Editorial

Rush Limbaugh faces personal and public tests

Friday, October 17, 2003

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh's announcement that he has abused OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller, was both a shocking and sad revelation.

Rumors of a criminal investigation were already swirling throughout the news media. For most of his fans, especially here in his hometown, the news was hard to accept.

That goes for the many Cape Girardeans who have known Limbaugh -- Rusty -- all of his life. These are people who not only know him, but also know his family, the values they have always stood for and the nurturing he received from a community that places a premium on the things most of us consider to be the best of what America has to offer.

Given the situation Limbaugh finds himself in, here are some things to consider:

Politicians and popular entertainers tend to be judged in the same ways -- viewed through the same lens -- by admirers and detractors alike. But Limbaugh is not beholden to voters or taxpayers. His success or failure depends on his ability -- a personal quality not easily imitated, by the way -- to hold the attention of millions of radio listeners for three hours a day across the nation. Those who thought his ideas and his style of delivery would quickly grow old or stale have miscalculated the interest so many Americans have in conservative viewpoints and values, especially when they are barraged by ideas and values with which they disagree from a large segment of popular media.

Whether or not Limbaugh will be prosecuted for abusing drugs obtained by nefarious means will ultimately be up to the decision of investigators and prosecutors. But there are countless instances of high-profile individuals who have, by admitting their weaknesses and addictions, benefited many others by encouraging them to seek treatment for conditions that have too often been taboo topics for public discussion.

Limbaugh is by no means out of the woods in his desire to be free of his addiction. Some medical experts say it can take months or years to overcome drugs as powerful and habit-forming as OxyContin, a drug he was prescribed after surgery.

And Limbaugh's future as a successful radio personality and as a leading spokesman for the values and political philosophy so dear to so many will be decided by what he tells his faithful listeners when he returns to the microphone -- and whether they accept what he says. For now, it appears they are both willing and eager to listen.

Limbaugh's announcement that he has a drug problem does not diminish our disappointment in his addiction, but he has begun a process of rehabilitation openly. That is to be commended, because the first step in recovery must be open confrontation of the problem.

As those who have followed Limbaugh's career know, he has overcome many challenges to achieve his well-known success. Perhaps no challenge is greater than the one facing him now. We wish him the best, and God's grace, in this battle.

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