HE has been described by his opponents as the "Most Dangerous Man in America," a title he has gleefully adopted. Ted Koppel calls him the man "you ignore ... at your own peril." And he recently led the New York Times bestseller list for seven weeks, only to be displaced by Madonna's book "Sex." But after much Madonna-bashing on his conservative radio show, Rush Limbaugh made Madonna move over as he regained the No. 1 slot last week.
"The Way Things Ought to Be" is the quintessential guide to the views of this commentator, who has a following of 12 million listeners. Limbaugh claims the majority of Americans agree with his views. He thinks people are afraid to speak up when conservatism doesn't appear to be in vogue and when it is attacked by elements such as the Hollywood left and the media, two of Limbaugh's favorite targets. In this book, his outspokenness and forceful way of illustrating points are catchy. Readers will find him w ell-informed and willing to write about difficult issues such as AIDS, multiculturalism, abortion, and the environment.
No doubt, his views are controversial. Chapter headings include "Animals Have No Rights - Go Ahead and Lick That Frog," "Sorry, But the Earth Is Not Fragile," and "Who Needs the Media When They've Got Me?" He labels certain radical feminists "feminazis." Half-jokingly he volunteers to "stay informed for you." He writes, "I will devote my entire weekend to keeping track of all relevant events so that you won't have to. I'll tell you not only what happened over the weekend that was of any importance but, a s an added bonus, I'll tell you what to think about it as well."
The book is most effective when Limbaugh defends capitalism and conservative policies. "I don't believe compassion can be measured by throwing money at problems. I make no apologies for having money and earning it," he says. Those who would tax the rich, thereby "punishing ... their supposed greed," he adds, only succeed in punishing all classes by inhibiting the accrual of capital and discouraging investment and sources of new employment - the classic trickle-down effect. He refutes the idea that earn ing money and attaining financial success can be equated with getting rich at the expense of others. "Regardless of the job you have, you are helping to create other jobs," he says.
Limbaugh says he believes that the media have helped to fuel this negativity toward capitalism. He describes an experience that supports this point: When interviewed on "60 Minutes," he was asked why he did his radio show. The interviewer added that he had heard it was for money. Limbaugh agreed, and then asked, "Are you doing your job for the fun of it?" His comment was edited out.
Though Limbaugh is perhaps the king of AM radio, his comfort on the air waves doesn't always translate into his writing. Perhaps he is too comfortable: He writes as he talks - oversimplifying complex issues - and is repetitive.
"The Way Things Ought to Be" exudes the sarcasm and egotism heard on Limbaugh's radio show. The phrase often heard by millions, "With talent on loan from God, with half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair, chosen by God to host the most-listened to radio talk show in the world - I am Rush Limbaugh," in essence is echoed throughout the book.
At times his humor wears thin, and this self-described "lovable little fuzzball" can be prickly. Unnecessary jabs at women (separating them from other reporters by calling them "reporterettes"), for example, will alienate some readers.
Limbaugh tells it as he sees it - and the way he thinks his readers and listeners should see it. But his lack of restraint on certain sensitive issues tends to discredit his opinions.
Nonetheless, "The Way Things Ought to Be" is entertaining and informative, and all in all, this conservative does an admirable job of sparring with liberal foes.