When Rush Limbaugh addressed CPAC on February 28, his detractors heard the same old “brash” speech they always hear when he speaks. Astute political commentators like Whoopi Goldberg called it “crappy,” and even RNC Chair Michael Steele, a conservative by almost any measure, called some of Limbaugh’s comments “ugly.”
Although Steele has retracted his criticism, he and those criticizing Limbaugh’s address missed something very important: this was Limbaugh’s moment. It was his equivalent to President Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. And just as Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” that wall, Limbaugh spent a considerable amount of time calling for Obama to tear down the walls he has erected between Americans and their freedom.
When Reagan spoke in Berlin in 1987, he said:
Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. … [And] as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind.
He spoke of the liberty-quenching nature of communism and voiced his conviction that:
Just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom.
And Reagan, ever the Great Communicator, illustrated the distinction between free nations and those that are not, through an appeal to history:
Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany — busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of parkland. … Where there was want, today there’s abundance. … [But] in the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind — too little food.
Reagan hated communism, and he wanted it to fail because he recognized it as a tool used by tyrants and egomaniacs set on ruling instead of representing their citizens. Not surprisingly, his criticism of communism was called “crappy” in its own way, and to this day there are still attempts to explain it away as one of Reagan’s lesser moments by writers like NPR’s Will Bunch.
Limbaugh’s goal at CPAC couldn’t have been more consistent with Reagan’s goal in Berlin. And like Reagan, he spoke according to his convictions rather than polls when he said, “Our beliefs are not the result of calculations and contrivances. Our beliefs are not the result of a deranged psychology. Our beliefs are our core.”
Yet whereas Reagan was speaking for a people who had known only oppression since the end of World War II, Limbaugh was speaking to people rooted in freedom. Reagan was asking the East European communists to embrace Western freedoms and Limbaugh was urging the very ideological descendants of those communists to leave the West alone: “Most wealth in this country is the result of entrepreneurial [action], just plain old hard work. There’s no reason to punish it. There’s no reason to raise taxes on these people.”
And Obama certainly plans to raise taxes. How else is he going to pay for bailout after bailout? And he has to pit one American against another to do this. That’s right. Obama has to destroy tranquility in order to justify using the people’s money to send in the cavalry. In so doing, Obama is fast approaching a precipice over which may be this nation’s ruin. Limbaugh put it this way:
President Obama is so busy trying to foment and create anger in … [an] atmosphere of crisis. He is so busy fueling the emotions of class envy that he’s forgotten it’s not his money that he’s spending. In fact, the money he’s spending is not [even] ours. He’s spending wealth that has yet to be created. And that is not sustainable. It will not work. … President Obama, in six weeks of his administration, has proposed more spending than from the founding of the country to his inauguration.
And the implication of such proposals, should they pass into law, is unnerving:
It is not going to engender prosperity. It’s not going to create prosperity and it’s also not going to advance or promote freedom. It’s going to be just the opposite. There are going to be more controls over what you can and can’t do, how you can and can’t do it, what you can and can’t drive, what you can and can’t say, where you can and can’t say it.
Who wouldn’t oppose such an agenda? Who wouldn’t hope that such an agenda fails? Yet in hoping Obama’s policies fail, Limbaugh is hoping America succeeds. He sees freedom’s continuance in Obama’s failure. Therefore on his daily talk show on March 3, he followed up his CPAC address by saying he would support this administration’s policies if they would truly stimulate the economy instead of destroying it:
I would become Barack Obama’s biggest cheerleader … if he actually proposed ideas to jump-start this economy, so there isn’t any more economic pain and we can bottom out at some point and start building this back.
In 1987, Reagan said:
We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. … [So] if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Limbaugh is doing nothing more than that now, albeit in a different setting. In the midst of Obama’s claims to be pursuing this nation’s prosperity, Limbaugh is calling on him to reverse course and pursue tax cuts, less regulation, and thus freer markets, so the creative spirit of the American people can be unleashed once again. In short, Limbaugh has called on Obama to tear down the walls that keep us from economic achievement and advancement. And there’s nothing “brash,” “crappy,” or “ugly” about it.