Joe Conason's Journal

Is Rush Limbaugh the newest member of the GOP Rat Pack?

Published October 20, 2003 9:55PM (EDT)

On the "new" right, sleazy does it
No topic is better suited to the talents of Frank Rich than the tension between Republican preaching about strict morality and Republican longing to be hip. In his Sunday essay the Times columnist deftly satirizes the new GOP "rat pack" -- Rush Limbaugh, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Bennett and sidekick Jay Leno -- while noting that certain conservative Clinton critics seem to have developed a sudden taste for sleaze. Rich acknowledges that the new pack may not live up to the old legend, but still:

"If Arnold strikes some Rat Pack purists as a faint echo of Peter Lawford's immigrant origins, dubious father and Kennedy connection, his movie career and sexual exploits both literally and figuratively outstrip those of his predecessor. Nor can anyone doubt that Mr. Leno, the official Schwarzenegger toastmaster, is a late-night wit on an uncanny par with his antecedent, Joey Bishop. If only Rush had found a way to join the election night tableau, it would have been complete: As we know from his brief but memorable run as a commentator on ESPN's Sunday N.F.L. Countdown, he can be more out-of-it than Sammy Davis, the candy man himself."

Speaking of comparisons, can the Times editors possibly imagine that David Brooks can provide any substitute for such Rich material?

Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party has issued an angry (and unusually class-conscious) statement on the silence of mainstream political figures concerning the Limbaugh case.

"Republican and Democratic politicians have written laws that have condemned more than 400,000 Americans to prison for committing the same 'crime' as Rush Limbaugh," said the party's executive director, Joe Seehusen. "If this pill-popping pontificator deserves a get-out-of-jail-free card, these drug warriors had better explain why...

"Given their longstanding support for the Drug War, it's fair to ask: "Why haven't President George Bush or his tough-on-crime attorney general, John Ashcroft, uttered a word criticizing Limbaugh's law-breaking?...

"Why aren't federal DEA agents storming Limbaugh's $30 million Florida mansion in a frantic search for criminal evidence?

"Why haven't federal, state, and local police agencies seized the celebrity's homes and luxury cars under asset-forfeiture laws?

"Finally, why aren't bloviating blabbermouths like William Bennett publicly explaining how America would be better off if Limbaugh were prosecuted, locked in a steel cage and forced to abandon his wife, his friends, and his career?...

"America's drug warriors are shameless hypocrites who believe in one standard of justice for ordinary Americans and another for themselves, their families and their political allies. That alone should completely discredit them."
[2:30 p.m. PDT, October 20, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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