Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hypocrites, Hillbillies, and Heroin

Rush Limbaugh deserves criticism because he:

a. is an prescription drug addict (recovering)

b. is a hypocrite

Your answer to that question depends largely on your politics, I suppose. Not just your like or dislike of Limbaugh's politics, but whether you think the U.S. has the correct drug policy.

Those who want to play the hypocrite card have gotten a little silly, though. The Minneapolis Star Tribune sniffed that Limbaugh was guilty of "the very things he derided in others." Media outlets have been recycling a quote from more than ten years ago where Limbaugh argued that drug users ought to be "convicted" and "sent up." The reaching even extended to Limbaugh's criticism of then-Governor Bill Clinton for saying he smoked marijuana but "didn't inhale." Clinton quotes in Limbaugh stories here, here, and here.

First of all, the criticism of the "didn't inhale" quote is not a about drug use, but what would later become known as a Clintonian response -- trying to have it both ways and parsing every word. It was a dumb thing to say for someone who would later become President. The whole point of smoking marijuana is to inhale. One need not be free of drug use to point that out. In fact, a level of sophistication about marijuana use helps illustrate the absurdity of the "didn't inhale" quote.

Second, is the 1995 quote the only one they could find? This quote (apparently uttered both on Limbaugh's radio and television show on the same day) is making more appearances than the famous looted vase footage after U.S. and coalition forces captured Baghdad. It is a stretch to say that Limbaugh was an activist on the issue of drug prosecution. Moreover, one can make a distinction between addiction to legal prescription painkillers and use of street drugs. Maybe both need to be punished equally, but it is possible to believe otherwise without being a dreaded hypocrite.

Oh. The answer to the question above is "a."

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