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No Way to Treat a Lady

One should never call a woman a slut, unless she’s into that, and it would have been better if Rush Limbaugh had not done so. Still, the indignation of his critics is hard to bear.

If you’ve limited your news reading to the important things, you might have missed the story. In the wake of the Obama administration’s decision that the Catholic church should provide contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization for the employees of its hospitals, schools and other large institutions, a Georgetown University law student with the intriguing name of Sandra Fluke spoke before an unofficial congressional hearing about the burdensome injustice of not being provided contraceptive coverage by the Catholic school. Radio commentator Limbaugh disapprovingly commented on her comments during his popular program, and in the course of his commentary he likened her to a prostitute and referred to her as a “slut.” Much tsk-tsking ensued from the rest of the commenting industry, several politicians expressed grave offense, outraged activist groups scared away some advertisers, and Limbaugh wound up apologizing at length on consecutive broadcasts.

Such broadcasting brouhahas pop up from time to time, heaping massive amounts of publicity on the offending speaker before fading from the public’s memory, and this is just another one of them. Limbaugh’s many enemies are hoping to make the most of it, however, and it should be noted that their protests are censorious, opportunistic, and hypocritical.

The president apparently called Fluke “to express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks,” but he won’t be returning the million bucks that was raised for his campaign by foul-mouthed comedian Bill Maher, who has refused to apologize for calling former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin an ever harsher epithet that does not bear repeating here. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Republicans to disavow “the vicious and appropriate attacks,” but had no public opinion when television wag David Letterman insinuated that Palin’s apolitical daughter was promiscuous. Rep. Steny Hoyer is apparently advising Fluke to sue, but offered no such advice to conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham after MSNBC’s Ed Schultz called her a “right-wing slut.”

Examples of such liberal vitriol abound, as any prominent conservative woman will attest, and are in keeping with the generally degraded nature of contemporary popular culture. Since the days of Lenny Bruce and The Berkeley Barb the cultural left has championed vulgarity, profanity, and the personal attack as authentic and liberating, and at this late date it’s galling to hear them complain that some of it has seeped in to Limbaugh’s shtick.

Still, it would have been better if Limbaugh hadn’t said that. It’s not only unseemly, so very like the sort of people he usually rails against, but it also distracted from a fair critique of a ridiculous young woman who chose to thrust herself into the national political discourse. Fluke’s notion that her rights are being violated if the government doesn’t pay for it will prove extremely expensive if put into practice, given that we’ve all got a right to guns and many other costly things, and she deserves ridicule. It’s bad enough when people think the world owes them a living, but Fluke seems to think it owes her some loving as well.

Which is not meant to imply any promiscuity on her part, of course. She’s no doubt a fine young woman, just slightly mistaken.

— Bud Norman

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