Last week I took issue with Rush Limbaugh’s verbal attacks on law student Sandra Fluke and as a result I received a number of reader e-mails. Suffice it to say, the column stirred a hornet’s nest. I would say a bee’s nest but I’m not sure we have bees anymore. (To quote Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?”)
Oddly enough a majority of the e-mails were critical because I didn’t call Bill Maher out on the carpet for an ugly epithet he used in describing Sarah Palin. (FYI, “call on the carpet” comes from the military where only senior officers had carpet in their offices.)
Maher’s attack of Palin, however offensive to some, occurred during a comedy concert. His audience paid to attend and knows his reputation for, as he puts it, “having a potty mouth.”
As a comedian, Maher was either being funny or attempting to do so, depending on one’s point of view. Rush, however, was obviously serious when he called Ms. Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” and is also obviously not a comedian. (Though some consider him a clown, albeit a very rich one.)
Other distinctions: Ms. Fluke is a student while Palin is as public a figure as one can be. With TV and rally appearances, Palin sells books, and raises millions for her PAC which supports candidates for “real Americans,” meaning she’s quite an attacker herself. Just recall her self-description, “The only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick.”
Limbaugh made his vile remarks over three broadcasts to humiliate Ms. Fluke, who only wanted to testify at a Congressional hearing to express her advocacy for female birth control medication to be included in health plans. And evidently that justified Rush calling her a “slut.” Disgraceful.
The fact is I still can’t understand how Darrell Issa’s committee, which was dealing with women-related health issues, had only men testify. Issa said Ms. Fluke wasn’t “qualified.” (Because she didn’t have a penis?)
For Rush, Ms. Fluke’s second strike was that she had a different viewpoint than his and that’s intolerable, especially when coming from a woman. Just examine his endless references to Nancy Pelosi as the “Botox queen.” Attacking someone’s appearance is pathetic but also hypocritical when the attacker looks like Rush. (Something about glass houses.)
Another distinction between Maher and Limbaugh’s remarks is that Rush made his over public airwaves. A better comparison would have been Ed Schultz’ 2011 reference to Laura Ingraham as a “right-wing slut” for which he was suspended by MSNBC for a week without pay. (That would have cost Rush a cool $1 million.) I watched Schultz’ on-air apology and he seemed genuinely contrite. Rush’s non-apology apology essentially blamed liberals. A bully’s never sorry and it’s never his fault.
But lost in all of this is the apparent right-wing war against women, which absolutely mystifies me. Rush’s gutter style name-calling of Ms. Fluke and his repulsive suggestion that her sex tapes should be put online are hideous. (Ms. Fluke wasn’t talking about birth control and sex but rather the preventative value the meds have for other female medical issues.)
Consider if Rush had been that vile in describing blacks (using the “N” word) or Jews, or just about any minority. He’d be in line at the unemployment office, or maybe he’d send his cleaning woman. (Meanwhile, Viagra has been covered in health plans since 1998 but female birth control isn’t. Why?)
How did it become acceptable in 2012 to demean females or make crude jokes about the best birth control being aspirin between women’s knees? Or, as Rick Santorum suggests, that all contraception is wrong. (If anything is wrong it’s Rick’s sweater vests.)
I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up. Is the GOP right-wing purposely trying to alienate 51 percent of the voters to appeal to fundamentalists who think women’s rights ought to be rolled back to the middle ages? (Or at least back to 1952.) That sounds like the Taliban. What’s next, burkas?
Here’s a slightly disturbing statistic. (Actually more than slightly.) In countries around the world with the highest percentage of females in national legislatures, the U.S. ranks 69th. That’s shameful.
And just yesterday, Willard (“all math, no message”) Romney said something just as disturbing: “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.” Planned Parenthood provides services to 3 million women, including vital breast cancer screenings.
With his never apologize approach, wars are very possible with Willard. Somehow there’s always money for wars. But breast cancer screenings are breaking the budget. Willard also says the government can’t help fund PBS anymore, so bye-bye Big Bird. The GOP bumper sticker for 2012 could read, “Contraception and Big Bird Are Bad.”
As Rip Van Winkle might have said, “I’m going to go back to bed.”
Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.