In June 1988, I transferred from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to Air Force Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama. The sergeant preparing my orders had a "Rush is Right!" bumper sticker on his desk. He explained Rush Limbaugh was a new radio talk show host who espoused conservative principles eloquently and did so with humor and insight. Back in the States, I heard Rush. The sergeant was spot on — Rush was right!
Rush Limbaugh made me laugh and he made me think, like millions of other Americans. He said things that many of us wouldn't for fear of being branded a racist, sexist, homophobe or any other epithet the left brands those who disagree with its constantly evolving list of victims. Moreover, he challenged all of us to be our best by pursuing the opportunities offered in the greatest nation with the most freedom in history. Rush was so popular, the left couldn't control him, so it is no great surprise they were giddy and relieved upon his death.
Consider the lead sentence in the liberal "Huffington Post" (Huffington Puffington Post, as Rush called it) about his death on Feb. 17: "Rush Limbaugh, a talk show pioneer who saturated America's airwaves with cruel bigotries, lies and conspiracy theories for over three decades, amassing a loyal audience of millions ... has died." That indictment would make Rush smile because it showed the bitter hatred of the elite left and the condescension toward the "little" people who agreed with him.
Vitriolic reaction to Rush's death extended to our little corner of the world. On the day after Limbaugh's death, one Lookout Mountain resident posted on social media, "Rush Limbaugh is dead," then displayed a profane parody of Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through spite which strengthens me." He substituted "spite" for "Christ." The backlash from those offended by the callous comments resulted in his and his influential friends' embarrassment, and even an apology issued by a mayoral candidate.
Rush Limbaugh offered hope at a time when many of us see the goodness of America yielding to sinister elements that threaten to divide and destroy us from within. He was not a fair-haired elite prodigy who attended a prestigious university. He was not a haughty politician, bigwig CEO, Hollywood celebrity, or Silicon Valley billionaire. He quit college his freshman year to go into broadcasting. He was fired seven times before finding his niche in AM talk radio. Rush was rich, but he found success the hard way — by getting knocked down, learning and getting back on his feet.
His first wife, Roxie McNeely, was a secretary in a Kansas City radio station where Rush worked in 1977. They were married three years. Afterwards, McNeely was a Southwest flight attendant, and she and I flew together several times before I retired. She told me she still loved Rush and that they remained friends. The reason their marriage failed is that Rush loved his work more than he loved being married, and they both knew it.
Rush was good at what he did. He was first and foremost an entertainer, but he was an entertainer who thrived from responses of his listeners. Listeners loved his ability to recall specific information and to relay that information in simple, understandable and often humorous ways. In turn, he loved their stories of inspiration from his broadcasts.
The last year of life was his greatest triumph. Rush was undergoing treatment for Stage IV lung cancer and could not make some of his daily broadcasts, but whenever he could speak, he did. He was strong and clear right up to the end. He never played the victim and never apologized for his principles.
May we be emboldened by his example. Rest in peace, Rush. You were right.
Roger Smith, a local author, is a frequent contributor to the Times Free Press.