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Limbaugh's Attack a Gift to Democrats & Obama

By Carl M. Cannon - March 6, 2012

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On his show Wednesday, Limbaugh was still expressing indignation over the stunt orchestrated by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The Dems played a little game of switcheroo, first telling Committee Chairman Darrell Issa that they wanted prominent liberal Barry Lynn to testify at a hearing on the contraception provisions of Obamacare, then at the last minute asking instead for an obscure, third-year Georgetown University law student named Sandra Fluke.

For reasons best known only to himself, Issa declined to let Fluke testify before the committee. If he had, as Fluke later explained in a video, she would have related hearsay from two other women she did not name, and may have never even met. One them, Fluke asserted, would regularly suffer grand mal seizures without the daily doses of estrogen she received from birth control pills. The other is the wife of a man who works at a Catholic institution; she just had a baby, and doesn’t want another one right away.

No Republicans were present to express skepticism about the claim that a woman who suffers life-threatening seizures can’t get a prescription for hormones except via contraceptives. As for the other woman, they might have asked whether it is really such a hardship to have to pay for condoms for a while or buy birth control pills that Wal-Mart sells for $8 month, or about a week’s supply of Huggies.

But the Republicans weren’t there, and by the time the Democrats had Fluke speak to them -- and only to them -- she was citing a stronger example: a classmate whom she says needed estrogen to stave off ovarian cysts -- a woman, by the way, who is a lesbian and who therefore doesn’t need The Pill for contraception. Although Fluke turned out to be a 30-year-old seasoned feminist activist instead of the 23-year-old ingénue originally portrayed by Democrats, she was poised and well-spoken, and avoided ad hominem argument.

The same cannot be said of Rush Limbaugh, who didn’t even do anyone the courtesy of listening to what Fluke had said.

“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her?” Limbaugh said last Wednesday. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. . . . She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, among others, called on Limbaugh to retract his comments. Instead, he doubled-down, proclaiming the following day: “So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you femi-nazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives -- and thus pay for you to have sex -- we want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Confident they controlled the moral high ground, Democrats turned up the heat. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, called on the sponsors of Limbaugh’s syndicated show -- by name -- to pull their advertising, and urged all women to boycott those companies if they did not. As Limbaugh’s sponsors fell in line with this threat and began pulling their ad dollars out of his show, he apologized -- half-assedly at first, and then a second time with more solemnity.

But the damage had been done.

At the outset of the 2012 campaign, the president and his political advisers signaled they didn’t necessarily want to run for re-election on 8.3 percent unemployment and $4-a-gallon gasoline. Much better to run against the presumed “extremism” of the modern Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh has made that much easier to do.

Partisan politics being what they are these days, it seemed likely Democrats would overplay their hand, and sure enough, this week Guy Cecil of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ginned up a petition calling on Republican leaders to “fire” Limbaugh, whatever that means, and “shut down their party’s spiritual and intellectual leader.”

Thus did the argument shift to censorship, double standards, and scapegoating. Laura Ingraham noted that Obama never phoned her in consolation when Ed Schultz of MSNBC called her a slut. Meanwhile, liberal writer Kirsten Powers found it passing strange that Schultz did a show on Limbaugh’s identical slur, and conservative writer John McCormack wonders why Obama’s super PAC justifies accepting $1 million from Bill Maher, the HBO talk show host who called Sarah Palin “a dumb twat” -- and worse.

On his own show Tuesday, speaking a little while after Obama held a news conference, Limbaugh recalled how the president laughed on the dais at the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner when comedian Wanda Sykes said of Limbaugh, “I hope his kidneys fail.”

Those of us waiting for a national conversation on federalism? We’ll apparently have to wait a little longer. 

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Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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