While many of us have been bracing for Rush Limbaugh’s passing ever since he revealed his battle against terminal lung cancer, the news that came Wednesday of his death at 70 still sent a shock wave of grief though his many millions of fans. You knew it was coming, but it still seems unbelievable.
If anyone seemed capable of beating cancer, it was the indestructible El Rushbo. Over the years, he overcame every obstacle, from the alleged “death” of AM radio to painkiller addiction and hearing loss (how can a radio broadcaster overcome deafness? Rush did) to the rabid hatred of leftists, whom he infuriated all the more by batting away their attacks with facts, logic and good humor.
With his great love of America and its exceptional history, freedom and opportunity, Rush had a massive influence on politics over several decades, helping direct and grow the conservative movement in good times and defend and encourage it in bad times. But he also earned a place on the Mouth Rushmore of radio (there should be one of those named after him.) When he came along, the industry “wisdom” was that AM radio was dying because it couldn’t carry music with FM fidelity. Rush invented nationally-syndicated conservative talk radio, turned AM back into a ratings powerhouse, and inspired generations of hosts to follow in his footsteps.
I speak from personal experience, having hosted a syndicated radio show myself, when I tell you it’s not an easy job. It’s a testament to Rush’s “talent on loan from God” that he could be on the air three hours a day, five days a week; always be current, enlightening and entertaining; and often fill much of the show by himself without relying on guests or callers to fill the time. Even liberals (honest ones, not the ghouls celebrating Rush’s death on Twitter) admitted that anyone who could attract up to 27 million listeners a week for decades on over 600 stations with just the power of his words and ideas was a remarkable broadcaster. He used his skills not only to influence politics but to raise millions of dollars for charity.
Rush loved loved God, America, his audience and radio so much, not even debilitating cancer treatments could keep him away from the microphone until the very end. And he was riveting right up until his final show, as he talked about how lucky he felt to be alive. He showed a humble side of himself that he often kept hidden from listeners as he discussed his religious beliefs and how he considered every day of life beyond last October, which his doctors had predicted would be his “expiration date,” to be a gift from God. And of course, he reminded listeners of the greatness of America and how important it was to keep up the fight to protect it.
Rush may no longer be on the air every day, but the example he set has inspired generations of patriotic conservatives who will look to his legacy for courage and guidance as they pick up the torch and continue his mission of speaking out and defending this exceptional nation and its great principles.