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

What an easy question.

Of course he was. Those who argue otherwise do not appreciate his remarkable influence on the culture, entertainment, and the political landscape. In many cases, they blame him for opening up public discourse and eroding the liberal domination of news commentary and political advocacy. They are the same people who find free speech “problematical,”

I am not a dittohead. Rush Limbaugh’s politics and causes are not mine; I admire his skills, but not always his employment of them.  In the Nineties I  sometimes listened to Rush in the car before I moved permanently to a home office. I have parallel life in theater, acting, comedy, skit writing and stage directing, and I was impressed with Limbaugh as a performer, which is what he is, and has always maintained that he is. His combination of politics, satire and  deft disc jockey patter was unique. It was obvious why he had become, by far, the biggest star in talk radio.

The end of the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to present all sides of opinion when discussing public issues—(riiiight)—was  repealed in 1987, and  Limbaugh invented a new format, a conservative talk radio show that was dominated by a quick-thinking , quick-tonged, generally jovial ideologue with a sonorous voice. Rush took phone calls from people on all sides of the political spectrum, and unlike so many talkmeisters that followed him, was never rude or abusive to those who challenged his positions.

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Ten Ethics Observations On The President’s 2020 State Of The Union Message

The text of the speech is here.

1. As I mentioned at the end of the previous post, my professional assessment, as a speech coach and a stage director, is that Trump’s delivery–timing, pacing, energy, focus, expressiveness, emphasis, technique–was excellent. Like other politicians (and me, frankly) the President is best, most relaxed, most persuasive and likable, when he is speaking extemporaneously. This time, though the speech was obviously scripted, he delivered it like his more familiar riffs.

And he has improved over his term in office. So many POTUSes have not.

2. As for content, I saw the speech described as “Reaganesque.” That’s high praise, but not far off. There were no ringing catch phrases, but the most important feature was that the speech was positive, optimistic, and upbeat. This was especially remarkable because many expected the President to be combative and defiant, and to directly address his impeachment. Not doing so was wise, and indeed ethical. Living well is the best revenge, and the President’s recitation of his administration’s achievements, no matter how the factcheckers spin them—it’s Trump, so we assume hyperbole—was a virtuoso dismantling of Big Lie #5: “Everything is Terrible.”

It’s not terrible, of course, far from it, and the false narratives constantly repeated by the Democratic candidates about how the middle and lower classes weren’t benefiting  were belied by Trump’s statistics asNancy Pelosi stared.

3. The repeat stunt of having all the female members of Congress on the Democratic  side wear white  was juvenile, incoherent and dehumanizing. I was reminded of the sperms in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask.” Whatever their chant was, it didn’t work. The President deserves ethics points for specifically condemning late term abortion in front of this group, and featuring a little girl born at 23 weeks was a powerful visual aid.

Most Americans do not approve of late term abortions, and the device of making Democrats explicitly show their disapproval of Trump’s vow to stop it exposes a gaping ethics black hole on the Left.

4. At times I wish Ronald Reagan had never introduced the manipulative technique of using guests in the audience for applause and heart-rending moments, but I have to admit President Trump used it like no one before him, shamelessly but effectively.  I just hope nobody tries to top it, because that was my limit, and perhaps a bit over.

There was the African-American boy who wants to join the Space Force, and his 100 year-old Tuskegee airman great-grandfather, in uniform, having just been promoted to  general by Trump. There was the young African American girl who had been denied her application for a tax credit scholarship to attend a private school in Philadelphia because the state’s Democratic governor had vetoed a funding bill. The President told her she would get her scholarship after all, as she and her mother beamed. There was the new President of Venezuala, symbolizing a capitalist rescuer for a nation wrecked by socialism. Rush Limbaugh, recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, appeared genuinely overcome when Mrs. Trump awarded him the Medal of Freedom on the spot. Also on the spot was a surprise reunion between a military wife and her soldier husband, back from deployment.

Great drama, great sentimentality, great showmanship. It was a combination of Oprah, Maury, and “Queen for a Day,” but schmaltz works, and the President proved himself a master of it.

5. Pelosi’s guests included Fred Guttenberg, the father of a high school freshman killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He got himself removed from the audience by shouting something about his daughter as the President pledged to preserve the Second Amendment. Using the victim of tragedies as political props is an objectionable stunt (Trump did this too, with Kelli Hake and her son;  Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake, was killed  in Iraq, a victim of the late Iranian terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani. Another guest was the brother of Rocky Jones, the victim of an illegal immigrant in Tulare County, California, and the parents of an ISIS victim, but Trump’s guests didn’t disrupt the event. They had also lost loved ones to bad people, just like Guttenberg, but do not advocate taking away law-abiding people’s rights in their grief. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm Up, 11/15/17: Rush, Creepy Joe, Fake Fake News, And Yum-Yum

Good Morning!

1 Save the “Mikado”! Yesterday I was honored to be able to participate in a Smithsonian Associates lecture on the careers and operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society was kind enough to invite me to sing “Tit Willow” as part of its segment at the event, which played to a full house. It’s a shame, and alarming for the future of live theater, operetta, and the vitality of the G$S canon, that the average age of participants appeared to be approximately 94, give or take a decade.

Before I warbled “Tit Willow,” once as well-known to the average U.S. adult as “My Way” (John Wayne sings the chorus in “The Shootist”) I went off-script to say, “As you all probably know, this song is from ‘The Mikado.’ It is a wonderful show, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.” The statement got nods and knowing looks, because they knew exactly what I was talking about.

Right now, the more than 80 Gilbert and Sullivan performance groups in the U.S., plus various opera and regional theater companies, have almost abandoned the best and most performed of the 14 sui generis shows by the great duo for fear of getting into a political correctness battle. “The Mikado,” you see, is now considered “racist,” because Gilbert had the ridiculous (and typical) idea of presenting a satire of English foibles and personalities as if Great Britain had suddenly been turned into an upside-down version of Japan. The script is self-referential on the gag (“I often wonder, in my artless Japanese way…”; “He might have had initials on his pocket handkerchief, but Japanese don’t carry pocket handkerchiefs!” ), as Gilbert was one of the fathers of post-modern humor. The show has been popular in Japan, and all over the world. A popular Broadway adaptation (“The Hot Mikado”) had an all-black cast—still in Japanese costumes—speaking and singing jive versions of the dialogue and songs. Gilbert included a song (“I’ve got a Little List”) that accommodated current events updates, so the show is arguably the most continuously topical of all the Victorian operettas—and all of them are still funny.

Never mind all that. “The Mikado” has been targeted by offense-mongering progressives, and theater companies, which are always a bad decision or two from bankruptcy, find it easier to cave and just produce “The Pirates of Penzance” instead.

“The Mikado, ” directed and performed properly, is better than 85% of all Broadway musicals. It is also cheaper, can be performed effectively by all ages, is infinitely adaptable, and is free: it’s in the public domain. It is a cultural treasure, as important to preserve as the best Shakespeare tragedies or  “David Copperfield.” The battle for “The Mikado” has to be fought, and if there is any theater company out there, amateur or professional, who has the guts to fight it, call me. I can help.

2.  Ridiculous Roy Moore defense of the week. I haven’t been listening to Rush Limbaugh for a long time: is he finally losing it? This week he appeared to be suggesting that because Roy Moore was a Democrat when he was lusting after teen-age girls, there is some kind of hypocrisy involved in the controversy over his Senate campaign, saying,

“Did you know that before 1992, when a lot of this was going on, that Judge Moore was a Democrat? Nobody said a word. When he supposedly was attracted to inappropriately aged girls — he was a Democrat.”

So what? Moore could have been a Rosicrucian when he was molesting girls, and it wouldn’t matter. He’s running for the U.S. Senate NOW, and as a Republican. Either Rush is deliberately making what he knows is a terrible argument that will confuse idiots in his audience, meaning that he is dishonest, or he really believes that it is some kind of mitigation to the GOP’s irresponsible support for Moore that he was a Democrat when he broke the Alabama child molestation law. This would mean that Rush is now an idiot himself. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/14/17

1.  I am wrestling myself to the ground to avoid making any assumptions about the shooting this morning (about three miles from my home in Alexandria, Virginia) of two Republican Congressmen and an aide while the GOP baseball team was practicing for tomorrow’s annual Congressional baseball game for charity. When Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot (and a judge killed, among others) in Tucson, Arizona, the news media, pundits and Democrats leaped to blame Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh for so-called “eliminationist rhetoric,” defined in Palin’s case as using cross-hairs on an electoral map to indicate which Democrats could be defeated in 2012—you know, as in “he’s in my cross-hairs.” This was a transparent effort to stifle political speech. In 1995, when a Federal building in Oklahoma City was blown up in a domestic terrorist attack, “violent anti-government” rhetoric from the Right was also blamed, though there was no evidence that Timothy McVeigh would not have done exactly the same thing if political discourse had been all John Lennon and rainbows.

The Giffords explanation was cynical and contrived; the Oklahoma City response a bit less so, but in neither of those cases were violent imagery and hateful language (no party officials and member of Congress used “fuck” back then, late night TV hosts were largely apolitical and couldn’t call Presidents “cockholsters” without being fired, the “resistance” in 1995 consisted of fringe militia groups, not recent unsuccessful Presidential candidates with a large following, and nobody was giving standing ovations to Central Park theatrical productions showing a doppleganger of the President of the United States being assassinated. In other words, if Rush Limbaugh had held up a prop bloody head of Barack Obama prior to Giffords’ shooting, I would not have derided the critics who argued that irresponsible partisan rhetoric was at least part of the cause. But he didn’t. Nobody did. Nobody would have thought of doing so. Then.

So when my wife told me, the second I woke up, about the shooting this morning, my immediate thought was, “I wonder who the shooter is, an illegal immigrant, a Muslim, or a member of “the resistance?”  This was unfair, and I knew it. The shooter might have been, as it was in Tucson, a wacko. It might have been moral luck that it was the Republican baseball team that was attacked and not the Democrats, just as it was moral luck that nobody was killed. Continue reading

Proposition: It Is Unethical For Universities To Permit Or Engage In The Political Indoctrination Of Students Without Having Expressly Informed Students Of That Intention Before They Enrolled

brainwashing

As part of the post 2016 Presidential election freak-out, hundreds colleges and universities have crossed all lines of fairness, professionalism and objectivity by making it clear to students who did not find Hillary Clinton’s defeat motivation to consider an overdose of Seconal that they were skunks at the picnic. College deans and presidents sent out campus wide expressions of horror at Trump’s victory, like the Vassar president’s message I noted here. University of Arkansas’ Dean, Michael Schwartz, offered free counseling services to students who were dist ought following the “most upsetting, most painful, most disturbing election season of my lifetime.” The only previous occasion when the school offered counseling was after a student committed suicide.

A Yale professor sent this statement to his students:

yale-professor

Then there are the administrative efforts to make it clear that dissent from the approved, sensitive, politically correct, university-sancioned and of course obviously beyond question or rebuttal position that a group of racist deplorables elected the anti-Christ as POTUS.

At Edgewood College, students had been invited to express their feelings about the election by writing them on post-it-notes and placing them on a designated table. Clearly, it was expected that everyone would express anger, shock, despair or grief, but one such note read “Suck it up, pussies!” This, which I would call a very reasonable, if vulgarly expressed, reaction, was deemed a “hate crime” by college officials, who have asked police to investigate.

College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to campus condemning this “act of cowardly hatred” and “intimidation.” He wrote:

A group of cross-functional college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime…

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Short Takes As The Left’s Unethical Post-Election Freakout Continues

freakoutI admit it. I can’t keep up with all the progressive/Democrat/Hillary Corrupted/journalist and pundit freakouts over Donald Trump’s election, and I don’t want to. There is more to ethics and life than pointing out how completely so many have abandoned reason, fairness, proportion and their own previously stated principles because Donald Trump won the election. Well, that’s another beneficial effect of the result: Trump has inadvertently exposed how thin the veneer of decency and fairness was for a large number of institutions, occupations and individuals. Among the examples about which I could and probably should write complete posts, but won’t, are these:

New York Times columnist Charles Blow, he of the anti-Mormon slurs against Mitt Romney before the 2012 election. Remember how Rush Limbaugh was excoriated by journalists, progressives and Democrats for saying, after Obama’s election, that he hoped the new President would fail? Here is Blow, in my print Times this morning, declaring in advance his irrevocable hate:

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth….

So let me say this on Thanksgiving: I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.I’m thankful that I have the endurance and can assume a posture that will never allow what you represent to ever be seen as everyday and ordinary. No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.

This is the theme of the unethical response of the Angry Left—which increasingly appears to include everyone on the that side of the political spectrum. The double standard reigns. Conservatives should accept election results with grace and patriotism in the interests of national unity, but liberals can scream, protest, attack the system and claim fraud indefinitely. Republicans shouldn’t use fear as a political weapon, but Democrats can. Americans should give elected leaders a chance to  progress beyond the uncivil and excessive rhetoric on both sides during a campaign, with the exception of this President. Continue reading

Rush Limbaugh And The Right: Still Cheerfully Unethical After All These Years

OperationChaosII

Yesterday, the grand Pooh-Bah of conservative talk radio chirpily announced that he might “have another installment of Operation Chaos before the Democrat primaries are all said and done.”  If your brain cells have lived that long, you may recall Operation Chaos I, when in March of 2008 Rush directed his zombie followers to vote in Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton, who was then, as now, sliding fast. The idea was to stop  Barack Obama from clinching Democratic nomination early, and to maximize the chance of a messy Democratic nominating convention. Rush claims that his dastardly plan “worked”: Clinton won the Ohio and Texas primaries with large pluralities from rural, as in conservative counties, presumably full of Ditto-heads. On the other hand, Obama still won the nomination easily, then the election, and the United States was stuck with an incompetent, arrogant leader for eight years.

If that’s what Rush calls a successful plot, I hope we never see one of his unsuccessful ones.

But here he is again, considering the same tactic, though this time the idea is to have conservatives vote for an incompetent socialist, Bernie Sanders, whom none of them would even consider voting for in a real election even if someone was pulling their fingernails out with pliers. This is, as before, unethical in many ways, and it is particularly revolting to read the likes of Instapundit and Newsbusters cheering Rush on. “At the very least this could help make the Democrat primaries more fun to watch as they stretch on and on and….. ” smirks P.J. Gladney, at the latter.

Conservatives are nomore ethical than progressives, it’s just that their lack of ethics expresses itself in different ways.

Operation Chaos and its threatened sequel could only be devised by someone who thought Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks (which included the treasonous dirty trick of sabotaging LBJ’s Viet Nam War peace talks) were a scream, and could only be applauded by conservatives whose love for democracy just applied when it favors them. Rush’s steaming pile of depraved Machiavellianism is not worth my composing a new brief against it: I did a good job the first time. Here, in part, is what I wrote about Operation Chaos, while gagging in disgust, in 2008. It still stands. I’ll just substitute Bernie for Hillary. I don’t have to change anything else except a verb and pronoun here and there: Continue reading

Senator McCaskill, A Cheater And Proud Of It

Inexplicably, Richard Nixon never wrote an article boasting about how his campaign forged an attack letter that tricked Edmund Muskie into an emotional meltdown that let George McGovern get the 1972 Democratic nomination.

Inexplicably, Richard Nixon never wrote an article boasting about how his campaign forged an attack letter that tricked Edmund Muskie into an emotional meltdown that let George McGovern get the 1972 Democratic nomination. Strange…

What is increasingly disturbing is that so many of our representatives and high elected officials appear to have no idea what ethical conduct is. This leads them, as Donald Trump did in the Republican candidates debate, to boast about their unethical conduct in public and assume that the public, as well as the news media, will nod approvingly. It is more than disturbing that they are usually correct, and thus are both exploiting the nation’s ethics rot and contributing to it as leaders are uniquely able to do.

This was what the leader of Senate Democrats, Harry Reid did when he expressed no remorse for lying about Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign (“Romney lost, didn’t he?”). Now, in a signed article in Politico, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has explained how she gained re-election by manipulating the democratic process in Missouri. Obviously, she sees nothing the matter with what she did: the article is essentially one long gloat.

With it, she marks herself as a cheat, a fick, and an ethics corrupter, as well as a disgrace.

But she’s a winner, so it’s all good!

In the essay called “How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later,” McCaskill explains how, after her campaign identified Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin as the weakest Republican candidate to run against her, it ran cognitive dissonance ads engineered to increase his support among the most ignorant and extreme Republican primary voters. She writes,

So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat? Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad….Four weeks out we would begin with a television ad boosting Akin…then we’d go back into the field and test to see if it was working. If it was, we’d dump in more “McCaskill for Senate” money, and we’d add radio and more TV in St. Louis and Kansas City. ..As it turned out, we spent more money for Todd Akin in the last two weeks of the primary than he spent on his whole primary campaign..

Let me explain this so even the most hopeless “the ends justify the means” partisan can understand it. The idea behind democracy is to have the best possible candidates run for office, and to give the public good choices rather than lousy ones. Each party has an obligation to run a fair competition to find the candidate it believes is 1) best qualified for the office and 2) most able to prevail in the election. It is not fair, ethical or legitimate politics for the opposing party to interfere with this process to ensure weaker competition. This is not fair to the public, which has a right to have a good choice, not a horrible one. It is also undemocratic. It is wrong, no matter how clever it is. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Not Only Anybody Who Actually Thinks Donald Trump Would Be Anything But An Existential Disaster As President, But Anyone Who Isn’t Disgusted By His Existence

Megyn Kelly's "wherever," according to Donald trump.

Megyn Kelly’s “wherever,” according to Donald trump.

I’m not exaggerating. At this point, saying that one supports Donald Trump as President—or that one even “likes” such a destructive and despicable jackass—is signature significance. Such a person rejects responsible citizenship, basic decency, and civilized values. Such a person is warped and a misanthrope, or so stupid that their ability to function at all is a medical miracle.

The ethics tipping point even for the most jaded and alienated American who tolerated this juvenile delinquent in billionaire’s clothing (my tipping point was years ago, I am proud to say) should have been the combined impact of Trump’s outrageous comment to CNN, as he attacked Fox journalist Megyn Kelly for her questioning him on his uncivil public rhetoric, and his lie about it afterwards.

As I already noted in this post, Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

The man is a thug and a boor with money, the political equivalent of a four-year-old with an AK-47. His vaunted “candor” (as in “lack of couth, taste, civility, prudence, decency and restraint),  caused him to say, in essence, “this woman must have been on the rag” on national television. Is this worse than calling a tortured prisoner of war like John McCain less than a hero because he was captured? Sure it is: the earlier comment was stupid and disrespectful, but if that’s what Trump thinks, great: Out with it. The attack on Kelly is misogyny and gutter-level rudeness that must not be tolerated at the dinner table, in the workplace, or in polite company, much less in national politics. It transforms the whole nation into a cheap saloon, and tears down a wall that once gone, will eventually permit tossing feces like apes and aimed projectile vomiting before the entire civilization collapses in the stench of its own corruption.

This isn’t just a “war on women,” it’s war on dignity, decency and civilized discourse. You like that? You support that?

You’re a moron. Continue reading

Debate Ethics: Megyn Kelly’s Challenging Donald Trump For His Uncivil Rhetoric Was Not Only Fair, It Was Necessary

Trump and Kelly

It sometimes takes episodes like the hard right’s reaction to the Republican candidates’ debate Thursday night to remind me how ethically-challenged some—a lot, too many— of these people are. Why does this keep surprising me?

I honestly didn’t see it coming: one conservative pundit after another has criticized Megyn Kelly for challenging Donald Trump regarding his repeated episodes of using vulgar, crude, and uncivil language to denigrate women. In case you don’t recall, here was the exchange:

Kelly: One of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.

Trump: Only Rosie O’Donnell.

Kelly: For the record, it was well beyond Rosie. You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?

Instapundit understudy Elizabeth Price Foley called the question “silliness.” Examining the ethical values of a potential President, and civility is a cornerstone of them, is not “silly.”

Lindsay Graham, who apparently has decided that he should say anything, even stupid things, to keep his name in the news, defended Trump, telling the media that

“At the end of the day, ask the man a question that explains his position and his solutions rather than a ten-minute question that describes him as the biggest bastard on the planet.”

No, Trump’s own conduct and rhetoric describe him as one of the biggest bastards on the planet. He was given a chance to explain why reasonable people shouldn’t think they disqualify him to be President. After all, they do. Continue reading