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Wednesday, October 01, 2003


Limbaugh’s Pill-gate: Everyone Is On Drugs
I’ve said it before: as someone who monitors the hard right (and the members of the mainstream media who give the hard right a free pass), I feel like the hapless teacher in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Mr. Hand (played by the late great Ray Walston) who by the end of the movie was convinced that everyone was on drugs. That’s how I feel when I see how hatchet men and women like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity have gained tens of millions of devotees and have received acceptance from much of the mainstream media, despite their extensive histories of transparent dishonesty, slander, and political dirty tricks that have not only harmed politicians but often people who have no dog in the fight.

I think that if the revelations about Limbaugh’s alleged drug use turn out to be true (and I’m willing to bet Limbaugh’s pal William Bennett that they are true; see Addendum), then it’s a good thing for America. I don’t think it’s good because I want Limbaugh to suffer (as I told Drudge on his radio show, I didn’t want him to suffer; I just wanted him to tell the truth), but because a scandal like this (and a possible prison term) would remove Limbaugh’s voice from the public debate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of taking on Limbaugh and his lies on his own turf, but the mainstream media has been derelict in addressing Limbaugh’s hate-filled propaganda and millions of Americans are swayed by Limbaugh’s poisonous memes. I’m echoing Michael Kinsley’s thoughts about William Bennett’s compulsive gambling when I make the following observation about Limbaugh: hillbilly heroin is not my first-choice vice if I were designing this fantasy-come-true from scratch. But it will do. It will definitely do.

My first choice vice that I wish had led to Limbaugh’s downfall is his destructive and intellectually dishonest rhetoric. It would have been great if members of the mainstream media had addressed Limbaugh’s hateful words and paranoid conspiracy theories years ago, and it led to a situation similar to that faced by Limbaugh’s spiritual ancestor, Joe McCarthy (for a far from exhaustive list of Limbaugh’s hatemongering, see my post from the past two weeks—especially the 9/30 post that indicates that Limbaugh is still adhering to the Scaife-inspired Clinton Body Count; also click here and here). Unfortunately, there are no latter-day Edward R. Murrows in the mainstream media who have stepped up to the plate; today’s breed of journalists have been apologists for Limbaugh; included in those ranks are Ted Koppel, Howard Kurtz, Tom Brokaw, and, until recently, the people at ESPN. If we lived in a just world, Limbaugh’s career would have been destroyed by the exposure of his hatemongering and calumny.

In fact, the drug allegations allow me to see Limbaugh as a human being. Although I wouldn’t touch any of the drugs Limbaugh is accused of using with a ten-foot pole (see the disclosure at the end of this post), I can understand someone who has a drug problem. Drug abuse is a common response to problems that people face in life. I can sympathize with people who have substance abuse problems. On the other hand, I can’t understand someone who, day-after-day and year-after-year, spews Limbaugh’s brand of hate speech. As is the case with Karl Rove, Limbaugh sees political enemies’s families as “fair game.” A case in point, right after Vince Foster’s suicide, Limbaugh suggested to his radio listeners that the reason there were no public statements by Foster’s widow was because of fear because she knew what the Clintons had done to her husband. To Freepers lurking on this site, let me diagram this for you: Limbaugh pretends to express concern for a bereaved widow while fostering an atmosphere in which Foster’s widow’s pain was extended. What is ironic is that what might lead to Limbaugh’s downfall is his human weakness, not his inhuman and soulless behavior on his radio and television shows.

Perhaps something good can come out of this sordid affair. People who successfully deal with substance abuse problems are told to make amends and come clean about past misdeeds. Sincere apologies to Vince Foster’s family and the Clinton family would be a good start.

[Disclosure: I have never used or even heard of OxyContin, Lorcet and hydrocodone. The only illegal substance I have any significant experience with was the drug of choice in Fast Times At Ridgemont High; however, I never used it to the point of being in a state in which I hit myself on the head with one of my Vans (if you don’t know what I mean by this, rent the Fast Times DVD).]

Addendum: Even though one of the writers at National Review is raising doubts about Limbaugh’s innocence, I believe that Limbaugh, like any American, should have a presumption of innocence—even though it was never something he wished for the Clintons. I believe that any investigation should be handled with professionalism and should be done by impartial investigators who have no ax to grind; I write this even though Limbaugh had no misgivings about serious questions about the impartiality of Kenneth Starr and his investigation.


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