Ethics Train Wreck Extra: the Lawyer, the Advisor, and the Kennedy

The faith-based institution mandate set the train on its fateful journey,  Rush Limbaugh sent a second locomotive into the stalled caboose after the first train jumped the track, and box cars are still tumbling in all directions:

  • Robert Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-host of the nationally syndicated weekly talk radio show “Ring of Fire”, picked now to tweet this, which rapidly went viral on the internet:

Didn’t we just hear the ladies of The View explain that a word is a word, and it didn’t matter which gender was on the delivering or receiving end of “slut”? Is anyone calling for Kennedy to apologize for using the same uncivil language that has Rush Limbaugh in hot water? In fact, Kennedy’s verbiage is distinguishable: it is directed at a Senator, not a law student; calling a man, especially a politician, a prostitute is not as provocative as using that term to describe a woman, no matter what Whoopi says; Kennedy is clearly using the term metaphorically (so was Limbaugh, but it was too close for comfort, since the topic was sex); and, as one conservative wag said, call girls are classier than sluts. All true, and yet the willingness of Kennedy to use similar terms of denigration in public while the Right is pointing to Bill Maher and shouting hypocrisy indicates one of two things, and maybe both: 1) Kennedy is so confident that a double standard is in play that he feels completely comfortable in rubbing everyone’s face in it, or 2) this is just further proof of the generational dilution of talent, intelligence and skill in the Kennedy clan. Yes, I think “both” is fair.

  • David Axelrod, White House advisor and Barack Obama’s political strategist, worked to keep the anti-Limbaugh outrage flaming while talking to reporters, slamming Mitt Romney for failing to chastise the radio host: “He’s going to continue to lose independent voters when he walks away from issues like the one involving Rush Limbaugh last week, where he essentially refused to comment on what was a really egregious set of comments by Limbaugh,” Axelrod said. “Why? Because he’s afraid to challenge a guy who’s the de-facto head of his party.” As with Kennedy, Axelrod was showing his faith in the evident double standard. (Glenn Reynolds:  “Call Republicans whatever you want, then go all have you no decency??? if Republicans dare return the favor.”) He’s scheduled to appear on Bill “Republican women are twats and cunts” Maher’s show in a few weeks,  his own boss has never uttered a peep of protest about the inappropriateness of the comic’s misogyny, and now Axelrod will be giving his symbolic approval of it. Meanwhile, the statement that Limbaugh is “the de-facto head” of the Republican Party is no less than an outright lie, crafted for those who have never actually heard Limbaugh’s show.

As a related aside, I do not understand why Presidents, the media and the American public tolerate having Machiavellian propaganda and dirty tricks specialists like Axelrod exercising influence in the White House. He is the latest of a slimy breed that began flourishing under Richard Nixon and became a full-blown infestation with Lee Atwater under the first George Bush, Karl Rove under the second, and was really cooking under Clinton, who had a nest of them in James Carville, Paul Begala and Rahm Emanuel. All of these types signal that they are lying by moving their lips, and make politics, government, and administrations even nastier and more cynical than they tend to be naturally.

  • Finally, we have lawyer Max Kennerly, who makes a thoroughly fanciful argument here to support Sandra Fluke’s off-hand comment that she might choose to sue Rush for slander. The best part, perhaps, is his contention that a reasonable person could possibly have thought Rush was literally suggesting she was seeking money for sex. Limbaugh made his metaphor, nasty as it was, clear from the beginning. Kennerly also neatly skips the key matter of Fluke’s status; I very much doubt that a women who was widely publicized as the star witness in a Democratic House member show hearing can avoid the public figure standard for slander.

No, maybe the best part is Kennerly’s censorious rationalizations, as when he attacks the Roberts Court for being on “a sustained mission to  use the First Amendment as a weapon against democracy,” while he advocates using a spurious and vindictive law suit to stifle the free speech of pundits like Rush Limbaugh.  Whatever its highlights, attorney Kennerly’s attitude is a chilling reminder that teaching Rush manners and civility is not the hard left’s objective—silencing him is. Nothing Rush Limbaugh has ever said is as unethical as that.


4 thoughts on “Ethics Train Wreck Extra: the Lawyer, the Advisor, and the Kennedy

  1. this is just further proof of the generational dilution of talent, intelligence and skill in the Kennedy clan

    My dear, sweet and very liberal mother had an extra glass of wine on board one evening about a decade ago when the subject of the latest Teddy Kennedy outrage popped up.

    In that she grew up in Hyannis and isn’t far removed from the original scions’ age cohort, she had opportunity to watch the brothers in action.

    I must admit to wine flying out my own nose when she observed “well, you know, dear… they shot all the smart ones.”

  2. I just wish everybody on both sides would cut the holier-than-thou bs. Enough already with the finger-pointing and pontificating. If “comedian” Louis C K can say what he did about Sarah Palin and her baby, be excused because she is a public figure, then rewarded with a stint at this year’s correspondence dinner, then “entertainer” Rush Limbaugh should be able to ask rhetorically what to call somebody who is whining about threats to women’s rights to free contraception on national television. Oh, and the comment about the videotaping was a joke, too. We can’t have free speech, hate speech and political correctness at the same time. We can either have free speech for everyone or no one. We will never again see decency and good manners at the rate we’re going.

  3. Who said anything about “silencing?” Defamation is a civil claim that, when proven, results in a monetary judgment, nothing more. Limbaugh’s still free to say what he wants.

    I assume your response to the “it’s not silencing” argument is something like, “he’s not technically silenced, but his speech is chilled.” To that, I ask which scenario is more chilling:

    (1) a massive broadcasting corporation filing an insurance claim and then defending a claim that has no chance of altering the corporation’s overall profitability;


    (2) a broadcaster with a national platform maliciously lying about the testimony given by and sex life of a private citizen?

    The former has such a small “chilling effect” that publishers these days ignore it, and frequently go self-insured because the actual risk of defamation liability is so small. (E.g., the NYTimes has not paid a dime on a defamation claim in over fifty years.) The latter has a real ability to preclude private individuals without media platforms and without teams of lawyers from participating in public debate.

    For some reason you think it’s an assault on free speech when a corporation faces a trivial monetary claim, but not when a private citizen is attacked for speaking out. Why? Why are Limbaugh’s well-protected interests so much more important than the interests of Fluke to speak out about issues and the interests of society to not have intentionally false statements overwhelming the public debate?

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