Posted by: Randy Allgaier | October 28, 2006

Rushing to Judgment and Baiting the Races: Limbaugh and the RNC… Could it get worse?


Okay, let’s start off very clearly- I am a liberal and I am a registered Democrat.  That being said, I have respect for Republicans who are committed to their belief.  Our differences are usually about the role of government, how best to be good stewards of our nation and how best to deal with the social ills in our country. 

True, Republicans believe that making the wealthy wealthier benefits us all (G.H.W. Bush called that voodoo economics) and I believe that making sure that all economics levels should be considered when developing economic policy- but it is still a policy argument. 

As the religious radical right has taken a foothold in the Republican party I find our differences are more difficult to reconcile because there is an air of judgment, smug superiority and mean spiritedness that has appeared.  But that mean spiritedness has reached new depths in the past week thanks to the supreme bloviating shill of radical conservatives Rush Limbaugh and the outrageousness of the Republican National Committee’s race baiting ad in Tennessee. 

Possibly worse than making fun of someone’s disability is saying that it’s imaginary- that is not to mock someone’s body, but to challenge a person’s guts, integrity, and/or sanity.  To Rush Limbaugh on Monday, Michael J. Fox looked like a faker. The actor, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has done a series of political ads supporting candidates who favor stem cell research, including Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, who is running against Republican Michael Steele for the Senate seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes.

“He is exaggerating the effects of the disease,” Limbaugh told listeners. “He’s moving all around and shaking and it’s purely an act. . . . This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.”

Limbaugh was reacting to Fox’s appearance in another one of the spots, for Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, running against Republican Sen. James M. Talent.  But the Cardin ad is similar. It is hard to watch, unless, for some reason, you don’t believe it. As he speaks, Fox’s restless torso weaves and writhes in a private dance. His head bobs from side to side, almost leaving the video frame.

“This is the only time I’ve ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has,” Limbaugh said. “He can barely control himself.”

Later Monday, still on the air, Limbaugh would apologize, but barely.  After his apology, Limbaugh shifted his ground and renewed his attack on Fox.  Limbaugh pivoted to a different critique: “Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democratic politician.”

So first Fox was a fake and now he’s a dupe.  How offensive can one man be?  I’d like to think that Limbaugh didn’t have his daily hit of OxyContin that day and was suffering from drug withdrawal, but sadly this is vintage Limbaugh- mean, judgmental and just plan stupid. 

But after Limbaugh the RNC comes rushing in.  The ad targeted Democratic candidate Harold Ford Jr. in a way that critics – including the NAACP – called racist sexual innuendo about a black man and white woman.In the ad, a white woman with blond hair and bare shoulders looks into the camera and whispers, “Harold, call me,” then winks.

“It is a powerful innuendo that plays to pre-existing prejudices about African-American men and white women,” Hilary Shelton, head of the Washington NAACP office, told the Los Angeles Times.The Corker campaign denounced the ad, saying it is “tacky, over the top and is not reflective of the kind of campaign we are runnning.  But the RNC, which paid for the ad, denied it had racial subtext. Party Chairman Ken Mehlman said it was produced by an independent organization.

In my opinion the ad is disgusting and panders to the very worse in people.  Quite simply it is race baiting.  Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball” and NBC’s “Chris Matthew’s Show” made the most insightful comment when he said that he thought it was ironic and sad that the United States is in Iraq lecturing the Sh’ia, Sunni and Kurds how to live together and the same American political party that got us into that situation is playing to the most divisive and ugly issue in our nation’s culture- racism. So after race baiting and mocking people with disabilities what tactics will the GOP try next? I don’t think that my mind is capable of thinking of anything more reprehensible, but I’ll bet my last dollar that they are up to the challenge.  


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