UPDATE: The NYT has now made the whole article available. (It's from the Sunday Magazine.) I'll read it and write something more in a few minutes.
MORE: The article, by Zev Chafets, describes his entry into Rush's Palm Beach studio:
... I was met by Bo Snerdly — a very large man in a Huey Newton beret — who glared at me. “Are you the guy who’s here to do the hit job on us?” he demanded in a deep voice.Chafets describes watching the show.
“Absolutely,” I said.
Snerdly, whose real name is James Golden, held my eyes for a long moment before bursting into emphatic laughter.
Unlike Howard Stern or Don Imus, he has no sidekicks with him in the room. He does, however, keep up a running conversation with an unheard voice. I always assumed that this was just imaginary radio shtick. Now I saw that the voice was attached to a human interlocutor, Snerdly, who banters with and occasionally badgers Limbaugh via an internal talk-back circuit.Yes, you can tell when you listen to the show that someone is talking to him (or perhaps writing to him). Occasionally, it's like a Bob Newhart telephone routine where you have to imagine what is being said on the other end of the line, and that's part of why it's funny.
From the interview:
“I’ve never even met [John McCain], never spoken to him,” Limbaugh said. “I’m sure there are things about him I’d like if we meet. This isn’t personal.” He then delivered a litany of the presumptive nominee’s personal failings — too old, too intense, too opportunistic, too liberal. But, he assured me, he would be with McCain in the fall. “It’s like the Super Bowl,” he told me. “If your team isn’t in it, you root for the team you hate less. That’s McCain.”That last line is self-deprecating and (I think) humorous, but I think he knows that doing things day-by-day keeps the show alive and makes it work. It's what works in blogging too. If you have a whole planned agenda and you just crank out the propaganda, people will get sick of you. It's when you are talking/writing to figure out what you think, to find out what you want to say, that you are interesting. (They didn't do that on Air America.)
It already seemed, when I made my visit, that McCain’s opponent might well be Senator Obama, and I was curious to know how Limbaugh planned to take on America’s first African-American major-party nominee. “I’ll approach Obama with fearless honesty,” said Limbaugh, who speaks of himself in heroic terms on air and off. “He’s a liberal. I oppose liberals. That’s all that’s involved here.”
I asked if he had any specific tactics in mind.
“I haven’t yet figured that out exactly,” he said. “You know, I’ve had a problem with substance abuse. I don’t deal with the future anymore. I take things one day at a time.”
More to come... I have to shut down this computer so I can unplug it. A thunderstorm is rolling it, and I want to survive.
MORE: Chafets shows some admiration for Rush:
But Operation Chaos was a triumph of interactive political performance art....Glass — who is one of the public figures in America who should be counted on those 2 hands — is absolutely right about Limbaugh and Stern. That explains very well why I listen to all 3 men. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Rush, Howard, and I have the same birthday.)
Such massive and consistent popularity makes Limbaugh a singular political force....
“Rush is just an amazing radio performer,” says Ira Glass, a star of the younger generation of public-radio personalities. “Years ago, I used to listen in the car on my way to reporting gigs, and I’d notice that I disagreed with everything he was saying, yet I not only wanted to keep listening, I actually liked him. That is some chops. You can count on two hands the number of public figures in America who can pull that trick off.”
Glass compares Limbaugh to another exceptional free-form radio monologist, Howard Stern. “A lot of people dismiss them both as pandering and proselytizing and playing to the lowest common denominator, but I think that misses everything important about their shows,” he says. “They both think through their ideas in real time on the air, they both have a lot more warmth than they’re generally given credit for, they both created an entire radio aesthetic.”
There's some interesting material about his expensive lifestyle:
There are five homes — all of them his — on the property. The big house is 24,000 square feet. Limbaugh lives there with a cat. He’s been married three times but has no children.Perhaps he'll leave a fortune to his cat.
A life-size oil portrait of El Rushbo, as he often calls himself on the air, hangs on the wall of the main staircase.Remember, today's blog themes are: wealth, pets, and grotesque.
Unlike many right-wing talk-show hosts, Limbaugh does not view France with hostility. On the contrary, he is a Francophile. His salon, he told me, is meant to suggest Versailles. His main guest suite, which I did not personally inspect, was designed as an exact replica of the presidential suite of the George V Hotel in Paris.Hmmm... Chafets should have listened to a few more shows! Liking the artwork isn't the same as liking the politics.
His staff lights fragrant candles throughout the house to greet his arrival from work each day.So he wasn't lying when he was going on and on about jumbo-sized, gardenia-scented candles the other day.
There's some good stuff about Rush's father:
To this day, Limbaugh calls his father “the smartest man I’ve ever met.”It's funny how his father's behavior became the idea for the show. Imagine taking your father's cranky rants, making them funny and getting the whole country for your equivalent of the living room. Think about it. Think about ways you can emulate and one-up Dad. Are you replaying your father's routine in your daily work? My father used to trap me into discussions of all the big issues and drove me to tears by applying the Socratic method — he called it the Socratic method. He was all about requiring that I define my terms, recognize that my answers were "semantics," and explain how I was going to get "from point A to point B." And now here I am, a law professor. These things happen.
Certainly he was one of the most opinionated and autocratic. “On Friday nights my friends would come over to the house just to listen to my dad rant about politics,” Limbaugh recalls. “He was doing the same thing as I do today, without the humor or the satire. He didn’t approve of making fun of presidents. He didn’t think that sort of thing was funny.”
Dick Adams, Rush’s boyhood friend and high-school debate partner, told me: “Mr. Limbaugh didn’t suffer fools lightly, let’s just put it like that. Many times I was over there when he called down Rush or David in harsh tones. There was usually a string of expletives attached.”Yikes. Later:
He is less like his angry father than his mature role models, Buckley and Reagan, for whom sociability and fun were integral to their conservative world view.This is interesting:
Jay Nordlinger, a senior editor at The National Review, watched Limbaugh’s tutelage under Buckley, and he takes Limbaugh seriously as a polemicist and public intellectual. “I hired a lot of people over the years, fancy kids from elite schools, and I always asked, ‘How did you become a conservative?’ Many of them said, ‘Listening to Rush Limbaugh.’ And often they’d add, ‘Behind my parents’ back.’ ”This too:
Limbaugh works extemporaneously. He has no writers or script, just notes and a producer on the line from New York with occasional bits of information. That day, and every day, he produced 10,000 words of fluent, often clever political talk.I thought he was reading off a script prepared by others much of the time. But he wants you to think this is just what bursts out of his head. It's damned impressive if it really does.
On Limbaugh's drug problem:
Being Limbaugh, he said he believes that most of these shortcomings stemmed from his inability to love himself sufficiently. “I felt everyone who criticized me was right and I was wrong,” he confided. But, he says, he left his insecurities behind in Arizona. “It’s not possible to offend me now,” he said. “I won’t give people the power to do it anymore. My problem was born of immaturity and my childhood desire for acceptance. I learned in drug rehab that this was stunting and unrealistic. I was seeking acceptance from the wrong people.”How is that "being Limbaugh"? Isn't the need to love yourself stock advice in recovery programs? And doesn't Limbaugh usually ridicule the self-esteem movement?
On Bill O'Reilly:
He hadn’t been sure at the time that he wanted [his opinion] on the record. But on second thought, “somebody’s got to say it,” he told me. “The man is Ted Baxter.”He likes Ann Coulter, Camille Paglia, Thomas Sowell, and Christopher Hitchens.
Nice article. A very positive, admiring picture of the man — not at all in keeping with the ominous cover photograph. There's some critique in there, but basically, it's obvious that the reporter had a great time hanging out with Rush Limbaugh.