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The Talk Master Retires

Before there was Medved or Beck, before there was Levin or Hannity, before there was Limbaugh, there was Boortz. And after 42 years in the business, syndicated talk show host Neal Boortz is retiring. If, for some inexplicable reason, you haven’t heard this phenomenal host, you still have a few days left, as he will be broadcasting for another nine days before his final show which, appropriately enough, will be on Inauguration Day. Afterwards, he and his wife will board what Neal calls the, “Boortz Bus,” and travel into the sunset, happy that his days of earning income for the further aggrandizement of Barack Obama have come to an end.

I first listened to him while visiting my Dad in Atlanta. The “mother ship” for Boortz’s show is WSB in Atlanta. I had just returned to the states following a year’s tour in Korea when Dad said, “You’re going to love this.” And he was right. Here was a host every bit as compelling as Limbaugh, but with a unique blend of humor, irreverence, and an ability to destroy liberal arguments that is without equal in my experience. This is the guy who said that re-electing Barack Obama would be, “…like strapping on an economic suicide vest and giving the detonator to your ex-wife.” Or, try out this exchange between Neal and Phil Donahue: 

DONAHUE: I would argue the reverse. Conservatives don’t want to debate anybody. A tip of the hat to Mr. Boortz for stepping forward here. Conservatives drop their tools and run when they’re asked to debate anything. In fact, Rush Limbaugh has a policy. He doesn’t debate. Oh, OK. That is nice and convenient. I would like to go through life like that, offering my opinions and disallowing any debate. I disagree with you, Sean. I think the liberals are out there in the arena much more bravely, openly, and not covertly than are many conservatives. 

BOORTZ: Ah, but I have a different point of view. Let me tell you how liberals operate. They write columns and hide in their offices. They do commentaries on TV and hide in their offices. Why do you think talk radio is so… 

DONAHUE: It’s the only thing left for you, is that it? You have been shut out of everywhere else? 

BOORTZ: No, it is a format liberals can’t survive in. 

DONAHUE: Why would that be? You make a point. There are not a whole lot of liberal voices on AM radio. Make your case here. 

BOORTZ: OK. The reason that liberal bed-wetters can’t survive in talk radio is because they have no place to hide, Phil. 

DONAHUE: Is that the reason? 

BOORTZ: Look, you can write a column in “The New York Times” and then you sit up there in your office overlooking, have they taken over those poor people’s property yet? You can write a column and sit there. And if somebody wants to call and argue, you say, oh, I’m not talking calls today. If you are on the radio and you express those opinions, then you have… 

DONAHUE: You get immediate feedback. 

BOORTZ: Then you get the feedback. And most left-wingers can’t stand up to that feedback. That is why Mario Cuomo-that is why these people fail at talk radio. They aren’t prepared to deal with the reaction. 

Oh yes, and I did mention the humor, didn’t I? What to make of a person who, back before such things would get you arrested, went to the snack area in the tourist-class lounge on a 747, during a flight to Hawaii, and carefully removed the innocuous paper “fortune” from one of the fortune cookies and then replaced it with one that read, “This plane will never make it to Hawaii”? As the kid who put a whoopee cushion on the preacher’s chair one Sunday morning before church, I am mightily impressed. This is the guy who not only referred to his friend, Sean Hannity, as “Cutie-Pie,” and, “The Baby Jesus,” but who completely surprised Hannity during one of his live appearances by walking on stage, with two other gentlemen, dressed up as the Wise Men (or was it the Three Kings?) to present gifts.

His new book, Maybe I Should Just Shut Up And Go Away! is a laugh-inducing romp through a stellar career and a fascinating life, and I would caution against drinking anything while reading it that isn’t easy to clean up. Written in large part for his young granddaughter, the book takes us through his start in radio (it has something to do with a radio show host dying), and goes on to provide insights into a remarkable mind and anecdotes about the remarkable people with which he has surrounded himself. From his talented and devoted staff (including the singular Royal Marshall, who tragically died of a heart attack in 2011), to his gracious wife, Donna, whom he affectionately calls “The Queen,” and who, as he points out, takes every penny from the sales of Neal’s books and uses them to operate The Donna Boortz Foundation, which actively seeks out people in truly difficult circumstances and gives them a helping hand, Neal has an extended family of good-hearted people.

But lest you think Neal is a push-over, he isn’t called “The High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth,” for no good reason. This is the guy who has gone on the record saying, “Wallow too much in sensitivity and you can’t deal with life, or the truth.” Ultimately a realist, he predicted Barack Obama’s re-election, and has gone on record saying that, as much as he regrets it, the America we grew up knowing is more likely than not, toast. While driving in Michigan today, I heard him predict that, “When the honest history of this country is written, Barack Obama will have done more damage than Al Qaeda, Adolph Hitler, and Tojo.”

Last week, following the “fiscal cliff,” Neal read some relevant quotes from Frederick Douglas on the air. “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose,” he read, wondering how much more we will endure. Then, as if describing Barack Obama’s playbook, Boortz read the following nugget from Douglas, to wit: “Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”

He was right, of course, and was working himself into a most righteous rant when he blurted, “Belinda, button your blouse!” Evidently, his very talented and astute producer, Belinda Skelton, had a button pop or something, and that was all it took. “How am I supposed to rant with….” Next thing I knew, he was questioning whether there were any recent endowments, so to speak, and asked, “were those your Christmas presents?” I’m not sure what happened after that, as it was tough to hear over the laughter in my truck. I think he got back to his rant, but my concentration went Tango Uniform (which means “totally undone,” if you’re wondering).

In 2005, he worked with Congressman John Linder to write The Fair Tax Book, the central proposition of which was to eradicate the federal income tax, corporate tax, payroll tax, capital gains tax, gift tax, estate tax, and the IRS itself, and replace them all with a single national sales tax of 23 percent that would be levied at the retail level only. The compelling argument was that such a tax would actually be cheaper than the accumulated taxes and fees that are passed along to the retail level, and would provide sufficient revenue to the government while freeing the private sector from the punishing progressivity that is suffocating job and wealth creation. It was a compelling argument, but one that elected officials didn’t take seriously since it threatened their own power, which is the life blood of the political class.

In his latest book, Neal maintains that his job for 42 years has been to keep listeners on board so they will listen to the advertisements, and surely this is true. But no one who listens to him can dismiss what he does as some sort of “schtick.” From his impassioned defense of libertarian principles (minus the suicidal foreign policy), and his articulate advancement of the nation’s foundational ideas, his love of this country absolutely illuminates his commentary and infuses his mischievous wit and fun. His constant presence on the air has been reassuring to this listener, and will be sorely missed. I wish him the best.

  1. PsychLynne
    Caroline: My entree to talk radio was listening to Neal Boortz. My father listened to him on WRNG radio when I was about 14-15.  I would beg Daddy to turn him off…..

    Caroline, we share the same past!  I had the same experience when I was about 12. Listening to my parents talk about Georgia politics and Boortz was how I learned about politics.

    I haven’t listened much in the last few years since re-locating to the DC area.  Nothing here even comes close to Boortz!

  2. RedRules
    ~Paules: A 23% sales tax in lieu of the IRS?  Absolutely.  It’s time the “poor” started paying their fair share.   · 9 hours ago

    Spoken like a true illiterate. I’d suggest you read the bill and then include in any snarky responses the part that make the FairTax fair to the poor.

  3. James Stack

    Sorry Gang,

    I’m with Caroline as a girl. Turn him off!! He has always struck me as anti-intellectual clown. He’s the “entertainment” without the horsepower upstairs. Plus I disagree with his secular pro-abortion oriented view on the values issues. He has a snarl behind his alleged libertarian stance that oozes disdain for those who link Christianity to politics in any fashion.

    He ain’t no Ron Paul.

    Boortz communicates a transparent rationalization for his clinging to a ’60′s moral nihilism. Painfully displayed with his audio leering with the female staff.

    Hey Neil, there’s no fool like and old fool. 

    Somebody, anybody, tell me you agree!  

  4. RedRules

    I loved listening to Boortz when I was around radio’s more. He is also the one that sold me on the FairTax, and I have always believed it would be the beginning of a great national resurgence if we can manage to cram that wonderfully… err…. fair, system of taxation down the gullet’s of the politicians.

  5. Blondie

    Great post Mr. Carter.  I started listening to Neal at least 10 years ago when the AM station here replayed the show at 11PM.  Perfect for my ride home after working 3-11.  The thing I have loved about Boortz is how he isn’t afraid to say exactly what is on his mind, even more so since announcing his retirement!  If you like his show you should follow him on twitter.   AMF, Neal.

  6. Dave Carter
    C
    Blondie: Great post Mr. Carter.  I started listening to Neal at least 10 years ago when the AM station here replayed the show at 11PM.  Perfect for my ride home after working 3-11.  The thing I have loved about Boortz is how he isn’t afraid to say exactly what is on his mind, even more so since announcing his retirement!  If you like his show you should follow him on twitter.   AMF, Neal. · 1 minute ago

    I do!!

  7. Dave Carter
    C
    RedRules

    ~Paules: A 23% sales tax in lieu of the IRS?  Absolutely.  It’s time the “poor” started paying their fair share.   · 9 hours ago

    Spoken like a true illiterate. I’d suggest you read the bill and then include in any snarky responses the part that make the FairTax fair to the poor. · 23 minutes ago

    Easy there, RedRules, …I think Paules was writing without snark.  Instead, I suspect he’s endorsing the idea that two few are contributing and too many are are being subsidized.  In fairness, I did leave out the part of The Fair Tax called the “Prebate,” which assists very low income people with the cost of basic items like food while remaining revenue neutral.  I wanted the original post to be at least a little shorter than War And Peace.

  8. The Mugwump

    A 23% sales tax in lieu of the IRS?  Absolutely.  It’s time the “poor” started paying their fair share.  

  9. Dave Carter
    C
    James Stack: Sorry Gang,

    I’m with Caroline as a girl. Turn him off!! He has always struck me as anti-intellectual clown. He’s the “entertainment” without the horsepower upstairs. Plus I disagree with his secular pro-abortion oriented view on the values issues. He has a snarl behind his alleged libertarian stance that oozes disdain for those who link Christianity to politics in any fashion.

    He ain’t no Ron Paul.

    Boortz communicates a transparent rationalization for his clinging to a ’60′s moral nihilism. Painfully displayed with his audio leering with the female staff.

    Hey Neil, there’s no fool like and old fool. 

    Somebody, anybody, tell me you agree!   · 41 minutes ago

    Wow, that was pretty harsh.  I disagree with him on a few issues as well, but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me all the time.  There’s room for disagreement and a variety of approaches to topics, …although I generally exclude gratuitous name-calling as an indicator of intellectual horsepower.  

  10. WI Con

    He’ll be missed. One of the truly wise & smart ones on our side.

    Though he’s earned his rest, I hope that he stays involved. I could see him adding a much needed shot in the arm to the Tea Party movement (I realize he’s Libertarian but he’s in sync with 80+% of the agenda).

    Best Wishes Mr. Boortz & Thank you.

  11. Grantman

    As a transplanted Connecticut Yankee to Hotlanta, I’ve listened to Neal quite often.  Unfortunately, my commute only lets me listen, for the most part, for the opening 8:30 half hour which is mostly commercials and traffic reports.  But for those times when I’ve been “on the road” and he’s on, he is the true professional. 

    He’s always known he is an entertainer.  He has to keep the audience listening.  He does both local, national, and international topics.  Usually, you know he has a twinkle in his eye and his voice…until he gets on a rant, and then there’s no stopping him.  Pure brilliance.

    We will miss him, and it’s been a pleasure to have known him during his live broadcasts with his family, Belinda, Royal, Christina, et. al.  He will certainly be missed, but his retirement is well earned.

    Herman Cain will be taking his place, and while he’s a good host, I’m guessing he won’t make it past two years, if that long.   His old evening show has a different audience than mornings.   I wish him well, but he’s no Neal Boortz. 

  12. Drusus

    I’ve enjoyed listening to Boortz from time to time, but I do regret his stance on abortion. His willingness to talk at length about the topic, but his refusal to take any calls on the subject has been particularly galling, and seems to defy his claim that only “liberals hide.” 

    Still, I’ll miss his voice and wish him the best in his retirement. 

  13. Nyadnar17

    Neal Boortz is a huge reason I am a conservative today. Will be missing you Neal.

  14. Goddess of Discord

    Boortz is the best, hands down. I wish him all the best.

  15. JKT_MA

    Great post :)) and thank you.  I’ve never lived anywhere where Boortz was carried locally so for the most part I’ve only been a very occasional listener, in fact I probably found his columns before I ever listened to him as that was in the dark ages before streaming radio on the ‘net.  One of the many great perks of being in Japan a couple years ago was listening to much of his show live every evening.

    I have recorded most of this year’s shows with TuneInRadio Pro.  Before he announced his retirement I had no intention of creating even a small Boortz archive – now I find it hard to delete them.  I’ll get over it when my iPad gets full.

    I hope he pops up occasionally for a substitute gig, or a little youtube clip or something.  I keep thinking surely he will explode when one of those rants hits him and he has to try to hold it in for a few days, LOL.  His twitter is a laugh a minute but those rants need more than 140 characters!

    Wishing him a long, healthy retirement and happy travels in the BoortzBus.

  16. Caroline

    My entree to talk radio was listening to Neal Boortz. My father listened to him on WRNG radio when I was about 14-15.  I would beg Daddy to turn him off.  About 12 years later I started to become a regular listener when he was the lead in to Rush Limbaugh. The two of them, plus National Review and Bill Clinton, convinced me I was a conservative.  

  17. Goldgeller

    Very good post. I don’t have a strong opinion of him either way. I know he has some fans.

    I don’t know as much as I want to know about the fair tax, but from what I know, I’d be against. My understanding is that not only does the number have to be higher than what they suggest to bring in similar revenue. But it is true that we may gain a lot of efficiency from most any simplified tax code in comparison to our current tax code. 

    As far as abortion, I’m pro-life, he’s vaguely pro-choice. But 100% agreement isn’t required for me to listen to and enjoy a show. Driving through ATL I’ve been presently surprised by his program. He did a lot of good work for small government causes with his show and in that since I’ll miss him. Of course I wish him well. 

  18. Ellie Henry

    I started listening to Neal when he was on Ring Radio…his first station. I have ever tired of him, and think of him as a family member. Often, with complicated situations, I have said…” I need to listen to Neal to know how I really feel.” He has been the ABSOLUTIALLY only person I know that could change my opinion instantly. I still think he is the smartest and most interesting of all the talk show people. Also both Royal and Belinda have been big pluses to his show.I shall miss him tons, but glad to lose him to the good life for him and Donna. …and not as we lost Royal. THANKS NEAL FOR MANY YEARS OF BOTH ENTERTAINMENT AND GUIDANCE. You are truly one of a kind.

  19. HeartofAmerica

    Used to love Neil then started to follow him on Twitter and was shocked (and I am not easily shocked) regarding the content of some of his tweets.

  20. RedRules

    Sorry Dave, but my hackles get raised on this issue more easily than any other. Having spent serious time examining the plan and it’s detractors, I have found that almost universally that those who oppose it haven’t bothered to actually read it. The rest are either politicians, lobbyists, lawyers, IRS agents (or family members of one), or others whose personal income or power/influence would be impacted by the enactment of the FairTax.

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