Bruce Bartlett

One of the reasons why I wish columnist Ann Coulter hadn’t used the F-word in a recent speech—the one that is a derogatory term for being gay—is because it gave liberals yet another excuse to label all conservatives as homophobic, racist and sexist, which writer Rick Perlstein did last week in the New Republic.

As Perlstein wrote, Coulter's poor choice of words "fits into a running conservative pattern." He went on to suggest that radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was sending coded messages to his listeners about former Secretary of State James A. Baker's sexual orientation by referring to the Iraq Study Group's recommendations as "fruit salad." But Baker, who chaired the study group, was the one who asked that its recommendations be accepted in their totality and not be treated "like fruit salad" in which one picks and chooses what to eat. This is obviously what Limbaugh was referring to.

Perlstein knew this perfectly well—he even mentions it in his column—but it didn't stop him from drawing completely absurd conclusions about what Limbaugh meant. Perlstein's rationale is that anyone who calls for diplomacy in Iraq, as Baker did, must be a bit "fruity" in Limbaugh’s view. A real man (i.e., heterosexual) presumably would have called for more death and destruction instead. Thus, in Perlstein's distorted view of conservative thinking, diplomacy equals gay.

Perlstein goes on to attack Limbaugh for being critical of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It couldn't possibly be the case that the politically conservative Limbaugh simply disagrees with the politics and policies of these two prominent liberal Democrats. No, in Perlstein's view, the real problem Rush has with them is that they are "pushy" and show that women are "taking over."

In the liberal worldview, it seems, the only way of showing respect for tough, powerful women is by treating them as delicate flowers who cannot possibly be taken seriously as national leaders. If one pays them the respect of treating them exactly the way one treats male politicians, then it becomes an open-and-shut case of sexism.

Finally, Perlstein dredges up comments on some extremely obscure web site to prove that there is a racist conservative conspiracy to smear Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) for allegedly being a black nationalist (whatever that means). Implausibly, Perlstein draws a parallel to those who criticized Japanese nationalism during World War II. I suppose he thinks that only conservatives hated the Japanese during the war, and only because they are Asian and not because they attacked Pearl Harbor and killed thousands of innocent Americans.


Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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