Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ed Schultz: Talk radio on the side of the angels 

Interesting story in (again, of all places) MSNBC:

Ed Schultz comes from Bush country and looks like it. At 6 feet 2 and 250 pounds, his idea of the good life is eating wings, fishing for walleye and watching football on TV. He passionately defends his right to own a gun, eat a steak and drive a Suburban. He loves his nation, his wife and his son, who plays golf for Texas Christian. He's the kind of guy the president might grab in a rope line, give a fake jab to the gut and call by his nickname, "Big Eddie," just like a friend.

But Schultz doesn't want to be George W. Bush's buddy. For three hours every day he rails against Bush on his nationally syndicated radio show from Fargo, N.D., calling the administration "government by the rich, for the rich" and Bush's policies an "axis of bankruptcy." The White House is listening. When Bush came to Fargo this month, Schultz's producer was barred from attending the event (the White House blamed local officials). "Is this what the president thinks of us folks in the heartland?" Schultz asked his listeners. "He's afraid!"

Damn straight.

Schultz isn't interested in just preaching to the converted. He wants to do something even more ambitious: save souls behind conservative lines. So far, he's had tremendous success. He's been sitting behind a mike in Fargo for 20 years, but during the past 12 months he's gone national in a big way. Schultz has the fastest growing radio show since Rush Limbaugh's—81 markets and counting. He can be heard inside Republican fortresses like Waco, Texas, and Phoenix, Ariz. His syndicator, Jones Radio Networks, says he'll be on the air in 150 to 200 markets by the end of this year.

Schultz's secret is to borrow liberally from the Limbaugh playbook of exaggeration and simplification. When Democrats fretted that Bush was secretly plotting against Iran, Schultz pounded away at the White House, breathlessly telling listeners, "This is the kind of stuff that happened back in the 1930s in Germany."

Damn straight. And it's very very interesting that this message is playing well in the heartland. Seems like the Beltway Dems, as so often, are the last to know.

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