Editorial: Notorious

So Missouri is going to erect a sculpture to a talk-show host who calls women sluts and prostitutes, and whose main mission is to spew hate?

We thought Sen. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) gave Missouri a black eye when she spoke out against child labor laws. But this may trump Cunningham’s act bigtime.

On the heels of abominable comments made about a young woman who spoke at a hearing last month in favor of funding contraception, Rush Limbaugh is about to be memorialized in perpetuity, thanks to the Missouri House Speaker, Steve Tilley (R-Perryville).

Tilley raises money through his golf tournament to pay for such sculptures, which will apparently also include Dred Scott, the slave who sued for his freedom in 1857. But given that the bust of Limbaugh will sit in the Missouri Capitol’s Hall of Famous Missourians, we really don’t care where the money comes from: His visage will grace visitors to a public institution for ages to come.

Limbaugh is both a hate monger and a hypocrite. He deliberately and with force disrespects anyone who is left of him on the political spectrum. He bandies the word “liberal” around like it’s a filthy disease. And he shows no sympathy or empathy for the downtrodden or afflicted, even though he has been a common painkiller addict.

This man has not in any way, shape or form made Missouri better. He’s only tried to make Missouri more like him.

The recent news about Limbaugh is pretty much par for the course. Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, the subject of Limbaugh’s recent diatribe, testified in favor of mandatory contraception coverage in employer-provided health insurance.

This is hardly a wacko position. A vast number of organizations, both religious and otherwise (including many Jewish groups), have sided with the Obama administration’s stance on the social benefits of requiring contraceptive coverage. While many religious groups have taken the opposite stance, there is nothing about either Fluke or those on her side that is out of the mainstream of public discourse.

But that didn’t stop Limbaugh from impugning Fluke personally in about the most vulgar way imaginable. And at least 11 of Limbaugh’s advertisers have found the talk show host’s comments beyond the pale, and have withdrawn from sponsoring the program.

It would be one thing if this were a single gaffe by Limbaugh, but his apology seems beyond disingenuous, since this is the type of snide, offensive and morally devoid commentary he offers on a regular basis.

Yet this is what Tilley chooses to honor, alongside Dred Scott and others already in the hall, such as newsman Walter Cronkite, artist Thomas Hart Benton and Negro League star Buck O’Neill. If Tilley wants infamy alongside quality, why stop at Limbaugh? Why not create a sculpture to recognize Jesse James?

What Tilley can’t comprehend, apparently, is that the hall is supposed to make us proud to be Missourians, to revel in the accomplishments of our state and its residents, in the ways that we have helped to move culture and community forward.

We don’t in any way, shape or form object to either political figures or visionaries being honored in the hall. Those who have worked to achieve sustaining feats for Missouri should indeed be recognized. There are conservative voices that have advanced the cause of constructive dialogue in this nation. William Buckley and George Will (with whom we have any number of disagreements) in the general community, and Norman Podhoretz among Jewish intellectuals, come to mind.

Limbaugh does not. He is not a conservative intellectual. He does not advance the public discourse. Instead, he smashes it, by deliberate denigration of those with whom he disagrees. He is mean spirited, angry and will do or say practically anything to get and keep attention.

We want the Missouri Capitol to be a place where the goal of excellence in public discourse on issues, ideas and philosophies is both recognized and honored. This has not been remotely the case in recent years, and with Tilley’s action regarding Limbaugh, the bar is lowering even further.