John Podhoretz listened to Rush Limbaugh’s return to the airwaves yesterday and wasn’t particularly impressed.

Rush Limbaugh made an unforgettable return to the airwaves yesterday – painful, funny, awkward, emotional and occasionally very raw.


He was on the verge of tears throughout the first half-hour, and he lost his temper later on with a hostile caller who had demanded to know whether Limbaugh’s hearing loss a few years back had been the result of his drug addiction.


His bluntness was, at times, staggering. Responding to critics who had dug up a quote from 1995 about how more rich white people should go to jail for drug use and accused him of hypocrisy, Limbaugh said he had himself begun taking drugs around the same time and that “the truth of the matter is that I avoided the subject of drugs because I was keeping a secret . . . I’ve been doing what drug addicts do, which is keep secrets.”

He said his experience in rehab had been so revelatory it was as though he had been “reborn at the age of 50,” that it had been as important as “first grade” and that he wished everybody could go through a learning process as profound. But his explanation about what he had learned was nowhere near as clear as the unambiguous assertion of his responsibility for his own behavior.

“I can no longer turn over the power of my feelings to anybody else,” he said. “I have thought I had to be this way or that way in order to be liked or understood . . . . One real simple essence: I can’t be responsible for anybody’s happiness but my own . . . I have to put myself first . . . that doesn’t mean being rudely selfish. It means I can’t depend on other people to make me happy.”

That’s recovery-speak, and Limbaugh’s critics will surely note that had another public figure made such a statement in the past, Rush might have subjected him to merciless teasing.

Part of his punishment for his addiction will be that his enemies will be able to turn his own words against him. But given his willingness to accept responsibility for his own failings and speak truthfully and even soberly about them, he doesn’t have to worry that his fans will desert him anytime soon.

I haven’t listened to Limbaugh much over the last couple of years, partly because of the inconvenient timing of his show, but mainly because his schtick had worn thin. Still, it reads as if he’s dealing with a very awkward situation very well. Bill Clinton is the only public figure I can think of who managed to suffer public humiliation as if nothing had ever happened. My guess is Limbaugh will be back on his game in short order.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    he lost his temper later on with a hostile caller who had demanded to know whether Limbaugh’s hearing loss a few years back had been the result of his drug addiction.

    Podhoretz missed that fact the caller was a plant plugging his own website.

    Rush was annoyed because he gave the guy air time. I’m sure someone on the IFB told him to dump the call.

    I won’t mention the guys website… He does not deserve the hits. But the caller was only on the phone to plug his site.

    I went out of my way to try and listen but I only caught about 30 minutes of the whole show. I did hear the guy plug his site and was actually surprised how long it took Rush to dump him.

  2. bryan says:

    rush was doing a good job talking the addict talk yesterday. It will be interested to track how much he keeps it up over the coming months and years. It will be especially interesting to see what happens in Fla. – if he’s prosecuted.

    I thought he did a good job of appearing contrite. I never have listened to the guy for the same reasons as you, inconvenient timing, but I happened to be by the computer yesterday.

  3. I caught a little of yesterday’s show. Rush sounded good; it was good to hear him speak of recovery not like a 12-step automaton, but in a really sincere, down-to-earth way.