Selling out and other pastimes

When feminists sold out their values in the face of President Clinton’s womanizing, conservatives correctly called them on it, and so did this columnist.

Don’t look now, but it’s these same conservatives who are selling out in the pursuit of power.

Item: California is an important state in presidential politics. It was important that Republicans win the recall election, and they did. Conservatives latched on to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Never mind that Schwarzenegger is liberal on social issues such as gay rights and abortion. Never mind Arnold’s womanizing. It wasn’t so long ago that conservatives (and this columnist) reacted with horror to the Lewinsky affair and sought to toss the president out of office; now they embrace the celebrity governorship of Schwarzenegger. These are the same conservatives who react with disgust at the mention of Hollywood and politics in the same sentence.

Note: Conservatives also slammed Clinton with good reason for parsing his words and outright lies. Does it strain credibility to believe that Arnold "can’t recall" whether he expressed some limited admiration of Hitler in the ’70s? His reply was pure Clinton.

Item: Conservatives are quick to impugn the patriotism of liberals. If someone in the Clinton White House had outed a CIA operative, what kind of reaction would you have expected? Does the word "treason" come to mind?

Now I understand waiting for all the facts to emerge, but how about a little outrage from the right? Sen. Orrin Hatch was outraged all right, but not at whomever leaked the information to columnist Robert Novak. Appearing on the Imus in the Morning show, Hatch only got worked up when Ambassador Wilson’s name came up.

Wilson had characterized the leak as coming from Karl Rove, and then later modified his statement to say he didn’t mean that Rove was necessarily the leaker. Please let’s balance the outing of a CIA operative vs. mischaracterizing Karl Rove’s specific role. You tell me, was Hatch’s ire misplaced?

Meanwhile, defenders of the White House have engaged in exactly the kind of reprehensible behavior they abhorred during the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation: Smear the accuser. Fall back on legalisms. The ambassador, who publicly complained that the yellow-cake uranium story was a fraud, is biased. His wife may not have been an agent, and therefore putting her name in Novak’s column as a way to get back at him was not illegal.

Those conservatives who support this nasty vindictiveness against an American serving her country have suffered a notable lapse in their own patriotism.

The selling-out of conservative values didn’t just occur in the last couple of weeks. It began with the self-muzzling of those in the movement who have always preached fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. This includes the chief economic adviser in the White House, who is on the public record against running big deficits. Of course that was before President Bush brought him into the White House.

Then there was the Rush Limbaugh episode. The gutless executives from the Disney Corporation, who run ESPN, had no convictions to sell out. They just saw the attempt to grab a ratings edge for their NFL pre-game show by adding Limbaugh to the lineup. Limbaugh is a known quantity. The Disney execs knew what they were getting.

Yet they reportedly told the other members of the pre-game cast that Limbaugh would not be straying into politics and to make sure their responses to any of the issues he raised were strictly in a sports vein. But Limbaugh’s comments about the (liberal) media and McNabb were precisely political.

So in effect, ESPN’s cautionary guidance to the other people on the show prevented them from responding effectively. ESPN compounded their stupidity by defending Limbaugh’s remarks until Tom Jackson, one of the commentators on the show, threatened to confront Limbaugh and then quit if they brought him back. Only then did the gutless wonders in pinstriped suits bail out on Limbaugh.

Much has been written about the Limbaugh-McNabb episode. I will only add this: Limbaugh’s defenders say he is not biased because his criticism was leveled at the media and not the Eagles quarterback. Well, his criticism of the media was biased. If by "prejudice" we mean the act of prejudging, then let it be said that Limbaugh doesn’t know the sports media in this town.

He isn’t aware that most of them never utter a political word privately, much less publicly (some of them never have a political thought, but that’s another story). Limbaugh merely assumed as much because of his own bias. He could have gotten away with it had he made those remarks to the "dittoheads" who listen to him regularly. But anyone who knows football knows just how ludicrous and ill-informed those remarks were and, worse, how hurtful and inflammatory they were, too.

Does that make Limbaugh a racist? I’ll settle for stupid, biased against the media and misinformed — and thankfully, as far as football fans are concerned, unemployed on Sundays.