The “So’s Your Old Man” Defense Can’t Work With Rush

As Rush Limbaugh undoubtedly simmers in fury that he was forced to make an extraordinarily half-hearted “apology” to Sandra Fluke that repeats everything in the original assault other than the profanity, and as advertisers for his show continue to drift away, some of Rush’s buddies are attempting the oldest response in the book: the “So’s your old man” argument.

Yes, even as some of them defend Rush straight up for his original remarks, the broader counter-attack is to dredge up examples of lefties (notably the MSNBC host Ed Schulz) using offensive language towards conservative women and demanding they get the same treatment as Limbaugh from sponsors and everyone else.

Sorry to state the semi-obvious, but this all kind of misses the point. Search all you want, folks, but even if you manage to turn up someone who has used equally offensive language and arguments, there simply is no equivalent to Rush Limbaugh on the left–no one to whom politicians regular kowtow, no one who has ever even argumentatively been described as the leader of a movement or a major political party. There’s no one on the left end of the media spectrum who can single-handedly crush a piece of legislation, or a political career.

It’s the combination of Limbaugh’s extraordinary power and his apparent endless delight in bullying people that’s always made him exceptionally distateful to me. You can debate all you want exactly how offensive he was to Sandra Fluke, and how this incident fits into his history of many thousands of offensive statements, and what, if any, chatisement he should suffer. But please, conservatives, don’t make this out as some sort of First Amendment case or pretend “everybody does it” so it’s okay. Rush Limbaugh is one of a kind, praise the Lord, and it’s understandable that even some people on his side of the partisan barricades think it would be a good idea to humble him a bit so that no other bloviator–right, center or left–ever gets quite so puffed up and bullet-proof again.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.