WASHINGTON -- What is that laughter I hear? I am at work here in our nation's capital, where there is rarely much laughter. Rather there are solemnities passed from one high and mighty to another. On Capitol Hill, the solons exchange declarations of virtue, manifestos of high purpose and, increasingly, threats -- particularly threats against free-spirited writers and the prodigies of talk radio. The giants of Congress also conspire in slopping up the pork; for instance, just the other day, there was an earmark of $130,000 for a National Fat Ladies' Library in Ohio (or is that National First Ladies' Library, but does it matter?) and $500,000 for a virtual herbarium (perhaps a high-tech privy for Sen. Larry Craig). Yet I still hear laughter.
The laughter comes from El Rushbo, the merry sage of the Excellence in Broadcasting Network. Rush Limbaugh just pulled a good one on the Democratic leadership and those 41 Democratic senators who thought they could intimidate the CEO of Clear Channel Communications, syndicator of Rush's radio show, by sending him a threatening letter. He gave the letter to Rush, who promptly informed his 20 million listeners that he would auction off the preposterosity on eBay, match the highest bidder with a check of his own and send the two checks off to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation to further its charitable work with the children of fallen Marines. He also invited the posturing senators to join in the generosity.
"This is more fun than I've ever had in my life," Rush declared on "Hannity & Colmes" during their Oct. 18 show. By then, he had 60 or so bids, the highest for $851,000. He was faced with writing the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation a personal check for almost $1 million. Nonetheless he was laughing. Later he laughed even more when one of his supporters bid $2.1 million for the Democrats' epistolary assault on the First Amendment. Now Rush is out an equal amount but all to a good cause. He now can claim responsibility for a $4.2 million fund drive for the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation. What has been the Democrats response, a matching grant? Actually Sen. Harry Reid lumbered out onto the Senate floor and heaved up yet another exhalation of guff.
Rather surprisingly, the Democratic Party has made attacks on free speech a major weapon in its arsenal. Recently we reported in The American Spectator that Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, proposed with some of his investigators a review of the transcripts of such conservative talk radio hosts as Rush, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. The goal was to influence the Federal Communications Commission to reinstate the so-called Fairness Doctrine, thus allowing the federal government to shape radio programming. Waxman's response to our report at first was to claim he had been "misrepresented," then to denounce our report as "fictitious" and, finally, to play the bully. He demanded an apology.
My response was to tell him that I would apologize for our thoroughly accurate report once he does the "decent thing and purchase(s) a toupee." I think we all can agree Henry Waxman would look less menacing as a blond. His next gambit was to protest, "I certainly support the First Amendment." I cannot claim that this was in response to my offer of an apology, but I can tell you that he has yet to purchase a toupee and that that bald head of his puts many of us in mind of Mussolini. Has he ever been to Rome?
My guess is that the Democrats' threats to the First Amendment will continue. Yet an even better bet is that Rush will continue to get the better of these brutes. From all I can tell, the 41 Democrats' attack on him made him genuinely angry, but Rush has a gift. He remains cool under fire and responds with devastating weaponry, wit and humor. In a free and open society, those weapons defeat the Democrats' phony indignation every time. Rush left the 41 Democrats looking like clowns … and cheapskates. So far as I have been able to tell, not one has yet to send the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation a check.