There are many things I like about Rush Limbaugh. I’ve been on his radio show 4 or 5 times. He was generous enough to do an interview with me, which I published in my last book, A Slobbering Love Affair. He has read things on the air that I have written and complimented me about them. But what he said about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student, was wrong, and not just for the reason Limbaugh gave on his radio program.
Limbaugh said he should never have called her “those two words” — a “slut” and a “prostitute” (which he was smart enough not to repeat) – because, by calling her names, he brought himself down to the level of liberals, who, he said, resort to personal attacks when they disagree with someone.
Maybe. But Limbaugh was wrong for several other reasons: First, what he did is just not smart. There are much better ways to deal with someone with whom you disagree on matters of policy than calling them names. He was also wrong because his ugly comments took the spotlight off of Ms. Fluke, where they belong, and needlessly placed it on Limbaugh himself.
So instead of focusing on her belief that even a Catholic University has an obligation to provide contraceptives, free of charge to female students, through its insurance plan – we’re focusing on Limbaugh’s comments, which are being characterized as part of a “war on women.”
Instead of asking Ms. Fluke whether she thinks the federal government can force private business to give away any other product for free besides contraceptives for women, we’re entangled in a discussion about whether Limbaugh’s apology was sincere or merely a response to his loss of advertisers.
Instead of delving into Ms. Fluke’s admiration for the entitlement society, we’re busy speculating on the long-term effects of Limbaugh’s name-calling.
When Bill O’Reilly pretty much said in his Talking Points memo that Ms. Fluke can do whatever she wants, but if it concludes contraceptives she ought to pay for them herself – a perfectly reasonable position — he was immediately linked, by left-wing Web sites, as an ally of Limbaugh — a good, liberal way, to knock off two birds with one stone.
For the foreseeable future, whenever a Republican politician goes on a news program we can expect the reporter to ask what he thinks of Limbaugh’s comments – and will he, right here and now, condemn the conservative talk show host.
I like Rush. But he really screwed up this time.
One final thought, this one about media hypocrisy: Sure, the so-called mainstream media salivate a lot more when Limbaugh says something dopey than when Bill Maher says something hateful about a conservative, something he’s done many times. But the fact is, Bill Maher doesn’t have nearly the influence on American culture or politics as Rush Limbaugh. So the comparison goes just so far.
As a conservative, the double standard that troubles me is coming from the Right. Conservatives, some on FOX, who got all worked up when Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a “right wing slut” on his radio show, have gone AWOL since Rush used the same word against Ms. Fluke. No outrage from them this time around. It’s as if they hadn’t heard anything about what Limbaugh said.
Liberals only care about bias and nastiness when a conservative is guilty and conservatives only care about such things when a liberal is guilty. There’s a name for this: it’s called hypocrisy – and both sides have enough to choke a horse. And it’s why thoughtful consumers of news are disgusted with both sides.