Axelrod: Romney's answer on the Limbaugh controversy was "cowardly"

In a sign that Barack Obama’s Oval Office phone call to Sandra Fluke — and, indeed, the administration’s entire outrage about Rush Limbaugh’s negative comments toward the Georgetown law student — was primarily driven by the president’s desire for reelection, Obama’s top campaign strategist yesterday sought to draw Mitt Romney into the controversy.

“I was kind of shocked, Anderson, when Gov. Romney, all he had, all he had to say about the thing was, ‘Well, that isn’t language I would have used.’ What about the spirit of what was said? I thought that was a cowardly answer and it was a test of leadership, and one that he failed,” said Axelrod on CNN to host Anderson Cooper. …

“I thought it was unusual that so many leaders on the other side of this debate, in terms of the political debate, took a pass on this whole thing — a powder on this whole thing,” said Axelrod on Monday. “Everyone should have stood up and said this was inappropriate as apparently many of Rush’s advertisers now have said it was inappropriate.” …

“The president sought to comfort a young woman who had been vilified nationally for speaking her mind on a matter of importance to her,” he added. “Rush distorted what she was saying and he called her horrible names, and in so doing he slandered not just her but all women of America, so I think it was entirely appropriate for the president to offer support for that young woman even if Rush doesn’t like it.”

To quote the president, let’s be clear: Mitt Romney is no more accountable for Rush Limbaugh’s comments than Barack Obama. The specifics of the back-and-forth between Limbaugh and Fluke do not directly pertain to the presidential election in November. Sure, Limbaugh’s comments might — in some way — reflect on the conservative movement as a whole, just as the comments of talk show hosts like Ed Schultz reflect on liberalism, but nobody expects the president to comment on every outrageous remark those guys make, so why should the GOP candidates be expected to comment on every over-the-top statement conservative show hosts make? Limbaugh is not running for president and neither is Ed Schultz. The choice in November will be between Obama — the president who issued the religious-liberty-violating contraception mandate in the first place — and a GOP nominee, who will oppose the mandate in his own words. If Mitt Romney is the nominee, we know those words won’t include certain derogatory terms because Romney has said as much.

At that point, voters will decide whether they want a president who wants to force taxpayers to subsidize their neighbors’ contraception — and, in the process, give the government a legitimate interest in the sex lives of individuals — or if they want a president who will respect their intelligence, not pretend a free lunch is possible, insist that individuals pay for their own contraception and leave people autonomous in their own bedrooms.

Incidentally, that Mitt Romney has so far managed to stay above this fray strikes me as far more presidential than the president’s willingness to exploit Ms. Fluke’s drama for his own gain.

Let’s get one other thing straight, too: Rush did not “slander … all women of America.” Insofar as I am a woman and insofar as I did not think his comments applied to me in any way, shape or form, and insofar as I know that I’m not the only woman for whom that’s the case, Axelrod is just flat out wrong. To parrot ultra-sensitive libs, I’m highly offended that Axelrod thinks women like me don’t exist. Ms. Fluke does not speak for me or, I should think, for plenty of feminists who are confident in their ability to provide themselves with contraception and/or to make life decisions that obviate the need for contraception at all.

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