Monday, March 5, 2012
The Misogynists, The Ignorant, The Cowards and The Gentleman
Republican politics sunk to a new low this past week.
On February 23, 2012 Sandra Fluke, a law school student at Georgetown University, provided testimony to Democratic members of the House of Representatives after Darrell Issa (R. California) denied her the opportunity to testify before the committee he chairs (House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform). Ms. Fluke testified on behalf of mandatory inclusion of contraception services in health insurance policies. She cited the case of a friend of hers at Georgetown who suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome and required birth control pills as treatment for her condition. The friend could not obtain the treatment at Georgetown, a Catholic affiliated institution, and as a result ended up losing an ovary.
Rush Limbaugh on his nationally syndicated radio talk show personally attacked Ms. Fluke for three days in a row. Mr. Limbaugh referred to Ms. Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is “having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception ….. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.” He went on to say that Ms. Fluke should post sex videos of herself online “so we can all watch.”
Mr. Limbaugh in addition to being a thoroughly disgusting individual, appears to be a profoundly ignorant man. He seems to think that hormonal contraception involves a woman taking a pill every time she has sex (I presume he is generalizing from his knowledge of Viagra). Apparently, Mr. Limbaugh doesn’t understand that hormonal contraception involves the woman taking a daily pill regardless of the number of times she has sex. He also apparently doesn’t understand that Georgetown’s student health insurance is paid for by students and not taxpayers.
Regardless of whether one agrees with the position taken by Sandra Fluke, the attack launched by Rush Limbaugh on national radio on this young woman would have to be considered reprehensible and beneath contempt by any civilized person.
You would think that this would be an opportunity for the Republican and conservative leaders to establish their credentials as nominally decent people by denouncing the offensive remarks. Let us see what they actually said.
TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly, while not addressing Rush Limbaugh’s comments, said: "Let me get this straight, Ms. Fluke, and I'm asking this with all due respect. You want me to give you my hard-earned money so you can have sex?" He then went on to say that if he had to pay for Ms. Fluke’s contraception then the taxpayer should have paid for his football equipment when he was in college.
Have Mr. O’Reilly, or other conservative or Republican spokespeople similarly objected to insurance coverage for Viagra which involves “paying for men to have sex”? Have they also objected to student insurance coverage (paid for primarily by non-athletes) for treatment of athletic injuries for individuals such as Mr. O’Reilly who choose to expose themselves to the risks of tackle football?
Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman said: “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation," thus putting the Democrats in the same category as Mr. Limbaugh.
Rick Santorum said: “He [Rush Limbaugh] is being absurd, but that's you know, an entertainer can be absurd.” If Mr. Limbaugh had directed similar language against Mr. Santorum’s wife or daughters would Mr. Santorum have laughed the comments off as being “absurd”?
Newt Gingrich refused to criticize Mr. Limbaugh.
Mitt Romney said referring to Mr. Limbaugh’s comments: “It's not the language I would have used.” Mr. Romney, what synonyms would you have preferred for the words “slut” or “prostitute”?
Mr. Romney while being interviewed by Mike Huckabee stated his unqualified support for a “Personhood Amendment” to the US Constitution which would define a fertilized ovum to be a person. Mitt Romney claims that he supports the right of women to use contraceptives (so progressive) while also supporting the failed Blunt amendment which would enable payers, employers, medical personnel and dispensers the right to deny women access to contraception (or any other medical service that they might object to on the basis of “religion” or “conscience”). Apparently, Mr. Romney is also quite ignorant in matters biological, not understanding that hormonal birth control while acting to suppress ovulation also inhibits implantation of ova that do manage to get fertilized. IUDs also inhibit implantation of fertilized ova. Thus if a Personhood Amendment were to be adopted, both hormonal birth control and IUDs would be banned.
The Republican leaders must either agree with Mr. Limbaugh’s sentiments or are such cowards that they are afraid to condemn even the most outrageous and offensive statements for fear of antagonizing the right wing extremists of their party. This episode brings to mind one of the early Republican debates during which a soldier on active duty in Iraq called in a question to the candidates while identifying himself as being gay. The crowd booed this active duty soldier and not a single one of the candidates admonished the crowd for booing this soldier in the battlefield who was putting his life on the line every day for his country.
In contrast, to his credit, presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 did admonish a woman at a town meeting who was vilifying Barack Obama saying “No, ma’am. He’s a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.”
Mitt Romney, or any of the other conservative and Republican leaders, could have elevated his stature to the level of common decency by simply saying, “While I may not agree with Ms. Fluke’s positions, as Americans we have an obligation to deal respectfully with individuals we may disagree with. Mr. Limbaugh’s comments were disgusting and reprehensible and have no place in our public discourse.” The cowards could not bring themselves to say even this.
What masqueraded as opposition to abortion and support for religious freedom has been unmasked as the ugliest sort of misogyny and the Republican elite refuses to condemn it. The Republican war on women continues as does the Republican war on gays.
Ironically, the free market is bolder than the cowardly Republicans; a steady stream of sponsors have announced that they have withdrawn their sponsorship from the Rush Limbaugh show.
Mr. Obama called Ms. Fluke and expressed his support for her in the face of the abuse that she has been subjected to. He is the gentleman.