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Worst Thing Said This Week: Rush Limbaugh Wins in This Category

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At the memorial service in Tucson on Wednesday night, President Obama delivered a moving speech -- one of the best of his political career -- and fulfilled the role of leader. He called on Americans to debate our policy and political differences with honesty and respect, noting that "a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation." It is the president's job to inspire and encourage what Abraham Lincoln described as "the better angels of our nature."

But the problem that remains and confounds is this: What happens when someone doesn't play by these rules? It is rather tough to have the sort of discourse the president rightfully urges with a party that engages in name-calling and tosses about extreme and violent rhetoric. And when such a person or institution earns a profit from that sort of behavior, it is especially difficult to nudge him or it toward better-nature territory.

With that in mind, allow me -- respectfully -- to point out what was possibly the worst thing said this week by a major player in the national discourse. No, it's not Sarah Palin's "blood libel" remark. As I've pointed out elsewhere, she was wrong and off-base in so many ways. After all, for Palin to equate the criticism she received after the Tucson rampage (for having marked Rep. Gabrielle Giffords district with cross-hairs on a list of Democrats she targeted for defeat in November) with the genocidal persecution of an entire people demonstrated either ignorance or narcissism. Or both. (My hunch: She didn't know what "blood libel" meant and thought it was just a visceral way to say really libel-y.) Still, this comment was a silly charge that only undermined Palin's argument that her foes on the left had rushed to tie her directly to the massacre before the full facts were known.

Surpassing Palin in debasing the debate this week was none other than Rush Limbaugh. I know, you're shocked. On his radio show, Limbaugh declared,
What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He's sitting there in jail. He knows what's going on, he knows that. . . . The Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he's just a victim. . . . That smiling mug shot -- this guy clearly understands he's getting all the attention and he understands he's got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he's not convicted of murder -- but something lesser."
Limbaugh was suggesting --no, make that stating as a fact -- that the Democrats want to help Jared Lee Loughner escape full justice for allegedly murdering six people (including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl) and attempting to kill Giffords, a Democrat quite popular within her party. What could Limbaugh be thinking?

Then again, it's not truly a rational thought process that derives such a conclusion. Would he have his audience of ditto-heads believe that the leading Democrats who have visited Giffords in her hospital room -- Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kristen Gillibrand -- want to help the man who nearly killed their friend to get off easy? Limbaugh has no evidence to cite, because there is nothing to back up his ranting. This is craziness. Hateful craziness.

Does Limbaugh even believe this swill? He could be saying it merely to satisfy the red-meat yearnings of his followers. That would render him perhaps the biggest cynic on the American landscape. (For such care and feeding, Limbaugh earns at least $50 million a year.) Yet if he truly thinks that Pelosi is plotting to assist the assassin who put a bullet into the head of a friend, he is delusional.

There is no other explanation: panderer-for-profit or nutcase. I realize this is not a civil way of describing someone. But there are moments when civility prevents us from serving and protecting the truth. Mendacity, ignorance, provocation -- sometimes these must be called out by name. Otherwise, those who would use or exploit such means to pervert the national discourse gain an advantage.

Obama is correct: To advance the national interest, Americans must mount rigorous debates in the best terms possible. But you cannot have an honest debate with a mud-thrower. (My father used to tell me, there's no fair fight with a skunk.) Those who purposefully undermine reasonable and necessary discourse do not deserve a pass in the name of civility. Limbaugh, as he so often has done, resorted to extreme rhetoric and a big lie in an attempt to undercut or destroy a political adversary. He made a dark week even darker.

You can follow David Corn's posts and media appearances via Twitter and Facebook.
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108 Comments

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judeoconnor@mac.com

Who in their right mind would have believed Congress applauding the President of the country of Mexico after he chewed them out for their policies concerning the protection of our southern boarder? Maybe Rush is on to something of the left protecting a murderer.

January 25 2011 at 8:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MaryHolloway

I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Corn's selection of Mr. Limbaugh's comment and also the manner in which he describes it, after eviscerating all comments supposedly coming from the right. I would point out that the Democrats were the first ones to use a target in their political ads (an action that seems to be conveniently forgotten) yet the crosshairs are harped on with every person who appears in front of a camera or writes a note. All this does is divide this country ever more deeply at a time when we need to come together as AMERICANS for the actual SURVIVAL of our Constitutional Republic. To do less is to lose the nation that we profess to love and honor. I see neither love nor honor in Mr. Corn's remarks, only more division.

January 20 2011 at 12:11 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
barney2022

Mr Corn you blamed it on Rush when it first happened, now he puts some of the blame on you and you cant take it...typical

January 19 2011 at 4:44 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
roesteve80

What does anyone expect from Rush? He is an uneducated, non-credentialed, overpaid carnival huckster. Why does anyone care what he says? WHO CARES? Don't quote him! You serve his purpose repeating him!

January 18 2011 at 12:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bri3uva

Why not comment on the hateful "swill" that spewed from Clarence Dupniks accusations that the Tea Party was responsible for this monster's actions?? Where is his evidence??

January 18 2011 at 11:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
joedel1

Lets face it, some Democrats really do want to use this against conservative values. Most Democrats believe this guy is evil or crazy or both and that he deserves to be punished for his actions. There are some Democrats who do not believe in individual responsibility and instead believe in a collective guilt. Others simply want to use this to silence critics of the administration and hope some court somehow declares that the perpetrator is a helpless victim of right wing ideaology.

January 17 2011 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mikey

...Boy, after reading the posts, there is a huge divide in this country. It seems to me that no matter what the truth is, it has to pass thru the filters in our minds and comes out slanted in accord with our beliefs. Because we all process "facts" differently, we need to actually listen to rational people who mean well and consider their views because no one person has it all processed correctly. Can we still do that or am I naive and this is just wishful thinking?

January 17 2011 at 11:18 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
John Vilvens

Corn you attack conservatives as alway. This shooting was a horrible thing, before the smoke clear the left was trying to blame this on Palin, Bachmann and the tea party. But there are no sorry on how wrong the left was to try and use this as a politicial football. The only stories I have seen was more liberals try to run down the conservatives for defending themselvies against factless assaults.Where is your story on the sheriff who has an impact on the case and made it politicial and lied about what caused the shooting. When will liberal press(corn) write a real story on this.

January 17 2011 at 7:05 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sharin2u

I'm stunned over some of the responses to this article - that people actually defend limbaugh's comments. Such a disqusting thing to say and so pathetic that anyone would agrees with him. It's not a huge leap to connect the dots here. palin inserted herself into the shooting by her own words and actions. IF she didn't post a map with crosshairs, IF she didn't use the term: "don't retreat, reload" and IF Ram didn't claim they weren't crosshairs - merely surveyors symbols and IF the map wasn't removed the day of the shooting.....and IF palin would've opened her mouth and assured Giffords she wasn't targeted to be shot the day Giffords spoke out against the crosshairs map....well, then maybe the sheriff and many others would'nt have thought there was a connection. Odd behavior regarding the map the day of the shooting.....if palin wasn't concerned then why did she yank it from her facebook page and why did Ram pathetically try to make us all believe those crosshairs were nothing more then surveyors symbols. palin never mentioned they were surveyors symbols the day Giffords expressed her concern over the map...palin never spoke up..that is until someone actually DID put Giffords in their crosshairs that day. And then she blamed the media for suggesting it was her fault?? But she's the one that endorsed that very action up until that awful day. I don't believe she's responsible. But I DO believe she's seriously delusional.

January 16 2011 at 11:14 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
ttdq

The worst thing said this week was stated by Eric Fuller. Mr Fuller is an aide to the congresswoman shot in Tucson this past week. Mr Fuller was also shot. However, when Mr Fuller got out of the hospital he attended a meeting for healing. At the meeting, he threatened several people. The net result is that he was arrested and will be subjected to psycological testing. If he fails, he will probably be excluded from gun ownership. Not that people on the left like guns, but it is ironic.

January 16 2011 at 5:47 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ttdq's comment
Just Steve

Yes, its ironic that you would point out that a man, who just a few days ago was a victim of gun violence, placed in front of an audience of people asking questions, did what a lot of recent victims of violence do... react inappropriately.

We'll see if there is any mental illness issues beyond the issues of stress in the aftermath of a horrific crime -- I'm glad the authorities responded the way they did -- but I will cut him some slack. And by the way VMinch007 -- look two inches to the right of the Corn column and you'll SEE the article about the arrest.

January 17 2011 at 8:06 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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