An Army of One casts Limbaugh as an insecure titan, someone who holds grudges against his peers — like Larry King — and never felt the embrace of his media peers. He’s easily wounded by those who mock his appearance, even though he can be brutally honest about the flaws of his enemies. Just ask Congressman Barney Frank.
The roots of said insecurity aren’t fully developed. Yes, Limbaugh’s fluffy frame didn’t help, and by defying his father’s advice, he lost some early support. But a more thorough biography might have peeled back additional layers of an intensely private man.
Those who scoff at Limbaugh’s lavish lifestyle ignore the man’s generous nature. He’s an obscenely big tipper, we learn, and early in his career he quietly gave $5,000 to a struggling colleague.
A more liberal biographer would spend too much time taking apart Limbaugh’s arguments. But Chafets only challenges the Limbaugh method on a few occasions, specifically regarding the talker’s clash with Michael J. Fox on stem cell research and his AIDS commentaries.
The book also reveals just how transparent the media critics are who keep proclaiming the end of the Limbaugh era. The comments reveal more about the critics than Limbaugh, who retains an unerring sense of what his audience demands to keep him at the top of his profession.
An Army of One illustrates why Limbaugh has reigned over the political landscape for so long. Blame a combination of hard work, a cheery sense of humor, and a blue-collar sensibility despite his current bank account.
He’s a cutting edge satirist ignored by the comedy community, a man whose words can affect the political tides even if media experts continually predict his imminent ratings collapse.
It’s a shame the book expends far too much energy recapping The Rush Limbaugh Show, detailing running themes from the past dozen or so years rather than giving us valuable behind-the-scenes information.
Chafets does grill Limbaugh on his allegiance to a colorblind society, with the author gently chiding him for not better understanding black frustration at years of prejudicial treatment. Still, there’s little here that shows any malice — or racism — behind Limbaugh’s positions.
Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One gets close to the man who simultaneously rallies the conservative base and drives Democratic presidents to distraction. But hardcore Dittoheads will likely crave even more insight into the radio king, as will most political junkies.