I love Rush Limbaugh.
That’s what I realized yesterday when I heard.
I had just walked into the darkened studio, in sweaty shirt and shorts from a midday run, pushed the microphone button and told the producer downline that I was in place and ready to go.
That’s when the newsman said it. That Rush Limbaugh had cancer and it was bad.
In that moment I was sickened and saddened and blindsided. It wasn’t news, it was personal, and it wasn’t about the legend who created and sustains the industry in which I work, it was about the joyous voice that’s been part of my life for more than 30 years.
Part of America’s life for more than 30 years.
Yes, the politics and the elections, but Rush is something deeper and more important than that.
We all have our Rush stories, and mine is that I was fresh out of the Army in 1988, a newspaper reporter, driving from story to story all day, with the radio on in the background. And most of the day it was Dr. Dean Edell, Paul Harvey and this new guy, Rush Limbaugh. Dr. Dean was jabbering about circumcision, Mr. Harvey was the voice of America, and Rush was straight-up, no-bull-crap rants on the stupidity of the day.
Back then, it was me and Rush and the Frogman running down the road of life.
And Rush became my friend. That’s how it felt. That’s how it’s been. That’s what I knew yesterday.
I agree with Rush’s politics, but mostly he’s my friend. He’s the radio voice that human nature makes us take to heart, a presence for three decades and more. Someone to listen to, someone to talk about, someone to respect.
Yes, he has been huge.
He singlehandedly created a radio format and made it America’s most popular and profitable. To this day he carries the talk-radio industry on his back. For 25 years, he has put food in my family’s mouth. It is impossible to calculate the prosperity he has brought to radio and its advertisers and employees.
And, more importantly, it is impossible to calculate the good he has done for America as the leading voice in defense of our nation’s principles of liberty and in opposition to the doctrines of chaos and oppression.
Yes, he got a Republican majority elected to the House of Representatives, and he probably helped push Donald Trump across the electoral victory line. But I’ve never heard partisanship in Rush, I’ve only heard patriotism. He stands for principle, not personality.
Yes, he does it in a ham-handed fashion. He doesn’t dilly dally or prance around. He stands up and says what he believes. And while he is often passionate, he is rarely angry.
And he is always optimistic. He exudes a Reaganesque belief in the future and in the capability of man. With Rush, there is always a path forward, and a sense that it’s going to work out. There is no despair in him, the sky doesn’t fall in his world, he never runs out of confidence.
Because, no matter how the media characterizes him, he is a happy man. He doesn’t bring people down, he lifts them up. His show is a wonderful blend of information and entertainment, mixed together in a matrix of joy. Listening to Rush doesn’t make me angry, it makes me happy – even when there is frustration or disappointment with the politics of the day.
See, I think Rush is on a mission.
I think that when he boasts of “talent on loan from God,” I don’t think he’s kidding. I think he’s testifying. Because I think Rush Limbaugh is on a mission from God. Literally. Just as his brother writes Christian books and speaks of his faith in Jesus, Rush preaches via a different means to a larger audience. There isn’t chapter-and-verse Bible thumping, but there is a steady reinforcement of principles that are sacred and true. Rush is God, Family, Country in an era when all three of those are under attack.
Is he a perfect man? No way.
Is he a great man? Absolutely.
Has he been on a three-decade mission to lift the heart, spirits and knowledge of America? No doubt.
Can you hear strains of the sacred in the bluster of the man? Undeniably.
But is he first and foremost a friend to countless Americans? That’s how it looks to me.
And that’s how it feels to me.
The news yesterday wasn’t about a prominent person, it was about a personal friend.
And I’m not the only one. There are tens of millions just like me. Who have found comfort, friendship and validation in a man on the radio.
And yesterday hit us hard.