Rush's new lament: Where have all the followers gone?

February 28, 1996|By Mike Littwin

Rush is moaning on the radio. It isn't pretty to listen to, conjuring up images that are, well, best left unimagined.

I mean, it's one thing to listen to a big, fat idiot, as Al Franken has labeled him forevermore. It's quite another to listen to a moaning, and possibly sweating, big, fat idiot.

Anyway, Rush is moaning because many Ditto-heads (and mega-dittoes to them all) have turned on him. The Buchananites are flooding the airwaves to tell Rush that he has betrayed them and the revolution. They've got the pitchforks out and they're storming the castle walls, behind which Rush is (just guessing here) having lunch (just guessing again) with no salad.

"Christina from Miami wants to burn my books," Rush moans the other day, the radio waves fairly dripping with self pity. "She wants to burn my ties. She was dittoed by Delores from Michigan and semi-dittoed by that guy from Savannah, Ga. . . .

"Now, to some of you, I am the enemy. I am a Judas. I have betrayed you. . . . Meanwhile, Clinton is out there getting a free ride."

He acknowledges that he has become the focus of his own show, and he says (well, he did say it) that this makes him uncomfortable -- you know, with the spotlight on him and him being so self-effacing and all.

But I can handle it, he vows. I welcome the criticism, he insists.

Whoever says I don't let critics talk on this show now know better, he thunders.

And then he says: "It's getting a little weird out there when my own audience wants to burn my books."

It is getting weird. And the weird are turning pro.

It's getting so weird that I forced myself to listen to 90 minutes of a recent show. Usually, after five minutes or so, I have to leave the room. Usually, after 15, I turn the radio to something more soothing, say Snoop Doggy Dogg. After a half hour -- I've only made it that long twice -- I turn into Travis Bickle, screaming at the radio: You talkin' to me?

This time, I'm enjoying every second. I'm hoping the game goes into overtime.

"I'm being called a hypocrite," Rush says, incredulous. By my own ditto-headed people.

Seems Rush made the mistake of saying something semi-honest about Pat Buchanan. No, he didn't call him a bigot. (My favorite campaign banner to date came from an anti-Buchananite in Arizona: "What's all the fuhrer about?"). Rush said something much worse. He said Buchanan, the populist protectionist, was not a true conservative.

Well, he might as well have called Buchanan a godless Commie or, more damning, a counterculture McGovernick. All hell broke loose.

Now, you have to remember, this is a show where the listeners usually say something like, "You're so smart, Rush. I wish I could be like you." And Rush says, "That's swell of you to say, little feller" and then goes on to say there's a dog in the White House and holds up a picture (this was on his TV show) of Chelsea Clinton.

What Rush must have missed is that his audience is the audience of disgruntled, anti-government, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, anti-Seinfeld crowd that makes up much of Buchanan's legions.

A magazine that tracks talk radio -- and I bet you thought talk-radio listeners didn't read -- says last week there were seven times as many pro-Buchanan calls than pro-Dole calls. (By the way, it's not true that Dole's new campaign theme is Springsteen's "Dead Man Walking.")

Once, Rush was at the forefront of revolution. As Che Guevara might have said, if they'd had talk radio back then, the first thing you do in a revolution is take over the radio stations. With Rush in the lead, the Republicans stormed the halls of Congress.

Did Rush go soft? It looks like he ceded the angry white male to Buchanan. And the lock-and-load gang is fighting back.

(Did you see Buchanan at the OK Corral, dressed up like Doc Holliday? How many fantasies does this guy get to live out in one campaign?)

Darren from Ohio calls to say Republicans who criticize Buchanan -- he meant Rush, too; you know he did -- were planting the "cold callous Judas kiss" on his candidate.

Rush says he is misunderstood, that he has nothing against Buchanan personally.

Rush says he's still the same old Rush: "I have remained constantly consistent, steadfast, a bulwark."

Rush doesn't understand what's happened to his doting audience.

"I expect the liberal media to get it wrong," he says. "But my own people are getting it wrong."

Ask yourself: Is that the way things ought to be?

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