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GUEST COLUMN

Cool it, America

Last week Rush Limbaugh referred to a Georgetown University law student who had testified to Congress about contraception as a slut. Rush did the right thing. He apologized.

Last year Ed Schultz referred to talk-show host Laura Ingraham as a slut. Ed also did the right thing. He apologized.

I know there will be those who say the mainstream media only report when conservatives call people names, and never seem to report when liberals do it.

I say you're right. It's a double-standard. What else is new? And what's the point? That it's OK to talk mean and dirty as long as both sides get shamed for it equally by the media?

I don't buy that bad logic. I expect my side of the political spectrum to behave better than the left side, and our side to be led by better angels. So did my father, Ronald Reagan.

My father was able to accomplish so much with Democrats in Congress and Communists in Moscow (or was it the other way around?) because he always looked for the good in everyone.

Inscribed on his gravesite in Simi Valley, Calif., are these words: "I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life."

So should we -- conservatives, that is -- act like Bill Maher or Ronald Reagan?

My father wasn't afraid to apologize. He apologized for Iran-Contra. He apologized to the Poles and Italians in 1980 after the media made a big stink out of a harmless joke he told on the campaign bus.

Apologizing is the responsible thing to do when you call someone a slut or worse. Yet it seems that when we in broadcasting, myself included, are caught with our big mouths open, we often don't do the right thing.

Instead of manning up and saying we're sorry, we hide behind the freedom-of-speech argument. Or we hide behind the lame argument that "I'm just an entertainer. I shouldn't be taken seriously when I say something dumb or ugly."

Yes, we have our First Amendment rights. But you might remember that more than one person has said over the course of history -- Pope John Paul II being a notable one -- that "with rights come great responsibilities."

And just because we have the freedom to say the raunchy stuff that Maher thinks is intellectual political comedy, it doesn't mean it's right to say it.

It's time we start acting more responsibly with our God-given rights. We need to remember our children are listening to our rhetoric. We harm them and society at our peril.

Rush acted responsibly. He acted like my father. The right needs to learn a simple lesson. When we act like Ronald Reagan, we win. When we act like Bill Maher, we lose. One thing I've learned is liberals very rarely apologize and never want to accept an apology.

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