Probably no one has earned more leeway from conservative voters and pundits than Rush Limbaugh. Rush has been a tireless force for the conservative movement for decades, and he probably is responsible for a whole lot of conservative Republicans who are currently in office. But thankfulness for past service only goes so far, and Rush’s program yesterday officially crossed the line.

When I think about Rush’s last year or so on air, I’m reminded of Marshall Phillipe Petain, one of the most intriguing figures of the twentieth century. Without Petain, the French might not have prevailed over the Germans at Verdun, and thus might have lost World War I. But for as much thanks as France owed Petain for his service in World War I, the full historical reckoning for Petain must acknowledge that Petain was a Nazi collaborator, the leader of Vichy France, and a totalitarian dictator. Petain’s history is complicated, and to tell the whole tale honestly requires acknowledging both the good and the bad.

So it is with Rush. For all he has done, and for all we should be thankful for, it is hard to deny that Donald Trump has brought conservatism to a critical moment. From this moment forward, it will either resemble the vision Rush has preached for thirty years, or it will not. It will either move forward as a recognizable force, or it will be destroyed with Trump in a historic landslide election.

And Rush has chosen the wrong side, and is moreover taking a leadership position.

Rush claims that he is neutral about Trump, and that he is just providing “analysis,” and not taking a side. However Rush might have clung to that fig leaf prior to yesterday, he can’t any longer. Here Rush is trying to spin Donald Trump’s insane behavior about what happened in Colorado as something positive for Trump. 

RUSH: Trump has this op-ed in the — this is gonna be tough when I get to that.  Trump has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.  I have it in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers here.

“On Saturday, April 9th,” Mr. Trump begins, in his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, “On Saturday, April 9, Colorado had an “election” without voters. Delegates were chosen on behalf of a presidential nominee, yet the people of Colorado were not able to cast their ballots to say which nominee they preferred.

A planned vote had been canceled. And one million Republicans in Colorado were sidelined.”

Now I hate to do this, but that just isn’t correct.  There was never going to be an election, a primary election in Colorado and this op-ed gives the impression that Colorado was gonna have a vote. There was gonna be a primary and people are gonna vote like they have in other states and at the last-minute changed their mind.  There never was a plan to vote.  There was never a plan to vote that was canceled in Colorado.  Colorado was always, from last August, going to be what it was:  a series of conventions where delegates would be chosen to the convention by Republican attendance at these various county conventions and at the big state convention, but there was never gonna be a vote.

Okay, got it? Rush starts off this bit by stating explicitly that Trump’s position is a bald-faced lie. And I don’t know why Rush “hate[s] to do this,” since all he is doing is stating a fact that is a matter of indisputable historical fact: Donald Trump is full of crap about Colorado. There is no reasonable dispute about this. Anyone with access to Google and 10 spare seconds on their hands could verify this. If Donald Trump really believes what he is saying, he is an idiot. The alternative is that he is a liar. Either way, what he is saying is false.

Rush’s position is that Trump is a liar, and he thinks that is awesome (for Trump) and that it’s even more awesome that Trump lost. Seriously:

And this op-ed — you know, I asked a question two days ago, and I asked it again yesterday.  And that question was, why didn’t Trump call attention to Colorado not having an election beforehand?  Why did he wait until Colorado’s process was complete to lodge a complaint about it?  And this op-ed gives us the answer.  You know what we have here?  Trump andColorado is a classic lesson in winning by losing.  How to win by losing.

It is apparent to me now that the Trump campaign was fully aware that they were gonna lose Colorado this way and had found and discovered a way to turn that to their advantage by claiming that Colorado had cheated, by claiming that Colorado was disenfranchising people, by claiming that Colorado was gonna have a vote and then changed their mind.  But their never was a plan to vote.  So I’ve answered my question.  Trump waited ’til after Colorado to exploit the fact that there was not an election there, and it helped his point if he lost.

So for those of you devising campaign strategies in the future, file this one under the category of winning by losing.  And even in the next page of the op-ed he refers to it again.  He said: “No one forced anyone to cancel the vote in Colorado. Political insiders made a choice to cancel it. And it was the wrong choice.”  There was no vote ever intended to happen.  So there was never in this cycle a cancellation of an election.  But Trump’s op-ed makes it look like there was a scheduled vote and a last minute cancellation to disenfranchise people because they didn’t want Trump to win.

And Trump supporters are more than happy to embrace that.  I mean, every supporter loves it when their guy is the victim of some cheating or some dirty trick.  So I’ve answered my question.  Why didn’t Trump call attention to this before they caucused in Colorado?  Because he was counting on losing and then exploiting it, which he’s done brilliantly, and here you have this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal which carries the theme forward.

Get it? Trump lost, on purpose, lied about how and why it happened, discredited the entire party in the process, and here Rush is calling him a genius and brilliant.

For one thing, this is too cute by half. Know what Trump really needs more than to appeal to his (already dedicated) voters at this point? He needs 34 delegates. He’s tantalizingly close to being on pace for the 50% threshold (1,237) and losing all of the delegates from Colorado meaningfully hurt his chances. There’s no such thing as “winning by losing” – that’s just something losers say. Know who’s made that point countless times over the years? Rush Limbaugh.

Second, no reasonable person would come up with such a convoluted reason to praise someone for telling a bald faced lie that hurts the political party they support – unless they are completely in the tank for someone. I’m serious. No one would look at a situation in which Trump lost in embarrassing fashion, then lied about why (in the process of whining like a baby) and say “Trump won this exchange” unless they were desperately looking for a reason to say Trump won.

This kind of tortured and nonsense take has become all too common for Rush since he started running interference for Trump. And after yesterday’s show, there’s no other reasonable interpretation of the facts. In the existential fight for the future of conservatism, Trump has decisively sided with conservatism’s enemies.

It’s very sad and depressing to watch, much like the grizzled men under Petain’s command who had survived the trenches of Verdun must have recoiled in horror to watch him palling around with Hitler. It’s most sad that when the final history of Rush is written, this sad chapter might well be the end.