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RUSH: There’s a fascinating story in the New York Times today, essentially it is about Senator McCain reconsidering his views on immigration while in Iowa. It’s a piece by Adam Nagourney. ‘Immigration an issue that has divided Republicans in Washington,’ that would be Warshington for those of you in Rio Linda, ‘is reverberating across the party’s presidential campaign field, causing particular complications for Senator John McCain of Arizona. Senator McCain said after a stop in Cedar Falls, Iowa, ‘Immigration is probably a more powerful issue here than almost anyplace that I’ve been.”

Senator, do you talk to people from your own home state of Arizona? When was the last time you were in California? Nothing against you people in Iowa. I’m not disputing your creds on this. The idea that as much traveling as McCain does, that it is this trip to Iowa that causes him now to reconsider his views on immigration? ‘As he left Iowa, Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country. … On Saturday morning in Des Moines, Mr. Brownback stood for 30 minutes at a breakfast with Republicans as question after question — without exception — was directed at an immigration system that Iowans denounced as failing. ‘These people are stealing from us,’ said Larry Smith, a factory owner from Truro and a member of the central committee of the state Republican Party. Finally, Mr. Brownback, with a slight smile, inquired, ‘Any other topics that people want to talk about?” Every question!

‘Mr. McCain, for example, appeared to distance himself from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat with whom he formed an alliance last year on an immigration bill that stalled in Congress. ‘What I’ve tried to point out is we couldn’t pass the legislation,’ Mr. McCain said. ‘So we have to change the legislation so it can pass. And I’ve been working with Senator Kennedy, but we’ve also been working with additional senators, additional House members.’ Mr. McCain focused instead on the proposal by Mr. Pence, a conservative. ‘Pence has this touchback proposal,’ Mr. McCain said at a news conference. ‘I said hey, let’s consider that if that’s a way we can get some stuff.” (Laughing) Well, hell’s bells here, folks. God love you people in Iowa, is what I have to say about it. But I’m still stunned at the whole notion that McCain had to go to Iowa to figure this out.

RUSH: Robert in Newark, Delaware, glad you waited, sir. Welcome to the EIB Network.

CALLER: Hello, Rush.

RUSH: Yeah?

CALLER: Pleasure to talk to you and glad to be back in the fold after some time away.

RUSH: Where did you go?

CALLER: Well, I don’t know. The day I heard you carrying Bush’s water about stealing the education issue from the Democrats was the day I said, ‘No. No more.’

RUSH: What? When was that?

CALLER: Oh, it was a while ago, when the Kennedy bill passed, I guess, for the education bill in his first term.

RUSH: Oh. I said that?

CALLER: Yes, you did. And you said it was ingenious, an ingenious political move, and I said, ‘Unh-uh. That’s not conservative.’

RUSH: Are you sure? Are you sure I said that? The only thing I remember is ripping the president for letting Kennedy write the education bill.

CALLER: Unh-uh. Go back and listen to your program. I remember it intimately, it was so shocking. But that’s not why I called. The reason I called is because I think we’re overestimating, as conservatives, the general popularity of the movement. Senator Santorum ran as a very articulate, true blue conservative against a candidate in Pennsylvania who took essentially no position, and got hammered this year. It’s not true that when people run as true conservatives they win hands down, not even close.

RUSH: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Santorum first. Santorum ran primarily on the war, and it was unpopular. Santorum ran on the notion that we face a severe challenge and threat by Islamofascists. He also ran on his traditional family values. Bob Casey is the most conservative Democrat in the state of Pennsylvania and was echoing everything Santorum was saying except the war. Echoing practically everything. Same thing happened to J.D. Hayworth out in Arizona. He had a Democrat echoing everything he was saying about immigration, which is a big issue out there — and you’re right. Casey, at other times, was taking no position on anything. But Pennsylvania is a Democrat state.

CALLER: It does have a core, though, of conservatives that can easily be reached, and Reagan did that.

RUSH: Yes.

CALLER: Newt Gingrich proved that.

RUSH: Well, but the second point is that I should have clarified my remarks to say this: Conservatives win presidential elections. Republicans who are trying to be liberal do not.

CALLER: Okay. Presidential, I agree with you.

RUSH: National elections. This is a conservative country. That’s how conservative Democrats are brought into the Republican Party fold is when you have a genuine conservative Republican running for office or somebody who at least sings half the song to make people think that there’s hope for a conservative Republican to be president. But, yeah, you can find pockets of liberalism in Pennsylvania. You know, the big problem in Pennsylvania is Philadelphia, and Santorum is not going to win anything in Philadelphia. Then you go to Pittsburgh which is where he’s from, and that’s a big union town with big Democrats, too. You have pockets of conservatism there as well.

CALLER: He won there before, right? So he can’t be that biased against them.

RUSH: Ah, but, look, he ran in 2000. These are six-year terms, and the war interceded, and this, you know is a big Democrat, big anti-war state, and Santorum was backing Bush.

CALLER: Well, national defense is a conservative issue.

RUSH: Yes.

CALLER: If articulated properly, it should be a winner as well.

RUSH: Well, he articulated it properly. There were a number of extraneous problems there that I don’t think said as much about conservatism as other things were factors. You know, the anti-war movement is not based on national defense. The anti-war movement is based on no national defense.

CALLER: Agreed.

RUSH: The anti-war movement is based on surrender.

CALLER: That’s right.

RUSH: I’m glad you called, and gave me the chance to clarify that. I’m carrying Bush’s water? That means you left in 2002. Since you left in 2002, you’ve been gone for five years. What brought you back?

CALLER: I heard through some of my friends that you gave a big speech one day probably this past year about how you were sick of carrying people’s water, especially the Republicans in Congress and how they defected away from conservatism.

RUSH: Yes.

CALLER: And you had had it. You weren’t going to carry, and I thought, ‘Maybe he’s changed a bit and I should check him out again.’ So I have.

RUSH: That was after the election in 2006.

CALLER: Yeah.

RUSH: All right. Well, Robert, I appreciate your holding on for as long as you did. He was on hold for a full hour. I appreciate that. We paid for it. It’s no big deal. But we appreciate your patience and your time.

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