Charles Grodin hosted a television talk show during the height of the Clinton years. Grodin is a liberal. He is handsome, smart and funny as all get out. His movies are a blast - "Beethoven", "Midnight Run", "Foul Play". Surely this man was the answer to a new phenomenon of conservative talk hosts who had achieved spectacular success and audiences in the mass millions. Grodin brought in friendly Clintonistas and other smiling faces from the liberal establishment in Hollywood, New York and Washington. His show was watched by nobody and went the way of the Dodo bird. How?
This is not all that easy a question. It begs the larger question, Will liberals ever compete with conservatives in the political talk show market? Maybe, but as of this writing there is not the slightest indication that it will happen soon. Grodin found himself defending Clinton and attacking conservatives. All of the charismatic qualities he brought to his film roles - smiling discourse, charm and humor, a disarming self-deprecation - disappeared.
Grodin could never get traction because he had to battle against the grain of Truth. Defending Clinton was the defense of a political reprobate. Grodin just found himself digging holes he could not get out of. Attacking Clinton's attackers forced Grodin to try and discredit common sense notions of law and politics. It was a tricky game, one that perhaps only Clinton himself had the ability to navigate. But what really kicked it for Grodin were general liberal notions, which juxtaposed with simple facts about America. In telling true stories of America, one is at the same time promoting conservatism. Grodin could not do this. He had to steer and veer to avoid this. It was exhausting to see him try. Promoting liberalism leads one to the inexorable path of describing what is wrong with America. Grodin could sense this, and his ability to read the tealeaves told him it was not flying. He ended up being sour and dour. Adios.
If anybody could have starred at it, it was George Stephanopoulos. He was young, decent-looking and charismatic (albeit about five feet ye tall to a grasshopper). He was smart, knew all the players and the "inside baseball," and had gotten out without being tarnished beyond his efforts to discredit women assaulted by Clinton. In the Democrat world, that is a pretty good track record. He never made it.
Clinton himself has been discussed regarding taking over a talk show. What a disaster that would be. If actual callers called in he would get verbally assaulted. Efforts to control the calls would be obvious. He would be defending himself and getting in hot water. If he tried to branch out, he would just be digging holes for himself.
Once upon a time, before cable was big, before talk radio, Phil Donahue was a powerhouse. He dispensed liberalism, and he got ratings. Surely this meant America was a liberal country. After dropping out of the game and returning, Donahue discovered that the only reason people turned to him was because they had no choices. Now, with competition, the choice was conservatism. Bye Phil.
Mario Cuomo was supposed to be a big liberal hit on talk radio. He had a reputation as a great speaker. He was a man of the people; the humble Italian Catholic, the immigrant's son, his story was the story of New York: Problem: Liberal positions, stated in a talk radio format over two or three hours, have to be explained, and sense must be made of them. See ya, Mario.
So who is out there? In San Francisco a liberal talk host has succeeded for years. His name is Bernie Ward. He is strident and argumentative. Frankly, a pain. But he is in San Francisco, a bastion of liberalism, so he survives. This city must be the one place where conservative talk radio finds no audience? Where the liberal Ward will beat the conservatives, right? Think again.
Rich liberals have for years tried to fund a network to overshadow conservative talk radio. CNN devoted a program to the premise of "combating" conservative radio. In 1996, the DNC tried to establish a speaker's bureau designed to create alternatives. It never went anywhere. They trotted out Alan Dershowitz, Lowell Weicker, Jerry Brown, Gary Hart and Doug Wilder. Nobody will argue that the conservatives are smarter than these guys. The only explanation for why liberals draw as big an audience as a Carol Mosely-Braun for President rally is that their ideas are not as good. Some things are just empirical evidence. People do not want this liberal jargon shouting at them in their car radios any more than they want to be a character in George Orwell's "1984", listening to Big Brother on a speaker system. It makes one wonder whether they would have chosen someone other than Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite had they had a choice, which they did not. Magazines like Mother Jones urge readers to call their radio stations and demand a change, but the only calls these stations get is, "When are you going to put G. Gordon Liddy on?" Conservatives constantly call CBS, NBC and ABC and demand that Dan Rather and Katie Couric get the axe, but it does not occur.
In 1994, the Republicans pulled out a huge win, a major refutation of Clinton and the longstanding Democrat hold on both the House and Senate. Conservative talk radio had played a major part, spoofing on the Democrats' check writing scandal. In January of 1995, radio listeners in San Francisco tuned into a station, KSFO/560 AM, and for 24 hours a day they heard conservatives. Ken "The Black Avenger" Hamblin, G. Gordon Liddy. Michael Savage. Michael Reagan, and a host of other local and national shows. The station was a hit, and has cleaned up in ratings' sweeps against every other San Francisco station ever since. On KNBR/AM 680 an atrocious sports host named Ralph Barbieri has long peppered his analysis with pithy anti-Republican commentary, thinking he is speaking to a liberal audience. KSFO and the conservatives have beaten him like a red headed stepchild for almost a decade. KNBR finally had to bring in an ex-NBA star, Tom Tolbert, to rescue what was left of their drive time share. It drives Barbieri batty that in a part of the country he thought was safe, conservative ideology whips him in the marketplace of ideas.
When Savage left KSFO, he moved over to KNEW/910 AM. Now, in San Francisco, liberals like Bernie Ward talk to a roomful of people at midnight while local and nationally-syndicated conservative superstars dominate all hours of the day on not one, but two talk stations.
So what is conservative talk radio, and why is it so important? There have been conservatives on radio for years. Paul Harvey was popular with homespun American style, telling populist tales of religion and small town values, giving his audience "the rest of the story." In the 1980s, talk radio was mostly the forum of the sports world. In Los Angeles, KABC introduced Dodgertalk, giving fans non-stop baseball news and interviews. Fans could call in and offer their two cents worth. In New York, sports fans called in to WFAN to opine about the Knicks, the Yankees, and the Rangers. Also in the 1980s, the cell phone became popular. With the economic upturn, more and more people were working in the cities, living in the suburbs, and listening to radio in their cars.
Two things favored conservatives off the top. First, people who drive to their cars to and from work, by virtue of having jobs, are more likely to be Republicans. But what really fuels the conservative talk radio engine is the fact that conservatives are more civic-minded and value knowledge more. Liberals tend to listen to music. They are more likely to be on the FM side of the dial. Conservatives usually have more education, and desire to better themselves and their communities. Part of that is to acquire more information. While others may be rockin' out to the Stones, conservatives want to make better use of their time and learn things.
Next, conservatives for years have been listening to spoon-fed media bias. They are tired of it. Conservative talk radio offered them something else after years of garbage. As a result of all the Left wing bias that conservatives put up with all their lives, in newspapers, magazines, school textbooks, college classes, Hollywood screens, and network news, conservatives had this little feeling in their guts. Dan Rather, Peter Jennings or Walter Cronkite would tell them something, conservatives would hear it, and a little reactor would go on telling them that what they were being told was not quite right. Doesn't add up. Off kilter. Now just hold on there, buddy. I'm sure that's wrong. Can't be. Are you sure about that?
It goes on like that for years. So the conservative have these feelings, but everything around him tells him he is in the wrong. Hollywood tells him he is wrong. Cronkite says he is wrong. His college professors definitely told him he was wrong. Before, those high school and junior high texts sure had some weird stuff in them. But the conservative is not liberal. Something keeps him from becoming that way. Something about those opinions does not make sense. This feeling sticks to him, and the feeling is that, hey, I still think I'm right.
Well, being a smart guy (or gal), and wanting to do the right thing, to stand up for what is right, the conservative begins to sort things out in his head. He starts to gather knowledge. He needs to arm himself with facts to countermand all this stuff which, as he gets older, wiser and more responsible, makes more and more difference to him. Facts.
The conservative makes a discovery. Trust me, it can be epiphany. It is like a religious experience. It may start with something small. Then it builds and grows. The bigger it gets the stronger it becomes. What am I talking about? I am talking about facts. Truth.
The conservative comes to the marvelous, beautiful realization that the facts favor his way of thinking.
This is power. Now it is no longer just opinion or emotion. Now he is on the right side of things.
Then one day he turns on Rush Limbaugh.
Rush Limbaugh changed everything. There is no more powerful force in American culture than Rush Limbaugh. He has moved mountains. He is responsible for a seismic shift in popular attitude. It cannot be emphasized too strongly just how huge this guy is.
Nobody is denying the importance of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. They came before Limbaugh and set the stage for him to do what he did. Goldwater and Reagan were, as Teddy Roosevelt put it, "in the arena," battling for the votes, putting themselves in front of a steamroller of public opinion armed only with their intellect and confident knowledge of their righteousness.
Limbaugh will be the first to admit he is only a part of what moves conservatism. He works hand in hand and in between the mediums of entertainment, government and business. If he is not entertaining, he fails. If he does not succeed as a business entity, he fails. If there is no corollary between his opinions and the electorate, he fails. He triumphs, in brilliant fashion, in all three areas. His very worst detractors cannot possibly deny this.
Limbaugh was born into a family of Republican lawyers in suburban Missouri. He failed to meet the academic expectations set by his family, but not for a lack of intellect. He went to a small college in Missouri and made fair grades, but dropped out to pursue what he had always wanted to do: Radio. He had strong conservative opinions and wanted to express them on the air. There was virtually no radio forum in those days to allow for that. About the only thing for him to do was disc jockey work, but he got in trouble for airing politics and was fired several times. Straight news did not interest him. He wanted to be part of a cultural medium. He sensed all the things that conservatives sense, which was that he was right, he was not alone, and others wanted to hear him. But how?
Limbaugh drifted from job to job, in and out of radio. He worked for the Kansas City Royals baseball team, where he did public relations, making a pittance salary while surrounded by wealthy superstars. One of them, George Brett, shared his philosophy and they befriended each other. Limbaugh maxed out his credit cards and bought groceries at 7-11 because they would except cards the grocery store would not.
Slowly, he began to establish himself in the radio business. He ended up at a station in Sacramento, California, where he was allowed to be a full-fledged conservative. Liberals called in, infuriated at the very idea that some such opinions could be allowed on the air. Aw, free speech. Ain't it a bitch? This went on for a while, and the hate was brutal. Several times, the station told Rush he was about to be fired.
Rush told his audience what was happening. He said that unless those who agreed with him made their presence known, he was gone. Liberals kept calling in, spewing with vitriol. Then the conservatives started to call. They kept calling. Rush's job was saved. For now. It was touch and go, but word of mouth spread. (It is my considered belief that if the Clintons had access to a time machine and could venture back into history to kill somebody, it would be Rush Limbaugh, circa 1985 or '86, before he got big.)
Then, the beauty of capitalism kicked in. Rush began to beat the other stations in ratings. Advertisers wanted to do business with him. The best part of it was that advertisers discovered they got more bang for their buck from Rush's conservative audience. They hung with him through commercials, as they tended to be the kind of upright, tax-paying citizens who needed and purchased the goods and services they advertised. Rush was a hit in Sacramento.
In the Summer of 1988, the big experiment began. Rush was brought to New York City, where he would be syndicated nationwide. Reagan was still the President, but Bush was running and Michael Dukakis had a 17-point lead. From one end of the "fruited plain" to the other, unsuspecting voters turned on their radios and heard Limbaugh extol the virtues of America, capitalism, freedom, conservatism, and the Republican party. In direct correlation with the early rise of his show, Bush rose in the polls. By November he was elected President, and Rush was a national sensation.
The Democrats despised him. Over the next four years, he drove them out of their cotton pickin' minds. He had up-dates on animal rights, Ted Kennedy and other liberal gods, skewing them with hilarious voice imitations, fake songs lampooning their nostrums, and other sacred cows. But what made him successful was that he knew what he was talking about. Limbaugh did his homework and argued persuasively. He knew history and he had the facts in his favor. Filling three hours a day, five days a week, year after year, Rush occasionally exaggerated claims, and sometimes his predictions were not right. But he stated that he was right "99.9 percent of the time," and he was a lot closer to that than he was wrong.
The Left went after him with everything they had. They tried liberal talk shows, but their dismal failures just made Rush's success more obvious. Rush was overweight, so they made fun of him. A member of the Dumbellionite Class named Al Franken, who it has been scientifically proven is not a pimple on Rush's buttocks, wrote a book called "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot". The book sold pretty well. Then Franken wrote another book, which was read by nobody. It turned out his first book only sold because Rush's name was on it. Nice. Then Rush lost weight and now looks terrific. Franken realized the only books he could write that would sell would have conservatives in the title, so he wrote a book using Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" moniker. It sold. Franken remains a Dumbellionite.
The liberals desperately tried to find something wrong with Rush, in his personal life, his family, his formative years, and his hard-luck period. Anything they could pin on the man. They found out his family was as upright as the one Beaver Cleaver grew up in. Rush never broke laws, never got in trouble, and did the right thing in every aspect of his life. He was as straight an arrow as they get. In 2003, the Left thought they "got" him when Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers was made public. Limbaugh simply took personal responsibility, never complained, and dealt with the results of his actions. When he returned to the radio, he was as big as ever.
In 1992, Rush went after the Clintons hard. When they won, it looked to be a major refutation of his power. Rush had become an icon of the right, a man that President Bush and the Republicans took very seriously - as did the Democrats. Criticizing him was not easy, since he had so many defenders and he possessed a platform. What Rush did more than anything was to expose the Left wing bias in the "dominant media culture," which he said was all of the media other than him. There was the media and the Left, all together. Then there was him.
Democrats complained and proposed Federal laws giving them equal time.
"I am equal time," Rush responded.
If Rush had three hours, they should have three hours to respond to him. Naturally, this meant that radio stations far and wide, who were making money hand over foot with Rush, were expected to put some boredom liberal on the air and watch their profits sink from a lack of listeners. Rush won in the marketplace of ideas, the freest possible example of choice, and conservatism was the winner.
Rush never blinked with the Clintons in the White House, stating that his show would be stronger than ever because now he had so much material, courtesy of their scandals. He was right again. He devised faux news reports describing "America held hostage" by the Clintons, and created hilarious songs bastardizing their lies, with a Hillary sound-alike responding "I don't recall" in Hillaryious fashion. A Sonny and Cher takeoff of "I Got You, Babe" turned into Hillary and Bill turning state's evidence on each other. He aired an Elvis impersonator singing a version of "The Ghetto", only it was a "liberal guy and a liberal gal" driving a Yugo to save mileage and do their part for the environment because "don't you know those SUVs are rapin' the land…?" only the liberals in the tiny Yugo are smashed by a Mack truck on the interstate. It was insane. He got a Teddy Kennedy sound-alike to do a parody of "The Wanderer".
"I'm a philanderer, yes I'm a philanderer," replaced "I'm a wanderer, yes I'm a wanderer," and "I sleep around and 'round and 'round," replaced "I get around and 'round and 'round."
Everybody recalled the first time they heard Rush. He wrote two best-selling books and had his own TV show. He spawned conservative magazines and newspapers like the Washington Times. People who filled in for him as guest hosts became stars in their own right. Rush is the singular responsible entity for conservative media today. His influence is what has created the paradigm shift that has changed the political landscape of America. He is as much a part of the Republican Revolution of 1994 and the Republican majorities that today dominate the executive, legislative, judicial, statehouse and state legislatures as any other force. He is a force of nature, he is an American, and he belongs to us. God bless him.
By 1995, thanks to his guest host spots and the demand for conservative content, others followed in his footsteps. Ken Hamblin called himself the "Black Avenger." Operating out of Denver, he represented the new "black conservative" movement which unfortunately has never materialized among blacks, but in a weird twist on affirmative action has become extremely popular with whites. Hamblin proposed a book with the questionable title "Please Don't Feed the Blacks", and was excoriated by the "brothers" for selling out. In the mean time, he doled out intelligence, patriotism, decency and common sense in huge doses, not concerned with any lack of so-called "street cred."
Larry Elder followed Hamblin's lead as a black conservative on KABC, the former L.A. sports station that now is conservative. In San Francisco, Michael Savage carved out a huge niche for himself. He started at KSFO, the conservative giant that was so successful that today KNEW has gone to the right, causing the liberals of the Bay Area many headaches with not one but two conservative stations in their midst. Savage is the most controversial of the conservatives, so hardcore that even Republicans tend to steer clear of him. He has been demonized as a hater, a warmonger, a racist and a homophobe. He does occasionally get out of control and says things he would be better off not saying. However, he has been painted unfairly. Savage has a Ph.D. He experienced what he says was reverse racism from colleges who would not hire him. He shades and exaggerates and generalizes, and probably would be the first to admit it. What makes his listeners so loyal is that every day, in between his rants and raves, he states pure, unadulterated Truths. He is not afraid to step on toes and talk about issues like race and homosexuality. He says things many feel but are afraid to opine. This is the core of his popularity. His detractors would have you believe his listeners are just racists, but Savage reaches "angry white males" who are not racist, but are sick and tired of being called racist.
Savage will say something like, "What America needs is not more tolerance, but more intolerance." Statements like this, heard on their own or appearing in print, seem hard to defend. What is required in order to "get" Savage is to hear him in context, over a period of time, and to be intellectually honest with ones' self. The "intolerance" statement, for instance, was in response to liberal attacks against the Patriot Act, and pervasive fear that Savage has about the future of not just American culture, but America itself. It was in response to his belief that oversensitive, Politically Correct, race-conscious Leftists can weaken this nation's resolve to a) maintain the traditions that make the U.S. strong, and b) worse, create moral relativism that could prevent us from doing the necessary work in winning the War on Terrorism. No liberal will be "turned around" by Savage, but if they are fair and honest about him they will not view him in the cartoonish manner that many do.
Savage expresses the outrage people feel over seeing bums in the street, but are afraid to say anything about for fear of being called heartless. When a black criminal commits a heinous crime but the media hides his race, but splashes a white criminal all over the news, Savage simply reveals it. He asks for a world in which everybody lives up to their responsibilities. His cosmopolitan background - immigrant son, New York Jew, one-time Democrat, man of the street - gives him what he calls a "compassionate conservatism." Savage rails about homosexual activists and filthy public displays, but has no animus for individual gays. He calls the Jesse Jacksons of the world what they are - charlatans - but he is not prejudiced. Savage is a man to listen to, and in so doing one discovers that the lies told about him are just that, lies.
G. Gordon Liddy drives the liberals as batty as Rush, because he was an official Republican "bad guy," the man behind Watergate. So what does he do? He drives a fancy sports car with the license plates, "H20GATE." Liddy, like Oliver North, makes no effort to hide behind his official actions, and was elevated to high status by the opinion of millions of American citizens that what he did was actually good. In Liddy's case, people view Watergate as something Kennedy and Johnson had done, and in light if the "civil war" atmosphere in the streets, and the desire not to let the Kennedys steal another election, the break-in was almost justified.
Liddy plays to highly macho sensibilities, is extremely sexual, loves guns, has a Pattonesque view of warfare, and takes on a conspiratorial, partisan view of the Clintons. He is nobody's fool, speaking several languages, and his education is first rate. He also has his pet peeves, such as "prison guards," who he has low regard for because they were his overseers when he served time.
Rush gave Sean Hannity his start, when he filled in for him. He is the most traditional, straightforward of the Republican hosts. Hannity is a good Catholic boy from Long Island, very strict and proper in his views regarding language, religion, morality, family values and the proper treatment of women. He is not afraid to have liberals on his show, and he is respectful towards them, drawing them in and, frankly, learning from them. His show lacks the fireworks of Savage or Liddy, and the factual evidence presented by Rush or Michael Reagan. It becomes slightly bland at times. Hannity co-hosts a Fox News program called Hannity and Colmes with liberal counterpart Alan Colmes. He is well suited for TV in appearance and smooth delivery. Colmes is a good man, but one feels a little sorry for him because, especially since the Bush Presidency started, the conservatives have been winning most of the battles. His attempts to oppose them, to meet the show's debate-style format, have left him grasping. Hannity needs to tone down his gloating just a little bit, but he is a gentleman (as is Colmes).
Michael Reagan is the former President's adopted son. Unlike his offbeat brother Ron, he is rock solid. Michael is totally unflappable, and loyal to his father in the manner of a true believer. His greatest trait is research and total knowledge of issues, including the most arcane policies, legislation, budgetary matters, and the like. He manages to dispense this while staying interesting, although he does occasionally go over his listeners' heads.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism