You can measure a man when he dies by how many people spring forth to eulogize him — with stories about themselves.
The airwaves Wednesday were filled with first-person accounts from people who knew Rush Limbaugh. Or, more precisely, people eager to publicly declare how Rush Limbaugh KNEW THEM.
I filled in for Rush on the radio once!
I told him a funny story that Rush retold every time he saw me!
I played golf with Rush!
I arranged for Rush to get the Presidential Medal of Freedom!
It is all perfectly understandable and entirely genuine. When people are truly sad, they tend to want to talk about themselves. People naturally want to nurse their own pain.
But therein lies the difference between Rush Limbaugh and everybody else in the news business. For all his bombast and hilarious fake self-regard, Rush Limbaugh was actually the humblest person in this whole mass-media racket.
He was the epitome of humility.
His Excellence in Broadcasting slogan, his Golden EIB Microphone, and his “talent on loan from God” line drove his detractors absolutely batty. It was all proof — to their dull powers of observation — of Mr. Limbaugh’s titanic arrogance.
It was, in fact, proof of the exact opposite. Long before Al Gore invented the Internet, Rush Limbaugh invented “trolling.” He was “owning the libs” back when there were still actual liberals left in America.
Mr. Limbaugh’s great humility was not schtick. It stemmed from his unbending political philosophy.
Call it “conservative” or “democratic,” “anti-government” or “populist,” Rush Limbaugh believed to his core in the genius and wisdom of the American people. He had the profound humility to know that the people themselves are the best equipped to be in charge of determining their own destinies.
And he believed this even as he gave those very same millions of people a voice. It was a voice they heard nowhere else on the endless landscape of mass media. But it was always a voice they heard deep inside their own souls.
Rush Limbaugh did not tell his treasured Dittoheads what to think. He simply told them how to say it.
Mr. Limbaugh’s humility was something he inherited directly from our Founders.
After all, isn’t that what this whole experiment in self-governance is all about in the first place?
No king, no government, no president is capable of running people’s lives better than the people themselves. There is no greater arrogance known to man than a king or a president or a government bureaucrat who thinks he can run your life better than you can.
That’s what we fought a revolution over. That is what we founded this country on. That is what has made America the greatest nation on earth.
And that is what Rush Limbaugh defended every day of his life.
• Charles Hurt is opinion editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.