Hey, you big bully. What's the idea, hitting that little bully?
- Otis B. Driftwood
They say America lacks public intellectuals, but just look at Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh's week-long exploration of "retard." It's like Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin are together again. The late-night dialogue turns into the delicate shimmer of interlaced rainbows, only with assholes.
It started last Monday, on Palin's Facebook page, where she was trying to score some cheap political points off the fact that she has a son with Down syndrome, and Rahm Emanuel once said "fucking retards." (He was referring to voters who expected Obama to fight for things.)
"Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities - and the people who love them - is unacceptable, and it's heartbreaking." -- Sarah Palin 2/1/10
Sarah hadn't seen it herself, because it was in a newspaper. But "a patriot" told her about it. Really. On Wednesday, Rush weighed in. This went beyond party politics. Someone had to stand up for boorishness on principle.
"Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult's taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards ... I'm not going to apologize for it." - Rush Limbaugh 2/3/10
He went on to say "retard" or "retarded" twenty-seven times. On Sunday, someone asked Sarah Palin how she liked them apples, and she replied:
"He was satirical in that... Rush Limbaugh was using satire. So I agree with Rush Limbaugh." - Sarah Palin 2/7/10
Yum. Delicious apples.
Of course, you know all this. The knock on Sarah Palin is that she's applying two different standards, one for Rush Limbaugh, because he's a friend, and another for Rahm Emanuel, because he can do the crossword puzzle. But I think there's something even creepier going on. Here's what Limbaugh said Tuesday:
"I only hope here that Rahm doesn't go out and call these people another F-ing unfortunate name out there, folks, because I'll have to repeat it in another satire." Rush Limbaugh 2/9/10
Notice how he said "satire?" It's a quintessential bully move. He said it because she said it when she said it was okay for him to insult her children. He said it to let her know that he knows that he made her eat shit.
Just like he did with Michael Steele and Phil Gingrey and Mark Sanford and Todd Tiahrt and Jim Tedisco and every other Republican who ever crossed him.
And I suppose he's just a schoolyard head case, but that's really horrible. You have to really hate someone to know they have a retarded son, and say retarded twenty-seven times, just to remind them who's boss. She almost doesn't deserve it.
There was something else nagging at me, though. I'd seen this exchange somewhere before. Some other miserable couple in a fight about power disguised as a fight about words. And then it hit me: It was Petruchio and Katharina.
PETRUCHIO Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!
The moon! the sun: it is not moonlight now.
I say it is the moon that shines so bright.
I know it is the sun that shines so bright.
Say as he says, or we shall never go.
Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please.
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
I say it is the moon.
I know it is the moon.
Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun.
Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not,
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it nam'd, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina.
Oh my God.
They're in love.
It's The Taming of the Shrew.
Only with assholes.