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.

Sadly, this sort of smear technique is standard in the liberal playbook. All conservatives are held strictly accountable for every faux pas committed by any conservative, anywhere, any time. It doesn't matter how outrageously one has to take their words out of context, it doesn't matter how profusely they apologize for accidentally misspeaking, it is always part of an ominous pattern in the liberal imagination. Meanwhile, any liberal who does precisely the same thing is simply given a pass.

Thus, when Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) said some kind words about his longtime Senate colleague Strom Thurmond of South Carolina at a retirement party for him in 2002, Lott was excoriated. Liberals insisted that he was making some coded reference to Thurmond's racist presidential race in 1948. This became proof that Lott was also a racist and he was forced to give up his Senate leadership position.

By contrast, when Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) did exactly the same thing, no liberal said a word. In 2004, Dodd rose on the Senate floor to praise his longtime Senate colleague Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia for casting his 17,000th vote. Said Dodd, Byrd was such a great senator that "he would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this nation."

For any other senator, such words would have no special meaning. But, as Dodd well knew, Byrd was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan—indeed, an organizer for the Klan. Thus one could infer that Dodd was suggesting that the wrong side won the Civil War. He meant no such thing, of course, any more than Lott meant anything racist in praising Thurmond, who, like Byrd, long ago renounced his racist past. But Dodd got a pass because he is a Democrat, while Lott was crucified for being a Republican, when there is an exact parallel between the incidents.

Space prohibits listing further examples of the liberal double standard. It will continue, however, as long as conservatives let these slanders slide by without aggressively responding. The sad truth is that a lie that is not challenged each and every time it appears too easily becomes the accepted truth.


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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