RUSH: Here is May in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Great to have you. You’re next on Open Line Friday. How can we help you?
CALLER: (noise in the background) Yes. I’m calling because I think that Republicans have one last chance to expose Trump, and that is a guy called Rush Limbaugh. All the rest of today and all of Monday, you know Donald Trump better than any single pundit or person that’s making claims. You tell him to put his taxes out there. So what if it’s being audited? They’re done. You call him on hiring illegal people to work for him. That is all I ask. But I do beg you to do that.
RUSH: All right. Do you have your radio on, May?
CALLER: (noise) No, sir, I do not.
RUSH: Well, what are we hearing? Is your TV on?
CALLER: No, I’m in the Comcast office. I was holding for a little over an hour, and I finally figured if I —
RUSH: Oh, I see.
CALLER: — maybe I’ll get on the phone, but I’m walking outside. Now I left Comcast.
RUSH: No, that would explain why you’re frustrated. You’re at the cable office.
CALLER: No, I’m not frustrated about the cable. I mean, yeah, that’s inherently frustrating. But I mean, I just walked away from the guy that was helping me. I’m now back in my car, and I am begging you to expose this guy that you know probably better from playing golf with him — which there’s nothing wrong with that, but I am afraid that the world is laughing at us. They’re laughing at these cage fights we call debates. We don’t… We seem to have forgotten what Robert’s Rules are. We insult each other. We don’t have a real debate on the issues. It’s sound bites. And the winner is the guy who can talk the loudest, insult people —
RUSH: You know, May, you actually are on to something even more than you know, and that is what I would call the disintegration or the Swiss cheesing of our culture in general. It’s not just these debates. It’s… They are exemplary, or an example of the decay that’s happening culturally. And, you know, trying to pinpoint when and where this happened is impossible. I mean, depending on who you talk to. You could talk to somebody my age who’s 65 who would tell you it’s been happening their whole life.
Others would try to pinpoint a time where it was okay, but then finally it reached a point where it’s been on a downhill trend since then, and they would pick a time in the sixties, maybe, or sevenths. Here’s an interesting… If you look for reasons why these debates happen the way they do, you mentioned the word “sound bites.” One of the best ways to explain what is happening and why would be to explain what has happened to late-night television. Johnny Carson, doing the Tonight Show today as he did it then, would be in last place.
What determines the success or failure of a late-night talk show is not what happens on the late-night talk show. It’s what of the content of the late-night talk show can be turned into a Twitter or Facebook or social media clip the next day that goes viral, that ends up promoting the program. Therefore, people that now write, produce, and host late-night programs are actually looking for content that can be promoted in 25-, 30-second little video clips that go viral the next day somewhere in social media.
That’s how the programs get promoted.
Now, in the old days it was nothing but the content of the show, in toto, that determined its reputation and determined how it attracted and held an audience.
You may have heard and you may have read where the replacement for Letterman, Stephen Colbert, is having lots of trouble. His ratings are falling, or have fallen. They’re not even where Letterman’s were. And there are people worried about it. And the reason being given is that nothing happens on that show that’s worthy of tweeting the next day.
Nothing happens there that’s worthy of promoting on social media. And the supposed king of this is Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. The supposed king of creating little bits that the end up being promotable as 30-second video clips or what have you the next day or later that night and into the next day on social media determines the buzz that these shows get. Well, Johnny Carson didn’t put the Tonight Show together with that in mind. He had an entirely different attitude about content.
His writers and everybody had a totally different objective. They had to do a great 90-minute or 60-minute show every night. They had to sweat and slave over the guests they were gonna have. But the segments themselves, yeah. The segments had to be funny, but it wasn’t that they had to be tailored for an entirely different medium, which is what’s happening now. So the trend toward insult, making fun of, mocking — the trend toward sound bites — has been happening for quite a while. And we’ve been compressing and compressing.
Twitter is 140 characters. It’s 30 seconds max attention span from one of these viral bits from a late-night show each day. And even prime time TV programs — you know, 42-minute programs with 18 minutes of commercials — are written and produced so that you can take a 30-second clip and circulate it around and that suffices as telling everybody what happened on the show in the 42 minutes and get them to watch the whole thing or to buy it or to rent it or what have you. And these things just start evolving.
So when you get to a political campaign like this… Look, this is… I could argue that our politics hasn’t been about substance since Bill Clinton. It’s been about showbiz. It’s been about how you feel. It’s been “I feel your pain.” It’s been about all kinds of things that have nothing to do with substance. If they had anything to do with substance, Barack Obama would have never seen the light of day. This is what constantly bugs me when I’m forever pleading with people to understand liberalism.
You’ve heard my lament; if people understood liberalism, we wouldn’t even be in this mess! They would never get elected if people really understood. That’s why I blew a gasket earlier this week when I was talking to the lady from Brentwood, Tennessee, who told me, “We gotta go back and do what Reagan did. Reagan brought people together. He made that unity argument in1980.” I said, “That’s not what happened! We weren’t unified. What did happen, is we had the greatest economy.
“We had full employment, we had the creation of wealth, we had the reduction of government, we see the reduction of interest rates, everything good! We brought down the Soviet Union — and people who lived through it still were able to be talked out of it! Four years later, they were able to be talked out of it. They cast it aside, and went back and joined the Democrats.” And I had people explain, “Rush, you’re too close to this. You care too much. This is not how people vote. We had eight years of Reagan, four years of Bush. People want a change.”
And I have to admit, that’s probably right. They just want a change. You got tired of the same group of people being in power. “Republicans here. It’s time for Democrats. Give them a chance.” But I think it’s more involved than that because of the media and so forth. But the eighties were a period of great fear for the Democrat Party and the American left because it was demonstrated then that everything they believe in fails just like it’s being demonstrated now that everything they believe in fails.
But the solution now is not to get rid of what they’re doing. People today have been made to believe it’s still all the fault of George W. Bush. All this stuff going on, Middle East, Iraq war, economy, recession, “Yeah, it’s Bush’s fault! Obama hasn’t been any good at fixing it, but it isn’t his fault,” people think. All of this is very frustrating. Not just to you; frustrating to me, too, folks. If you wanted substance last night, I told you early on in the program, you got it, you got a lot of substance last night in Ted Cruz.
Ted Cruz was nothing but substance. Everything that came out of his mouth was solid, dead center, 100% substance. The news of the day was Rubio laughing and mocking, make fun of Trump, and the lines he got in and the jokes that he was able to crack and this kind of thing. You can sit there all day long and complain about the way things are, and it isn’t gonna change the way things are, and it’s not gonna help you.
You have to be able to adapt to the way things are and be able to survive and get your message out and achieve what you want within the boundaries that have existed. You can include in your desires changing. “Let’s change the culture, let’s improve it, let’s stop the rot.” I totally support that. But at the same time, you can’t succeed by just standing up and complaining about it. Not that anybody is, but it won’t change anything. So I… You know, it’s a real challenge here to find your way in all of this.
And when it gets like this, people always just fall back on, “The American people just so stupid, damn it! Just idiots. I don’t know what we can do.” And it’s maybe somewhat of a factor, but it’s not totally explanatory. There’s an all-out assault on our dominant culture. There has been for years, and the assault is winning. It’s working. I was watching Fox this morning, and there were people complaining about all the swearing that’s going on now.
They talk about Vicente Fox. He’s dropping the F-bomb, talking about Trump and building the wall. And people on Fox and people on Fox said, “I don’t remember world leaders ever talking that way before. George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, they never talked that way.” That’s true. Not publicly. Privately, they did. Don’t doubt me. But publicly they didn’t.
Here’s Vicente Fox. “We not gonna pay for that f-ing wall!” And then Trump responds by basically saying “f-ing” again, and then condemning it and so forth. But it’s out there. And it is changing. There is all kinds of changing rhetoric and stature and deportment, comportment. And it seems like everything’s crumbling out there.