By stupidly stumbling into the contraception mine field, Santorum discovered why, over the decades, his GOP predecessors wisely steered clear of this highly personal, emotionally charged discussion best left to women, their partners and, if necessary, the clergy.
It all began with an Obama administration directive to Catholic institutions doing business in the secular world that said women must not be denied contraception under health insurance programs offered by these institutions. Because Catholic teaching forbids the use of birth control, a firestorm ensued stoked mainly by the far right media and Republican presidential candidates who fallaciously charged the president with waging a “war on religion.”
Enter Sandra Fluke, a Methodist student attending the Jesuit Georgetown University law school. She testified before a congressional committee expressing her gratitude for the new regulation. Fluke cited the financial burden students and other women at Catholic institutions shoulder in having to pay for a healthcare benefit typically covered by health insurance plans.
The episode was over. Or so we thought until Rush Limbaugh decided to weigh in.
Limbaugh vilely bullied Fluke on the air, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” In the predictable uproar that followed, Limbaugh continued his vicious attacks on the 30-year-old. Not until his sponsors began leaving did Limbaugh finally blink, issuing a tepid apology, claiming Democrats made him do it.
"Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong I descended to their level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke,” declared Limbaugh on the air. “That was my error. I became like them, and I feel very badly about that."
More troubling than Limbaugh’s cowardly attack and bogus apology, however, is the deafening silence from the GOP presidential candidates and conservative leaders in Congress.
Most all have daughters or granddaughters but none has condemned Limbaugh’s cowardly assault on Fluke, no doubt because they’re afraid to earn the wrath of the unofficial leader of the conservative wing of their party.
Instead, the GOP has earned the wrath of a far more important constituency: women.
Not only are women voters of all stripes lining up behind Obama in 2012, women also think Democrats should take control of Congress by a margin of 51 to 36 percent, according to a new poll done by Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff.
Having already angered and alienated Latinos, gays, conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans, union workers, young people, African Americans and many other voting blocks, Republicans seem intent on adding women to the list.
“It’s devastating,” a well known Republican strategist told the Washington Post. “I don’t think it’s going away.”