My discomfort with "South Park's" increasingly mainstream vulgarity is not a matter of nitpicking. We're not just talking about a stray curse word here or there. As liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich points out, "South Park" "holds the record for the largest number of bleeped-out repetitions (162) of a single four-letter expletive in a single television half-hour." That's probably about the same number of profanities uttered at John Kerry's infamous New York City celebrity fundraiser last summer, which Republicans rightly condemned for its excessive obscenities.
Rich is wrong about most things, but he's painfully on target in noting the incongruous pandering now taking place by some in the cool-kids clique on the Right. Conservatives criticize Hollywood relentlessly, but as Rich notes, "the embarrassing reality is that they want to be hip, too."
Which brings me to Mrs. Bush. She demonstrated at the celebrity-studded White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend that you can entertain without being profane. Most of her humor was just right: Edgy but not over the edge. But her off-color stripper and horse jokes crossed the line. Can you blame Howard Stern for feeling peeved and perplexed? And let's face it: If Teresa ("I'm cheeky!") Heinz Kerry had delivered Mrs. Bush's First Lady Gone Mildly Wild routine, social conservative pundits would be up in arms over her bad taste and lack of dignity.
The First Lady resorting to horse masturbation jokes is not much better than Whoopi Goldberg trafficking in dumb puns on the Bush family name. It was wholly unnecessary.
Self-censorship is a conservative value. In a brilliant commencement speech at Hillsdale College last year, Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner called on his audience to resist the coarsened rhetoric of our time: "If we are to prevail as a free, self-governing people, we must first govern our tongues and our pens. Restoring civility to public discourse is not an option. It is a necessity."
Lighten up, you say? No thanks. I'd rather be a G-rated conservative who can only make my kids giggle than a "South Park"/"Desperate Housewives" conservative whose goal is getting Richard Gere and Jane Fonda to snicker. Giving the Hollyweird Left the last laugh is not my idea of success.