Was Rush Limbaugh A Worthy Recipient Of The Medal Of Freedom Award?…Epilogue

I am doing this for my own sanity. After I researched the post about Rush, I couldn’t stop thinking about the figures who have not received Medals of Freedom. If you think about it, it will drive you crazy too. The honor is now self-defining, like all such honors—the Mark Twain Award and the Kennedy Center Awards come to mind.

The sequence in the post that asked “Why Robert De Niro  and not, say, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman or Dustin Hoffman? Why Loretta Lynn and not Johnny Cash? Why Stephen Sondheim and not Jerry Herman? Why Chita Rivera and not Rita Moreno? Why Vin Scully and not Ernie Harwell?” did it to me. President Trump has entered the realm of post mortem MOF honors, for Elvis (if Elvis, why not Buddy Holly?)and Babe Ruth (If Babe, why not…well, there really isn’t anyone like Babe Ruth). I have no problem with either of them: they are clearly cultural icons who changed America. But once we open the doors to the past, there are thousands of important Americans who haven’t been honored.

Every President from Kennedy on has been awarded a medal (JFK,  LBJ and Bush I posthumously) except Nixon and Bush II.  If dead Presidents are eligible, then where’s Washington? Adams? Jefferson? Madison? Lincoln? FDR? Truman? Ike? Teddy? Trump can make progressives’ heads explode by giving the Medal to Andrew Jackson. He can have a ball with this.

Then there are First Ladies. There are now only four who have been honored: Lady Bird, Betty Ford, Rosalyn Carter, and Nancy Reagan. Talk about arbitrary: Where’s Dolly Madison? Edith Wilson, who was secretly President after Woodrow’s stroke? And of course, Jackie Kennedy. President Trump could begin making up with the Bush family by giving the Medal to Barbara Bush (and he should).

While we’re thinking about the Medal’s bridge-building potential, wouldn’t it be great (and diabolical) for the President to give the honor to the late Senator McCain? Or Mitt Romney’s late father, George?  Give the Medal to Never-Trumper George Will; he deserves it.

Then he can make liberals’ heads explode (and conservatives cheer) by giving a posthumous Medal to Andrew Brietbart!

Back to Senators: Trump could really lay it on by including McCain in a package of neglected dead Senators. Daniel Webster! Henry Clay! Robert LaFollete! Robert Taft!

Why not?

I’m going to close with enough obvious or provocative Medal of Freedom candidates, living and dead and in no order whatsoever,to get you started down this crazy road. I invite your additions in the comments.

Shirley Temple

Thomas Edison

Earnest Hemingway

The Gershwins

Florenz Ziegfeld

Jerry Lewis

Joan Baez

Alexander Graham Bell

George Patton

James Stewart

Bob Newhart

Mel Brooks

Leslie Nielson

Jack Webb

Milton Berle

Jack Benny

George M.  Cohan

Carol King

Cher

Ru Paul

Ed Sullivan

Albert Einstein

Bob Fosse

Judy Garland

Katherine Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

Frank Capra

Bing Crosby

Micky Rooney

Fred Astaire

Stephen King

Roger Corman

Ginger Rogers

Gene Kelly

Howard Hawks

Steven Bochco

Jack Nicholson

Leonard Berstein

Elmer Bernstein

Paul Newman

Nat King Cole

Wilt Chamberlain

Bobby Orr

James Baldwin

Johnny Cochran

James Earl Jones

Raymond Burr

Carol Burnett

Cary Grant

Clark Gable

Jim Webb

Eugene O’Neil

The Marx Brothers

Abbott and Costello

Marilyn Monroe

Charles Chaplin

Harrison Ford

George Lucas

Stephen Foster

Gene Roddenberry

William Shatner

Annie Oakley!

Davey Crocket! (Bowie! Travis! Bonham! heck, why not all the Alamo defenders?)

Fred Thompson

Melvin Belli

Robert E. Lee

Geronimo

Sitting Bull

George Armstrong Custer

Jim Henson

Clarence Darrow…

Well, I’m going to stop at Clarence, or I’ll never stop. As you can see, however, either the Presidential Medal Of Freedom is a fair measure of America’s major cultural influencers, or it’s a meaningless record of random appreciation and cynical Presidential political grandstanding.

25 thoughts on “Was Rush Limbaugh A Worthy Recipient Of The Medal Of Freedom Award?…Epilogue

  1. Just think of all the people who will be pressured to decline the honor because Trump is the one giving it…just like all those White House and Inauguration invites have to be crassly rejected.

    He may only be able to give posthumous awards before long.

    • I think that would be fantastic. I don’t think posthumous awards would be any different. I imagine the entire Bush family would refuse a medal for Barbara. I also think the McCain family would NOISILY refuse a medal for John McCain. They would probably go on a press tour about how enraged they are and demand Trump be impeached for it. Enough of these might wake a few more people up to the reality of how crazy this is.

      Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, and Obama awarded posthumous Medals of Freedom. What if Trump awards George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, and Frederick Douglass? Would Democrats and the mainstream media demand that he stop? That would be funny. I do find it interesting that Douglass’ name was not on any of the ‘early black civil rights leaders’ lists I found on the internet.

  2. McCain was a vet, so he’s not eligible, right? I also didn’t know how truly arbitrary this honor had become. I don’t like honoring Rush, because though I see your point about his changes to the culture, I find him rather gross and don’t like the can of worms he opened. Yes, I admit my bias.

  3. I am against the practice of awarding such an honor posthumously.

    To whom do you give the medal? Part of the honor is the delivery of the medal.

    Having said that, certain posthumous awards are fine. Halls of Fame should not be limited to the living: they are places for remembrance and acknowledgement. Often, they start with people who have passed on. Where I live, they started a radio Hall of Fame for local people and the first few years involved the induction of many local people from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

    Having said THAT, there could be a certain role for something here, say a Presidential acknowledgement akin to an American Hall of Fame. You put some kind of Museum on the Mall where each person is highlighted in any of a number of areas: entertainment, industry, military, etc (not government, though; they have enough recognition as it is). And, you would want the nominations by a president to be limited (a presidential norm, if you will), because Trump could immediately water it down by naming 100’s of people at the outset. Say, 5 per area. And, he could build an immediate bridge by asking all living presidents to provide their nominations for each area, as well.

    You would have an almost instant tradition.

    -Jut

    • Nabokov: “As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early 40s, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.”

      And: “Many accepted authors simply do not exist for me.”

  4. I would propose a stop gap for posthumous awards of someone who was alive at the time of the award’s establishment. Maybe a spouse who was a alive if the honoree predeceased. The award should be something that the honoree or close family was aware of. It should be correcting what might be perceived as a snub. Does Lincoln feel snubbed for not getting an award that didn’t exist for a century after his death?

    George Washington never heard of the award, and would likely feel it was trite (we have capitol city named after him, and a monument within said city; what is a medal going to do, other than drive the issuing president up the cognitive dissonance scale by associating himself with Washington).

    I would also accept limited exceptions (for instance, both Babe Rush AND his wife died tragically young, and both reasonably should have been alive in 1963, at roughly age 70). Then again, I am biased in favor of George Herman….

  5. If he really wants to make heads explode, he could give some out in pairs:

    Grant and Lee
    Jackson and Sherman
    Sheridan and Longstreet

    Of course, all of those folks have plenty of stuff named in their honor already.

    Frances Scott Key?

  6. Are not all professional achievement awards somewhat subjective reflecting the relative values of presenters. I was on a variety of panels that gave out various awards for community involvement.

    Most of these were based on what I always thought was BS: self nomination. The only awards that were not self nominated were for students and nominated by teachers. Even then the teacher’s choices reflected their biases. Nonetheless, in every instance the committees would review the sales pitch and decide who gets the award for X. More often than not the same people would nominate themselves, offer the same rationale and the committee would see who has not been given the award for some time.

    Who remembers these Medal of Freedom award winners. I had to look up previous award winners. The real value accrues to the recipient for being recognized by the President. Those of us who care little about who is or is not recognized are really insignificant in the transaction. Whether we give them or not makes very little difference to roughly 340 million of us who have no relationship to the recipient, let alone be the recipient. But to the recipient he or she gains great value.

    Wanting to deny anyone of such an honor is simply demonstrating how shallow and vapid one can be. Jack’s point is well taken if so and so why not someone else. The answer lies in the concept of scarcity. If all are given trophies then the trophy has no meaning. When DiNiro wins and Pacino and 300 million others do not the net effect is still positive simply because those of us not getting one do not place any negative value on not being chosen. Be happy for the award winner. That’s all that is necessary.

      • I’m glad that you say that because it is true. Though he should be sent to the Gulags nevertheless he deserves some recognition before he goes into deep-freeze. 🙂

        The Present is getting so … exhausting. I don’t know if I can keep the hatred up much longer. But I’ll be strong.

        Nancy Pelosi was just reported to come into the House with a South American blow-gun! Things are really heating up . . .

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