Sailing Away to Irrelevance: Rush Limbaugh & The Right’s Self-Destructive Dependency on The Media Machine

Nine months ago, Jaybird asked readers and contributors alike to take a stab at predicting the outcome of the then-burgeoning 2012 Presidential Campaign. My answer then stands today. (BTW, a big hat tip to the GOP for self-destructively going out of their way to make me look like fishing Kreskin.):

The economy will be slightly better than it is now, but not much. And though that should mean that the Republicans have a great shot at getting the White House they won’t. Their campaign will be forced to take aggressively hostile sounding positions on social issues that their base will be convinced is their key to victory but will turn off and irritate the center. Positions the candidate swore to when they tried to win the nomination will come back to kill him or her (Ha! No, seriously, him) as the general race heats up. The White House, on the other hand, will continue its current trend of presenting the President as a centrist – and will truly look like one in comparison.

I thought of this prediction yesterday as I was reading the fallout from Rush Limbaugh’s comments regarding the Sandra Fluke testimony. If you want a more thorough description of the whole affair, let me to direct you over to Russell’s splendid takedown over at Blinded Trials. However, I’d like to look at this issue from a slightly larger perspective. Because I think this teacup maelstrom is the best microcosm of the difficulties facing the Right in general and the GOP in particular that I have seen since I penned the above nine months ago.

If you have yet to be introduced to the hubbub, the pertinent facts are as follows:

When the controversy surrounding the mandatory inclusion of contraception in federal healthcare plans hit earlier this month, the House Oversight committee held hearings on the matter. The committee, which is chaired by Republican Darrell Issa of California, was criticized by Democrats on two points: The first was that witnesses that had been called by Democrat committee members were not allowed to speak and give testimony. The second was that despite the issue at hand being a woman’s health issue, the five religious leaders that were called to testify were all men.

Sandra Fluke was a called witness that Issa would not let speak. A Georgetown law student, it appears that she was called by Democrats because she was thought to be likable, articulate, passionate, and – being a young woman who is simultaneously not fully employed and highly successful – a good “face” to put on this issue. Not taking no for an answer, Nancy Pelosi called Fluke to give the testimony she had planned to give to the Oversight Committee at a hearing of the House Steering Committee. Fluke gave testimony, arguing (obviously) in favor of the inclusion of contraception in federal healthcare plans.

This week, Rush Limbaugh raised eyebrows when, discussing Fluke’s testimony, he said the following:

“What does it say….that she essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception.”

The day after he said this he essentially doubled down, saying:

“So Miss Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Which if you’re just hearing about this now pretty much brings you up to speed.

I’m going to hold off declaring outrage at Rush’s comments. Partially because Russell has already said everything I would have said only better, and partially because – this being Limbaugh – it’s a little hard to actually be “outraged.” When your mother drops the f-bomb in the grocery store check out line, it’s shocking. When the guy down the block that everyone knows has Tourette’s does it, it kind of starts coming off as a “meh…” after a while. For me, however, the whole episode kind of wraps up all the GOP’s problems today in a nutshell. (Or, perhaps more precisely, maybe it wraps them up in a round, flat plastic dispenser that comes with twenty one white pills and seven pink ones.)

In the late 90s through the early and mid 00s, the GOP found that it could increase both number of voters and voter passion by aligning itself with a media machine that was initially created to build ratings from shock value. The wide success and popularity of conservative talk radio hosts in general, and of Limbaugh in particular, had already been widely acknowledged as the force that had delivered the house to the Republicans in ’94. Republican heavy hitters as well as Righty wanna be-s began to find that their success in the polls was often directly related to their exposure on these shows, where they were treated as mythic folk heroes. The advent of FOX News took that trend and increased it exponentially with TV coverage. The GOP found, much to its delight, that by using the segment of the media that it controlled, it could continually rally its base and win elections without dealing with the traditional difficulties of having to sell superior policy proposals. Rather than giving detailed stances on what they might do in power, they were instead able to focus on demonizing the opposition to self-selected media people that neither asked them to clarify their own plans or ever questioned the claims about their opponents. In a world as hard and difficult as politics, the GOP found a way to make everything easy.

But, as Terry Pratchett has oft said, the problem with the easy way is that eventually it makes everything so damn hard.

The media business model the Right chose to embrace was based on the shock-radio model. An inherent flaw with this type of model is that while it leads to quick ratings and advertising profits, it can be difficult to sustain. If you spend one week calling the President a liar and an idiot, it’s not going to be long before calling him a lying idiot isn’t really all that shocking. You have to continually push just a little bit more as you go, or risk being irrelevant in the shock-media world. This started happening in the 00s, with the rise into the mainstream of people such an Ann Coulter and Mark Levine. At first you could tell that the rank and file of the right were aware that their envelope was being pushed, but their response was usually some form of the following: “Yeah, Coulter is a little nutty when she says that Democrats actually want the terrorists to kill US citizens, but it’s OK because when she says it it really bothers the liberals.” And so, as time went on and claims became more and more outrageous, the excuse that if things bothered liberals it was OK grew within both the media machine and its base.

Somewhere along the line, however, this model has to break down – partly because you eventually reach a ceiling where the base that believes the ever-increasingly shocking claims is small enough to make the party you’re backing politically irrelevant, and partly because to those that aren’t part of the machine or the base you begin to look increasingly out of touch. Birtherism is a fairly good example of this ceiling being reached, as are the Death Panels and Obama/Hitler youth programs. Unfortunately for the Right, however, once you tie yourself and your success so inexorably to the machine it becomes almost impossible to untangle yourself from it. Back in 2009, a number of GOP elected and appointed officials were at different times critical of some particularly outrageous statements by Limbaugh in front of the press. And each time they have quickly been forced by both the machine and the base to publicly grovel their apologies, the most notably being a sitting RNC Chair.

Which brings me back to Sandra Fluke and her testimony.

Over in Russell’s threads, Tom pointed out that Fluke’s testimony in front of the Steering Committee was both a piffle and a political media photo-op created by the Democrats. He is, of course, 100% correct. But here’s the thing: that same point is just as true of Darrell Issa calling six conservative religious leaders to testify in front of the Oversight Committee. Both Pelosi and Issa were simply engaging in political media showmanship. And, I would like to add, there’s nothing at all wrong with that. But the way the right has shown up on radars of the voters in an election year is telling:

If the controlling party of the US House of Representatives calls five witnesses to testify about what is seen as a women’s health issue – at a photo-op event they themselves have created to score political points in an election year – and all five are men, then one of three things has occurred: One is that the GOP was not able to find one single woman of note that would testify on their behalf – even a Republican woman. The second is that they have become so insulated in their machine that it never occurred to them to call a woman to testify about a woman’s health issue. The third is that they knew they would alienate women voters, but decided since it would irritate their peers across the aisle it would be totally worth it.  In any case, this makes it looks very, very bad for their hopes to recapture the White House. Remember, this was not a “lamestream media gotcha moment,” this was the stacked-deck media circus they gleefully planned and broadcast to the world.

And as bad as that sideshow is going to be for them with the female vote come November, it’s nothing compared to the damage Limbaugh did immediately after.

As it happens, I have a lot of friends that have worked over the years on local and national GOP campaigns. And I can tell you, there isn’t one of them that wouldn’t have groaned aloud had Limbaugh said what he had were they working a presidential campaign today. In fact, I guarantee you that in some hotel room over at the Romney camp, staffers have been debating the need to have Romney say publicly that he disagrees with Limbaugh so that they might have a shot at the general, vs. the need to have Romney say nothing so as not to lose the primary. (If the past nine months is any indication at all, the Romney camp will opt to appear to be with Rush today – while trying hard not to say so directly – and then take their lumps and claim they were against Rush all along when the general comes around.)

I’d like you to take a step back, for a moment, and try to picture a similar scenario happening with the Democrats today. Imagine, if you will, that tomorrow while giving a speech at NOW Tina Fey were to say that of course Chris Brown hits women, because he’s a black man and that’s just what those n**gers do. Or if you prefer, imagine that Chris Rock, while doing a DNC fundraiser, talked for a while about how if we wanted to clean up Wall Street, we needed to take a lesson from Bernie Madoff and get all of the the Jews out since all those greedy bastards care about is money.

How do you believe that Dems would react to such a statement from a “comedian?” Can you really not picture one Dem, either in a position of institutional power or an elected official, feeling that they would not lose their job to criticize such a statement? Even if you imagine Obama himself not making a statement, can you imagine that the White House when asked (as they most surely would be) would not choose to at least say something along the lines of, “Chris and Tina are of course funny people, but the President did feel they stepped out of bounds when they said X?”

The people behind the people in the GOP aren’t idiots. They know perfectly well that this whole battle on contraception is going to kill them in a few months; they certainly know that the Right’s most visible pundits lamely and uncomfortably trying to rally around Limbaugh is especially bad news for them. What does it say about today’s GOP, then, that even though they know this they feel so resigned to letting it unfold as it is anyway?

For a while now the Right has held tight to the belief that if the ratings are high and whatever you do pisses off other people, you must be doing something right. And in a way, they are correct: Battling contraception and calling women that are on the pill sluts that should have to be taped having sex so they can whack to it does indeed increase ratings, and it does indeed piss off other people.  So they’ve got those things down pat.

What it doesn’t do is win elections, contribute to the dialogue we should be having, or make your party particularly relevant. But for what it’s worth, I understand that Obama is thankful. So there’s that.

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248 thoughts on “Sailing Away to Irrelevance: Rush Limbaugh & The Right’s Self-Destructive Dependency on The Media Machine

  1. (If the past nine months is any indication at all, the Romney camp will opt to appear to be with Rush today – while trying hard not to say so directly – and then take their lumps and claim they were against Rush all along when the general comes around.)

    Kreskin.  Although, this isn’t a reach, really.

    What does it say about today’s GOP, then, that even though they know this they feel so resigned to letting it unfold as it is anyway?

    Confirmation bias.  Sunk cost fallacy.  Inertial dampers are blown.  Some combination of the three.  They’re manufacturing a crisis probably at some degree because all those people who know it’s going to happen aren’t all talking about how it’s going to happen, because nobody wants to be the guy that points out the Emperor is wearing no clothes.  Classic crisis management groupthink example: everyone individually knows that the bomb will explode, nobody wants to be the guy who says, “WE MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE BOMB IN THE ROOM”.  Why?  That guy is usually out and gonzo before the day is done.  You might save the party, you’re killing your shot at remaining a guy in the party that helps make decisions.  At least, that’s the psychology behind not being that guy.

    You’ve got a few s/its/it’s in there, by the way :P


  2. A similar post (at least one denoucing Limbaugh as having gone way, way, WAY past the line) was posted on Volohk Conspiracy.

    The comments are…enlightening. VC has a very conservative, if oftentimes a bit more libertarian, bent than — say — Red State. it’s mostly focused on law (if from a rather conservative perspective) and the comments are generally a heck of lot more interesting than the average blog.

    On this thread, the second or third comment down was a “slap some sense into the woman” comment and it appears the majority of commentors are on the “Rush totally has a point” side, with the occasional side of “He’s just totally joking, guys”.

    That’s…not a good sign.

    The GOP isn’t competitive among blacks. It’s pretty much written off hispanics for another decade or three. it’s dominance of the white vote isn’t actually all that large. And now it’s writing off women?

    This particular line of attack — contraceptives in general, not the Rush comment — who exactly is it going to persuade? I’m 35 — my generation hasn’t known a time when the Pill wasn’t available. Hearing all this “if you take the pill you’re a slut” and “aspirin between the knees” stuff, and it’s like one party is pitching a return to when women couldn’t vote.

    What’s the plan here? Worse yet, it’s not even subtle. Sure, you could make the case that the GOP wasn’t the greatest party for women — but it wasn’t an easy case. (Not like their open hositility to gays, their historical hostility to blacks and their godawful insulting attempts to pander now — Alan Keyes and Steele, I’m looking at you, their current hostility towards Hispanics…)

    Now? Jesus.


    • Rush had zero point.  His rant was based on an idiotic misunderstanding that the cost of contraception is somehow tied to the frequency of sex.  Nonsense.  There was no point.


      • He’s jumping on the GOP’s suddent anti-concraception fun. Which they apparently thought was going to be a nice “winner” politically. In a country where some gigantically large percentage of women have used or ARE using contraception. Even amongst Catholics.

        He’s being the loud, ugly, mysoginstic face of a party that decided on it’s own to go full idiot on this topic.

        What I don’t get is how they — the GOP in this case — decided this was a good topic to gin up. I can understand, I suppose, why the prominent Catholics were irritated by the measure — they’re not trying to win office, after all — but the GOP?

        Sure, it fires up the base a bit — but at the expense of every other non-27% woman seeing past the curtain at a party that calls people on the Pill sluts who should keep their legs shut.

        It’s idiocy, pure and simple. It’s electoral suicide. People are paying attention to this — the GOP is actually drumming up media coverage! Limbaugh just blew it out through a giant microphone.

        Why is the GOP deciding to basically alienate any woman not already a die-hard Republican? Can they not count?


      • Rush had zero point.  His rant was based on an idiotic deliberate misunderstanding that the cost of contraception is somehow tied to the frequency of sex.  Nonsense.  There was no point.

        I know what you mean, BSK, but I also think that too conveniently lets Rush and those who defend him off the hook. If we attribute any intelligence at all to Rush (or his defenders), then there was a reason for the ‘misunderstanding’ and subsequent slutshaming. It either piss off liberals, or honestly expresses misogyny, or it irrationally responds to Fluke’s argument with ad womenim. Either Rush and his defenders are intelligent, rational people honestly expressing their views, or they aren’t.

        I’m not sure it works out well for them either way.


        • His rant seems to have found fertile soil in the GOP’s base. And taken root. And is growing.

          Pity the other 73% of America finds the Pill to be the most awesome invention of the last several decades. And roughly, what, half the country or more has lived their whole lives with the Pill being a fact of life? And the other half has had, you know, 50+ years to get used to it?

          To hear a bunch of — to be blunt — old guys start talking about how maybe it should be hard to get, or not available at all — ain’t winning friends there.


  3. I cannot believe I didn’t play this game nine months ago. How did I miss that? I’d have been as intrigued by Rick Perry’s strength as everyone else, I suppose. I’m pretty sure I figured he’d be able to consolidate the conservative wing of the party around himself as the not-Romney, and I’m pretty sure I would have predicted Obama/Biden winning a close battle over either a Romney or Perry candidacy. So I would have been like quite a lot of other people.

    Regardless, the capacity of a political effort to self-destruct by virtue of its most over-zealous supporters’ over-the-top statements is an indicator of the extent to which going over the top is the appeal of the political effort in the first place. In other words, comparing the Tina Fey hypothetical to the Rush Limbaugh not-at-all-hypothetical, if Tina Fey goes over the top the Democrats can appeal to the fundamental sanity of the bulk of their supporters and thus sluff off the unappealing lunacy. What we see from the Republicans is caution — fear? — of doing the same thing, which is an indicator that they believe themselves to be actually beholden to the wingnuts.

    I would really like to believe that this fear is misplaced and all the Team Blue’ers have been indulging in hyperbole about the GOP falling into a sort of group mania in which the only way to keep the party working is to run as far and hard to the social right as possible, out-conservativing everyone else such that guys like Rudy! Guiliani and John McCain are considered destestable “squishy liberals”.

    For me, the acid test will be whether the only grownup left in the room winds up getting the nomination.


    • I would really like to believe that this fear is misplaced and all the Team Blue’ers have been indulging in hyperbole about the GOP falling into a sort of group mania…

      So, you’re saying there’s a chance…


      • Yes. See the last sentence of my post above:

        For me, the acid test will be whether the only grownup left in the room winds up getting the nomination.

        It feels very strange to call Mitt Romney the “moderate” and the “reasonable one” after he worked so hard to recast himself as the “conservative” after having actually been moderate at one point in his career. To me, Romney represents the least bad outcome.


        • I’m half wondering in Romey’s frequent “gaffes” in which he reveals the fast he doesn’t in fact understand the motivations for, let alone agree with, various hard-right shiboleths aren’t quietly signalling to those of us who secretly hope he’s just lying to the loonies to get the nomination that, in fact, he is.


          • “I was just lying to get the nomination.  I don’t actually agree with any of it.” will be a GREAT campaign speech!  Romney is your “hope” because you “hope” he’s lying.

            It is, indeed, a fun time to be so conservative that you can’t vote for a centrist like Obama!


  4. I’m pretty sure you meant Tourette’s–if the guy who has turrets says it, you’ve got bigger problems…


  5. Libertarian website my ass.

    When the central gummint can require a religious institution to violate its tenets that’s called tyranny. Any libertarian with an IQ above 70 should know that.



    • Bob, I’m still waiting for someone to refute my earlier umpteeth-made assertion, and I’m pretty sure it is correct: religious institutions are allowed to discriminate based upon religion.

      If I’m right, the Catholic Church isn’t forced to violate their tenets.  I’m pretty sure they can hand out “we won’t buy contraception” pledges and fire anybody that doesn’t sign it, and they’re completely okay on that score.  Am I wrong?

      If not, they already have an out, one that enables them to continue whatever mission they want to follow in the public sphere.  If they don’t want to take it, well, that’s not exactly the government’s problem.

      I think this whole issue is broken on both sides, sure.  But it’s clear to me that there are already gigantic fishing exceptions allowed in the law for religions institutions to enable their free practice, and this one certainly provides them with a usable out for their objection to contraception, so they hardly have any freakin’ ground to stand on if they’re claiming they’re being repressed, here.

      What, they don’t want to force people to sign pledges?  Well, then, I guess your convictions aren’t so solid that this is a matter of fascist repression, is it?


      • Pat:

        FWIW, this should change your “pretty sure” into “absolutely positive.”

        I have a vague awareness that the SCOTUS recently confirmed the correctness of that line of cases (on which, IIRC, there was no circuit split to begin with), but don’t have time to verify.


      • Pat, you’re missing my point.

        I’m not particularly interested in ‘pledges’ or the ducking and dodging that goes on in the midst of these contretemps.The reality of the situation is that church, in the face of the brute power of the central gummint, must either submit or resist. In terms of the church’s teaching she must resist against any force the state chooses to apply.

        Consequently, my concern is with the potential tyranny of the state and the efforts that appear to have begun to suppress the church’s teachings.

        And, in my reading of that interpretation we have with Barry’s assault on the Catholic Church, vis-a-vis the current debate re: contraception/abortion, a very clear and straightforward attempt by the general gummint to usurp the obligations of the church and thereby destroy the social balance (polity) between the secular world and spiritual order.

        I would have thought that anyone who calls himself a ‘libertarian’ might agree with my conclusion?


        • I would have thought that anyone who calls himself a ‘libertarian’ might agree with my conclusion?

          I call myself a libertarian, and I agree with your concern, but not your conclusion.  That is, while I am concerned that the contraceptive issue does cross the line, I think the conclusions that it’s an “assault” on the church and an “attempt to destroy the social balance… between… secular… and spiritual” are far stronger claims than is supported by any of the available evidence.

          More likely Obama and his supporters don’t see this as a real infringement on religion–they may be wrong about that, but the point is that because they don’t view this as a significant infringement they’re pretty clearly not attempting to assault religion or upset the balance between church and state (even if that is the result, it wouldn’t be their attempt).  Also, it’s a better conclusion that this is a dubiously constitutional policy, neither indisputably legitimate nor indisputably legitimate.

          And to the extent a libertarian finds him/herself compelled to oppose Obama’s plan, it’s just the general opposition to government command-and-control regulations that compels that position, not concern for religion or secular/spiritual balance.

          There’s rather more variation within libertarianism than you seem capable of recognizing.  That, perhaps, is your one point of commonality with left-liberals.


          • The line between church and state is never easy to pin down in some bright shining line way.

            But here, no one is telling the Church they have to dispense contraception; no one is forcing them to do anything other than offer a health insurance plan- to their employees- that covers contraception.

            Once a church decides it wants to become an employer, it puts itself willingly under all sorts of rules and regulations.

            If I am not mistaken, when churches become employers and property owners, they normally establish firewalls between the religious and secular operations- for instance the property management firm that operates an office building is a different entity than the archdiocese itself.

            In other words, the Church itself hs no trouble with the “Here we are religious while there we are secular” concept.



          • “More likely Obama and his supporters don’t see this as a real infringement on religion…”

            I gave you more credit then this.

            I don’t consider anyone a Libertarian who doesn’t constantly question the American central gummint. These are the true Libertarians, the rest are just bob-tailed libruls.


            • <i>I don’t consider anyone a Libertarian who doesn’t constantly question the American central gummint.</i>

              There’s a difference–in fact a vast chasm–between constantly questioning the government’s actions and coming to the conclusion that Obama is knowingly and intentionally launching a massive assault on religion.  In the real world, one can do the first without ending up at the second.


            • Bob, I have a serious question.  What is your opinion of Eldridge Cleaver and Malcolm X.  I ask because they faced the “tyranny of the governent” more often and more directly than you ever will.


              • E.D. I hope we can fix this ‘comment’ box from jumping all over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

                Jeff, yes, I lived through the Black Panthers and all that and my initial memory of those halcyon days is that the radical Blacks and their activities had a deleterious effect on the CW movement. Specifically I have no knowledge re: the individuals you mention and you probably know more then I. I consider them minor players in the history of these things and think that if you’re interested in true A-A heroes you might turn to the beloved Nat Turner, who in the spirit of freedom and liberty, took up arms, revolted against his White overlords and died like a man.


        • The reality of the situation is that church, in the face of the brute power of the central gummint, must either submit or resist.

          But that *is* my point, Bob… this is a false dichotomy.

          The Church might have all sorts of good reasons to not want to go a “pledge and enforcement” route.  It’s crass for the government to put them in that situation (I agree, it’s also politically dodgy).  But they already have an out, they have a way to conscientiously object to the proposal, and offer all the things that the government requires that they offer, but only to people who pledge to *not* take advantage of the one (small) aspect of that collection of things to which they have an objection.  Moreover, they have this out precisely because they’re a religious institution with the freedoms that come with being a religious institution.

          Given that they already have a legal path to do this, I’m really hard pressed to call it tyranny in any meaningful sense of the word.


          • Here’s the flaw, as I see it, in your argument:

            “But they already have an out…”

            In a free country, the church doesn’t need “a way out.” The church only needs “..a way out” if it is being persecuted or coerced. And, if it is being coerced history tells us it will soon be persecuted. Ironically, the church always, and every time, flourishes under persecution.



            • In a free country, the church doesn’t need “a way out.”

              Of course they do, Bob.  Unless you’re going to reducto “free country” to “anarchy”, and then *nobody* needs “a way out” of anything, because there is no government to tell anybody to do anything.

              That’s why they have exemption from lots of labor laws that are on the books.  Because they deserve that out, by the standing principle of free exercise of religion.  Note: it’s not a fully qualified out.  There are some free exercises of religion we don’t permit (no virgins in the volcano).  But still, religious organizations have a “get out of ‘this law’ card” that other organizations don’t have.  They don’t pay taxes, so they’re not contributing to government-subsidized anything.  They can fire people for religious reasons – it’s certainly the case that the Catholic Church could refuse to hire people that don’t agree to stay away from contraception for immoral purposes, and they don’t have to hire immoral persons.  So if you don’t have to hire immoral persons – and indeed, you are given the authority to decide who is immoral when normal employers aren’t – and you don’t have to retain immoral persons, how is giving your virtuous employee insurance that covers potentially immoral uses a problem?

              Put another way: if employer-provided insurance of *any* sort is a required norm, how is this *not also* an infringement of their possible moral obligations?  If you’re arguing that employer-provided health insurance – even that which existed prior to PPACA – is inherently anti-American, that’s a different argument, I’d say.

              The church only needs “..a way out” if it is being persecuted or coerced.  And, if it is being coerced history tells us it will soon be persecuted.

              I think you’re going to have to bust out a very formal definition of “coerced” before I let you get away with that one, Bob.


              • Pat, you’re the one who says the church needed a ‘way out.’ I’m the one who says in a free country the church must be free to seek the balance between the secular and spiritual order that produces a certain social comity. In the construct of a viable polity this is critical, and explains why the best form of gummint, the one best suited to resist the centralization of power in the elite, is the republic in that, by definition, the republic limits or reduces the opportunities for the triumph of the libido dominandi, the lust for power in man. The greatest danger confronting America is and always has been the centralization of power in Washington City, particularly when the regime in power seeks ‘fairness’ and equity through the power of the central gummint. This is a recipe for a political disaster of the first magnitude.


                • I’m the one who says in a free country the church must be free to seek the balance between the secular and spiritual order that produces a certain social comity.

                  The Church?  Okay, Bob.  Let’s clarify that for the record.

                  Can a church decide that a spiritual leader can dictate who marries whom?

                  Can a church decide that a spiritual leader can decide how many people marry whom?

                  Can a church decide that a spiritual leader can assign this marriages at a particular age?

                  If that age is less than the legal age in that state, should that church have a right to ignore those laws?

                  If so, and they consummate that marriage, does this qualify as secular statutory rape, even if it is legitimate in the eyes of the church, and …

                  … if so, should the leader of that church be forced to submit to the laws of man and the punishment thereof?

                  The republic limits or reduces the opportunities for the triumph of the libido dominandi, the lust for power in man.

                  Bob old sport, I totally agree with you here.

                  I think you and I may have vastly different views on what constitutes opportunities for the lust of power in man.

                  Even if we don’t, I think you and I may have different views of what constitutes legitimate use of oversight in this area.


                  • Pat, as to your first list, I would cede all decisions in the questions raised to the church or the individual and none to the apparatchiks of the central gummint.

                    As to your second statement, I agree that we have differing perspectives on the relationship between the state/gummint and the individual in the general order of mankind. As man is the only creature with insight into the order of true existence provided by God in the theophany, it is imperative that nothing inhibits these spiritual insights. Modernity’s construct has always been to replace the era of Christ with the tenets/doctrines of some secularists ideological regime through the power of the state and thus destroy what Voegelin refers to as ‘representative humanity’. Of course, we’ve seen this effort throughout the Twentieth Century with its horrific effects and we’ve experienced this malignancy into the present with the current regime, and if we are to recapture the quaint notions of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ it is essential, I think, to turn back to the nation’s founding republican principles.

                    Of course it’s very possible that the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the oikoumene (the known world) and the telos of mankind has been achieved, which would mean,perhaps, that we have already begun apocalypse.


                    • i’d be a little more inclined to put any stock in your war on the church stuff if, say, the feds had been handcuffing church leaders for spending the last three decades or so fedexing pedophiles across the country so they could victimize children in different regions.

                      would that not be the perfect avenue for secularists to attack the church? prosecuting child rapists and their enablers is a pretty big hammer.


                    • Dhex, a good point, but my argument is that this movement of the federalis to coerce the church has taken place under Barry’s regime, and for political reasons and serves as at least state coercion if not an example of state tyranny.

                      Pedophilia, specifically the rape of little boys by men, seems to be a problem that has infected every mode of society from the church to academia and gummint.

                      Given the politically correct obligations inherent in modernity it is not hard to understand why the ‘problem’ is not more strenuously addressed by the authorities and the librul msm.


                    • Pedophilia, specifically the rape of little boys by men, seems to be a problem that has infected every mode of society from the church to academia and gummint.

                      Tod, I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that I’m pointing the finger at the commie-dems/Left for the increase (?) in child rape? Would you care to clarify? I may be, after all, innocent.

                      Or you may want to blog on the topic?


      • What, they don’t want to force people to sign pledges?  Well, then, I guess your convictions aren’t so solid that this is a matter of fascist repression, is it?

        Patrick, your whole point is bullshit. Sorry but there it is. You’re telling the CHURCH that THEY need to be the fascists as a response to the government being fascist?? Have you thought this through at ALL?

        The Obama administration took a flier, took it up the tookus for it and then did an end run around it by having the insurance companies pay for the contraceptives the clergy felt was against precepts. That worked great, until they found out that the Washington DC Church was SELF INSURED. Whoops. Guess it pays to know something about your own neighbors, but Obama lives in a bubble, never to be bothered by facts and figures that don’t fit into his world view. He’ll get re-elected but that’s it for the Democrats for about 40 years.


        • Ward –

          Surely even you can see that there are two separate issues at work here that need to be weighed.  The obvious one is religious freedom; however, to what degree does a church have a right to keep its employees from receiving government services they are legally entitled to receive?

          I’m not saying that the church should be forced to do A or B, but questioning if a religious employer should have the right to prevent an employee – even one that is not a member of its faith – from receiving government services on religious grounds is probably a few steps away from fascism, yes?


            • No, Ward.

              However, due to passed legislation, mandatory health insurance is the law of the land, until overturned by court or the legislative branch.  And despite the fact that I don’t like PPACA, as I’ve said ad nauseum, it’s currently the law.

              So that makes health insurance, to a degree, a government service.  That is, the government decides what the service is, and the private market provides it.  To the extent that this conflicts with other freedoms, such as religion, we (as a country) should absolutely ensure that those freedoms have an ability to exercise their objection.  If they have the ability to exercise that objection we need go no further.  Maybe we *ought* to go further (in cases – even in this case I’d argue that we should have gone further!), but we have no requirement to do so.

              And seriously, I’m going to have to call bullshit on your call of bullshit.

              Patrick, your whole point is bullshit. Sorry but there it is. You’re telling the CHURCH that THEY need to be the fascists as a response to the government being fascist?? Have you thought this through at ALL?

              Yes, Ward, I’ve thought this through very, very carefully.  You clearly have not.

              The Catholic Church wants to abstain from providing, by proxy, services that the government (again, by legislation) calls health care and which they (by their own admission) find possibly (not always!  possibly!) immoral.

              They have the ability to do this.

              The fact that their available avenue would be regarded as heavy-handed by some is their problem.  It is heavy handed, Ward, there it isEmployers (of any sort) putting their moral beliefs on their employees is heavy goddamn handed.

              Even if they’re right!

              Do I think they have the right to do this?  Absolutely.

              Do I think they *should* have the right to do this?  Absolutely.

              If the Church takes this stance and fires a bunch of people and demands a morality oath on contraception will I be here, on these threads, defending their right to do so and listening to (certain people who will be unnamed but you can guess who they are) telling me I’m an apologist for a bunch of sex-deprived over-privileged white misogynists and that I’m a useful idiot for right-wing talk pundits?  Yes, and I sigh to imagine it.

              Do I think that they should cry “No, we should be allowed to free ride and not bear the brunt of the logical conclusion of our position?”  Hell no.  Put up or shut up.  If the immoral use of contraception is worthy of a moral crusade, then by God moral crusade about it.  Tell your employees that you’re on a moral crusade and you have God behind you and the choice is get behind you and your crusade and God or shut up about how you’re repressed, because you’re not.

              The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of American Catholics use contraception.  If the Church hierarchy wants to throw down on this topic, good for them!  Throw down!

              The Church used to do this stuff all the time, Ward.  They’re perfectly capable of “cowboy’n up” and calling a spade a spade (not racist!) and putting their money where their mouth is and fighting the good fight if it’s the good fight.  They’re historically capable of doing it even when it ain’t the good fight.  You’re talking to me like I’m beating up on a repressed, 98-lb weakling in the schoolyard.  This is the oldest organization in the entire world, Western or otherwise.  I’m not beating up on a baby, here.

              The fact that they don’t want to fight this fight on those grounds tells me something very important, Ward.  The fact that multiple states and the Church have already hammered this stuff out on multiple occasions without it turning into a political football tells me something else, too.  This isn’t about the principle.  If it was about the principle, this would not have been hammered out on multiple occasions without turning it into a political football.


              • Now would you like to talk about WAIVERS? Because the SAME gov’t that decided to “throw down” against one of the “oldest entities” on the planet has granted over 1300 of them to OTHER entities, not to mention political favoritism to Nebraska etc. No, they picked this fight, they picked it on purpose and it was a cold political calculation, to mobilize the previously moribund Democrat base and garner a few more undecideds on the fence. The gov’t (this administration specifically) is being fascist against and ONLY against the Church, it is a war on /a/ religion (although the Mormons could be in the same boat if they hadn’t spent all their money buying up Pepsi stock and had done hospitals instead). Bob is right, the administration’s position here is untenable, indefensible and strictly illegal and a “constitutional expert” such as Obama claims to be would know that in advance. He doesn’t care if AAPCA gets overturned, if this current abortion gets overturned, he’ll be safely ensconced in office for another LONG term. The further damage he could do is positively frightening.

                I don’t even /agree/ with the Church’s position on contraception, I got a vasectomy within one month of my wife almost dying delivering my youngest son. I could not get it at the Catholic hospital where he was born. I could give a rat’s ass what the Church had to say, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to accept THIS government stepping all over the 1st Amendment to shove its mandate down the Church’s throat. That’s bullshit and you and I both know it. That the Church has options (mostly ugly) is irrelevant to the larger issue here.


                • Now would you like to talk about WAIVERS?


                  Because the SAME gov’t that decided to “throw down” against one of the “oldest entities” on the planet has granted over 1300 of them to OTHER entities, not to mention political favoritism to Nebraska etc.

                  I’m unclear.  Are you arguing that waivers should not be allowed?  Or that, if asked for, they should be granted in all cases?  If not, then there is a middle ground where some will be granted and some won’t, right?

                  No, they picked this fight, they picked it on purpose and it was a cold political calculation, to mobilize the previously moribund Democrat base and garner a few more undecideds on the fence.


                  Seriously, Ward, so?

                  Yes, I can see this as a possibility.  I can also see Obama and Biden and Sibelius having honest disagreement about this being a womens’ health issue and Obama coming down on, “Shut up, Joe, we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.” 

                  But hey… let’s say, for the sake of argument,  that this is indeed entirely political.

                  Given that the out exists, how is this a rights issue?  Now, it may be crass politicalism, and it might be a good reason to think that Obama is a dick, and it might be a lot of other things, but…

                  The gov’t (this administration specifically) is being fascist against and ONLY against the Church, it is a war on /a/ religion (although the Mormons could be in the same boat if they hadn’t spent all their money buying up Pepsi stock and had done hospitals instead).

                  … it’s not Fascism, all right, Ward?  Fascism would be (as has been pointed out elsewhere on this thread) eugenics or *forcing people to use contraception*.  Whatever else this is, this isn’t that.

                  If the President has decided on a coldly calculating basis to pick a fight with the Church, well boy howdy guess what?  The Church has decided to sit on the fence about this and talk out of one side of its mouth and act another way at the same time.  Again, they’ve managed to resolve this multiple times in the past.  Here’s a link.  Without turning this into a political football.

                  If one feels strongly about this, how has this not gone into the courts multiple times before?  How has this been resolved in the past?  And how can an organization that has acceded to this multiple times in the past claim moral opprobrium now?


                  • Looking over your state document, it appears to me that 28 states have laws similar to this and 27 of them grant exemptions, only Connecticut seems to be the exception. I’d hazard a guess that if we knew the specifics in Conn rather than what your single source imputes (probably from reading the laws themselves rather than the case studies) we’d find that even there exemptions have been granted. But rather than dive into the tumble weeds on this, why not listen to what this priest (also a lawyer) has to say about this?

                    Did Obama lie to the Catholic Bishops? YES

                    Does the Obama administration have an agenda against the Church? YES



              • So that makes health insurance, to a degree, a government service.

                If true, this would vindicate some Republican criticisms that were considered silly at the time.

                (Not unlike, I suppose, how absurd it was to call the mandate a tax until the mandate needed to be a tax to quash concerns of constitutionality.)


          • Tod, I ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, could you explain how a church is ‘fascist?’

            Re: the church inhibiting the employees ‘right’ to participate in state ‘services’ allow me to suggest the employee is free to get another job. For example, I sure as hell wouldn’t work for a Muslim organization or a Commie organization or Planned Parenthood, etc.

            Unfortunately, the same employee will find it immeasurably more difficult to find another country.


    • Bob you know I was with you up to a point. I’m just not sure Georgetown Law School counts as a “religious” institution anymore. It’s not the archdiocese. The line between the archdiocese (should be exempt) and Christopher’s Catholic Car Wash (should not be exempt) is blurrier than it might initially seem.


        • Robert,

          People are dying right now from the smog around here. You know it, and I know it. They aren’t dying because of Governmental Tyranny.

          Personally, I blame King Coal. (got stats if you want ’em)


        • Bob, see here and here. I still think a bona fide religious institution should get an exemption from the contraception mandate, for (gulp) pretty much the reason you articulate — it is an inappropriate and unconstitutional extension of governmental power in a free society for a religious institution (or more accurately, for the people who control that institution) to be compelled by law to violate the very religious beliefs the institution exists to promulgate.

          But after a lot of thought, the issue for me comes down to, “How are we to define what is and is not a religious institution?” Is the Roman Catholic Dioscese of Milwaukee a religious institution? Seems like the answer is “yes.” Are the Green Bay Packers a religious institution? Seems like the answer is “no.” (Despite the fact that as a practical matter there are plenty of people who do, in fact, worship the Green Bay Packers.)

          So what are the material differences between the Green Bay Packers and the Roman Catholic Dioscese of Milwaukee?


          • Because being a religious institution makes one able to evade taxes, over the years the IRS has taken a special interest in who and what constitutes a “bona fide” religion.

            I recall reading some years back about a very inventive couple who created a religion whereby the wife was to have sexual relations with the congregants, in return for donations. Legal, and tax free to boot.

            I don’t recall how their court case came out, but I do recall they used the Bob Cheeks defense of TYRANNY OF THE STATE!


            • Liberty 60, I would prefer that the people you describe be free to engage in their form of worship then bothered by agents of the central gummint. Your assessment of their moral character may be spot on, still I persist in insisting that gummint apparatchiks leave them unfettered to pursue their happiness. That’s an American tradition, as well.


          • Burt, you were doing so well. I was going to say it doesn’t matter too much who says it, but the truth of stuff has a melodious ring (I’m referring to our agreement re: the inclination on the part of a highly centralized state to seek to consolidate power). Then you go and get all wobbly with the Packer metaphor.

            Just come over to my side. The air’s a little smoky, but the water’s fairly clean, and we really don’t want or expect gummint to suckle us. It’s an American tradition, after all.


            • Bob, Bob, Bob, you forgot who you’re working with here. I’m all about the nuance. Shades o’ gray. I’m pretty happy right where I am on this issue. Took me a lot of time and effort and thought to get to this position; sorry it’s not an exact fit with yours but it’s still reasonably close.


          • I interpreted the mercury poisoning line as typical “libertarians are evil” rhetoric. If a religious group actually does poison itself with mercury then…well, that’s a new one, at least to me.


            • Vodun. And I wouldn’t mind it so much if it was only poisoning the practitioners. It poisons everyone nearby — mercury contamination is really a bitch.

              Kindly reinterpret as “Bob’s overgeneralizing, again, and I am annoyed at this.”


              • Kimster, you remind me of your religious coevals back in the early 30’s who argued among themselves that the Nazi’s weren’t all that bad, that the Fuhrer had made a wonderful little car that all the people could afford and that he’d made these really, really safe highways that all the people, quite fairly, could share in.

                When they come for the Jews, you may come here and live with us.


          • I do think there is a difference between forcing a faith to violate its tennets and prohibiting a faith from fully executing its tennets.  The mandate risks the former.  The ban on bigamy is the latter.

            What this difference means, I don’t know.


            • Um, no.

              Forcing a faith to violate it’s tenets would be the US Government requiring Catholics to TAKE birth control. Or purchase it. Or for the priests to hand it out like wafers to anyone who asks.

              Instead, they are merely stating that health insurance plans must cover contraceptives. “Offering health insurance” is not a religion. Nor is health insurance a religion. Nor is anyone actually required to BUY the contraceptives or use them.

              A handful of Catholics are complaining about this. Despite the fact that 28 states — a majority, I note — already require this. And despite Obama bending over backwards, and not requiring the Church itself to offer it to employees — merely, you know, the hospitals and other non-religious stuff they run.

              Given that half the states already require this, I find the handful of Catholics (again, not all Catholics or Catholic leaders have a problem with it — apparently 28 states worth are fine with it, for one) I find their sudden hysteria suspiciously timed.


              • Morat-

                To clarify, I said that the mandate RISKS the former; it is not necessarily it. The ban on bigamy IS the latter.

                Again, I’m not sure that the differnce matters. But I do think there is a difference.

                There is a difference between saying you must do smething you don’t want to and sayingyou can’t do something you do want to.


      • Damn Kim, you must go to the funnest churches. I wonder what the atheist take is on this, hell they pay for all kinds of stuff they don’t believe in.  I’m with Robert on this one, tyranny of the state sucks. Theres plenty of things Government is doing to slowly kill us, some of it works much faster than smog.


      • Ditto, but I’d expand that to “can we reasonably expect a president to fix the economy?”  They might be able to screw things up pretty well, but economic fixing isn’t particularly within their hands.

        So sayeth none other than Paul Krugman (in addition to me).


          • Burt,

            In this case, yes.  I’m referencing his popular books on economics prior to his becoming a predictable op-ed drone.  His take then was not anti-Republican presidents, but an emphasis on the role of the Fed. E.g., in one of his books he says something like “Want to know what the unemployment rate will be a few years from now?  Whatever the Fed wants it to be, plus or minus a few percentage points to account for the fact that Alan Greenspan is not quite god.”

            Once upon a time Krugman hadn’t gotten to full of himself.


            • Um, James – the zero bound?  We’re way past it if you hadn’t noticed. The Fed still has tools past that, and Krugman is for their being used, but their reliability declines, and moreover, they’re reliably reluctqnt to go too far, even if going quite far is what would be required. That seems like a pretty reasonable set ofd to begin to consider whether in that circumstance overall the government (not just the president but Congress) may need to take actions beyond what one would hold would be enough to fix the problem during more normal times. Krugman has always been clear that’s what makes stimulus indicated now when it wouldn’t be if we faced normal monetary policy conditions (a federal funds rate with plenty of room to play around with).  It’s inaccurate for you to suggest that Krugman is a hack for supporting fiscal stimulus now (or in ’09) when he said something different about it at earlier times, when the relevant conditions leading him to that earlier statement no longer apply.  Even if he didn’t caveat those earlier statements appropriately to indicate that assumption (and I’m not at all sure that’s the case), it’s simply fishing for anything disqualifying to ignore the explanation he has always attached to his current views.  We don’t always recognize assumptions implicit in our views at first. When assessing similar questions to those we’ve considered previously in new circumstances, if we see that previous conclusions were based on unstated assumptions that are now inapplicable, it is the intellectually honest thing to do to adjust our larger theory accordingly, or to offer an analysis that seems different on the surface from what we’ve said about a similar thing in the past, and to own up to that, explaining what is different now.  This seems pretty basic to me, and it’s exactly what Krugman has done.



              • The zero lower bound is not nearly the problem that it is commonly portrayed as. Any central bank can inflate (or even better, raise NGDP) as long as it has enough ink and paper. We cannot re-run the past again to do a controlled experiment, but I wonder how much more deflation (negative NGDP growth) we would have experienced and how much more QE the Fed would have done in the absence of any kind of fiscal stimulus…?

                Smarter version than me:


                • He might be wrong, but the point is, there is a reason for the changes in his view (to the extent they exist).  As DeLong often points out, anyone in economics who has not learned and adjusted his views over the past four years is not actually doing economics, but just a recitation of economic mantras, because basically no one got this all right.

                  In any case, if James paraphrases Krugman right, it seems to me it isn’t inconsistent at all.  Krugman was talking about a specific era in the Fed regime, when Greenspan seemed t have every lever at his disposal, all balanced just about right, so that he could (and would) tweak things to get employment just how he wanted it consistent with the inflation he wanted.  (That sound a little dubious to me, but who knows.)  But surely Bernanke would act to get unemployment below 8% forthwith if he thought the action was available to him and he wasn’t constrained against it for some reason.  As far as I can see, he hasn’t taken that action.  That indicates that, even if technically the capability exists, the actual propensity to do the inherently unconventional things past the zero bound that would be necessary to restore full employment is lacking, which i think Krugman has anticipated from the start.  (I think he may also have reservations about the efficacy of those actions, but I could be wrong about that.)  In any case, what that paraphrased Krugman statement about the copious competency of the Fed doesn’t say is anything about the potential efficacy in an absolute sense of fiscal policy.  It just says that monetary policy is more effective under ideal conditions.  If it becomes constrained, either by policy efficacy declines past the zero bound, or by behavioral proclivities of the Fed in that territory, nothing about that statement says that fiscal policy (stimulus) isn’t an option with potential efficacy that can be turned to as a reserve strategy.


                  • I don’t really want to wade into the zero bound argument, but I’ll just note that we don’t have to take Krugman as indisputable on this. While he does have a Nobel Prize, it was for trade theory, not macro, and at least one other macro-economist has claimed that Krugman seems unaware of the last 20 years of macro research.  And Scott Sumner isn’t impressed by the zero bound argument at all, and has gained a lot of respectful attention in making the case for pure monetary policy (more so than I’m comfortable with, so I’m not exactly plumping for him, but he’s not easy to refute).

                    So, zero lower bound? Maybe meaningful, maybe not.


                    • I feel like I want to say you didn’t really read close enough to see what my point actually was.  (But that’s okay!) How could i be saying Krugman is indisputable on the ZLB when I said, hey, he might be wrong?  the point was just that merely because he said something like that Greenspan could basically do whatever he wanted with unemployment, so fiscal policy was a weak stepsister at best, or even if he said it was not efficacious period back then, the conditions were of great room for maneuvering by the Fed. Crossing the ZLB, for all the reasons I give, including political ones (newsflash: the Fed is political, and it matters what they will do, not just what the potential efficacy of the things they in theory could do is) is all the reason in the world to adopt a different view – conditions are different.  it doesn’t mean he’s right about it, but it doesn’t make him inconsistent with past statements made under very different conditions.  But who cares about that, since you weren’t even suggesting such an inconsistency, right?

                      If your point was not to backdoor this into the fiscal policy debate but merely to point out that Krugman, in addition to like, every political scientist and high school civics teacher, will confirm that the president alone can’t fix an economy, then why are you taking me up on this at all now?


                    • I took you up because I couldn’t see where your aim could be other than that.  I didn’t see how you could possibly feel the need to cite a famous liberal to give you cover to say that just the president can’t fix the economy aone.  But if you were saying that the president & Congress can’t fix an economy (or can’t be of use in doing so), then you are necessarily making a claim about the efficacy of fiscal policy.  And given that is mostly what Krugman is known for arguing against, and that you have been known to argue against that frequently, it seemed just highly unlikely you weren’t implying that.  But you weren’t, so my mistake.  But now you don’t mind pointing out that Krugman’s prize isn’t in this area, etc… even though my point all along wasn’t that he’s right about it… merely that the ZLB gives plenty of reason for his view now to be different.

                      When i took you up, I really thought you were suggesting this inconsistency, but now you say you don’t , but you don’t mind taking up the question of Krugman on fiscal policy, even though you say it wasn’t your intent, and my intent with it was not to argue the question, but just talk about whether he’s been consistent.  I did it when i had not been told it was not what we were talking about.  You’re doing it after saying it wasn’t.  Why wouldn’t I wonder why?


                    •  I didn’t see how you could possibly feel the need to cite a famous liberal to give you cover to say that just the president can’t fix the economy alone

                      Ahem, look at where the conversation began, which was:

                      Can you point me to any conservative President’s who have fixed the American economy


            • Michael,

              When I say Krugman is full of himself, I don’t mean it’s because he supports fiscal policy (although I still find his arguments unpersuasive).  I say he’s full of himself because he misrepresents and makes false statements about any of his fellow economists who dare to disagree with him. He’s taken on a god complex and seems to see his pronouncements as unquestionable.

              Yes, he’s always been a Keynesian, but that in itself isn’t sufficient basis for claiming a president can fix an economy, and Krugman’s smart enough that he never made that leap in logic, at least that I’m aware of.


              • Okay, fair enough. Without Congress, the president can hardly do nothin’ when it comes to fixing an economy. I don’t think it takes a reference to Krugman to make that point stick.  I couldn’t imagine you just making that simple point, or what it would have to do with Krugman, so i assumed you had to talking about what the president and Congress can do together in terms of fiscal policy or other mechanisms.

                Of course, “fix the economy” is itself a very tall order.  Policy in full might not be capable of that in the short term, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t help or hurt.

                A president can’t fix an economy. Yes.  How’s that related to Paul Krugman more than anyone with basic understanding of our political institutions?


                • Michael,

                  Jeez, I was just pointing out that you don’t have to be an uber-conservative or whack-job libertarian to doubt whether the president is really responsible for the economy, so I referenced a liberal hero.

                  I didn’t even critique him in my original post, because as far as that point goes I agree with him.


                  • I understand.  My apologies.  It just seemed to me like, that being maybe the most widely understood truism in American politics, I didn’t understand why you would think that wouldn’t be readily stipulated by all observers.  Then when you pointedly said that he said in works “prior to his becoming a predictable op-ed drone” that he said that he emphasized the Fed, it suggested (to me) that you were suggesting that has changed now in a way somehow related his becoming a predictable op-ed drone (and indeed, it has changed, to some extent), meaning what he says now is not based on legitimate analysis, or something else perjorative.  After all, if he were just saying the same things as what he was saying in the past, why would it matter that he is being predictable or dronish about it?  It seemed his predictable drone status could only matter if it reflected views that have changed for analytically suspicious reasons.  And indeed, his emphases have changed somewhat.   So I just wanted to point out that there are at least potentially intellectually legitimate reasons for whatever changes that have taken place in his views.  He might be a predictable drone now, but absent some change in his views, it’s hard for me to see why that’s of interest.  Changes in his view would be interesting, I thought, but also worth looking into in earnest, not

                    I guess I just imagined that all this was going on, though it seemed pretty strongly implied by the “before becoming a drone” comment, the Fed comment, and the fact that, indeed, he does now to some extent de-emphasize or have diminished confidence in the Fed because of circumstances. So again, my apologies for reading more into this than you intended.


                    • Krugman was criticized.  Krugman deserves criticism these days for being an ideologue.  But of course his being an ideologue today does not provide grounds for rejecting everything he has ever said.  So I noted that it was not the ideological Krugman that I was referencing.

                      And somehow my defense of what he had said gets warped into a criticism.  If I can make a suggestion, slow down before you make such big leaps to conclusions. It keeps leading you and me into pointless combats where we’re really not that much in disagreement.


                    • Krugman was criticized… And yet somehow…  warped into a criticism 


                      Clearly there was criticism, namely that he’s changed in a bad way.  That’s the criticism i responded to – the suggestion that what he says now is a function of being an op-ed drone.  That’s not turning your endorsement of the earlier views into a criticism – it’s addressing the criticism you lodged at him for what he does now.  It’s just that i misunderstood the nature of your complaint against him now. Except that I know separately that you have a strong substantive disagreement with him these days.  I don’t think it’s crazy for me to have thought that your view of his current holdings ton economics o be related to you seeing him as a predictable op-ed drone – i.e. that his current views are hackish, while his earlier ones were legit and politically disinterested.  i frankly don’t think any of that is a stretch.  i don’t think taking more time would have led me to a different conclusion.

                      But acknowledged. Looking back at my initial comment, I sound way more sure that you were saying those things than I remember meaning to sound.   Again, i didn’t see what Krugman had to do with just the notion that the president alone can’t fix the economy, whatever anyne else said about a conservative one being able to do it or denying that one ever has. And Krugman definitely does have specific ideas about what is needed to fix the economy that you’ve objected to in the past.  It was hard to see how bringing him up wasn’t going to relate to what those views were, and are today.


                    • …And I don’t mean to mealy mouth my mea culpa so much.  Mea culpa.  I flat misunderstood you.  It’s just that I think i was going to think that’s what you meant however long I looked at it.


                  • I actually can’t even disagree with that, much less ask you to step away from it.  I’d just add that ideological drones can be right, and further that ideological dronism seems like it’s just a matter of saying the same things over and over, where the things being said are consistent to one substantive set of points.   If you’re in-good-faith convinced you have those matters right, it’s not clear to me that you’re even doing anything wrong by being an ideological drone.

                    Now, making false statements about one’s colleagues is not represented by the ideological drones, and it’s a serious charge.  I don’t know of examples, but then I haven’t really wanted to dive into the details spats he’s had.  Mischaracterizing what they’ve said, well, my view is that that happens – I don’t get that worked up over it.  I mean, you should try to avoid it, but people can respond to that in a way that where they just can’t prove wrong a flat lie about them, cuz there’s always a text to refer back to anytime something might have been mischaracterized.  It’s not the ideal of how debate should be conducted, but it really i an ideal, and it’s just too common that people misunderstand or uncharitably represent each other.  Without the ability to take a certain amount of analogical liberties with another person’s arguments, sometimes it’s really hard to come by much in the way on insights.  The learning happens as interlocutors correct each other about their intended meanings, and in the process refine them.


          • … relatively certain that someone isn’t pulling any strings on him when he says that. I think, for many instances of problems, the Fed Chairman is capable of fixing things. Dunno about Zirp though.


  6. I just chatted with my Republican operative friend (former capital hill staffer, campaign manager, county party member) about this–his take is, “liberal women are going to mobilize over this,” and “Mitt Romney can attract women voters, but this is going to kill the Republicans,” and “what do you think the Democrats will make their campaign ads about this fall?”

    Of course his first comment was, “Rush is a fishing idiot.”


    • James, for some reason I am mentally punctuating your sources various pronouncements with the sound of him angrily gulping swigs of something very potent. Every period accompanied by the sound of a shot glass thumping down.


      • North, he’d be delighted to hear you say that; you’ve captured his personality perfectly.  Unfortunately he was on his way to work, so the only thing he was swigging was a soft drink. But, yes, we’ve had many conversations like this over more potent substances.


    • I’m sure this was your friend’s take as well, but I think those realities were set about a week or two ago. I don’t think these Rush comments are going to do much at all to worsen the situation or crystalize it.  I think people already write off Rush.  I think it really hit critical mass when the contraceptive (sorry, religious freedom) freakout was followed up by the ultrasound thing.  From there, it’s just, yep, uh-huh. Okay, then.


      • I think people already write off Rush

        Which people?  Republican leaders don’t yet–can’t afford to, as much as they’d like to. As  much as it grates at me to say it, Rush is still relevant.


        • I think Republican leaders were already pursuing the policies he wants in this area, so the question is just whether they rush to condemn him for these remarks.  But i think that no one is really going to care about these remarks much over and above the substantive policy pursuits and positional statement of actual politicians that have already been established in the public mind.  So I think the Limbaugh comments just get received as additional nuttiness, not a main focus of concern.

          I didn’t mean they write off Limbaugh generally, just these remarks now, because they’re overkill on something people already care a lot about, which they see as much more of a present, real danger (rightly).  It’s just sideshow craziness to the actual substantive horror show they’ve been fixated on for weeks with good reason.  The lion tamer getting eaten will take precedence over the clown car.

          And that’s just an impression, too. Might be wrong.


          • This relates back to a debate that I think you and I had once before; whether people are motivated by the substance of policy or by symbolic politics.  I’m still standing on the argument that they are more motivated by symbolic politic–a television commercial of Rush calling women sluts will motivate more women voters than one carefully explaining the substantive policy issues.


            • I think that’s exactly right, and I think that the lower the stakes, the more symbolic and notional our political fights are.

              It’s my sense that just about everything the movement conservatives push now is symbolic.    Certainly if one looks at public polling, their policy objectives are unpopular.   But these symbolic issues have been used to peel off the disaffected from the center, by mobilizing their resentments primarily.

              So we have come to a moment where the conversations are about a president that’s too “elite,” the extravagance of our (miniscule) foreign aid, the indolent food stamp recipient, the appropriate humiliations for the sexually active, teleprompters, birth certificates, and whether store clerks say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” in December.


            • Indeed it does.  I probably overstated my position on that just as a matter maintaining a position in the discussion, though I still don’t think that cultural familiarity is the primary way that liberals can work their way back into consideration for the white working class.  They need a workable agenda for those people, and a way to talk about it that connects: but cultural familiarity helps at the margin.

              This is also temporal to some extent, though – by all means if all that hadn’t happened first, the Rush comments would have had some effect. Though I guess I do wonder just how much – Rush is always saying something nutty and provocative, and absent a larger context, he rarely.  Also, if the larger events hadn’t already reached a critical point of public attention before Rush’s comments, by all means they could have pushed it to that point.  It’s just that I think it was already at that point, so the comments come more as overkill.

              But yeah, I could be wrong.  To be sure, some people engaged with the story via Limbaugh who hadn’t been engaged prior.  Just not sure it’s what pushed it to a critical point.


              • …he rarely causes much of a stir, that is, preceisely because, hey, it’s Rush, and Rushi s always saying something crazy.  Is Limbaugh really in Dem commercials all that often? I don’t see it that much.  I suppose this could be an outlier; perhaps Rush will be the face of the commercials on this.  But I tend to think they’ll just have Scary-Voice Man say, “They want your employer to be able to decide what your insurance covers based on their religion; we want you to have access to what you need no matter what” or similar.


  7. Another great post Tod. I’ve been wondering why it seems that the GOP is hell-bent on destruction as they take one stand more far out than another on social issues in an election that, by all means, should be a referendum on the economy. I’ve begun to think they see this as one of their last stabs at saving “their” country from an increasingly non-white, socially liberal demographic, one last shot at restoring the country to what it used to be back in the 1950s and 1960s before the liberals, minorities, brown immigrants, and feminists came in and destroyed everything.

    Limbaugh and his cohorts have been making money for so long feeding the anger and resentment of this base that I don’t think they see any lines that they can’t cross. After all, this is hardly the first utterly outrageous and hateful remark Limbaugh has made at the expense women or minorities. He’s made his fortune off of thinly (and not so thinly) disguised racism and misogyny for a long, long time. There’s always been a willing audience for it.

    That audience, however, is dying and otherwise diminishing. The Republican base is not expanding and Republicans seem to be going out of their way to piss off potential new entrants. Anger may be a great motivator, but it offers no solutions to the problems facing us, no way out of legislative stalemate. I’m almost hoping they’ll nominate Santorum and get it out of their system.


    • Michele, excellent points.  The GOP and its relationship to the media machine it built  sometimes make me think about those old Jewish folk tales, where a town builds a golem.  They say, “hey, dig a 4 foot deep ditch here!” and then take a vacation, and when they come back  a few days later and it has wrecked all there farm land because it didn’t know when to stop and now they can’t turn it off.


  8. As a card-carrying liberal, I’m not as pleased with this turn of events as one might think.

    Strategically, it is a windfall for us in the Presidential race, and probably the Congressional and Senate races.

    Beyond that, though, I worry that this IS a winning line of politics for conservatives, in many localities.

    I read an interesting article once about Afghanistan in the 1950’s. The author was describing how when he was a teenager then, his life in Afghanistan was remarkably modern and secular; women went to universities, people dressed in Westen clothes, etc.

    The Taliban over the course of decades changed all that.

    Point being, societies CAN revert to medieval and primitive barbarism. While the GOP’s war on modernity may cause us coastal elites a lot of smirking and eye-rolling, there are sections of the country where this could be a winning strategy for county supervisors, mayors, school boards, and so on.


  9. a) Fluke’s testimony is completely irrelevant because it’s about student health plans, not employer health plans .  Betcha didn’t know that.

    b) It’s not a “women’s health” issue, it’s a religious freedom issue

    c) Limbaugh is being facetious

    Besides that, I agree the GOP will get the brown end of the demagoguery stick.  The actual important issues are buried, as we see below.  On the other hand, I suppose we take talk radio more seriously than actual major political organizations, but in a serious world it would not be so:

    The President’s Anti-Catholic Allies

    Terry O’Neill, head of the National Organization for Women, says that the Catholic bishops are “demanding that the government step in and use the force and power and police power of the state to prevent women from taking birth control because the bishops have failed.” Other groups represented at the press event where O’Neill spoke included such mainstays of the Obama coalition as NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.

    Both Speaker John Boehner and White House press secretary Jay Carney have been asked to comment about Rush Limbaugh’s remarks about Sandra Fluke. Perhaps they should be asked to weigh in on O’Neill’s words too.


    • Talking about student plans is a real life  example of  the costs and benefit to people of whether some medicines are covered. She is discussing how coverage affects people.

      So i said you being disgenous, or consistnelty evaded arguemtns or engaged in weak ass polemics, then just said i was joking, would that be fine? Facetious…ummm BS.

      One of the lamest styles of arguments you engage in ( hey i’m still just joking) is jsut hand waving away any part of a debate you don’t like. Of course that relates to women’s health; its about whether women will be able to access certain medicines. So some people will say BC meds are usually cheap. Well if you are poor then even cheap things are often out of reach. But if what if BC meds were expensive, would it then be fine for insurance to pay? Somehow i doubt it, so i don’t see the BC meds are cheap as a valid argument.



    • A) You might want to read his updates to that story about student health care plans if you’re going to continue linking to it.  It’s basically a “Oops, I got that totally wrong guys, sorry.”  The HHS regulation would in fact cover that school’s insurance plan, and many others.

      B) No it’s not.  Religious freedom, at least in the First Amendment context, does not allow you to ignore a law your faith conflicts with.  There are decades and decades of legal rulings, across multiple generations and court ideologies on this subject.  Or do you believe this is the first time a religious group has found themselves looking at a law requiring them to do something that violated their teachings?

      C) No he’s not.  He’s being a misogynistic ass.


    • Tom-

      You are dead wrong on her testimony being irrelevant.  See my post from the other thread:

      ““I attend a Jesuit law school that does not provide contraceptive coverage in its student health plan. And just as we students have faced financial, emotional, and medical burdens as a result, employees at religiously-affiliated hospitals and institutions and universities across the country have suffered similar burdens.”

      She acknowledges that, as a student, is not specifically targetted by the mandate. But her experiences as someone who has had her access to contraceptive care limited by the Church’s stance on insuring it are analogous to employees and she is speaking from that perspective. She is giving a face amd a story to the women unable to secure such coverage and what the consequences are for them. How is that not relevant? Sure, there is an appeal to emotion and a bit of grandstanding, but that is nothing new for Congress. The realities of limiting access to contraceptive care is fleshed out by her story and would have provided proper balance to the panel of men brought in by thr Reps. She is also someone who has worked on issues relating to reproductive health, giving her experince and perspective beyond her own. It s a farce to consider the whole of her testimony irrelevant simply because she is not immediately impacted by the legislation. Sh gives a perpsective that has been deliberately made absent from the conversation on the official record.

      Also, here is an easy way to cite a source:


    • “Fluke’s testimony is completely irrelevant because it’s about student health plans, not employer health plans . “

      We’re talking about federal regs that mandate what all health plans do, yes?  Why is one relevant and the other not?

      “It’s not a “women’s health” issue, it’s a religious freedom issue”

      Actually, no.  Like Miller Lite, this issue is both great tasting and less filling.  Just because one side only wants to focus on only one of them doesn’t mean that the other doesn’t exist.  You want to tell women that the way government does or doesn’t mandate their access to contraception is not a women’s healthcare issue?  Good luck with that.  Come back and play again in 2016.

      “Limbaugh is being facetious”

      So was Michael Richards when he was using the N word.  You want to be an edgy “I say what I want and I don’t care who’s offended” celebrity, cool – but don’t cry foul when people find you offensive.  Likewise, you want to be the symbol for your party – knock yourself out.  But when it turns out most people don’t like you, don’t ask why everyone treats you like the symbol of your party.


    • Tom – if the regulation applies to student health plans, then why is her testimony irrelevant?  And if it doesn’t, then why is her testimony irrelevant?   If it applies, do you think Georgetown would embrace that outcome and say they therefore have no problem if the regulation states that if they are going to offer plans to students, they must cover contraception (or at least offer plans that do)?  The difference is that there is no requirement that universities provide such plans, so Georgetown could in theory opt out of providing them. And how how would that outcome address this woman’s concern?  The testimony is basically about how much of a help to women this law is, and how much she would like the church to follow it.  So even if the regulation doesn’t apply student health plans, how is her testimony irrelevant?  She wants it to, and there was a big kerfuffle about whether it, and PPACA in general would.  More generally,This is exactly why people shake their heads when people try to claim this isn’t about contraception, only religious liberty: it’s about religious liberty if you’re a person running a religious institution, but it’s about contraception if you care whether your health plan covers contraception. Likewise, her testimony is irrelevant only if we consider the issue as defined in one precise way – how fares the religious liberty of certain institutions? But that’s not all that is of concern to every observer, so that is an arbitrary limitation.  This regulation requires contraception be included in plans ostensibly because there’s a benefit to doing so (and it has been debated whether the regulation should apply to student health plans); this woman is testifying to that benefit.  Ergo, it’s relevant.  The view that such testimony is not relevant is exactly what led Issa to put five male religious leaders and no women being affected by their dictates on his first panel.

      And just because someone’s being facetious doesn’t invalidate everything about the statement – it doesn’t mean it has only the force the person wishes it to have after the fact, nor erase facially offensive sentiments, whatever their sincerity.  If you’re joking around about how much of a slut this woman is, and that you only want to pay for her contraception if she posts videos of herself having sex on the internet, then you’re joking around about how much of a slut this woman is, and that you only want to pay for her contraception if she posts videos of herself having sex on the internet.  People are going to find that offensive even though it was a joke.  It doesn’t matter a whit that it was a joke, it’s still offensive.  Do you think people think this is some kind of a real offer, not a sarcastic dismissal? Just because you adopt the sarcasm mode doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want that would on its face be offensive, but because you are being facetious, it isn’t.  It still is.  Of course, when someone is being facially respectful or agreeable, but is being facetious about it and is actually being dismissive, that might be offensive too.  But whether you’re being factious or not, if you’ve made facially offensive comments, then you’ve been offensive.  Facetiousness doesn’t change that at all.  (You might successfully subvert your meaning enough with an audience sympathetic enough that they don’t actually take offense, but that’s not the situation Limbaugh is ever in, knowing that everyone is listening, and in any case you have no blanket presumption that because you were being facetious, nothing you say can be taken to offense).


    • No, Tom.


      There is not a policy response to this.

      There is not a “well, this side’s right on one thing, that side’s right on the other” response to this.

      This is not about fucking POLICY.

      Limbaugh is vile, and evil, and has proven it beyond a shadow of a doubt, and no decent person has any justification for having anything whatsoever to do with him.  Any conservative who chooses to associate with him is similarly vile.  This is true utterly irrespective of anyone’s views on contraception.

      He said cruel, evil, hateful things about a twenty-three-year-old young woman (younger than me!) who had the guts to testify in Washington about an issue she believed in.  I can’t even imagine the kind of hell conservatives of his ilk are going to put that young woman through after this.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to voice a political opinion and get, in response, that kind of vile personal attacks.

      Nothing Limbaugh said had anything to do with health care policy or religious freedom.  It was about trying to destroy anyone who dared disagree with the Republican Party.

      Anyone who can respond to this by accusing people who condemn Limbaugh of trying to avoid the issues, instead of simply recognizing how evil he is, has no shame.

      You have no sense of shame.

      That is all.



      • Oh, and if the rest of you guys – and at the moment, guys is a very relevant term – want to know why I object to Tom being one of your writers?  This is an example of why.


        • Katherine:

          Before you let your righteous indignation get the best of you should get your facts right.  Fluke is 30 not 23 and clearly has an agenda.  She agreed to be the public mouthpiece for the Dems so they could embarrass Repubs.  When you decide to do that you may catch some flack. She can put her big girl panties on and deal with it. So please save you tears for someone more deserving.



          • Um, Scott… You just linked to a story that broke the big news that Fluke is (wait for it) – 30 years old!

            Am I missing something?  Is it that she’s not old enough to be… something?

            Is your point that had she been 23 like Katherine says it might have been in poor taste to call her a slut and ask her to perform sex acts on film, but now that we know she’s 30, well…

            Seriously, I honestly cannot figure out the “gotcha” you’re trying to show us.


          • Fuck off and die in a fire.

            A woman has the right to voice a political opinion without being called a slut and a whore.  Actually, a woman has the right to do anything she damn well wants without being called a slut and a whore.  There’s only one reason to call her that – hatred of women and desire to silence those who are involved in politics.  It’s cruel, and evil, and there’s no justifying it, regardless of what you think of her views.

            In conclusion, you’re a miserable excuse for a human being and thank you for revealing yourself as such.  If nothing else, Limbaugh’s remarks are useful for revealing which people are  a sad waste of oxygen.


              • Yes, how crass of Katherine to call you out on your defending a loudmouth boor who bullied a 30 year old law and called her a slut and prostitute.

                People, please lets not lose sight of the real victims in this tragedy- Rush and Scott.


                    • The “problem” here is not “uncivil discourse”.

                      The problem is that people find it acceptable to express hatred and denigration of women in a public forum.  By demonstrating that I find that completely unacceptable and a thing that reflects on someone’s worth as a person, I am addressing that problem.


                    • Katherine:

                      I didn’t realize that childish personal attacks were now considered to be “addressing that problem.”  I’m curious, did you get  your panties in the same knot when Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a ‘Right Wing slut’ on his MSNBC radio show?

                      And by the way, why did you bring up Fluke’s age?  How is it relevant? Tod really wants to know b/c he keeps claiming that I made her age an issue.


                    • “panties in a knot”

                      This is one of those phrases that could have easily been avoided.

                      It pretty much encapsulates the entire debate for me.

                      We could be talking about health care theory somewhat dispassionately but, instead, we’ve got all kinds of power dynamics going on in the arguments when one side deliberately uses sexist language as part of a power game.

                      It’s bullshit and it pisses me off because this sort of thing completely undercuts the arguments of the side for which I have the most sympathies… but that side is the side that insists on using sexist language as part of a power game.


                  • There are some opinions and ideas that are so reprehensible that speaking of them in soft civil tones is in itself an outrage, as if they are merely disagreements within the acceptable bounds of discourse.



                    • Liberty60:

                      Are you now a moderator here and so decides what passes for acceptable posts?  I do know that personal attacks aren’t acceptable but clearly she gets a pass.


                    • Can everyone just calm down here for a bit?

                      It’s never been our policy to ban anyone for a single intemperate outburst.  Katherine is almost never like this, and so… I’m only following our usual policy.



                    • By all means gentlemen, let us have a polite and erudite discussion:

                      “Be it resolved: Is Ms. Fluke a slut or merely a prostitute?”

                      Let us keep our comments civil and on an intellectual plane, with copious references to the approved canon.

                      Perhaps the womenfolk would be so good as to entertain us with a song or witty poem at intermission.



                    • Sure, I’m game.  Here’s my best effort:

                      Your question is contemptibly misogynistic.  I’m not even going to bother dignifying it with an answer.  Come back when you’ve learned some manners.

                      See how easy that was?


                    • Jason:

                      I didn’t even suggest that anyone be banned.  However, I think I am correct in saying that personal attacks aren’t acceptable, right?.  I will accept her apology when she offers it.


                    • Scott, personal attacks are not OK, but Katherine has a pretty long track record of being a quality commenter.  And while I am not going to defend any personal attack, I might suggest that if you don’t wish to be on the receiving end of them it may not be the wisest course of action to explain to a woman that it’s OK to call a woman a slut because she isn’t in her 20s anymore.

                      That last bit isn’t an official thing, just a bit of friendly advice for when you’re in the real world doing the face to face thing.


                    • Perhaps my reading comprehension isn’t what it used to be but could someone please point out to me where Scott said, “it’s OK to call a woman a slut because she isn’t in her 20s anymore.” cause I’m just not seeing it. What I did read was that Scott corrected someone on her fact checking, that someone Katherine claimed was only 23 is actually 30. I didn’t see anything in Scott’s comments giving Rush a pass on his (likely) facetious statement about how much “contraception” this woman needs. Was Rush being a JERK with all caps? I personally think so, I wouldn’t listen to Rush ever for any reason and never have listened to him. However, some conservative opinions have clearly been appropriated by Rush and then garbled into unintelligibility by same. But hey he’s live on the radio he says a LOT of things over his multi-hour show I don’t think he’s always working from a script and he’s also apparently on drugs so not much to support there. Rush is a jerk, but the probative issues here cannot be waved away because Rush is a jerk, although I can understand the Left’s intention to move the debate from the butt raping of the First Amendment rights of a major religion into personal vendettas. Right out of the Alinsky playbook, as usual.


                    • Ward, I was sort of assuming when Scott did the whole j’cusse, she’s really 30! thing with Katherine – ending with the line “[s]o please save you tears for someone more deserving” – in response to her anger over the way Fluke had been treated, that this was indeed his point.  Was I wrong?  Maybe, I’ve been wrong before.

                      But if that’s not the point, you or Scott are going to have to explain it to me.  Why is pointing out that she is 30 a valid rebuttal to a criticism of Rush?  How is the fact that she is 30 relevant to anything important at all?  Why is any answer other than, “So?” a decent answer to this “defense” of a shitty act?

                      Maybe there’s a way that isn’t with misogynist or “I need to stick up for my team no matter what they did so I’ll take what I can get,” but I seriously can’t see it.

                      In the OP I noted that a problem that the right has right now is that they’re incapable of seeing that anything they do is bad for their public image so long as what they say irritates the left.  I have to say, Scott bringing up a “but she’s not in her 20s, she’s 30!” and your defense of his defense kind of falls into this category.  I’m not a woman, but I find it hard to believe that any woman, R or D, that is reading this thread right now is saying “Yeah, go GOP!”


                    • I dunno, I kinda think Kathy is representative of the typical femi-Nazi, librul chick; a woman with a certain loud-mouthed panache, who suffers from a profound ignorance, and a distinct pride in that ignorance.

                      Re: Ms. Fluke, I have no interest in whether she is a ‘slut’, by anyone’s definition. I don’t care who she fishes, what she fishes,or how many times a day she fishes. However, it is the height of librul absurdity to think the American taxpayer is, somehow, responsible for her birth control.


                    • Liberty60, I took your remarks as an attempt to limit the scope of discourse, or set some criteria of comment. Consequently, I thought I’d push the envelope a bit and see if I got a response.

                      However, since we agree (?) I’ll happily refrain, lift my bourbon glass in salute and carry on. It has been a fine thread!


                    • Tod, I see it as simply setting the record straight. Kath made a point about a “twenty-three-year-old young woman (younger than me!)” in her rant and Scott showed her math was off. As I recall, someone named Jeff claimed a Bishop refused to bury someone’s mother and like Kim1 often does, had his facts a bit screwed up. I believe in a forum like this among largely intelligent folks along with a few others, it behooves us to keep the facts straight.There is no question that the DNC /could/ have found a 23 yr old to do their bidding, misleading the public on numerous fronts, but that wasn’t part of their agenda. Since the keepers of the FACTS are on the defensive here, when someone like Scott or Tom tries to set the record straight on the FACTS they are going to be jumped.

                      Of course your entire OP set the table on this, the GOP is on the defense because someone who is NOT A LEADER OF THE GOP made a statement on the radio. Yes there GOP members who kiss Rush’s ass, as there are DNC members who kiss George Soros’ ass. There is a huge difference, Soros has the resources and the will to buy elections and Rush can only influence about 10 million people nationwide (I believe the rest of his listeners are outraged liberals). I said in my previous post that Rush is a jerk and I see no reason to back away from that. There are a bunch of jerks out there however on both sides, no point in labeling them all, that would just be tu quoque anyway.


                    • Isn’t that what Ms. Fluke is pleading before congress? For ObamaCommieCare to cover her birth control because its too expensive for her to buy, so the American taxpayer, in Ms. Fluke’s opinion, should be accountable for the possible results of her sexual urges.



                    • Oh, did I get slimed for setting the record straight again, Ward?  Never mind, I don’t even feel like looking it up.

                      The genuine threat to the republic here is in this attack on First Amendment liberties, and in a minor sense about whether the taxpayer should finance someone’s “right” to contraception.

                      That’s the adult part of the program, suitable for a league of gentlepersons.  Rush Limbaugh is not the real world, any more than Ed Schultz was when he called Ann Coulter a slut for apparently no reason atall.  It’s of tertiary importance, but of primary volume.


                    • Because Barry has stuck the presidential nose into the affair, trying to discredit an American citizen (Mr. Limbaugh) we must agree with TVD that the general gummint is throwing its weight behind the Georgetown wench in the hopes of silencing an American citizen.

                      At this point of the affair, I am more concerned that the oppressed American taxpayer is, yet again, going to be forced to carry the weight of another slacker/parasite.


          • Scott –

            It might actually save us all a lot of time in this thread if we just cut to the chase:

            What are the variables that we should use when deciding whether or not it’s OK to call a woman testifying before Congress a “slut” or “prostitute” who should be forced to perform sex acts while being filmed?  Clearly age from your comment, but is it that you have to be older than 23?  25?  29?  Or is it that you can only do it if you’re arguing a point of view – you know, so we don’t pile on all those people that are brought before Congress to testify who have no real view or opinion about what they are asked to testify about.  Or is it a straight up R vs. D thing?

            Because most people would have just said it was a shitty thing to say about a woman, period.  So clearly we need some kind of ground rules.


            • Tod:

              Sure we can cut to the chase.  My comment about Fluke’s age was only made to correct Katherine about her facts.  Maybe the better question is why Katherine brought Fluke’s age up in the first place?  If you ask me to guess why Katherine brought Fluke’s age up, I would guess that she did it to attempt to insinuate that Fluke is just a poor young waif fresh off the bus and in the in the big city for the first time from her rural home in a sad bid to garner sympathy. And now that the poor, young, naive Fluke is in the big city she is being bullied by these mean old men and their penises, oh the horror!  Like I said, “she agreed to be the public mouthpiece for the Dems so they could embarrass Repubs.  When you decide to do that you may catch some flack. She can put her big girl panties on and deal with it.”


              • Got it.  Katherine thought that because she was 23 what Rush said was inappropriate, but you were noting that she was older and wiser than someone of 23 should be, so she has no room to complain.

                So, then, just to be sure…  The age cut off where it’s OK to call a woman a slut and demand she perform sex acts in front of the camera is what?


                  • OK. Now I think I got it. So, just because I want to make totally sure I understand…

                    The age of a woman testifying before Congress isn’t really an issue. Whether she’s in her 20’s or 30 isn’t really relevant.  If she’s a woman testifying before Congress – of any age – it’s totally ok to call her a slut and demand that she perform sex acts in front of a camera.   And we’re not condemning that at all.

                    Plus – and again, you’re going to have to correct me if I’m wrong here – a woman complaining about someone saying those things about a woman, that’s just kind of whiny talk from gals that can’t get their (and I want to make sure I get his part right!) “big boy panties on.”

                    Now am I understanding correctly?


                    • Tod:

                      Nice try but I didn’t say gender had anything to do with this.  First you want to make this about age and now it is about gender. Why can’t it just be that if you agree to be the public mouthpiece for one side in order to embarrasses the other then you should expect to to catch some flack at any age or gender?




                    • What you’re doing is proving my point. You can’t just come out and say it’s ok to call some woman a slut who needs to make sex tapes, because you’re a decent human being. But you can’t say that saying so is unacceptable because the right media machine is doubling down on what Rush said. So you’re trapped in this place where you point out she’s 30, or do something where you weave and dodge And refuse to actually address the question being asked: when is ok to call a woman you know nothing about a slut etc etc just because she disagrees with you on policy.

                      This was kind of the whole point of the OP, and it’s why Obama is going to be your president until 2016.


                    • Tod:

                      Please feel free to interpret what I said to proclaim that you are right, if it makes you feel better. Don’t let me stop you.  I will point out one last time that it was Katherine that brought up Fluke’s not me.  Why do you refuse to ask her why she brought it up?  If you won’t ask Katherine I will.  I only pointed out her factual error, no more no less.



                      Why did you bring up Fluke’s age?  How is it relevant? Tod really wants to know b/c he keeps claiming that I made her age an issue.




                    • I realize that this horse shuffled this mortal coil long ago, but for some reason I can’t help myself.  I find it so interesting that calling a woman a horrible, degrading word is apparently considered a perfectly proper thing to do when expressing dissent.  It’s just “giving her flak,” which she of course should have expected.

                      Some years ago, I testified at a state legislative hearing (quite public and packed to the rafters) in favor of same-sex marriage.  I suppose it would have been totally appropriate for a member of the opposing side to have called me, oh, I dunno… a stupid queer or something worse.  And that wouldn’t have been homophobic, oh gracious no!  It would have been the utterly expected and perfectly meet political discourse that stems from disagreement.

                      I guess that means we can insult and slander anyone we like, using whatever terms we like, so long as they have done us the favor of testifying before Congress first.  Time to dust off those racial and ethnic slurs, everyone!  Sooner or later an African-American or Jew or something is sure to screw up and appear at a hearing, and then it’s full steam ahead!


              • So, Scott, are the clergymen who testified for Issa’s hearing, who “agreed to be the public mouthpiece for the GOP so they could embarrass Dems”, sluts, prostitutes, or both, according to your lights?

                Surely they deserve the same opprobrium, right?


  10. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun.

    Since I like the substance of this piece so very much, I’ve found this kind of omnipresent grammar error all the more distracting and disappointing.


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  12. Great piece my Tod. I agree with the lot of it. My own question: can the party/movement reverse course on this and pull back from the brink or have they been caught in the current and been swept past the event horizon (of apparently some kind of river running into a black hole it seems.. sheesh North..).

    Which is to say if Romney nails down the nomination can he steer back to the center in the general. Will his base follow him back? Will they defect?

    My own uneducated guess is that they won’t; he just doesn’t have the conservative laurels to make them ignore his actual movements (unlike say Bush the lesser who could have vivisected nordquist on public TV and still landed a majority of the conservative vote because of his mannerisms and pedigree). If he tacks left I suspect they’ll revolt and the wheels will fall off.

    I’m hypothesizing that the only cure for what’s got the GOP right now is a really thorough electoral drubbing. Like the lost decade the Dems endured post Carter for instance.


    • I expect an electoral drubbing is not in the cards, no matter how far to the right the eventual candidate ends up landing, because the economy won’t have improved enough to no longer weaken President Obama.

      Beyond that, I not convinced an electoral drubbing in 2012 will be enough to bring about a course change for the GOP anyway. As Tod makes clear, the current direction for the Right continues to be a money maker and even being out of power will fill the coffers when your movement can spin victimization into gold.  Movement conservatism will not change direction until there’s no longer a profit to be made where they are going.

      BTW, great OP, Tod.


      • Note that in remarks by Jim Demint and others there has been a recognition that demography is running against the republicans. Their old values don’t appeal to the young. So they say its now or never, because it will be that much harder in 2016 with 4 more years of the millenials able to vote.


    • Damnit, doc!  First you beat me to the punch with the Asimov story. Now you scoop me with Santorum-Limbaugh.* Weren’t you supposed to be in meetings all day or something like that?


      * No. I did not just use the words “scoop” and “santorum” in the same sentence, did I?


      • Thankfully, my meetings are over and I am free to contemplate the wonders of the Internet while waiting for my cocktail glasses to chill.

        And please offer my sympathies to Mrs. Likko.  If you are indeed thinking along the same lines as me on a consistent basis, I’m sure the Better Half will be happy to commiserate with her in Vegas about what it’s like to live with weirdos like us.

        * Yes.  Yes you did.


  13. Fabulous post, Tod.

    The people behind the people in the GOP aren’t idiots. They know perfectly well that this whole battle on contraception is going to kill them in a few months; they certainly know that the Right’s most visable pundits lamely and uncomfortably trying to rally around Limbaugh is especially bad news for them. What does it say about today’s GOP, then, that even though they know this they feel so resigned to letting it unfold as it is anyway?

    The answers, as you indicate in the title, is that the GOP is too intimately bound to the media personalities over whom it has little control.  Maybe the “marriage” to which it should be opposed is its own.




    • Good Tod wants me to nod in agreement and look forward to the coming to the communal singing of Kumbaya.

      Evil Tod wants to point out that in the piece you and Russell link to, Santorum doesn’t say that calling women who use the pill “sluts” and “prostitutes” is absurd – he is noticeably silent on that. However, he is against Limbaugh’s idea of us all watching the those women’s sex tapes.  Which, Evil Tod would say, would be exactly where he would have pegged Santorum coming down on both comments before reading the link.


  14. How do you believe that Dems would react to such a statement from a “comedian?” Can you really not picture one Dem, either in a position of institutional power or an elected official, feeling that they would not lose their job to criticize such a statement? Even if you imagine Obama himself not making a statement, can you imagine that the White House when asked (as they most surely would be) would not choose to at least say something along the lines of, “Chris and Tina are of course funny people, but the President did feel they stepped out of bounds when they said X?”

    Reminds me of the West Wing episode when a comedian made a joke about violence against police in an event attended by Bartlett while he was running for president. His campaign’s response – “He didn’t laugh at the joke”.

    Here’s the thing, though, I’ve always been under the impression that distancing themselves from anyone who made any sort of statements than can be considered controversial is a Democratic specialty. Democratic politicians throw people under the bus because they’re so scared of losing support, of anything that might offend anyone. Sure, it’s contemptible that no Republican politician would speak up against Limbaugh and his ilks, but at least within my lifetime, that’s par for the course for Republicans. Republicans double down, Democrats don’t. It’s not surprising anymore at this point.


  15. Great post. I think the fortunes of Rush Limbaugh and the GOP do not always align, and Rush will choose what he thinks will ensure his own popularity over GOP success.


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  17. It seems to me that the GOP has moved from saying that life begins at conception to saying that life begins at insemination.


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  19. Let’s quit beating around the bush!

    The real question is should gummint purchase toilet paper for female law school students? It is after all a health issue!



  20. Which if you’re just hearing about this now pretty much brings you to speed.

    Uh… (nervously adjusting collar) thanks, Tod!

    What you’re talking about here is just media-as-such, and I think we can all agree with TVD on this one (right? right?) – an entertainer is going to have an entirely different rhetorical style than a politician. It matters not a whit to Limbaugh if he hurts the Republican Party’s image with sluts er, women, because his goal with his rhetoric is, and probably should be solely to boost his Arbitron ratings. I can pretty much guess that all he and his producers had in mind was what percentage of their listenership has ovaries before he did his bit.

    You know, let’s agree that there is some really quality media being made today. It’d still be really hard to argue that intelligent, creative, thought-provoking, engaging media is anything like a majority. The majority of media product is crap. I think anyone who has cable television knows that. At any rate, many Americans live fairly immersed in this stuff- and I’m not convinced we internet addicts are in a much better position. What effects will this have on the culture and the society over the long term? I’m not convinced they’re necessarily going to be terrible, but I find that I can talk to someone for five minutes at a party and tell from their speech patterns if they’re going to ask me if I’ve read a book they like, or- much more often- ask me about what I think about some insipid reality program (usually while complaining about it!) and sheepishly admit that they don’t read any more. I can suss this out just from the ways they communicate!

    My point is, really, maybe there is nothing to worry about for a culture immersed in a communication style that’s so glib, shallow, often mean-spirited, sarcastic, angry, and filled with empty provocation. Again, I suspect that the effects are often marginal. But, you know who we need desperately in our society to worry about things like this- about whether or not a culture can decline, even irreparably? Conservatives! That’s an area where the conservative voice needs to be heard. So, why does their critique of the “MSM” limit itself to its inherent “liberalism”, as if insipid, angry, empty, lowering media is okay if it’s made by conservatives? Why do they wallow in, and further, cultural decline if they know about its dangers? I think the argument is that this is how they’ll “win” the culture, but ratings and the culture are not the same.

    Anyway, mega dittos Tod, mega dittos.


        • I think I might have all wrong where you were going with saying Rush is an entertainer. (I’m on a roll for that today.) But it’s always been an interesting question to me.  It’s clear to me that Bill Maher is an entertainer pretty much exclusively, even though he talks about politics all the time.  After all basically all he does is tell jokes.  Rush, on the other hand, on the surface absolutely demands to be taken seriously in what he says – I mean, that’s the mode of his speech.  it’s not jokes – there’s no rimshot. At the same time, there is a subtext of ‘this is not serious,’ even though that’s the surface affect. So there’s a kind of understanding that his words aren’t really, truly serious.  Except people do take him seriously for large parts of his monologues!  And politicians do have to appear to take him seriously in the interviews or at least did).   it’s this weird hybrid I’m-an-entertainer-but-about-two-thirds-of-the-listenership-nods-along-in-all-seriouness-to-a-lot-of-what-I-say thing .  (People nod along to Maher too, but they’re always nodding along to jokes.  When he tries to make a serious point, it always kind of trails off and doesn’t connect much. It’s just not what he does.) So he’s clearly an entertainer of a sort, but he’s also a pretty damn serious (and talented!) polemicist.  His style differs from a politicians’ certainly, but there’s an element at least of seriousness in a great del of what he says, and when he’s ostensibly joking –  there’s still quite a real polemical purpose behind it, to my way of hearing.  I’m not entirely sure he should get the kind of license for transgression that we give to comedians if not all entertainers so that they can, you know, make us laugh.

          Was just interested to hear your thought on that. ;)


          • Michael: Ah, okay, yeah. I think I sort of agree with you, but from the other way ’round- I think our problem is really that serious discussion is not really possible in the broadcast media- probably as a structural feature- and we keep acting as if it is, and as if it’s more serious than any other discussion. The broadcast mediums require a communication style that just doesn’t work with serious discussion. Note, for instance, even on pseudo-discussion programs how the topic has to change within (at most) five minutes to hold the viewers attention. So, I think there’s two real problems: 1. It’s a mistake to take any of these media people seriously as thinkers- I don’t know if I’d say they’re entertainers exactly, but they’re not serious thinkers- I don’t say this to let Limbaugh off the hook, and I’d actually ask why in God’s name a national political party has treated a hacky, mean spirited radio comedian as a kingmaker and serious thinker for so long. There’s something really troubling about that and, frankly, a sign of a party in its decadence. 2. The real problem, to my mind, is that actual political figures act more and more like television personalities now. Is there any question that, say, Herman Cain, will be a television personality before he’s ever an elected official? You see it in Obama too though- he communicates like Oprah Winfrey. You really saw it in Clinton- that was someone who desperately wanted to be a media figure. I feel like the answer to why there’s this terrible decline of the political culture and discussion in the country right now is just “it makes for good television”. The public figures who aren’t actually frequent guests or commentators on these television programs act as if that’s their aspiration. I think that troubles me more than anything.


  21. Regarding Issa:  There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,And they all lived together in a little crooked house.  The alternative is Jerry Tetalman, his opponent in this year’s election.


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