Ruben Navarrette Jr.

I have friends on the left, and critics on the right. I also have friends on the right, and critics on the left.

Perhaps everyone should sit down for this column.

I hope I’m at the right meeting. My name is Ruben, and I’m a “dittohead.” In fact, I have been addicted to a certain radio talk show for nearly 30 years.

Blame it on my roots. I was born and raised in the conservative farm country of Central California.

After going to college in New England, I couldn’t wait to get back to the land of pickup trucks, work boots and gun racks.

And, in those parts, there is only one thing on radio worth listening to: “The Rush Limbaugh Show.”

So, I’m sad that Limbaugh — the nation’s most listened-to radio personality and a longtime cigar aficionado — has late-stage lung cancer.

And I’m pleased that President Trump recently awarded the host the Presidential Medal of Freedom in honor of an inspiring life, remarkable career and job well done.

It’s a long way from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the U.S. Capitol, where the 69-year-old received the medal from first lady Melania Trump.

Growing up the son and grandson of attorneys — a profession that his brother would enter as well — Limbaugh resisted joining the family business.

At 16, he fell in love with radio when he got his first job at a local station.

After graduating from high school, he spent a couple of years in college before dropping out to pursue what started off as a bumpy career behind the microphone.

He landed several jobs in cities around the country as a radio disc jockey, and got just as many pink slips.

At one point, discouraged with his setbacks, he left radio and went to work in the sales office of the Kansas City Royals. But he found his way back to the mic.

Limbaugh is sharp as nails, wickedly funny, a gifted communicator and a first-rate critical thinker. He informs his listeners, explains the complicated and puts the news in context.

He knows — but doesn’t care — that liberals hate him, the left-wing media doesn’t respect him, and the Democratic Party blames him for every election they’ve lost over the last three decades.

Last year, he earned more than $80 million. He has a net worth of more than $500 million.

Since 1991, Limbaugh’s show has been part of my morning routine.

In 2006, Limbaugh ran across a column of mine that he liked, and he read the whole thing on the air. I got emails for weeks.

I don’t agree with much of what comes out of Limbaugh’s mouth, especially when it comes to race, Latinos and immigration.

He often says the wrong thing, or says the right thing in the wrong way.

He oversimplifies and sometimes gets his facts wrong.

He is also too wedded to the Republican Party.

So when the GOP goes over a cliff, he’s right behind it.

And although he gets credited with saying out loud what others are thinking, not everything we think should be said out loud. Much less to millions of listeners.

Still, I’ve spent the last week contemplating what the universe of talk radio would sound like without the voice of the man who created the genre. It’s a dark and depressing thought.

Thanks for all the good radio, Rush. How grateful I am to have come along for the ride.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

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