MIAMI (Reuters) – Right-wing U.S. radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, a one-time target of a prescription fraud investigation, was detained at a Florida airport when agents found a bottle of Viagra in his luggage that was not prescribed in his name, police said on Tuesday.

The incident marks the latest legal trouble for the controversial and often moralistic radio talk show host, who admitted in October 2003 that he was addicted to painkillers.

Let’s face it, it would be easy to make a bunch of Rush Limbaugh and Viagra jokes: what does he need it for? To get taller? Treat his scoliosis? Could he be a bigger penis? It would be easy to delight in Rush’s fall from grace. Part of it is a function of our culture: we build people up, turning celebrities into icons, only to topple them and dance on their feet of clay. We will especially delight in it if it is a celebrity who has risen to fame moralizing or otherwise telling people how they should live. The Jimmy Swaggarts. The James Bakkers. The Rush Limbaughs. The Dr. Lauras. People who have made a living, and built a following, examining the morality of others and as public figures, fair game for the same sort of public scrutiny of their personal lives.

Defend Rush all you want as a purveyor of entertainment and satire, a harmless teddy bear. The reality is that he speaks for a lot of people. He has transformed the landscape of talk radio for a reason. Now’s probably the time to confess to being a reformed “Ditto-head”. For about five years, I bought into the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime, and the free market can solve our ills if we get out of its way mentality. The rhetoric born of the dogmatic rugged individualism that is part of the (cowboy) mythology of America.

Yet I came to a place where it conflicted with what my faith said we are to be about.

Community, helping one another (I hate to break it to you, but some folks don’t even have boots); to share “my fish;” and that the free market has its limits. As does the government. Which means that when all is said and done, we have to get off our collective butts and get involved in people’s lives, build relationships, and help them.

In other words, I became the worst Republican ever.

Frankly, I got tired of the rhetoric of the show, the unassailable “rightness” of it all, the sheer inflexibility of it all. Also, while I actually don’t think he’s racist, I think a lot of racists have learned to cloak their ignorance with his words; and their code words for black people, with the derision inherent in their voices, grated me. Say what you want about my conclusion, but in the end words mean things.

Is this most recent scandal a little unfair for Rush? A little. I understand how someone in his position could do certain things in the name of privacy (and this is only a hop, skip, and a jump from registering in hotels under a phony name … except that it’s illegal to have prescriptions not in your name). It’s not the use of his domestic, whom I’m sure wasn’t an immigrant taking a job that a red-blooded American could do – like score him drugs. What Rush and the people who defend him forget is that he has been put on a pedestal. He has become a leader and for better or worse, leaders are (and should be) held to higher standards. That’s what he told us during the Clinton years, at least.

It’s not the preaching of moralism that people react to; it’s the self-righteousness, the hypocrisy, and the empty piousness. It’s the sitting on high, in judgment, but removing the plank from his eye before gouging out the specks from ours. A moral legalism that ironically enough, wouldn’t make us all that different than the cultures we feel the need to occupy. It leads to outside obedience and an inner mess. He’s every bit the mess the rest of us are while pretending to not be. And worse, he promised to hold all the right answers to pull us up to his level.

Physician heal thyself. Quit prescribing to yourself.

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