UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh has posted an apology on his website:
“For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.
For the record, Fluke did not ever discuss “personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress,” as Limbaugh asserts. Nor did Limbaugh attempt to ” illustrate the absurd with absurdity.” He leveled a vicious personal attack. You can’t excuse such behavior with a giggle and a “hey, it’s just a joke.”
That said, the apology is duly noted.
After Rush Limbaugh’s initial attack on Sandra Fluke, in which he called the college student a slut and a prostitute for arguing in favor of contraceptive coverage, a handful of Democrats started calling on Republican colleagues to repudiate those vulgar remarks.
My initial reaction was that such statements weren’t necessary. After all, it was Limbaugh who said those things, not Republican politicians. He should be the one to answer for them.
However, when Limbaugh upped the ante the next day — demanding to know who had paid for Fluke’s condoms back when she was in the sixth grade, marveling that she could even walk with all the sex she was having and insisting that Fluke make a sex tape so that Limbaugh could watch — the climate changed considerably.
With his powerful microphone and unchallenged influence in the conservative movement, Limbaugh was now dictating the terms in which this issue would be discussed. He had taken a debate about government health-insurance mandates and religious freedom and transformed it into a vicious media stoning of women who dared to be sexually active and to speak up for themselves in the public arena.
If that was not the terrrain on which Republican leaders wanted to debate the issue, they had an obligation to say so in no uncertain terms. And if a person long embraced by GOP officials as a leader of their movement, a man whose favor many of them had publicly sought, had now exceeded the bounds of basic decency, it would be useful to hear them say that as well.
With rare exceptions, they have not chosen to do so.
Oh, the brave Mitt Romney stepped into the fray by reminding us that “it’s not the language I would have used.” Gee, good to know, Mitt. Thanks for the principled moral leadership.
John Boehner sent a spokesman out to tell us that Limbaugh’s words were “inappropriate,” another marvel of meaningless understatement. Rick Santorum, who generally loves to preach about the decline of standards in this country, said Limbaugh was being “absurd” and then shrugged it off on the grounds that the talk show host is an entertainer, as if it’s entertaining to publicly demean young women in such fashion. (Judging from the reaction in some quarters, for too many it is exactly that.)
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, whose hearings into the issue helped create this firestorm, responded by insisting that the real problem is the tone set by Democrats. He asked them to apologize for some of the language that phone-callers have used with his staff.
The only elected Republican to take on the issue directly has been U.S. Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a father of two daughters who tweeted that “Rush Limbaugh’s comments are reprehensible. He should apologize.”
Carly Fiorina, vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also condemned the remarks as insulting and incendiary. For her candor, she has been chastized by conservatives on grounds that she just doesn’t get it.
Dana Loesch, editor of the conservative Big Journalism site, also applauded and echoed Limbaugh’s approach, complaining that “More have admonished Limbaugh’s description of Sandra Fluke than admonished a 30 year-old woman embarrassing herself before Congress by testifying that she simply cannot stop getting it on and her inability to control her urges constitutes infringing upon everyone else for a bailout.”
It’s become more and more apparent that for some, this debate really is about women who “simply cannot stop getting it on” and who dare to insist on the right to not get pregnant while doing so.
In a revealing piece published this week in the Wall Street Journal, OpinionJournal editor James Taranto made the point far more politely than Limbaugh, alleging that what this is really about is a liberal feminist “war on fertility:”
“Yes, in the short term, contraception is cheaper than fertility. In the long term, however, a war on fertility is an act of cultural and economic suicide. Today’s low fertility is tomorrow’s shortage of productive citizens–of the taxpayers who would have to pay for the ever-expanding entitlement state.The continuing collapse of European welfare statism is as much a crisis of demographics as of sclerotic government. Even communist China, which somewhat ironically lacks a Western-style welfare state, is having to reckon with the unintended long-term consequences of its one-child policy.
America has some hope for the future, though. Its fertility rate has not declined as sharply as in other Western nations, in part thanks to families like the Romneys, Santorums, Pauls and Palins. The polarization of American politics gives reason for hope about America’s political future, too. As we posited years ago in “The Roe Effect,” the left’s war on fertility is likely to have its greatest success in reducing the fertility of left-leaning women, thereby ensuring that future generations are more conservative.”
It is, in other words, still 1969, and we are still fighting the same old battles in slightly altered guises. I find that fascinating and depressing.
– Jay Bookman