ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There's a tendency among some media outlets and various critics, especially Republican partisans, to suggest that all comments must be applied even-handedly across the entire spectrum of opinion in order to be valid. No matter how vast the differences or how ridiculous there's always someone trying to make the case that whatever fault is assessed it should be done in a manner that distributes blame equally.
Thus in the current back-and-forth among candidates and parties there is a ridiculous emerging quid-pro-quo that defies reason. It is obvious that Republicans are scared to death of offending Rush Limbaugh, for example, even going so far as to apologize to him for real or imagined offenses, bowing in obsequious deference to him. Never mind that his remarks are tainted by racist and misogynistic overtones he is accepted as a defender of conservative views approved by a majority of the party faithful, and he is widely seen as the de-facto leader of the Republican Party.
The most absurd aspect of those who engage in the ideal of equivalence derives when Limbaugh devotees claim that Bill Maher is the de-facto leader of the Democratic Party just to even things out, as silly a notion as can be dredged up by the right about the left. But conservatives have little ability to analyze themselves and put out their latest bit of frippery with a burst of self-satisfied glee. We'll gladly take you on they say to anyone who still pays attention to them in the national forum. Bill Maher is a comic who delivers liberal one-liners at the expense of the conservative establishment, but he is not in any way a spokesman for the Democratic Party and just saying he is doesn't make it so, clearly a lesson the right has yet to learn.
Are critics of our misadventure in Iraq supposed to share culpability with a Bush administration that deceived us into a disastrous war, whose national security advisor was egregiously ill-prepared for the job her title suggested she understood? If there is shared responsibility it is a result of naïve members of Congress assuming leaders in the White House knew what they were doing, of not digging deep enough to unearth the flaws in a foreign policy that failed every basic lesson the American people had a right to expect its leaders had long since absorbed.
And how are we to assess the worth of Mississippi's former governor Haley Barbour as a viable presidential candidate by Republicans who admire his brusque confrontational manner? What would it take to entice him to run they ask? But a run for higher office would require voters to ignore the funds he diverted to port projects; funds originally ear- marked for low-income housing after Katrina? It might be argued that public projects could improve the quality of life in Mississippi, but it's a hard case to make when so many average citizens remained homeless. While HUD approved the diversion it did so with misgivings, frustrated by legislative obstacles to opposing Barbour's initiative. And then there were the questionable number and kind of pardons he issued before leaving office - - difficult indeed to take an even-handed approach to the former governor.
Into the mix of equivalence arguments are accusations by Republicans in Congress and elsewhere that Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have engaged in the same sort of gutter tactics Rush Limbaugh brings to his daily radio tirades. Trench warfare may occur on both sides of the aisle, but there is no comparison in terms of vitriol between the two factions. And truth is the loser when dialogue is reduced to Limbaugh descriptions of female opponents as "feminazis," sluts, prostitutes and whatever other sobriquets he employs to denigrate those women he classifies as enemies.
What if it were suddenly decided that only grownups would be allowed to converse about national issues and that if an argument were to be had about such things it would be couched in meaningful terms not hollow rhetoric. And for heaven's sake let's not pretend that equivalence exists in every case and that for every liberal point there is an equalizing conservative view. Taking a stand is part of our political DNA but trying to topple an argument by suggesting there is always a cogent rebuttal is just silly.