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Move over P.J. O'Rourke! From Al Franken, America's premier liberal satirist, comes a hilarious homage to the wonderful and always absurd American political process that skewers a whole new crop of presidential hopefuls--just in time for the 1996 presidential election. This mass market edition has been updated with more than 25 pages of new material.
January 7, 1996
RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS
By Al Franken
288 pp. Delacorte Press:
by Jeane Kirkpatrick
IT REMAINS a mystery why the New York Times would ask me to review this dreadfully foul little book. I am an expert on geopolitical strategic paradigms, not on the sort of cheap, mindless mockery that seems to be Mr. Franken's forte. It is almost as if this were the result of some awful mistake by the Times. Why, for example, would humorist P. J. O'Rourke be assigned this very same week to review Nigel Hodgeson's wonderful tome The Falkland Islands War--Six Hundred Years in the Making? Is it possible that because O'Rourke and I have the same agent, some simple mix-up occurred? Perhaps P.J., our agent, or I should have tried to sort this out. But I have simply been too busy trying to slog through this repugnant collection of vile, unfunny essays.
Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations is not just unfunny. It is confused. While Mr. Franken decries "the loss of civility in public discourse," he himself is a most egregious offender, not just calling Rush Limbaugh "a big fat idiot," but Newt Gingrich "a big fat jerk," and House majority leader Richard Armey "a big dick."
Mr. Franken seems to want to have it both ways, criticizing Limbaugh for "demonizing" those who disagree with him, but all the while attacking his enemies with invective and scurrilous assertions that remain totally unproven. For example, nowhere in the 288-page screed does Franken actually show any real evidence that Limbaugh is indeedfat. There is not one footnoted reference concerning Limbaugh's body weight, and Mr. Franken seems to be relying on sheer guesswork. Indeed, on page 45, he refers to Limbaugh as "a three-hundred pound blimp," while on page 117, he refers to a "size-78 suit squeezing Rush's some six-hundred pound frame like so much sausage casing." Which is it? Three hundred or six hundred?
One begins to wonder if Franken isn't just inventing things out of whole cloth. After a careful reread of The Bell Curve, nowhere in its 800-plus pages did I find Murray and Herrnstein refer to jazz as "the music created by morons." And similarly, Newt Gingrich's Contract with America did not "promise to make it easier to sue for divorce a spouse with cancer."
Occasionally Mr. Franken does succeed to amuse. When discussing the Senate Banking Committee's Whitewater investigation, he writes, "Having Al D'Amato lead an ethics investigation is like asking Bob Dornan to head up a mental health task force." I must admit that one made me chortle; Bob Dornan is dangerously unstable. Yet only thirty-seven pages later Mr. Franken, for all intents and purposes, repeats the joke. "Having Al D'Amato lead an ethics investigation is like asking Ross Perot [my emphasis] to head up a mental health task force." Again, funny. But which is it? Bob Dornan or Ross Perot?
As one labors through Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations one quickly concludes that Mr. Franken chose the title simply as a craven device to attract readers. Yes, the book's opening essay is "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot." But in it Mr. Franken negates the whole premise of his book, when in referring to Limbaugh's enormous success, he writes: "All right. I guess Limbaugh is not an idiot. But you have to admit, he's big and fat."
In fact, one of the author's goals seems to be to draw Limbaugh into some kind of public feud, as if that would enhance the sales of his book. Calling Limbaugh "a fat bully" who is "too scared to engage in open debate with anyone other than pre-screened callers," Franken gratuitously taunts the talk radio host: "Limbaugh is able to attack women and keep the audience's sympathy for one reason and one reason only. He is clearly a sad, fat loser wounded by a pathetic history with the opposite sex." Again, Franken offers no proof, other than to cite that Limbaugh met his third, and current, wife on CompuServe.
Will Limbaugh rise to the bait? Franken seems to hope so, writing on page 187, "I hope he rises to the bait." Even so, Franken admits that Limbaugh would probably prevail in a one-on-one encounter. Franken, who insists that Bill Clinton is "by far" our best post-war President, admits to being a part of "the fuzzy-headed liberal middle" and that mano-a-mano he would be no match for Limbaugh's clearheaded, "well thought out," right-wing doctrine. "Besides, I'm a comedian," is his weak defense. Franken's plan, as revealed in his chapter "I Have Smart Friends," is to lure Limbaugh into a live debate on ABC's Nightline, then act sick, getting Michael Kinsley to fill in for him at the last second.
As reprehensible as I found this strategem [my word], I was even more appalled by the flippant, smart-alecky tone of the non-Limbaugh chapters, including one entitled "If Abortions Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Abortions." My goodness. If this is the kind of mindless tripe that passes for political satire these days, I fear for this nation!
He Said, She Said
To the Editor:
It was with great horror that I picked up Sunday's Times to see that you had assigned Jeane Kirkpatrick to review my book, "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations" (January 7). It had been my understanding that in the interest of objectivity your paper has had a long-standing policy of not assigning an author's former lover to review his book. As anyone who was familiar with the Manhattan eighties' club scene knows, Ms. Kirkpatrick and I endured a somewhat stormy and all too public affair during her tenure as our country's U.N. Ambassador. Even then Ms. Kirkpatrick, though my lover, had no discernible sense of humor. In fact, a primary cause of our breakup was her almost obdurate unwillingness to understand irony, an unwillingness which is woefully apparent in her uncomprehending review of my very funny book. Come on! Be fair. Next time get someone who isn't my former lover to review my book!
Ambassador Kirkpatrick replies:
I don't know what this horrible, horrible man is talking about. During the time that I served as ambassador to the United Nations I was far too busy defending the people of America, including (unfortunately) Mr. Franken, against the dark forces of Soviet Communism to cheat on my husband, let alone "go clubbing" (my phrase) as Mr. Franken suggests. After careful examination of my appointment calendars from that period, I admit that I did on one occasion step foot inside Studio 54, but I can assure you that once I saw what was going on in that place, I quickly turned on my heel and left. I can assure you as well that Mr. Franken will be hearing from my attorney, as will the New York Times. How on earth the Times could print his letter and take part in this abhorrent calumny is beyond me.
The editors reply:
It is our policy to allow authors to respond to reviews in the manner they see fit. Since Mr. Franken's claim of an affair between Ms. Kirkpatrick and himself comes down to a matter of "he-said, she-said," we felt the Ambassador's denial was insufficient to prevent us from printing his response. We did, however, edit Mr. Franken's letter, omitting a number of gratuitously lurid descriptions which were entirely irrelevant to his complaint. And, yes, it is our policy not to allow a former lover to review an author's book. Our apologies to Mr. Franken.
RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT
After Delacorte asked me to write a book on politics,my very first creative act was coming up with the title, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations. I thought the title, aside from the obvious advantage of being personally offensive to Limbaugh, would sell books. Let me explain why: It makes fun of Rush Limbaugh by pointing out that he is a big lardbutt.
Confident that I was now on my way to a bestseller, I took some time off and went to Florida with my wife and kids. But when I returned and sat down to work, it became immediately apparent that the "title tail" was going to wag the "content dog." That is to say, I'd actually have to write about Rush Limbaugh.
Which, of course, meant I'd have to listen to him on radio, read his books, and watch his TV show. "How much am I getting paid for this?" I asked myself.
I was not, after all, totally unfamiliar with Limbaugh. He is the king of talk radio, with an estimated twenty million listeners in a given week. I had been one of those twenty million a while back, listening to him spew about "feminazis" and their "women-as-victim" ideas. Limbaugh was railing about how feminists believe that all heterosexual sex is rape, which, I admit, is a belief that's very hard to defend. The thing is, though, I know a lot of women, almost all of whom consider themselves feminists, and I know only one who actually holds this belief. And we've been married nearly twenty years.
Limbaugh expanded . . . to TV a few years back, and I had seen his show a number of times. It's been a considerable success, though I think it was ultimately a terrible mistake for Limbaugh because we finally got to see his audience. During the shows I watched, Limbaugh presented, in a deliberately misleading way, disinformation that was devoured whole by a studio audience of rabid--but extraordinarily straightlaced--right-wing yahoos. These are the fans who voluntarily - hell, gleefully - call themselves "dittoheads" in honor of their ability to blindly and uncritically agree with everything that comes out of Limbaugh's mouth.
The first time I watched the show was in October, 1992, about a month before the election. President Bush had been on Larry King Live the night before, and during the interview Bush had said that he was bothered by Clinton's actions during the Vietnam War: "Maybe I'm old-fashioned, Larry," he said. "But to go to a foreign country and demonstrate against your own country, when your sons and daughters are dying halfway around the world? I'm sorry, I--I just don't like it. I think it is wrong." To anybody watching Larry King, as I happened to be, it was an attack on Clinton's patriotism, and the next day several newspapers ran headlines saying as much.
So Rush shows this headline from the New York Times that reads: BUSH ASSAILS CLINTON'S PATRIOTISM DURING VIETNAM WAR PROTEST ERA. Then he starts whining about the liberal media. "He didn't assail Clinton's patriotism. . . . Now let's roll Bush on Larry King Live last night, and you be the judge. Did he attack Governor Clinton's patriotism here?"
Then he runs a twenty-second clip from a totally different part of the interview. Limbaugh comes back: "I didn't hear one assault on patriotism. I didn't hear one word or syllable questioning Bill Clinton's patriotism. . . . We'll be back in just a moment." Cut to: a hundred and twenty idiots in bad suits applauding wildly.
Subsequent viewings pretty much confirmed that the point of Rush's show is to punish you for actually knowing anything.
Back to my still-unwritten book. Catchy title in hand, I braced myself for an entire season of such punishment. I would spend the summer absorbing Limbaugh-three hours a day, five day-s a week, listening to conservatism's most powerful (not to mention obnoxious) voice. I am, after all, a professional.
Rush Limbaugh, Radio Icon and Staunch Defender of Constitutional Rights for Neckwear
Spring 1995. I go to the Wiz and buy a boom box for my office at home. I pour a fresh glass of iced tea, settle into a comfortable chair, flip on WABC, and tune in to the first installment of what will be approximately one hundred and eighty hours of listening pleasure. And at 12:15, Rush is peeved:
Let me give you another example here of the press. This may be as good as an example as I could cite to show you how it is that the left has stereotypes. Now you people all know that I have introduced a new line of neckwear, commonly known as ties. And that I have, right now, we've got four styles, four designs that are out there, and we are always working on more. . . .
I was about to learn that the liberal media had deliberately misrepresented his mail-order tie collection:
. . . So I'm at the United Press International wire and I'm, reading the People section and there's a story there about the new Rush Limbaugh No Boundaries tie collection, and would you like to hear it described? "Limbaugh's ties are as conservative as he is. Blue, white, red, and gray stripes." My friends. The last thing my ties are is conservative. That's why we're calling it No Boundaries! These are . . . the last thing in the world these ties would be described as would be conservative. There's not one stripe! On any of the ties! . . .
And he won't stop. He's just going on and on about these ties. So I flip around the dial, catch an inning of the Mets game, and then come back to Rush. And his brutally defamed ties:
. . . I mean, that is another example of the stereo types that the left, and I am including the press in this, have about conservatives. . . . It was my wife Marta who came up with the whole concept, to tell you the truth, of No Boundaries. And she said no themes on these ties, no ties to issues, no ties to politics . . . These are going to be gorgeous, beautiful ties that anybody would want to wear to make themselves look better. And they are. And there's not one stripe! Not one stripe! On any tie! . . .
Time for another iced tea. I head to the kitchen, wander around the apartment a bit. Back to my office and . . . the vicious media smear campaign directed against Rush's ties:
. . . They could have called me first to ask me about it. They could have called and said, "Hey, we hear you got some new ties out; we'd like to see them; we're going to write a story." . . .
Back to the fridge. I root around for some leftovers. Make a sandwich. Read the sports page. The Twins are having a pretty tough year. Back to the ties, which--near as I can tell--have now had their civil rights violated by the hounds of attack journalism:
. . . In this battle for the soul of democracy, it is more and more clear that the press, which has a designed Constitutional role, can't be trusted, cannot be counted on. My gosh, if the press, which Constitutionally is protected so as to get the truth, is this far off as often as they are, then is it any wonder that there is a new media led by me, America's truth detector? No, there's not. Quick break. Back to the phones in just a moment . . .
Only a hundred and seventy-nine hours to go. Hmmm. Maybe it would be okay if I just . . . sampled . . . the show. Every now and then.
Kierkegaard, Nietzsche--and Limbaugh
After the tie episode, I sent my research assistant Geoff to Barnes and Noble, where he found a paperback of Limbaugh's bestseller See, I Told You So.
Picking up a new book is always exciting to a curious person like myself, but I became especially jazzed by Rush's introduction: "Prepare your mind to be challenged as it has never been challenged before." Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, now Limbaugh.
By Chapter Two, I had learned the key to Limbaugh's success. "My show works because people are tired of being insulted elsewhere on the radio or TV dial. They enjoy listening to someone who respects their intelligence."
Fortunately, I was soon treated to an example of just how much respect Rush has for his readers' intelligence:
With the exception of the military, I defy you to name one government program that has worked and alleviated the problem it was created to solve. Hhhmmmmmmm? I'm waiting. . . . Time's up.
This got me thinking. Now, I'm no expert on government. And besides, I'm a liberal. So my naming ten or twenty of the hundreds of successful government programs isn't going to impress anyone. Hell, I think Rural Electrification worked! That's how big a dumbass liberal I am! So instead, I called a few bona fide conservatives and asked them to name a few:(*)
1. George F. Will (grim-faced conservative columnist)-rural Electrification, the Interstate Highway System ("the most successful public works program in the history of the world"). "The federal government has been tremendously successful in disseminating health and safety information, for example, about smoking and seat belts."
2. Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio; boyishly rugged, straight-talking chairman of the House Budget Committee)--National Institutes of Health, Youth Summer Jobs Program.
3. Rep. Bob Dornan (R-calif.; Republican candidate for president; crazy homophobe)--The F.A.A., lighthouses, federal penitentiaries ("We gotta keep those guys locked up").
4. Arianna Huffington (enigmatic, Greek-born, Cambridge-educated socialite; conservative commentator; fund-raiser for Newt Gingrich; wife of unsuccessful California Senate candidate Michael Huffington)--The National Park System, guaranteed student loans, aid to Greece.
5. Ben Stein (conservative columnist for the American Spectator; former Nixon speechwriter; noted character actor, famous for role as the "Bueller, Bueller, Bueller" teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) - Social Security. Medicare. Head Start. Food Stamps. "The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is the most wildly successful government program in the history of man."
6. Richard Viguerie (former publisher the Conservative Digest, archconservative direct-mail pioneer)--Public libraries, the F.B.I., the G.I. Bill.
So, is Limbaugh that out of touch with conservatives like Will, Kasich, and Dornan? Or does he just take his readers to be complete morons? Hhhmmmmmmm? I'm waiting. . . . Time's up!
Didiots-Limbaugh's Legion of Fans
Now, am I saying that dittoheads are ignoramuses? No. I don't need to. Listen to Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania:
We just concluded a study of 360 people, whom we watched watch the health care reform debate for nine months. And at the end of that period, we took the people who said they relied on talk radio, and by this, we mean primarily Rush Limbaugh. . . . And we asked them how well informed they felt. . . .Of all the people we watched, they said they were the best informed. And of all the people we watched, they were the least informed.
What a surprise, huh? Limbaugh listeners thought they were the best informed, and yet were the least informed.
How is such a thing even measured? Well, like all the other people studied, talk radio listeners were asked questions of "objective fact" such as: "Which groups (the elderly, poor, middle class, etc. "are most likely to be uninsured?" The Limbaugh listeners were "highly likely" to give an incorrect answer such as "the elderly" who, of course, are all covered by Medicare.
But why would people so woefully lacking in the basic facts of an issue think they were the best informed? Social scientists call the phenomenon "pseudo-certainty." I call it "being a fucking moron."(*)
Limbaugh and Women--A Pathetic Story
It's safe to say that most of Limbaugh's fact-challenged dittoheads are men. Limbaugh has tapped into the resentments of "the angry white male," which are quite legitimate. I mean, if you think about it, what chance for advancement have white men really had in this country?
Limbaugh, himself, seems to have a problem with women. He has been married three times. Personally, I am not one for psychoanalyzing public figures. I wouldn't, for example, attempt to create a psychological construct to explain why a desperately insecure man would weigh three hundred pounds and have difficulty sustaining intimate relationships. Psychobabble mumbo jumbo doesn't interest me, and I would never suggest that a difficult separation from the primary love object at an early age might cause a man to hate women and look to food as a substitute for the mother's teat. Instead I thought it might be fun (after all, that's what this is about), to juxtapose some of Rush's own words with those of people who know him. (I saw some of this stuff on Frontline.)
Rush: Feminism was established so that unattractive, ugly women could have easy access to the mainstream of society.
Millie Limbaugh, Mother: No. He did not date in high school.
Rush: If you want a successful marriage, let your husband do what he wants to do.
David Limbaugh, Brother: I don't think he would have chosen to break up either marriage. I think it was the choice of both of his ex-wives. . . . Women, especially young women, don't want guys to be sedentary.
Rush (Writing to a woman on E-mail): I remain in an interminable funk, no end in sight-listless, uninspired, and self-flagellating.
Hazel Staloff (The woman): I thought, "What a sad thing to write, and to write to somebody you didn't even know." Later I came to realize that it was probably his way of trying to attract a woman. You know, for a woman to read, "Rush has no friends" and for her to respond, "Let me make it better for you."
Posted December 10, 1999
Will the big fat idiot accept the challenge of a debate at the steakhouse of his choice? He hasn't yet and probably never will. Good old Al did alot of homework for this book and hits the nail on the fathead. Find out how long Rush was on welfare, how he picks up chicks, and see a chart of how fat he's been getting over the years. There is plenty of material in '...Big Fat Idiot' about other conservatives and political personalities as well.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.