Berkley now standard-bearer for politics over principle

Shelley Berkley is not a stupid person.

She’s a dangerous person.

As she seeks a toehold to ascend from a long-held parochial congressional seat in urban Las Vegas to a statewide U.S. senator position in Nevada, she’s increasingly demonstrating a do-anything, say-anything approach to save her political skin.

Chalk it up to desperate times calling for desperate measures, if you wish. But no matter how you rationalize it, there’s no escape from the logical conclusion that Rep. Berkley embarrasses herself more every day she complains about the splinter that is Republican talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and ignores the log that is Democrat television show host Bill Maher.

Everyone pretty much knows the story by now. But the Cliff’s Notes version is this:

Mr. Limbaugh made fun on his show of a Georgetown law student who testified before Congress about the merits of school-paid birth control and abortion pills. Limbaugh called her an earthy term for a woman of loose morals. He later apologized. The Democratic political strategy establishment seized the moment to make hay while the sun shined for them and their viewpoint.

The clouds came quickly when Republican strategists pointed to Mr. Maher, who not only has a worse track record on civil discourse, calling conservative women vulgar terms for a certain female body part, but has also given (and Democrats have gladly received) $1 million to re-elect President Barack Obama.

Now enters Berkley, in a hotly contested senate race. She not only condemns Limbaugh but also initiates an online petition to get him fired.

Even the lightest of criticism of Maher goes suspiciously missing.

Finally, an actual journalist caught up with Rep. Berkley and extracted this silly distinction from her as to why she holds Limbaugh to a different standard than Maher:

“There’s a big difference between what is being said by Bill Maher and his humor, although I don’t find that funny, and what Rush Limbaugh does, who pretty much calls the shots in the Republican Party.”

What? Limbaugh “calls the shots” for the GOP? Rep. Berkley can’t be serious. In fact, knowing her, I don’t think she is serious.

And that’s what makes this whole episode so telling. We’re witnessing a candidate demonstrate the repugnant ability to twist her principles and intellect into knots for personal gain.

Rep. Berkley knows her distinction between Limbaugh and Maher is false. Further, she knows she’s doing something wrong in trying to silence him. Yet she’s willing to say it and do it in hopes of gaining an election edge.

Forget the hypocrisy of failing to hold others to the same standard. The clear and present danger rests in the idea of sending Berkley to the Senate, where she will be one of only a select number of guardians of founding America principles.

Do we want to take a chance on someone we know is willing to sell her intellect and our freedoms down the road for her political gain?

What Berkley is doing, it seems to me, goes beyond garden-variety political avarice. She knows she can’t make a credible distinction between Limbaugh and Maher, yet she aggressively pursues an online petition (30,000 signatures so far) to silence the voice of a man who politically disagrees with her.

That kind of bendability to the evil of authoritarianism threatens the liberty of all.

Though I rarely agree with Rep. Berkley on politics, I like her as a person and I always thought that if push ever came to shove on the big stuff — freedom of speech, religion and liberty — she’d have the integrity to be there for all Nevadans and me.

Now I wonder.

Sherman Frederick writes a column for Stephens Media. He is the former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and a member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. Read his blog at

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