Getting Criticism Right
03.06.12 5:45 PM ET
The Real Problem with Sandra Fluke (Hint: It has Nothing to Do with her Sex Life)
Rush Limbaugh's tactic of using sexist name-calling to try and embarrass Sandra Fluke has backfired against him. His churlish attack created a media storm that the Republican Party got dragged into and which has hurt the image of the party.
Despite Limbaugh's ranting, this doesn't mean there were no problem's with Fluke's testimony. Byron York at the Washington Examiner begins the process of looking at what Fluke actually said. York first points out that Fluke didn't go through the traditional vetting process most expert witnesses go through:
Issa explained that Democrats had requested Barry Lynn, that Lynn was invited, and that Democrats then retracted the Lynn request. As for Fluke, Issa said Republicans had never heard of the Democrats' last-minute choice. "I asked our staff what is her background, what has she done," Issa said at the hearing. "They did the usual that we do when we're not provided the three days and the forms to go with it. They did a Google search. They looked and found that she was, in fact, and is a college student who appears to have become energized over this issue and participated in approximately a 45-minute press conference…I cannot and will not arbitrarily take a majority or minority witness if they do not have the appropriate credentials, both for a hearing at the full committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and if we cannot vet them in a timely fashion." (Fluke is in fact a 30 year-old law student with an extensive history of activism in leftist causes.)
As for her testimony, York questions how much substance it really had. Fluke's testimony discussed medical conditions that need to be treated with birth control pills. According to the rules on Georgetown's books, that medication should have been covered:
So Issa had his reasons for refusing to give Fluke a spot. And indeed, as it turned out, she didn't have much to say. The entire basis of her testimony to the Democratic Steering Committee the next week was that she had "a friend" who had a medical problem that required her to take birth control pills. Georgetown's policy covers her friend's condition, Fluke said, but did not actually pay for the pills, which caused her friend to stop purchasing and taking the pills and, later, to suffer a medical emergency. It was all pretty vague, and certainly wasn't expert testimony.
If Fluke's testimony was as weak as York is describing it to be, then it should have been possible to point that out and focus on the issue of why Fluke is trying to change a policy that Georgetown currently has because of religious convictions. Instead, Limbaugh went for the personal attack.