Liberals don’t like being called liberals. If this is the way they attempt to curtail the speech of others, we can think of several other names that more aptly apply. Liberals vs. Limbaugh: The Harkin Fumble

In an institution like the U.S. Senate where blowing hard is a career prerequisite, it is difficult to stand out. Tom Harkin (D-IA) manages, usually with no substance and less grace.

In the corn-fed liberal’s current foray, he has decided to join the silly and counterproductive pile-on of Rush Limbaugh. That Mr. Limbaugh likes nothing better and only increases his influence with each failed tackle never seems to dawn on the overcrowded field of Get Rush goons who play without helmets.

While you and most of the rest of the world were concentrating on matters consequential (world peace) and important (the best sunscreen and hottest flip flops), Old Tom got it in his head that the inclusion of five hours a week of Rush Limbaugh’s radio talk show in the program schedule of Armed Services Radio represents a clear and present danger to the Republic.

As with most matters Harkin, the thought was not original, having been bandied about for weeks by writer David Brock and his liberal-funded Media Matters for America, apparently yet another of those soon-to-be-short-lived, confront-the-conservative-barbarian-media-hoards organizations. Brock, in turn, seems to have gotten it from several columns in Salon.com.

Never mind, being a duly elected U.S. Senator and all, Savior Tom knew exactly how to correct the terrible, just really unconscionable, imbalance of political commentary available to the men and women of our armed forces.

First, Tricky Tom comes up with an amendment to the 2005 Defense Authorization bill. Nowhere in the amendment is Limbaugh’s name mentioned, not there anywhere. Framed as a "sense-of-the-Senate" resolution, the amendment gobbledygooks its way through asking that the Secretary of Defense ensure policies of "equal opportunity balance with respect to political programming." Yeah, that would be a real priority for the Secretary of Defense. (And you’re always asking why Secretary Rumsfeld is so brusque.)

Having slipped such nonsense into a bill of critical importance — funding this country’s not inconsiderable military needs for the coming year — with no one watching, Harkin then slithers down to the usually deserted floor of the Senate to unleash his broadside at Limbaugh. As might be expected, it was one of those darling little nasties in which what was said was not what was meant, with enough holes to qualify as rhetorical cheesecloth, all-in-all the typical vituperative mewling that passes for political discourse in the third century of the Republic.

The fact is that there are thirteen separate channels of Armed Services Radio, broadcasting everything from music to "Hints from Heloise" and "Car Talk" to liberal commentary and 24-7 National Public Radio. In sum, Armed Forces Radio broadcasts more than 2,000 hours of widely varying programs each week, selecting from the most popular domestic programs available. Limbaugh’s program represents five hours of that total, one four-hundredth for fraction freaks, .0025 percent for decimal devotees, a dangerous imbalance indeed.

More to the point, the miracle of radio is exceptionally complicated. For armed services and civilian listeners alike, for radio to work as intended, it must actually be turned on and tuned specifically to the desired program. Since there are no reports of crazed conservative commanders subjecting troops to forced listening, we must deduce that those who listen to Rush Limbaugh do so voluntarily, in the free exercise of choice. That’s what scares liberals … as it should.

Suffice it to say the Harkin amendment will not survive. That’s not the point. No matter its ultimate, ignominious demise, the intent was censorship, by stealth and threat and innuendo. Liberals don’t like being called liberals. If this is the way they attempt to curtail the speech of others, we can think of several other names that more aptly apply.

July 8, 2004
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