Rush Limbaugh will grace the cover of this Sunday's New York Times Magazine looking as cocky and powerful as ever. With his recent $400 million radio deal and estimated 14 million listeners, Rush is one of the most powerful voices in America today.
Seeing him riding so "high" on the cover of the Times Magazine made me wonder: where would Rush be today if he had been sent to prison for a few years when he was busted in 2003 for illegally purchasing thousands of prescription painkillers, including OxyContin.
At the time of his arrest, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) put together a controversial flash animation that asked viewers: Lock Rush Up Or Leave Him Alone For His Illegal Drug Buys? The fast-paced flash animation graphically explained both options by juxtaposing vintage Rush statements like, drug users "should be sent up the river" with the fact that since admitting his own addiction, he's championed rehab for himself. It concludes by asking whether viewers would like to give Rush a taste of his own harsh medicine, or leave him alone. Here's the clip:
DPA was of two minds regarding Rush's fate. On the one hand, DPA's guiding principle is that people should not be punished for what they put into their own bodies, but only for crimes committed against others. According to that logic, Rush--even Rush--should be allowed to deal with his drug dependency issues privately. On the other hand, Limbaugh is the man who scoffed at the idea that African Americans are disproportionately arrested on drug charges, and suggested that the solution should be to arrest more white people. Perhaps the only way draconian drug laws can change is for people like Limbaugh to join other nonviolent drug offenders behind bars.
At the time of Rush's arrest we put out a call to Rush, hoping that his experiences with addiction and the drug war would encourage him to join the movement to reform our nation's harmful drug prohibition and incarceration policies. It has been five years and we are still waiting!
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance.