Nation’s highest civilian honor

By now you’ve likely already heard about President Trump’s choice of Rush Limbaugh for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This award, the nation’s highest civilian honor, was either long overdue or forever disgraced, depending on your opinion of both Limbaugh and Trump. You can’t like or dislike one without the other.

But no matter your position, or how entrenched, you’ll be in a stronger position to explain it to those who disagree with you if you know more about the award, why it’s given, who has received it, and from whom.

Who is eligible for the Medal of Freedom?

This award can be given to anyone, from any country, alive or dead, as long as the president of the United States decides that the honoree has made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according its official description.

Limbaugh is now in company with Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dr. Hector P. Garcia, to name only a few.

He’s also in the company of Bill Cosby, who wasn’t a convicted sex offender at the time; Dick Cheney, architect of the Iraq WMD subterfuge; and confessed spy Whittaker Chambers. So it cuts more than a few ways.

President Kennedy established it in 1963. It replaced the Medal of Freedom established by President Truman in 1945 to honor civilian World War II service.

Trump has given the award to seven sports figures, two from law, and one each in music, business/economics, radio (Limbaugh), philanthropy, Cabinet and Congress.

Why Rush Limbaugh?

Limbaugh, the combative talk radio host, is equal parts hero of the political right and villain of the left. His selection was guaranteed to please the right and dismay the left. As a statement, the choice of Limbaugh for this medal was akin to his pardoning of former Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Limbaugh announced Feb. 3, the day before he received the award at the State of the Union address, that he has stage 4 lung cancer, a dire prognosis. Critics did not let sympathy for his predicament hold them back, saying he deserved affordable health care, not a medal.

Limbaugh is widely known for labeling women’s rights advocates “feminazis,” for calling women’s contraceptive care advocate Susan Fluke a prostitute and a slut, for comparing asylum-seekers massing at the U.S. border to a “Normandy invasion,” and for accusing actor Michael J. Fox of faking the symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease.

Here, in Trump’s words to Limbaugh while Limbaugh sat next to first lady Melania Trump during the State of the Union, is why the president chose him:

“In recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity.”

* Guest editorial from the El Paso Times in El Paso, Texas.


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