More. (photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

There have been a disturbing number of instances in recent years when the level of political discourse coming mostly from the right has been so depressing that all you could do is weep for your country, if not the species.

Today’s example is the hate-filled debate between the GOP’s ugly faction and its cowardly faction over whether it’s okay to insult and slime any woman who has the courage to speak out on why health insurance should cover something so totally accepted and important to women as contraception.   That’s right, the Republican party is actually having a debate about this.

An ordinary citizen, a young woman was asked to testify at a Congressional hearing on what should be covered by employer-provide health insurance, but House Republican Darrel Issa prevented her from speaking on the absurd grounds that in a hearing about reproductive and related health services, a woman had nothing to contribute.   So Democrats held another hearing to allow her to speak.

That exchange might have ended the woman’s involvement in our story, but instead her willingness to speak publicly enraged the misogynist element of the GOP, led by Rush Limbaugh.  Limbaugh has now called the brave woman who represented millions of other women a “slut,” a “prostitute” and someone who should just film and distribute sex videos for men like Rush to ogle.

Now at this point, every decent person on the planet, not just the women, should be calling for Rush’s oral castration.   But while Limbaugh’s sponsors started pulling their ads, [more here] the self-styled half sensible remnants of the GOP have only weakly criticized Mr. Limbaugh, and then pulled their punches.

Carly Fiorina says Limbaugh’s remarks were “insulting”, but then she tried to distract from that by calling the whole issue a “distraction,” as though the bullying, misogyny and moral depravity of the Republican Party’s leading spokesmen is not a central issue of this era.  Rick Santorum volunteered that Rush’s comments were “absurd,” but it’s okay, because Rush is an “entertainer.” Bravely spoken; does this suggest that a true conservative thinks it’s merely entertaining to call women sluts?  The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives couldn’t do much better, noting only that Rush’s atrocious comments were “inappropiate.”   Gosh, that’ll sting. [Update: per MSNBC, the courageous Mitt Romney says "it's not the language I would have used."]

Having heard from the cowardly half of the GOP, we’re now getting responses from the vicious and stupid half.  Today, CNN commentator and right wing blogger Erick Erickson defended Limbaugh, explaining that while Rush’s comments were  indeed “insults,” they were nevertheless justified, because after all, the previously unknown woman had testified that she “wanted the tax payers to pay her to have sex.”  What?

That total fabrication and vicious smear apparently started with a writer for CNS, who in addition to being either incompetent or dishonest has private insurance confused with government payments.  His lie was then repeated by Michele Malkin and now today by Erick Erickson:

So of course Rush Limbaugh was being insulting. He was using it as a tool to highlight just how absurd the Democrats’ position is on this. It’s what he does and does quite well. And in the process he’s exposing a lot of media bias on the issue as people rush out (no pun intended) to make Sandra Fluke a victim of his insults and dance around precisely what is really insulting — her testimony before congress that American taxpayers should subsidize the sexual habits of Georgetown Law School students because, God forbid, they should stop having sex if they cannot afford the pills themselves.

Now we could stop here and remark on the GOP’s depravity of insulting and viciously defaming ordinary women, or any citizen, merely for testifying before Congress.

But we pause in our description of the sewer to which the GOP has descended to remind our readers that this whole issue began with whether private insurers should be required to include coverage for contraceptive and related health services in private insurance offered by private employers.  And so it’s helpful to remember that employer-provided “benefits” are ultimately offered in lieu of higher wages/salaries; in that sense, whatever health coverage the insurance provides is ultimately paid for by the employees.

In other words, women who use such services ultimately pay the premiums (and co-pays, deductibles, etc.).  And since the vast majority of American women use covered contraception sometime in their lives, that means that women covered by insurance are paying for a service they almost universally use.

But in the Erick Erickson’s world, that means that all these “slutty” women are asking taxpayers to pay them for having sex. [Update: Fox News Bill O'Reilly just repeated the same lie.  So the memo's gone out; tell the lie about government paying for sex.]

You can’t get any dumber, meaner or dishonest than the defenders of today’s GOP.   I say, build the moon colony; I’ll pay taxes to send them.