There was a time when I listened to Rush Limbaugh. It was the late 1980s or early 1990s. Limbaugh was new to his national radio network and was little known. WPTF, the AM station in Raleigh, carried his show, and I would listen for five minutes or so while driving to and from lunch.
I found him entertaining, and, at the time, Limbaugh did not seem to take himself seriously. He could be funny and self-deprecating. And although he was partisan, he refrained from the meanness that has characterized his sermons lately. He rapidly expanded his outreach, briefly had a television show, a line of neckties and Rush cruises. I suspect it all went to his head; it certainly went to his wallet. In the past 10 years, I probably have not listened to two minutes of his monologues.
I have listened to and watched his diatribe against a Georgetown University student who testified before Congress about her need for contraceptive coverage in her student health plan. To say that Limbaugh's criticism was insulting, over-the-top, mean and ugly hardly does it justice. Now, he has apologized (when was the last time that happened?) and has lost advertisers because of his name-calling.
Unfortunately for those who might want to debate the wisdom of including free (no co-pay) contraceptives in all health plans, Limbaugh has destroyed any grounds for debate. There is a public policy issue there: Should insurance companies and taxpayers (through various health plans) pay for contraception? Should any medical service be offered without a co-pay? I think including contraceptive coverage is good policy, but you can argue against it — or at least you could before Limbaugh turned that argument into a repugnant insult. Remember that it wasn't so long ago (before my youngest was born) that many health insurance plans did not cover pregnancy. Exclusions from coverage are still common. From a fiscal basis, it's cheaper for insurers to cover contraception than to cover pregnancies.
As for Limbaugh, I'm not sure he can recover from his self-inflicted wound. At best, he might stop taking himself so seriously and go back to being the humorous, never very serious commentator he began as.