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It's quite remarkable to see the incredulity with which the traditional media are greeting Rush Limbaugh's comments about Michael J. Fox, as if nothing like this has ever happened before.  They seem completely unable to come to grips either with what is happening, or why it's happening, or the role they are expected to play in this sordid, repetitious little drama.

They appear to comprehend that Rush has quite a large audience and that his comments about Fox consciously exacerbating the shaking which stems from his Parkinson's disease were outrageous. And while Rush's knowledge of pharmacopia is no doubt exhaustive, they acknowledge that his logic — which runs something along the lines of "doesn't everyone start shaking when they stop taking the little pills" — doesn't seem to apply in the case of Fox and others who suffer from Parkinson's disease.  Who knew?

And more importantly, from the Rush perspective, who cares?  Rush is paid, and valued, for his role in getting that kind of ugly stuff into circulation.  And those like Brian Williams or Howard Kurtz (who claims that Rush is "so mainstream") don't seem to care that he does this stuff all the time.  Are they blissfully unaware that the task fell to Rush to use child molester rational and blame the young House pages for tempting Mark Foley into his pervy online behavior?  Because that's exactly what he did.  What he does. All the time.  

It doesn't seem to occur to them that there is a larger context for this attack other than Rush's big-mouthed ignorance, and that this is no slip of the tongue.  They don't connect the dots or betray any understanding that the GOP is desperate to retain control of the Senate, and as the most recent polling shows, that hope boils down to just a few races.  In both Tennessee and Virginia they're using plain, good old-fashioned racism, but the Fox ad is very threatening to the situation in Missouri.  Hence Rush, K-Lo and other recipients of lavish wingnut welfare are called in to do a smear job on Fox.  And absurdist nonsense like this is hastily produced.

Digby is right — the media are calling this a "backlash" against Fox, but it is no "backlash," it's a hatchet job intitiated by right wing talk show pigs that they are complicit in.  Because now we're seeing stuff like this:

More on Headline News: Glenn Beck asks if the Michael J. Fox ads are an election year ploy. Tonight at 7 and 9 ET on Headline News.

Rush has done his job well.  The goalposts are suddenly moved, this is considered a legitimate line of inquiry, it is reasonable to ask if someone suffering from Parkinson's disease is either a fake or a dupe for backing those who want to pursue a cure and a few more votes might be squeezed out of Missouri.  Ken Melhman shows up on CNN and mumbles some bizarre claim about Jim Talent's position on stem cell research, and maybe a few more people who aren't really paying attention will be duped.

It is all treated as if this is what One Must Expect if one steps into the political arena, and Fox should know what he was getting into. Yet none of this occurred spontaneously — as Atrios pointed out yesterday, nothing like this happened when Fox made commercials supporting Arlen Specter and his position on stem cell research two years ago.   That seems to have escaped the outrage of the blastula rights crowd, and none of them accused him of being Arlen Specter's political pawn as I recall.

Rush will suffer nothing.  The concerns of those who might think he stepped over the line will be assuaged when next week's Brian Williams will use his credibility to restore Rush to the lofty heights of journalistic integrity he needs to do his dirty work, Leslie Stahl will go on 60 Minutes and tell Nancy Pelosi with a perfectly straight face that she's the reason we have to restore civility, and the cycle will repeat itself all over again.

Welcome to Ground Hog Day.