Rush's ruckus obscures real threat to liberty

March 5, 2012 10:35 am

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As necessary and welcome as Rush Limbaugh's apology to Sandra Fluke is, there's a bigger victim of his ill-chosen remarks still waiting for the situation to be set right -- if it can be.

This victim is not an individual but a potentially huge group: It's the broad, diverse coalition of citizens worried about the loss of liberty, whether economic or religious, that a second term for Barack Obama will undoubtedly bring.

Even before Mr. Limbaugh's tasteless tirade on Ms. Fluke's sexual activities, it had been an uphill battle to frame the federal mandate for employer-provided birth control as the assault on liberty that it is. That's partly because the visuals were wrong: The conflict pitted the relatively young, attractive Obama administration against the older, scandal-plagued, all-male leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

And it's partly because most individuals, regardless of their religious inclinations, appreciate the availability of modern birth control and find it difficult to passionately defend a philosophical principle when they can't defend the real-world practice it supports.

Organized religious conservatives, however, could be counted on to see the constitutional principle now at risk and to speak up for the Catholic Church's right to practice its own doctrine. In an age of one-minute network news stories and cable television's distortion-as-debate, the nuance of shared principle but different practice would be lost, and all the big, bad Puritans and Inquisition throwbacks would be melded into one scary, woman-hating monster.

As Mr. Limbaugh himself had pointed out, that's exactly what the White House wanted. It can't defend its economic record -- the recession and jobless numbers now belong solely to Mr. Obama -- so it needed to shift the campaign focus to social values.

The Obama administration engineered the conflict, Mr. Limbaugh argued, to shape the Republican primary, knowing it could rely on its media handmaidens to frame the issue in its favor -- to turn the conversation away from Obamacare's real threat to liberty and toward the Republicans' fantastical one.

And the mainstream media complied, with George Stephanopoulos at the forefront grilling Rick Santorum on whether he approves of contraception, not on whether anyone should be forced to buy someone else's birth-control pills.

Ruth Ann Dailey:
First Published 2012-03-04 23:05:53

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