Rush Limbaugh Explains Trump’s Praise of Clintons

Four years ago, Trump lavished praise on Hillary. Brilliant!

I haven’t listened to Rush Limbaugh’s show in years and have grown sufficiently accustomed to him saying outrageous things that I seldom comment when he makes news. This one intrigues me, however.

On yesterday’s show, he played a clip from an March 2012 interview with Donald Trump saying the following:

Hillary Clinton, I think, is a terrific woman.  I mean, I’m a little biased because I’ve known her for years.  I live in New York. She lives in New York. And I’ve known her and her husband for years and I really like ’em both a lot and I think she really works hard and I think she, again, she’s given an agenda that’s not all of her, but I think she really works hard, and I think she does a good job.  And I like her.


I just like her.  I like her, and I like her husband.  Her husband made a speech on Monday at Mar-a-Lago, and it was very well received.  And he’s a — he’s a really good guy, and she’s a really good person and woman.

Limbaugh introduced the clip rightly noting that we’ll likely see it in an advertisement, given that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee and Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee and he’s been saying some rather unflattering thing about both Clintons in recent months.  Limbaugh’s explanation is fascinating:

Will we finally now admit how brilliant Trump is?  Can we all finally admit that he’s been setting these people up for years?  He’s been out there praising the Clintons. He’s been fooling them. He’s been making the Clintons think he loves them, he supports them, he’s in their camp, he’s got them tamed, they’re not even thinking about Trump, even looking about Trump, and Trump is just icing them.

Trump is gonna come out of the blue one day and just squash these people.  What a brilliant, brilliant move to keep them off guard and set them up.

So that will be the official response to this.  Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.  Okay.  That’s an interesting spin.  Of course Trump was gonna — he knew four years ago he was gonna run.  He knew she’s gonna be running the opposition.  He knew, he’s setting ’em up.  This is brilliant.  This shows how far ahead of the game Trump is.  He’s so far out in front of everybody we can’t even keep up.  What a brilliant bit of trickery here.

That strikes me as delusional. There are all manner of reasons that a New York real estate magnate and reality TV mogul would want to be on the good side of the Clintons, who are extremely powerful and connected. But, if his intent were to run against her using character attacks four years later, how exactly is this “brilliant”?

After a break, Limbaugh came back with this, ostensibly based on caller emails:

One reaction is, “You know, this would make a great ad debunking how Trump is attacking Hillary because she’s a woman.  This can just get rid of all of these attacks that Trump’s out there hitting her ’cause she’s a woman, that Trump hates her or whatever.

Uh huh.

Later in the spiel, Limbaugh observes that the #NeverTrump folks have never understood Trump or his bond with his supporters. And that much is true. This is hardly the most damaging-to-any-other-candidate-ever thing Trump has said. But it’s a weird world, indeed, if this helps him.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    Limbaugh has to win back the Trump supporters he alienated when he was boosting Ted Cruz. This is the best he can do, apparently.

  2. Kylopod says:

    What’s a little amazing is that 20 years ago Limbaugh was raging against Pat Buchanan for his heresies on free trade, calling him a fake conservative, and now you have a candidate who’s bashed free trade and a lot more sacred cows of economic conservatism, and Limbaugh seems to be all in it for him.

    And if you say it’s because of their common racist impulses, that doesn’t explain it: Buchanan is about as racist a figure as there’s been in the past few decades. In fact there’s a great deal in common between the views of Buchanan and Trump, which helps explain why Buchanan’s been such a strong supporter.

    The difference is that Buchanan is pretty much a true believer as far as we can tell. He’s not trolling anyone, he really believes all this stuff. He always comes off as basically sincere and straightforward, he’s just an extremist and reactionary. Trump and Limbaugh, on the other hand, come from similar worlds, involving saying outrageous things as a deliberate strategy to generate media attention. Nobody can say for sure what they really believe, because what matters to them is how the things they say provoke people. Trump’s entire presidential campaign is basically Limbaugh 101 applied to elections–not necessarily in every single position he articulates, but simply in the overall approach. And Limbaugh recognizes a fellow traveler, which is why he’s going to cut Trump some slack over his heresies and interpret them as part of some master scheme.

  3. Moosebreath says:


    “The difference is that Buchanan is pretty much a true believer as far as we can tell.”

    I suspect the difference is that Trump got the GOP nomination and Buchanan did not. Had Buchanan won the nomination, Limbaugh would have fallen in line.

  4. Kylopod says:

    @Moosebreath: Limbaugh’s been praising Trump to high heaven ever since he entered the race.

  5. That strikes me as delusional.

    Well it would be if he actually believed it. Rush Limbaugh’s radio persona is pretty much a fictional character he performs for money and has pretty much nothing to do with his actual beliefs.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    Rush: “Will we finally now admit how brilliant Trump is? Can we all finally admit that he’s been setting these people up for years? He’s been out there praising the Clintons. He’s been fooling them. He’s been making the Clintons think he loves them, he supports them, he’s in their camp, he’s got them tamed, they’re not even thinking about Trump, even looking about Trump, and Trump is just icing them.”

    … and I have some non-drowsiness oxycontin I’d like to sell to you

  7. Scott says:

    So one con man admires another. What else is new. And the contempt for the marks are just oozing out of his pores.

  8. Electroman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yes, totally, although he and his family are very conservative. Although I grew up as a military brat, mostly in the South and the DC area, after my dad’s retirement from the military my folks moved to Southeast Missouri, where they were newspaper publishers and lived perhaps a 30-minute drive from the Limbaughs.

    I’ve met David Limbaugh many times, and back in the day Rush Sr, a few times as well. I actually liked Rush Sr (the grandfather of the radio personality) quite a bit.

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    @Kylopod: Pat Buchanan had a history of statements about Israel and Former Nazis that made him unpalatable for many in the GOP.

    Buchanan also opposed the FIRST Iraq War, from the beginning. The Iraq War of 2003 changed a lot of things because no one believed that the United States could face defeat there. I remember Edward Herman, the Chomsky´s friend, saying that the war would be a massacre, not a war.

    The Iraq War made easier to oppose foreign intervention, because it showed that any American Intervention abroad would mean bringing caskets home.

    That´s why Trump in fact was not really opposed to the war, he was only very reluctant to support it. On the other hand, you can say anything that you want about Buchanan, he is a truly believer on non-interventionist.

    On the other hand Trump´s foreign policy has more to do with George Wallace´s position on Vietnam(The problem was not the war per se, was the fact that the US was losing) than with Buchanan´s foreign policy ideas.

  10. Kylopod says:

    It wasn’t Buchanan’s “heresies” on Israel or neo-Nazi stuff that turned Limbaugh against him. Limbaugh actually supported Buchanan in 1992 as a conservative alternative to Bush Sr. That was around the time that many on the right such as Buckley were denouncing Buchanan as an anti-Semite. (Buckley also encouraged conservatives to vote for Buchanan as a protest vote against Bush, but it was a very qualified endorsement.) It was only after Buchanan’s attacks on NAFTA and his second presidential run in 1996 that Limbaugh started going after him as a phony conservative. This apparently pissed off many of his listeners; I remember a political cartoon from around the time in which someone calls into Limbaugh’s program and shouts “RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT!” and he thinks it’s Al Franken, then the cartoon cuts to this redneck in a cowboy hat.

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    As I said in another thread, Limbaugh changed in the mid-2000’s. Before then, he was more than willing to criticize Republicans. He sided with Clinton on NAFTA and a few other things. He was constantly about ideas and inspiration. And then it all changed. He became more bitter and vindictive. He became way more subservient to Republicans — hell, he admitted on the air in 2006 that he’d been carrying water for them. And when Obama was elected, like a lot of talk show hosts, he simply lost his damned mind. I can remember the day I turned him off for good. He said something about how Obama had everything in life given to him on a silver platter. My jaw hit the floor. I turned him off and haven’t listened to him since.

    I think Trump has revealed something far deeper and more malignant, though. I think Limbaugh and Hannity and the other sold out conservatism years ago. They realized they could get better ratings by just stoking perpetual rage, abandoning any pretense of having ideas, constantly bashing Obama and never ever doubting their stance on any issue. Trump’s candidacy has simply laid it out. There’s nothing conservative (in the small c sense) about Trump. He’s proposing massive expansion of government power, upending any Constitutional order and disrupting civil society. How could these supposed conservative talk show hosts support him? Because it gets ratings.

    Expect more of this. As Trump flip-flops on every issue, Limbaugh will find a way to contort himself to keep his lips firmly planted on Trump’s backside. Because to back off would mean admitting he was wrong or (even worse) possibly maybe hinting that President Clinton II wouldn’t be an apocalypse.

  12. Kylopod says:


    He sided with Clinton on NAFTA and a few other things.

    …and accused Bill-and-Hill of having Vince Foster offed. Ideas and inspiration, indeed.

  13. Hal_10000 says:


    There was (and still is) a lot of misinformation about that case. I believed it myself for a while until I got the real facts. One of the reasons I never hopped on the Obama-is-the-devil crazy train is because I took that ride in the 90’s. Didn’t care to again.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    The contortions, Republicans are going through to rationalize Trump as their nominee, are awe-inspiring. A fat fwcker like Rush bending and twisting like this…amazing.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    I believe I can find past comments of mine saying that Republicans will almost all fall in line and that to do so they will believe that Trump was sincere in what he said to them* and was/is lying to fool those stupid “libruls”.

    As for Rush, I think his beliefs and his persona have merged. You have to apply the difference between lying and bullshitting, i.e. not caring whether it’s true.
    * Given that what he’s said to the Base is largely gibberish and that he’s backtracked and weasel worded everything, I don’t think they even know what they believe he said, but nonetheless, they fervidly believe it. It is just amazing to watch.

    A couple days ago Morning Joe interviewed Trump supporters on the street in Beverly Hills. Well dressed, well spoken, obviously 1%ers. No more coherent than some high school dropout from WV. ‘Trump says he’s going to raise taxes on the wealthy, are you OK with that?’ (This was after cutting taxes for everybody, between raising taxes on the rich and I meant raising taxes on the rich from where I was cutting them, not from where they are.) Responses were like, ‘I pay too much now, but then there’s the social thing, and that’s important.’ ‘So you’re a maybe?’ ‘No, there’s definitely the social thing, but taxes are high.’ WTF does that even mean?

  16. sam says:

    “That strikes me as delusional”

    He knows his audience. I’ve been listening to him for the last month or so. I find him quite funny and entertaining. He’s made blowing smoke up the asses of large group of deeply disturbed persons an artform.

  17. Dazedandconfused says:

    Limbaugh’s ilk merely support whomever they believe irritate “Liberals” the most. Irritating people is a staple of comedy.

  18. DrDaveT says:

    Limbaugh observes that the #NeverTrump folks have never understood Trump or his bond with his supporters. And that much is true.

    No, it isn’t. You don’t need to have hepatitis to understand it.

  19. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:


    ‘So you’re a maybe?’ ‘No, there’s definitely the social thing, but taxes are high.’ WTF does that even mean?

    They want somebody to provide the social safety net, just not them–in other words, they are typical Americans.

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: It’s similar in principle to when conservative economists explain that the difficulty in finding workers who are willing to work for wages that can’t support them proves the the earned income tax credit is too low.

  21. Franklin says:

    If Trump is so clever, you have to ask yourself: Why did a man with no known ideology choose to run as a Republican rather than a Democrat? The answer is pretty obvious – Republicans are easier to fool. Not necessarily because they’re naturally dumb, but because their rage clouds their thinking. Tap that rage, and you get free votes.

  22. JWh says:

    Or maybe Trump’s playing the Republicans right now, and he got the nomination specifically so he can throw the election to Hillary.

    Or else, maybe he liked Clinton until he was running for office against her.

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