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William F. Buckley vs. Ayn Rand: Ayn Rand's Revenge

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Buckley was, for many years, the face of the conservatives; that face today belongs to Rush Limbaugh. Each man in his era was the conservative with the greatest audience. Buckley was openly hostile to Ayn Rand and her ideas; Limbaugh often quotes her ideas at length and praises them (though not consistently, and when he disagrees, says so).

That's remarkable progress in a few decades. Limbaugh has his problems, but he is far above Buckley.

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Buckley was, for many years, the face of the conservatives; that face today belongs to Rush Limbaugh. Each man in his era was the conservative with the greatest audience. Buckley was openly hostile to Ayn Rand and her ideas; Limbaugh often quotes her ideas at length and praises them (though not consistently, and when he disagrees, says so).

That's remarkable progress in a few decades. Limbaugh has his problems, but he is far above Buckley.

You make a valid point. He mostly merely states disagreement when he disagrees with Rand - except on one key issue - he does not merely "disagree" with atheism. He openly insults it. Time and time again. There are hundreds if not thousands of examples. This keeps me from admiring Rush. He could simply keep silent on the issue of atheism, or just say that it seems a reasonable possibility given the lack of evidence. But he doesn't. He is openly hostile toward atheism. To me, this is far too important to overlook. He needs to be judged for it.

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Conservatives tend to lump atheism with the left as a frozen abstraction. That combination is what Rush Limbaugh has in mind and describes when he occasionally goes off on that. Atheism is not a philosophy in itself and includes all kinds of people, mostly nutty. He also lumps "science" with the left, mostly when talking about climate hysteria and his opposition to stem cell research. When he occasionally goes off on a tangent on religion or becomes boring, I turn it off. I don't become personally insulted or stop acknowledging how good he is most of the time on issues that are important to us, including his support of individualism, political freedom, capitalism and a positive sense of life, and his almost uniformly intelligent, insightful and well-researched political analyses that you don't hear anywhere else.

He has become an important intellectual leader with a large following who frequently sets the terms of the debate nationally, and is clearly driving Obama and the Democrats bonkers. He was the only one on a national platform that very early and forcefully advocated that it is wrong to want Obama to "succeed" just because he is President and cogently explained why. That got a lot of attention and put a lot of spokesmen, including establishment Republicans, on the defensive. A few days ago he strongly and unapologetically defended love of the self in the proper way when a leftist caller started denouncing his egoism.

Aside from Buckley's lack of substance, he never had the kind of national following that Rush Limbaugh has, even though he was known to intellectuals as a Conservative leader and occasionally appeared on TV with his pompous, unintelligible vocabulary goading people.

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Hi all, I'm showing up late for this interesting discussion.

I found this online--it's by Mr. Sherman, the American Atheist reporter in question, and contains links to the statements made by the White House during the Bush administration.

http://www.robsherman.com/advocacy/bush/thirdfax.pdf

I have only seen both Bushes from a distance (ship christenings, etc.), but having heard both of them speak at length, know that they are both religious. I don't think that was ever in question. How much of the atheist dialogue took place is what people on this board have been debating.

In regard to Rand, Buckley and Limbaugh, I agree that of the three, Rand had the superior mind. No question.

I also agree that Buckley and Limbaugh were/are quick on their feet when it comes to quips and one-liners. Rand was a deep thinker and would not have made a good talk show host.

I have met Limbaugh in person. He does bring up interesting and provocative statements, but he also is quite often too quick on the trigger. He judges w/o all the facts. One of his earliest gaffes was to include military women in his umbrella phrase "femi-nazis." During Desert Shield (and Desert Storm), this became one of his favorite phrases. At that time (approx 1989-1990), I was a reporter for a small weekly newspaper (circ. 24,000) and I had the chance to interview men and women who were active military.

It bothered me intellectually and emotionally to hear Rush Limbaugh slam these women, whom he had never met, who were carrying out orders from a president who Limbaugh supported. There was no consistency on Limbaugh's part.

He does seem to speak for quite a few Republicans at the moment. And he has quoted Rand.

emw, in regard to your comments: "Conservatives tend to lump atheism with the left as a frozen abstraction. That combination is what Rush Limbaugh has in mind and describes when he occasionally goes off on that. Atheism is not a philosophy in itself and includes all kinds of people, mostly nutty" I would agree that many people, not just conservatives, tend to lump atheism as a frozen abstraction.I also agree that atheism is not an entire philosophy, just one part of it (as Rand herself stated), but I am confused about your statement: "includes all kinds of people, mostly nutty."

Perhaps you could start a new thread about philosophy, atheism, and Rand and further explain your POV. Then we could continue that section of the discussion w/o hijacking the original thread of Buckley, Limbaugh and Rand.

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The quote above didn't work as I had intended. Here is the way it should have looked:

emw, in regard to your comments: "Conservatives tend to lump atheism with the left as a frozen abstraction. That combination is what Rush Limbaugh has in mind and describes when he occasionally goes off on that. Atheism is not a philosophy in itself and includes all kinds of people, mostly nutty"

I would agree that many people, not just conservatives, tend to lump atheism as a frozen abstraction. I also agree that atheism is not an entire philosophy, just one part of it (as Rand herself stated), but I am confused about your statement: "includes all kinds of people, mostly nutty."

Perhaps you could start a new thread about philosophy, atheism, and Rand and further explain your POV. Then we could continue that section of the discussion w/o hijacking the original thread of Buckley, Limbaugh and Rand.

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Addendum:

Scanning the faxed documents in the PDF file, I have to say that I am appalled by the fact that John Murray hand wrote his letter to the White House. Coming from a lawyer and staff member of a magazine editorial board, it should have been typed.

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I have met Limbaugh in person. He does bring up interesting and provocative statements, but he also is quite often too quick on the trigger. He judges w/o all the facts. One of his earliest gaffes was to include military women in his umbrella phrase "femi-nazis." During Desert Shield (and Desert Storm), this became one of his favorite phrases. At that time (approx 1989-1990), I was a reporter for a small weekly newspaper (circ. 24,000) and I had the chance to interview men and women who were active military.

It bothered me intellectually and emotionally to hear Rush Limbaugh slam these women, whom he had never met, who were carrying out orders from a president who Limbaugh supported. There was no consistency on Limbaugh's part.

That is not his position on women in the military. What exactly did he say? Who was he talking about and what had they done that he was referring to?

emw, in regard to your comments:
Conservatives tend to lump atheism with the left as a frozen abstraction. That combination is what Rush Limbaugh has in mind and describes when he occasionally goes off on that. Atheism is not a philosophy in itself and includes all kinds of people, mostly nutty
I would agree that many people, not just conservatives, tend to lump atheism as a frozen abstraction. I also agree that atheism is not an entire philosophy, just one part of it (as Rand herself stated), but I am confused about your statement: "includes all kinds of people, mostly nutty."

Perhaps you could start a new thread about philosophy, atheism, and Rand and further explain your POV.

Of all the different kinds of "atheist" positions and the kinds of people you see cited as spokesmen for atheism, most of them have positions that are nutty, with rejection of religion only a small part of what they espouse -- lack of belief in a supernatural being does not define a philosophical position even though the term is used to describe the package-deals. I don't know what a sample of atheists in the general population would show in terms of shear numbers of people.

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Rush Limbaugh is a major part of the problem. NOBODY pushed harder for both Bushes to win - two of the biggest religious/statist/socialists we have ever had in office. ... He touts religion, and, when he feels it is okay, even compromise on taxation/spending and bad foreign policy issues. Then what he does, to seem okay to the right, is criticize Dems like Clinton and Obama very hard when they happen to win and get into office, even if they do virtually everything that republicans do. Limbaugh stands for whom he thinks can win on the Republican side, rather than who is right. He is a pragmatist of the right. Anyone who even brings "Judeo/Christian values" within a country mile of any discussion of ethics should be laughed out of existence, not admired.

During most of the term of the first President Bush, Limbaugh ridiculed Bush (41) for not living up to the precedent set by Reagan. Of course, Bush deserved this. There was rich opportunity for comically berating the one-term Bush for such miscalculations as going to Japan to argue that Japanese should buy more American cars when American manufacturers were not willing to make cars with the steering wheels on the side of the car that Japanese need!! Anyway, such Limbaugh content disproves the assertion that Limbaugh campaigned hard for the earlier Bush to win. Limbaugh softened up as the 1992 election approached, but his practice was to slam Bill Clinton for his policies and then to remark, vis a vis Bush, "AT LEAST" the Republican candidate didn't go so far afield. Saying "AT LEAST" (words he emphasized) is far from a ringing endorsement; rather, it's acceptance of a lousy bargain.

It's well-known that Limbaugh was invited to spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House between the 1992 Republican convention and the 1992 general election. Reportedly, the Bush Administration was not aware of Limbaugh's popularity until he received thunderous applause while riding in the parade leading into the convention in Houston. At that point, the party or campaign may have sought to co-opt him. Arguably, Limbaugh did soften to the party as an institution. The days when Limbaugh seemed most to be doing the party's bidding occurred over two years later, after Newt Gingrich took over as Speaker of the House and began talking often to Limbaugh.

I'll address Limbaugh's shifting attitudes on atheism, and his change in knowledge about Ayn Rand, in a subsequent post.

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Rush Limbaugh is a major part of the problem. ... He touts religion, and, when he feels it is okay, even compromise on taxation/spending and bad foreign policy issues. Then what he does, to seem okay to the right, is criticize Dems like Clinton and Obama very hard when they happen to win and get into office, even if they do virtually everything that republicans do. Limbaugh stands for whom he thinks can win on the Republican side, rather than who is right. He is a pragmatist of the right. Anyone who even brings "Judeo/Christian values" within a country mile of any discussion of ethics should be laughed out of existence, not admired.

I remember listening to the Limbaugh program in the early 1990s when a typical middle-America-type caller, obviously thinking Limbaugh would side with him, asked something like "What are we going to do to put our country back on the right course when there are all these ATHEISTS getting their feet in everywhere?" Limbaugh properly challenged the premise, saying (as best I can remember), in a gentle tone, "There's not a problem necessarily with people being atheists, because atheists can have their own moral base." He then went on to answer the question about how he saw the country being put back on the course he wanted to see it, and it was an answer that steered closely to the conventional Republican/conservative/mid-western line. Still, for that brief moment, he acknowledged that religion doesn't have an exclusive on morality, and he spoke as if he'd talked with perhaps a small number of people who'd figured out a structured moral system built without a god.

At the time, I sensed the moment was uncommon for the radio program, but I had no reason to believe that anyone would care about it even a few years later. I believe that the Limbaugh radio show had yet to reach the full number of stations it eventually would, and that even some major cities did not yet have affiliates. Wouldn't there be a new hot host to replace him a few years later? At the time, I thought so. Limbaugh's reign on top of the ratings in his field at the national level for 15+ years was something I didn't foresee.

Limbaugh has grabbed onto religion and religious morality to an extent that wasn't evident nearly two decades ago (Limbaugh's humor could be outrageous on sexual matters back then), even as he has made the positive step of discovering, understanding and endorsing Ayn Rand. I recall a listener who called in and spoke of the two authors he was reading whom were helping him understand and appreciate capitalism. One of them was a typical conservative hero, and the other was Ayn Rand. Limbaugh encouraged the reading of the first, then in closing the call, encouraged the caller to continue reading "that other author you mentioned." The tone was hurried, and I got the impression that Rand's name simply didn't register and that Limbaugh was glossing over his ignorance by hurrying through the wrap-up.

Shortly thereafter, Limbaugh was absent for the day, and he had a substitute host who did know of Ayn Rand and wasn't about to give her a full endorsement. Getting a call similar to the one I recount in the previous paragraph, the fill-in host -- then-Congressman Bob ("B-1") Dornan -- said it was great that the caller continue to read Ayn Rand, "-- but don't let it lead you into anarchism"!!! Oh, brother, such "recommendations" (and such levels of "understanding" Ayn Rand) we don't need.

Anyway, I think that we long-time Objectivists know the rest. In time, a few more callers brought "Atlas Shrugged" to Limbaugh's attention, and he began to read it. Even before finishing it, he began to share with listeners his interest in it, sometimes reading for five minutes passages that he discovered to be worthy of his audience's attention. The Ayn Rand Institute's newsletter reported specific dates that these broadcasts occurred, and approvingly noted the large size of Limbaugh's audience as boding well for Ayn Rand having an influence in the future.

Returning to the subject of religion:

There was a time when Limbaugh was careful to not speak in a way that pointed to himself as a believer. When he recounted to his audience that he saw Tim Robbins's movie "Bob Roberts" (1992; Limbaugh saw it shortly after its original release) and discussed a scene in it where a Republican politician excused himself from further speaking to reporters about a tragic incident because "I need to pray," Limbaugh prefaced one remark by saying "Now, you people who believe in prayer, you're not going to like this --." Limbaugh didn't say that he didn't like it nor identified himself as a believer in prayer. Speaking on other topics, on other dates, he sometimes prefaced a remark with a line such as, "Now you people who don't like abortion, you're not going to like this." One time when Bob Grant substituted for Limbaugh, Grant mentioned that Limbaugh knew that abortion was a divisive topic for his audience so Limbaugh didn't let it be a topic of conversation. There may have been audience-retention strategy involved in that decision by Limbaugh to let his own opinion not be expressed in his own voice. Whatever the case, those days are over (unfortunately).

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