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       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       In effect, Sandra Fluke is ignoring the apology from Rush Limbaugh for the perverted “insulting word choices” he smeared on her. Good for you, Sandra. For starters, Limbaugh has been making “insulting word choices” for decades. And let’s not overlook the fact that some of his advertisers are dropping like a stone. Of course he said he was sorry. Carbonite CEO David Friend hoped bailing would “ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”
       It won’t.
       Why were Carbonite and the others sponsoring these insane rants in the first place? Limbaugh’s 10 million to 15 million listeners, that’s why. (That’s a conservative listener estimate, but he is a conservative kinda guy, after all). Millions upon millions of “Dittoheads” tune in, so-called because their knowledge and beliefs are “whatever he says.”
       Their intellectual leader, Rush, slimed Fluke, a Georgetown law student. In a series of weirdly disturbed outbursts, he called her a “slut” and “prostitute.” The harangues were borderline incoherent. It was all because she had the audacity to speak out in favor of paid contraceptive insurance. His loyal listeners were presumably unmoved when the president of Georgetown University -- who, by the way, disagrees with Ms. Fluke -- called Limbaugh’s tirades “misogynistic.”
       Let’s face it. Most of Limbaugh’s fans probably think that a misogynist is someone who gives back rubs. They are generally not the brightest lights on the grid. But they do vote, which explains why the Republican politicians who are battling so hard for the far-right turf in Limbaugh land are so vapid in their responses to his latest outrage. After all, they have long groveled for his favor. So here we have Mitt Romney, mildly criticizing the incendiary diatribes as “not the kind of language I would have used,” and Rick Santorum, abandoning his usual hellfire-and-brimstone language with a wishy-washy “he’s being absurd,” but then adding “But that’s, you know, an entertainer can be absurd.” I don’t know, but that seems like apologia to me.


       President Barack Obama knows a political opportunity when he sees one, so he very publicly called Sandra Fluke to offer his support and to say that her “parents should be proud of her.” Smooth move, Mr. President -- empathy always sells, and besides, the Republicans are looking like dolts. Again.
       Of course, this kind of bile is what passes for public debate these days. In Arizona we have Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who normally abuses Hispanic immigrants, among others. His latest idiocy is a response to Justice Department investigations into his operations. He has assigned a “posse” to investigate if Obama really is a natural-born citizen. Thought “Birther” was a dead issue? Arpaio knows it is not, certainly in his alternate universe, which is filled with an awful lot of Dittoheads.
       And the vitriol is sadly bipartisan. The sudden death of Andy Breitbart, the 43-year-old right-wing media ideologue, provoked a startling number of nasty good-riddance, dance-on-the-grave gloating from some of his liberal political enemies. Granted, Breitbart victimized his targets by sometimes using scurrilous tactics, but the man is dead, and the family he leaves behind does not deserve added pain from those on the left whose openly stated grudges rival any of the acid Rush Limbaugh spews.
       Is it any wonder that one of the few remaining voices of political reason, Republican Olympia Snowe, the moderate from Maine, is deciding to pack it in? She’s totally disgusted “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”
       Why is that? Largely because hatred is a much easier sell than the complexities of moderation and compromise. The simpleminded highway that Rush and his fellow demagogues choose is a loathsome road. They are unapologetic that it leads to ruin.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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