Republican Response Regrettable (And Lacking Alliteration)
Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo probably is a very nice man. But is he living in an alternate universe?
Massachusetts' Scott Brown, recipient of gobs of Wall Street cash, voted for the Blunt amendment permitting all employers to deny to employees preventive health care on a whim. If the employer can claim a religious or moral objection, any service is fair game and can be eliminated for the employee. Worse yet, Brown then wrapped his attack on health care around the First Amendment, arguing that the measure enhanced religious freedom and was consistent with the position of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Wrong vote, cowardly (and misleading) excuse.
But Brown (as of now) stands alone in the GOP firmament in his condemnation of Rush Limbaugh, who this past week referred to Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke as a "slut" or "prostitute." He claimed, falsely and with obvious ignorance of the mechanism of birth control, that Fluke "said that she was having so much sex, she can't afford it."
Brown tweeted "Rush Limbaugh's comments are reprehensible. He should apologize." National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee chairwoman Carly Fiorina said the remarks were "insulting in my opinion," the next best thing to characterizing them flatly as "insulting;" and "a distraction from very real and important issues," suggesting that Limbaugh's primary sin may have been political ineptitude.
The assessments by Brown and Fiorina stand alone and don't warrant McMorris-Santoro's observation "looks like Republicans aren't going to stick by Rush Limbaugh this time." The TPM contributor, as evidence, cites Speaker Boehner's spokesman who, channeling the old playground excuse "so's your old man," remarked "the speaker obviously believes the use of these words was inappropriate, as was trying to raise money off the situation."
McMorris-Santoro noted that House Oversight Committe Chairman Darrell Issa (reputed to be the wealthiest member of Congress) "does not agree 'with many comments that have been made during the effort to examine the constitutionality of Obamacare’s mandates on individual freedom, including the ones by Mr. Limbaugh, I find your narrow focus on this particular comment to be self-serving and dismissive of other inappropriate comments and attacks on Americans of faith.'" And he calls that- wait for it- "the least condemning criticism of all the Republicans who weighed in Friday." Criticism?
A little earlier, McMorris-Santoro had argued "With one phone call, President Obama has forced the Republican candidates for president into a Sophie’s Choice with potentially far-reaching implications: Do they stand up to Rush Limbaugh, who made divisive comments about a law student this week, or do they stand up for a highly influential conservative leader who’s embarrassed the Republicans who’ve crossed him in the past?"
Obama's phone call was commendable, strategically and ethically, but McMorris-Santoro takes from it the wrong lesson. Blogging "early indications are Rick Santorum has chosen the former path," he notes the ex-Pennsylvania senator from Virginia remarked "He’s being absurd, but that’s you know, an entertainer can be absurd. He’s in a very different business than I am.” Santorum's statement was rather clever, but rather disingenuous and hardly critical.
Memo to McMorris-Santoro: when an immensely influential political figure says something outrageous and a politician claims the guy is merely an "entertainer," he is excusing the speaker, holding him to a different, less severe (with apologies to Mitt Romney) standard. This is regularly demonstrated by Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert, who regularly make brilliant but outrageous comments- and have proven almost completely immune from criticism.
Mitt Romney initially took a pass, first avoiding the controversy while later stating merely "I'll just say this which it's not the language I would have used." Digby maintains Romney could have seemed "all prim and proper" if he had remarked "my parents taught me to be respectful of women and that isn't respectful." It would have been mildly critical but not confrontational, and would have come off as charmingly old-fashioned. There would have been no criticism of the candidate, especially because it would have appeared to be a shot against his parents. Politicians and journalists know: never, ever criticize parents.
Lord willing and the creek (Indians) don't rise, Senator Scott Brown will be displaced by Massachusetts voters with the remarkable Elizabeth Warren, and Brown's utter indifference to the importance of contraceptive, and other health care, coverage will play a role. But as of now, on the issue of Rush Limbaugh, Brown's comment is about the only one not worthy of criticism.