Put into proper prospective, if the Republican Party were a department store, Rush Limbaugh would be the toy department.

The great sports columnist Red Smith's famous reference to a sports section being a newspaper's "toy department" was a humble comment from a classy master of his craft.

But there is little that is classy or humble about Limbaugh, the bumptious radio talk show host who is far more notorious than famous. Over three days last week, he referred to a female Georgetown University law student as a "slut" and a "prostitute" on his radio show that is wildly popular with conservative listeners.

But it's really not our intention to take much issue with the buffoonish Limbaugh.

We do, however, take issue with the response to Limbaugh's comments by the leadership of the Republican Party. What has happened to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and _ yes _ Ronald Reagan?

Conservative columnist George Will, appearing on ABC's "This Week" program Sunday, didn't mince words.

"... Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh," Will said. "They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh."

MSNBC's Ed Schultz referred to radio host Laura Ingraham as a slut last year, and comedian and Obama supporter Bill Maher has made obscene references to Republican women.

Those comments are, of course, reprehensible and indefensible. The difference, however, is that neither Schultz nor Maher is regarded by either party as a semi-official member of Congress.

After the GOP took over Congress in 1994, the freshman Republican class awarded Limbaugh an honorary membership in its caucus.

Three years ago, then-Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had the temerity to criticize Limbaugh, but facing Limbaugh's wrath, Steele quickly began bowing and scraping in an interview with Politico.

"My intent was not to go after Rush," Steele cowered. "... There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

If Limbaugh is a leader of the Republican Party, it's only because there is a vacuum of leadership.

Instead of condemning Limbaugh's crude remarks that included wanting to see a video of the young woman having sex, this was the reaction from Mitt Romney.

"I'll just say this, which is, it's not the language I would have used."

Not exactly a "Profile in Courage" moment.

Romney had a chance to have a "Sister Souljah moment," similar to Bill Clinton's in 1992 when he risked offending his liberal base by condemning hateful remarks by a radical political activist.

But Romney missed his opportunity to do something not only politically savvy, but brave and decent.

Instead, he was in too much of a "rush" to get the nomination.

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