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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg

Posted: August 31, 2010 09:29 AM

The Doctor Is out

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I was saddened the other week that Laura Schlessinger is quitting her radio show.

To be clear, the sadness is not that Dr. Laura, physiologist, won't be dispensing advice in areas unrelated to her doctoral expertise (except for marital infidelity). It's that I'll never hear if she ever gets just one question in the field for which she wrote her doctoral thesis -- the effects of insulin in rats.

In a summer of TV reruns, the whole controversy that Dr. Laura, physiologist, dug herself into -- and then kept digging -- has helped fill in the void of comic entertainment.

Forget her "N" word rant for the moment. That's just a sideshow bonus. After all, I suspect that even the most hard-bitten racist knew the rant was inappropriate. It was splashy, but there was nothing amusing about it. Except in a, "Boy, howdy, is she going to get pasted for this!" kind of way.

But then came the apology from Dr. Laura, physiologist.

"Yesterday, I did the wrong thing," she said. "I didn't intend to hurt people, but I did. And that makes it the wrong thing to have done. I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the "N" word all the way out -- more than one time. And that was wrong. I'll say it again -- that was wrong."

So, okay, there you have it. An apology. She says repeatedly and emphatically that she was wrong. Wrong. That it hurt people. That it was wrong. And "I'll say it again -- that was wrong." Four times: wrong!

And then the very next week... she quit her radio show because she wasn't being allowed to say what she herself relentlessly acknowledged and emphasized was WRONG!

I mean, honestly, how cool is that? I don't think that Snyders of Hanover could make a pretzel with more twisted knots.

But even that was just the set-up, because it was her explanation that was Hall of Fame ethereal.

She made her own decision to quit, she told Larry King. She should have stopped there. She'd have been better off if she said that she forgot the reasons. But she went on:

"The reason is I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that."

For anybody who appreciates a circus meltdown by someone really, deeply deserving comeuppance for a lifetime of mean-spirited hypocrisy, this is great stuff.

First of all, this has zero to do with "First Amendment rights." Nothing, nada, zippo. The First Amendment is about how the government cannot make a law that prohibits speech. (It's pretty darn clear: "Congress shall make no law...") There is nothing in the First Amendment that says private citizens can't scream that you should be fired if you say something racist. That's called (get this!) "free speech." Now, you might think that a commentator would have an actual understanding of the First Amendment - but then you also might think that a doctor giving advice about morals had a degree in something other than physiology.

Secondly, she says she wants to say wants on her mind and in her heart. One wonders what she's being doing for the previous 35 years on the radio. Indeed, the only thing that changed in her final week is that she went on a rant saying the "N" word. So, apparently, that's the important thing in her heart and on her mind.

Further, she said she wants to be able to talk without somebody getting angry. Very noble. Tip: You might then not want to use the "N" word. Repeatedly.

Additionally, she complains about special interest groups trying to "silence a voice of dissent and attack." This lament would hold so much more meaning if she hadn't just identified herself as a voice of attack. And if the only thing anyone criticized her for was something she herself kept admitting was "wrong."

But finally, and best of all is when Dr. Laura, physiologist, told Larry King: "I'm not retiring, I'm not quitting, I feel energized actually. Stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country."

(Note: "I'm not quitting" should be read here as akin to Sarah Palin saying she wasn't quitting either, after she quit as governor.)

Okay, let me get this straight: Laura Schlessinger could say whatever she wants to a national audience of millions, except for a few words that she herself acknowledges are "wrong" and "hurtful" -- and instead, has chosen to give that up so that she say these same few, "hurtful" words in private to like-minded audiences of a few thousand.

Bless her heart. That's what Dr. Laura Schlessinger, physiologist, believes "need to be said" in this country. Referring to black people as... well, you know.

Then again, maybe she just wants to lecture on the effects of insulin on rats.