Smiling Among a 'Den of Thieves'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, Rush Limbaugh goes "On the Record." And we are live in Phoenix, Arizona. We're going to tell you why in a moment, but first, Rush is here to talk about President Obama's trip to Latin America and his controversial handshake with Hugo Chavez that made headlines around the world. Rush joins us by phone.

Good evening, Rush. And Rush, what do you think about that handshake?

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST (Via telephone): Well, you know, a handshake is symbolism. There's things about this trip, Greta -- and thank you for having me on -- that are far more troubling. And a handshake is just a symbol. I mean, you almost have to do that if you're going to go into a room where Chavez is at one of these meetings. You have to either say in advance to the planning people, No handshakes, or I'm not going in there.

My biggest -- my biggest problem, and it's something that's very troubling to me, and I think it's very reckless. President Obama is willingly putting himself in the presence of people who despise this country, who make no bones about it. These people are dictators. They are people who hold political prisoners. They squash public dissent, and so forth. And he's asking acting as though they are close associates and good friends.

He sits around and smiles while they trash and destroy and criticize and rip the United States of America, particularly Chavez and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. You know, if it were me, if I were president of the United States and I had to go to one of these things, knowing full well the den of thieves that I'm going to be sitting around, I'm not going to sit there and take it if somebody starts trashing my country. When President Obama spoke after the 50-minute lunatic diatribe of Daniel Ortega and said, I'm just glad he didn't blame me for things that happened when I was only 3 months old, was all I needed to hear.

I think -- I think we're looking at somebody with a God or messianic complex, certainly narcissistic, who looks at these trips not just to Central America, South America and the G-20 in Europe -- looks at all these trips as making it about him. The United States was an immoral and unjust country until he was elected. Now, all of a sudden, it's on a bright path to a bright future when millions, 55 million Americans, who didn't vote for this have just the opposite fear. They have a concern that this country has seen its better days, and President Obama want to tear apart of the foundation that built this country into the greatest country in the world, American exceptionalism, and remake it in an image that's closer to something that would be approved of by Daniel Ortega and people like Hugo Chavez.

When Chavez gave him the book -- I mean, this is the book that has, I think (INAUDIBLE) blames the United States for virtually every evil under the sun, largely evils committed by the very people who've been running these countries into the ground, socialist dictators, Marxist dictators of one another. And President Obama said, Oh, I like to read. I like books, and so forth. I don't think he's going to find much in that book that is foreign to him. I don't think he's going to find much in the book that's strange to him.

His -- you know, his good friend, William Ayers, in November of 2006 went down to an education forum that was held in Caracas, Venezuela, and praised the socialist economic system of Hugo Chavez, which basically teaches that capitalism is slime, that America is slime and militaristic and responsible for the problems of the world, the purpose of education is to teach religion, anti-capitalism, anti-militarism.

I mean, I -- I -- it's just -- it's very frightening, and I think it's very naive, and I think what Vice President Cheney said tonight with Sean Hannity is right on the money. It's reckless. He's sending a signal around the world to people who intend us and other people harm that he doesn't see much wrong with them and that he thinks he can forge an understanding with them because he's somehow morally superior to every previous president and administration that we've had in this country.

So it's -- I -- I just -- it really troubles me. I try to find humor in everything, and I think that to start telling jokes about this and being humorous about it too much would be to ignore the seriousness of it all.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you predict is going to happen between the United States and Cuba or the United States and Venezuela after this trip?

LIMBAUGH: Well, I don't care what happens with Cuba and Venezuela. I mean, I -- they're what they are, and if we have changes of policy with them, they're going to -- in Venezuela's case, Hugo Chavez has a 70 percent approval rating, and he doesn't think that's high enough. He wants it to go to 80 percent or 85, so he's nationalizing more media.

But the people in that country -- it's amazing how dictators and Marxists are able to persuade their followers that they're headed toward a paradise. Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book described a time that he was in prison, in the gulag, and it was announced that Stalin had died and every prisoner where Solzhenitsyn was started crying. They were so sad that Stalin had -- Stalin's the guy that put them there. Stalin's the guy that put them in prison.

So what you have here is you've got all this turmoil happening around the world, turmoil happening in the United States. People who voted for Obama (INAUDIBLE) he doesn't know about it. It's like Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security memo, where he, you know, targets right- wing conservatives as potential threats to the United States. The people I've talked to -- Obama didn't know that. He wouldn't say that. That's just Janet Napolitano as a rogue secretary. She didn't write it, he did. I mean, she's simply echoing the vision, which is what he says he's providing as president.

You know, I would -- I would say if the Department of Homeland Security is going to start targeting right-wingers because of Timothy McVeigh, that maybe the Department of Homeland Security ought to keep a sharp of eye on Bill Ayers and his buddies, who are Obama's friends. These are people that killed cops, blew up the Pentagon, wanted to blow up Congress, and so forth.

As for Cuba and Venezuela -- back to your original question -- I'm more concerned what's going to happen to the United States without whatever ties or relationships with have to these countries. I'm much more concerned that the -- I think there's an operating philosophy that Barack Obama has. You can see it in the economics of his administration. I think he really believes -- want to understand what he's doing -- he thinks it's his job to return the wealth of this nation to its, quote, unquote, "rightful owners." I think he's one of these people that does believe that achievers, affluent people have somehow come by it in an ill-gotten way. They've stolen it from the rightful owners, the poor, the middle class, and he's going to -- he's going to give it back. He's going to penalize achievement and affluence and redistribute it to an ever-larger group of people who is going to be convinced -- are going to be convinced (INAUDIBLE) work for it.

So I'm -- you know, to the extent that he sees in Chavez a kindred spirit, to the extent that he sees in Daniel Ortega a visionary, to the extent that he looks at -- and he runs around very -- he runs around and says to all these people, the old, tired debates of the past -- we got them -- and that's just -- you know, to people who don't like partnership and people who don't like bickering, why that's just -- that's magic! And they think, Wow, Obama really wants to get past all this. That's nothing but pure demagoguery.

He is actually besmirching the history of his own country when he says to foreign leaders, like these that hate us, that we've got to get past the old, tired debates of the past. The old, tired debates of the past were built upon what's best for America, what's best for American interests. He was elected to represent American interests, not to usurp and rewrite the Constitution.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about his trip to Mexico? Did he gain anything by his trip to Mexico?

LIMBAUGH: He hasn't gained anything anywhere he's gone. He didn't get anything he wanted in the G-20. And if you read the British papers -- and it's fascinating. The British press, which is not personally invested in the presidency or the election of Obama -- if you read their papers, even The Guardian, even some of the left-wing papers, I mean, you read what a joke the trip was, what an absolute failure it was from his point of view.

He did not get troops for Afghanistan. He got 5,000 trainers. He caved in on a couple things that he didn't want to give up. I -- the trip to Mexico -- I mean, everywhere he goes, Greta, he's just apologizing for the United States. I mean, it's one apology after another, apologizes to Mexico, even though we sent them a $25 billion bail-out check in the '90s. We're employing half of their workforce in this country, and he goes down there and he apologizes to them, he apologizes to Europe for all the mistakes that our country has made? He's outdone Bill Clinton in this.

And it's not healthy. I mean, the world -- (INAUDIBLE) the United States is a great nation at risk in a dangerous world, and the people who pose the greatest threat to us (INAUDIBLE) and whether they've in caves in Pakistan, whether they're in capitals like Moscow or Caracas or Beijing, they have to be laughing. They have to -- what -- what -- this is going to be easier than we thought. This guy is actually going to give us part of this country in order to make us like him because he thinks his country's so damn guilty (INAUDIBLE)

I -- I just -- I'm bemused by it, and I'm also a little frightened by it because I don't see how it can be stopped. I mean, the Republicans in the House don't have the votes to stop anything. I look at the latest polls. He's got 88 percent approval among liberal Democrats and Democrats in general. And I don't think -- I don't think Reagan ever had that kind of approval among conservatives. This is -- it's scary, this cult-like following that he's got, which pays no attention to the specifics of what he says or what he's doing. So I don't know how it can be stopped, and it's -- you know, it's -- there are cycles that are going to have to take place, and he's going to have to keep doing more of these things. Eventually, at some point, he's going to overreach, and hopefully, some people will wake up and say, This is not what I voted for.

VAN SUSTEREN: What happened to the Republican Party that they lost the House, the Senate and the White House?

LIMBAUGH: Well, you know, you -- there's a -- there's a bunch of different answers to that, and there are probably as many answers as there are commentators that want to try to answer it. I think one of the things that happened to the Republicans is that they forgot what elected them and they just got caught up in the whole power scheme that is Washington, D.C.

I mean, I laugh when I hear people say, Well, you know, for Obama, it's all about power. Washington's about power for everybody. It always has been. That's not -- if you don't understand that, you're never going to understand politics, and it's not something that's taught in Civics 101 in junior high school. It's purely about power. And the Republicans tried to cement theirs in ways that was not genuine to them. They tried to out- Democrat Democrats. We created a new entitlement bill for Medicare. We don't do that. We don't grow government that way. We don't try to buy votes.

The Republicans try to -- I mean, you can say that Republicans didn't en masse, but it was a Republican, Senator McCain and President Bush, that tried to grant amnesty that 12 or 20 million Americans -- this is not what Republicans or conservatives do. You had Republicans running away from one of the core identities of Republicanism, small government, less taxes, government growth, economic prosperity for everybody.

And as such, what's happened now is that the Republican Party and the conservative movement -- which are two different things now -- both have factions who are trying to take over and redefine what Republicanism is. And the conservatives are trying to redefine what conservatism is. And some of these factions have things in common.

One of them that's potentially very bad for us is that they have -- some of these conservative intelligentsia types among Republicans think, Well, look, the American people have spoken, and they want big government and they want government growing and they want government giving them their health care. We as Republicans, we as conservatives must recognize this and we must figure out a way to tell them we're for that but do it in a smarter way.

We're never going to win elections that way. The Democrats own that. Liberal Democrats own big government and giving things away, robbing the rich to pay for it. There's no way the Republicans can do that.

So incumbent in that is, of course, listening to too many polls. It's just I think overall, the Republican Party, conservative movement, has abandoned principle in exchange for trying to come up (INAUDIBLE) play funny little games that they think are smart, which are not, about policy in a competition to hoodwink voters. You don't need to hoodwink them. You just need to outline a set of philosophies and principles that you believe in, build policy around that, and treat people with intelligence and respect. Tell them the greatness of the country depends on them, not Washington getting even with people who seem to be doing too well.

There's a blueprint for a landslide victory for Republicans that happened in the 1980s. It happened in 1994. And it's amazing to me that there are conservative Republicans who just want to cast it aside and pretend that it doesn't exist.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who do you admire and why?

LIMBAUGH: Say that again a little slower?

VAN SUSTEREN: Who do you admire and why?

LIMBAUGH: In what, in politics?

VAN SUSTEREN: Anything -- politics, theater, music, anything.

LIMBAUGH: Oh, gee! You know, this is when I have brain freezes. It's like asking me what my favorite movie is. Who do I admire and why? Well, you know, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: You like the Humane Society.


VAN SUSTEREN: The Humane Society.


LIMBAUGH: Well, now, you're getting into politics. If you want to talk about things that -- I admire a lot of people that nobody even knows, and they're, you know, hard-working people who are trying to struggle against all of this, just trying to be the best they can be, fighting against the odds, working harder than they ever have to overcome the obstacles in their way. And those are people that, you know, you really to take inspiration from. And I admire people who are not afraid to speak out -- you know (INAUDIBLE) and people in the arts.

I mean, I'm sure there are some -- I admire Camille Paglia. I admire her brilliance. I admire Krauthammer and Victor Davis Hanson and Justice Scalia. I mean, if I wished -- if I didn't have my own brain, I wish I had theirs. Satisfied with mine. But there's a tremendous -- Clarence Thomas.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about...

LIMBAUGH: Number of people I admire.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the media? How about the media?

LIMBAUGH: Well, you know...

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your thought on the media?

LIMBAUGH: Greta, the tea parties of last week I think were the best illustration yet of what the media has become. Media -- and by media -- let me define it. I call it the drive-by, but the mainstream media. You've got the New York-Washington axis. You've got the magazines that publish in New York and Washington. Now, the big three networks -- you have NBC, CBS and ABC. You have CNN. And most of the major daily large- city newspaper, plus the Associated Press. That's -- that's the drive-by media. And they have -- they have -- they have thrown journalism away for advocacy, activism and agenda-oriented politics. They've made no bones about it.

I was talking to a friend last week -- the tea party ratings -- FOX News, as you well know, had two to three times the other networks combined in covering what went on at the tea parties. We all know the disaster that Susan Roesgen was at CNN.

Somebody said to me, Rush, they had 600,000 viewers in primetime at CNN compared to 4 or 5 million over at FOX. How can they survive? And I was telling this person they don't think they've got a problem. They look at the FOX -- CNN. They look at the FOX audience as a cult audience. They look at their own audience, CNN's own audience -- there's (ph) a real news people -- and they're sitting there and they're thinking -- they're laughing. They're having a great time. They think they're doing serious journalism while you and everybody else at FOX are just leading a cult of mind-numbed robots.

The person said, But they've got -- they've got to be -- they can't be making money here. I said, Look, if -- they may not be, but they don't care. Time Warner will use them as a loss leader. CNN is a -- it's a -- it's a vanity project. It's -- it tells all the people at Time Warner and everybody in New York CNN's cool. They got Anderson Cooper. They have 600,000 viewers. They've got the real news viewers. They've got -- we were for Obama. We're the good people, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They don't -- they don't have to make money.

If they fired everybody that put that thing together, the whole network, who would they replace them with? They're not going to do anything differently than what they do. Neither is Time. Neither is Newsweek. They aren't going to change. And it's -- it's just -- it's amazing to watch. We need to -- we need a new term for what is happening, is journalistic malpractice, because these people are not living up to the constitutional privileges that they were granted by the Founding Fathers.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rush, as always, thank you for joining us. I hope you'll come back soon. Thank you, Rush.

LIMBAUGH: I also admire you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Rush.

LIMBAUGH: All right. See you later.

VAN SUSTEREN: I appreciate that. Thank you, Rush.


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