks.)  He told stories of his early days in radio; riffed ribaldly on Barney Frank (since he won't be running again, his "seat is now wide open"); filleted the budget super-committee ("[i]t was never intended to succeed"); kicked around the Republican primary race; discussed his battles with his dad over the value of a college education; roasted the liberal media; and used the occasion of a protester in the audience to dissect the Occupy phenomenon.  All was punctuated by humor, and he even threw in a couple of quick, spot-on impressions of Barney Frank and John McCain.

The aforementioned protester provided one of the evening's quirkiest moments, managing to walk up the center aisle to a spot directly in front of, and a few feet away from, Limbaugh.  He then held up some sort of newspaper for Limbaugh to see--which the latter peered at amiably, seemingly trying to make out what it said--before finally being hustled out by yellow-jacketed staffers, throwing all his papers into the air on his way back down the aisle.

Limbaugh wasn't fazed.  "Now, when you see that," he joked, "I wonder why am I paying thousands of dollars for security?"

"These are people threatened by the truth," he went on more seriously. "It really is unfortunate. These are the people that think you owe them everything....This is what the education system has done to them. It's festered their resentments...And so they try to disrupt the things that are working. Now, I look at the Occupy crowd down there, and they've all got iPhones or computers. How do they think that stuff happened? They're out there protesting the very people and things and system that made it possible for them to have those things. Where do they think this stuff comes from?"

Limbaugh's summation of the Tea Party movement was more positive--and, I thought, quite powerful.  "Well, most of the Tea Party people, a good percentage of them, are people that have never, ever been formally involved in politics at all," he reflected.  "They just got fed up. They were shocked, scared, stunned to see what was happening to the country with all this mindless spending. All the debt being run up, they know what it means. They know what it means for the future of themselves and their kids and their grandkids, and it isn't good -- and so they started going to town hall meetings wanting to be heard for the first time; and because it was spontaneous, and because it's genuine, and because it was real, Obama and the Democrats in the media are scared to death of it because they have to manufacture that emotion."

Limbaugh's passion was most evident as he discussed America's founding and its philosophical underpinnings--the latter of which is represented in today's political arena, as he sees it, by conservatism.

"Really, the founding of this country is a miracle," he mused.  "The rule for human beings since the creation of time, since the creation of the planet, the normal, standard operating procedure has been tyranny, dungeons, oppression, poverty...It's been the standard. The exception to that has been the United States. The exception to what life was like for most every human being has been the United States of America."

And the greatest threat to the nation, in Limbaugh's eyes?  Liberalism, as represented by President Obama and the Democrat party.

"I can't get past the fact that if this guy in the White House gets four more years," he said, "you and I are not gonna recognize the country we grew up in. It's that serious to me.  And I know that humor is a great way to deal with things, and sometimes using humor can even be persuasive. But there's not a whole lot that seems funny to me right now."

Thankfully, despite that sense of concern, much of what Limbaugh told us in the heart of Democrat Manhattan was indeed leavened with humor, richly optimistic ("we [conservatives] have to tell ourselves each and every day that we are the majority"), and full of determination.

"Why do we have to settle for this?," he asked.  "We don't, folks. We don't have to settle for any of this. We don't have to settle for 9% unemployment; we don't have to settle for an incompetent in the White House. We don't have to settle for somebody that doesn't respect the country. We don't have to settle for somebody who doesn't believe in American exceptionalism."

"I'm trying to do as much as I can with what I have to reverse the trend that we're on," he added, "and save the country from the encroachment that we face from the left."

Thanks, Rush, and keep it up.  And try coming back to New York a little more often--there are more conservatives here than you might think.

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At December 2, 2011 at 3:09 PM , Anonymous Barry Reitman said...

Thanks, George. Your writing skills, as always, are a pleasure, but Rush Limbaugh? Really? You've started a food fight on your Facebook posting of this link.

To summarize my (listing to port) position, Limbaugh is not just a clown; he's a dangerous clown. He delivers disinformation to millions of listeners, many of whom seek no alternative arguments. I have no problem with someone expressing right wing views, but I do fear easy liars using 50,000 watts of radio power to spew venomous falsehoods.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I see the black helicopters gathering overhead.

At December 3, 2011 at 6:46 PM , Anonymous Patti Fournier said...

Thanks George! Your insight into Rush Limbaugh is eye-opening. While I do not agree with many of your "liberal friends," I do respect that they are very passionate people. If we all agreed with each other, life would be truly boring...

At December 3, 2011 at 6:48 PM , Anonymous Diosa said...

Great blog and excellent writing as always.

At December 13, 2013 at 1:49 PM , Blogger Ed Martinez said...

Outstanding, thank you George!


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