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On Politics and Personal Attacks

Posted Jun 08 2009 6:55pm

Rush Fat jokes aren’t that funny.

"They say that Rush Limbaugh is the 800-pound gorilla in the Republican Party, but I think that' s mean-spirited to say that, because I think he' s down to 650 pounds."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently made this disparaging remark during an online chat with CNN. Schwarzenegger and Limbaugh have sparred verbally in the past, but this ad hominem argument marks new, dangerous territory. Maybe Schwarzenegger was striving for comic relief, but in doing so he simply highlighted how deeply entrenched weight bias and discrimination are in Western society.

How does weight status affect someone’s ability to lead a political party? Provide creative policy direction? Or contribute to the national conversation? It doesn’t.                                                                                                         

Disagree with Limbaugh’s political perspective? You’re in good company. Frank Rich certainly does. Last Sunday, the New York Times columnist wrote, “[t]he Republicans at least have an excuse for pushing     this poison. They are desperate. The trio of Pillsbury doughboys now leading the party — Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Cheney — have variously cemented the G.O.P.’s brand as a whites-only men’s club.”

Can’t we agree to disagree without calling someone fat? Personal attacks distract from nuanced political debate. We should expect more from government leaders and those granted access to the Op-Ed          pages of the New York Times.

Body shapes and sizes are as varied as political ideologies. In politics, as in life, we respect our opponents - red or blue, large or small.

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