Rush to judgment

“It is my heartfelt belief that, no matter what your status in life, you can learn what’s possible for you in this country by studying me. And if you attain even a fraction of my level of excellence, you will have arrived.”
“It’s time to start championing old-fashioned virtues like fidelity, chastity, sobriety, self-restraint, self-discipline and self-reliance, and responsibility. . . . Is that too much to ask?”

“Modern-day liberalism is like a disease or an addiction that literally has the power to destroy the character of the person who falls under its spell.”
— Rush Limbaugh, in “See, I Told You So”

Thus wrote the guru of far-right wing-nuts 10 years ago in a pompous piece of puffery that is filled with such self-inflated arrogance from front to back

So where is this sterling example of conservative excellence these days? Why, in drug rehab, right along with all those loathsome products of the permissive baby-boom generation who indulged their hedonistic urges without regard to trifles like personal responsibility and their duty to obey the laws of our land. At least this is how Rush would no doubt portray any liberal in the same fix if he were still telling us “The Way Things Ought to Be” on the radio. (TWTOTB is the name an earlier tome purchased by millions of ditto-heads who apparently hang on his every pronouncement like they came down from Mt. Sinai etched on tablets of stone.)

Rush became addicted to strong opiates several years ago when unsuccessful back surgery left him in great pain, he explained while announcing his impending hiatus last month after being outed by The National Enquirer. What this pillar of veracity (“For, as I have told you, you must have the courage to believe the truth . . . Sometimes the truth hurts . . . But the truth is still the truth. And it needs to be heard.”) didn’t explain is that he was swallowing far more hydrocodone and OxyContin pills than would ever be prescribed for pain relief, enough to remain in a state of drugged euphoria around the clock. And that to satisfy this enormous appetite he bought thousands upon thousands of them illegally from a former maid with connections on the street.

Don’t get me wrong – both as someone who has had my own problems with substance abuse and who now works with detoxifying alcoholics and drug addicts five nights a week, I would never gloat over Rush’s dilemma or take pleasure in his comeuppance.

After all, I like to believe that I’m one of those bleeding hearts he mercilessly ridiculed daily for fun and profit, and as such, can have only empathy and compassion for all people whose lives are so devoid of genuine joys and friendships that they resort to chemical substitutes. As he himself observed, “Most people instinctively realize that happiness and fulfillment are not achieved primarily through materialism. You can’t buy love. You can’t even buy contentment.” (This from a man who is rich as Crosus!)

Still, there is a certain poetic justice in this predicament of a guy who gained fortune and fame by touting moral righteousness and assuring listeners that he was its epitome. (What rhymes with hypocrisy?)

And someone who condemned in no uncertain terms such weaknesses in others: “Too many whites are getting away with drug use,” Rush said in 1995. “The answer is to . . . find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river.”

Now, of course, he has hired Roy Black, one of the best criminal-defense lawyers in the country, to keep him from being “sent up the river.” (Ironically, Black was also the attorney for William Kennedy Smith, who, regardless of being exonerated of a rape charge several years ago, was mocked by Rush in one of his savage song parodies.)

Anyway, I sincerely hope Rush is not charged with any crime, even though he broke the same law that has sent thousands of whites, blacks and all shades in between to prison with felony convictions that essentially ended their chance of having a good life in America. Treating any sort of drug abuse as a criminal matter is as irrational as it is futile, not to mention heartless, and as a bleeding heart. . . .

I hope as well that he is successful in his struggle to kick a bad habit and returns to his broadcast to the great applause of understanding, forgiving fans. For all his arrogant, know-it-all ways, Rush has made some very valid points over the years I’ve occasionally listened to his show. There are, after all, hypocrites and ill-intentioned rascals of all political persuasions, and he has unmasked more than a few who reside left-of-center.

Unfortunately, however, his critical gaze has seldom fallen upon himself or the people whose views support his own. So once he regains this adoring audience — over which he holds almost total sway — I would like to see him publicly re-examine some of his own narrow-minded priorities and prejudices. Maybe even change his opinion about a thing or two, like decriminalizing drugs and providing tax-funded treatment programs for all those desperate addicts who aren’t millionaires.

Perhaps even eat a little crow, because, as he rightly told us: “Even humiliation, when associated with self-induced failure, is part of growing up.”

And coming only half-clean can leave you with a polluted mind.

From David Long, November 2003.