In January, the assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords by a mentally ill assailant became an occasion for media elites to preen about the need for more civil political discourse. Somehow, the liberals fashioned a connection between Rush Limbaugh's radio show and Jared Loughner, despite the complete lack of any evidence that Loughner had ever listened to conservative radio or was anything other than an apolitical madman.
The media's interest in the pressing need for more civil politic discourse was short lived. They yawned weeks later at the violent rhetoric used in Wisconsin by union protestors and politicians in the state of Wisconsin—even when some making implicit threats had declared such language off-limits in the wake of the Giffords shooting. Evidence of profound hypocrisy bored our media watchdogs.
It's clear that the idea of civility is applied selectively. Those charged with the weighty task of setting the rules of political-correctness—liberal media figures, academia, leftist politicians—see their own as sufficiently enlightened so they can be exempt from p.c.'s uncomfortable constraints. Thus National Public Radio can fire Juan Williams for carefully admitting to associating Muslims with terrorism, but overlook when Nina Totenberg wishes for Jesse Helm's grandchildren to contract AIDS.
The double standard was made clear again last week when Ed Schultz, a liberal talk show host on MSNBC, called conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a "slut". This wasn't just a slip of the tongue, but a term he used twice to describe the accomplished lawyer and Supreme Court clerk turned conservative icon. The reaction? Schultz apologized on air, was given a week long suspension by MSNBC, and the scandal quickly dissipated.
One can only imagine how different the reaction and coverage would have been had a conservative television personality—say, a Sean Hannity—used a similar term to describe a liberal woman, such as a Rachel Maddow. His quick dismal would most certainly have been followed by endless ruminations about the latent misogyny riddling the conservative movement, indeed, anyone who dares classify him or herself Republican. Speeches of apology would have to be made not just by the man who had issued a slur, but by anyone who'd said a good word about him or given him the implicit endorsement of appearing on his show.
Yet just days after the liberal icon Schultz calls Ingraham a slut, it was the head of the Democratic National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schlutz, who charged that Republicans are “anti-woman” and waging a "war on woman" in Congress. The basis for her charge? The Republican push to defund Planned Parenthood and cut other spending.
People can disagree about these proposals' merits, but my kindergartener could tell them that name calling isn't the way to win arguments. Several Republican female Congresswomen responded with a statement condemning Wasserman-Schlutz language, and explaining how they believe their agenda actually advances women's interests:
Republican women fight every day for the women who can't start a business because of burdensome taxes and regulations, for the women who worry that we are capping their children's future and trading it to China in exchange for cheap loans, for the women who deserve to make their own health care choices, and for this year's young women graduates who are entering a job market stagnated by Washington-driven uncertainty.
Well put. Yet Republicans shouldn't have to respond to charges that they have launched a "war" on half of the American population. To the contrary, Ms. Wasserman-Schlutz should be facing questions about her careless slander of a political party. Republican women shouldn't just offer evidence against the offensive charge, they should be demanding an apology.
Media elites who claim they want a more civil discourage should begin by setting some ground rules. Having the right to free speech (which of course Ed Schultz has) doesn't mean you have the right to your own talk show. Calling a pundit with whom you disagree a "slut" should be out of bounds for those who want to be considered in the business of serious news. We should also expect our political leaders to debate policies on their merits, rather than name calling. And yes, those standards should apply to conservatives and liberals alike.
Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women's Forum. To join IWF in calling for MSNBC to fire Ed Schultz, visit here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/FireEdSchultz