After the commercials became a media sensation, Bob Dole’s wife, Elizabeth Dole, herself a future senator and a former Cabinet member in both the Reagan and Ford administrations, made the rounds of the talk shows and giddily joked about their renewed love life. It was OK; it was cool, back in the days before Rick Santorum, back when Republicans, men and women both, could appear to be happy about having sex. Personally I would have been happier if they just kept it to themselves, but, like that neighborhood couple smitten with their new kitten, they just couldn’t stop talking about it.
Three presidencies, two wars, one great recession and a succession of iPads later, we find ourselves in the midst of a presidential campaign in which sex and contraception might just overtake the economy and the deficit as the most talked about topics. It’s almost as if democratic campaign genius James Carville had infiltrated the GOP and started to script their campaigns.
Three weeks ago, Barack Obama was on the ropes for bungling his handling of the health care regulations regarding contraception, and now all the talk is of Rush Limbaugh calling a law student a slut for believing that her pill and Bob Dole’s pill should be covered on an equal basis. (Full disclosure: I have some sympathy for Rush, having recently been taken to task by a concerned reader for referring to the young woman who had sex with former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in exchange for $10,000 as a “whore” instead of a “prostitute.”)
I wonder what Rush Limbaugh would have had to say about Bob Dole taking Viagra? From what I know about the congressional health insurance packet, there’s a pretty good chance that the little blue pills were covered by you and me. And Liddy Dole was covered at the time of Bob’s commercial revelation, when she launched her own campaign for the presidency in 2000. And there’s more: At the time, the first couple of the Republican Party lived in Washington, D.C., at a hotel complex called—you couldn’t make this up—the Watergate.
Does that mean you and I were paying two Republican presidential candidates and prominent senators to have sex at the Watergate Hotel? I have no earthly idea what you would call that, but now that the cat is out of the bag, we’ll leave it up to Rush to figure out a name for the scandal.
One thing is for sure: Whatever term Rush picks, Mitt Romney is likely to say that he would have chosen different words. And that is what is oh-so-unsettling about this insane crusade that Limbaugh and Rick Santorum and others on the right have taken on. It’s not what Limbaugh has to say. His diatribe against Georgetown student Sandra Fluke was so outrageous that many of his commercial sponsors have jumped ship, and Santorum himself has described the talking head’s verbiage as “absurd.” It is the fact that Romney cannot bring himself to stand up and insist that Limbaugh cease and desist.
Here’s what Mitt Romney says: “I would have chosen other words.” OK, so you would choose different words—but you would say the same thing? The problem isn’t that Santorum is going to win. It’s that Romney, should he become the nominee, will be beholden to Santorum voters, a chunk of the electorate that thinks government is too big and intrusive, except when it comes to telling women what to do with their bodies.
Romney has already lost the dog lovers’ vote, thanks to Gail Collins of the New York Times, who can’t seem to touch a keyboard without reminding readers of Seamus, the Romney family dog who went on vacation to Canada strapped to the roof of one of their cars.
Now Romney appears to be campaigning to lose the women’s vote. Not
just women, but anyone who knows a woman, who loves a woman, who has a
daughter, or a sister, a mother. Come to think of it, he should lose the
votes of all men who like to have sex with women. Polls indicate that
sex is pretty popular among men. Men like, for example, Bob Dole.
Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary every week in the Syracuse New Times. You can reach him at email@example.com.