In the early days of this site, two or three different hosts ago, there was a little widget in the sidebar I called "Calendar Thingie." At the start of a month all of the numbers were grey and any day I posted something the numbers turned blue. In those heady days I made it to the end of a lot of months with nothing but blue days. I'll grant that some of it was utter tripe just to get something posted, but I wrote EVERY day. Now I'm that much older and much wiser (?) or just more tired I seem to have settled into writing something once a week.
That's OK because in general it means I spend more time thinking before I start typing. Before I sit down at the keyboard the central idea of a post has been through several mental drafts. The result, I like to think, is a clearer more cogent presentation of the point I want to make. And also that I more often actually have a point to make rather than just spouting off. It also gives me the opportunity to question my own thinking and my own assumptions.
At the beginning of this week I had begun to mentally construct an argument that Rush Limbaugh was an idiot. That the left dangled some bait and he swallowed it hook, line and sinker. The premise of the post was going to be that the left played him like a fiddle and it was disappointing that he allowed it to happen.
By midweek that conclusion was beginning to soften. I still thought that it was stupid for Limbaugh to walk into such an obvious trap but conservative efforts to use the Left's faux outrage to shine a little sunlight on Liberal hypocrisy were starting to become effective. What at first sounded like a five-year-old's justification for calling his sister names had begun to change the focus of the issue. And it was the President's turn take the bait and give the other side a quote to use as a weapon.
Given the propensity of many on the left to do just that, Obama helped conservatives transform the issue into one about Liberal double standards. I'm not going to bother with yet another recounting of what an Obama SuperPac million dollar donor has said about Sarah Palin, you can google that for yourself if you haven't read it already, but Obama accepting a million dollars of support from someone famous for calling people horrible names because they spoke their mind on issues, effectively removed the focus from Limbaugh and put it on Bill Maher.
By Thursday I was thinking that Limbaugh, with a lot of help from other conservatives, and an unexpected assist from The One, had managed to turn a stupid mistake into a positive. And with the news that Louis C.K. was not going to host the Radio and Television Correspondent's Dinner after conservatives shined the light of liberal civility standards on some of his past comments, it seemed that Limbaugh's stupid mistake was turning into a win for the right.
Then I started to think. Did Limbaugh just Breitbart everyone? Did he do this on purpose? Did he take one for the team knowing that the howls of self-righteous outrage by the left could be turned against them? Operation Chaos 2.0? He seems to have played them equally as well as I originally thought they had played him.
One thing is tragically missing in all of this back and forth over who insulted whom the most and even in the above analysis of who played whom like fiddle. It's all fiddling while Rome burns.
The issue started when the Secretary of Health and Human Services issued an ObamaCare Edict that all employers - even religious organizations outside of actual churches - would be required to provide insurance coverage for birth control. (I am using "birth control" to cover both contraceptives and pregnancy terminating drugs.)
There was a lot of push-back on this as a violation of religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment. The administration then revised their edict by decreeing that religious based organizations would not be required to pay for such coverage but that insurance companies would be forced to include it in coverage for free.
Many people, myself among them, noted that this was really a difference without a distinction. Myself and many others argued also that the core of the issue was not birth control, nor was it religious freedom. The core of the issue was individual liberty and the desire of the Obama Administration to be free of the constraints of the Constitution.
The left then worked hard to portray opposition to the birth control mandate as a war against birth control, a distraction which was effectively countered by those of us who argued that they do not oppose birth control, they just don't want to pay for someone else's.
The left raised the distraction stakes by trying to position opposition to the administration's assault on individual liberty as a "War on Women." They trotted out a political activist student who chose to go to a Catholic run university precisely to agitate on this issue. They held a press conference staged to look like a congressional hearing and the woman argued that she and her fellow Georgetown Law School students were going broke paying for birth control because the Catholic run university they chose to attend did not provide it for free.
Then Rush Limbaugh either stepped in it or pulled a masterful prank and the issue was transformed once again. This time as a battle of incivility. As it stands now, conservatives may actually be winning that battle. But it begs the question have they forgotten about the war?
The dictate of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services that is an affront to the First Amendment and an assault on individual liberty still stands.
Conservatives may yet succeed in forcing the Obama SuperPac to give back or give to charity the million dollars they got from Bill Maher. And if they do it will be a win for the cause of civility and at least for a while there might actually be less of a double standard.
But as long as the HHS edict that started it all still stands we are all less free. That is something about which we should be very much less than civil.
UPDATE: Fixed a couple of typos thanks to an Army of Proof Readers.
Nobody on either side has forgotten about the war. What has happened is that the right side has finally warmed up to the power of the internet and the other side still thinks they have a monopoly that they can use to propogandize any point they want. This election cycle will be a crushing defeat for the media as all the things they have worked to hide come spilling out and they have to play defense to save what is left of their reputation. The People are starting to take offense at their abuse of our Constitution and it won't end well for them. Probably the last person on their team that is going to do well is the $24 million dollar EX-ceo of the New York Times. The rest will flush. Maybe another $1 sale.
Posted by: SenatorMark4 at March 10, 2012 10:21 PM (RR4Xa)
Glad to have discovered your blog, Mr. Macklin. Expect the Instalanche (which brought me here)!
Great analysis. I think you just might be right: that Rush played the old media like a cheap kazoo. Your use of "Breitbart" as a verb warms this fan's heart, too, and helps give assurance that once struck down, Andrew B. has "become more powerful than [we] can imagine."
Sadly, I think you're also right that the central issue - religious freedom as a matter of action, not just passive belief - has been forgotten in the scuffle.
Posted by: werewife at March 10, 2012 10:23 PM (FK1P7)
Cardinal Dolan's recent letter said...
"our opponents sought to obscure what is really a religious freedom
issue by maintaining that abortion-inducing drugs and the like are a
‘women’s health issue.’ We will not let this deception stand.” (As a
concrete expression of that commitment, the bishops’ conference is
preparing and will soon distribute materials for use in parishes, which
make clear that the issue here is religious freedom.)"
The issue is all of our freedom under the Constitution (also see fast and furious), but a strongest defense point is an organization with nearly a century's experience in combating totalitarian governments. It helps that Dolan is smarter than Obama.
Posted by: red at March 10, 2012 10:35 PM (SJo16)
I posted 4 comments on Boing Boing where they were discussing Limbaugh in which I pointed out the hypocrisy over Maher. These comments really hit a nerve because the moderator removed them although I was VERY polite and called no names.
Posted by: David at March 10, 2012 10:57 PM (5jcM6)
I don't buy it. Rush does his show impromptu, and his statements sure sounded like his usual stream of consciousness.
Furthermore, this belated "win" has still left the important issue on the cutting room floor. The issue is the attack on religion, and the resulting light it cast on the vast power given by Obamacare to federal bureaucrats. That message remains lost.
After all, we all know that those on the left are total hypocrites. On the subject of women, that became obvious as the folks at NOW whored for Clinton, rather than confront him on his record of sexual abuse under power of authority, and attempted rape. So the message that is going out now is an old one, and those who hear it already know it.
Unfortunately, score this as a win for the Democrats, due to an unforced error by the usually skillful Limbaugh.
Posted by: SChaser at March 10, 2012 11:17 PM (ooyhM)
So who is winning what here? The Fed is spending more money on more crap then ever before in history. Come 2014 I and many others will be felons because we will refuse to pay the tax on our non healthcare participation. Never thought the IRS would cause my death but here we are. Shoot out at the "Kiss-my-ass" corral.
Im just kidding, Im sure they wont send armed agents to make me and you pay, this is America,Right? Romney will fix it anyway,Right? Fat Chance.
Posted by: Rich K at March 10, 2012 11:17 PM (X4l3T)
I’d like to think Rush did do a Breitbart on them. It would be a fitting tribute to Andrew who found conservatism because of Rush.
Posted by: TeeJaw at March 10, 2012 11:28 PM (vtqVY)
The issue is not only religious freedom, the issue is our freedom. How in hell could we call ourselves a free people when some unelected bureaucrats can "mandate" us to do things that we do not want to do?
"Mandate" us to pay higher insurance premiums so someone else can screw around? Limbaugh said what's in most people's mind, she is a slut. At least a ho get paid doing what she does for free.
Getting rid of the unborn is a woman's private issue, getting screwed to make the unborn is a public issue. Leftists thought they have an upper hand making it a woman health issue, but everyone else knows it's an issue of greed and responsibility.
Posted by: elkh1 at March 10, 2012 11:49 PM (bo5Ii)
Not sure if Rush accidentally or purposely stepped in it. But he did a wise thing, apologizing in the manner that he did -- and noting that he had momentarily descended into the mire of the left. That said, it's possible that some of the strength of the conservative response to the hypocrisy of the left came from the recent unfortunate passing of Andrew Breitbart and the realization of the role he really did play in calling it as it is and standing up for what he believed -- and backing it up with facts. Kirsten Powers also deserves a lot of credit for her exposure of the hypocrisy. That said, going forward there seems to be an excellent opportunity on the horizon to refocus on the initial issue of freedom of religion, conscience and liberty and the hypocrisy of the left on that. That opportunity would be the astonishingly hypocritical upcoming "prayer vigil" sponsored by the WH and the liberals. A prayer vigil for a healthcare law that, among other things, sanctions abortions and sterilization etc. and mandates that religious institutions provide services opposed by their core doctrine. A rally -- maybe -- a protest -- perhaps, but a prayer vigil? Just sayin'
Posted by: gracepmc at March 11, 2012 12:55 AM (rznx3)
If you start with the premise that the Left has no moral compass, no
ethics or decency, you cannot be surprised at anything they say or do.
Pagans, those who believe in trees , the sun, the moon , are liable to believe in anything and say anything. The end justifies the means.
Posted by: PTL at March 11, 2012 01:20 AM (k9QB9)
Fluke-slut is as helpful as OWS to Obama and the Dems. Leftists hook onto the issues as "them - the rich and Republican misogynists" vs "us". The rest of us view the issues as "spongers" vs "us".
Posted by: icc at March 11, 2012 02:09 AM (bo5Ii)
Textbook "Rules for Radicals," baby...
RULE 4: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules." You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity's very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
RULE 5: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon." There is no defense. It's irrational. It's infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
Posted by: Rush-Andrew Alinsky at March 11, 2012 03:16 AM (SH77u)
It's a great piece but you need to correct the first word.
Posted by: george at March 11, 2012 04:45 AM (2mQvu)
"It started when..." I thought it started 2 steps earlier when  ABC's George S. asked the R-candidates about birth control and then  Rush smelled a rat.
Posted by: egoist at March 11, 2012 06:05 AM (3yQDc)
Great note. Fluke gate seems to be working out in favor of Rush and the Right (and against Obama, the Left and Carbonite). I doubt Rush planned it from the start. This is merely another example of why it is necessary to be constantly on the attack in the culture wars. If you are attacking (intelligently if possible, but attacking in any case) then you have a chance to control the battlefield. Breitbart showed us that with the Acorn videos.
As Frederick the Great said, "l'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace."
Posted by: Heywood Broun at March 11, 2012 06:35 AM (i/BcK)
Rush Breitbart or Alinsky Breitbart?
Alinsky Rule #4: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.
listen to Breitbart at CPAC 2012 at the 14:22 mark
Posted by: john marzan at March 11, 2012 09:05 AM (NKvfo)
I think your first instinct was correct. Rush stepped in it. Everything else is just damage control.
Posted by: Mike at March 11, 2012 10:35 AM (GVWd9)
Civil War will solve everything in the end, one way or another. That's your cure for civility issues.
Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 11, 2012 11:05 AM (W7oat)
Isn't the real issue whether the government should be dictating requirements for any private entity on having to carry/make available insurance to any of their members/employees? Shouldn't this simply be an business or organization decision? Whether providing/not providing/extent of coverage simply being the private entities decision on how best to meet their mission goals and objectives given their resources, desire to retain or recruit members/employees, and the competitive market they are in?
Really, government shouldn't be involved in this at all.
Posted by: strygwillidar at March 11, 2012 12:41 PM (DJO6t)
We also have to point out that Bill Maher referred to John McCain and Sarah Palin as "Maverick and the MILF"
No comment on our raging feminists when a worm on TV calls a woman VP nominee a MILF?
I am waiting for Jake Tapper to ask Jay Carney to comment on how the President feels about women being called MILF. Will the President return the worms $1million?
Posted by: JoeS at March 11, 2012 05:15 PM (yFi9+)
what happened here was the Left sent out their cavalry to try and cut Rush off from the main army only to find themselves too far afield and cut off from their own supply lines. Their cavalry is now being slowly ground down to dust and their attempt to distract cost the GOP a week of fighting for religious freedom but cost them far, far more in terms of credibility and spokespeople ... their double standard will be a campaign issue from now until Nov and the religious freedom issue is still very much in play.
Does anyone think the bishops have stopped fighting this thing ? didnt think so ...
Posted by: JeffC at March 11, 2012 08:34 PM (7vULu)
your side said the same thing about the first Acorn video if I recall ...
Posted by: JeffC at March 11, 2012 08:37 PM (7vULu)
If you think the right has forgotten about the HHS mandate, you haven't been in a Catholic church pew recently.
Or for that matter, you haven't been at one of the Catholic (or traditionalist Christian) blogs recently.
Look at CrisisMagazine and TouchstoneMag and FirstThings and the ManhattanDeclaration site. And don't get Father Z. at WDTPRS started, or Jimmy Akin at NCregsiter.
Christians who care about their faith -- I mean the ones who actually believe in God, not the John Shelby Spong types -- have always been peeved that their tax dollars go to Planned Parenthood, where they fund abortions (yeah, yeah, we all know about the "separate accounts" fig leaf, but dollars are fungible).
But the Obama Administration has now gone a step farther, establishing what is, in essence, a religious test for business ownership (Catholics and others with objections to abortion, sterilization, abortifacient contraceptives, and/or contraceptives in general need not apply). The ACA requires that employers pay employees in a mix of dollars and health insurance; the HHS mandate outlaws health insurance that doesn't cover this stuff; the result is that folks who believe abortion is murder are now compelled to pay for it directly -- not even through taxes, but in the form of a payment from the person whose conscience is offended to the private firm that offers it. Don't like it? Either sell your conscience, or sell your business to someone who doesn't mind.
My understanding is that Catholic hospitals represent 1/7th of the hospitals in the U.S. The church has decided not to offer contraceptives, abortions, and sterilization through them, and the church knows the fines will bankrupt them. So they're looking at shutdown.
The question, I assure you, is not whether these folks are going to maintain their enthusiasm for opposing Obama or let it peter out before election day.
The question is whether they're going to just vote against him, or chain themselves to the White House gates. That's the mood.
Posted by: R.C. at March 11, 2012 10:07 PM (RVXqE)
I think the real lesson here is that excesses and overeach on either side get that side into trouble. Obama did the 1st overeach with the required birth control mandate, even for the church, excess. Then the right, including Rush, and that guy that made the absurd cmment about aspirin, did some excesses, criticising birth control, rather than the loss of freedom from the mandate, and made it look like the right hated women and birth control, rather than the right standing up for freedom from stupid mandates. Then the left overeached, by playing the uncivil Rush comment too long and hard, even after he had apoligized. That made the left vulnerable to the double standard argument, with Bill Mahre.
If Obama had tried harder to make an accomidation with the church, as Biden advocated, the issue would not have starteed at all, nor the renewed focus on the Obama health care mandate intruding on our freedom, and making health care decisions be subject to DC politics. If the right had not overeached, and started making snarky comments about birth control we would have continued winning on religious freedom and anti mandate grounds, but nstead allowed the argument to be shifted to the anti women comments. If the left had not overeached on their anti Rush outrage, they would not have made themselves vulnerable to the double standard argument. It is the overeaches that got each side into trouble. The final winner in this argument may go to the last side to NOT overeach. For now, the right should keep the argument on the wisdom of mandates from DC, that force decisions like these to be decided politically, rather than by voluntary individual decisions, and we should refrain from commenting on whether we think birth control is unwise or immoral.
Posted by: richard40 at March 12, 2012 05:42 PM (cQhQZ)
(I am using "birth control" to cover both contraceptives and pregnancy terminating drugs.)
Why would you do this?
Posted by: Dave M at March 14, 2012 02:40 PM (4Pv3o)
I would do that to be lazy and to keep the flow of the text clean by using a shorter expression in place of much longer one in numerous places.
But mostly to be lazy!
Posted by: Stephen Macklin at March 14, 2012 09:45 PM (xW7+6)
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