A Boomer Looks Back
Riding High Horses
wisdom has it that “each generation grows more conservative with
age±” Judging by boomer viewership of the political pundits shown at leF, my generation
confirms the adage±
During the past 15 years, a small group of broadcast personalities has emerged as the “most
watched,” and arguably the most influential, in America± Each of these media stars wears
patriotism on their sleeve± Te group is generally united in their view that America has an
intrinsic claim to the world’s highest moral ground, which oFen includes “a Christian
interpretation” of the U±S± Constitution± Good, bad or indifferent, this group has a significant
influence on the political and social views of our nation±
Te following is a quick review of these patriot-pundits, who collectively have the ear of
more than 50 million Americans each week±
Ditto-Head Patriotism
In 1988, Te Rush Limbaugh Show became nationally syndicated± Te colorful Mr±
Limbaugh stars on the highest-rated talk show in the United States±, his huge radio audience
is almost entirely white and about 80% male± Clear Channel extended the show from 2008
through 2016 by offering Mr± Limbaugh a $400 million contract±
Mr± Limbaugh calls his followers “ditto-heads±” Te radio host and his sizable band of
followers regularly bubble over with indignation about America’s rightful place in the world±
Some of Mr± Limbaugh’s comments are oFen provocative, but mainstream Republican
politicians dare not challenge Limbaugh because he’s proven to be a very powerful force on
the conservative political scene±
Other popular commentators who seem to share a similar world view include Bill O’Reilly,
Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Larry Kudlow, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and
Alex Jones± All of these media celebrities have their own large number of devotees, and
carefully bathe their followers in patriotic rhetoric extolling America’s exceptionalism±
O’Reilly’s Connection to the Holy Spirit
Te top pundit at ²ox News is Bill O’Reilly± He’s in a league of his own± ²ox News’ biggest
star routinely commands the highest market share among shows on cable ³V channels± He
claims that all of his work is part of God’s plan to “use my special giFs in a positive fashion±”
In a 60 Minutes interview with Norah O’Donnell, he related how he “woke up in the middle
of the night and received a message directly from the Holy Spirit,” telling him to write his
latest book, Killing Jesus±
More Heat
Than Light
This predominately
boomer family of pundits
(average age 57)
comprises individuals
who are outspoken
and command a huge
audience. Their collective
messages (via television,
radio, the internet and
print) reach more than
50 million Americans
weekly. To a person, this
homogeneous group
emphasizes a “non-elitist”
message and claims to
understand what’s right
for “the average
American.” Using the
word “average” may be
a bit of a stretch since
each of these superstar
pundits hardly lives
on an average income.
While Limbaugh and
O’Reilly earn over
$20 million, the
annual compensation
to each member in this
group is easily north of
$2 million. It’s safe to say
that in the past decade
this bunch has “raised
the heat” on political
discourse in America.
These fine folk are true
believers, and, moreover,
they are well
compensated to keep
their ratings high
and the pot boiling.
Hard to argue with success!
Bill O’Reilly
Rush Limbaugh
Sean Hannity
Karl Rove
Glenn Beck
Ann Coulter
Sarah Palin
Alex Jones
Michael Savage
Stuart Varney
Lawrence Kudlow
Rick Santelli
A Boomer Looks Back
Larry Kudlow, Rick Santelli
and a boomer crew of conservative stock-market analysts
operate under the banner of “First in Business, Worldwide±” As a group, they generally
espouse, above all else, free-market capitalism± Kudlow and Santelli are openly scornful
toward “anything liberal±” It’s no surprise that CNBC is 100% pro-business – almost all of its
commentators and guests have Wall Street backgrounds and incessantly deliver their
“businessman’s perspective±”
In 2007, Rupert Murdoch indicated that CNBC was not business friendly enough±
Accordingly, he launched the Fox Business Network and promised it would be more pro-
business± In keeping with that promise, Fox features
Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney
and other
anchors who are unabashedly ultra-conservative± Varney’s been a main staple on Fox for
more than a decade, and recently raised a few eyebrows when he criticized Pope Francis for
questioning “trickle-down economics±” Mr± Varney also indicated that it would be wrong to
raise the minimum wage because of “moral reasons,” since many workers who currently
earn $7±25 per hour may not “deserve” a higher wage± Te fact that $7±25 per hour is not a
“livable wage” appears to be irrelevant±
The Successful Fringe
Michael Savage,
a nationally syndicated radio personality, spews his vitriol at anything
connected to Democrats± Born Michael Weiner, he changed his name and created Te
Savage Nation daily talk show± By 2009 he commanded upward of 10 million listeners on
375 radio stations across the United States± Mr± Savage also gained America’s attention with
his book Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder± If you listen to his broadcasts, you know he means
what he’s written± He refers to his philosophy as “conservative nationalism±”
Former Fox News host
Glenn Beck
is a man who has o²en encouraged his viewers and
radio listeners to buy gold and “survival seeds±” For several years, Beck was Fox’s darling –
until he told a national audience that President Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white
people and their culture±” Fox News had to reduce the advertising rates on Beck’s show, as he
became a little too wacky and embarrassing for some Fox sponsors±
Te parting of Glenn Beck and Fox was not exactly amicable, but Beck then turned
his focus to his radio show± Te Associated Press reported that Beck signed a five-year,
$100 million contract with Premiere Networks± With more than 400 stations carrying his
radio program, Beck still has the ear of a sizable following±
In 2013, Mr± Beck proposed building
Independence USA,
his own Ayn Rand-inspired
utopian city± Beck estimated he could construct the project for approximately
$2 billion dollars± However, as I write this, Beck has yet to find that his idealized free market
is beating a path to his door±
Te prize for the most intense talk show host should go to
Alex Jones
± Jones describes
himself as both a conservative and a libertarian and on many issues agrees with Ron Paul,
his long-time friend±
Mr± O’Reilly o²en decries “the liberal media,” and has remarked that “Fox News is good for
America±” He styles himself a “moderate conservative,” and in fact he may be moderate if you
compare his views with those of two fellow Fox pundits, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter±
Anyone who has watched O’Reilly over time knows that he can be heavy-handed or a
downright bully± He o²en interrupts, talking over his guests even though they have been
invited to participate± Sometimes he simply tells his participants to “Shut up±”
Like Fox’s other pundits, Mr± O’Reilly makes no attempt to mask his disdain of the incumbent
U±S± president± O’Reilly has dubbed his devoted ³V and radio audience “culture warriors”
and continually warns them about the dangers of Obama’s ongoing socialist agenda±
Te man who controls what he calls the “No Spin Zone” also spouted this gem: “My advice
to all homosexuals, whether they’re in the Boy Scouts, or in the Army or in high school: Shut
up, don’t tell anybody what you do – your life will be a lot easier±”
Fox “News” Pummels Our President 24/7/365
Other Fox commentators follow in O’Reilly’s footsteps: Te handsome
Sean Hannity
similar views to O’Reilly’s, but Hannity is openly mean-spirited, displaying his utter disgust
for President Obama on his daily broadcast±
Sarah Palin
, the darling of the ³ea Party, was
re-signed by Fox± Te network and Palin have reconciled previous differences and now she’s
back in Fox formation±
Ann Coulter
is another Fox regular who doesn’t mince words± A²er 9/11 but before
President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Coulter published this declaration: “We know who the
homicidal maniacs are± Tey are the ones cheering and dancing right now± We should invade
their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity±” During the Iraq War, she
claimed, “President Bush will go down in history as one of America’s greatest presidents±”
Ms± Coulter is also a strong proponent of the “more guns, less crime” point of view, and
suggests that more Americans should carry concealed weapons±
Ironically, on the topic of women’s involvement in politics, Ms± Coulter seems to agree with
Rush Limbaugh, who for years referred to “liberal women” as femi-Nazis± From Ms± Coulter
comes this charming sentiment: “It would be much better if women did not vote± Tat is
simply a fact± In every presidential election since 1950 – except Goldwater in 1964 – the
Republicans would have won, if only men had voted± If we took away women’s right to vote,
we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president±”
Business and Politics
(the Comcast/NBC “business channel”) is broadcast into 85% of American homes
with cable ³V and has a worldwide viewing audience of about 400 million± Over the last 20
years, the channel has become increasingly influential in analyzing and passing judgment on
trends in U±S± business and the American economy±
A Boomer Looks Back
Some of my conservative friends told me they were depressed in the days aFer the election,
because they felt Rove and ±ox News had misled them about Romney’s “almost certain
victory,” and because they had developed a strong disdain for America’s re-elected president²
I could sympathize – the election defeat would be especially hard for ±ox loyalists who
watched only ±ox, where their favorite and most trusted pundits gave them the news and
also warned them that the president was at the very least un-American, and more likely a
radical socialist²
AFer the election, Rove seemed to disappear from ±ox for a short time and in his absence
received some flak for his political “mis-analyses²” Rove seemed to be going through a bad
spell, as he had at least twice before in his long career as a very successful and durable
political operator²
Rove’s former buddy and fundraiser, the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was sent to prison in 2006
for his role in the K-Street scandal, convicted on charges that included fraud and illegal
channeling of campaign funds² Abramoff had implicated Rove and Rove’s senior advisor,
Susan Ralston² Ralston resigned, shielding Rove from the heat² Another bad spell occurred
when attorney Scooter Libby seemed to take the heat for Rove, when Libby was convicted of
a felony in the Valerie Plame scandal² Rove has always had a good coat of Teflon²
In recent years you might say that Rove has evolved into the proverbial Texan with a big hat
and no cattle, a “political expert” who has been consistently irrelevant for eight years
running² And yet Karl Rove always seems to bounce back, which must be why ±ox News
continues to pay him a boatload of cash² ±ox regulars still praise him as the “high priest” of
the Republican Party, and Rove remains the “deep thinker” on Rupert Murdoch’s network²
In 2013, ±ox seemed to be going back to the future with Karl Rove and Sarah Palin²
Reactionary Rhetoric Unlikely To Soften
When I hear most of these conservative media figures turn to the subject of religion, their
words reveal that they give little thought to the facts that Christians represent only about a
third of the world’s religious followers, or that a significant group of Americans don’t share
their interpretation about what it means to have “Christian values²”
³ere seems to be no end to ultra-conservatives in our country who cherish the days when
the old white men went completely unchallenged and had total control of the nation’s
steering wheel²
³e conservative pundits wax on nostalgically about our ±ounding ±athers, or the glory
days of Ronald Reagan’s America² Many seem to want to return to an era that never truly
existed² And even if it did, it would hardly be relevant in today’s world²
Perhaps it is time for the grumpy old men in my generation (on both sides of the aisle) to
loosen their grip on the steering wheel²
Once an unsuccessful Republican candidate for Texas state representative, Jones entered the
winner’s circle with the Alex Jones Radio Show and was syndicated on more than 100 radio
stations² He now has an estimated audience of more than two million listeners²
But Mr² Jones shines brightest on the internet – his online presence is greater than Rush
Limbaugh’s and Glenn Beck’s combined² His most popular websites are Infowars²com and
PrisonPlanet²com, but his YouTube channel also does well, so far receiving a total of about
300 million views²
AFer 9/11, Jones began to speculate that our own government had probably been part of a
conspiracy that planned and carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and today he remains the
leading marketeer of general right-wing paranoia² ±or example, he has headed a drive to
have Piers Morgan deported because Morgan openly supports gun control² Jones had a
meltdown on Morgan’s CNN show, claiming Obama was some sort of foreigner out to “take
our guns and enslave us²”
Alex Jones’s Infowars²com website may appear a bit creepy to the average web viewer, but the
site’s online store is a dream come true for survivalists² ³is week’s specials include a “survival
seed vault” and “Tyrant Obama” T-shirts² Seriously²
A Night Karl Rove Would Like To Forget
±or more than a decade,
Karl Rove
had been considered “the architect” of conservative
strategy² As a ±ox News commentator (and George Bush’s former key political advisor), he
assured his national TV audience that Obama would lose the 2012 presidential election,
primarily because Obama was “so out of touch with America²” During the 2012 Republican
presidential primaries, Mr² Rove claimed that any of the better candidates could beat
President Obama, and aFer Romney won the nomination, Rove confidently predicted that
Republicans would regain the White House²
It is interesting to note that – as the senior political analyst for ±ox News – Rove failed to
discuss the “±ive³irtyEight” polling in the run-up to the 2012 election² Rove knew that this
poll had produced the most accurate forecast of the 2008 election results² As the chief
strategist in Republican politics, Rove was well aware in the weeks before the 2012 election
that this reliable poll was trending heavily toward Obama, giving him a two-to-one chance
of winning²
On election night, Rove remained in denial as he collided with a reality he couldn’t spin² He
sat at his ±ox News desk, staring white-faced into the camera like a shell-shocked Pillsbury
doughboy² Even aFer the ±ox number-crunchers called Ohio for Obama early on, Rove
remained defiant until the end²
Rove’s financial supporters who backed his super-PAC to the tune of $300 million were
probably more than a little irritated² But win or lose, it was always going to be a great payday
for Karl Rove²