There’s nothing more predictable than the fallout from a “Rush says something outrageous” story. Nearly everyone benefits from it: The media feeds all day on easy content, the left gets high off a tremendous rush of rage and sanctimony, Democrats score partisan points by using it to bludgeon the GOP, the White House gets a handy change-of-subject to distract from whatever the latest horrible news is, and Rush himself gets attention, ratings, and the amusement of seeing his critics jump through the hoop he’s set up. The only losers are Republican leaders, forced to choose between agreeing with him and being pummeled by Democratic attack ads and vicious media criticism and disagreeing with him and being pummeled by Rush fans, and anyone else who’d rather fight this policy battle on more favorable rhetorical ground.

Scott Brown, running in deep blue Massachusetts, jumps through the hoop:

Rush Limbaugh’s comments are reprehensible. He should apologize.

Romney, who can’t afford to offend Dittoheads the way Brown can, initially ducked questions about it before politely saying, “It’s not the language I would have used.” As for Santorum, watch the CNN clip below via Mediaite. He says Rush is being absurd because he is, after all, an “entertainer,” but that excuse never spares, say, Jon Stewart from criticism on the right. Stewart, in fact, is famous for his “clown nose off, clown nose on” schtick, operating as a satirical yet fundamentally serious commentator until he’s called out for something he’s said, when suddenly he’s “just a comedian” again and you should really lighten up, dude. Rush sometimes benefits from the same defense, even though he is in fact “the First and Foremost thought-leader” for a lot of grassroots conservatives. Ah well. By Monday, we’ll all be onto something else. Roll on, mighty short-attention-spanned news cycle.