How the Europeans See Us: The Republican Vagina Monologues
A young woman, American, living and teaching in Spain sent us this – her message the way the story translates and the story itself are significant. Interesting how they all think of us. Her message, paraphrased:
I find it so incredibly interesting that foreign countries pay so much attention to what is happening in America …. and that the news ABOUT the United States tends to be unbiased…. not like reporting from WITHIN the United States. This is an opportunity for people in the US to read what people in other countries think about the US:
The Republican Vagina Monologues
By Eva C. Schweitzer, die Zeit, Germany – Translated By Ron Argentati – 9 March 2012 -Edited by Gillian Palmer
The squabble with Iran might mean war, and America desperately needs new jobs — still, the Republicans are pushing a different agenda. The election is becoming a culture war.
Why on earth is America arguing about sex, prostitution and contraception in the middle of an election campaign? While the Republican candidates chase delegates, many people are engrossed in a far more interesting program: Rush Limbaugh, America’s best known conservative radio talk show host, spent days calling a college coed a prostitute and a slut, even asking her to post videos of herself having sex on the Internet. Since Limbaugh is considered the voice of the tea party movement, the Republicans’ populist right-wing, now all the candidates are expected to give their opinions on that.
Not that they want to, but they fear the party’s far right wing. At the same time, this is nothing more than the latest chapter in an increasingly shrill culture war, in which both sides see themselves as the guardians of public morals. It’s already too much for many people. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post groans, “When will Republicans stop their vagina monologue?”
It all started a few weeks ago, when the Obama administration introduced legislation that would oblige health insurance companies to pay for the costs of contraception. That unleashed a flood of objections from Catholic institutions and universities that reject birth control for religious reasons. They insist that the law infringes on their religious liberties. That won quick support from Republicans, particularly from Rick Santorum.
Santorum, an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic whose sons attend a private school with ties to Opus Dei, is waging a political campaign as though he were the Pope’s long arm in America. And he is having great success in doing so. Other Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon: Newt Gingrich, a fellow Catholic, warned that Obama was threatening religious freedom, and Michele Bachmann fears that Obama would force American women to use the pill in order to advance a one-child-per-family policy as there is in China.
Immediately, a congressional hearing on the controversial legislation was convened by Darrell Issa in which no women were permitted to testify, supposedly because no women were qualified to do so. The Democrats called their own hearing and invited Sandra Fluke, a coed from Catholic Georgetown University, who reported on the situation at her school.
Confusing the Pill With Viagra
That was Rush Limbaugh’s cue to make his entrance. He berated the student for days on his radio show — a show carried by more than 600 radio stations nationwide with an audience estimated at over 20 million people — calling her a slut and a prostitute and engaging in disgusting fantasies about her sex life. He claimed that she must be having so much sex that she found it hard to walk and probably needed so many contraceptive pills that it was breaking her budget. He obviously confuses contraceptive medication with Viagra, which has to be taken immediately before every sex act.
Meanwhile, Limbaugh is no bastion of Catholic morality himself. The ex-disk jockey is overweight and he drinks and smokes. He’s also in the middle of his fourth childless marriage and has prior convictions for drug abuse.
He now earns his living as a “shock jock” who finds no subject taboo. He penned a song mocking President Obama as “Barack, the Magic Negro” and claims that blacks were responsible for the 2008 Wall Street collapse. He compared then-13-year-old Chelsea Clinton’s looks to a dog, calls feminists “feminazis” and defends the torture practiced at the Abu Ghraib prison by saying that soldiers have to be allowed to have some fun. Michael Steele, the ex-chairman of the Republican National Committee, was once forced to apologize to Limbaugh after being the repeated object of Limbaugh’s on-air complaints. The complaint: Steele had publicly said that Limbaugh wasn’t the voice of the Republican Party.
In the case of Sandra Fluke, however, 45 of Limbaugh’s advertisers reacted by pulling their ads from his show, among them the bank Capital One, retailer J.C. Penney and AOL. Limbaugh finally saw reason to apologize, but the presidential candidates cautiously refrained from getting involved despite the fact that Limbaugh acted as their self-appointed right arm.
Mitt Romney said only, “It’s not the language I would have used.” Romney is the founder of the private equity funds firm Bain Capital Management. Bain owns Clear Channel, the communications company that broadcasts Limbaugh’s show. Santorum’s comments were low-key as well, as he noted that Limbaugh was only an entertainer, as if that excused him from any responsibility.
For Santorum, who most vociferously protested Obama’s directive, the situation is particularly precarious because it’s apparent that, deep down, he must also consider women who use the pill to be whores, although he dare not say so aloud for fear of alienating independent voters. He has already had to bear the pain of hearing his most important financial contributor, Foster Friess, say that in his day, birth control consisted of women holding an aspirin firmly between the knees. The resulting outcry forced an apology from Friess while Santorum distanced himself from it all.
On the other hand, the Republicans also have no desire to do battle with the far right faction representing Limbaugh’s main audience. “Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh,” George Will told ABC News, and are therefore hesitant to criticize him. Ron Paul alone said he felt Limbaugh was hurting the conservative movement with his behavior. Paul added that Limbaugh should have given a genuine apology for reasons other than placating his advertisers.
The most astounding thing is that this debate is dominating the Republican primaries despite the fact that a possible war with Iran is looming and gasoline prices threaten to go above $5 a gallon for the first time in history. But it’s also possible that none of the four Republican candidates have answers they think will be palatable to voters.
For the Democrats, this is all a bonanza. Obama telephoned student Sandra Fluke personally to encourage her. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, chided Romney by saying, “How can he stand up to Ahmadinejad if he can’t stand up to Rush?”
How this Limbaugh episode will play out is still completely open. Financially, he’s probably on safe ground, but if he has to go, he wouldn’t be the first conservative media icon to do so. Fox News talker Glenn Beck was fired for spreading radical right-wing global conspiracy theories. Limbaugh even got support from leftist-liberal colleague Bill Maher, who regularly takes flak from conservatives for telling dirty jokes and for calling Sarah Palin a “cunt.” Maher tweeted that people should just leave well enough alone and accept Limbaugh’s apology so everything could die down. These days, when video clips have eternal life via the Internet and cable television, that’s just a pious hope.