Rush Limbaugh returned from a five-week stint in rehab to his radio show Monday, after leaving the show following reports that he was under a police probe for illegal drug use, and after a controversial crack on ESPN about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb that caused him to resign his commentating post for the sports network. We, along with millions of his fans, tuned into his return wondering: Just how much rehabilitation did Rush go through?
Fade in ...
With "butterflies" in his stomach, Rush describes his experience in rehab as having been "intense," "educational" and "informative." It was as "important as the first grade, and maybe the second grade." He read a newspaper once or twice at the clinic, which he fooled everyone into thinking was in Tucson, Ariz., when it wasn't. But he didn't watch much television. Following the news would have been "counterproductive," he says. He tells his audience that while he was away, he realized "how much I love all of you," and thanks them for their supportive calls and e-mails.
Rush tells us he's powerless over his addiction and that he can't be responsible for "anybody's happiness but my own." "I can no longer try to live my life by making other people happy," he says. He says he hasn't changed one bit, except that now he's off the pills.
"Many people feel and think that when you go to a rehabilitation center for addictions or other things, that the people in there turn you into a linguini-spined liberal, and that's not true," Rush says. "No effort was made whatsoever. There's no ideological reference whatsoever in these things."
Since "last Thursday," he's been cramming on the news, and here's what he discovered. Democrats are still "fantasizing about Hillary being the nominee," and the Republicans "still don't know how to get judges confirmed." Also, "Ted Kennedy called a bunch of highly respected minorities Neanderthals. The fact that Ted Kennedy is still in the Senate and hasn't been forced to resign means that nothing's changed." Actually, Ted Kennedy called George W. Bush's judicial appointees, a couple of whom are black and Hispanic, "Neanderthals" because of what he believes to be their antiquated worldviews and judicial philosophies.
"It's just a good thing Senator Kennedy didn't say it on ESPN, or he might have resigned," Rush continues ironically.
Over the weekend, Rush read his press. The experts don't know anything, he says. "It's amazing. When you know something that no one else knows, and you listen to the people who don't know anything write and talk about it, it is hilarious. It is absolutely hilarious to read and listen to people who don't have the slightest idea what they're talking about act expert and all opinionated about it ... what you know, what you think you know, you don't know."
Yes, Rush Limbaugh. Yes.
Rush says his addiction didn't affect his on-air performance. He worked hard and felt his opinions very strongly. "I was honest with you throughout the whole time," he says. "I wasn't honest with myself." He's "really eager to share these last five weeks" with his listeners. But the sharing will "just happen." Nothing will be scripted or planned.
Mary Jo from Montgomery, Ala., calls. She's proud of Rush and prays for him every day. "What are things that people do that help you, and what are things they say that you wish they hadn't said?" she asks. Also, she has a friend who she's afraid might be an addict. What can she do to help him?
It's apparent that from now on Rush Limbaugh, in addition to his other charms, will also be an insufferable self-help guru, and that he's going to slip self-help rhetoric into his every utterance, whether it applies or not.
Mary Jo is still on the line.
"Mary Jo," Rush says, "you are not responsible for what your friend does, and you can't control what your friend does."
The next caller, Rosemary from Wisconsin, praises Rush for his honesty about the "socialists." Rush then spends two minutes bashing Ted Kennedy, saying that President Bush cannot change "Senator Kennedy's behavior." He adds, "The attempt to manipulate liberals into changing who they are or becoming nice guys and liking us is always going to fail. It's not our job to make them like us. It's their job to like themselves. And the problem with liberals is that ... They. Don't. Like. Themselves."
Sounds like someone needs rehab!
"When I see Paris Hilton, I think, Eat, eat, swallow something!" Rush jokes.
But he really wants to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold has made the terrible mistake of appointing a "wacko" state environmental commissioner who criticizes the Bush administration's efforts to block global-warming studies. "This is our new Republican governor of California," he says. "I look at this and I scratch my head a little bit." Still, the real problem is that the Democrats are going to do everything they can to stall Arnold's dreams for California, and it will take the force of Arnold's personality to "overpower and defeat" his natural enemies.
"We want to crush them," Rush says.
"We're near the Mogadishu moment" in Iraq, Rush says. "I don't understand the cut-and-run attitude."
According to Rush, Iraq is part of the War on Terror. If we in any way replicate our behavior in Mogadishu, we've set ourselves back. We'll increase terrorist recruitment and prove that Osama bin Laden is right. We'll show that America is weak. And if we pull out, then the Democrats will point the finger at President Bush. "Good old-fashioned American resolve is called for," Rush says. He then delivers the voice of one of his many imaginary critics, in a lisp: "Yeah, easy for you to say. You're not in the line of fire."
Neither are 99 percent of the American people, Rush says to his invisible demon. The military is a special volunteer force. "We can't live their lives for them. We can't make decisions for them. And we can't control what they do. They're leading their lives and making decisions based on their choices and desires and so forth. For us to impose what we think is right or wrong on them is for us to deny them the choices that they've made."
The first step for an occupying force, apparently, is to admit that it's powerless over its occupation. If you demand that we get out of Iraq because the casualties are rising, says Rush, "you are transferring your values to other people. But you don't have any right to do that." Such behavior, he claims, would be "excessive and risky."
During the break, Rush was watching a CNN report on what he'd said during the first hour of the program. They completely misquoted him, he said. What you heard on TV is not what he actually said, he says.
Rush says that the United Nations "got their ass ripped open in Baghdad, blown up by al-Qaida, the Iraqi terrorists." The Saudis want peace, and they got bombed by al-Qaida. Turkey said it wants peace, but there are 23 dead in Istanbul. "Would somebody kindly please explain to me what the people who want peace are getting? What progress are they making? Where is the peace they want?" The problem, Rush says, is that the United Nations, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and everyone else in the world who wants peace are just getting blown up.
"Would somebody please tell me," asks Rush, "what is the upside to wanting peace? There isn't any. You are inviting evil people to come kick your ass. It's real simple. In fact, you are bending over and grabbing your ankles beforehand and saying, go ahead and kick my ass. And then when they do, you say, aww, but I only want peace. And they're laughing themselves silly right at you." The peace movement, Rush says, is comprised of "so-called pacifists who only want peace," and needs to be replaced by a "victory movement."
Wars are not fought for peace, Rush says. Wars are fought for victory. "Kill people and break things. That's the purpose of a war."
A listener from Germany writes in to say that Rush should no longer use the word "ass" on his show, or else he won't be able to share the show with his children. "Do they know the word 'ass' there?" Rush says.
He slips into a funny lisp.
"Oh, yeth," he says. "Of course they do. It's Germany."
Rush talks about the irony that Democratic senators are trying to stop a "black woman" judge from being nominated to an appeals court spot. He's also very hot about a leaked memo from the office of Sen. Richard Durbin that says arch-conservative Judge Richard Estrada is "especially dangerous" because he's "Latino." The nerve!
"A black woman!" Rush says. "Think Mrs. Donovan McNabb."
He continues, "The liberals in the Senate are writing all these horrible things about minorities. And who do they tell us they are? Why, they are the champions of these minorities! They're going to make sure minorities get a fair shot! They're gonna make sure that minorities get a decent QB rating in the NFL! They're gonna make sure that quarterbacks everywhere who are black do well! They're gonna make sure that blacks, minorities, women everywhere are not held back by mean, racist, bigot conservatives!"
As of this writing, the Philadelphia Eagles are 7-3. On Sunday, Donovan McNabb threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles' 28-10 pasting of the white-quarterbacked New York Giants. McNabb had a 132.5 quarterback rating. Roxi Nurse, "Mrs. Donovan McNabb," is black. She's also the women's athletic director for Villanova University.
At windy length, Rush decries some admittedly stupid newspaper article that claims American adulthood now begins at 26. Well, he doesn't buy it. "Five weeks in rehab's not going to be make me an idiot," he says.
Rush says, "Democrats are running around saying we've lost all these jobs. What do you mean, lose jobs? How many of you people out there listening to me today have gotten a job since January 2001? ... Use common sense! People get hired for work every day! There aren't soup lines out there!"
A Google search on "soup lines" yields thousands of results, one of which is the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa, Calif. An employee named Ellie Weaver says the kitchen serves 250 to 300 people a day, a mix of the homeless and the working poor. Orange County also has Mary's Soup Kitchen, and countless churches and Christian centers that give out free food. Says Weaver, "If anybody says there aren't soup lines in this country, I would look at them and ask them to walk in my shoes for a couple of days. Don't ever judge anybody. We're here to feed people."
Rush is out of time.
"I just have one more thing to say," he says. "A memo to you liberals: The party is over. I'm back."