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To Believe or Not To Believe

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 For any blogger with a penchant for politics, the past several days have produced a veritable embarrassment of riches. Consider than within less than 168 hours (a week), we have been learned that:
  • Mitt Romney's wife drives two Cadillacs;
  • That while the former Massachusetts governor does not follow NASCAR closely, he is "great friends" with several team owners;
  • That Romney declared himself to be against the "Blunt Amendment" -- which would permit employers to opt out of certain kinds of health coverage for moral reasons -- then backtracked, claiming that he misunderstood the question and "of course" supported the measure.
  • That John F. Kennedy's landmark 1960 speech on the separation of church and state made Rick Santorum want to vomit;
  • hat the former Pennsylvania senator thinks President Obama is a "snob" for urging people to continue their education beyond high school. (Santorum, it should be noted stayed in college long enough to earn a B.A., M.B.A. and J.D.)
  • That Maryland Governor Martin O'Mally signed a gay marriage bill into law;
  • That at almost the same moment, his next-door neighbor, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was ruining his chances of ever becoming a GOP vice presidential candidate by getting ready to sign legislation mandating that women seeking an abortion must first undergo an ultrasound. (The demand for an ultrasound represented a bit of backtracking; as originally written, the legislation would have required all women to undergo a transvaginal -- not an external ultrasound.


And if all the above were not enough, there was the entire "turn-back-the-clock-at-least-50-years" argument over women, sex and contraception in which talking head Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra (he called her "Susan") Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" because of her belief that women should have access to birth control. The stridently woman-bashing Limbaugh declared that Ms. Fluke couldn't afford contraceptives because "she's having so much sex." (Sorry Rush, women don't take a pill every time they're about to enter into a conjugal act! On the other hand, if you're speaking of men and condoms . . . well that's another story!) Limbaugh then made the leap from garden-variety idiot to drooling cretin when he added:

  "So miss Fluke and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

(As of 6:30 p.m. Saturday March 3, five of Limbaugh's on-air sponsors -- Sleep Number, the Sleep Train, Quicken Loans, Legal Zoom and Citrix have all pulled ads from his program, and several others are considering following their lead. Also, it remains to be seen whether or not Ms. Fluke will pursue a defamation claim against Rush Limbaugh; there is, as I understand it, the question of whether her status as a "limited purpose public figure" insulates him from a suit.)

Fellow conservative talker Michelle Malkin added her two cents, proclaiming "Young Sandra Fluke of Georgetown Law is not a 'slut.' She's a moocher and a tool of the Nanny State. She's a poster girl for the rabid Planned Parenthood lobby and its eugenics-inspired foremothers." When asked what he thought about Limbaugh's tirade, Speaker John Boehner used the rather tepid word "inappropriate," then in the same breath criticized Democrats for "using the issue to raise funds . . ."

Newt Gingrich avoided criticizing Rush Limbaugh but was quick to attack President Obama, saying he acted "opportunistically" when he called the Georgetown Law student to express his disappointment in Limbaugh's comments. "I think the president will opportunistically do anything he can," Gingrich said. "I think the most important use of language in the last week has been the president's apology to religious fanatics, and I want to stay focused on what the president has said, and I think what he said was inexcusable and is exactly the wrong policy at a time of life and death, and playing political games is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned." (If you can figure out what that means, you're a better man than I, Charlie Brown!)

For his part, Rick Santorum, when asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer what he thought about Limbaugh's remarks, said:

Well, he's taking -- you know, he's being absurd. But that's, you know, an entertainer can be absurd. And -- and he's taking the absurd, you know, the absurd -- absurd, you know, sort of, you know, point of view here as to how -- how far do you go? And, look, I'm -- he's -- he's in a very different business than I am.

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I'm -- I'm -- I'm concerned about the public policy of this president imposing his values on the people -- on -- on -- on -- on people of faith who morally object to -- to the government telling them they have to do something which they believe is a grave moral wrong. And government should not be in the business of telling -- you know, when you talk about the separation of church and state, you hear it all the time."

"Well, the -- the real separation of church and state in -- that -- that our founders believed in was that the state cannot tell people of faith what to do and run over their rights. And that's what this president is doing right now. (Again, what in the world is he talking about?)

As a lifelong dyed-in-the-wool political junkie, I've been following the careers, positions and pronouncements of Romney (both George and Mitt), Gingrich, Santorum, Boehner and literally hundreds of other governors, senators, representatives, and presidential aspirants for years and years. (Indeed, the first presidential campaign I followed was Eisenhower versus Stevenson back in 1956 when I was all of 7 years old; I even have a hazy recollection of the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings). Over the years, I have observed politicians on both sides of the aisle whose positions are based on the consistency of principle -- progressives like William Proxmire, Tom Harkin and Paul Simon, moderates and conservatives such as Barry Goldwater, Warren Rudman and former Oklahoma Representative Mickey Edwards. These individuals -- to name a mere handful -- could be counted on to vote their conscience; they were all firmly grounded in a set of principles, and staked out consistent positions with intelligence and collegiality. And whether one agreed or disagreed with the positions they took, there was at least the comforting knowledge that their beliefs ran far deeper than mere political expedience.

I have also paid close attention to the creatures of expedience; to the vast majority of politicians who over the course of a career -- or a single campaign -- can attach themselves to many different positions. These are the men and women who seemingly don't, won't and can't make a pronouncement without first checking with their in-house pollster . These are the politicians -- like Romney and Gingrich to name but two -- who don't seem to believe anything they say but will say anything that they believe will get them elected.

So the question becomes: which is worse? The politician or candidate who doesn't believe much of anything and will say just whatever it takes to get elected -- like Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich -- or folks like Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, who truely believe in returning to a world in which money was backed by gold, mothers stayed home and schooled their children, gays remained locked in a closet and Ward Cleaver was everyone's ideal father?

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Then there's the special case of the shock-jocks, pseudo-journalists and other mass-media opinion shapers -- like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannaty, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and the rest, whose belief structure can be summed up in one word: RATINGS.

To believe or not to believe . . . which is worse?

-2012 Kurt F. Stone

Kurt Stone is a rabbi, writer, lecturer, political activist, professor, actor, and medical ethicist. A true "Hollywood brat" (born and raised in the film industry), Kurt was educated at the University of California, the Eagleton Institute of (more...)

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