Stanley Fish, in "Two Cheers for Double Standards", explains why bashing Rush Limbaugh and giving Ed Schultz and Bill Maher a pass may not actually represent a double standard. The crux (and don't imagine this excerpt does it justice):
[A person may believe that] Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?
There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.
That is interesting but completely at odds with the position taken by Obama. From his press conference (my emphasis):
What I can comment on is the fact that all decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don't have any place in the public discourse.
And the reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens. And I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate, and we want you to be engaged, and there's a way to do it that doesn't involve you being demeaned and insulted, particularly when you’re a private citizen.
Literalists may chose to argue that Obama is adopting position driven by paternity: as their father he would object to seeing Sasha or Malia hit with the c-bomb even if they were advocating something heinous, like a pro-life view. But for conservative women who are not his daughters, well, its open season.
However, it is pretty clear that, contra Fish, Obama thinks that both sides are entitled to a respectful hearing. Since he has yet to return Bill Maher's million these are obviously just more words, but if he were serious he would want to encourage both sides, not just the other side, to keep it civil and he would want to distance himself from people who are unwilling or unable to do so.
Wll, Obama talks, but money talks louder. And it can say anything it wants.
THE NEVERENDING STORY: Michelle Obama will appear on David Letterman. What are the odds that Letterman jokes about Sasha or Malia getting knocked up by someone? What are the odds that Ms. Obama chasitises him for that sort of talk? None and nada.
HIOW TO EXPLAIN THIS TO SASHA AND MALIA: Maybe the White House could bring in Prof. Fish to explain to the kids that their dad is basically a poser and that crude insults directed at your political opponents is A-OK.