has been a lot said about Rush Limbaugh's recent woes involving
his history of drug abuse. But, in the interest of piling on,
let me say a bit more.
of all, while downing a hundred Oxycontin tablets a day in a seven-week
binge is almost certainly not a good idea, I am not attacking
Limbaugh for his slide into addiction. No man who was known, in
his youth, to occasionally gobble down four or five hits of acid
at a Grateful Dead concert can afford to be too harsh on
the indulgences of others.
Limbaugh is not merely a private citizen who happened to develop
a drug problem. He is also a famous political commentator whose
views influence millions of others. And as far as I can tell,
he never stopped recommending that others go to prison for what
he himself was doing. Ellis Hennican quotes
Limbaugh from 1995:
nothing good about drug use… We know it. It destroys individuals.
It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some
might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against
selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And
the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies
and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. 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."
There is some ambiguous
evidence that Limbaugh may have changed his opinion by 1998,
when he suggested legalization, but on the whole those remarks
seem to me to be a sarcastic comment on the plight of the (legal)
the response of conservative defenders of Limbaugh is likely to
be along the lines of, "True, he did not live up to the principles
he espoused. But simply because he was weak doesn't mean his position
against legalization is wrong. In fact, his own case just goes
to show how dangerous illegal drug usage is."
is fine, as far as it goes. The fact that we are all sinners does
not mean we must all advocate sinning. But it doesn't get Limbaugh
out of this jam. That is because if he, in fact, is still in favor
of drug users being convicted and "sent up," then he
ought to voluntarily go to prison himself. He should now fully
cooperate with prosecutors and not accept any penalty less harsh
than those he recommends for others. If drug users in general
should be "sent up," then so should Limbaugh.
that is apparently not the strategy Limbaugh is pursuing. As explained
by Randy Barnett, Limbaugh's refusal to discuss details of
the drug charges appears to be part of his defense strategy. Barnett's
hypothesis was strengthened by Limbaugh's subsequent public statement,
where he said: "The authorities are conducting an
investigation, and I have been asked to limit my public comments
until this investigation is complete.''
Limbaugh were going to voluntarily accept the penalties that he
has enthusiastically endorsed for others, than he wouldn't need
a defense strategy. He would simply come forward and say, "Yes,
I did it, and I will serve the prison time recommended by law."
a prominent public opinion leader, Limbaugh has taken on a responsibility.
If, at some point in the past, he had vigorously opposed the drug
war, his opinion would have had a huge influence on his many devoted
fans. Thousands of drug users could potentially have avoided prison
if drug laws were simply made less harsh, even without full legalization.
It is wildly inconsistent for him to now attempt to lessen the
penalties he faces when so many others are imprisoned, just as
he has recommended.