In 2007, radio host Don Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team (then composed of eight black and two white players) a group of “nappy headed hos.” The women hadn’t done anything provocative — no claims that society needed to pay up so they could play sports, much less that a Catholic University should be denied religious liberty and coerced into paying for contraceptives. Imus was just being Imus — gratuitously insulting the women to try to be funny, just like he routinely insults people in the public eye to try to be funny. Sometimes he has a reason and sometimes he is funny, but many times he hasn’t and he’s not.
When Imus was fired by MSNBC and his radio station, WFAN in New York, many conservatives went to bat for him. What he’d said was condemnable, and it was condemned in very strong terms. But the punishment did not fit the crime: Nobody believed that Imus really thought the women were as he described them, and to destroy a career over a clumsy attempt at humor — one that was only marginally more offensive than Imus’s usual fare — would have been wildly disproportionate.
It wasn’t long before Imus had a national radio and TV gig again. And because he was still Imus, it also wasn’t long before he was using the program to take shots at all the fair-weather friends who instantly turned into pious critics the second the media pile-on against him began. They weren’t stand-up, solid guys — the kind Don Imus would have you believe Don Imus is.
So naturally, Imus — a recovering alcoholic and drug addict — ripped Rush Limbaugh this morning as a “fat, gutless, pill-popping loser.” Perfect. Of course, as Rush eloquently explained today in publicly apologizing, yet again, to Sandra Fluke, his error in judgment was to succumb to a temptation at odds with the personality fans have come to know, and the person friends have come to know, over the past 25 years: the temptation to resort to the base language of unfounded personal insult — the language that is the Left’s stock-in-trade and that Imus often seems unable to complete a sentence without. The post-Rutgers Imus, much like the pre-Rutgers Imus, is a well-trained house pet. He’s got down perfectly when you need to grovel, when you can afford to be sanctimonious, and which targets are safe for his bile-laced tirades. What a profile in courage.
Here’s the pathetic thing about this episode: We’ve been given the playbook and still we don’t see we’re being played. “Pick the target,” Saul Alinksy said, “freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.” So we’re talking about Rush, the target over which the Left obsesses because he is so effective — he is able to reach and to teach because, as he noted today, his good-natured humor can be biting and illuminating without being nasty. Meantime, it has long been the law of the United States that the existence of a right does not come with a companion right to make somebody else pay for it. And it has similarly long been our tradition, enshrined in our law, that government must respect the realm of conscience. It is President Obama’s purpose to eradicate these principles, to usher in a new order in which “rights” become not what government must refrain from doing to you but rather what government must do for you — meaning: what government may, of its choosing, confiscate from one group of Americans and redistribute to the Americans it favors, or, indeed, to others it prefers.
While Don Imus and the rest of the herd bleats over Rush, that is what is taking root. And if you don’t like it, prepare to be the next target.