This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Oct. 18, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: A short time ago, I spoke with our friend, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, in an exclusive and rare television interview. How are you doing?
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I am never better. Great to be back with you.
HANNITY: You don't like to do a lot of these interviews. You don't do a lot of them.
LIMBAUGH: No, I've found my niche, you know? I like doing my radio program. And I like keeping myself sort of special and exclusive to the radio audience. And when you do three hours of radio a day — as you well know — there's not much else left to say that day when you go somewhere else and say it.
Now, the advantage you have is that you get to mess around with Alan, who's always going to fire you up with things.
HANNITY: Yes, and he always does, by the way.
And he's a big fan of yours, too.
LIMBAUGH: Oh, I love Colmes. I think Alan's great. I think he takes a lot of abuse from his own side. I admire him for sticking up for himself.
HANNITY: He does. He does.
We are in the "Lion King" theater. And you're doing a big fund-raiser. There's going to be a big check given by you, because of your efforts here tonight, to the Katrina relief aid. Tell us about that.
LIMBAUGH: Well, this is something that the people at WABC, which is the mammoth flagship radio station here in New York that carries both of our programs, has been asking me to do this for six months or a year, you know? And I've said, "OK, but maybe down the road."
This came together. They found this date at the "Lion King" theater. And it just came together, what with Katrina and the timing with that. So, it gave us an opportunity to do this where the benefit is somebody else. And it always makes it much easier.
HANNITY: It sold out, literally, I think, in, what, 20 or 30 minutes?
LIMBAUGH: Twenty or 30 minutes it sold out, which is cool...
That blows my mind.
HANNITY: Wow. I think it's a testimony. You just started your 18th year in syndication.
LIMBAUGH: August 1st of 1988.
HANNITY: And the "Rush Limbaugh Show" still, by far, the biggest in the country. Nobody comes close. And that's got to be a good feeling for you.
LIMBAUGH: I don't feel much different today than I did when it first started, in the sense that I still have to prove myself everyday. People say, "Ah, you know, by this time, you can just show up and everybody's just going to accept it."
It's not that way.
You know, if you look at what's happened, August of 1988, when I started, we still had CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, whatever, the two newspapers, and that was it. CNN was it. There was no FOX News. Talk radio starts in August of 1988.
And one of the things that makes me happiest and proudest is that the talk radio venue, the whole market has expanded. There are all kinds of people doing it now, than the successful ones are conservatives.
And yet the pie has gotten bigger. Nobody took my audience. Nobody's taken yours. We've all established our own audiences.
And the business has gotten bigger. The universe of audience has gotten bigger. And I think it coincides with a triumph of conservatism as a way of life for more and more people in America. So it's had real meaning, too, in addition to just being fun.
HANNITY: I was listening to you on my way into work and you mentioned liberal radio. And I could see you rolling your eyes and you saying, "They just don't get it."
LIMBAUGH: I have a practice of really not talking about the competition. I'm from the old school. In my mind they don't even exist.
Psychologically, when I sit down at noon, I'm it. I'm the only thing on. Nobody else does what I do. Nobody else has the opportunity. That's the psychological mindset. It's not an ego thing; it's just the way I've always approached it.
I started radio in 1967 and you never talked about the competition. You just never did. You didn't elevate them. You didn't promote them. You didn't give them credence. You didn't give them viability. You didn't even establish that they were alive.
And it's fascinating to me to watch liberal radio attempt. They think, I think, that you just announce you're going to start, and you'll get 20 million people and so forth. I find it fascinating they cannot make themselves a commercial success. They're already now out begging their listeners to send in money doing the NPR rip-off.
And I don't think they have, as liberals, the slightest understanding of the commercial aspects of the success that it takes in radio, particularly talk radio. They're in funding, and donations and stealing money from little boys and girls clubs and so forth — not stealing it, but having strange transactions go on there and so forth.
You look at them and, for a moment, you almost feel sorry for them. Then you realize, "No, they don't exist." And they don't pose a threat. I mean, they don't have an understanding of what works on radio. They don't understand about how the business works. They have no business model whatsoever.
They got a bunch of political activists to put it together rather than businesspeople. It's just fascinating to watch this thing flow on.
But the most amazing thing about it is to watch how it is portrayed as a success by those who champion it elsewhere in the media.
HANNITY: I've never seen anybody get more media than some of these other guys out there. It is fascinating, though. You know your brother has been my lawyer for a lot of years, so we have a connection here, but, you have a family of lawyers.
You got behind the radio microphone for the first time. What happened? You just fell instantly in love?
LIMBAUGH: My family is all lawyers. Most people when they come on shows like this, "I'm proud of the first member of my family to get a college education."
Well, my whole family was obsessed with going to college and they're lawyers, professional people, because they grew up in the Depression. That was the formative experience in my father and grandfather's lives.
When there's no work to be had, competition for jobs is intense. And it was a college degree back then that got you your leg up and your foot in the door.
We haven't gone through anything like that in this country. And so I could only try to understand it, but I was just fortunate, or stupid, or whatever. But I was stubborn and I knew what I wanted to do and stuck to it.
My reason for liking radio was two-fold: I love music, and I hated school. And I hated school from second grade on.
And I'd get up in the morning, get ready to go to school, and I would dread it. I hated it. My mother would have the radio on. And the guy on the radio sounded like he was having so much fun. And I knew, when his program was over, he wasn't going to go to school.
So that's what I wanted to do. Fortunately, my father encouraged me, or didn't stop me, because it was the one thing when I was a kid that I didn't quit that I had taken up. It was the one thing I really had a passion for.
And he had owned a little bit of a radio station when we were growing up and sold it to some guy. Obviously, he knew who the guy was. And I got a chance to go in and intern. And that's all it took. And I was hooked.
HANNITY: You still have that passion, I can tell. I know you for a long time. You still have the passion today.
You look at the Bush presidency. You look at the vote that took place in Iraq. What do you think? What are your thoughts on this president now, George W. Bush?
LIMBAUGH: I thought in the first term that he had a chance to go down as one of the greatest presidents in history — his fortitude and courage in staying the course on the war, and all these other things. You know, I've been an adult paying attention to politics probably since I was 10 or 11. I don't remember anybody more hated and vilified than Nixon. Reagan was a second close.
But I'll tell you, the way that George Bush has been dealt with, it borders on Nixonian, the way the personal disgust and hatred is for him, not just by the Washington, D.C., culture, but now mainstream — the base I describe as the new kook base that they have — literally filled with uncontrollable rage and hatred.
And yet he's stayed the course on this. I think the president has gone out of his way to make friends with these people. It hasn't worked. He's bent over backwards. He's extended the hand of friendship, lets Ted Kennedy write the education bill and so forth.
And it just proves something that I've always thought: As far as the liberals are concerned, this is war, control the country, power, any sign of friendship or "Hey, I'd rather get along with you than disagree with you," is received by them, perceived as a sign of weakness.
And it doesn't make them nicer. It doesn't make them more cooperative. It doesn't make them more willing to get along. It makes them think that their opponent can be rolled.
HANNITY: You wrote an op-ed yesterday in the "Wall Street Journal." "This isn't a conservative or a Republican crack-up. This is a crack-down." Explain that.
LIMBAUGH: I guess what inspired this was two things. Howard Fineman and some of the other people on the left are just gleefully watching what's happening on the right. And they think that finally this Republican coalition of conservatives is splitting and falling apart.
And the reason they're so giddy is because they don't have on the left an agenda of their own they can advance. They don't have any unity themselves. They don't have anything but whining, moaning and complaining.
They've been after conservatives, Bush and others, for five years, trying to criminalize some, discredit others. So here comes this Miers nomination. And what's actually happening among conservatives is a debate of ideas.
You know, if you look in American politics today, across the spectrum, the debate of ideas is occurring on the right. The left doesn't have the guts to tell us what they believe. They don't have the courage to be honest about it. They're all about masking who they really are.
And they look at this and misunderstand it, because if it were happening to them, it would be deep trouble, which it is happening to them and they won't admit it. They've got a new base of supporters that is as extreme, anti-war kook as you can — but they're the fund-raisers. They're the people that are really dictating the direction of the party.
And the Democrats themselves are trying to figure out how to marginalize those people and still figure out to get a candidate that moves to the center, be pro-war, admits he goes to church. Who would you rather be? I'd rather be us.
What happens when these debates take place is that we forge even more unity, we find out what it is we truly believe. Everybody gets to listen to us debate these ideas. Nobody holds back. Nobody's dishonest.
We're not afraid to be who we are. We're proud to admit it, flex our muscles. We're proud to be conservative. We want everybody to know who we are so they'll join us. We want to persuade them.
So here comes this little debate over Harriet Miers. They've been trying to destroy this Bush presidency for five years and they think this is going to do it. I wanted to write this piece to say, "The real crack-up is on the left."
And I find it interesting. All the people in the media who focused on this column have missed that. They have focused on the part of this column where they think I'm taking out after Bush. "Oh, Limbaugh now on Bush's case." And that's not what this is about.
HANNITY: Well, I've been listening to you in this Harriet Miers debate. Look, you don't think this was the best choice. That's it. And you're saying so publicly.
LIMBAUGH: Well, it is tough. I mean, it's not my pick. I didn't get elected president. And I don't presume to think that the White House should do what I say.
You know, my program's done for the American people, for the audience. My audience is not in Washington and it's not in the White House. I don't know if they listen. I don't know if they care what I say. Well, they may care what I say if it goes against them, but I don't have a direct line to them.
But my point with this is: It's just so unnecessary. It's just such a pity. It needn't have happened, this particular choice.
The thing that people have asked me, "Well, Rush, how did this happen? This is a well-oiled White House. They don't make mistakes here. They come up, and they do everything as smooth as silk, and how did they botch this?"
Now, the left is trying to chalk it up to Rove and Plame. And I don't think that has anything to do with it — or Andy Card. I think it has to do with a misunderstanding among some of the White House over who the conservative constituency is.
They think it's a single-issue group of people based on abortion. And I think they thought that if they just get a candidate out there that can people can be persuaded to believe is going to do the right thing on Roe vs. Wade, that they would have the base in their back pocket and they could move on.
I think they misunderstand that, because the conservative movement's not monolithic. It's not made up of single-issue people. Some of them are, but there are a lot more people who have far more interest than just one issue.
Where abortion's concerned, — pro-abortion, anti-abortion — Roe vs. Wade is bad law. I know a lot of people who are all right with abortion who think that Roe vs. Wade is bad law.
And the reason it's bad law is because seven judges decided on their own to see that the Constitution says, "Yes, there's a right to abortion," when it doesn't say that.
Now, if nine men, a majority of nine men and women in robes, lawyers, can say, "Yep, I see this in the Constitution and therefore it's the law of the land," then the Constitution's irrelevant.
HANNITY: Were they avoiding a fight? Are conservatives saying, "This is our defining moment, an opportunity was missed here to explain to the American people exactly what this debate over the courts is about?"
LIMBAUGH: I think that's key, because for 40 years there have been people working on establishing and building the conservative movement or ideology. It's a way of life. It's a way of thinking about the country and things.
And the way it was done was to educate and inform as many people as possible, get them to the polls and vote, so that this transformation of power that has happened is legitimate. It's not from spin. It's not through lying. It's not through telling people something that's not true.
We've created a genuine base of people who are conservative and we're doing what we're told we had to do, create majorities.
This was an excellent opportunity to continue the information and education of the American people about the judiciary, what's gone wrong with the court and so forth. I said it first, and it appeared to me that the pick came from a standpoint of weakness.
And what I really meant by that was that the Democrats were going to look at it as weak. I mean, if we're going to nominate a stealth candidate about whom little is known and do an end-run to get somebody confirmed, look at what the left does.
I mean, Clinton's president. Here's Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ACLU membership, Stephen Breyer — no question who these people are — and they get 96 votes or 92 votes. This need to do an end-run is, yes, it's disappointing and it's puzzling, if that's what this was.
She may be fine. Harriet Miers could be one of the best justices on the court. The problem here is that we don't know. We're being asked again to roll the dice and so forth when it's not thought to be...
HANNITY: Hasn't worked out well for Republicans in the past. Prior to Roberts, seven of nine appointed by Republicans. Hardly a conservative court.
LIMBAUGH: I know. I know. And some of these people that were appointed were thought to be, at the time, pretty good. So that's why I have not joined the chorus of those who say she should withdraw her nomination or that the president should withdraw her nomination. I don't think it's necessary to do that. But the hearings will be, I think, firebrand and telling.
HANNITY: You mentioned the Democrats void of ideas, and then you talk about the criminalization of politics, which you mentioned both of those things. You got DeLay and Rove. Your thoughts on those things?
LIMBAUGH: The Democratic Party is stuck in the past. Their presumed glory years are Watergate and Iraq and they can't look forward. They don't look forward.
And what they're attempting to do here is relive these glory years by criminalizing or discrediting conservativism so that nobody will vote for it. If they can't beat us at the ballot box, we'll get the courts or the legal system to throw us out of office.
Watergate, that was a nirvana. Sean, they were having live orgasms back then.
And on the anniversaries of Watergate, they have live orgasms.
It was Vietnam. They're trying to create Iraq out of Vietnam. There are no similarities whatsoever. But those are their glory years.
And so since they really can't beat us at the ballot box — in the debate of ideas, in the arena of ideas, they do not win elections — they have to tell somebody things that they're not. And this is their only tactic, I think.
And, of course, they have allies in the mainstream press who have the same animus for people like DeLay and Rove. And it's a unified effort to try to make this all happen.
HANNITY: You ever envision a day Hillary Rodham Clinton's elected president in this country?
LIMBAUGH: You know, interesting question. People always mention Hillary's name to me, "Rush, Rush, what about Hillary?"
She puts her pants on one leg at a time like every other guy. She doesn't scare me.
I don't think looking at things through the prism of fear is going to accomplish anything. You can respect that she may be formidable and she may have the ability to get elected. What, we're just going to roll over and say, "OK, Mrs. Clinton, you are so powerful. You're the smartest one in the world. We don't even have the rights to open our eyes in your presence. You can have the White House."
What was that?
You know, this woman is one of the most divisive political figures in the country. And I think a thorough examination of her in debates will illustrate she's not the smartest woman in the world and there's no reason to be afraid of her.
HANNITY: Your love of the Reagan mantle of conservatism — you see the Republican arena, who do you look to? It's not McCain, but I've heard you talk about Senator McCain.
LIMBAUGH: You're funny.
HANNITY: Thanks. It's probably not Rudy Giuliani on social issues. Who do you see that holds the Reagan mantle that you'd like to see run and win?
LIMBAUGH: Now, I know time's running down, but let me see if I can squeeze this in. Because I did write in that op-ed that when conservatives start warring against each other like this — the last time this happened was 1976 through 1980. It led to two landslides, '80 and '84, but the ingredient there was Ronald Reagan.
Is there another Ronald Reagan out there? I don't know, I don't see one right on the horizon. But there's only one Ronald Reagan.
But now you're asking me for a name? You want a name?
HANNITY: You got one?
LIMBAUGH: It's early. The danger with mentioning names is that you hurt the feelings of people that you leave out. I'm going to leave some people out because of time constraints, but when I hear George Allen speak, there's a part of me, "Yes, rah-rah."
There's some people in the House — I know they're not running for president like Mike Pence — that are doing some great work. They need to be encouraged.
They need to be — I think the biggest problem with the Republican Party is the same thing with the Democrats. And Dick Morris — everybody's obsessed with this great middle. "We've got to somehow appeal to the middle."
So Republicans think they've got to be pro-choice and moderate on other social issues.
If you look at the Republicans that win elections, they're conservatives.
HANNITY: I agree.
LIMBAUGH: They're conservative from the first day to the last day, from the beginning of the day until the end of the day.
HANNITY: Rush, thanks for sitting down with us.
LIMBAUGH: Thank you, Sean. Appreciate it.
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