A few days ago Republican radio personality Rush Limbaugh got a lot of press for being exceptionally rude on his show. A law student named Sandra Fluke testified before Congress advocating that the government mandate health insurance covering the contraceptive pill. Limbaugh went off on her calling her a slut and a prostitute and suggested that asking the government to pay for the pill was tantamount to asking to be paid for sex, hence the prostitute comment. Obviously Limbaugh is an idiot but I think the responses to the situation by other people were really interesting.
This being the US the situation is split very cleanly across party lines. The Democrats condemn the remarks, as we would expect, and the Republicans suggest that the words slut and prostitute may have been ill advised but generally Limbaugh's point stands. The Republican leadership candidates refused to condemn Limbaugh but rather suggested that perhaps they "wouldn't have used those words" and other such vague evasions. Normally I would assume that Limbaugh would see nothing but benefit from this sort of controversy since it got him a lot of press but it turns out a lot of big sponsors pulled their advertising from his show because they don't want to be associated with someone who so casually hurls serious insults at people testifying before Congress.
Here is the thing that gets me: Why didn't any of the Republican leadership candidates offer the following statement?
"While I agree that insurance should cover the pill when prescribed for medical necessity (like in the case of ovarian cysts) I don't think it should be mandatory that insurers pay for the pill purely for contraceptive purposes."
I am a pretty hardcore left winger, especially by US standards, and I can't condemn this position. It isn't *my* position but someone who wants health coverage to cover health issues but wants contraception to be paid by the user is reasonable. That is the sort of position I can understand. It manages to not condone promiscuity (which the Republicans are terrified of) but supports taking care of women's health at the same time. Right now the Republican candidates are all busy in a race to the bottom to alienate every non fundamentalist woman in the country... shouldn't somebody notice the opportunity to collect a chunk of the female vote? Or say, the votes of men who care about women?
I don't get confused when politicians lie and cheat to get votes. I do get confused when politicians refuse to take a tack that occupies a nice middle ground without offending half the voters. I get it that Republican candidates can't say they support contraception in any form if they want the crazies to elect them but I don't get why they don't try to placate the crazies and score up some votes from everybody else when the opportunity presents. You can see that sort of behaviour here in Canada, where the Conservatives, despite having a big core of fundamentalists, walk a fine line to try to keep religion / homophobia / racism out of their politics. They have bonkers policies but they do seem to have the ability to get the middle spectrum folks to vote for them, enough to get a majority government anyhow.