Limbaugh the Lawbreaker
October 14, 2003
Doesnt anyone have mixed feelings about
His announcement that he has a
drug addiction, and will spend a month in rehab, has brought forth two
reactions: unalloyed sympathy from those who share his views, and fierce
condemnation from those who dont.
The former, the general
conservative response to the news, I can at least understand. But the other
doesnt make much sense. It generally runs like this:
Limbaugh is so judgmental about other people, it serves him right.
Maybe this experience will teach him a little tolerance.
Say what? I disagree with
Limbaugh about a lot of things, agree with him on others, but how is he
intolerant? Hes a combative conservative, of sorts, but that
doesnt mean hes intolerant, except in the minds of those
ever-so-tolerant liberals who are certain that those who disagree with
them must be bigots. He likes the give-and-take of a good argument.
As G.K. Chesterton remarked,
A man should read the arguments of his opponents as eagerly as a
spy reads the battle plans of the enemy. And as a rule, this is what
But its startling how he
polarizes the public. It should be possible for people to take slightly more
complicated positions about his current woes. For instance, an occasional
conservative might say, I usually agree with Rushs
positions, but they should throw the book at him for his illegal drug
purchases. Or a liberal might say, I cant stand the
guy, but his personal drug use is none of the publics, or the
Over the years I havent
heard Limbaugh say anything that now makes him seem hypocritical. In the
last few days Ive read that, years ago, he supported the Federal
war on drugs (yeah, were winning that one too), and
that, more recently, he has softened his tone, maybe because of his own
But what does it really matter?
This is so marginal to his work. He hasnt been a prominent enemy
of drug abuse. Hes no different from a comedian who turns out to
have a problem with booze. Too bad, but on with the show!
But in one respect,
Limbaughs enemies remind me of the single thing that irritates me
about the man himself. That is, they conflate things that are essentially
This is what Limbaugh
sometimes does. During the long buildup for the war on Iraq, which he
ardently favored, Rush used a very broad brush against opponents of the
war. Time and again he said they were liberal Democrats who had never
accepted George W. Bushs legitimacy as the winner of the 2000
presidential election. He reduced a great issue to a mere partisan
The real question was whether
the opponents of the war were right. It had nothing to do with their
motives; and, in fact, they had many motives, some of which
werent partisan at all. I was one of many who opposed the war,
even though Id been hugely relieved when Al Gore lost in 2000
(even if not exactly overjoyed that Bush won).
Limbaugh, all too
characteristically, left no room for the principled dissenter on the war. He
ignored conservatives and libertarians who opposed it for their own
reasons. Hed hardly admit the possibility that a liberal might have
good reasons for opposing it. All opponents of the war were conflated with
Ted Kennedy and Tom Daschle.
In short, Limbaughs
arguments can be as cynical and simplistic as those of the people who are
blasting him today. Thats what happens when your only explanation
for your opponents views is their sheer villainy. Accusations
arent arguments, especially loose and unfocused accusations.
In that sense, I too hope this
experience will teach Limbaugh a lesson. But I wish him well. I also like a
good argument, and I want him to emerge an even better debater, not a
In any case, it appears that
Limbaugh is a lawbreaker; but if so, he has broken laws that should never
have been passed. Still, some people hate him so much that they hope
hell be destroyed, even if it takes bad laws to do the job.
Thats the kind of hatred
weve learned to expect from those who consider themselves the
Forces of Tolerance.