Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Conservative Talk Radio Show Hosts: A Review

The nature of my work, not to mention living in Southern California, has me in my car and on the road a lot. As a result I end up listening to most of the best-known talk radio hosts during any given week. Over time I've developed a feel for each of them; here is my admittedly subjective and very biased talk radio review. I'll address the shows in the order they are broadcast here in Los Angeles.

Bill Bennett's Morning In America. This one comes on very early, ending at 6:00 a.m. here, but when I am out for an early run or heading to an early meeting or airplane I listen with pleasure. Bennett is a gentle, thoughtful host, no matter whether his callers are brilliant analysts, "wing nuts" from either side of the spectrum, or are simply not very well-informed. A great program with insightful, leading commentary on the great issues of our time; I wish I could listen more.

Laura Ingraham. I listen to Laura almost every day, since she's on when I am either running in the morning or driving to work. I wish I could be completely positive but I cannot. I love her tough, positive attitude and am especially taken with her courage in her battle against cancer. As Laura herself would say, however, there's a "But Monkey" here: Laura wears on me. She just a little hard-edged. Rather than the gentle persuasion of a Bill Bennett, she's more of a jackhammer. She is contemptuous of, and unnecessarily rude to, callers with whom she disagrees. Her delivery is angry much of the time. She usually seems unwilling to consider points of view opposed to hers, or even slightly at odds with hers. Maybe I simply listen to her too much and need to take her in smaller doses.

Despite all that, I do listen to Laura every day, so there's something to her slogan about being a "healthy radio addiction." (I do switch to other stations several times during each Laura show, usually when she goes off on a rant about one of her pet subjects. She's especially tiresome on illegal immigration. Guess what? She's ferociously opposed to it!)

Dennis Prager. A fine and unusual show. There is no ranting here and Dennis is a gentleman to all. I enjoy the moral content of his show. Now and then Dennis's self-assured and carefully considered views come across as a little egotistical, sanctimonius, or both; and I don't think Dennis believes the State of Israel can do anything wrong. When Dennis gets to be too much, I switch to Rush Limbaugh. Rush is an institution, of course, and often has interesting things to say, but he's half entertainer and half commentator. The jaunty cigar-smoker schtick wears thin very quickly. Even so, because of who and what he has become, his views on politics are important and almost always interesting. I still need to take Rush in regulated doses!

Michael Medved. I'll usually flip back and forth between Medved and Sean Hannity, who are on at the same time here. Medved's world view is great, he can be profound, and I love his family-oriented values. I understand he is an Orthodox Jew, which makes me feel all the more affection for him and his religious commitment; he and I share a lot of common ground. I do occasionally tire of Medved's constant ringing defenses of Israel. (The fact is, I am a huge supporter of Israel; I simply tire of hearing about the unqualified perfection of Israel's position on every imaginable issue.) Medved's movie reviews are almost always spot-on as well.

Hannity often has great interviews and can be entertaining. There's not much depth to his show, however. We'll just leave it at that.

Hugh Hewitt. Simply the best. Smart, witty, patient, kind, energetic. A fine example of center-right thinking and a real leader in that movement. An exemplary and unabashed Christian as well. More focused on ideas and getting them implemented than on pure entertainment, which seems to be the focus of some other talk radio hosts. I could go on and on about my blogfather Hugh. I simply love his show and would listen to all three hours if I could, but I'm usually working when he's on.

Oh, man! Do I sound like a fan, or what? I guess I'd better add some balance. Let's see, once Hugh got carried away joking with Duane his producer about softball. And once or twice he has sounded a bit partisan. Such tiny peccadillos aside, I wish we had more like Hugh Hewitt.

Michael Savage. I can barely stand to listen to him. Now and then, when in the right mood, I can take him in tiny doses. It's just too much yelling, bombast, anger, venom, contempt, and ridicule for me. Savage gives conservatives a bad name. Frankly, I'd rather listen to NPR.

Northern Alliance Radio Network, accessible through Power Line. This one perhaps should not count because it is a Saturday afternoon show only, but if you happen to be on-line at that time, it is a fine place to hear witty, intelligent, and informative commentary.

Okay, those are my reviews. What do you think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I listen to the radio probably too much but I'm fairly familiar with most of these. My favorites are probably Medved, Limbaugh, and Hewitt in that order, but they're really close together. Unfortunately, Medved and Hewitt aren't in the DC area so I catch them occassionally on the internet.

Medved's autobiography (which came out this year) is excellent. Many of the others are good as well but I can't stand Hannity and especially Savage. Hannity just plugs what is coming on later on the show or on his TV show or schmoozes with a guest.

Savage is the embodiment of how I imagined Limbaugh as the MSM described him. When I finally listened to Limbaugh I learned the truth. I believe Savage does a lot of damage to the Right.  

Posted by David H. Sundwall

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 8:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to see Bennett's producers can wrestle him away from the craps tables long enough to do a radio show.

Hedgehog and Hewitt sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Kill me now. 

Posted by Virgil Simms

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 9:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with almost all of your assessments. I disagree with your assessment of Rush. Rush is the most entertaining and insightful. His ego gets in the way sometimes but I can deal with it because his analysis is spot on. Medved is brilliant but also a little egotistical at times. Hannity is too shallow. I really don't listen to him anymore. Hugh is good most of the time but he wears on me a little bit at times. Youleft out Larry Elder. He's pretty sharp but he also gets combative with those who disagree and so can wear on me a little bit. Laura's team is really good when it comes to the little audio bites. 

Posted by Troy Tate

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 9:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Living on the East Coast, I haven't had the opportunity to listen to the Blogfather Hugh for a few years now. Somehow the Hewitt Juggrenaut got iced over in the frozen tundra of Minnesota and has been unable to break free. I really miss it because the banter between Hugh and his producer Duane was so funny.

I've taken to listening to Laura Ingrahm in the morning, Rush in the afternoon, and a smidgeon of Hannity on the ride home. Being in close proximity to DC, the constant rightward influence keeps me sane. 

Posted by Cordeiro

Thursday, August 18, 2005 8:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good analogy of the conservative talk people. Rush gets a bit much at times but is hard to beat for framing issues and anticipating and analyzing what and the left is doing.He's been relying too much on blogs lately -a one hour show without the fill would work better. Forget his golf, football, cigars, and ego! Hannity is nearer to yellow journalism - (the run-a-way bride) etc. but on the right side and a tireless fighter. 

Posted by DL

Thursday, August 18, 2005 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I can't drag my sorry carcass out of bed early enough to hear Bill Bennett (I'm in So. Calif. too), but I love Laura's show. I turn her off now and then when she gets too confrontational with her guests. Her sound bites have made inroads in my mind, so that when I take my dog out in the morning and I hear the ravens doing their abrasive cawing, I instantly think of Hillary Clinton.

Medved is too testy for me. I like nice people. Rush is too full of himself, so I can only take him in small doses. Savage is way too angry, and I can't take him in any dose at all.

I'm right with you about Hugh's show. Gotta have it. Gotta have all his guests, especially Prof. David Allen White and Mark Steyn and Emmett of the Unblinking Eye and John Campbell and.... 

Posted by SkyePuppy

Thursday, August 18, 2005 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should really hit up Lars Larson. Great broadcaster from my neck of the woods, makes Rush jealous.  

Posted by Sailor Republica

Thursday, August 18, 2005 5:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great analysis, Hedgehog.

I agree especially with your comments on Laura Ingraham. I've listened to her a few times, and enjoy her show but she is a bit too abrasive.

I enjoy Rush--he's the first conservative radio broadcaster I really ever tuned into, in late 1991 and all through the '92 campaign. I rather enjoy his ego--it's his trademark!

I can tell I'm deprived of Hugh. I've never heard his show, and until I began blogging last year had never even heard his name. Next month when I'm in L.A. I'll have to tune him in. 

Posted by Bonjo

Thursday, August 18, 2005 6:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review of the radio guys, Lowell. I pretty much agree, though I'm a diehard Rush guy. I've been told I blog like he broadcasts, so that can be good or bad depending on how you like his style. Laura is okay for my drive to work, but Rush is the only guy I listen to regularly in my office. I listen to Sean or Michael if I'm in the car in the afternoon, and Hugh if I'm still out from 3-6, but I'd rather have my ears gouged out than listen to Savage.

To each his own... 

Posted by Rick Moore

Thursday, August 18, 2005 9:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great analysis, with the exception of Laura Ingraham. I love Laura's show and she is not grating on me in any fashion. She's witty informative, entertaining and is not afraid to dish it out to those that need it. With that said, no one beats Hugh Hewitt...I wish he could get on more stations, as he is the only one now who can rival Rush. My list as to those I must listen to every day, in order: 1. Hugh Hewitt
2. Rush 3. Laura and 4. Sean Hannity [I know he's a little on the light side, but he's on the right side.] 

Posted by Michael Beckman

Saturday, August 20, 2005 3:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wagonboy's radio host thoughts:
Bennet - I'm up early with him and get most of his show. Great mind, great topics, great connections, lousy delivery. He sounds like he's slumped over in a chair addressing a dinner party long after the wine bottles have left the table. Not the cold splash of verve and energy I need at 4:30am. VP Cheney has the same tired delivery. Both of these guys need to sit up, clear their throats and speak as though they enjoy what their doing.
Ingrahm - I listen to her a lot but don't enjoy the sorority/frat house atmosphere of the show. Too much goofing around and spinning off onto obscure tangents. She's on the right track, she just needs to stay on it and get us all there without blowing milk through her nose. I give a prayer now and again to come out of this breast cancer ordeal. She's a tough girl and I admire her positive attitude.
Prager - The most gracious on your list, in my opinion. Brilliant to a fault. He knows it. He shows it. And shows it. And shows it. I then go back to..
Rush - The King. We allow him all the space and time he needs. We've all "grown up" with him and we can all involuntarily tune him in and out when necessary. I rarely switch stations when he's on, quite frequently when he's got fill in hosts, though.
Medved- What a brain. I enjoy the quantity and speed with wich he gets the callers through. Always gracious unless the caller is rude, stupid or horribly off track. For these callers Medved can unleash quite a blow torch on behalf of us in the audience who would love to do the same thing to a caller of such stripes. However, he needs a voice coach. He sounds like he's twelve.
Hannity - Can't tolerate him too long. Nasaly New Yorkers make my ears itch. Good energy, great guests, good pace in the show.
Hewitt - The best. My favorite. Generally nobody wants to sit and listen to the smartest guy in the room, but Hugh's the exception.(Unless he's talking about music, sports, wine, exercise, Nascar...) He runs a well oiled weekly radio variety show and loves every minute of each hour. His regular guests, the best on any radio program, all share that same sense of passion for their contributions..., (with the exception of the Fiction-Novel-Review-Guy. He could bore a sloth right out of its tree.) Aside from that minor blip in an otherwise perfect monthly schedule, Hugh keeps me tuned in and on my toes. And, I'm in his book!
Savage - Repellent. Rude. Classless.
O'Reilly - You left him off, wisely. Kind of smarmy and he thinks  he's the smartest guy in the room. He seems to artificially force (spin?)a contrarian view just to heat up the show... it never seems to get hot, though.
Wow! What long reply. Wb 

Posted by Wagonboy

Monday, August 22, 2005 7:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy both Hugh Hewitt and Laura Ingraham the most I enjoy Hugh's guests -- a lot of bloggers! -- and his realistic wisdom. I find myself looking forward to his show daily.

Laura Ingraham is a gem. I like her spunk and her genuinely funny program. My 77 year old mother likes her a lot -- as if Laura was a family member. I like her rants as she does not do Michael Savage type inconsistent tirades but lets you know she is pissed at things I think we should be pissed about. She stays intelligent but committed.

Michael Medved is just brilliant. Nothing can be said more than that. I grew a lot in my conservatism because of his well supported and argued views. But sometimes I get tired of his guests who are so stupid and I do not feel like hearing elaborate details of their arguments. I then go to Hannity for his comfy cheerleading and fearless commitment to conservative values. I enjoy the sense of community that Hannity provides.

I can't take Rush continuously but love his tongue in cheek bombastic personality and his dead on right insight into the Democrats and liberals. I think his show is an amazing production.

Dennis Prager is also great. I learn a lot from him too in terms of Judeo-Christian values. And he ofttimes has great intellectuals on that you don't hear on the radio too often. His past as a Democrat has given a great insight into the left.

So I like the variety and feel deprived if I don't get a taste of any of the above on a daily basis. 

Posted by Michael B. Babbitt

Thursday, August 25, 2005 8:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I am 'addicted' to Laura Ingraham, lured by her looks and her political views. If anyone hasnt had chance to listen to Jay Severin, he is an absolute hoot!! Very libertarian, blunt and extremely entertaining, to say the least 

Posted by Robert McHeffey

Thursday, September 01, 2005 10:54:00 AM  
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Posted by John R. Marshall

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 8:44:00 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Laura is great....we need more talk show host as Laura. Stands for what is truth and honest. My prayers are with her as she battles through her illness.

Posted by Doloes Ann

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 2:55:00 PM  

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