Tuesday, March 06, 2012

EDITORIAL >> A successor in waiting

Mike Huckabee will soon kick off his syndicated radio talk show to compete with Rush Limbaugh, whose program is in serious trouble after his mindless attack last week on a young Georgetown University Law School student named Sandra Fluke. Some 25 advertisers have quit Limbaugh’s program.

Although Huckabee’s talk show was first announced several weeks ago, he is certain to benefit from Limbaugh’s meltdown. The former governor should provide a sane conservative alternative to Rush’s tiresome old shtick — and we mean old and tiresome: Much of his audience has abandoned him over the years, and his ratings, in any case, were often exaggerated. More accurate measures of the number of people listening to the program confirm a steep decline. He now ranks eighth in the Washington radio market.

Huckabee has always done well on radio and he has a successful weekend show on Fox News. He’s an engaging personality with a country preacher’s soothing voice who can sugarcoat his prejudices without hurting too many feelings. He didn’t have much of a chance of unseating the radio king until last week, when Limbaugh went wild and just couldn’t shut up about the young woman. (“Ms. Fluke, who bought your condoms in junior high?” he asked.)

Limbaugh, a college dropout who has struggled with a drug dependency for years, picked the wrong fight with a much smarter adversary. He called her “a slut,” “a prostitute” and “a feminazi” and suggested she should perform in sex videos for his personal edification if she wanted free contraceptives. Actually, she pays for health insurance at Georgetown Law School, whose insurance policies do not offer contraceptives to students and employees. But even Georgetown has defended her right to speak out and has called Limbaugh’s outbursts unacceptable.

His radio syndicate says Limbaugh was engaging in “absurdist humor.” Absurd yes, but what’s funny about calling a young woman a prostitute and a slut on the air for three days? Shock jock Don Imus was mild-mannered in comparison. He called the women’s Rutgers University basketball team “nappy-head hos” once. Overnight, it destroyed Imus’ 45-year-radio career.

Imus met with the basketball team and said he was sorry, but his syndicated program was still canceled. Imus is now on the low-rated Fox Business News Channel, where he’s urged Limbaugh to apologize to Ms. Fluke in person.

Limbaugh knows he blew it this time and has issued several tepid apologies. He’ll probably have to apologize to Ms. Fluke a few more times if he wants to stay on the air, or follow Glenn Beck to the Internet. Beck went online after advertisers dropped him for racist remarks.

Huckabee seldom resorts to name calling. He’s not a racist. He’ll tell you what he believes. Even when he’s disagreeable, especially when he pardoned killers and rapists when he was governor, he didn’t return our criticism with insults.

Good luck with the new radio show, governor. Here’s hoping you’ll bring more civility to the airwaves.