The mood at the Omni Shoreham Hotel late Saturday afternoon was off the electrical meter when Rush Limbaugh took center stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Hundreds of revelers packed the Regency Ballroom and hundreds more filled overflow rooms, hallways and stairways to watch on wide-screen TVs. It was a rare and much-anticipated public appearance of the man so powerful that President Obama singled him out for destruction in his administration’s first days.
Conservative pundits, party leaders and movement bigwigs took special care to position themselves close by so they could hang on every word of the only person who actually could accomplish what the three-day conference was all about - jump-starting the flagging conservative cause.
Fox News joined C-SPAN in carrying the nearly hour-and-a-half experience, while CNN broke ranks with the “mainstream media” and aired most of the speech as well.
It was an address that could have altered the election had it been delivered early last fall by any Republican presidential candidate.
About midway through Mr. Limbaugh’s clear-headed, timely and sometimes rambunctious call to ideological arms, my BlackBerry began buzzing with elated text messages from across the Omni and across the nation.
A friend in Los Angeles e-mailed a one-liner: “Best speech I have ever seen.”
My urbane father-in-law, the first person I knew who copped to listening to Mr. Limbaugh and who has been witness to most of the big events of the modern age, called it the “most thrilling thing [he’s] seen on TV.”
Hugh Hewitt simply titled his post-speech blog post “The Speech, 2009” and wrote: “Rush gave a speech … that will be talked about for years and even decades.”
Spokespeople for CPAC said it was the best-received speech in the conference’s 36 years. And that included Ronald Reagan, who, by the way, was no rhetorical slouch.
By any measure, Mr. Limbaugh hit the ball out of the park. He may have done so for the team that, these days, many people are rooting against. But the ball did land over the fence.
On the other hand, the “drive-by media” - as Mr. Limbaugh aptly refers to his business competition and ideological foes - portrayed a completely different event.
Clearly taking their cues from Mr. Obama - as well as Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid - the Fourth Estate, without the benefit of a Frank Luntz focus group or an instant poll, immediately labeled the speech as “angry” and alienating to “moderate voters.”
The netroots, the mainstream media’s devious protector from its left flank (e.g., the Huffington Post, Media Matters and the Daily Kos) also opined as if they had witnessed a hate crime.
Anonymous liberal commentators, the rabid pests of the new media, sought out the most popular conservative blogs to flood the zone with familiar Rush Limbaugh slanders. Their goal: To demoralize the right with layer upon layer of media domination. Only talk radio with its emphasis on Socratic debate over raw emotionalism and with Mr. Limbaugh in the driver’s seat has escaped the left’s clutches of pure media dominance.
For years, the radio kin of these underhanded online annoyances - coined by Rush as “seminar callers” - have read their Democratic National Committee-produced scripts to muddy the political waters. Talk-show call screeners will be on double duty this week trying to keep off the air anyone who might try to tear down the post-speech unity and elation.
For more than a generation, the traditional media has tried to build a wall around public sentiment to protect the Democratic Party from articulate critics. Recent election cycles and the emergence of the Internet have only exacerbated the situation. In the past year, media bias has gotten out of hand.
But it has not been able to stop that mountain we call Rush. He is much more than an entertainer or a person who can “motivate the base” - as the media repeats like cheap talking points.
He has the uncanny ability to expose the intricate web of bias to those who do not yet know that they should doubt the media’s sincerity. Many in the Regency Ballroom on Saturday night were once dupes or elitists like me who were shown the light by a guy who didn’t even graduate college.
With newspapers long ago judged as far gone on the left and television networks turned off for good by enraged customers, the media has good reason to hate Mr. Limbaugh.
Mr. Limbaugh is the man who is most to blame for their demise. No wonder they bad-mouth him every chance they get.
• Andrew Breitbart is the founder of the news Web site www.breitbart.com and is co-author of “Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - the Case Against Celebrity.”