You know, Republicans are said to be racist and sexist and bigoted and homophobic. The liberal policy, liberal philosophy is to assume bad behavior, bad human behavior. They assume it, they have a condescending look toward people in general. It’s what makes them liberals. People are incapable of doing the right thing without liberals’ guidance, people are incapable of making the right decisions to get ahead in life without liberal guidance, they’re incapable of earning a decent living. . . Liberalism assumes bad human behavior and then coddles it as imperfect. After they coddle imperfect, bad human behavior, they are able to say those who judge imperfections in people and come out strong for right and wrong, the simplistic black and white, good versus evil, people who come out for law and order and so forth, they’re the sinners, because none of us are perfect. The liberals understand this, they coddle the imperfections, they create victims out of those who are imperfect, turning them into a cause celebre, and blaming the right, these Draconian, intolerant, inflexible people who judge others while ignoring their own foibles.

This explains why the liberals are able to accept genocide in places like Iraq if it furthers their agenda. Because everybody is flawed. Saddam Hussein is flawed and he’s just a bad guy, we understand that, we need understand this about people. They expect the worst from people, and they want the worst from people tolerated, and that is a sign of compassion. . . ~Rush Limbaugh

Via Clark Stooksbury

This is a stunning display of both ignorance of the tradition to which he claims to belong and a remarkable display of Limbaugh’s true colours. How far gone do you have to be to think that liberalism holds that people are flawed and imperfect? How frantic must Limbaugh be over the coming November defeat that he cooks up this batch of unusually bizarre philosophical gibberish? Liberals, not conservatives, believe people are flawed? Who is it that thinks people are basically good and not fallen?

It will hardly come as news to anyone here that Limbaugh’s conservatism was never, ever all that terribly similar to Burkean-Kirkian conservatism. It was originally, back in the old days of the early ’90s, a rehashed low-tax, pro-market conservatism that was good on mocking bureaucratic absurdity and Clintonian pretenses but basically superficial and empty. It could even occasionally border on a sort of populism given its medium on the radio, but as Limbaugh became more successful he increasingly embraced the establishment GOP views on everything and frequently became their willing propagandist in a way that was not the case when he began. Once the debate over Iraq started, he was no longer funny and became something like a WSJ-programmed robot, reaching a particularly low point when he lent his name and popularity to the lie that Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague to help solidify the fraudulent claim in the public mind that Al Qaeda and Iraq were working together.

For a time, to the extent that he had a touchstone, it was Reagan, which meant that conservatism was made up of Reagan (and more broadly, Republican) apologetics in the same way that it has become Bush apologetics in the new generation. There was always the sickening emphasis on optimism as the core of this “conservatism” and Limbaugh never tired of reiterating (and I should know, since I listened to him often when I was growing up) that Reagan was successful because he was optimistic and that Americans love optimists (this may unfortunately be true), and liberals are tiresome and oppressive because they are not. It was always a struggle of the happy people vs. the gloomy people, which somehow translates into believing that the gloomy people think that man is flawed–because, well, that is a gloomy thing to think. If man is fallen, flawed and imperfect, optimism doesn’t seem very reasonable, but if he is perfectible and can make progress towards that perfectibility optimism is the essence of common sense.

In this sense, there is nothing surprising about Limbaugh’s embrace of the old liberal conceit that everyone is basically OK. He would almost have to think that if we just create the right conditions (for a right-liberal, this typically ought to mean less government regulation) everything in society will work out just fine. It is perhaps why Limbaugh has had no difficulty switching gears and getting on board with the Iraq project and the “freedom agenda,” since he would have no strong, principled reasons to object to social engineering as such–he just doesn’t want social engineering run by Democrats–since he must think that injustices and imperfections in the world are the result of having the wrong kinds of structures and environments around us rather than permanent features of life here below. Give people “freedom,” make the environment optimal for “opportunity” and stand back! And throw in the occasional war or two for the sake of American greatness and the glory of the superpower. That seems to sum up Limbaugh’s worldview pretty well. It says volumes about modern “conservatives” that millions of them listen to this man daily and take what he says as some kind of wisdom; it says plenty about the vapidity of popular conservatism if Limbaugh is one of its representatives.

Update: The above Limbaugh quote comes in the context of an elaborate, “Maybe Mark Foley was set up!” rant.  A little later, Limbaugh assures a caller: ”The Republicans are not trying to cover this up and they’re not trying to back out of it and they’re not trying to — I mean, they’re leading the call for the investigation into all this.”  Behold Limbaugh as sinks ever deeper into the mire that is the GOP.