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A joke:

         What do Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly & Rush Limbaugh have in common?
The answer, or punchline if you will, comes in three parts.

Part 1 - Sean Hannity

On his show, 1166 days ago, Sean Hannity offered to be waterboarded for charity, by Charles Grodin no less, as a way to show that the technique wasn't really, you know, torture. When challenged on the matter, he stood up -- after all, someone has to -- and feigned a willingness to prove that this "enhanced interrogation" technique protecting us from the terrorists is no big thing, really.

The exchange in which this offer presented itself reveals a bold, don't-mess-with-me Hannity casually taking the topic of torture by the reins -- a man's man locking eyes playfully (so as not to appear nervous) and saying, Bring it, punk.

GRODIN: You're for torture.
HANNITY: I am for enhanced interrogation.
GRODIN: You don't believe it's torture. Have you ever been waterboarded?
HANNITY: No, but Ollie North has.
GRODIN: Would you consent to be waterboarded? We can waterboard you?
HANNITY: Sure.
GRODIN: Are you busy on Sunday?
HANNITY: I'll do it for charity. I'll let you do it. I'll do it for the troops' families.
Of course, three years later, the offer still stands. The large sums of money waiting to be donated to our soldiers in need remain frozen. For Hannity's cowboy moment was nothing more than a transparent bluff.

But it's more than that.

See, Hannity's go-ahead-and-torture-me offer is a stark symbol for what has become one of the right's signature public characteristics: false bravado.

For years, we've heard a lot of tough talk from conservatives -- threats and promises and chest-beatings -- intended to be argumentation. Intended to convince the masses of the rightness of their position.

But these moments are really one thing: defense mechanisms used by cowards who, when backed into a corner, resort to loud barking and the baring of teeth.

But they rarely bite. Because there's nothing there. Nothing.

And these examples of nothingness are virtually endless.

Part 2 - Rush Limbaugh

Over two years ago, Rush Limbaugh stated, in unmistakably clear terms, that he would relocate to Costa Rica if Obamacare officially became the law of the land and was implemented.

I don't know. I'll just tell you this, if this passes and it's five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented -- I am leaving the country. I'll go to Costa Rica.
Now, Rush's moment of false bravado, which is being replicated ad nauseum today by those claiming they're moving to Canada, was simple enough. To show the rightness of his position, and the danger of Obamacare, he'd take a bold stand if it passed.

After all, someone has to, right?

Wrong. Days later, Rush put up his hands and tried to explain that his barking wasn't even barking. That he didn't mean he'd actually move to Costa Rica. That "leaving the country" was meant as, you know, trips and stuff. International jaunts taken for doctors appointments.

Which, as we all know, he won't be doing either. Because his words are the words of a political coward who uses bravado for the purposes of propaganda.

There's no bite. Ever.

Part 3 - Bill O'Reilly

On his March 26 show of this year, Bill O'Reilly engaged in an argument with Caroline Frederickson (of the American Constitution Society) about how the Supreme Court would rule on Obamacare.

Frederickson claimed it would be upheld by the court, likely using the power of taxation as the legal justification. O'Reilly insisted it would be overturned 5-4, and then said this:

And if I'm wrong I will come on and I will play -- I will play your clip. And I will apologize for being an idiot. But I think you're desperately wrong.
Of course, O'Reilly has yet to apologize, for his pledge to do so was not really a pledge -- it was the spontaneous yelping of a man backed into a corner, afraid.

                                                                       ~

From Fox News to Rush, this false bravado, this swashbuckling, has become a staple of the right-wing noise machine. In the absence of intellectual argumentation, it has -- by default -- become a go-to mechanism for proving a point. Akin to the guilty defendant who bangs his fists on the stand while speaking to prove his innocence, right-wing pundits as well as politicians (who are currently claiming they'll repeal Obamacare) constantly bare their teeth, afraid.

As a result, this false bravado has become a staple of American conservatives everywhere, many of whom are yelping about moving to Canada.

Why? Because they're afraid, and the conservative establishment is largely to blame for that fear.

                                                                      ~

And so, we return to the joke:

What do Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have in common?
The answer: they're right-wing conservatives.

Makes me laugh every time...

....before crying for the state of our politics and the toxic nature of political discourse in America, which the likes of Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly have fashioned as much as anyone.

Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

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