What’s it like in Donald Trump’s head? Rush Limbaugh gave us a two-hour tour

‘Mr President, two hours. I know you’ve got a jam-packed day,’ radio host said as he gave Trump the hook. Only it sure didn’t seem that way

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Friday 09 October 2020 22:04
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Donald Trump drops expletive when talking about Iran, live on Rush Limbaugh's radio show

What’s it like inside Donald Trump’s head? We found out on Friday as the president took listeners of a conservative radio show on a two-hour ride of grievances, gripes and gregariousness.

As radio host Rush Limbaugh returned from a break after hurrying the president off air, he called his listeners “thrill seekers.” They likely were still catching their breath, however, and not yet up for another adventure.

For around 120 minutes, the two men formed what for many conservatives would be considered a dream team. They lambasted their shared political foes, warned of an economic apocalypse, eschewed how unfair the media and liberals are to them and all conservatives, and spent ample time congratulating each other for being, to paraphrase their mutual adulation, so awesome it is almost impossible to comprehend.

The marathon interview that at times was more of a conversation appeared, at least in part, an opportunity for the Trump campaign and White House to portray the coronavirus-stricken president as fully recovered or pretty close to 100 per cent.

Mr Limbaugh stopped the show at the 1 hour and 42 minute mark to declare his utter amazement at a Republican president he described as underappreciated and under attack, saying: “Not once has the president been stumped or not known what he wanted to say.”

That remark came on the same day that House Democrats announced legislation intended to give Congress a bigger say in determining whether an impaired president should be removed from office. Although if it somehow passed the Republican-run Senate, it would not apply to Mr Trump until his possible second term, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the impetus was this president’s actions since revealing he was on an aggressive-but-experimental cocktail of drugs to treat his Covid infection.

The president clearly revelled in the praise he seems to so crave, this time coming from Mr Limbaugh, an icon in Republican circles.

“There’s nothing wrong with America first. We’re the good guys in the world,” the radio host said of Mr Trump’s governing philosophy. “He’s hated and reviled for loving America.”

Speaking directly to the president who trails Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden nationally and in most key battleground states, an adoring Mr Limbaugh laid it on thick: “Your arrival on the scene has been providential. … You’re the one person [who can] stop the left from the …  march they’re on.”

For emphasis, the radio showman added: “I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”

But it was Mr Trump’s sometimes minutes-long answers to questions, which largely became campaign rally-style rants about numerous topics that were not always germane or even loosely related to them, that were most revealing.

The president spoke thousands of words on Friday afternoon on the “Excellence In Broadcasting Network.” Most were to essentially ask a rather straightforward question: Why can’t my critics and the news media treat me like Rush does – after all, as The Donald, I am entitled to nothing but adulation?

On topic after topic, the longtime New York real estate executive uttered some version of the same complaint: “They never talk about that” or “they never write about that.” Nevermind the fact that the media might cover those things more often if part of his political strategy is to dominate every news cycle, meaning, because he is the leader of the free world, his every word and tweet will be covered closely.

‘I had to be rude’

He complained that the Obama administration tried to oust him before he was even elected in 2016, contending they “bugged” his campaign.

On gasoline prices, he bemoaned what he called a lack of media adulation that he – and, apparently, he alone – has lowered them. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.19, down from $2.46 per gallon when he took office in January 2017.

The duo spent several minutes contending that Mr Biden intends on banning the fracking of oil and natural gas, if he is elected. Again, Mr Trump’s winding and hard-to-follow comments included a grievance: “We have very inexpensive gasoline. And, yet, it’s high enough we have our energy jobs. So Biden goes and, you notice, they never talk about fracking.”

By The Donald’s own telling, he is under attack from all sides, including from inside his own Justice Department.

“They go after General Flynn,” he said of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to federal crimes before Mr Trump pardoned him. “It’s a disgrace,” he said. “One reason we have to win is we have to finish this thing,” seemingly a reference to clearing the names of his friends and former aides.

Inside Mr Trump’s head, the world is an unfair place with a myriad people and mysterious forces trying to do him in. On a first debate performance during which he interrupted his rival and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News – they have aggrieved him, too; more on that below – the president was merely defending himself, according to himself.

“I don’t think debates mean that much,” he said, slyly lowering expectations for what might be two more debates with Mr Biden. “I had to be rude because he was ... saying so many false things.”

Fox is a ‘problem’

By then mentioning the moderator and his employer, one could see a different part of Mr Trump’s brain light up. He was off on another grievance-paved path.

“Fox is a much different thing than it was five years ago,” he groaned. “It’s a whole different ball game.”

His new view of the network he will have called into and spent three hours on by a planned Friday night call-in to Tucker Carlson’s show appears to have changed because, after parsing his words, they have bothered to cover him and his term with at least a scintila of critical thinking.

“Paul Ryan is on the board of Fox,” he said of the former GOP speaker of the House, with whom he sometimes clashed even though the Wisconsin Republican spent gobs more time defending the president than criticising him. He called the network’s coverage of him “heavily influenced” by Ryan before, right on cue, getting personal: “Here’s a guy who failed as speaker.” Even as he has used the network all week as a campaign bullhorn, he and Mr Limbaugh agreed that the right-leaning cable network is a “problem.”

The president weaved his way though several topics, landing on America’s European allies. The stream of consciousness found its way to Germany, where, he complained, people “don’t like Trump.” Then, a light from another part of his mind compelled him to troll his critics with this line about Russia’s leader: “I like Putin.”

As the two o’clock hour on the east coast approached, Mr Limbaugh had some bills to pay. He clearly was attempting to wrap up the interview, but the president was fired up. There was no sign his mind took the cues the radio host was emitting. The president started another flowing diatribe about this and that.

“Mr President, two hours,” Mr Limbaugh said as his familiar bumper music signalled an imminent commercial break. “I know you’ve got a jam-packed day.”

If he did, he certainly did not seem that busy after putting the brakes on a workday for a campaign event performance for the ages. White House and campaign officials did not respond to a request for comment on how such the self-described busiest president ever could find the time.

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