The Pain Pills Claim Another Victim

Anything that brings Rush Limbaugh down a peg is presumably good for humankind, but anyone not as depraved as he is ought to feel mostly sympathy for him right now. [*]

I can, and do, hope this discredits him with his audience, but being a drug addict (unlike, for example, being a serial groper [see below]) doesn’t make him in any way a bad person, and though it does make him a lawbreaker there’s no evidence that he committed any crime other than drug possession. You can’t even accuse him of hypocrisy, as he hasn’t been a big proponent of the drug war.

The gloating, sneering tone of the Daily News article sets my teeth on edge. Yes, Limbaugh is a “moralizing motormouth,” but what happened to not kicking a man when he’s down? No one, not even Limbaugh, deserves to go through the living hell that is opiate addiction.

I’ll think less of my allies on the left side of the aisle if they make another Bill Bennett party out of this. Bennett deserved the heat he took. Limbaugh deserves competent drug treatment and a decent amount of tact from his enemies, and support from his friends, while he sorts himself out.

Update John Hawkins at Right Wing News follows up. [See his updates.] The claim about hearing loss as a consequence of hydrocodone (Vicodin) abuse is news to me; perhaps a little bit of good will come out of Limbaugh’s misfortune if the story about him helps spread the word. The abuse of prescription narcotics is the fastest-growing category of drug abuse, a pattern established before Oxycontin appeared on the market.

Second update Atrios provides a clip in which Limbaugh makes fun of the “disease” theory of addiction, which, I agree, makes his actual behavior a legitimate subject of comment. And I think it’s fair to ask supporters of harsh punishments for drug users in general whether that ought to apply in Limbaugh’s case, and, if not, why not.

I don’t, however, agree with Atrios’s commenters that Limbaugh’s having a horrible disease is something to rejoice over or poke fun at. Isn’t there supposed to be a difference between us and the Limbaughs of the world? And isn’t part of that difference supposed to be about ordinary decency?

Third update Newsday quotes Limbaugh as dumping on Jerry Garcia just after his death, and reports a 1995 Limbaugh show where he calls for sending drug users — not just dealers, but users — “up the river.”

So I have to take back the statement that he wasn’t a hypocrite; he was. (Or perhaps the comments came before he developed his own habit; still, if he had had a change of heart about drug users, he should have said so.) Anyone who wants to say that he ought to suffer now the penalties he called for others to suffer then at least has a debating point.

None of this what I take to be the basic point: that when anyone, even a political enemy, suffers a horrible misfortune, even one largely of his own making, it’s not nice, not polite, and not smart to treat it as a matter for open rejoicing.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

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