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23 Dec 2008 08:12
Anyone tempted to feel sorry for the Republican candidates who lost in such spectacular style in the US presidential race can now relax. The 2008 hopefuls have started to re-emerge in a new guise: as the hosts of right-wing talk radio shows.
Like a scene from Night of the Living Dead, several political corpses left scattered across the early primary states have been spotted twitching, then crawling and finally standing up and dusting themselves down.
The first to be born again as a radio host is Fred Thompson, who has just been awarded a two-hour programme with the syndicated network Westwood One.
The choice of Thompson to replace conservative talk show legend Bill O’Reilly, who is giving up his programme to concentrate on TV broadcasting, has astonished commentators.
Thompson appeared to be testing out a cunning new political strategy: sleeping one’s way to the White House (in this case there was no sexual connotation involved).
From March his Tennessee drawl will be heard assailing angry Republican voters with angry Republican views—a form of preaching to the converted pioneered by Rush Limbaugh 20-odd years ago. More than 2 000 radio stations have followed Limbaugh’s suit, with news talk now the most popular format in America, ahead even of country music.
Of the top five most popular talk radio shows, four are hosted by conservatives and one by a libertarian. Limbaugh remains the king, with almost four million listeners tuning in to him at any one time.
The second figure to emerge in a radio reincarnation is Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. The bass guitar-playing pastor will be taking his softer-spoken variety of conservatism on air in January with a show for ABC radio.
The third presidential hopeful reported to have been seeking to revive himself on air is Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York city, who was in the frame for the Bill O’Reilly slot but appears to have succumbed to Thompson. Though Giuliani’s penchant for dressing up in women’s clothes may not be ideal radio material, he has had a long and distinguished career in talk. As mayor he put out a weekly broadcast from city hall in which he famously ranted at a caller who was arguing for increased rights for the city’s ferret owners (this was 1990s New York).
“There is something really very sad about you,” he told his caller, before adding: “This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness. You need help—please get it!”
With such a track record, it can be only a matter of time before Giuliani joins his fellow presidential casualties and acquires his own show. After all, conservative talk radio specialises in abuse, though it is usually hurled not at its own listeners but at the Liberal bogey figure of the day.
When Limbaugh blazed his trail it was Bill Clinton. Today it is Barack Obama. An article in next month’s Columbia Journalism Review has analysed the relentless hounding by talk radio of Obama through the campaign, recalling one host, Michael Savage’s description of him as Barack Madrasah Obama.
Other hosts called the Democratic candidate a Muslim, Marxist, revolutionary, socialist, Communist, thug, racist, anti-semite and pal of terrorists.
Since the election, despite emerging on the losing side, the talk radio hosts have merely redoubled their efforts, shooting barbs at the president-elect with born-again vitality. After eight long years in which one of their own was in the White House, at last they can direct their full verbal fire-power at a deserving enemy. - guardian.co.uk
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