Monday, March 02, 2009

The Man in Black

Rush Limbaugh addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Saturday as its closing act. Both C-SPAN and Fox carried the speech live. Limbaugh bragged early on in his remarks that he didn't need a teleprompter because he could speak endlessly without notes. He very nearly did speak endlessly. He went a full hour over his allotted time, proving that he did need a teleprompter. I did not see the speech live, but I've put my time in to watch it since, and more importantly, I've read the full transcript on the Fox News site. And here's the real news:

Rush Limbaugh's speech at CPAC was as big a trainwreck as Bobby Jindal's response to President Obama's speech to Congress.

Didn't use a teleprompter, because he didn't have a coherent speech with a logical argument to give. Instead, he offered an incoherent ramble, stuffed with off-hand (and standard) insults, plus anecdotes that went nowhere in particular -- all ultimately very revealing, though unintentionally so, like a slow-motion mental monologue on a psychiatrist's sofa. It takes a fairly large, random slice of the transcript to illustrate the (actually meaningful) mess:
Somebody says they want something that's bad for them, do you give it to them just to be nice? Or do you tell them, regardless of their age, no, you shouldn't have that? Well, it's none of your business. Maybe not. And then you back out of it. But you still have to have the ability to tell people what's right and wrong. And that's not authoritative. That's not authoritarian. And it's not trying to deny somebody a good time. It's not trying to interrupt somebody's hedonism, pleasure, it's about all of us with shared values trying to make sure that people live the highest quality lives they can. Ultimately, it's their decision as to what they do. But the point is, don't treat them -- especially voters -- as kids just -- they say they want it okay we'll come up with a plan to give it to you. Have any of you seen the movie -- I'd never heard of it, but I happened to get a DVD the other day. Anybody see the movie Swing Vote with Kevin Costner? You know, it's kind of a moronic movie like most things out of Hollywood are....

Strange that this famous man with a famous drug problem would have wandered off into these tall weeds about other people's "hedonism" and "pleasure," and then revealed that his social life is so pathetic that he's watching "moronic" movies in that 50,000-square-foot lonely, empty mansion of his.

What ultimately comes through the almost endless stumbling parade of this "speech," like a flashlight left burning in a corncrib, is Limbaugh's self-loathing, the irresistible desire to reveal his neediness for constant validation. The actual inanity of his speech, his inability to made a coherent argument, actually caused him to break out with a good case of flop-sweat, and he referred to it: "For those of you watching at home, I'm not nervous it's just really hot in here." It's his self-loathing, not the slings and arrows of outrageous lib'ruls, against which he must assert his superiority over and over again.

Because he was being broadcast live by Fox News, Limbaugh referred no less than ten times to his "first address to the nation," and it might be natural to write that off to a pomposity that can't see its own toes. But we see it as an inferiority complex fighting to bluff its way into polite company. Self-loathing that's learned to over-compensate with braggadocio.

Because buried waaay down in the transcript (and it seems like Hour Three of the speech), Limbaugh finally got to the thing itself, the source of his most recent humiliation and proof that his self-loathing is fully justified ... the fact that he wasn't even invited to the summit dinner of conservative intellectuals at George Will's when Barack Obama was the guest of honor. Again, to fully appreciate Limbaugh's own psychosis of inadequacy masquerading as egotism, we must quote this passage at length:
This is a funny story. Show you how I can hijack a news cycle even by doing anything [sic]. The Tuesday before the inauguration, President Bush invited me to the Oval Office for lunch. And it was on and off the record, some of the conversations. And he brought out, interesting, at the end of it -- my birthday had been the day before. He brought out a chocolate birthday cake, a microphone, and stood beside me with Ed Gillespie and sang happy birthday. Photographers taking pictures. I wish my parents were alive. My parents wouldn't believe my life. They came out of the Great Depression. They didn't think it was possible for somebody who did not go to college -- and even for people who did -- they didn't think this was possible. Life has changed so much for the better in this country.

.... So as I'm flying home from lunch, I'm watching television and I see that the word has leaked out that Obama is hosting a dinner with conservative media pundits at the home of George Will. I said: I wonder who these people are? [Laughter] In the media, one of them is going to have to leak it. Sure as heck, one did. Now, we all know who were there. And let's see -- I can't remember all the names, so I won't mention any. But let me tell you Obama's purpose. Does anybody really think that Barack Obama had dinner with a bunch of conservatives hoping they would change his mind?


RUSH: Hell, no. His purpose -- and his purpose really wasn't to change theirs -- his purpose was to anoint them as conservative spokesmen. These are the people that Obama's willing to break bread with. These happen -- some of the people there happen to be the people who think the era of Reagan is over, who believe that conservatism needs to be redefined. Of course Obama would try to lure them in. Well, all of a sudden I land. I get home about 5:00, and my e-mail is jammed with questions from reporters, are you, is that why you took the day off today? Is that why you're not on the air? Are you going to dinner with Obama? By the way, I left out a crucial part of the story. Was this a Monday, Kit? It was a Tuesday. I had forgotten to tell my audience that I was going to miss the next day. I signed off the show saying I'll see you tomorrow. That's the last thing I said. The staff reminded me you're not going to be here tomorrow. I came up with a plan, that the guest host the next day would say that I was called out of town to Washington at midnight the night before. Just an innocent little trick on the radio audience. Everybody picked that up and thinks I'm invited to the Obama dinner. So those people that were invited to it got less coverage than I did and I didn't even know about it. [Laughter] It was fun. [Applause]

Conservatives are naturally happy.

It would take a psychological dissertation to fully unpack the insecurities of that wholly inadvertent confession, the feelings of inadequacy and resentment displaying themselves as a full peacock strut, the little fat wad not picked by the poplar kids for the stickball team, and the apparently perfect revenge of (supposedly) stealing their moment of fame for himself, and then the crashing ironies of that last line ... "Conservatives are naturally happy" (especially when someone else can be imagined as perfectly miserable).

If one thing comes through Limbaugh's interminable monologue on the CPAC couch, it's this: "I'm an unhappy human being."

We want to congratulate the Republican Party for making this guy your national spokesman.

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