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Letterman's crude, inexcusable "joke"

By Scott Tibbs, June 17, 2009

David Letterman provoked a great deal of criticism last week when he personally attacked Sarah Palin's daughter with a crude "joke" that she was "knocked up" during a Yankee's game by one of the Yankee's players. Letterman finally apologized, and the next few weeks may determine whether this damages his career or if the notoriety helps him in the ratings. There's not much to say about the "joke" that hasn't already been said, but the determination of some Leftists to defend Letterman deserves to be addressed.

Letterman stepped over the line with a crude and sexually themed "joke" that personally attacked the family of a political figure. While elected officials and candidates for public office can expect to be attacked, personal attacks on a someone's family should be off limits. Why is this so difficult to acknowledge? Why are some Leftists so determined to defend Letterman's personal attack on Palin's daughter? Do they hate Sarah Palin so much that they truly believe that any attack on her is somehow justified? Letterman at least showed some class in his apology, something many Palin-haters seem incapable of doing.

One common "defense" is that radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh insulted ex-President Clinton's daughter on his TV show 16 years ago. First, how is a 16 year old insult relevant to a discussion of what Letterman said in 2009? Second, this is what is known as a "tu quoque" logical fallacy. Instead of addressing whether something is appropriate or not, the person using this "argument" points out that someone else did the same thing. Limbaugh's insult (while inexcusable) is completely irrelevant to the logical validity of the criticisms of Letterman.

One of the primary themes of Barack Obama's campaign for President has been for more civility in public discourse, a shying away from the personal vindictiveness that has defined national politics for so long. Yet, despite all the flowery rhetoric, Obama's promise of civility is looking more and more like a fraud. There has been little or no effort to restrain the worst impulses of Obama's supporters, especially though public calls for civility by Obama or his top aides. If Obama wants to prevent a decline in his credibility, he would do well to publicly rebuke many of the hate-filled rants and against Palin and others that have nothing to do with policy and everything to do with personal vindictiveness.

You won the election, Leftists. Don't you think you can dial back the anger meter now?