I wrote last week about two ways Rush Limbaugh had hit the news. The first came from his comments on ESPN that led to him leaving the show. But the second was a more serious issue. Some people had come forward claiming that Rush had been addicted to prescription pain pills.

I wrote how his comments last Friday seemed very evasive, practically Clintonesque, in avoiding the facts of the allegations. This evasion did not sit well with many people, myself included, and we asked that Rush be a little more forthcoming. Today, Rush did have more to say:

“You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life. So I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication. I first started taking prescription painkillers some years ago when my doctor prescribed them to treat post surgical pain following spinal surgery. Unfortunately the surgery was unsuccessful, and I continued to have severe pain in my lower back and also in my neck due to herniated discs.

I am still experiencing that pain. Rather than opt for additional surgery for these conditions, I chose to treat the pain with prescribed medication. This medication turned out to be highly addictive. Over the past several years I have tried to break my dependence on pain pills and, in fact, twice checked myself into medical facilities in an attempt to do so. I have recently agreed with my physician about the next steps. Immediately following this broadcast, I am checking myself into a treatment center for the next 30 days to once and for all break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me.” [Read the full quote here -- ed]

I have to applaud Rush for coming clean. Too many people dig in their heels and deny any wrongdoing, so publicly confessing to this issue is admirable. I can envision the inner wrestling Rush must have gone through before deciding to announce these uncomfortable facts to his large audience. This could not have been an easy decision to make, even though it was the only right one.

Rush mentioned that while some of the information out there is correct, some of it has “inaccuracies and distortions” that he won’t be able to comment on until he is “free to speak about them.” Some people have criticized Rush for saying that he cannot talk about the particulars, but there are valid reasons for this. Most likely his lawyer has told him not to say anything specific because there is a police investigation going on. Some pundits on both the left and right are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the image of Rush being led handcuffed to a police car. I myself said that I expected justice to be served in this matter, so if that means he has to serve time, that is what should be required.

But in this past week, I have learned a few things about prescription drug abuse and the law—mainly that the law does see a difference between use of illegal narcotics like heroin and cocaine, and the illegal use of prescription drugs. In the case of narcotics, both the dealers and the users are prosecuted fully; but in the case of prescription drug abuse, only the dealers are prosecuted. If Rush is a user and not a reseller of these pills, his prosecution would be unprecedented in the history of federal law. Since the law does not normally prosecute people in Rush’s position, any legal action taken against him regarding this issue must therefore be suspected as a politically or personally motivated attack. There are also some questionable issues about the people who leveled these charges at Rush. One was convicted of identity theft. Wilma Cline claims to have a tape of Rush buying drugs from her, but it’s a 3rd degree felony to tape someone without consent in Florida. So if this does become a court case, the tape—if one exists—is inadmissible evidence.

So what’s next for Rush? He has voluntarily checked into a treatment center for the next month to break his addiction to pain medication for good. This choice has at least three benefits: first, Rush can commit to a month of steady medical care to help break him from this addiction. He might also reconsider additional surgeries to fix his spinal problem and alleviate the pain that started the addiction in the first place. Second, Rush will probably be sequestered from the press during this time. Once the next scandal or big news hits the front page, Rush’s addiction will fade into obscurity. Third, his show will be guest-hosted by a variety of people. Since Rush’s show has such a huge listener base, it’s quite possible that some of these guest hosts could use this national exposure to catapult their radio careers. Sean Hannity currently holds the #2 slot behind Rush; much of his rise to fame in the radio industry can be directly attributed to Rush’s involvement and allowing Sean to guest-host for him on several occasions.

So Rush will be off the radio for the next month, and his audience will have some time to come to grips with his admission. His addiction to drugs is regrettable and may lose him many listeners, but I am very glad that he publicly confessed to his addiction. I hope the coming month will see Rush free from addiction and back doing what he loves to do. I suspect any legal action, if it takes place, will come after Rush leaves the treatment center. Time will tell.

Rush Limbaugh is a major fixture in the radio business. For more than fifteen years, Rush has broadcast his views and opinions over the airwaves. Many people love him, others despise him, but all have to agree that Rush’s show has been monumentally popular. Industry people even credit Rush with reviving the AM band in general, and talk radio in particular. But love him or hate him, Rush has hit the front pages twice this week.

The first hit came while Rush was on ESPN commenting on the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Buffalo Bills game. Referring to the Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, Rush opined, “I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go,” and “The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.” These comments kicked up a firestorm a few days later as more and more people complained they were racist and hateful. Three of the Democratic presidential candidates, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and Al Sharpton, called for ESPN to fire Rush. Wesley Clark went as far as to call these remarks “hateful and ignorant speech.” Oh, come on! Jesse Jackson calling New York “Hymietown” is racist and hateful. Rush’s comments are not.

Allen Barra of Slate magazine agrees that Rush’s comments were not racist. In an article published Oct. 2, Barra agreed with Rush’s assessment of McNabb. “If Limbaugh were a more astute analyst, he would have been even harsher and said, ‘Donovan McNabb is barely a mediocre quarterback.’ But other than that, Limbaugh pretty much spoke the truth. Limbaugh lost his job for saying in public what many football fans and analysts have been saying privately for the past couple of seasons.” Barra also took time to compare Brad Johnson with Donovan McNabb. In almost every measurable way, Johnson is a better quarterback than McNabb. But people view Johnson as mediocre, while McNabb is often lauded as the best pro quarterback. If McNabb’s performance is worse than Johnson’s, why is he considered the better quarterback? There is only one plausible reason: Rush is right.

I don’t follow football, so I have never watched Rush on ESPN. I do think it’s sad to see Rush forced away from ESPN when he clearly enjoyed it so much. But when it comes to his comments, people have been making a mountain out of a molehill. Many perpetually annoyed liberals have screamed that Rush’s comments were racist, but their claims ring hollow to me. After all, how seriously can I take their complaints about Rush’s comments, when they take no stand against a former Grand Kleagle of the Klu Klux Klan sitting in the Senate? I refer of course to Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who was an active member of the KKK for many years and who has never renounced his affiliation with that organization. But does this concern the liberal left? Not at all. Yet if a conservative makes one comment about the race of a football player, even if many others share his sentiment, liberals will call for his head. Interesting hypocrisy, no?

The second story to hit the news alleges that Rush has been buying thousands of addictive prescription drugs from a black-market drug ring. According to Wilma Cline, who claims to have been Rush’s housekeeper, Rush has been hooked on various potent prescription painkillers. The National Enquirer sat on this particular story for two years, and the obvious question which no one seems to be asking is: why release it this week? If you have been following Rush’s activities, you would have noticed the drug accusations hit right while he was headed for Philadelphia to be the keynote speaker at the annual National Association of Broadcasters meeting. Thus on the day the story broke, there was a substitute filling in for Rush. The timing of this story placed Rush in a position where he was unable to defend himself against these accusations on his radio show, and the curious who listened in on that day would probably assume Rush had gone into hiding to avoid further hits from the press.

On Friday, Rush returned to his radio show, and most of the day he strongly defended his comments about McNabb, but he barely touched on the drug accusations. Here is part of his official response, posted on his Web site and disseminated by EIB: “I am unaware of any investigation by any authorities involving me. No governmental representative has contacted me directly or indirectly. If my assistance is required in the future, I will, of course, cooperate fully.”

I’m pleased that Rush says he is willing to cooperate with the authorities, but he did not definitively reject the notion that he abused prescription drugs. He has not strongly declared his innocence. During the past administration, Bill Clinton was questioned many times by reporters about his various scandals. His responses were inevitably evasive. Usually he would say that since the issue was under investigation, he could not respond. Instead he preferred to wait until all the facts were known. But Clinton himself would have been privy to these facts, so waiting for the investigation to conclude was an attempt to dodge the questions. Clinton could have proclaimed his own innocence, since he was fully aware of his actions in these matters. But he chose not to do that.

Rush was quick to spot these evasions during Clinton’s administration, but I have yet to hear anyone pointing out these same evasions on Rush’s part. I admit that I like listening to Rush, and I do hope he is innocent of these charges. But conservatives like me have a very low tolerance for corruption and law-breaking, even among our own. When someone on the political right does something wrong, we expect that person to do the honorable thing. You can see this expectation reflected in the way conservative government officials have resigned when their past sins came back to haunt them. But liberals tend not to do this. When a liberal gets in trouble, other liberals tend to close ranks and stand behind him, right or wrong. This was the case during the Clinton years, and it is the case today. This is why I say conservatives have standards, and liberals have alibis.

I hope Rush is found innocent of these drug charges. But I believe if he could honestly defend himself against these accusations, he would–that would fit his brash, outspoken style of comment. This tiptoeing around the issue seems to reveal much more about what’s going on. If Rush is found guilty, as much as I like him, then I expect justice to be served.