The comments are finally coming on the New Rehabilitated Rush Limbaugh.
Enjoy this TRIPLE FEATURE from two small town papers and Reason.
Monday Dec. 1, 2003 7pm. The Journal Standard: What's next? Many captains of industry and managers of most mutual funds seem to be crooks. Now we learn that America's premier right wing talk show host is a junky. Rush Limbaugh is back from five weeks in detox doing business at the same old stand: spewing bile and defaming liberals and Democrats 15 hours a week.
The interesting thing about this episode is that Rush sounds no different now than he did before detox, when he was high as a kite most of the time. Maybe drugs aren't so bad after all. It would be ironic indeed if Rush turns out to be the poster boy for legalizing drugs.
The difference between Rush and the average junky is Limbaugh could easily afford $100,000 a year for drugs. He didn't have to rob liquor and convenience stores to support his habit. So, maybe it is thinkable that admitted addicts buy their drugs at a pharmacy where they could be assured of reasonable prices and predictable quality and purity.
Rush's experience raises many questions: will he be tested periodically like professional athletes? How often? Will he tell us the results? It is a felony to purchase prescription narcotics on the black market as Rush did. Jeb Bush's daughter Noelle was prosecuted in Florida for attempting to buy drugs much milder than Oxycontin with a forged prescription.
Rush poses as a role model for young conservatives. What sort of example has he set? Limbaugh richly deserves prosecution.
DEC 1 2002 The Southern Illinoisian Rush Limbaugh is back on the air after five weeks of drug rehabilitation, although experts say it could be weeks before Ol' Rushbo recovers his full sense of self-importance.
His return sermon bombarded listeners with fusillades of what sounded a lot like humility, evidence that his rehabilitative treatment had broken down his defenses, cracked through his sense of denial and gotten him in touch with his feelings, as well as his audience. It took at least a half hour before his voice could de-mellow enough to take a New Age-sounding shot at "lib-brools":
"... The attempt to manipulate lib-brools into changing who they are and becoming nice guys, and liking us is always going to fail because it's not our job to make them like us," he opined. "It's their job to like themselves. And the problem with lib-brools is, they don't like themselves... They're denying who they really are."
Heavy, man. Fans may be reassured that Limbaugh understands his fan base. De-tox has only given him a new vocabulary for his old act, which always has offered therapeutic value to those who yearn to feel good without being forced to think about things too much.
Conservative talk shows dominate radio chatter these days, partly by preaching an attractively oversimplified view of the world. In that world, nice rich guys like Limbaugh are not supposed to be drug abusers on the sly. Such awful horrors are supposed to be limited to those "other people," the ones who don't listen to conservative talk shows.
Such were the sentiments of the Old Rush, the Limbaugh who told listeners in October, 1995, that violators of drug laws "ought to be sent up."
Statistics that show blacks go to prison far more often than whites for the same drug offenses only show that "too many whites are getting away with drug use," the Old Rush said. His remedy? "... Go out and find the ones (white people) who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."
A newer Limbaugh surfaced in March, 1998. He advocated legalization and regulation of addictive drugs the way we regulate cigarettes and alcohol. "Make them taxpayers and then sue them," Rush said of the drug lords. "Sue them left and right and then get control of the price and generate tax revenue from it. Raise the price sky high and fund all sorts of other wonderful social programs."
Then the New Rush went into an odd radio silence on the subject of drugs, according his critics and drug groups who've monitored him. His shift of views and subsequence silence appeared to coincide with the beginnings of the Old Rush's now-revealed addiction.
On his return show, he offered that long silence as evidence that he was not a hypocrite on the subject of locking up drug abusers. "I was honest with you throughout the whole time," he told his listeners. "I was not as honest with myself." Fair enough. Pundits reserve the right to avoid taking positions on subjects in which they have a conflict of interest.
But, now that he has come out of the closet as a non-violent drug abuser, I cannot help but imagine how effective Limbaugh's powerful voice might sound on behalf of other non-violent drug abusers who could benefit from treatment instead of incarceration. This issue transcends political parties. He could make a very good conservative argument.
"My friends," he might say, "It's time for us to stop wasting our tax dollars on prison for first-time, non-violent drug offenders. "I'm talking about people who haven't robbed anybody or held up any liquor stores or hurt anybody but themselves trying to feed their drug addictions. "These people could benefit from drug treatment, my friends. Believe me, I know. Many of you know it, too, my friends.
"And you don't have to be a lib-brool to believe it. In the past few years, states like Texas, Kansas, Arizona, California and Hawaii have passed laws that mandate treatment instead of incarceration for first time drug offenders. Those aren't all lib-brool states, my friends. They're states with good hard working taxpayers who want to keep what they earn, not throw it away on more prisons when rehab can do the job for a lot less, money, pain and heartache.
"This is serious, my friends. We need to stop the madness. Write your senators and congressmen and governors, especially if you happen to live in Florida, the state where my own difficulties are still under consideration by some fine, upstanding officers of the law.
"Florida Gov. Jeb Bush opposed efforts to send first-time abusers to rehab instead of jail. Please let Gov. Bush know how happy you are that drug treatment worked so well for his daughter, Noelle, last year.
December 2003 REASON: Rush Limbaugh may not be arrested, let alone spend time behind bars, for illegally buying narcotic painkillers. "We’re not sure whether he will be charged," a law enforcement source told CNN in early October. "We’re going after the big fish, both the suppliers and the sellers."REASON Dec 2003
Following up on a story The National Enquirer broke on October 2, CNN reported that the conservative radio commentator’s name had come up during "an investigation of a black market drug ring in South Florida," where Limbaugh has a home. A former housekeeper told the Enquirer she had sold him tens of thousands of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills during a four-year period.
If Limbaugh escapes serious legal consequences, there will be speculation about whether a pill popper who wasn’t a wealthy celebrity would have received such lenient treatment. Still, the distinction between dealer and user drawn by CNN’s source is both widely accepted and deeply embedded in our drug laws.
That doesn’t mean it makes sense. If drug use is the evil the government wants to prevent, why punish the people who engage in it less severely than the people who merely assist them? That’s like giving a murderer a lighter sentence than his accomplice.
Another argument for sending Limbaugh to jail was suggested by the talk radio king himself. In an October 3 column, Newsday’s Ellis Henican cited remarks Limbaugh made in 1995 concerning the drug war’s disproportionate racial impact. "What this says to me," Limbaugh told his listeners, "is that too many whites are getting away with drug use....The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we’re not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river too."
Before we start building a boat for Limbaugh, perhaps we should consider the arguments for letting him keep his freedom. The strongest is that it’s nobody’s business but his if he chooses to pop Lorcet and OxyContin, as long as he’s not hurting anyone else. When the painkiller story broke, the New York Daily News reported that Limbaugh’s lawyers "refused to comment on the accusations and said any ‘medical information’ about him was private and not newsworthy."
On his show the next day, Limbaugh already was moving away from that position, promising to tell his listeners "everything there is." A week later, he announced he was entering treatment for addiction to painkillers he began taking after back surgery. "I take full responsibility for my problem," he declared, while blaming his situation on "highly addictive medication" (thereby reinforcing the opiophobia that has led to scandalous undertreatment of pain in this country).
The quick switch from privacy claim to public confession is reminiscent of Bill Bennett’s humiliating retreat on the issue of his gambling. Before renouncing the habit, the former drug czar noted that losing large sums of money on slots and video poker hadn’t "put my family at risk." Nor does it seem that the time Bennett spent in casinos interfered with his personal or professional life. It certainly did not keep him away from TV cameras and op-ed pages.
Likewise, drug use did not stop Limbaugh from signing an eight-year contract reportedly worth $285 million in 2001, or from maintaining a demanding schedule that included three hours on the radio five days a week, or from retaining his status as the nation’s leading talk radio host, reaching nearly 20 million listeners on about 600 stations. If his housekeeper hadn’t ratted on him, we might never have known about all those pills.
I’d say that’s how it should have been, except that Limbaugh seems to prefer a different approach. "If people are violating the law by doing drugs," he told his radio audience in 1995, "they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up." Maybe the government should respect his wishes.