Bernie Goldberg: My Conversation with Rush Limbaugh on How the 'Drive-By' Media Cheered Obama

By Bernard Goldberg | January 27, 2009 | 7:10 PM EST

(Editor's Note: The article below is a chapter from Bernard Goldberg's new book "A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media," published by Regnery.  This chapter is reprinted with permission from the publisher.)

As part of my research for this book, I interviewed Rush Limbaugh to get his take on how the media covered—or more accurately, how they cheered on—Barack Obama. Rush is a commentator and entertainer, and he’s also as astute as anyone I know on politics and the media.
I started by asking him if the media were even more biased, or biased in a different way, during the presidential election of 2008.
Limbaugh: It was worse than ever before because of the historical significance the media placed on Obama’s election. Most of the elders in the Drive Bys [Rush’s term for the mainstream media] came of age during the civil rights battles of the ’60s, and they have taught the younger journalists to think in the same way. This is why the specifics of who Obama is, are irrelevant to them. The Drive Bys determined that this election was about them as much as Obama. They were also out to prove that they could still move public opinion and affect a national outcome in their favor to prove the New Media is of no consequence. And it helped immensely that Obama had no real opposition in McCain. The New Media was not motivated in support of McCain but rather in opposition to Obama. So for us, it was a lose-lose proposition.
Goldberg: Do you think the so-called mainstream media care what the American people think of them? Do you think they give a damn that a majority of Republicans and Democrats think they were in the tank for Obama?
Limbaugh: Why should they give a damn? As far as the Drive Bys are concerned, this was a huge triumph. Their glory days are back, they think. They just succeeded in dumbing down 52 percent of the electorate to get what they wanted. They now feel more empowered than ever.
Goldberg: By anointing him, by deifying him, did they unintentionally, of course—set him up for a fall when something goes wrong? Or will they continue to cover for him?
Limbaugh: Obama is too big to fail. The Drive Bys will simply not allow it. Any Obama failures will be eagerly blamed on the Bush administration. Obama and the media will simply say, “The problems in the economy are much worse than we knew. The Bush administration was not forthcoming during the transition about all we would face.” Obama will say, “We cannot close Gitmo and get out of Iraq as soon as I would have liked. I discovered many things the Bush administration hid from public view that make immediate action impossible.”
Goldberg: I would argue that the mainstream media didn’t lose the election for McCain—McCain lost it for McCain, and so did Republicans who sold out their conservative principles when they took over both houses of Congress and the White House in 2000. So if the media didn’t throw the election, why should we care what they said and wrote during the campaign?
Limbaugh: I totally agree. Had there been a genuine conservative alternative on the ballot, Obama and the media would have flamed dramatically. Candidates lose or win elections, not the media. However, the McCain campaign failed utterly in defining Obama while the media was covering for him. The historical nature of the campaign again reared its head. The McCain camp was deathly afraid of any criticism that could be labeled racist.
But regarding the other part of your question, Bernie, we should care what the media said and wrote during the campaign, because we must finally [Rush sighs at this point] learn from it. And what we need to learn is that we can never expect a fair shot from the media, and to hope for that is just plain stupid. Republicans and conservatives must finally realize they will have two opponents in every election: the Democratic candidate and the media.
Goldberg: During the campaign, did you read or hear anything that made you think: my God, the media is even worse than I thought?
Limbaugh: Yes, so many times I cannot recount them here. But here’s one example: here they were, all concerned about domestic spying against terrorists, yet they sat idly by while Ohio Democrats used the power of government to investigate and destroy a lowly private citizen who simply asked a question of Obama. They then piled on in the effort to destroy Joe the Plumber.
Goldberg: Any thoughts about MSNBC?
Limbaugh: I think they damaged the NBC brand, but I don’t think anyone over there cares about that right now, owing to their euphoria at pushing Obama over the top. MSNBC is the official network of left-wing lunatics, and there are enough of them apparently to accrue enough of an audience for MSNBC to be satisfied. Their big challenge now will be to satisfy that lunatic audience without George Bush around to bitch about every night. I suspect MSNBC will now focus on the critics of Obama to continue offering meat to their deranged audience.
Goldberg: What did you make of Palin Derangement Syndrome? Why such hatred, especially from liberal feminists? Was it simply her politics or was something else at play?
Limbaugh: Something else. She was the only effective Republican anywhere in this entire campaign—among all candidates, for all offices. Sarah Palin is what militant feminists have been suggesting all women can become. But she had the gall to have a Down Syndrome child and be opposed to abortion, which is the sacrament to feminist liberalism. She was the Clarence Thomas of the Anita Hill hearings. Her electoral future had to be destroyed.
Goldberg: Is there anything—anything—the mainstream media can do that will help them regain the trust of the American people—and if so, will they do it?
Limbaugh: They don’t care about the trust of the American people. The mainstream media’s audience is the mainstream media. They, like all liberals, have contempt for the American people who, in their eyes, are not sophisticated enough to understand the work and importance of the mainstream media. The mainstream media exist to succeed despite the American people.
Bernie, I honestly believe the following: I believe that I, Rush Limbaugh, am responsible for the mainstream media’s behavior today because they think I am the one who destroyed their monopoly beginning in 1988 when I started my show. Back then, we had the three nets, CNN, and the big papers. They owned what was news and what was not news. They owned commentary. Now they don’t. I believe the creation of the New Media has made the mainstream media now openly competitive with the New Media, which is why they are so open now about choosing sides.
This is not my ego speaking, Bernie, but since I started in 1988, look at what has happened. There were 125 talk stations in 1988. Now there are over 2,000. Right-wing blogs have sprung up. FOX News prime time is simply talk radio on TV. So all this New Media pisses off the mainstream media. They are in open competition with us and as such have now been forced to openly declare what they used to hide behind their so-called objectivity: and that is their liberalism.
Goldberg: How long will the honeymoon between Obama and the mainstream media last?
Limbaugh: Forever! He is too big to fail.