- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Read anything written by historians, military specialists and political strategists and you’ll often see a common thread - if you willingly enter into enemy territory, be prepared to suffer the consequences.

But that’s not always the case. Just ask radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Last Sunday, Rush made a well-publicized guest appearance on “Family Guy.” The opinions ranged from intellectual curiosity to volcanic eruptions rivaling that of Mount Vesuvius.

The latter group in particular fulminated that Rush must be crazy to appear on a liberal TV show. Moreover, they worried that they would tear a strip off the talking head and make him look foolish - and in the process, portray conservatives as a group of raving lunatics.

With all due respect, did anyone honestly believe Rush would willingly enter into a project where he’d come out looking bad? Or that “Family Guy” would invite a conservative guest and make him look like an extremist? Please.

Yes, “Family Guy” is on the political left. Its creator, Seth MacFarlane, told the Hollywood Reporter in August 2009 that his show “tends to be very liberal because it’s written by liberals.” Fine, but even liberals realize a show appealing to a narrow demographic is doomed to failure. Hence, Mr. MacFarlane has taken some classic left-libertarian stances against big government and in favor of personal responsibility and enhanced rights and freedoms. They respect the role conservatives and Republicans play in society, even if they often attack them.

I firmly believe Rush and Mr. MacFarlane’s collaboration could stand as one of the most brilliant pieces of satire involving conservatism, ever. That’s to the credit of both men.

I won’t spoil the entire plot, but here’s a brief summary:

The program evolves around the unlikely friendship between Rush and Brian, the anthropomorphic family dog and hard-core liberal. Brian started off in typical left-wing fashion by calling Rush a “Nazi” and “fascist” who “single-handedly set political discourse back 100 years.” After a tete-a-tete at a book signing, the avowed liberal admitted he hadn’t read any of Rush’s books, but “I’ve read things other people have written about the things you’ve written, and I do not approve of the things I’ve read from others about the things they’ve read from you. Not one bit, sir.”

Brian has a sudden change of heart later that evening after being saved by Rush from a gang beating. He ends up reading the book, shocked to admit, “My God. Rush Limbaugh was right all along. Conservative Republicanism is the answer,” and changes his political tune.

Alas, this adjustment is short-lived. The family matriarch, Lois Griffin, correctly observed Brian was a “contrarian” who needed to be on the other side of a changing political climate, or else “you don’t feel like the smartest guy in the room.” Rush reaches the same conclusion after Brian’s undisciplined political views make him look like a moderate. He says, “I make a living persuading others to join my side, but I never, ever want somebody to be something they’re not. You’re a liberal, Brian.”

Naturally, there are various potshots aimed at conservatives. These range from Rush telling Lois she’s “sounding like a Jew” for defending the science in global warming, Brian’s prayer at the dinner table giving thanks for those “who have been on this planet for 6,000 years, and not a second more” and thanking God for keeping Congress “predominantly white.”

But here’s the inescapable fact - Rush comes off looking like an intelligent, reasonable and likeable conservative. He was portrayed as having strong beliefs and values, a love for his country and a genuine respect for intellectual discourse. Sounds rather tolerant, if you ask me.

Did Mr. MacFarlane and his staff really believe what they wrote about Rush? I’d like to think so, but it doesn’t matter. They treated him fairly, gave him some solid dialogue, and ended the show with Rush transforming into an eagle soaring into the sky. They made him look like an American hero for some people, warts and all - and will let their fans be the final judge and jury of this portrayal.

For Rush, his appearance on “Family Guy” was a brilliant public relations move. It may win him a whole new legion of followers, even for a brief period of time. In the ratings game, a potential spike in popularity is worth its weight in gold.

What does it all prove? That a conservative or liberal can sometimes enter enemy territory and come home safely - or even better off than before. In my book, that’s a good thing.

Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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