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Get Well, Mr. Limbaugh, But Don't Rush Back

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The talk show host has a deeper addiction than the one that likely caused his chest pains

I admit I had mixed feelings when I awoke to news that Rush Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital in Honolulu for the same malady he's been inflicting on me for years.

My best wishes to Rush for a quick recovery from his chest pains, and a very slow return to his perch as the nation's most influential talk radio host.

By my calculation, it is only a matter of hours until the media, pundits, and TV doctors begin to speculate on whether Limbaugh's hospitalization was caused by his addiction to pain killers - a problem he admitted in 2003 after being caught buying illegal drugs.

Back then, I remember hoping that fellow Republicans would begin to distance themselves from a drug-addicted Limbaugh. That, unfortunately, has not happened.

But here is why it should.

First, a disclaimer. I am a registered Republican - one of those too-rare progressive, pro-environment, pro-gay marriage, pro-technology, pro-freedom/responsibility, fiscally conservative Republicans, in the spirit that tech guru John Perry Barlow expresses below. I have been almost continuously since I turned 18 in 1976. I joined because I was inspired by Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower - early Republicans who skillfully advanced personal freedom and responsibility; guarded against monopolies of power whether corporate, government, or military; ended slavery; began the women's suffrage movement; and set aside lands for national parks and forests.

Like Barlow, today I am comfortable neither as a Republican or a Democrat. Both parties are controlled by interests of the past. Both have marginalized those of us who advocate integrative politics that bring together the strengths of the left and right. Both can be blamed for the utter failure of Congress to handle any issue of importance - when each party essentially forbids its members to collaborate with the other, the degree of sell-out necessary for legislative success in breathtaking.

Rush Limbaugh is a powerful driver of this democracy-destroying tactic, in his ruthless drive to elect ideological Republicans who tow to his line only.

Probably out of fear, right wing commentators have essentially ignored Limbaugh's addiction. Oddly, left wing pundits have too. But drug addiction is serious - all the more so if the addict is in a sensitive powerful position.

To an addict, nothing is more important than accessing the drug. In Rush's case, pain killers are just one of two addictions that drive his behavior - and the least damaging to the rest of us.

Like most substance abusers, Limbaugh's addiction reflects deeper underlying problems. Extremely self-conscious and insecure in his personal relationships, Rush's only real source for human validation is his celebrity. He injects self esteem directly into his blood stream every time he takes the controls at his radio program or speaks to his adoring and unquestioning fans at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

This deeper addiction makes Limbaugh deaf and blind to the damage he is doing to America by pandering to our worst fears and prejudices. Rush will say anything that drives love and hate his way - and he is smart enough to know how far he can go while remaining on the air.

But we too should be smart enough to see what he's doing. It is extremely dangerous for people to trust the rantings of an insecure, attention-starved drug addict. No matter how certain he comes across on the radio - for those who hunger for clear ideology - his words cannot be trusted, least of all by him.

That he experienced chest pains while on "vacation" just illustrates the point. I can't imagine any experience more disconcerting to a socially fearful celebrity than an unstructured Hawaiian vacation. People who feel they are fundamentally inauthentic or undeserving are bound to unhinge a bit when left alone with their self-awareness.

It took courage for a few Republicans to take down Limbaugh's disturbed predecessor, Senator Joseph McCarthy, when his megalomania began to fundamentally threaten our freedoms.

Now it is time to open our eyes to who Rush Limbaugh is. He is precisely the kind of person he rails against most: an insecure dependent that relies on what he perceives to be unearned money and undeserved notoriety to exercise unacceptable power in order to assuage his unquenchable insecurities.

Take all the time you need to recover, Rush. Work on both your addictions. It won't be quick, but we could all use the break.

"I was always raised to think that Republicans were about limited government, about individual liberty, about fiscal responsibility, about balanced budgets, about a wariness of military adventures abroad, about responsible encouragement to business. There's a whole list of things I thought the Republican Party was all about, and [the former Bush administration] are categorically against every single one of those things. So if they're Republicans, I'm not. But I'm really not a very comfortable Democrat. I mean the Democrats in the last elections proved themselves to be a bunch of dithering pussies... and it was pathetic. So I'm just waiting until one party or the other actually gets a moral compass and a backbone."John Perry Barlow, in "John Perry Barlow: Wyoming's Estimated Prophet" - interview with Aaron Davis in Planet JH Weekly, 28 July 2005