Four days before Barack Obama was sworn into office, a prominent radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, told his conservative listeners that a major American publication had asked him to write 400 words on his hopes for the Obama presidency.
“I…don’t need 400 words,” he said, “I need four: I hope he fails.”
The remark set the tone for a steady stream of unbridled and often bizarre criticism from Limbaugh and like-minded radio and TV commentators, several of them working for Fox News, the network owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Obama responded four days after his inauguration, telling a group of Republican congressmen they needed to break away from a mindset of confrontation.
“You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”
What followed should have helped the new administration to reflect on the wisdom of singling out a media critic. But it didn’t. Limbaugh promptly portrayed himself as a man of such pivotal importance that the president of the world’s only superpower needed to pay personal attention to his tartly-worded opinion.