Bristol Palin wants President Obama to call her.
“You don’t know my telephone number, but I hope your staff is busy trying to find it,” Bristol wrote on her blog at Patheos.com. “Ever since you called Sandra Fluke after Rush Limbaugh called her a slut, I figured I might be next.” She added, “Your $1,000,000 donor Bill Maher has said reprehensible things about my family. He’s made fun of my brother because of his Down’s Syndrome. He’s said I was f—-d so hard a baby fell out.’ ”
Obama called Fluke to tell her to keep her chin up. She wasn’t the daughter of a politician but a citizen participating in a congressional hearing who gave her view on contraceptives.
As a result, she got reamed out as a slut by Rush Limbaugh, who after his advertisers began dropping him later apologized.
But maybe Obama should consider picking up the phone.
Addressing the president, Bristol continued, “What if you did something radical and wildly unpopular with your base and took a stand against the denigration of all women ... even if they’re just single moms? Even if they’re Republicans?"
I agree. What if liberals, conservatives and moderates played nice for a bit? Obama ran on civility, and would make an important statement by reaching out to the daughter of a political adversary who’s been unrelenting and uncareful in how she’s spoken about him.
Even Bill Maher said he’s ready for a break from outrage, though not from insults, in a New York Times op-ed on Thursday. “Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage,” Maher wrote, in the piece, which failed to mention that he himself is a major offender.
I’ve long thought that Obama should lead a sustained discussion on the civility issue in the United States. In January 2011, after former Democratic Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot by at a town hall meeting in Tucson, he said, “Pause for a moment, and to make sure that we are talking to each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
But we need more from him on this and not simply at a moment of national tragedy.
Maher had no business talking badly about the Palins. Limbaugh should be ashamed for calling Fluke a slut. But Sarah Palin, too, shouldn’t say hurtful things about Democrats, the “lamestream media” and Obama.
The words and actions of stars, pundits and politicians bleed into the lives of ordinary citizens. An “if they do it, so can we” attitude is clearly contaminating America.
Politicians see it, too. At the Bipartisan Policy Center’s dinner honoring former Republican Sens. Bob Dole and Howard Baker on Wednesday night, the cry for the good old days of crossing the aisle for compromise was heard loudly.
“Both Senators exemplify the qualities of political leadership we need most, at a time when many ask if it still exists, and both continue to serve their country today by fighting for the causes they believe in with their trademark wit, style and proven ability to build consensus,” the center’s Web site said.
In Florida on Wednesday, Bill Clinton, whom Obama could tap for a civility project, talked about the anger in politics. “We can’t afford a political situation where the only thing that works is division, demonization and fighting all the time,” Clinton said. “We’re not as racist as we used to be, we’re not as sexist as we used to be, we’re not as homophobic as we used to be. Our only remaining prejudice is we just don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us. We need to be around people who disagree with us. Nobody’s right all the time.”
And if all else fails, Bristol, perhaps the Times will give you equal time on its op-ed page.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.