A few talented Americans—Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover come to mind—retain the ability to surprise and repel even after you suspect that every awful fact about them is publicly known. Rush Limbaugh deserves mention within that distinguished group.
Limbaugh has made a career out of offering thinly-veiled attacks on racial and religious minorities, women, LGBT people, and many others. I suppose I should not be surprised that he adds the intellectually disabled to the list of people and groups he regularly insults. When he says, “There’s Going to Be a Retard Summit at the White House,” it is not the first time he has disparaged the idea that people don’t care to be called derogatory names that carry insulting connotations.
There is still something striking in his tone-deafness towards this specific group of Americans living with serious cognitive disabilities who have endured so much mistreatment and stereotyping, and whose advancement has been strongly supported by tens of millions of good people across the political spectrum in both political parties.
Perhaps the most novel element is watching Sarah Palin trying to explain away her transparent partisan hypocrisy in distinguishing her mild criticism of Limbaugh’s scripted comment to millions of people from her over-the-top attacks on Rahm Emanuel based on a far less offensive (though inappropriate) hyperbolic comment about political colleagues made in private. Palin is not alone in this hypocrisy.
The most depressing aspect of this story is not Limbaugh’s latest specific verbal outrage, but the fact that so many otherwise good people continue to identify with him among the general public and among conservatives in Washington. The man (along with Glenn Beck and others in the right-wing talk radio circuit) is a jackass and a lout. He deserves to be called out, not by some liberal University of Chicago professor, but by fellow conservatives. This isn’t news, but the silence is deafening.