NYT Interviews Rush Limbaugh, Triggering Avalanche of Reader Hate

Reporter Jacques Steinberg on El Rushbo: "As he opened his radio program Wednesday, Mr. Limbaugh lobbed yet another grenade."

Media reporter Jacques Steinberg interviewed conservative talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh on his strong opposition to GOP presidential front-runner John McCain for Friday's "Warring on McCain, Limbaugh Sees No Reconciliation."

"Rush Limbaugh took his show on the road this week, forsaking his main broadcast studio in Palm Beach, Fla., for one in Midtown Manhattan. But the change of scenery did nothing to dampen the Republican-on-Republican smackdown he has been waging from afar against Senator John McCain, the party's likely presidential nominee, whom Mr. Limbaugh considers too moderate.

As he opened his radio program Wednesday, Mr. Limbaugh lobbed yet another grenade.

"I would like today to announce a tentative decision - I'm still thinking about it - to endorse Barack Obama," he said, his head cocked slightly toward his 18-karat-gold-plated microphone, his hands spread wide like the wings of his sleek G4 jet.

Mr. Limbaugh then listed nearly a dozen qualities he said he found admirable in Mr. Obama. "Barack Obama is pro-life," he began. "Barack Obama is a tax-cutter extraordinaire."

If neither statement was descriptive of Mr. Obama, a liberal Democrat, nor was there much hope for what followed. "Barack Obama will establish a college football playoff, once and for all," Mr. Limbaugh said. "Barack Obama will offer free-beer Fridays."

His point, Mr. Limbaugh said, was that Mr. Obama represented "a blank canvas upon which anyone can project their fantasies and desires."

Steinberg goes soft on McCain's endorsement of amnesty for illegal immigrants, simply saying McCain is "not being as tough as Mr. Limbaugh would like" on the issue.

But implicit in his "endorsement," however tongue-in-cheek, was this: Mr. Limbaugh, who draws more than 13.5 million listeners a week, considers Mr. McCain to have so betrayed conservative principles by voting against tax cuts and not being as tough as Mr. Limbaugh would like on illegal immigrants that the commentator was openly flirting with the enemy. (Later, Mr. Limbaugh dangled the possibility of endorsing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.)


In that vein, the daily spankings Mr. Limbaugh has been administering over the air to Mr. McCain are about more than the host's practiced outrage over the senator's olive branch to liberals and moderates. Mr. Limbaugh has also seized on the ascension of Mr. McCain to remind the world that his nationally syndicated program still matters and that he has not lost his long-demonstrated penchant for making mischief.

"Folks, can we agree, just between us," he told his listeners, sotto voce, on Wednesday, "has it not been brilliant how strategically I have inserted myself in this campaign?"

It's actually not that bad an interview (audio excerpts are available online, plus clips from Limbaugh's radio show). But the Times decided to open up the story to online comments, and the paper's liberal readership is indulging in an instructive "two-minute hate." The first comment (of over 750 and counting) is perfectly representative:

Limbaugh is a thrice divorced recovering drug addict and gasbag who lectures others about the sanctity of marriage and the value of the war on drugs. Why anyone would listen to his opinions about anything is a real mystery to me.