Not too long ago, the National Enquirer broke the story of Rush Limbaugh’s drug habit. Everyone sort of dismissed it then because it was the Enquirer after all, long the purveyor of the sort of drivel that now resides in the Weekly World News.
Now that he’s admitted to everything, I feel like it’s time to comment. Part of me remembers that the drug war is folly and that legalization is the right thing to do, letting adults make their own choices and live with the consequences of their actions—arresting them for any legal transgressions that result from drug use. The other part of me sees Limbaugh as a disgusting hypocrite who deserves whatever he gets.
“Do as I say, not as I do.” That’s the cardinal principle of Rush Limbaugh and his crony William Bennett. They rail against sinners with a vehemence that belies their complicity. What a life it must have been, to get on the radio for three hours every day while knowing in your heart of hearts that you’re a filthy liar and that you’re in for an inevitable crash as drugs thrash through everything you’ve built over years. At the level these two operated, they had to be completely aware of their moral failings. It’s amazing that they were able to persevere in the brink of such knowledge.
I’ve had minor moral failures in my life and they ate away at my consciousness until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was disgusted by my inability to do the right thing. I launched quickly into a concerted course of self-discipline because I couldn’t take it. It would have taken a systematic denial of reality of epic proportions to continue on for three years, though I suppose massive amounts of painkillers probably numbed ol’ Rush to the implications.
His confession reminds me of that scene in Quiz Show when Charles Van Doren confesses his duplicity at a Senate committee hearing. He delivers a moving speech about how he’s taken for granted the opportunities he’s encountered. A number of Senators then applaud him for his erudition until the Senator from New York mentions that he doesn’t “think an adult of [his] intelligence should be commended for simply, at long last, telling the truth.”
Rush: I know you’ll never read this, but I want to remind you what you said about Bill Clinton when he was implicated in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. You said that character matters, that the way someone behaves in private reflects on his performance on the job. You have demonstrated poor character and your credibility by your own standards is shot. You have betrayed your listeners—I’m not one of them, by the way—and you have to figure out you can regain their trust. That’s what your statement should have covered.
[UPDATE (10/16/03): Bill Maher comments further—acerbically, I might add.]
[UPDATE (10/20/03): “Virtue is its own drawback”: how the stances taken by William Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, and Dr. Laura Schlessinger backfired.]