Oh, my. Things have reached an advanced state of weirdness. I've been avoiding weighing in on this subject, in part because, as a law professor, I don't like talking about an individual law student. At this point, there's so much political leveraging going on, that I don't know where to begin. I'll make a list of my thoughts, numbered, but not in order of importance.
1. Everyone is using the birth control issue, seeking political advantage. I don't really care who started it, but all are responsible for exploiting it, and some are doing a better job of it than others.
2. The student, Sandra Fluke, is young, and she's gotten swept up into a media frenzy, but she's an adult, she's chosen to be a political activist, and she accepted a great opportunity, all voluntarily. I feel sympathetic toward someone who's got to deal with so much, so suddenly, but she seems to know what she's doing, and she's handling it well.
3. I like Rush Limbaugh, and I get his concept of media tweaking, and I get that he's lampooning government regulation, but this is one of his worst efforts. He's getting so much wrong. He keeps saying that the woman is asking taxpayers to pay for her birth control and that she wants it free. But she's talking about health insurance coverage, which is not paid for with tax money. She'd like government regulation requiring the private entities involved to cover birth control, but when our health insurance, which we pay for, covers something, we're not getting it free. We buy the health insurance! And Limbaugh keeps questioning how birth control could cost $1,000 a year. He calculates how many times the woman must be having sex, but obviously, the woman is talking about birth control pills (and perhaps other devices), which you use all the time, regardless of how often you have sex. And Limbaugh fails to include doctor visits in his calculations, and you need a prescription for birth control pills. So most of his humor — the woman must be having sex 3 times a day... she's a "slut" because she wants to be paid for having sex — is not based on facts. Limbaugh ended yesterday's segment with one of his refrains: He lives in "Realville." He needs to check his GPS. That was not from Realville.
4. Quite aside from the lack of a factual basis for his humor, it's just mean to aim words like "slut" and "prostitute" at a woman, especially a young woman, even if the metaphor is apt. Even when you get the joke and agree with the criticism of the policy she's advocating, it feels ugly. The humor backfires.
5. I haven't listened to today's show yet, but I can see that he did a segment called "The Democrats are Desperate: Obama Calls Sandra Fluke, the 30-Year-Old Victim." I don't know. He's complaining that people "have no sense of humor" and that "all they've got, is to go out and try to discredit their critics, to impugn and discredit the people who disagree with them." That sounds desperate. Limbaugh is saying that he wants to be expansive and absurdist and have all his fun, but he's lavishly giving material to his political opponents, and they are going to have their fun too. Everyone's using everything, as I said, and the question is who's getting the best of it.
6. What's really at stake is the presidential election. Limbaugh is obtruding. Good for him. Nice for his show. But I don't think it's helping Romney and the not-Romneys.