Rush Limbaugh's Prescience, Donovan McNabb's Mediocrity, and Sarah Palin's Future

Rush was right. He said on cable back in 2003 that NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was a largely mediocre player whom the elite sports media had tried to elevate to legendary status because he's black -- the football prelude to Barack Obama, so to speak. And for that bit of factually accurate but politically incorrect commentary, Rush was forced to resign from his gig as a commentator for ESPN and later denied the chance to buy an NFL franchise.

So what does this have to do with Sarah Palin? Everything -- for in Rush's prescience, McNabb's mediocrity, and the media's viciousness, we have a glimpse of the future for Sarah Palin.

Stay with me in this, a tale of race, media lies, and the ruthless attempt to destroy a humble commentator whose burdensome humility has caused him to claim that he's right a mere 99.7% of the time. Stay with me and you'll see what will come at Sarah Palin as she ponders and, perhaps, pursues the presidency while possessing every characteristic despised by our media elites (unapologetically pro-Israel, pro-life, committed to family, fiscally conservative, etc.).

Let's begin with the new contract announced last week between Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was traded this summer by the Philadelphia Eagles after eleven years of sometimes good, usually mediocre play before fans who ultimately "view the McNabb era as a disappointment." The contract came after McNabb's being yanked from a game in which the media consensus was that "he played poorly." Meanwhile, many in the media took pains to point out that the contract is  "not as rich as it seems," but simply a smart move for the Redskins that gives them as much security as possible at the lowest price while they shop for another quarterback -- a good quarterback.  

Does McNabb occupy the high end of mediocrity or the low end of good? To that I shrug -- who cares? The verdict is in, and McNabb "is consistently a merely above average quarterback with flashes of brilliance who has never justified the hype surrounding him." In a post-racial NFL, with dozens of African-American quarterbacks and coaches, when skin color is irrelevant and performance is everything, the media has moved on to other causes and targets.

It wasn't always that way. Without admitting it, the face of the mainstream media consensus has caught up to Rush, who seven years before had pronounced McNabb's playoff performance overrated by journalists more interested in promoting university-style diversity in the NFL than assessing his efforts. McNabb "got a lot of credit" for the play of a Philadelphia team that "he didn't deserve" because journalists were "very desirous that a black quarterback do well," America's most popular radio talk show host said. For this bit of truth-telling, Rush was forced to resign from his ESPN commentator slot. Reality: both then and now, McNabb had "superstar status but not superstar stats."

A quick check of the Wall Street Journal's Factiva research database shows McNabb described by major media outlets as a "great" or a "star" about as often as they have extolled the virtues of football legends Joe Montana and John Elway, just under Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, and ahead of Steve Young and Dan Marino. Here is a rough indicator, but an indicator nonetheless, of the diversity-driven screaming of journalists with an agenda, equating a quarterback roughly half as successful as the game's greats with the game's greats. Looking back at the affair, even the reliably leftist Slate, owned by the Washington Post, had to admit that Rush "pretty much spoke the truth" and "lost his job for saying in public what many football fans and analysts have been saying privately."

Fast-forward to 2009. Rush is denied the opportunity to invest in the St. Louis Rams by the National Football League after a "transparently phony collection of racist quotes" were portrayed as real by some of the nation's most prestigious media outlets. When confronted with the fact that none of the quotes attributed to the conservative talk show host were real (American Thinker traced the source to a liberal law firm in New York City with links to prominent Democrats), the media response was that (a) the McNabb remarks showed that Rush was a racist, and (b) even if he did not say, for example, that slavery had "its merits," this is how he thinks, and the quotations were therefore an accurate reflection of his views.

So what does this tell us?

1. Truth doesn't matter to the elite media. What matters is the cause and doing everything possible to further that cause. Rush Limbaugh was right about Donovan McNabb in 2003, and the buzz in NFL locker rooms backed him up -- McNabb was overrated, boosted by New York-Washington journalists trying to further the career of a mediocre quarterback whom they had anointed the central figure in the media narrative to advance social justice. But as with political and cultural coverage, the elite sports media narrative did not conform to reality. NFL coaches had no "doubts about the ability of black athletes to handle football's most glamorous and pressure-packed job." Inside the NFL and college football, there was simply no controversy. At least eight blacks had started at the position in the same season when Rush offered his views. And in college, black quarterbacks and coaches were common.

But for the elite media, the truth was beside the point. They wanted, indeed needed, a myth as the set piece of their journalism. The view from the sports newsrooms at the networks, at the New York Times and Washington Post, was that white NFL fans, coaches, and management believed blacks could not play the premiere skill position. They thought blacks too dumb...but don't worry, we're with you, brothers, down with the struggle -- and would you make that a half-calf skim latte, please, as we ponder our struggle for social justice?

2. Rush Limbaugh spoke the truth...and for that reason, he had to be destroyed. Rush has a genius for truth-telling, but truth is a sometimes thing in mainstream journalism. Instead, the social justice narrative reigns. That's why not a single mainstream journalism outlet can match FOX News in fairness -- so said, for example, a study at the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. And that's why new media such as American Thinker cause anxiety in elite media journalists, who now find themselves repeatedly faced by...truth. When new media again exposed the fallacies of reporting in the New York Times, the reporter groused that internet bloggers should stop "sitting around in their pajamas" and checking the work of real journalists.

3. Sarah Palin can expect a "Rush" to judgment by the mainstream media. Reporters and commentators from every prestigious conventional journalism outlet will use distortions, innuendo, and outright lies to keep her from succeeding. For example, Washington Post columnist and CNN show host Katherine Parker proudly claimed leadership of the "assassination" of Palin by mainstream media. She and her colleagues will continue, and then some.

After all, truth is optional -- this is journalism we're talking about.

Stuart Schwartz, formerly a media and consumer merchandising executive, is on the faculty of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.