At long last, some right wingers are starting to taste the public’s wrath for their shamefully shameless lack of decency as outraged Americans are starting to fight back against the smears.
Rush Limbaugh for years has made a cottage industry of attacking racial minorities, women and disabled people. Decent people have stood up to Limbaugh, but his fame and fortune have grown in tandem with his girth because he attracts millions of mindless listeners who are amused by such garish tastelessness. That’s good enough for sponsors, who don’t give a hoot about good taste. At least, that was the rule until recently. Loud public outcry finally drove at least seven advertisers to drop Limbaugh’s show after he called a woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” over her defense of contraception. Let’s hope other sponsors follow suit so Limbaugh feels the pinch; he will remain a bully only as long as it is profitable to do so.
Rush went on a rampage against Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke for testifying before Congress after Republicans prevented her from defending Obama administration requirements that health insurance companies provide coverage for contraception. Limbaugh could have made a reasoned argument against Fluke’s position, but instead chose to malign her character.
Obama adviser David Axelrod spoke on behalf of outraged millions when he labeled Limbaugh’s remarks “vile and degrading.” Leaders of the Republicans, who describe themselves as the “party of family values,” offered only flaccid, mushy words for the rotund ringmaster of rot.
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum and House Speaker John Boehner timidly called Limbaugh’s words “inappropriate” while fellow candidate Newt Gingrich said it was “appropriate for Rush to apologize.” Frontrunner Mitt Romney cowered and trembled, lest he offend Rush’s fans by taking a stand against slandering a private citizen as a “slut” and “prostitute.”
El Rushbo was part of a trifecta of right-wing slurs in recent days. The other two were made by federal judge Richard Cebull and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Judge Cebull emailed a racist joke: “A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’” the joke in the email said. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”
Cebull apologized to Obama. Duh! Think about it: if you appeared in Cebull’s court, would you believe that he has the intelligence, maturity, and integrity to hear your case? While some Democrats demand Cebull’s impeachment, he gets a pass from the party (which runs the House of Representatives) whose “family values” he embodies.
Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, said his investigation showed reason to believe that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery. This once again fuels irrational conspiracy theories that Obama is not a legally born American citizen, and therefore, ineligible to hold public office. Did it ever occur to Arpaio or the citizens of Phoenix that he should devote his energy to chasing murders, rapists, carjackers and gang bangers? Obsequious Republican presidential candidates, instead of demanding Arpaio’s removal over squandering public resources, shamefully jostled for his endorsement.
Limbaugh, Cebull and Arpaio know they can get away with it. First and foremost, they don’t even recognize that they are atrocious. Second, slandering anyone with whom they disagree and showing contempt for Obama is part of their DNA. Third, they express the disgraceful views of Republicans in power and the moneyed interests behind them. Such contemptible behavior becomes an issue only when right-wingers are caught being themselves.
The Republican presidential nominee is almost certainly going to be Romney, Santorum or Gingrich. Mitch McConnell and Boehner are the elected Republican leaders. Yet none of these so-called leaders has the character, decency or courage to condemn Limbaugh, Cebull or Arpaio. The worst Limbaugh heard from any of them was “inappropriate.” Sneezing on someone’s food is inappropriate. Limbaugh, Cebull and Arpaio are reprehensible, shameful, disgusting, and inexcusable. The fact that these three men are hold such positions of influence is evidence of the right wing’s moral vacuum.
Since Obama declared his candidacy for president in 2007, he has been pilloried by this same right wing as an alleged communist, socialist, fascist, terrorist, Muslim, and been taunted non-stop by Republican racists. He has held his head high and not responded in kind. He has instructed his surrogates to not hit political adversaries below the belt, but rather to focus on the issues without petty character assassination.
The latest spate of incidents showed Obama at his best. Instead of jumping into the fray to score political points, he called Fluke on the telephone to thank her for speaking up about the health concerns of women and said her parents should be proud of her. We should all be proud of Fluke and Obama for their courage and character. Obama has once again shown his substantial presidential timber, while his rivals demonstrate they are made of rotted wormwood.
John Wright is the author of “The Obama Haters: Behind the Right-Wing Campaign of Lies, Innuendo & Racism” and co-author of “Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future.”