The right is in a holy froth because President Obama laughed at a joke by Wanda Sykes saying she hoped Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys would fail. Drudge immediately picked up the story, and within hours the wackosphere was abuzz. And now it’s been blown up into an international incident, with condemnation pouring in from every corner. Check your World Nut Daily feed–I imagine a column from Chuck Norris threatening to “kick Sykes ass” won’t be far behind.
Here’s the actual Sykes quote:
Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails, so you’re saying, ‘I hope America fails’, you’re, like, ‘I dont care about people losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq’. He just wants the country to fail. To me, that’s treason.
He’s not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You know, you might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight.
Rush Limbaugh, ‘I hope the country fails,’ I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that’s what he needs.
The sad part is comments like this will do more to boost Limbaugh’s popularity than anything else. But after being on national radio for over 20 years, during which time he has slammed just about everyone to the left of Rick Santorum, maybe some perspective is in order. And a little attention to context.
The White House correspondents’ dinner is often edgy and no stranger to controversy. In 2006, comedian Stephen Colbert bitterly insulted President Bush to his face on national television. Bush was visibly upset, but still took it like a gentleman.
In this case, Sykes routine was clearly comedic and I don’t think even the wackiest of the wackaloons actually would say–if pressed–that Sykes really wants Limbaugh dead. Or to waterboard him. It’s a joke, a figure of speech, like you might say to a good friend, “if you take my food again out of the fridge without asking, I’m going to have to kill you.” No one would mistake that for a death wish.
But provocateur Limbaugh waddles to his bully pulpit every day, and gets paid a fortune to spout the worst possible distortions, lies and insults, and that’s ‘free speech.’ He delivers his daily dose of dumb to the slobbering populist masses–or should I say asses? If he could, he’d destroy the careers of every progressive politician in the nation, including the President. He’d turn them out in the streets. He’s spent thousands of hours ranting in support of military adventurism, total inaction on the environment, a corporate free-for-all, social conservatism (while being an admitted Oxycontin addict), and he’d quite likely support a theocracy.
What Limbaugh wants–and what he has devoted his life to–is the continuation of an unchecked and rapacious agenda for enriching and empowering the already powerful. This is far from a joke and is clearly an actual death wish for the nation and eventually the world. Even Republican party chairman Michael Steele called his rhetoric “incendiary and ugly.” Steele later retracted the statement under pressure, but you get the point. If the “mean-factor” could be tallied in dollars, Limbaugh would be richer than Bill Gates. And in actual dollars, he’s not that far behind, worth nearly half a billion, having parlayed his populist pandering into high political art.
One possibly-over-the-line comedic comment from the left isn’t going to even make a dent in this blowhard. But you can bet that he’ll still milk the President’s laughter for all it’s worth.
Finally, maybe I’m splitting hairs, but Sykes didn’t really wish him dead. After all, you can survive without kidneys. You just have to go in for dialysis six hours a day–which would make it awfully hard for the gasbag to do his hate-filled radio show.