Rush and Oprah

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Hugh Hewitt writes that Limbaugh's speech at CPAC "will be talked about for years and even decades." I hope he's wrong about that, but he's definitely right about this:

A week ago a reporter from a major American newspaper called me to talk about Rush.  I agreed to do the interview provided it was recorded and that I could air it after the story the reporter was working on ran.  The reporter asked me if Rush was a "leader," and I said no.  He is, I continued, a communicator, a pundit and an entertainer, one of the two best in the country --along with Oprah.  And a man of extraordinary influence.  I think the Rush-Oprah comparison startled the reporter, but it is exactly correct.  They have the same reach, and though they have almost completely different approaches to life, both are deeply sincere about their views and thus far beyond merely "effective."  Both communicators change lives.

Not only do I think this is true, I've actually said it myself! (Though Reihan said it first.) But if you accept the parallel with Oprah, then you also need to recognize that if American liberals treated someone like Ms. Winfrey the way the adoring CPAC-goers treated Rush - not just as a great communicator and entertainer, but as an arbiter of what their movement is and ought to be, and what their party should be standing for - they'd look like starstruck fools. And rightly so.

So I'm glad to hear Hewitt say that he thinks of Limbaugh as "communicator, a pundit and an entertainer," rather than a "leader." But I wish that more conservatives understood the distinction.

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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