Rush to Judgment


One of the most nauseating memes in the otherwise enjoyable story of Rush Limbaugh's exposure as a pill-popping hypocrite is the idea that the formerly zaftig radio god has somehow shown "courage" by admitting that he has a substance-abuse problem.

(Full disclosure: Rush has had kind things to say about Reason, once even declaring on air [scroll down], "You want a good magazine? Reason magazine… It's a magazine for libertarians. It's a magazine for everybody. It's a magazine for the world. Reason magazine: A good, good magazine." Around here, we like to think it wasn't just the OxyContin talking.)

This Sunday, the Fox News gang–especially Fred Barnes (surprise!)–spoke of Rush's "courage" and gave him props for publicly admitting that he was a gentleman junkie. Yesterday, in National Review Online, Jay Nordlinger recasts Rush as a latter-day Stoic, writing:

[T]here is a lot of virtue in him.

In fact, it's amazing how he carried on during the period of his addiction ? coupled with the loss of his hearing. He was addicted to pills, felt his hearing slipping away, until it left him entirely ? and he carried on manfully in public, doing his show, retaining his poise, never complaining, never whining. And now he has looked his monster in the eye and is taking care of it.

Please. I've never subscribed to Al Franken's view that Rush is a big fat idiot (or, post-diet, simply an idiot). At his best–that is, before he became a de facto mouthpiece for the Republican party during the first Bush administration–Rush was pretty funny and an interesting, bracing figure on the American pop cult landscape.

But to suggest that it's courageous or brave for Rush to fess up to an addiction after being outed by his housekeeper, tied to an illegal drug operation, and stepping down after a major media flap is plain horseshit. That's not courage, that's damage control. Indeed, if Rush had any bravery, he wouldn't have made his statement about entering rehab just before a long weekend, a p.r. move designed to minimize coverage. He would have admitted his problem long before it became personally advantageous to do so.

And just how is he a hypocrite? As Reason's Jacob Sullum and Ellis Henican of NY Newsday have pointed out, back in the day, Rush suggested that illegal drug users should go to jail.