The Nation’s Ben Adler has penned an interesting column on former Gov. Mike Huckabee, in which he wonders whether or not Huckabee — whom Adler describes as “an unusual creature in American politics: a civilized social conservative” — can compete with the fire-breathing conservative rhetoric spouted by his competition.
There is little doubt Huckabee is charismatic and likeable — and that he can make the conservative case in an eloquent and persuasive manner. And like Ronald Reagan, Huckabee can do so without coming across as a jerk. As Adler recalls, “Huckabee made his name in the Republican primaries with the now famous line, “I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad at anyone about it.’” Huckabee’s talent for persuasion really hit home to me when, after a segment on “The Daily Show,” even Jon Stewart sounded like he was rethinking his position on abortion.
My only criticism of Adler’s column is that I think he might have the wrong impression about the other conservative talk show hosts. I’m not sure how much time he has spent listening to conservative talk radio, but a lot of people assume it consists of three hours a day of vitriol. That’s just not the case. It’s easy to pull a 30 second clip from a 3 hour segment, but let’s not pretend it reflects the entire program.
Let’s take Huckabee’s biggest competitor, Rush Limbaugh, for example. He talks about sports — he’s a huge football fan — and his parents and the lessons they taught him — and lots of other topics, such as movies and technology. People who tune into his show on a daily basis don’t just like him — they love him. They have formed a bond.
Of course, if all you know about Limbaugh consists of the sound bites that make it onto MSNBC, you might get the impression that his simply consists of angry, Obama-bashing, conservative red meat. But Limbaugh wouldn’t be as successful as he is if that were all he brought to the party.
I’m not suggesting this is the case with Adler, but I am quite sure that a lot of liberals have the wrong impression about conservative talk radio, primarily because they’ve never given it a chance.
The best hosts, it has been my observation, also have a very charming side.