LOS ANGELES—Those who caught 'The Last Word' with Lawrence O'Donnell last night on MSNBC would have been treated to a five-minute segment of political humor... if the topic hadn't been of such overwhelming importance to the adult industry.
Everyone knows that every single top Republican presidential candidate is a hypocrite, whether it's Newt Gingrich's history of extramarital philandering, or Mitt Romney's impressive list of flip-flops, or Ron Paul's attempts to erase his history of racism, or Michelle Bachmann's dismissal of the usefulness of Medicaid until she found out her husband's clinic received Medicaid funds, or Rick Santorum comparing gay marriage to "man on dog" sex, or Rick Perry, who's rumored to have had gay liaisons, forgetting his Supreme Court fight to keep homosexuality illegal in Lawrence v. Texas as well as claiming there's some connection between gays in the military and banning official prayer in schools, or Jon Huntsman, who's decided that maybe global climate change doesn't really have a scientific basis after all.
Bearing all that in mind, it's perhaps not surprising that O'Donnell would call out the Republican candidates in general, and Newt Gingrich in particular, to oppose the upcoming vote on whether to force all adult performers in Los Angeles to wear condoms while performing sex scenes.
After noting that Gingrich somehow couldn't get 10,000 of Virginia's 8 million residents to sign his petition to be placed on that state's commonwealth's presidential primary ballot, O'Donnell continued, "The city where I am now, Los Angeles, has a population about half the state of Virginia, and the people of Los Angeles produced 70,000 signatures—30,000 more than needed—to put a measure on the presidential primary ballot that would require actors in porn to wear condoms while filming in the city of Los Angeles. There is no clearer marker of the depths that the Gingrich campaign has sunk to than the fact that there are more people who want to protect the health of porn stars than there are people in the entire state of Virginia who want the chance to vote for Newt Gingrich for President."
But making that comparison seemed to inspire O'Donnell to further "heights":
"[I]f at least two candidates are left standing when the Republican campaign comes to California, the very first question I want to hear asked at the debate is, 'Are you in favor of porn stars being required to wear condoms?'" he implored. "There is no better trick question for the Republican candidates! These are the candidates who swear that the only greater evil than government regulation is of course taxation, and the measure that will be on the ballot in California with those Republican candidates not only calls for regulating the wardrobes in porn films, but it imposes a fee—really, it's a tax, really; it's really a tax—on porn producers to pay for government inspection of porn film sets to make sure the actors are complying with the new government regulation. Porn producers hate this thing. You would think anything that's bad for the porn business is something prudish Republican candidates would want to—I'm not gonna say 'get behind.'"
"The problem for Republicans is that this is classic liberal big government imposition of regulation and taxation on small businesses that Republicans swear to us are already overregulated and overtaxed," he continued, "and it creates a new kind of government worker whose salary and benefits Republicans would always being trying to cut: Porn set condom inspectors. Now, we know there is only one Republican candidate who would have no problem with this question in a California debate: Ron Paul would be vehemently opposed to the regulation and taxation of porn producers to pay for that regulation. But where do the rest of the Republican candidates go on this one? Do they choose to make life tougher for porn producers? Do they side with the AIDS Health [sic] Foundation that got the signatures to put this proposition on the ballot? Do they rewrite their anti-regulation, anti-tax stance to include exceptions for porn producers? Do they oppose the tax on porn producers because, as they always say, government already taxes small business way too much in this country? Or do they just stick with their principles, stick with their anti-tax, anti-regulation principles and stand side by side with porn producers in the principled fight against condoms on porn sets?"
O'Donnell closed the segment by suggesting that if the Republicans actually adopted the anti-AIDS Healthcare position, they might actually find themselves the recipients of campaign contributions from at least one porn studio, because "Steven Hirsch... can pour more money into your campaign than you can count." Why? Because "[t]he only people who hate regulation even a little bit more than Republican presidential candidates are porn producers."
Of course, porn producers don't "hate regulation," unless those regulations are designed to put them out of business, as mandatory condoms (and the dental dams, goggles and face shields that would inevitably follow) likely would—but the key here is that O'Donnell has set the porn industry up as the "bad guys" who are so against performer health and safety that logically, even those other bad guys, the Republican presidential candidates, should support them—and would, if they weren't all hypocrites. And that's a piss-poor message for a putative liberal to be delivering on national TV.
In a sense, the situation is similar to the misunderstanding by at least one adult commentator of the amendment suggested by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) but offered by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which would have exempted the adult industry—certainly the world's biggest victim of online piracy—from availing themselves of the government's resources to protect their intellectual property rights because those properties "are pornographic or obscene in nature"—and of course, Congress couldn't be seen as doing anything that in any way helps the porn industry. Still, they voted the amendment down—but a Polis spokesperson nonetheless told the Huffington Post that, "You're basically going to have the Justice Department policing all of this, and if we're going to be extending those resources, we shouldn't be prioritizing the property rights of pornographers over others."
Yeah! No special government privileges for pornographers—even if they never asked for any, and nothing in the bill gives them any.
Or as Tom Hymes noted in his article, "In combining pornography and obscenity, which Polis did as well in his amendment, the lawmakers do disservice to the First Amendment despite their acknowledgment that people have the constitutional right to make and access legal porn. The constitution means little, however, if legislators can so easily conflate illegal and legal acts, and in doing so drag the latter down to the same level as the former."
And the football season is only just getting under way!