President Obama held his first press conference in a few months this afternoon, and while the bulk of the discussion was focused on Iran and international affairs, two reporters inquired about the controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh's recent misogynistic remarks.
The president didn't want to address the decisions of advertisers that are fleeing Limbaugh's program, or the sincerity of the host's so-called "apology," but Obama was willing to talk about what prompted him to reach out directly to Sandra Fluke.
In short, the president explained that his reaction was driven by thoughts of his own daughters.
"One of the things I want them to do as they get older is engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on," he told reporters today. "I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens."
Obama added, "I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate. And we want you to be engaged, and there's a way to do it in a way that doesn't involve you being demeaned and insulted."
The response reminded me of something Connie Schultz told Rachel on the air last night: Limbaugh's outrageous verbal assault, deliberately or not, ended up attacking millions of women, not just one law student who wanted to speak on behalf of an ailing friend.
As Schultz put it, "He went after my girls. He went after the girls of mothers all across this country regardless of their politics. And that is what he has completely underestimated.... He called her a slut because she wanted to be responsible about birth control. They have no idea yet it seems to me, what's been unleashed, but they are about to find out. There is no going back on this one."
Limbaugh has picked a lot of fights over the years, but even he may not have been prepared for the righteous anger that comes with an attack on Americans' daughters.