You didn’t think Rush Limbaugh’s apology to Sandra Fluke for calling her a “slut” because of her comments about contraception would end the controversy, did you? In the middle of a presidential campaign? Of course not.
Anything involving sex, women’s rights, and the acid-tongued conservative radio broadcaster was bound to keep political partisans and the media stirring the pot for days, if not longer.
Just to review….
When a Republican House committee chairman (Darrell Issa) denied Georgetown University law school student Sandra Fluke permission to speak at a hearing, minority Democrats quickly organized their own unofficial event at which Ms. Fluke talked about the importance of having contraception services covered under government-required health insurance plans.
Never one to waste an opportunity to attack liberal causes, Mr. Limbaugh took after Fluke – calling her a “slut,” a “prostitute,” and – one of his personal favorites – a “feminazi.” He also suggested that she make sex tapes and post them online “so we can all watch.”
Outrage ensued on the left, grudging criticisms of Limbaugh on the right – some from Republicans known to have apologized to Limbaugh when he took them to task for not being sufficiently conservative.
To Democrats, it was proof of the GOP’s “war on women.”
Advertisers on Limbaugh’s syndicated radio show, heard by millions every day, began jumping ship.
All of that continued Sunday.
“I think what Rush Limbaugh said about that young woman was not only vile and degrading to her, but to women across the country,” David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior campaign adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week.” Obama had called Fluke to personally offer his support.
The liberal political action committee EMILY’s List put out a call for contributions “to elect pro-choice Democratic women who will stand up to rightwing extremists like Rush Limbaugh!”
“We can't let the Republican crusade against women's rights and access to essential health care continue,” the group says in a new web post. “And make no mistake, people like Rush Limbaugh want to punish each and every one of us for the crime of speaking out on our own behalf. When Rush calls Sandra Fluke a slut, he's calling all of us sluts.”
“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”
“UltraViolet,” which describes itself as “a community of women and men, fighting to expand women's rights and combat sexism everywhere,” continues to pressure other Limbaugh advertisers to bail out.
"Rush's apology wasn't actually an apology," said UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas, formerly of the liberal political action group MoveOn.org. "He did little more than continue to expose himself as the anti-woman and offensive media personality that he is. Our campaign to pressure advertisers to drop their sponsorship of his show will continue next week. No radio show that attacks women should be rewarded with advertising dollars. And more than 84,000 of our members who signed a petition in the last day agree."
Some grassroots groups have been gathering signatures asking the FCC to take Limbaugh off the air.
Meanwhile, conservative columnist George Will is taking Republicans to task for their muted, forced comments regarding Limbaugh’s insulting comments about a young woman.
“[House Speaker John] Boehner comes out and says Rush’s language was inappropriate. Using the salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate. Not this stuff,” Will said Sunday on ABC News. “And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”
Saturday afternoon Rush Limbaugh did a very rare thing. He apologized, “sincerely” even.
The popular conservative talk show host – known for his biting, sarcastic attacks on all things liberal – told Sandra Fluke he “did not mean a personal attack” when he called her a “slut,” a “prostitute,” and a “feminazi,” or when he suggested she make sex tapes and post them online “so we can all watch.”
Ms. Fluke is the Georgetown University law school student who spoke out about contraception as a necessary provision of health care programs. She was invited to do so by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after she had been prevented from participating in a committee hearing by Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, who invited only male religious figures to discuss President Obama’s policy regarding birth control and religious institutions.
Heated political discussion of an issue important to women (most of whom favor the Obama plan) in recent weeks has allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as conducting a “war on women.”
When Limbaugh began his attack on Fluke this past week, which continued without let up for two days, Republicans began distancing themselves from the man widely perceived to be an important figure in conservative and GOP politics.
“That language is insulting, in my opinion,” Carly Fiorina, National Republican Senatorial Committee Vice-Chairman and former US Senate candidate, said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “It’s incendiary and most of all, it’s a distraction.”
Democrats made sure the public perceived Limbaugh as “the new face of the GOP,” as one headline put it, and they were quick to see the possibilities.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emailed supporters urging them to "Stand Strong Against Rush Limbaugh" by donating to the House campaign arm, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reported. President Obama made a public point of phoning Fluke to offer his support.
Even some Republicans worried that the controversial broadcaster seemed to becoming a major party spokesman.
"The party is in transition," Ed Rogers, a Republican lobbyist and close ally of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, told Cillizza. "Our leaders have not found their voice or direction…. Limbaugh is filling a vacuum in a world that requires a constant media counter-point."
One after another, advertisers with Limbaugh’s syndicated radio program began pulling out.
Carbonite CEO David Friend said he would confront Limbaugh directly when they meet this coming week.
“The nature of talk radio is that from time to time listeners are offended by a host and ask that we pull our advertising,” Mr. Friend wrote in an open letter to his customers. “However, the outcry over Limbaugh is the worst we’ve ever seen.”
Some had suggested that Fluke might sue Limbaugh for slander.
It's unclear whether that possibility had anything to do with Limbaugh's backing down. Here’s his apology in full:
"For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices."
Rush Limbaugh’s diatribes against Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who spoke out about contraception, continue to roil the political environment. And it may be nicking the bottom line for the conservative talk show personality who draws millions of listeners daily.
Republicans, already facing a potential problem with many female voters over a controversial issue, are scrambling to respond – distancing themselves from a powerful voice among many of the party faithful. House Speaker John Boehner and GOP presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney put out statements – although the tone seemed grudging.
US Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who faces what could be a tough re-election campaign against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, says Limbaugh should apologize for calling Ms. Fluke “a slut,” “a prostitute,” and one of his signature slurs “a feminazi.”
But Limbaugh, who’s made himself very wealthy with his bloviating conservative commentary and mocking wise cracks, shows no sign of backing off, recently targeting other women as well for his ridicule.
When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi organized a meeting to hear Ms. Fluke’s testimony, Limbaugh referred to the former House Speaker as “Botox-filled.” When racecar driver Danica Patrick voiced her support of President Obama’s rule regarding contraception, Limbaugh said, “What would you expect from a woman driver?”
Whether or not it will make any difference to Limbaugh’s operation is unclear, but several advertisers on his syndicated radio show have pulled their ads and more are considering it.
Select Comfort, which sells Sleep Number mattresses, tweeted: "Recent comments by RUSH LIMBAUGH do not align w/our values, so we made decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program."
Quicken Loans announced; “Due to continued inflammatory comments – along w/valuable feedback from clients & team members – QL has suspended ads on RUSH LIMBAUGH program."
Pro Flowers told Twitter followers: "Rest assured, your feedback is heard. We heard about the comments and we will reevaluate our marketing plan."
Carbonite CEO David Friend intends to confront Limbaugh directly. He posted this open letter to his customers:
“Over the past two days we have received a tremendous amount of feedback on Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments. I too am offended and very concerned about his comments. Limbaugh’s remarks have us rethinking our future use of talk radio.
“We use more than 40 talk show hosts to help get the Carbonite message out to the public. The nature of talk radio is that from time to time listeners are offended by a host and ask that we pull our advertising. This goes for conservatives like Limbaugh and progressives like Stephanie Miller and Ed Shultz. We even get customers who demand that we pull the plug on NPR. As an advertiser, we do not have control over a show’s editorial content or what they say on air. Carbonite does not endorse the opinions of the shows or their hosts.
“However, the outcry over Limbaugh is the worst we’ve ever seen. I have scheduled a face-to-face meeting next week with Limbaugh during which I will impress upon him that his comments were offensive to many of our customers and employees alike. Please know your voice has been heard and that we are taking this matter very seriously.”
Democrats, who try to portray Limbaugh as the voice of the Republican Party, see the recent kerfuffle as part of the GOP’s “war on women.”
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) of New York has suggested that legal action might be taken, particularly since Fluke is a private citizen and therefore might more easily win a charge of slander than would a public figure – an elected official or entertainer.
It’s not only a fight for women, Fluke told Yarrow.
“Men are on board,” she said. “A lot of them write to me. They say ‘I support you. I’m doing this for my granddaughters.’ They really do care.”
Is Rush Limbaugh damaging the Republican Party? On Friday Limbaugh drew withering criticism from all colors of the political spectrum for his comment that Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke is “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying in favor of mandatory coverage of contraception in employer-provided health insurance.
National Republican Senatorial Committee vice-chairman Carly Fiorina called the talk show host/provocateur’s language “insulting,” “incendiary,” and “a distraction.” House Speaker John Boehner called the words “inappropriate,” while also hitting Democrats for trying to raise money off the issue.
President Obama called Ms. Fluke in support, while the president of Georgetown University sent an e-mail to all the school’s students that said Mr. Limbaugh’s words were “misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”
In short, Limbaugh at least for the moment appears to have taken a complicated issue on the beliefs of religious groups versus the powers of government and reduced it to a discussion of schoolyard epithets.
“Yesterday’s topic: legitimate rights of [Roman Catholic] church. Today’s topic: calling women ‘sluts.’ Good job Rush,” tweeted David Frum, a journalist and self-described conservative Republican who at times has jousted with his party’s right wing.
Limbaugh himself remains unapologetic for his comments. On his radio show Friday he said, “This isn’t about contraception anyway. This is about expanding the reach and power of government into your womb, if you’re a woman.”
Meanwhile, opponents flooded the web and Twitter with comments aimed at getting advertisers on Limbaugh’s show to pull their support. At least two firms, mattress companies Sleep Train and Sleep Number, said they would do so.
Mr. Obama’s phone call to Fluke further escalated the public visibility of the controversy. Having made clear where his sympathies are in the matter, Obama may force GOP rivals to make their own statements on the issue. Indeed, it’s possible Democrats are gleeful about what they consider Limbaugh’s rhetorical overreaching.
Others on the left charged that Republicans were now reaping the results of inviting shock-jock hosts such as Limbaugh into the inner circle, in essence. At Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum opined in a post titled “Has Right Wing Media Become an Albatross for the Right Wing?”
Limbaugh “plumbed some new depths of loathsomeness” with his comments, said Mr. Drum.
Even some of Limbaugh’s defenders did not defend Limbaugh's choice of words. Over at the conservative RedState site, editor Erik Erickson wrote that, “Well of course Rush Limbaugh was being insulting. It is not something I would do and I do think we’re going to now be focused on what he said for a while and that it will be a distraction from the central argument.”
This central argument, according to Mr. Erickson, is that the Obama administration wants to force taxpayers to foot the bill for couples’ contraception by forcing health insurers to include it in coverage.
“So of course Rush Limbaugh was being insulting,” writes Erickson. “He was using it as a tool to highlight just how absurd the Democrats’ position is on this.”
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Has Rush Limbaugh finally gone too far? Has he said something so outrageous that it is actually damaging the conservative principles he espouses?
Those are relevant questions in the wake of the radio host/gadfly/provocateur’s labeling Georgetown University law school student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” while urging her to make public video tapes of her intimate acts. Mr. Limbaugh made the comments after Ms. Fluke testified in support of mandatory employer health coverage of contraception in front of a nonofficial congressional committee.
“If we are going to have to pay for this then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke,” Limbaugh said on his radio show earlier this week. “And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we’re getting for our money.”
Fluke herself has said she was “stunned” by these remarks. In an appearance on MSNBC’s "The Ed Show" on Thursday night, she said, “All [Limbaugh] needs to know is this is really inappropriate. This is outside the bounds of civil discourse.”
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Democrats and their political allies have rushed to her defense. Some 75 House Democrats have signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R) asking him to condemn Limbaugh’s words. The Women’s Media Center posted a Web story titled “Rush Limbaugh’s Sexism: Finally Too Much to Bear?”
Meanwhile, some Republicans have noted that while they don’t support his rhetoric, they support the point about health insurance Limbaugh was trying to make.
“A law student is now a hardship case? She needs the rest of us to provide her with free contraceptives?” said conservative columnist Mona Charen in a piece posted Friday morning on National Review Online.
Few commentators predict that Limbaugh will back down. He makes his living saying outrageous things: that’s how he attracts 20 million listeners a day, many pointed out. Even a nascent boycott of Limbaugh’s advertisers organized by opponents probably won’t faze him. (So far one advertiser, Sleep Train Mattresses, has pulled ads from Limbaugh’s show in reaction to the controversy.)
The problem, say some in the GOP, is that Limbaugh’s personal goals can conflict with the political goals he says he supports, and this may be one of those times. In pouring gasoline on a subject that was already a propane fire, he may have drawn attention to himself, but it’s possible he’s singeing Republicans who are standing close to the action.
“It doesn’t help,” said Carly Fiorina, National Republican Senatorial Committee vice chairman, Friday on "CBS This Morning." “That language is insulting, in my opinion. It’s incendiary and most of all, it’s a distraction.”
Ms. Fiorina noted that the Limbaugh uproar had taken some attention away from Thursday’s vote in the Senate on the Blunt amendment, legislation that would have exempted religiously affiliated employers from providing employees with contraception.
“It’s a distraction from what are very real and important issues,” said Fiorina.
IN PICTURES: Birth Rates Across the World
The Ron Paul campaign released a new ad Wednesday, and it’s getting some buzz because it appears to attack Mitt Romney. Before this, Mr. Paul and Mr. Romney seemed to get along pretty well – Rick Santorum at one point last week called the white-haired Texas libertarian Romney’s “wingman.”
That would make Romney Paul’s wingman, too, in air-power parlance. A “wingman” is somebody who helps out a fellow pilot in combat.
Over at the liberal-leaning Think Progress blog, Judd Legum has rooted through debate transcripts and pronounced that in 20 debates, Paul has not attacked Romney once. But Paul has jabbed at his other rivals at least 39 times, according to Mr. Legum.
“Paul is effectively acting as Romney’s on-stage surrogate during the debates. The key question is: what is Paul getting out of it?” Legum writes.
Some commentators have speculated that Paul is aiming for a good speaking slot at the Republican National Convention if Romney wins. Others suggest he might want his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, as VP on the ticket. In any case, that’s the context in which the new ad is set.
The spot is called “Three of a Kind,” and it goes after all the remaining non-Paul GOP candidates. It starts off with Newt Gingrich, calling him a “serial hypocrite” and Washington insider who lobbied for Freddie Mac before the housing crisis. Then it hits Mr. Santorum as a “counterfeit conservative” who has voted to increase US spending and fund Planned Parenthood. Lastly, it gets around to Romney, saying he’s a “flip-flopper” whose Massachusetts health plan provided the blueprint for "Obamacare."
“Three men – one vision. More big government. More mandates. Less freedom,” says the ad’s apocalyptic-sounding narrator.
Wow. Tough, huh? Does this prove there’s no collusion between the Paul and Romney camps?
Well, we don’t think they’re actually working together. But neither do we believe this ad is nearly as tough on Romney as it appears to be at first glance.
For one thing, Romney gets off easy. What’s worse, a hypocrite or a flip-flopper? Especially when the flip-flopper’s been called that for so long it’s practically his Secret Service code name? The ad goes after Gingrich and Santorum on personal terms. Romney, not so much.
For another, as some conservative commentators are pointing out, the ad isn’t new. It first went up on YouTube in January. Then the campaign posted it again Wednesday, for some reason.
“My guess: The Paul campaign uploaded and circulated the ad again to convince campaign reporters that they are not colluding with Romney,” writes Mike Riggs on Reason.com.
The real reason Paul and Romney don’t attack each other is they have no real political reason to do so. Paul has a committed base of supporters that is larger than his 2008 base, but it isn’t big enough to threaten Romney in any noncaucus state. That’s true even in Virginia, where they’re the only two on the ballot for the state’s GOP primary March 6.
Romney, meanwhile, knows that he needs Paul inside the GOP tent if he (Romney) ends up winning the nomination. As Chris Cillizza notes Wednesday on the Washington Post “Fix” political blog, Paul’s voters are intensely loyal to him, not the Republican Party. He’d take them with him to a third party, if that’s where he goes.
Turns out that while newspapers may be hurting for revenues, they still have a bit of what Rodney Dangerfield couldn’t get – respect.
A new survey of likely voters in the 2012 election confirms what many media watchers have been tracking for some time: trust in national media, particularly newer forms such as blogs and social media, is extremely low, hovering between six and 13 percent.
The most reliable source of election news, as gauged in this January survey of 1,000 cell and land-line phone respondents – are print newspapers, with 22 percent of respondents saying they are trustworthy. Broadcast and cable TV came in a close second, nestled right at 21 percent, while talk radio and Internet news sites ranked much lower.
According to the report released Thursday – and sponsored by the man behind craigslist, Craig Newmark himself – fewer than a quarter of those who took the time to answer questions felt that election news coverage was reliable.
Yet, at the same time, points out Mr. Newmark, who has posted an infographic detailing the survey results on his craigconnects website, “people want news they can trust.”
However the media as a whole are following a downward path led by the politicians they cover, points out Dr. Ben Agger, director of the Center for Theory at the University of Texas, Arlington’s Sociology Department.
Since Watergate, he points out, people haven't trusted politicians. Now, he says by email, “they don't trust news media to provide anything but infotainment.”
There is some irony in the fact that it was young Washington Post sleuths who uncovered the truth about the Watergate “plumbers” and brought down a president, he says, noting that journalism had “instant credibility.”
Yet few get their news from newspapers anymore, Dr. Agger notes. “The Internet provides instantaneity, but little depth,” he adds.
He notes there is also no small irony in the fact that these trends are being highlighted in a project sponsored by craigslist founder Newmark.
"Craigslist itself is to blame: The eclipse of classified advertising in pulp journalism has required papers to trim their investigative staff, cut column inches and rely on wire services,” he adds.
Irony and hope mark this survey of Americans' trust in various media, says presidential scholar Charles Dunn, editor of “The Presidency in the 21st Century.”
“Who would have thought that a survey sponsored by a non-media person, Craig Newmark, and an organization responsible for much of the decline in the traditional media, craigslist, would offer compelling results favorable to traditional media?”
The survey results should encourage traditional media, however, points out Mr. Dunn, “particularly newspapers, which have bled readers and lost revenue for many years.” The survey also stands out as a testament to the wisdom and insight of the discerning public, he notes, “without which a democracy cannot long endure.”
People value trustworthiness, notes Dunn, “precisely because we've seen so many high-profile violations of trust. The more that people read about fakery, plagiarism, and wild bias, the more they want the straight story.”
Even in 2012, the traditional mainstream media remain the major source of basic reporting, he points out. “With some exceptions, what appears on the Internet is a presentation of, or commentary on, journalism that comes from mainstream news organizations,” he notes via email.
Other media analysts looking at the study results are less impressed with the numbers for print media, pointing instead to their still low trustworthy ratings as a precipitous fall from grace.
The traditional media share the blame for their reduced readership and loss of respect, says Lara Brown, an assistant political science professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia. For years, news media tailored their coverage to niche groups in the hopes that a dedicated following, though smaller than what they had had before, “would make up the revenues for a general public that was more variable,” she notes via email.
After two decades of news organizations moving to attract and reinforce specific ideological groups, she notes, “they have ruined their collective credibility as an unbiased arbiter or neutral observer.” It is not surprising to see people in this survey wish for trustworthiness, she observes, “which means being a neutral observer and historical recorder of the facts, not a spin machine for one or the other party.”
The public also appears to understand that it may take time to get it right, says Ms. Brown, “and now, they'd rather have it right, than be forced to digest a misleading press release delivered to the news organization by an interested party.”
This perspective is likely why the respondents trust the older news sources, she notes. They likely either have residual trust from the past when they behaved in a more neutral manner, or they may believe that these organizations might have if not the same personnel from an earlier era, then at least, the same ethos or institutional memory, “which keeps them honest,” she says.
In short, she says, the public is hungry for facts, not just entertainment, and the news organizations that jump on that trend may find themselves as kings of the hill “because when everyone is doing ‘partisan politics,’ it’s a good idea to position oneself as ‘post-partisan.’”
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Bill Maher on Thursday night while performing on a comedy special streamed on Yahoo apparently pledged $1 million to the super PAC supporting President Obama. We say “apparently” just because he’s Bill Maher, and it’s possible that this is a joke of some kind, but it doesn’t seem like it.
Here’s what Mr. Maher said on Yahoo's CrazyStupidPolitics special: “I would like tonight to announce a donation to the Obama super PAC, which has the very unfortunate tongue-twister name Priority USA Action. I know, it was named by Borat. But tonight I would like to give that PAC ... one million dollars.”
Yes, the crowd at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts was surprised.
His longtime publicist Sarah Fuller told Deadline Hollywood the whole thing was serious and that Maher has told her “this is the wisest investment I think I could make.”
Here’s our question: Is this a good career move for Maher? We ask this knowing full well that he’s already well-known as a Democrat. This was the guy who cajoled Christine O’Donnell into talking on-air about her teenage dalliance with witchcraft, after all, and look how that turned out.
No, our question is more pragmatic. The political jokes in his routine are all aimed at the GOP candidates. If they lose, what’s he got to work with? He’d have to completely renovate his routine. As a professional he is much better off with high-ranking Republicans to kick around. Unlike, say, his fellow funny-guy Dennis Miller, who’s GOP these days.
“I mean like from the old Adam West ‘Batman’ ... I’m talking about a fat, over-the-hill character actor with two henchmen in dog suits in a warehouse,” Maher told Mr. Ferguson.
On his Yahoo show he called Michele Bachmann the candidate for “people who find Sarah Palin too intellectual.” Rick Perry is the “Bush brotha’ from anotha’ motha’,” according to Maher. Mitt Romney? He’s been led in the polls by everyone from Donald Trump to “the underwear bomber, Michael Jackson’s doctor, and bed bugs.”
See what we mean? It would be very hard for Maher to try and work up material about amendments to the implementation of Obama health initiatives after that. He admitted as much in a piece he wrote this week on the Huffington Post.
“This Republican field over the last year has been such a comedy gold mine,” he wrote.
However, there is one point to be made the other way. Maybe he wants a position in the Obama administration. Big fundraisers, especially those who can cajole their wealthy friends to pony up as well, often get top posts right?
We can see it now: “Ambassador to the Bahamas Bill Maher.” That position looks like it’s going to be open, too. The current occupant, an Obama donor named Nicole Avant, was recently blasted by a State Department inspector general report for “an extended period of dysfunctional leadership and mismanagement, which has caused problems throughout the embassy,” according to a report in Foreign Policy magazine.
After a report like that, the professional diplomats at the post could probably use a good laugh.
Stephen Colbert hosted House minority leader Nancy Pelosi on “The Colbert Report” Wednesday evening. Does that mean that Stephen Colbert the person might be a Democrat? That would be the opposite of “Stephen Colbert” the character, who on television is a committed conservative talk-show host.
We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s recap Wednesday night's events.
The point of the Pelosi appearance was for her and Mr. Colbert (in character) to have a faux faceoff. Colbert has a "super political action committee" called Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Ms. Pelosi is pushing the DISCLOSE Act, a bill intended to regulate certain activities of these campaign funding organizations. She’s even filmed an ad that purports to attack Colbert, saying she’s heard “he doesn’t even like kittens.”
Is the ad funny? Let’s just say Pelosi is not nearly as good a comedian as Colbert is a politician.
“You have attacked me,” said Colbert to Pelosi Wednesday with all the false umbrage his fictional self could muster. “You have attacked me and the person of my super PAC by saying that super PACs and I are hurting democracy. What do you mean?”
Pelosi went on to explain that she believes the unlimited donations pouring into super PACs create a situation in which democracy might be purchased, and that all she and the DISCLOSE Act want to do is create more transparency so citizens know where that money is coming from.
(The “DISCLOSE” in DISCLOSE Act stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections, by the way. In case you hadn’t figured it out for yourself.)
The minority leader concluded by saying that in the end Democrats need to win the election so they can overturn the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which makes super PACs possible, “by amending the Constitution and giving the voice and the vote and the power to the people.”
The studio audience then gave her a round of applause.
So does this mean Colbert the person is a Democrat? We ask this in particular because Stephen Colbert the character served up nothing but softballs in the way of questions for Pelosi. In the end, he agreed to endorse the DISCLOSE Act in return for her urging House Democrats to participate in his “Better Know a District” series.
Colbert did not point out that donors to super PACs already must disclose their identities – albeit too late to really do transparency any good. Pelosi’s legislation would tighten that disclosure and speed it up, making big donors report their cash offerings within a day.
Colbert did not ask how she plans to get DISCLOSE passed, given that it was introduced in Congress almost two years ago, has received no Republican support, and is stuck in committee.
Nor did Colbert ask about the viability of the amend-the-Constitution-to-overturn-Citizens-United process. We’re safe in saying that that procedure is so lengthy and difficult that it will happen at about the same time Republicans succeed in passing a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, which is to say, not for many years to come.
Colbert does have Republican politicians on his show, so the mere fact that he’s giving Pelosi air time means little, partisanship-wise. But others – not us, we don’t want our Twitter feed to explode – have suggested that Colbert’s super PAC exposé is going too far and that he made a mockery of the political system when he testified before Congress in character on immigration reform.
In January, NBC political analyst Chuck Todd said the media should be “careful” about how it treats Colbert.
“What is his real agenda here?” said Mr. Todd at a forum at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., just prior to the South Carolina primary. “Is it to educate the public about the dangers of money and politics, and what’s going on? Or is it simply to marginalize the Republican Party? I think if I were a Republican candidate I would be concerned about that.”
Well, we’ll note here that the media get wee-weed up about many subjects, because if they don’t, it can be very hard to stay awake during a slow news day. Mr. Santorum’s remarks were made four years ago, in a different context than a presidential race, and are easy to misinterpret if you have a dissimilar religious background.
But still – let’s examine what Ms. Palin said in detail. On Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Tuesday night, she said that “the lame-stream media is taking things out of context and trying to subscribe to [Santorum] that traditional type normal negative narrative that they want to pin on any conservative.”
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Then she added: “This is a speech he gave back in 2008 where he named evil as Satan. For those lame-stream media characters to get all wee-weed up about that, first you have to ask yourself, have they ever, ever attended Sunday school. Have they never heard this terminology before?”
This is similar to the approach Santorum himself took Tuesday. He, too, talks as if the issue is simply the use of the word “Satan.”
“You know, I’m a person of faith,” Santorum said after a rally Tuesday in Phoenix. “I believe in good and evil. If think if somehow or another because you’re a person of faith [and] you believe in good and evil [that] is a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president.”
Here’s the problem with that: Lots of members of the mainstream media went (or still go) to Sunday school. So did tens of millions of US voters. We are among them – we’ll stack our Sunday school attendance against any former Alaska governor. The use of Satan as a symbol is something we’ve heard many times before.
But what Santorum said is that academia had been overcome by Satan, as had the culture, politics, and mainstream American Protestant churches. He said those churches were “in shambles.”
That is a statement Santorum will find difficult to elude. Former Bush political director Karl Rove picked up on that right away during an appearance on the "O’Reilly Factor."
“Does he really think every Presbyterian, every Methodist, every Lutheran is really, as a mainstream Protestant, no longer a Christian?” Mr. Rove said to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
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