Harrumph Roast

You say, 'Rush Limbaugh,' and I think, 'Winston Churchill'

I don't know about you, but I can't wait until this stupid election is over so I can go out to California on November 19 to watch Rush Limbaugh receive the Statesmanship Award at the Claremont Institute's annual Winston Churchill Dinner.

That may be the only time I'll ever write the words "Rush Limbaugh" and "Winston Churchill" in the same sentence. (Damn, I did it again.)

Limbaugh was supposed to get the award last year, but he had just gotten out of drug rehab and had to cancel. So Claremont, a severely right-wing think tank that features Pat Sajak on its board, took a gamble and brought in another addict, Bill Bennett, the "Bookie of Virtue" guy, to sub for him.

Wallow in this with me, won't you? Go to Anecdotage.com's Limbaugh page for Mr. Microphone's pre-drug-scandal comments on druggies:

"If people are violating the law by doing drugs," rabid Republican radio host Rush Limbaugh declared in 1995, "they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

"I actually think that we've gone soft on punishment in this country," he remarked on another occasion.

Then he was unmasked by The National Enquirer as addicted to prescription pain-killing drugs that, under federal law, are no different from cocaine. As Rick Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker last October:

The suggestion that he became addicted to them under a doctor's care is almost certainly false. So is the suggestion that he wasn't taking them "recreationally"—i.e., to get high. The prescribed dose of Oxycontin, one tablet every twelve hours, is usually sufficient to relieve severe pain. The Enquirer has Limbaugh purchasing nearly twelve thousand during a four-month period in 2001—enough to soothe his back troubles for sixteen years.

Limbaugh deserves compassion no less (and no more) than any other drug addict. It would be a travesty of justice to lock him up for ingesting chemicals, an activity whose only victim, if any, has been himself. But the 450,000 Americans already in jail for breaking the drug laws also represent a failure of justice, and an even bigger failure of policy. (The United States imprisons more people for drug violations than the European Union imprisons for all causes combined, and the E.U.'s population exceeds the U.S.'s by a hundred million.)

At least Claremont was consistent in picking Bennett to fill in last year. Joshua Green's "Bookie of Virtue" story in the June 2003 Washington Monthly (see the link above) noted:

As drug czar under George H.W. Bush, he applied a get-tough approach to drug use, arguing that individuals have a moral responsibility to own up to their addiction. … Few vices have escaped Bennett's withering scorn. He has opined on everything from drinking to "homosexual unions" to The Ricki Lake Show to wife-swapping. There is one, however, that has largely escaped Bennett's wrath: gambling. … On July 12 of [2002], for instance, Bennett lost $340,000 at Caesar's Boardwalk Regency in Atlantic City. And just three weeks ago, on March 29 and 30, [2003], he lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. "There's a term in the trade for this kind of gambler," says a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours. "We call them losers."

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Spin the wheel yourself and go to Strange Cosmos to read Claremont board member Pat Sajak's 2002 speech about Hollywood to the students of Michigan's strange little Hillsdale College. He says Hollywood is "clueless." You might want to take a cue from Dick Cheney and say to Sajak, "Buy a vowel, but first, why don't you go fck yourself."

Sajak really did deliver the speech about Hollywood. But if you want to step into a parallel universe, check out George W. Bush's appointment of Bennett as U.S. Slots Czar on the Bizarro World site whitehouse.org:

Bush told him, "I have some complimentary cocktail coupons and a free upgrade to the Lincoln bedroom to make you feel right at home, sir."

Caution: Enter that alternate reality at your own peril. It's no Willoughby. And when you return, you'll be faced with even more bullshit. Just yesterday, in a typical election-eve ploy by our incongruous lawmakers, Capitol Hill roasted Hollywood for too much sex and violence. A Los Angeles Times account, re-posted here by the San Francisco Chronicle, absurdly led with this: "Reacting to growing public concerns about sex and violence in the media…."

Yeah, right. Heard about the sex and violence in Iraqi prisons and streets lately?

The leader of this latest crusade is Kansas senator Sam Brownback, the 2000 Distinguished Christian Statesman, an honor bestowed by Fort Lauderdale preacher D. James Kennedy's powerful D.C. outlet, the Center for Christian Statesmanship, which evangelizes inside government buildings.

Previous winners of this award include John Ashcroft—read my piece "The Gospel According to the A.G." from April 2001, in which Ashcroft, the 1996 Distinguished Christian Statesman, was quoted as saying that the government "gives only half a gift when it doesn't give the spirit of Christ." I wrote that story when Ashcroft was just a threatening religious crank in a new and bumbling Bush administration. That was before 9/11 gave him the Great Commission to sweep us off our feet and into detention.

Face it: We've just got too many of these statesmen running around.

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