Alex Massie

Buckley and Limbaugh: Contrasting Conservatisms

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Ross Douthat is obviously (well, it's obvious to me) right to think that Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer and not someone who ought to be considered a spokesman for the Republican party. Too bad El Rushbo doesn't see himself that way. In a piece for the (splendid) Daily Beast, Christopher Buckley observes that Limbaugh took the occasion of William F Buckley's death as a cue to annoint himself WFB's successor:

A few days later, as I was planning WFB’s memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I was approached by an intermediary, a big player in the vast right-wing conspiracy, with the suggestion (“Wouldn’t it be appropriate….”) that Rush should give the eulogy. I declined, partly on the grounds that Mother Church maintains that a mass is a sacrament and not a Friar’s Club roast. To enforce this, she sets a strict limitation on eulogies: a max of two. I had asked Henry Kissinger to give one, and had myself planned to give the other.

I am not generally a listener to day-time radio, but in the days following WFB’s death, a number of people mentioned having listened to Rush’s show that day. I’ve dug up the February 27 transcript:

CALLER: Long-time listener. It is my pleasure. When you began speaking about Mr. Buckley, my first thought was that you are now being passed the torch to continue that fight for conservatism.

RUSH: You think so?

CALLER: Yes, I do, sir. You are more important now to this fight than ever before.

RUSH: You're right.

CALLER: Yes. I know I'm right.

RUSH: One of the questions I always ask, "What would Bill say?" When I was stuck on an issue or an opinion, "What would Bill say? What would Bill think?" and I think Bill would probably thank you and say, "Yes, madam, you're very intelligent, very wise, and you're right." Entertainers may be permitted their flights of fancy, but it is hard to imagine WFB endorsing this egotism and very easy to suppose that he would have been horrified by the yahooism that is in danger of becoming the loudest, most dominant feature of contemporary American conservatism. And he would have been right.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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