Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Come on, Rush. Really?

Remember those maddening moments when your children were small, when from the other room, you heard nothing but an ominous silence? Then came the crime and a cry of outrage with only your kids as witnesses. Soon, both ran to you, expecting swift and sure justice.

“He pinched me!”

“She made me.”

You sigh and ask, “And how did she make you pinch her and make her cry?”

“She said, ‘You’re stupid’. She deserved it.”

The kid puts up a classic defense: blame the behavior on someone else. It's a classic red herring. Divert attention from the wrong while pointing the finger of blame at anyone else.

You, the parent, have been here before, and you don’t like. But it is a teachable moment--if you can remain cool. After all, they tore you away from the rare thirty minutes in any day when you can read a book written for grown-ups.

“Who is the boss of your actions?” you ask.

They have no retort or answer. They know that a retort will not be welcome, and they know the answer. You’ve given the answer many, many times: each of us is responsible for our actions no matter what anyone else does.

But your son decides that the best defense is a renewed offense. He says, “But she shouldn’t call me ‘stupid’!”

“No, she shouldn’t,” you agree. “And for that, she’ll not be allowed to watch TV or use the Internet today.”

Aggrieved, she objects: “But he pinched me!”

“And he shouldn’t pinch anyone no matter what anyone says! For that, he will not be allowed to watch TV or use the Internet today.”

They’ve lost, and they know it. They turn toward their rooms. You sigh once more and go back to your book, wondering how old they will be when they stop playing The Blame Game, but sadly, some never outgrow it. It’s even on the air now, not in your home and not involving children. It’s Rush Limbaugh, defending Neil Munro, the latest rude, pompous right-wing tool to disrespect President Obama by interrupting him while he was speaking. About that, Limbaugh said:

“’They want this guy [Munro] censored. They want him thrown in jail for not showing proper respect to the king,’ the conservative radio host said, according to a transcript of his show. ‘Anybody ever heard the name Sam Donaldson? Oh, for crying out loud, what do you think Sam Donaldson did to Reagan all during the 80’s? … [Dan] Rather did it to Nixon. I mean this is common. This is what journalists are supposed to do out there’” (

So, according to Rush, one man’s disrespect is acceptable because that’s what some reporters do, but more important, that’s what two earlier journalistic attack dogs did to the GOP icon, Reagan, and to the disgraced ex-President, Nixon, also from the GOP.  So there! Munro was simply emulating two historical figures. His bad behavior does not warrant an outcry from the left or right; he was simply provoked to interrupt by a precedent established by those other left-leaning journalists.

Rush also said that “Munro was heckling Obama’s white half,” thereby trying to nullify the suspicion that Munro’s behavior in the White House Rose Garden during a presidential briefing was racist. But even if Munro is free of racist impulses, Rush is not. He makes the President’s race a part of the argument by defining the President by his racial ancestry. Doing so is tantamount to the old news reporting bias in favor of Caucasians. African American suspects were so labeled while Caucasian suspects were never categorized by race. Raised consciousnesses have put an end to that practice except on Rush’s brand of talk radio.

In addition, by including race in his defense, Rush suggests that he has a rare gift: the ability to intuit, read and listen between the lines correctly and to speak for others. He’s able to burrow inside the minds and motives of others, including Munro, in order to deliver the truth to the rest of us. We can then dismiss any debate, discussion, and difference in opinions because Rush said so.

But I can’t ditto what Rush has said. It just doesn’t matter if Donaldson or Rather interrupted a president. Munro is the boss of his mouth as any parent might say as he or she tries to teach a child personal responsibility. It should never matter if bad behavior has appeared among us or a disturbed mind has tried to harm men like Presidents Reagan or Ford. Those precedents could never justify trying to harm, with words or in deeds, this president, a loved one, or a stranger. Civility demands more of us. We should be well beyond the childish Blame Game as a nation. No one compels us to be rude or crude or mean or manipulative. Those are choices. Let’s not defend them.