Ignoring the ‘acceptable bounds of civil discourse’

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When it comes to the “war on women,” the culture-war crusade isn’t limited to a single front. As we’ve seen of late, there are anti-contraception efforts underway on Capitol Hill, which run parallel to measures such as forced ultrasounds in the states.

But as Rush Limbaugh is helping demonstrate, there’s a rhetorical front to the war, too.

This week, the right-wing host targeted Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, who Republicans rejected as a witness at a recent hearing on contraception access. Fluke wanted to tell the story of a classmate who lost an ovary due to an ailment that could have been treated with birth control, but Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) blocked her testimony. For his part, Limbaugh compared the young woman to a prostitute, and threw around the word “slut.”

When this generated criticism, Limbaugh, reveling in the attention, decided to go much further.

He offered what he said was a “compromise” to contraception coverage: purchasing “all the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as possible.” […]

Limbaugh later questioned why insurance should cover contraception and played a portion of Fluke’s testimony laying out the problems many college-age women face paying for contraception. He asked, “Ms. Fluke, have you ever heard of not having sex? Have you ever heard of not having sex so often?”

After saying that the Washington, D.C., Department of Health “will send you free condoms and lube,” Limbaugh said: “So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

He went on to describe Fluke as “a woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her life woman. She wants all the sex in the world whenever she wants it, all the time, no consequences. No responsibility for her behavior.”

Behold, the most influential voice in Republican politics.

Fluke weighed in directly yesterday, issuing a statement noting the “commentators” who have “gone far beyond the acceptable bounds of civil discourse,” and adding, “No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women, and has been used throughout history to silence our voices.” She also appeared on msnbc last night, discussing Limbaugh’s attacks with Ed Schultz.

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are also engaged on the issue, and more than 75 Democratic lawmakers yesterday called on House Republican leaders to condemn Limbaugh’s invective. Around the same time, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) blasted the verbal attack on Fluke during the floor debate over the Blunt Amendment.

I suspect Limbaugh couldn’t be more pleased to have offended so many, and given his powerful role in his party, it seems hard to imagine GOP lawmakers criticizing him publicly. But in the bigger picture, as Democrats hope to convince the American mainstream that the Republican Party is actively and deliberately hostile towards women and their interests, Limbaugh is making the Democrats’ job significantly easier.

Ignoring the 'acceptable bounds of civil discourse'

Updated