Chris Wallace's much-awaited "Fox News Sunday" interview with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh began exactly as one might have expected with the guest stating right from the start:
I'm really, really worried. We've never seen this kind of radical leadership at such a high level of power in the -- in the country. I believe that the economy is under siege, is being destroyed. Anybody with any economic literacy would not do one thing this administration's done to try to revitalize the private sector. They're destroying it. And I have to think that it may be on purpose, because this is just outrageous, what is happening -- a denial of liberty, an attack on freedom.
And that was just the beginning.
From there, Wallace and Limbaugh discussed healthcare reform, Afghanistan, Fox News, the NFL, painkillers, Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, and the future of the Republican Party (videos embedded below the fold in three parts with full transcript):
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Now to our interview with Rush Limbaugh. Whether you love him or can't stand him, he is a major player on the American political scene. For three hours a day, five days a week, he tells listeners exactly what he thinks on more than 600 radio stations across the country.
We traveled to Palm Beach this week where Rush does his show for a rare interview discussing everything from politics to whether he's really worth that huge amount of money he makes.
WALLACE: Rush, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Thank you. Appreciate it.
WALLACE: This week it will be one year since Barack Obama was elected president. In that time, what has he done for and to the country?
LIMBAUGH: I think it's all to. I don't think there's any for. I'm -- Chris, I'm -- I'm really, really worried. We've never seen this kind of radical leadership at such a high level of power in the -- in the country.
I believe that the economy is under siege, is being destroyed. Anybody with any economic literacy would not do one thing this administration's done to try to revitalize the private sector. They're destroying it.
And I have to think that it may be on purpose, because this is just outrageous, what is happening -- a denial of liberty, an attack on freedom.
I mean, just -- just a couple days ago, they talked about these 650,000 jobs that they've created or saved. There's no such thing as a saved job. Besides that, they've destroyed jobs. They've lost 3.3 million jobs in this country since Obama's stimulus plan, and it's going to get worse.
WALLACE: But -- but wait a minute. How about save the country from a financial abyss, 3.5 percent growth in the third quarter in GDP?
LIMBAUGH: There wasn't any growth in the private sector. That 3.5 percent came from two things -- government spending on "Cash for Clunkers" -- they just moved fourth quarter auto sales into the third quarter -- and the first-time home buyer thing.
GDP equals CIG -- that is, consumers, the investment of business, and government. And it's all G. It's all government. There is no private sector growth. There were no new jobs being created. We're losing them.
WALLACE: How about kept the country safe for nine months?
LIBMBAUGH: I don't know how safe we are. Iran is nuking up. Everything that we've asked them to do they are forgetting. They're not going to move their plutonium, their enriched plutonium -- uranium out of the country like they said so.
We can't make up our minds what we're going to do in Afghanistan. We're dithering there. I don't -- I don't think we're any better off in any way it could be measured.
WALLACE: You have now taken to calling Mr. Obama "the man-child president."
WALLACE: What does that mean?
LIMBAUGH: Just -- he's (inaudible) he's a child. I think he's -- he's got a -- a five-minute career. He was in the Senate for 150 days. He was a community organizer in Chicago for however number of years.
He really has no experience running anything. He's very young. I think he's got an out-of-this-world ego. He's very narcissistic. And he's able to focus all attention on him all the time. That -- that description is simply a way to cut through the noise and say he's immature, inexperienced, in over his head.
WALLACE: Let's talk about a couple of the big issues the president is dealing with now -- first of all, Afghanistan. You suggest that he is taking all of this time to decide what to do in Afghanistan to keep his left-wing base on board for health care reform.
LIMBAUGH: Well, it's partly that, but I also don't think he cares much about it. I think once...
WALLACE: Well, come on.
LIMBAUGH: No, I -- no, see, this is -- I know this is going to sound controversial, but I don't think he cares that -- if he -- Chris, if he cared about -- we've got soldiers and their families worrying about what we're going to do. The general on the ground said we need some more troops.
The policy that he implemented in March he now doesn't like and is trying to figure out how best to make everybody happy here politically on his side of the aisle and also for his image. Democrats have a tendency to be seen as weak on defense, so he's battling with that.
But again, if he cared about victory -- remember, he said about Afghanistan victory is not something he's comfortable with, the concept. It reminds him of the Japanese surrendering on the USS Missouri. It made him very uncomfortable.
He wants to manage this rather than achieve victory. He says these things. I don't know if people actually listen and have them register when he does.
WALLACE: But you say you don't know that he really cares. Do you at least give him credit for going to Dover, Delaware to honor the remains of soldiers, dead soldiers, who came back from Afghanistan?
LIMBAUGH: You know, see, the politically correct thing to say here would be, "Oh, yes, I am very impressed that President Obama decided to go show his concern for the remains, troops who've given their lives for freedom in this country."
It was a photo op. It was a photo op precisely because he's having big-time trouble on this whole Afghanistan dithering situation. He found one family that would allow photos to be taken. None of the others did.
And of course, when you have a sycophantic media following you around, able to promote and amplify whatever you want, then he can create the impression that he has all this great concern, but the -- Bush did this...
WALLACE: Well, no...
LIMBAUGH: ... but no cameras.
WALLACE: I don't know that he ever went to Dover, Delaware.
LIMBAUGH: No, he went to see the families.
WALLACE: Yes, he certainly went to see the families.
LIMBAUGH: But he didn't make photo ops out of it. The...
WALLACE: Well, but the argument would be that it was political of Bush not to be seen with the coffins because he was trying to hide it, hide the cost of war from the American people.
LIMBAUGH: Well, I have the benefit of knowing George Bush a little bit, and I -- I -- I've seen him cry talking about missions that he's ordered. I think he has a great, profound, deep respect for the families of all military personnel, and those who have died...
WALLACE: But I don't disagree with that...
LIMBAUGH: ... and I -- he's not going to use them.
WALLACE: But you don't think that Barack Obama has a profound respect for our soldiers and the families that are giving the sacrifice?
LIMBAUGH: Chris, throughout the Iraq war, it was Barack Obama and the Democrat Party which actively sought the defeat of the U.S. military. They convened hearings and accused General Petraeus of lying. They said the surge would not work.
Harry Reid stands up, waves the white flag -- this war is lost. Jack Murtha is out saying our Marines at Haditha are guilty of rape. John Kerry is accusing our Marines of committing terrorism acts by going into the homes of Iraqis at midnight in the dark terrorizing, looking for Al Qaida or whoever was there.
Yeah. I mean, look. I hate to be honest with you here, but I do question their commitment to national security. I question their commitment to the U.S. military. They'll put their political survival and their political power being gained over anything else. They'll use anybody and throw anybody away in order to achieve it.
WALLACE: You also say that the president should give the generals, the commanders on the ground, as many troops as they need to win.
But a staunch conservative like George Will says, "Look, this -- Afghanistan has been a dysfunctional country. It's a corrupt country," and that we can beat the Taliban and beat Al Qaida without this huge commitment of new troops.
LIMBAUGH: Well, I don't know that. I don't -- I don't have the benefit of knowledge that George Will has, so I trust the experts, and to me they're the people in the U.S. military.
But these are -- these are -- you know, the surge in Iraq -- same thing. We went -- it worked. The Democrats were the ones opposed to it. They said it would fail, it wouldn't work. And by all measure it did.
Now the basic same theories are being suggested for Afghanistan and -- I don't know. The thing that bothers me about this is we're there. You know, it's -- whether we should have gone or what we've done heretofore is now irrelevant. There's only one thing to do, win. you know, what about Afghanistan? Easy. We win, they lose.
WALLACE: Let's turn to health care reform.
WALLACE: You have made no secret of the fact you oppose the public option, government-run health insurance to compete with private insurers. With tens of millions of Americans still uninsured, do you think that the government has any moral obligation to find some way to cover them?
LIMBAUGH: There is a way to insure the uninsured without doing any of what we're doing. If that were the objective, then I'd be full for it.
This is not about insuring the uninsured. This is not about health care. This is about stealing one-sixth of the U.S. private sector and putting it under the control of federal government.
And when they get this health care bill, if they do, that's the easiest, fastest way for them to be able to regulate every aspect of human behavior, because it will all have some related cost to health care -- what you drive, what you eat, where you live, what you do.
And there'll be penalties for violating regulations. It's going to be the biggest snatch of freedom and liberty that has yet occurred in this country.
WALLACE: And in 30 seconds, how do you insure the insured without this big overhaul?
LIMBAUGH: Well, I've run the numbers, and the real number of uninsured that want insurance is 12 million. Take some of the unspent stimulus. We have 85 percent of the stimulus unspent. Take some of it. For 35 to $40 billion a year, you could insure those people, not $2 trillion, not 1.4 -- if that's the objective, do it now.
WALLACE: Do you think the individual mandate is constitutional? Do you think...
LIMBAUGH: No, I don't think the...
WALLACE: ... do you think the government has the right...
WALLACE: ... to tell people, "You're going to get health insurance, and if you don't get it, you're going to pay a penalty?"
LIMBAUGH: I do not think it's constitutional. Chris, this -- this is -- these are dark days for the country. This is deadly serious stuff. This is a total attempt to remake the country as founded and constituted. And it -- it worries me greatly.
WALLACE: We asked our viewers for some questions.
LIMBAUGH: I love Fox viewers. I love them.
WALLACE: Well, George Heplin (ph) sent this, "If President Obama would agree to an interview, what would be your first question?"
LIMBAUGH: Why are you doing this? Why? What in -- what -- what do you not like about this country that makes you want to inflict this kind of damage on it?
WALLACE: Lucille Golman sent this question, "Did you vote for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election?"
LIMBAUGH: I did.
LIMBAUGH: Of course.
WALLACE: But you've been so critical of John McCain.
LIMBAUGH: Yes, but you weigh the two. I don't think -- there are a lot of people, Chris, that are saying there's no difference in two parties. I know a lot of people think that, and they're -- and they really, really believe it.
But I don't know of any Republican who would try to take over one-sixth of the U.S. economy. I don't know one Republican who would put forth this -- this irresponsible cap and trade bill. I don't know one Republican who would actually do that as something he initiated.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the state of the GOP. A recent Fox News poll found that the approval rating for the president has dropped to 49 percent, but meanwhile, only 25 percent of people approve of congressional Republicans.
As voters have growing doubts about the president and his policies, why aren't they turning to the opposition? Is there something that the -- that the Republican Party lacks in the way of a positive, affirmative agenda?
LIMBAUGH: The Republican Party needs to learn something. If it goes country club blue-blood moderate, it's going to lose. If it goes Reagan conservative and commits to it, it's going to win landslides.
WALLACE: To press my question, why aren't people turning to the Republicans?
LIMBAUGH: Well, right -- right now there's no central Republican leader to turn to, and there's no central Republican message. The Republican messages is sort of muddied. What do they stand for? Right now it's opposition to Obama.
WALLACE: And is that enough?
LIMBAUGH: Well, it may be in 2010. I mean, I -- I actually do think that there's going to be a revolt against the Democrat Party and against Obama, even if voters in 2010 have nothing to vote for.
WALLACE: So do you think that the Republican Party -- do you see it as a big-tent party or small-tent party?
LIMBAUGH: Big tent.
WALLACE: But -- but you sound like you're kind of saying to the moderates, the -- particularly on social issues, "If we lose you, too bad."
LIMBAUGH: Well, I look at -- when I say big tent, I look at the United States of America, so I -- I -- I'm an American. I love this country. I want everybody in it to do well.
The conservative message is not, "OK, Hispanics, we have this plan for you. Women, we have this plan for you." That's what the Republican Party's trying to do, and emulate group politics. And the history is that -- you know, why be Democrat lite? Let them handle that.
Let's go after the big tent that is the country, and let's go get every person in this country -- I don't care what their race is, what their gender is, what their sexual orientation.
If they are told that there is somebody that's going to lead this country or party that is actually going to strengthen them, give them the tools, get out of their way and let them make this country work, the Republican Party can attract a majority like they haven't seen since the '80s.
WALLACE: In the Time Magazine article about Glenn Beck recently...
LIMBAUGH: Oh, yeah.
WALLACE: ... they write just as you found your place as the triumphant champion of the age of Reagan, that Beck is tapping into the fear and anger on the right today.
Is that why you think he's struck such a chord, because he taps into the fear and the anger of the conservatives today?
LIMBAUGH: There is a lot of fear. There's a -- there's a tremendous amount of fear in the country over what is happening in Washington to individual liberty and freedom. He may well have tapped into that.
The anger -- I think that's -- that's sometimes overplayed, because it's become a cliche for the left to say angry white men as a way of denigrating conservative energy and ideology. But there's no question there's a lot of anger. And if -- and if he's tapped into that, I wouldn't be surprised.
WALLACE: When you look at Glenn Beck and you see this explosion, what do you feel?
LIMBAUGH: Well, I'm kind of -- I'm kind of proud.
WALLACE: No envy, no competition?
LIMBAUGH: No, no, no, no, no. I mean, my radio audience is astronomically high. I'm -- look it, in 1988 there was nobody doing what I'm doing. Nobody. You had -- CNN was the only cable network, and you had the three networks and the newspapers.
And now look. Now look what's out -- all of this conservative media, conservative talk radio, television, Fox News, the conservative blogosphere. I mean, I -- in one way, I could -- I could -- if I wanted to have my ego to be as big as Obama's is, I could say, "Look what I created."
So any success out there on my side, conservative media -- damn, if it's going to help us get this country back, bring more in.
WALLACE: Let's talk about you. You said recently, "I actually thank God for my addiction to pain pills because I learned more about myself in rehab than I would have ever learned otherwise." What did you learn from drug rehab?
LIMBAUGH: One of the -- one of the things that I'd always had trouble with in my life was trying to be what other people expected me to be or wanted me to be, in my personal life, because I wanted to be liked.
And everybody's raised to want to be liked and to want to be loved. Nobody wants to grow up being hated. Now, interestingly, my radio career -- I don't care. You know, I -- I figured that out. It was a tough thing, Chris, to learn to take as a measure of success being hated, you know, by 20 or 30 percent of the country. I mean, that -- because nobody's raised for that.
But in my personal life, what I -- the thing I learned most was that the only way to have real intimacy with people, real solid relationships, is to be who you are. That will attract the kind of people worthy of having intimate relationships with, good friendships with.
WALLACE: And without putting you on the couch, are you saying that the addiction came from some sense of personal inadequacy?
LIMBAUGH: Oh, of course. Yeah. It -- I wasn't good enough. I was masking unhappiness elsewhere, not dealing with the real reasons I was unhappy in my personal life. I had -- I had never experienced the kind of euphoria that I got from a pain pill.
I think the only time that I really -- with all the success I've had, the only time I've had the kind of euphoria is when I made the high school football team as a sophomore. I was never prouder of myself.
But all my career achievements did not create that for me, because it's -- you've got to maintain it every day. It's not something you earn and that it lasts forever. And I don't look back. I don't stop and think about what I've accomplished because there's always tomorrow, so I don't have time for the euphoria. I don't have time for that.
Man, am I -- it's -- I'm too busy trying to meet everybody's expectations tomorrow. So the pain pills came along and they masked all these feelings of inadequacy that I had. Now, after just seven weeks of this place in Arizona, I have zero feelings of inadequacy.
It has not been replaced by an irresponsible ego. It's just a confidence in who I am.
WALLACE: You signed a new contract last year -- eight years, reportedly $400 million.
LIMBAUGH: Reportedly, right.
WALLACE: So I'll -- I'll go to the horse's mouth. True?
LIMBAUGH: It could be true. You know, I'm a -- a guy who earns a percentage of what I generate every year. There are some guarantees, but I'll tell -- the $400 million is not guaranteed. I have to earn that. So far...
WALLACE: But you could earn $400 million.
LIMBAUGH: I could. I'm ahead of schedule, in fact.
WALLACE: And don't get me wrong.
WALLACE: I think you're a great broadcaster. How can you possibly be worth that kind of money?
LIMBAUGH: Very simply. Value is determined by what somebody will pay you to do what you do. I'm probably worth more. I'm not complaining. Do not -- do not misunderstood.
But you know, this whole question -- see, because I'm a capitalist. You're worth whatever you can get. You're worth whatever your value is, and that's determined by what somebody's willing to pay you for it.
And the only reason I get that money is because the people who invest in me get results beyond their expectations.
WALLACE: All right. You believe in the free market.
LIMBAUGH: I do.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the NFL and the decision to drop you as a possible owner. What about the argument, "Look, this is a bunch of billionaire owners sitting around and saying, 'Rush Limbaugh isn't good for business?'" Is that the free market?
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, but that didn't happen. It never was allowed to get to that point. My name was leaked as being part of a group. Roger Goodell, the commissioner, goes out and cites a six-year-old quote from -- that I made about Donovan McNabb, got it all wrong.
Jim Irsay of the -- I call him "Hearsay" because he's repeating things that weren't true -- the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, joins the chorus. I never got -- I never got past first base. I mean, we...
WALLACE: So what do you think that was about? What do you think happened?
LIMBAUGH: Well, I think it's actually about the fact that the NFL is about to lose its current collective bargaining agreement with the players.
And guess who happens to be the new executive director of the players association? A guy named DeMaurice Smith, who is Obama. He's part of his transition team. He has -- he has suggested that the Congress, the White House, might get involved in stop a player-owner lockout.
So I -- I think -- and he got involved in this, too, you know. He was out participating in the spreading of quotes I didn't say, warning Goodell and the owners what might -- I think this was a warning shot across the bow, saying to the NFL, "Look, we're going to be close to running this league, not you. We don't want this guy here."
And I think -- I don't -- I don't really take this personally, but I do think it was a bunch of cowardice all the way around.
WALLACE: Let's do a lightning round -- quick questions, quick answers.
LIMBAUGH: All right.
WALLACE: You started talking about Vice President Biden this week, and you said to your producers, "Now, get the bleep button, because I may go over the line," and then you censored yourself. So I'll ask you, what do you think of Joe Biden?
LIMBAUGH: Pompous, a bit of a windbag and wrong.
LIMBAUGH: Pretty much everything. I mean, he was a guy in July who says, "Well, we -- we guessed wrong on the stimulus jobs." We guessed wrong. Anybody with a brain could have told you the stimulus plan wasn't going to work. I mean, he's a walking comedy of errors.
WALLACE: Sarah Palin -- you say that you admire her backbone. Do you really think she's ready to be president?
LIMBAUGH: Well, yes, I do. See, I am a -- one thing I do not do is follow conventional wisdom, and the conventional wisdom of Sarah Palin is she's not smart enough, she needs to bone up on the issues, she's a little unsophisticated, she -- Alaska, where's that? -- doesn't have the pedigree.
I've seen -- she's the only thing that provided any kind of a spark for the Republican Party. This is not an endorsement, but I do have profound respect for Sarah Palin.
There are not very many politicians who have been through what she's through -- been put through and still able to smile and be ebullient and upbeat. I mean, this woman, I think, is pretty tough.
WALLACE: Finally, some politics. You predict a possible blood bath for Democrats in 2010.
LIMBAUGH: I really do. I know that there is an eruption waiting to happen at the ballot box. I know that a majority of the people in this country are opposed to every single major agenda item that Obama has proposed and is trying to get passed.
The mainstream media doesn't do it, doesn't know it. They think they need a visa to go to Missouri. You know, they -- they're not in touch with what's happening out -- and in fact, if they find out that there's this kind of angst, they look at the voters with contempt -- "Well, you're not sophisticated to understand how brilliant Obama is and how magical his agenda" -- they don't want any part of it.
And it's going to be bigger than anybody thinks, especially -- especially -- if health care gets passed, and if they get cap and trade, and they start going down this global warming fiasco track and get something passed on that. There will be a revolt at the polls.
WALLACE: If you had to bet now, does Barack Obama win re- election in 2012?
LIMBAUGH: If I had to bet now, he will not.
WALLACE: Have you got a name of somebody who's going to beat him...
WALLACE: ... can beat him?
LIMBAUGH: No. I have no clue about that.
WALLACE: If he does win, how is Rush Limbaugh going to handle seven more years of Barack Obama?
LIMBAUGH: You know, I'm glad you asked me that, because one of the questions I always get is, "Rush, isn't Obama -- aren't these Democrats in power good for your business?" The way I go about my business, I'm out to get the highest ratings I get every day.
I'm going to attract the largest audience I can regardless the news. It's my -- it's my talent that draws the crowd. The news is incidental to it. No. I'm worried, seriously worried, about the future of the country.
I would never put my personal success in front of what I think is something that's disastrous for the country.
WALLACE: And seven more years of Barack Obama would...
LIMBAUGH: Well, it would be painful. It would literally be painful. This is -- every day you get up and there's a new potential threat to liberty and freedom being launched by this man and his administration.
And it's kind of -- be -- I mean, I -- some days I'm in -- I'm in radio and some days I feel like I'm in the trenches in a war -- no bullets being fired, but trenches in a war. I mean, it's really -- it's really intense when -- you know, I love this country.
To have this kind of passion, and my -- you know, I want -- Paul Revere. I want as many people to hear what I think the problems are, because I believe the people of this country eventually will make it -- make it work and get what they want. I do believe in the Democratic process and the vote.
WALLACE: Rush, thank you.
LIMBAUGH: Thank you, Chris.
Those interested in watching the full interview in one part can go here.
That said, it will be very interesting to see the media reaction to this interview in the next 24 hours.