Without President Barack Obama to kick around or criticize starting Friday, what will become of the talk radio hosts and conservative cable TV news pundits who made a living dissing the 44th president’s policies and pronouncements?
Obama and Rush Limbaugh had a dust-up just this week when the president lobbed a charge during an NBC interview that the radio host ought to accept blame for the partisanship that dogged his administration. Limbaugh called that a “crock,” arguing that the president is in Washington and Limbaugh is not.
The Obama/conservative talk tilt can be traced back to the 2008 presidential race. It amped up in 2009 when talk radio and cable pundits mobilized mad-as-hell conservatives and tea party factions to attack the Obama administration for appointing czars, for the $787 billion stimulus package and for working with the Democratic-controlled Congress to push the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through — which brought us to Obamacare.
So now what? Without Obama in the White House and with Obamacare on the ropes, in what direction will conservative talk radio and cable news pundits aim their criticisms — or will they shrivel and diminish without their reliable adversary?
Not likely. Just as the apparent end of the Cold War after the Reagan years promised a “peace dividend,” the end of the Obama Wars is signaling to some in conservative broadcasting a “respectability dividend.” And they intend to cash in on their momentum.
The post-Obama era “is going to be the golden age of talk radio,” said Kevin Miller, morning host of 580 KIDO radio. “It’s a great day for America. Finally, we have a president not afraid to tell it like it is.”
Miller, whose Treasure Valley show is billed as “a blend of humor, politics and conservative outlook,” has been at this for a long time in multiple markets. He’s not going to be surprised if the Donald Trump administration routinely invites talk radio and cable news conservatives to the White House press room.
“Looking forward to a lot of people like myself, who were in exile, coming back out and being mainstream once again,” Miller said. “We were all marginalized bad guys during the Obama administration.”
Nate Shelman, afternoon show host for NewsTalk 670 KBOI in Boise, said by email that a new presidential administration, regardless of party, ought to be business as usual, and present challenges:
“Holding President Trump to the same level of criticisms as President Obama. Uses of executive orders, spending, military involvements, national security, general behaviors, health insurance, illegal immigration, Planned Parenthood funding, gun rights, and that’s just a start. Under the overall title of ‘conservative’ there are many subtitles: Neo, fiscal, social, limited, and so on. Donald Trump’s allure is that he really doesn’t fit into any one particular category.”
While he won’t speak to how Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Mark Levin will handle each day’s show, “I can guess that they’ll be rooting for (Trump’s) success as opposed to rooting for his failures.” But he wants to remind people that these same talk show hosts “were heavily critical of George W. Bush’s spending, his advocacy for the Patriot Act, and incursions into Iraq.”
“I talk about the news. I talk about the issues. I do not endorse, campaign or donate to any candidates. I do not belong to any political party,” Shelman wrote. “I have not made a career just criticizing Obama, I’ve made a career criticizing politicians. All politicians, lawmakers, lobbyists, any and every part of the public sector. That is the way it should be.”