Likelihood of Success

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Rush to cluelessness

Posted by Ron Coleman on December 19, 2007

Maybe she should go back behind that wall. In a clever piece called “Rush to Judgment,” decently-well-aging Maureen Dowd accuses Rush Limbaugh of jumping in on the Hillary-is-aging-fast bandwagon: “[S]ome conservative pundits who disagree with a woman on matters of policy jump straight into an attack on the woman’s looks or personal life.” It stands to reason that Dowd, known hag-picture.jpgfor her swift manufacture of convenient “facts,” probably didn’t even read Rush’s column about Drudge’s now notorious “hag picture,” a piece that is basically sympathetic to Senator Clinton’s visage-related political woes — exactly as predicted:

Now, I want to preface this by saying I know it’s going to get out there. Media Matters is going to get hold of this and they’re going to take it all out of context. We can expect that. It’s a badge of honor when this happens, but for the rest of you, I want you to understand that I am talking about the evolution of American culture here, and not so much Mrs. Clinton.

He then asks a perfectly fair question, and, to his credit, criticizes an unfortunate aspect of American culture:

It’s a country obsessed with looks. The number of people in public life who appear on television or on the big screen, who are content to be who they are, you can probably count on one hand. Everybody’s trying to make themselves look different — and in that situation, in that case, they think they’re making themselves look better. It’s just the way our culture has evolved. It’s the way the country is. It’s like almost an addiction that some people have to what I call the perfection that Hollywood presents of successful, beautiful, fun-loving people. So the question is this: Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?

You can believe Rush asks the question sincerely, Maureen, for a simple reason: His own looks and weight problems have been, for handsome and mature folk like Don Imus and Al Franken, a way to attack Rush without actually wrestling with his impact as one of American history’s most influential media figures, or his message. Rush is speaking to those of us who have a face for radio, and asking a question about whether this country is capable of choosing merit over looks. Ed Morrisey, incidentally, questions the premise of this claim — and makes a very compelling argument that it’s wrong.

Ironically, it’s fairly common knowledge (does anyone deny it?) that women are far more likely to vote looks than men are. And the reaction of women to Hillary Clinton is complicated. But the worst thing Rush Limbaugh can be accused of here is acknowledging that this picture exists, and that it could have a political effect. For Maureen Dowd, however, actually reading, comprehending and considering a Rush Limbaugh essay is out of the question. He’s all fat and stuff.


6 Responses to “Rush to cluelessness”

  1. Ara Rubyan said

    Oh, please.

    Rush “decrying” the public’s reaction to Hillary’s looks is the same as Kerrey saying he’s “glad” Obama’s family tree has Muslims in it and Huckabee “asking” if Mormons really believe that Jesus and Satan were brothers.

    It’s a simple, yet effective, technique. Inject the vocabulary into the atmosphere and watch as the cloud drifts over the landscape. Pretty soon, all people will remember is that Hillary is a hag, Obama is a Muslim and Mormons are crazy.

    Any questions?

  2. Except that Kerrey and Huckabee used this device to get memes into the news stream that weren’t already really there. Rush Limbaugh was commenting on a picture that was already on Matt Drudge, who is probably even more influential than he is.

  3. Ara Rubyan said

    I see your point, but I think it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Again: no one will remember (or care) who turned the spigot on the gas valve — people will simply look up and say, “Hunh. What’s that greenish yellow cloud …?”

  4. Mo MoDo said

    Drudge posts it and Rush gets to comment on it because the issue is now in play. It’s a kabuki tag team. Each player knows his role and the effect is that Hillary’s age and looks are now an issue. Totally transparent tactic.

  5. Well, Ara, is it an illegitimate issue to bring to people’s attention how harsh a candidate looks — male or female? I think the other examples you gave were non-substantive smears. The observation about aging and haggardness, though, stands and falls on its own merits. I mean, how thin can your support be if it is affected by pictures showing you actually look more or less your age? In fact one of the things that I can’t get past with Mitt Romney is how damned handsome he is.

  6. Ara said

    Well, Ara, is it an illegitimate issue to bring to people’s attention how harsh a candidate looks — male or female?

    Ron, it’s like a elementary school fairy tale: the handsome prince is good and the wicked witch is ugly.

    That’s …. news? Entertainment? Enlightened discourse? What is that?

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