Should Rush Limbaugh Do Time?

by SAUL LANDAU

Was Rush Limbaugh high when he said, "There’s nothing good about drug use…It destroys individuals… families… societies, some might say this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs…And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

Was Rush stoned when he sneered, "When you strip it all away, Jerry Garcia destroyed his life on drugs. And yet he’s being honored, like some godlike figure. Our priorities are out of whack, folks." October 5, 1995

Significant differences between Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Garcia!

Limbaugh hasn’t yet died from overdosing on opiates–he may have damaged his hearing — and has far less talent than the late lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead. Unlike Jerry, a most un-judgmental individual, Rush is a flaming hypocrite–an addict who pretends he’s superior to all other addicts. The cops have thus far not arrested Limbaugh, who confessed to his addiction.

Rush blamed it on the after effects of an old operation. "I am still experiencing that pain. Rather than opt for additional surgery for these conditions, I chose to treat the pain with prescribed medication. This medication turned out to be highly addictive."

"Turned out to be?" Rush didn’t know opium is addictive? And illegal? Using Rush’s own words, the police should jail him. On October 5, 1995, he lectured his radio listeners: "…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."

Rush haters might picture the Great Bombast in a jail cell filled with black crack heads, who had heard him on September 28 refer to race on ESPN as he demeaned the talent of Donovon McNabb, the black Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback, words that subsequently forced him to resign as a sports commentator. The men in the cell might …well, your imagination can take it from there.

In real life, Rush’s lawyers convince authorities not to arrest the multi millionaire radio host because he really planned to kick the habit–this time around. He has failed several previous detox and rehab programs.

Rush stands in a tradition of right wing hypocrites who seem to beg to get caught. He demanded that police enforce drug laws–against others, that is. "…Why aren’t we going after drugs as fervently as we’re going after cigarettes…Tobacco addiction is a 30 year death. Heroin addiction is instant death and yet we’re not going after this stuff with the same moral fervor…"

Was Rush subconsciously pleading for the cops to develop enough moral fervor to come after him? When televangelist Jimmy Swaggert preached against sin–including adultery and fornication–did he secretly want the cops to catch him with underage hookers? Or when Jim Bakker steamed the airwaves with his pious recriminations against sinners, did he aim to expose his own adultery? When a staunch conservative Republican like Henry Hyde (IL) railed against Bill Clinton in the mid 1990s for his Monica dalliances did he covertly aim at exposing his own sexual indiscretions? Hyde’s affair destroyed another family.

Far right hypocrisy promotes "do as I say, not as I do" as its guiding message. When caught sinning, the rightist confesses, gets reborn and continues to admonish sinners as if he had committed his own sins in a previous life.

In 1982, I filmed Bobby Bauman, a former Republican Congressman from Maryland’s eastern shore, for a documentary, Quest for Power: Sketches of the New American Right, with Frank Diamand, for Dutch television. We traveled with Bauman in his comeback bid in the Republican primary. On October 3, 1980 Washington DC police had caught this pro-family father of four at a male brothel, where he had parked his car with the identifying congressional license plates, and charged him with committing oral sodomy on a teenage boy.

Bauman blamed his indiscretion on drinking. Now he had confessed his sin and sobered up, he claimed, his religion offered him the right to retake his congressional seat. Previously, his conservative record included blocking attempts to get rights for homosexuals.

"I take full responsibility for what I did," Bauman said. The reborn Republican then resumed his condemnatory tone toward all things liberal and sinful.

I covered my mouth to keep from laughing. Bauman had stopped drinking but could barely refrain from pawing his campaign manager, a handsome young man. Shortly after we filmed with him, Bauman dropped out of the primary. His opponent apparently had obtained a compromising photo of him. Later, Bauman emerged from the closet and repented his gay bashing behavior. I applauded his courage and honesty, although he still remained a staunch conservative.

Confession and responsibility-taking resonated when Limbaugh mouthed the Bobby Bauman formula: "I take full responsibility for my problem," Rush told his radio listeners in his confession speech on October 10.

Like Bauman, Rush diffused the complex issues of addiction and "sin" by asking listeners to use their influence with God on his behalf, so that he could return after detox to continue his arrogant ranting on the air. "I ask now for your prayers. I look forward to resuming our excursion into broadcast excellence together."

Rush took drugs alone and went on the air stoned. But the media has diluted its language concerning Rush’s opium addiction. They refer to "prescription, pain relievers" instead of saying that Rush’s drug of choice, OxyContin works like heroin, but in pill form.

On October 10, 2003 Delthia Ricks on Newsday referred to OxyContin as the "heroin of rural America [it’s hard to get heroine in farm areas], and one of the most widely abused prescription medications that addicts snort, chew or inject to get high."

OxyContin was designed as an oral medication to mediate severe, chronic pain–as experienced by cancer patients, for example. Heroin users inject their drug, while, Oxy-heads, as the street pushers call them, drop timed-release capsules that last for twelve hours. But Oxyheads quickly learn that by crushing the pills into powder, they get super charged highs a la heroine and sometimes a fatal overdose. The Newsday story reports that in higher than recommended doses, "OxyContin is capable of inducing an intense state of euphoria. Addicts, doctors say, require increasing doses as dependency worsens." According to Wilma Cline, his housekeeper and supplier, Rush popped up to thirty pills a day. She says he "once used almost 100 a day" in month and a half long binge. She told The National Enquirer that Rush hid his stash "under his mattress so his wife wouldn’t find them. Others were passed in a Denny’s parking lot."

Oh, the sleaze of it all! Earlier this year, the ultra judgmental, but equally slimy Bill Bennett explained how God could accept him as a militant crusader against all vice and still allow him to indulge his high-stakes gambling addiction.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush, W’s kid brother, entreated the public to understand why his family merited special privilege. That occurred when Noelle, his daughter, got busted for drugs–over and over again. Yet he gladly blesses the legal code that sends poor people to prison for using the same or similar drugs. I feel certain he’ll make another exception for Rush.

"I am no role model," Rush told his October 10 audience. "I refuse to let anyone think I am doing something great here, when there are people you never hear about, who face long odds and never resort to such escapes. They are the role models. I am no victim and do not portray myself as such." He’s correct. By law, the cops should nail his fat butt and throw it into a cell and, in Florida where he lives, he could be sentenced to five years in prison.

The cops have already pinched Rush’s suppliers, as the law requires, but the cops have yet not touched Mr. Excellence in Broadcasting. Much as my vengeful self would love to see him in a cell, I don’t think prison for drug users–or those who sell it–serves our society well. The drug war has meant disaster for Colombians and for poor people in our inner cities, where drive by drug-related shootings continue–after 100 years of this idiotic "war."

Perhaps Rush will have an epiphany at the detox center and emerge as a compassionate human being. He may lose his audience as a result, but they would find another charlatan who would appeal to that streak of bitter disappointment that runs through sectors of middle class America, one that loves to blame others–people of color, the poor, liberals, the Clintons, the tax man, immigrants and drug dealers–for their own unsatisfied aspirations.

Hey, maybe they’ll even have a reformed Rush to kick around, one that pleads to the Ayatollah Ashcroft not to hassle cancer patients availing themselves of medical marijuana.

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, has just been published by Pluto Press. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org


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