by Chris Freind
In front of the entire nation, conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh repeatedly
called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” for her support of an Obama Administration policy requiring health insurers to offer contraceptives.
Not surprisingly, the issue became, and still remains, the preeminent national story, pushing it front-and-center in the Republican presidential campaign.
Anytime a powder-keg situation ignites into a massive media firestorm, as this one did, it is always interesting to look at who comes out on top, and who is left burning in the ashes.
And the biggest loser, by far, may surprise you.
So here is a look at winners and casualties of Pill-Gate:
Limbaugh The Entertainer Rush has followed the cardinal rule in entertainment: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Bet the ranch that his ratings will increase, and with that additional advertisers. This is not foreign territory to Rush, as he has been engulfed in numerous high-profile controversies in the past, since, let’s face it, controversy pays. To the tune of $40 million a year.
Remember too that Rush has the luxury of saying pretty much whatever he wants without fear of repercussion. With a net worth in excess of $350 million, he needn’t worry about paying the rent should he get fired. And how likely is Clear Channel Communications (his employer) to fire the most lucrative figure on the radio? It’s doesn’t take courage to tell and defend the truth when one stands to lose nothing. For those who idolize Rush in that regard, find a real hero to adore.
Oh, and his apology? It’s a stretch to even call it that, but all part of the game. Apologize while not really apologizing, and trash your enemies in the process. If nothing else, Limbaugh would be a great politician.
Advertisers Sure, some advertisers have “temporarily” suspended advertising, but most of those companies are also practicing the above rule. A business (very publicly) announcing that it will yank advertising from Limbaugh scores a huge coup by receiving untold millions in free publicity. And in a few weeks when the shelf life of this story dies, most, if not all, will quietly return to Limbaugh. It’s a win-win for advertisers, and Clear Channel knows it. And let’s face it --- Limbaugh’s advertisers know he’s controversial, which is exactly why they pay top dollar to run commercials on his show. To them, occasional forays over the line of decency are acceptable risks.
Sandra Fluke There` are hundreds of thousands of law students, but Fluke has broken through the ranks of obscurity to be forever known as the “Limbaugh slut girl” who wanted taxpayers to foot the bill for her sexual habits. She helped her issue gain political ground, and will never have to worry about landing a job. Fluke’s popularity --- and notoriety --- is her golden ticket. Who knew testifying at an unofficial congressional hearing could be so lucrative?
Mandatory Contraception issue (perception) This issue gained significant momentum, unwittingly helped by a poor student being mercilessly--- and personally --- attacked by an ultra-wealthy bully. And what about the actual merits of the issue? To many in the Great American Middle, they don’t matter. Right or wrong, their mentality is that if Limbaugh is attacking this young girl for just trying to tell her story, she must have some valid points. Conversely, if Limbaugh has to demonize her, his position must be so weak that it can’t be won on its own merits.
Too bad, because on the issue, Rush was right.
Mandatory Contraception issue on its merits The President is wrong in attempting to mandate contraception coverage from health insurers, as that is a case of government vastly overstepping its bounds. There are religiously-affiliated entities that are opposed to providing certain services, directly or indirectly, such as contraception and abortion. To do so not only tramples on market freedom, but religious freedom as well.
Truth be told, most insurers are more inclined to offer contraception services anyway because it makes financial sense. Paying for the Pill is infinitely cheaper than shelling out thousands for OB-GYN visits, ultrasounds, pregnancy complications, child births, vaccinations and, of course, the regular medical bills that accompany a new child throughout his life.
But the market should determine that coverage, not government.
Limbaugh The Movement Leader Entertainers do whatever is necessary to entertain and make money. But when they cross the line and represent themselves as serious leaders of a political movement, there are problems. Most Rush fans can’t discern the difference, and that endangers their conservative cause when their iconic leader does something that benefits himself but vastly sets back a core issue.
It’s not that he doesn’t care, but that he puts his own interests ahead of the Cause, even if that means hurting the Movement. This is nothing new, and it isn’t just Rush. Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a “faggot” was another example of needlessly providing red meat to the Left. And make no mistake, this issue will be back in the general election, with Obama and the Democrats painting all Republicans as extremist, mean-spirited Rush Limbaugh-types. Not a winning image for the GOP.
The Republican Party Another fantastic issue in which the Republicans could have differentiated themselves from Obama and the Democrats --- and another opportunity squandered. What else is new?
Not one Republican leader --- and not one GOP presidential contender --- transformed this into what it is: the lack of common sense health care reform. And God forbid any of them tell the truth by pointing the finger at themselves as to why we find ourselves having this debate at all.
But here’s the truth. This is fault of George W. Bush, along with the sizable GOP majorities he had in both Houses for six straight years. Did they make any real attempt to solve the problem of skyrocketing health care costs? No. Had they done so, Sandra Fluke wouldn’t be begging the taxpayers to pay for her contraceptives.
As it now stands in America, if you don’t like your employer’s health insurer, you can either pay for a different insurer out of pocket (totally impractical since there are so few options and far too expensive), or change jobs (more impractical). Notice that there is no option to buy insurance across state lines, since that is illegal. So while we can buy auto insurance from any state in the country, we are banned from doing so for health insurance.
Why such a stranglehold on the free market? Because it’s not in the interests of the big insurance players to have such consumer choice, as they would be forced to actually become competitive. Thankfully for them, they have deep pockets which they use to fund the coffers of politicians. Result? Consumers are held hostage to skyrocketing rates and decreasing coverage, while the insurers laugh all the way to the bank.
Then there are the flexible spending accounts that still have a “use it or lose it” policy. Instead of encouraging savings, such plans only serve to have consumers making a mad dash to the pharmacy so they can buy 27 bottles of aspirin before their money --- yes, their money ---disappears.
Medical malpractice reform? Did the Republicans and President Bush ---while riding an unprecedented wave of popularity --- have the guts to take on the trial lawyers who, more than anyone, are the cause of massive increases in health insurance premiums? A look at how many Republicans took big money from these scourges of society is all you need to know.
And the GOP failed miserably throwing the Left’s hypocrisy back in its face. These are the people who advocate unrestricted abortion, screaming that government has no place in the uterus, while asking the same government to fund their contraceptives (which, I believe, affects that very same uterus). The inconsistency of those folks was a gimme, a political homerun for the Republicans. But their silence has been deafening.
Had the Republicans did what they had promised --- what they surely could have achieved with just a bit of political will --- this whole Rush/slut/contraceptive debate would never have taken place, because there would never have been Obama, and hence, no Obamacare. But that is a lesson lost on way too many Republicans, who find it convenient to blame everyone but their own Party.
Perhaps those on the Right would do well to 1) realize that the Limbaughs of the world are entertainers, not Movement leaders, and treat them as such, 2) refuse to defend the indefensible when such entertainers cross the line, 3) stop blaming Obama for the things he very clearly told the nation he was going to do --- make government-run nationalized health care a priority, and 4) hold the Republican Party accountable for its deliberate failures to fix America’s problems (offshore drilling, border walls, health care reform, smaller government), as promised in its Party Platform.
Maybe then this nation could have a constructive dialogue on the pressing issues of the day.
And what a Rush that would be.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com