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Patrick Kennedy, Rush Limbaugh and the Right Wing Cop-Out


Wingnuts are a-go-go over their perception that the left is giving Patrick Kennedy a free ride on his substance abuse problems whereas Rush Limbaugh got roasted.  Perhaps it’s because Patrick Kennedy never said this ….

Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we’re not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too.

…We are becoming too tolerant as a society, folks, especially of crime, in too many parts of the country…. This country certainly appears to be tolerant, forgive and forget. I mean, you know as well as I do, you go out and commit the worst murder in the world and you just say you’re sorry, people go, "Oh, OK. A little contrition."… People say, "I feel better. He said he’s sorry for it." We’re becoming too tolerant, folks.

…or this…

I want to let you read along with me a quote from Jerry Colangelo about substance abuse, and I think you’ll find that he’s very much right…"I know every expert in the world will disagree with me, but I don’t buy into the disease part of it. The first time you reach for a substance you are making a choice. Every time you go back, you are making a personal choice. I feel very strongly about that."…

What he’s saying is that if there’s a line of cocaine here, I have to make the choice to go down and sniff it….And his point is that we are rationalizing all this irresponsibility and all the choices people are making and we’re blaming not them, but society for it. All these Hollywood celebrities say the reason they’re weird and bizarre is because they were abused by their parents. So we’re going to pay for that kind of rehab, too, and we shouldn’t. It’s not our responsibility. It’s up to the people who are doing it. And Colangelo is right.

…all the while he was wolfing down enough Oxycontin to tranquilize a mule team. 

The right wing narrative is that Patrick Kennedy is an example of dissolute morality while Rush Limbaugh is a poor pain victim for whom we should feel pity.  Patrick Kennedy’s problems are that he is rich, spoiled and degenerate, and has no place in public life while Rush Limbaugh was using legal drugs, and is somehow morally superior to your common garden variety hophead.  

I don’t care about Patrick Kennedy checking into rehab any more than I care about Eminem or Nicole Richie or Charlie Sheen checking into rehab.  Good luck to them, I hope they all become members of that very small minority who happen to beat the problem, and that includes Rush.  It takes a lot of courage to publicly admit you have that particular problem and deal with it.

But Patrick Kennedy’s problems aren’t due to the fact that he’s rich or that he’s a Kennedy, except insofar as addiction problems may indeed have some sort of genetic factor; it certainly isn’t the exclusive domain of the rich and the recovery rate for poor people is a whole lot worse than it is for the wealthy ones.  Addiction is a great leveler.  But if the right were trying to paint the rich drug addict narrative consistently, our Coke Snorter in Chief (who to the best of our knowledge has always refused to get treatment for his substance abuse problems) would be at the top of their list.  I’ve never seen that happen, he is usually allowed to perch himself on the pity throne with Rush.

Limbaugh is being pelted not for being a hypocrite and saying those things while he was using — addicts do that stuff all the time, they’re famous for trying to cover their using with statements like the ones made by Rush.  He’s being pilloried because he’s not recanting them now that he doesn’t want them to apply to him.  

He and his apologists on the right hope to keep him afloat with some phony story that draws a distinction between legal and illegal drug use.  Rush was a drug gobbling pig who sent his $370 a week maid out to cop for him.  He doctor shopped.  He knew what he was doing was illegal and he tried to cover it up.   He’s spent a lifetime bashing the ACLU but wasn’t afraid to go running to them when he suddenly started valuing his right to privacy, something he’s also spent a good deal of wind trying to destroy for others.  Rush’s whole pitch is based on self-pity, deception and the demand for rights he would deny anyone else in the same situation.  

But right-wing narratives don’t require consistency.  All they ask is that those who spout them be neither particularly bright nor much concerned with the inconsistencies of the stories they spread.  And there seem to be no shortage of people running around who fit that bill.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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