Evan Thomas has a long piece on Rush Limbaugh and the oxycontin saga in Newsweek. It is not flattering.
Rush Limbaugh has always had far more followers than friends. Bombastic and clowning on air, shy and bumptious off it, Limbaugh could count on 20 million “Dittoheads” and talk-radio fans to tune in five days a week. But it’s hard to find many people who really know him. He was a lonely object of mass adulation, socially ill at ease, at least occasionally depressed and, for the past several years, living in a private hell of pain and compulsion.
The man behind the curtain is not the God of Family Values but a childless, twice-divorced, thrice-married schlub whose idea of a good time is to lie on his couch and watch football endlessly. When Rush Limbaugh declared to his radio audience that he was “your epitome of morality of virtue, a man you could totally trust with your wife, your daughter, and even your son in a Motel 6 overnight,” he was acting. He “regards himself as an entertainer who is very pleased that people pay attention to his political views,” says Wall Street editorial writer John Fund, who collaborated with Limbaugh on one of the radio hostÃ¢€™s books (“The Way Things Ought to Be”).
Limbaugh rarely shows up in Washington and counts few political heavyweights as his friends. One exception is Bill Bennett, whose book, “The Moral Compass,” Limbaugh touted on radio. Bennett knew nothing of Limbaugh’s pill popping. “He’s a very private man,” Bennett told NEWSWEEK. “He takes problems into himself.” Journalists who have spent time with Limbaugh have been struck by the contrast between Rush the Radio Know-It-All and the private, ill-at-ease Limbaugh. “It was almost as if every step away from the studio, he grew smaller and less confident, shrinking with each step into the real-life Rush Limbaugh,” Randall Bloomquist, an editor at Radio & Records newspaper, told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd spent a revealing dinner date with Limbaugh in 1993. “What I do in my off time has nothing to do with what I am,” he told Dowd. “I don’t go to movies. I’ve been to a couple of plays. I basically work. I don’t watch television. I watch the news and the N.F.L.; that’s it.”: Dowd recounted this mournful snippet of conversation: “‘What’s your idea of an ideal day?’ ‘I don’t have an ideal day,’ he replied, glumly. ‘Well, what if a good friend came into town one Saturday, what would you do?’ ‘When I have someone coming into town for the weekend, I get stressed out on Tuesday thinking about it’.” Limbaugh went on to say that he hates walking, hates window-shopping and likes New York mainly because you can order in.
This isn’t exactly news. One would think anyone who had followed Limbaugh at all would realize that he was something of a shy geek doing a bombastic act on the radio. And, frankly, while his lifestyle isn’t that of a typical, gregarious celebrity, it isn’t all that unusual. Minus the $30 million mansion and the drug addiction, of course.
Limbaugh clung to the ideology of self-reliance to the last. “I’m not going to portray myself as a victim,” he said. Millions of pain sufferers who use powerful medications could sympathize. But the mockery was instantaneous. Liberal mouth Al Franken (author of “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot”) hit the airwaves to relish Limbaugh’s greatest hits of hypocrisy and his sneers at celebrity dopers like baseball player Darryl Strawberry and rocker Kurt Cobain, and virtually every newspaper dredged up this 1995 quote from Rush: “Too many whites are getting away with drug use. The answer is to … find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river.”
The comparison is, of course, absurd. While I favor decriminalization of drugs and the treatment of addiction as a medical problem rather than a legal one, that is not our current public policy. The only way one can get addicted to cocaine or heroine (domestically, at least) is to break the law, which is a willful act. Getting addicted to a prescription pain killer that one has been on for months following surgery is a blameless act, even if feeding that addiction leads to criminal conduct. The two are on a different moral plane.