Friday, January 15, 2010

Rush to Judgment

The stench of death permeates the air as dead bodies clog roadways and arteries. The painful pictures of Haiti's injured and deceased are almost incomprehensible. But this unbelievable disaster is not enough to deter conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh from immediately spewing his political agenda.

The country of Haiti, crushed and flattened by a powerful earthquake, finds millions of its citizens in dire need of food, water, medicine and shelter. Hope lies a few miles away at a crippled airport crammed with aircraft, supplies and rescue personnel that are overwhelmed by logistical problems. Time is running out.

Once again, Americans are responding to this heart-wrenching crisis with an outpouring of compassion and humanity. Volunteers from Florida, Virginia, California, and from all regions of the country have already flown to the frontlines of this great tragedy. And thousands of Americans have donated more than $8 million to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief — $10 dollars at a time — by texting HAITI to 90999. The Red Cross set the texting service up with the help of the U.S. State Department and the Obama Administration.

But in a radio studio, located just a few hundred miles from the devastation, a single pathetic voice cries foul! “Everything this president sees is a political opportunity, including Haiti, and he will use it to burnish his credentials with minorities in this country and around the world, and to accuse Republicans of having no compassion,” conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh said yesterday on his radio show. “We've already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.” In fact, soon after President Barack Obama first spoke about the Haitian tragedy Limbaugh compared the president’s quick response with the three days it took President Obama to comment on the terrorist attack on an American airliner over Detroit. Limbaugh said the president was trying win over minorities, the “light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country.”

So why has Limbaugh decided now is the time to complain about how U.S. tax dollars have been used by Haiti in the past? Why does he feel he must highlight that country's long-standing lack of government, infrastructure or hope? Right now children are dying from injuries, dehydration and lack of food. Thousands of injured victims will die unless they receive treatment soon. This is an immediate crisis. So what can Limbaugh possibly be thinking; why must he always reduce everything to politics?

Does his ego need more attention? Or his persona need more publicity? Is he worried that Americans might actually join together, even in these hard economic times, to help those in need? After all, a country divided is good for Rush's ratings. Or is he more concerned that injured and displaced Haitians will be temporarily allowed to enter this country, more specifically his home state of Florida?

Even as most conservatives remain quiet about the president's actions, Limbaugh inexplicably defends his shameless position. Yet his explosive on-air response to a caller sounded defensive, “What I’m illustrating here is that you’re a blockhead.... that you’re a close-minded bigot who is ill-informed.” The final blow, "Your mind is totally closed. You have tampons in your ears. Nothing is getting through other than the biased crap that you read.” Doth protest too much?

One of the founding principles of our great Democracy is freedom of speech. The Federal Communications Commission, which grants licenses to radio and television broadcasters, does have programming prohibitions. One of them is, “Profane language, which includes those words that are so highly offensive that their mere utterance in the context presented may, in legal terms, amount to a 'nuisance.'" Rush Limbaugh's weekday program is syndicated on hundreds of radio stations throughout the country that are licensed by the FCC. Are Limbaugh's comments more offensive than Janet Jackson's wardrobe failure?

Rush Limbaugh has once again proven that, as great and noble as this country is, and as generous and caring as its people are, there is always one rotten egg.

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