Each day I listen to random conservative talk radio shows to get a sense of the mood of conservative voters. And to get a heads-up on what the "Fox & Friends" morning show will be discussing tomorrow.
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Glenn Beck Just Gives Up
One of the fascinating things about listening to Glenn Beck's Morning Zoo is that you never know which Beck is going to show up that day. Is it the politically conservative firebrand? The deep-thinking religious pundit? Or, as was the case today, is it the veteran talker who just can't believe the weirdness of today's world?
This morning show started with a clip of Congresswoman Maxine Waters more or less confirming that the Obama Administration. Or, maybe not. But her comments were so muddled and confusing that Beck and Co. were just flummoxed. They threw up their hands and spent most of the remaining half hour talking about cheating on your spouse with Netflix.
There was an interesting discussion about a recent study that showed the percentage of people who believed a politician who didn't have a Biblical worldview could still be a good leader had skyrocketed since 2011. Maybe a good example of the Trump effect?
All In With The New Health Care Plan
Mike Gallagher loves the new GOP Health Care plan. Based on his show today, he's struggling to find anything wrong with the plan. Except maybe that it doesn't include some pet Conservative ideas such as selling health care plans across state lines.
Gallagher interviewed Vice President Pence at the top of today's show and I haven't seen anyone toss so many softballs since I played catch with my young son. Listening to the conversation, you might believe that this is a plan that will improve everyone's health care options while creating absolutely no downside.
There was some discussion by Gallagher after the interview about the need to be patient with people who might worry they will lose their health care. Oh, he apparently doesn't believe that's a valid concern. He just thinks the plan's supporters have to be patient as they explain to voters how wrong they are about the plan.
In Gallagher's discussion, you can hear the pro-Trump Care talking points evolving. The tax penalty for not having insurance is waived (although he slips over the 30% monthly premium penalty if you go 60 days without health care). He touts the tax credit and the cuts in premium subsidies without explaining how a future tax credit will help someone afford a health plan today. He mentions that anyone with a pre-existing condition can still get coverage, without mentioning rates for that coverage will skyrocket. And he skips over the fact that the GOP plan reinstates the lifetime coverage limit. A move which will mean that patients with expensive medical issues - from cancer to heart disease - will find their coverage going away in the middle of treatment.
There's nothing wrong with being an advocate for Trumpcare. But the danger is that you gloss over the compromises necessary to make any plan viable. This is the type of lying by omission that caused problems for the ACA once it began to be rolled out to the country.
Pay No Attention To The Details Behind The Screen
It's easy to forget just how good of a broadcaster Rush Limbaugh can be when he shrugs off the bluster and self-importance and just communicates, He's arguably the best radio broadcaster of his generation and his biggest gift is his ability to cobble together a bunch of vaguely connected facts into a reasonable-sounding conspiracy theory. More than once, I've listened to some pet theory of his and found myself getting caught up in the possibilities. At least, until the segment is over and start recalling the actual facts of the story. Listening to Limbaugh, I often feel like a dog being distracted by a flashlight flickering across the floor. I'm distracted, but only until the light is turned off and reality returns.
I had a bit of that feeling today, as I listened to Rush wax poetic about the Trump claims about his campaign being wiretapped. Limbaugh spent ten minutes throwing out a bunch of semi-connected facts about the story and after awhile it was almost possible to believe that it was all the result of some overly complicated political con job by the Democrats.
As he talked about wiretapping, he referenced the new Wikileaks drop of CIA files. He notes that one file claimed the CIA could spoof the hacking style of a number of countries, including Russia and China. "Hmm...Russia?" He ponders. "So, if someone was hacked, they might think it was Russian hackers when it was really the CIA?" He lets the thought hang there, then bounces back between thoughts about the Trump story and the Wikileaks news. He never quite has the stones to argue the CIA might have been behind the DNC hacks that were attributed to the Russians. But he leaves the thought out there and almost dares listeners to make the connection. Limbaugh is a genius, albeit a manipulative one.
Please Use Your Inside Voice
I'll be honest. I don't often listen to Mark Levin. Partly it's due to timing. Here in the Twin Cities, his show airs during evening primetime hours and I'm generally either spending time with my family or watching television.
But I also find him difficult to listen to on a regular basis. If Rush or even Sean are conservative memes wrapped up inside solid broadcasting skills, Levin is conservative talk radio's equivalent of that Woody Harrelson character in the movie "2012." You know, the ranting conspiracy goofball broadcasting live from his RV as he dodges the government forces out to get us all. Levin isn't a conspiracy monger, but he's just as passionately self-centered about the reasons why we're teetering close to a political apocalypse.
Levin screams, he whispers in quiet asides and often speaks in long-winded arguments that mash 50 points into one long, confusing explanation. He is angry, but his rage is primarily directed at the people who don't understand him. He's the Smeagol of talk radio, talking as much to himself as to the audience.
While Levin's show can be great performance art, he was likely off of most people's radar until last week, when his theory about the Obama Administration's possible wiretapping of Trump Tower caught the attention of the President and eventually the world. And I think it's fair to say that Levin is as much enraged by the scrutiny as appreciative of the extra attention.
Tuesday evening's show began with a very long examination of the proposed Trumpcare/GOP health plan, which Levin described as "RINO-care." I won't go through all the things he finds objectionable. But he essentially seems to believe that the health care system worked just fine a decade ago, so why did Obama have to go and change it? He dismisses the need for twentysomethings to have the chance to stay on their parent's healthcare plans. He explains that lifetime caps are crazy, because that might mean some illegal immigrant with $10 million worth of problems would be able to get coverage. He doesn't bring up the more likely scenario, in which someone undergoing cancer treatment suddenly discovers their coverage cap has been hit in the middle of their chemo treatment. According to Levin, if you hit your coverage cap, you should just go to your insurance provider and ask them to waive the restriction. A move which is so detached from reality and the way the healthcare system works that it almost sounds like a joke.
But Levin is saving his biggest rants for the media, whom he believes continue to misrepresent his work on the Trump story. He goes through example after example of pieces he believes unfairly attack him or his theory about the wiretaps. He continues to focus on the fact that his theory is based in large part on the reporting of major news outlets, often screaming that the criticisms are pointless, since he didn't do the original reporting. After a half hour of this, it's still not clear whether he's purposely misrepresenting the criticism or truly doesn't understand the pushback. The many journalist's criticizing his original piece don't have a problem with the original reporting. They generally think his timeline is misleading and/or ill-informed. A distinction which seems to be beyond the grasp of Levin.
I know that Levin has an audience and his fans obviously enjoy his politically dystopian worldview. But like Michael Savage, Levin is someone I have trouble listening to on a regular basis. He's too angry, too dismissive and too dark for regular consumption. At least for me.
Check back in tomorrow.......