A helpful Reg-ulator — thank you Little Minx — posted the transcript of the TV interview in which Sarah Palin defended Rush Limbaugh's piggish ways by raising the issue of "leftist" hypocrisy. I happened to see the CNN interview (below) and my mind was convulsed by the sheer audacity and phoniness of her comments.
Yet it appears that this is the talking point of the day — or meme, in the current buzzword — for rabid right-wingers who want to exonerate Mr. Limburger, the fragrant big cheese of radio. So it bears some examination and so I have dutifully examined it.
Palin's comments started out in a classic way — inferring that Rush was just exercising his First Amendment rights and, by implication, anybody who criticized him was thus denying him his First Amendment rights. I have been accused of the same thing dozens of times. Someone in public life will say something memorably stupid and I will criticize him or her for it in my column, only to be told that I am denying their First Amendment rights.
No, kiddies, that's not how the First Amendment works. A person has the right to say stupid things and other people have the right to criticize them for it.
In the present, case, nobody I know suggests that Rush Limbaugh didn't have the right to say what he said — they just believe he should be held responsible for what he said. The First Amendment has nothing to do with it.
Palin also said that Rush was "forced to apologize." The poor baby!. At least her wording makes it clear that it wasn't a remnant and hitherto undetected decency that moved him to apologize.
The substance of her complaint about "leftist radicals" seemed to be directed at David Letterman's joke about her daughter. But Letterman did apologize for that, and a fairly pathetic apology it was, delivered on air and not as Rush did, in a written statement on a Website. Of course, Letterman's apology was needed because what he said was gross.
Taken as a whole, these facts do not sustain Palin's charge of hypocrisy.
But in furtherance to the right-wing talking point of the day, one of you suggested that the dead hand of hypocrisy could be detected in the alleged absence of letters in the PG about Letterman, compared with the two in one day that had criticized Rush.
I checked that out. Although our commentator couldn't remember the letters, in fact two letters critical of Letterman were published in the PG, spaced two days apart. There was also a Jack Kelly column, which, as you can imagine, pretty much rearranged a certain part of Letterman's anatomy. Tony Norman also wrote a column about this, in which he admitted that it was a lame joke but thought Palin was making a big deal out of it for publicity purposes.
And then there was this blog. My memory of it is that little old liberal me took Letterman to task for what he said (frankly, I have not the time to check this because, you know, I have to do real work). [Editor's note: Skipped my third martini and looked it up: "Letterman's Bad Joke," Oct. 6, 2009]
Anyway, I can't think I defended Letterman — I can't stand the guy and I am not much for belittling young women (I have a daughter, after all).
My column this morning, which was about the coming war against Iran, or at least coming if the Republican presidential candidates ever have their way (with the honorable exception of Ron Paul), received many more accolades than usual, many of them taking the time to call me personally and many of them veterans themselves.
This is all good except for one personal disappointment. This was an article in which, although I tried to make the writing entertaining, humor was largely abandoned in deference to the serious nature of the subject.
This leads me once again — because it's happened before — to the depressing conclusion that if I wrote serious columns all the time I would do much better. People really don't believe that many a true word is spoken in jest.
However, I have no intention of changing my ways. I think the world needs to both laugh and think and I intend to keep on trying to encourage both, as futile as it may be.