Syndicated talk radio host Rush Limbaugh got so upset over the able articulation of an opposing view by Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University Law School student who testified before members of Congress in order to highlight concerns about limits on access to contraception, that he attacked her as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
This was no slip of the conservative commentator’s tongue. This was an elite media personality with a national media platform seeking to silence a citizen.
When concerns were raised about his vile language, Limbaugh doubled down and restated his attacks on Fluke.
Fluke has ably defended herself in interviews on national news programs. She’s a strong young woman who has proven herself more than equal to the task of responding to a shocking assault on her as an individual—and on her right to speak as an American citizen.
It is the second assault that should concern everyone—no matter what their partisanship, no matter what their ideological bent.
While Limbaugh certainly owes Fluke an apology, the fact is that the radio host owes a broader apology.
Limbaugh attacked fluke for speaking up before Congress on an issue of national concern.
Fluke stepped into the limelight not as an entertainer or a political player. She did not seek fame or fortune. She spoke up as a citizen.
And that’s what is so unsettling about Limbaugh’s crude language and cruder stance as this controversial incident has exploded.
Prominent political players and media personalities can get pretty rough with one another. No one is objecting to the give and take that characterizes electioneering and governing. This is not about constraining the discourse, nor even about promoting civility.
What is at stake here is something that does far deeper, and matters far more.
When political and media figures with national prominence use their positions to attack individual citizens who dare to speak up about controversial concerns, they do not just attack the citizens.
They attack the basic premises of a representative democracy in which citizens do not just have a right to freedom of speech. If the American experiment is to work, citizens have a responsibility to speak truth to power. It is not easy to do that. But it is necessary if we are to keep alive the founding principle, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson: “Whenever our affairs go obviously wrong, the good sense of the people will interpose and set them to rights.”
At a point when political players, most of them men, were going obviously wrong with regard to policies affecting women, Sandra Fluke spoke up.
She performed a necessary duty of citizenship.
Citizens need to challenge their political leaders—and the media echo chamber that amplifies the self-serving messages of those leaders. We have enough of a problem in this country with the media’s casual dismissal of the voices of the poor, of working people, of people of color, of trade unionists, of rural Americans and of the young. When the dismissals turn aggressive and unforgiving, as was the case with Limbaugh’s attack of Fluke, the promise of citizenship is assaulted.
And when elitists so powerful as Rush Limbaugh seeks to silence citizens so sincere and appropriately engaged as Sandra Fluke, with personal attacks, crude language and constant criticism, those elitists attack democracy itself.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, March 2, 2011
Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, the Assistant Majority Leader and a close ally of GOP Governor Scott Walker in the effort to destroy collective bargaining in the Badger State, is taking crazy to new levels.
Grothman has introduced a bill that would require the State of Wisconsin to officially deem single parenthood to be a “contributor” to child abuse and neglect and to put the same into statutory laws of the state.
Here is the relevant section of the Wisconsin law that was the subject of a hearing yesterday in the Wisconsin state Senate Committee on Public Health, Human Services and Revenue. The bold lettering represents the amendments to the existing law that Senator Grothman has proposed for addition:
Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read: 48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
Section 2. 48.982 (2) (g) 4. of the statutes is amended to read: 48.982 (2) (g) 4. Disseminate information about the problems of and methods of preventing child abuse and neglect to the public and to organizations concerned with those problems. In disseminating that information, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
If it strikes you as odd that the Wisconsin senate is spending the taxpayers’ money debating this sort of legislation in committee—considering that a full one-third of Wisconsin’s parents are, indeed, single parents—you need to understand a little bit more about Wisconsin state Senator Grothman.
You should know that it was Senator Grothman who informed us last year that “The Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government.” This is also the same Senator Grothman who opposed a provision in the 2010 Wisconsin sex education law that would prohibit teachers from promoting bias based on sexual orientation because he believed that instructors would have an “agenda” to persuade students to become gay.
And, yes, this is the same Senator Grothman who wants to defund kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds because, argues Grothman, any academic benefits disappear by the fourth grade, and the program is used by school districts to pad their budgets to get more state aid.
Apparently, no longer content with suggesting that single parents (most of whom were not always single) are only out to bilk the government when deciding to have children, Grothman has decided that these same evil doers are more responsible for child abuse and child neglect than, say, alcoholics, people with mental health issues, married couples who engage in domestic violence, unemployment and the other causes cited as material contributors to child abuse.
I say that Grothman believes single-parenthood to be more responsible because I don’t see him proposing that these other causes be specifically included in his legislation.
To be fair, data reveals that there are more incidents of child abuse in households with only one parent than in households with two parents. But the data does not indicate that this factor is somehow more responsible for child abuse than the other factors listed above so, again, why single this factor out to include in the state’s statutes and not the others?
According to Lisa Subeck, a program manager and family advocate at Wisconsin’s Dane County Parent Council Head Start, Grothman’s bill was written to dictate personal choices rather than to help prevent child abuse. Says Subeck, “Sen. Grothman is inserting government into what should be a very personal decision.
That sounds about right.
And here I thought it was the GOP that was dedicated to keeping government out of our private lives.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, March 2, 2012
In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren has already hit Scott Brown for his vote on the execrable Blunt Amendment:
Senator Brown took sides with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and the right wing of his party, against the people of Massachusetts, who in tough economic times rely on insurance to get the health care they need.
To repeat a point from yesterday, the ultimate outcome of Mitch McConnell’s vaunted practice of securing party discipline is this: a group of vulnerable GOP senators with clear votes on deeply unpopular policies, from Paul Ryan’s budget to this plan to give employers a veto over the private lives of their employees.
I’m amazed that Republicans are still on this road; as Amanda Marcotte points out, the initial compromise was an out for them. They could claim new ground as defenders of religious freedom, sow dissent among Democrats, and give the Obama administration a bad week of press. It was win-win for them. But like a novice chess player who confuses aggression with strategy, the GOP couldn’t stop its assault on the administration, and continued to escalate its attacks. In escalation, Republicans revealed the extent to which this fight isn’t actually about religious freedom—it’s about sex and the women who have it.
As far as I can tell, the GOP has fully committed itself to the proposition that women who have sex should be punished by their employers, a fact underscored by Rush Limbaugh’s cruel and hateful attack on Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University Law School student who testified before Congress about the problems that come with inadequate access to contraception. If you’ve been on the internet in the last 24 hours, you’ve probably heard Limbaugh’s misogynistic rant:
“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and 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. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.” […]
“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 for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch,” he said.
The most important thing about this? Not a single Republican lawmaker has condemned Limbaugh for this vitriolic nonsense. Limbaugh isn’t just a radio host; he’s one of the most influential people in conservative politics, with millions of followers and regular praise from elected Republicans. The silence from GOP lawmakers isn’t evidence of agreement, but it’s certainly a sign that they fear the consequences of opposition.
With that in mind, here is a tip for the Republican Party: In 2008, nearly half of independents were women. You might think otherwise, but restricting their health care and calling them sluts isn’t a winning strategy.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, March 2, 2012
One of the big stories of this recession is the massive decline in public-sector employment. In order to weather the economic storm, states and localities have cut jobs for teachers, firefighters, police, and other public servants. As The New York Times reports, this has also trickled down to higher education, where public colleges have cut training for valuable jobs and professions:
Technical, engineering and health care expertise are among the few skills in huge demand even in today’s lackluster job market. They are also, unfortunately, some of the most expensive subjects to teach. As a result, state colleges in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Florida and Texas have eliminated entire engineering and computer science departments. […]
This squeeze is one result of the states’ 25-year withdrawal from higher education. During and immediately after the last few recessions, states slashed financing for colleges. Then when the economy recovered, most states never fully restored the money that had been cut. The recent recession has amplified the problem.
You might remember that in 2009, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe pressed for Democrats to reduce the size of the bill by $100 billion as a condition for securing her support. There was no particular reason for shaving that much off of the bill—it was just a nice, round number that she liked. And because she occupied the important pivot point in the Senate, Democrats couldn’t do much to limit her cuts.
The problem, besides the fact that the smaller the stimulus the less effective it would be, is that her cuts came directly from aid for states and localities. Aid that could have saved public jobs as the recession continued, and aid that might have kept colleges from cutting valuable training.
In a lot of ways, this sums up the problem with Snowe’s vaunted moderation—it had no point. It was moderation for the sake of moderation, and more often than not (as with the Bush tax cuts, for example), it resulted in bad policy. Her retirement might be bad for Senate comity, but as far as actual lawmaking is concerned, it strikes me as a good thing.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, March 2, 2012
I thought I’d lost my capacity to be disgusted by Rush Limbaugh. He lives for that; why give him the satisfaction? But he crossed into new territory with his attacks on Sandra Fluke, who used to be a private citizen working toward a Georgetown University law degree, until the Catholic bishops meddled in American politics and in her personal life, and she decided to tell her story.
Fluke tried to testify on behalf of President Obama’s contraception coverage requirements at Rep. Darrell Issa’s Inquisition; excuse me, his hearing on the regulations, which featured an all-male panel to lead off. But she was denied permission, on the grounds that Issa was interested in threats to religious liberty, not women’s lives. That was bad enough. After the GOP congressman shut her down, she told her story to House Democrats as well as journalists. Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and promised to buy Fluke and Georgetown women “as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want. We are paying her for having sex. We are getting screwed. So Ms. 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 for it, and I’ll tell you what it is: We want you to post the videos online, so we can all watch.”
I’m not making this up. I’ve been attacked by Limbaugh before; it’s an honor for liberals. But his remarks about Fluke are unbelievable. Literally. I had to hear it twice to believe it’s what he said. (After I wrote this, President Obama called Fluke to commend her courage and tell her that her parents should be proud of her.)
Limbaugh’s behavior is just the far-right edge on a continuum of conservative misogyny that’s gone beyond trying to outlaw abortion, moved into the once-unimaginable realm of contraception, and mocks women in a way we haven’t heard since my childhood, I think. His “joke” is based on the remark by Rick Santorum’s moneyman Foster Freiss, on the same day as Issa’s “hearing,” recalling the days when gals didn’t need birth control because they put aspirin between their knees. But it’s not just for fun: The entire GOP presidential field has endorsed a “personhood” amendment that could outlaw most non-barrier forms of contraception. On Thursday, Sen. Roy Blunt’s shameful attempt to give employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for any treatment they didn’t approve of – targeting but not limited to contraception – was tabled in the Senate, but not before it got 48 votes, including every Republican except the departing Olympia Snowe, plus three cowardly Democrats, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey.
I’m happy to say, though, that women – and the men who care about them – are fighting back as never before in my memory. We forced Susan G. Komen to rescind its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Despite the frothing of conservatives, the Obama administration is still requiring insurers to provide cost-free contraception. The president’s courage on the issue is bringing women back into the Democratic fold, according to recent opinion polls – and has them running away from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
But we have to do more. I’m putting my energy into two causes in the coming months: a grass-roots effort to turn out the women’s vote called #usethe19th – you’ve seen a lot of it on Twitter today – and helping to promote Salon Core. Salon has led the way in covering news about women, by women, since our founding in 1995. We stand out in a world where men’s voices are still dominant – after the discouraging news this week that the nation’s best magazines still overwhelmingly feature men on their table of contents page, ThinkProgress produced a list of 10 women writers they should hire – and two of them, Tracy Clark-Flory and Irin Carmon, work for Salon (and several of the others freelance for us).
Over the years we’ve featured an unmatched array of smart women; Arianna Huffington, Tina Brown, Anne Lamott and Camille Paglia as leading columnists; on the culture side, Laura Miller and my former colleagues Heather Havrilesky and Stephanie Zacharek, some of the smartest writers anywhere; Rebecca Traister is one of the bravest, clearest writers on feminism and American politics that I know. And Mary Elizabeth Williams is one of my favorite writers on everything she writes about. I couldn’t have done the work I do with total freedom and support any place other than Salon.
The only good thing about this assault on women’s rights is that the women writers I know are becoming even more active than ever before. A whole lot of people have jumped into the #usethe19th fray – join us! We need to elect better leaders. We need to tell our stories. And we need to put our money where our mouths are – behind media outlets that tell those stories, as well as politicians who listen.
Over the years Salon has often turned to its readers for support, and this year we’re developing a new membership program to support our work – and support yours, too. I’ll be out on the road during this election season covering the candidates but also meeting Salon Core readers at a new roster of events we’re putting together for our members. When my book comes out in November, we’ll have a special offer for Core. We’ll be hosting members-only chats and other political convenings through November.
Republicans like to say this is the most important election year of their lifetimes. I agree. Make noise. Lobby. Campaign. Run for office. Raise money. Write. Vote. Join Salon Core – support those who support you. And piss off that angry old misogynist, Rush Limbaugh.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 2, 2012