Rush was off this week, but we weren't. And in his absence, three fill-ins -- Mark Davis, Mark Steyn, and Walter E. Williams -- took the microphone for Limbaugh and polluted the airwaves with mostly the same mix of arrogance, loathing, and misinformation that Rush would have. So the week wasn't so much a change in content as it was a change in pitch and tone of voice. (Our ears have built up an immunity to Rush's voice to the point where they rarely bleed anymore, but our bodily defenses aren't up to the task for guest hosts.)
Dallas-Fort Worth talk-show host Mark Davis began the week where Rush left off, by eulogizing Ted Kennedy. Credit where credit is due -- Davis took a slightly different approach than Rush, saying some sincerely kind words about the late senator before criticizing his policies, which, for Davis, meant everything outside of Kennedy's "1960s civil rights era" policies. Davis also said that the "American left is wrong on civil rights" and attacked Kennedy's grandchild for the "hijacking and politicization" of Kennedy's funeral mass.
During Davis' second day in the fill-in chair, he suggested that perhaps New Orleans and Los Angeles are not on God's list of top places to call home, saying that "sometimes God tells" people not to live "below sea level" or near a "highly combustible forest." He also claimed people are spending their "cash for clunkers" rebates on keggers and crack. (Having attended the University of Maryland, like Davis, we would have to conclude that the parties in College Park have toned down since he was a student.)
Wednesday and Thursday graced us with the presence of National Review's Mark Steyn, a historically frustrating fill-in for us at the Limbaugh Wire, having previously inspired us to contemplate slamming our heads in a car door. We figure Steyn must have taken pity on us since then -- that's the only explanation as to why we didn't find ourselves consumed with similarly self-destructive urges during his two-day guest stint this week.
Nevertheless, we'd still like to highlight some of Steyn's wackier moments, starting with his contribution to the right-wing freak-out over President Obama's "indoctrination" of the youth (just because Rush wasn't around this week, that didn't mean his regular timeslot would be absent of this brand of loopy paranoia).
Steyn's reaction to Obama's planned speech to students -- in which Obama will discuss "the importance of education" and "persisting and succeeding in school" -- was to claim that Obama is inserting his "cult of personality" into the schools, though not on the same scale, Steyn admitted, as Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein.
But Steyn didn't stop there. He went on to describe how Obama "learned" from Bill Ayers that the "public education system is a useful tool for getting children to be good subjects of the big government state when they grow up."
For Steyn, baselessly invoking Bill Ayers during a discussion on education was like adding Mentos to a bottle of diet cola -- he opened his mouth, and a lot of hot air and fizz spewed out.
(An episode of MythBusters explained the Mentos + diet cola reaction pretty thoroughly, but the Steyn bloviation factor is a phenomenon that scientists haven't yet been able to re-create in a laboratory setting.)
Steyn also devoted much of his share of Limbaugh microphone time to promoting the idea that "free market" health care is the best alternative to the Democrats' reform ideas. Steyn best summed up his argument on Thursday's show: Health care should be like buying tomatoes, he explained, arguing that tomatoes were cheap because they are a "straight commercial transaction" and their price does not need to factor in extraneous parties like the government, insurers, and lawyers.
For now, we'll go along with Steyn and pretend government regulators, crop insurers, and lawyers are nowhere to be found in the tomato industry, if only to get to the real idiocy behind his argument, which is that free-market health care is the be-all, end-all of reform ideas. We've approached this claim when Limbaugh made it -- he compared health care to everything from dog kenneling to car maintenance -- and Steyn's tomato analogy is no better.
Economics blogger James Kwak addressed how a purely free market system would break down, writing that "many people are simply uninsurable under free market principles (expected health care costs exceed their income, let alone their ability to pay), and hence would be left to die."
Going back to Steyn's aphid-infested tomato garden of an analogy, it begs the question: What if somebody needed a lot of fancy tomatoes in order to live, yet didn't have the means to pay for them? That's what insurance is for: to pool risks across a large group of people. And the idea behind the current reform is to increase the risk pool in an effort to bring prices down and make insurance more accessible to people who are currently unable to afford it.
Steyn's insensitivity on the subject of health care was on full display both days he was in the host's chair. The day before his vine-ripened nonsense, he agreed with a caller who said that people who can't afford health care need to get a job. Steyn also remarked during that program that American health care is great because people can make all sorts of decisions about what kind of care they get, like decisions about whether you should sell your car to get treatment:
STEYN: [T]here are multiple ways in America -- in America, you can have insurance company A, insurance company B, insurance company C, you can have no insurance, you can write a check, you can, in the end, decide you're gonna have to sell your car to get the treatment, or you can decide to dispense with the treatment.
You're a free person. You can make multiple decisions, multiple decisions. In government systems, there's only one decision, and it's made by a bureaucrat.
Since you've now likely exceeded your daily recommended intake of Mark Steyn, we'll take a look at Friday's show, hosted by George Mason University economics professor Walter E. Williams (a stranger to us at the Friday Rush, but not to Media Matters). He made such classy statements as: promoting a secessionist group, advocating for the freedom to sell organs, and arguing that liberals have "sympathy and admiration" for the world's greatest barbarians. Meanwhile, Williams' guest on the show, conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, said the aforementioned Obama back-to-school speech reminded him of the Hitler Youth.
So, the three stooges -- Davis, Steyn, and Williams -- carried the baton for Rush while he was away golfing, but the week was still packed to the gills with half-baked solutions to our economic problems, the usual misinformation, Republican talking points, and overreactions to mundane actions taken by the Obama administration.
But are we looking forward to writing about the head honcho of the GOP next week instead of this cast of wannabes?
As you might be able to tell, it really doesn't make much of a difference who's behind the mike -- the misinformation endures.