Paul Ryan’s strong statement following the Flag Day shooting – “For all the noise and all the fury we are one family” – expressed a non-partisan sentiment that, at least in that moment, seemed to permeate the entire political spectrum and was echoed by President Trump.
That fragile harmony culminated in the traditional inter-party baseball game that took place the following day despite the violence that shattered a practice session. Sadly, but not surprisingly, one political commentator who proved incapable of rising to the occasion was the always divisive Rush Limbaugh who apparently lack the proper perspective or the common decency the moment required of him.
Limbaugh opened his program that day by identifying the assailant with some satisfaction as a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter and mainstream Democrat, and then advanced a clearly preposterous explanation. He said that a glance at what television programs the gunman watched – CNN, comedy shows hosted by John Oliver, John Stewart and Bill Maher – verified something he, Limbaugh, had predicted would one day happen: Driven over the edge by anti-Trump coverage and commentary, an unstable soul was radicalized and picked up a gun. He actually equated legitimate mainstream news organizations and a few popular entertainment programs with jihadist websites that recruit angry individuals to launch horrific terrorist attacks on American citizens.
Forget for a moment that any call to silence opposition to the current administration would be un-American to the point of being fascist. There is also Limbaugh’s blatant hypocrisy to consider. He is accusing those on the left of being destructive spoilsports for not embracing Trump’s agenda. But Limbaugh has conveniently forgotten his own response to the Obama presidency. Through the eight years of Obama’s tenure, Limbaugh constantly called upon his listeners to do far more than oppose Obama’s liberal policies. He demonized Obama and called upon his listeners to respond to any proposal with unbridled hostility.
Time and again, he asserted that Barack Obama hates the United States and that his one purpose in office was to deliberately destroy our way of life and bring this nation to its knees. What appalls me most is that so many Americans are willing to accept this baseless fiction as fact. He has no evidence of his charges. Limbaugh simply makes assertions, confident in the fact that most of his listeners will believe him because he is telling them what they want to hear. And this barrage was hammered home day after day and continues even now. It seems reasonable to assume that these ceaseless ad-hominem attacks have played a significant role in creating the bitterly poisonous atmosphere that now characterizes American politics.
Michael K. Brush