Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens slammed right-wing radio hosts Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh for providing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “with the margin of respectability he needed in the early months to make his campaign credible with Republican voters.”
In his February 22 column, Stephens criticized right wing talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin for creating the environment in Republican Party politics that paved the way for Donald Trump's rise.
So where were Messrs. Limbaugh and Levin last summer, when the Trump candidacy was still a big soap bubble, waiting to be popped by the likes of them?
In July, Mr. Trump said of John McCain, “He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured.” The Donald's trademark insult--coyly calibrated to appeal to voters who lack the brains or the decency to be appalled--should have been the tombstone of his campaign. But it wasn't, thanks not least to a loud assist from Mr. Limbaugh.
“Trump can survive this. Trump is surviving this,” Mr. Limbaugh exalted. “The American people haven't seen something like this in a long time. They have not seen an embattled public figure stand up for himself, double down and tell everybody to go to hell.”
In fact, Americans have often seen such figures: Marcus Garvey, Henry Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Lyndon LaRouche. We just used to have the good sense to dismiss them as eccentrics, lowlifes or clowns. What we haven't seen are the modern-day keepers of mainstream conservatism developing schoolgirl crushes on the bad boy of the GOP class. “The Republicans are impotent!” swooned Mr. Levin in one September broadcast. “And now this guy [Mr. Trump], who may not be a down-the-line conservative, is standing up to them. And he's kicking them all over the place.”
Mr. Levin has since become more critical of Mr. Trump, though Mr. Limbaugh seems to be hedging his bets. But both men provided Mr. Trump with the margin of respectability he needed in the early months to make his campaign credible with Republican voters.
So Mr. Trump had once supported socialized medicine? That didn't matter, said Mr. Levin, because the candidate opposed ObamaCare now. So Mr. Trump was conspicuously ignorant about major foreign-policy issues? Who cares, since he was passionate about the “invasion,” as Mr. Limbaugh calls it, of Latin American migrants. So Mr. Trump wants to ban Muslim immigration? Well, Mr. Levin says, at least “Trump has opened the way” to a “national discussion.”
It's a lucky thing for conservatives that the likeliest alternative to Mr. Trump for the nomination is the very “establishment Republican” Marco Rubio, the non-jerk of the season who could actually win in November. Too bad his task will be that much harder thanks to the ideological drunks who, when they knew better, cheered the Donald on.