I considered using my allotted space this week to defend Rush Limbaugh from charges of hypocrisy. The radio talk show host announced Oct. 10 that he is addicted to prescription painkillers. In trying to manage pain from botched back surgery, Limbaugh entangled himself in what was once a safety net.

The defense I intended to write would remind Limbaugh critics on the Left that he confessed his slide into addiction. The popular commentator took responsibility for his actions and sought professional help. Further, Limbaugh's battle with chemical dependence in no way invalidates the conservative philosophy he has communicated for the past 15 years. To quote French author Michel de Montaigne: "Saying is one thing, doing another. We must consider the sermon and the preacher distinctly and apart."

I wanted to argue those points today -- but can't. Limbaugh advocated family values and morality, but missed the mark in his personal life. He's a hypocrite.

The Left justifies its glee over Limbaugh's fall by reminding us of accusations it has made against the radio host since he first became a household name. Rush is mean. He's a hater -- he makes fun of liberals, calls them names. He jokes about Hillary, for goodness sake.

Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter suggested Limbaugh could help the dialogue between the Left and Right if he emerges from rehab with more tolerance. Perhaps it's time for all of us who count ourselves as Limbaugh listeners to change direction and learn what the Left can teach us about compassion and hate speech:

Columnist Frank Thomas Croisdale: "Now that (Limbaugh is) legally deaf the right-wing blow-hard is of little use to America. He would drive bin Laden crazy by gaining an exclusive interview with the Afghan madman and then responding to each answer that Osama gives by saying, 'What? Come again? Pardon?'"

Historian and journalist Eric Alterman: "I hate to say it, but I wish the guy would have gone deaf. I shouldn't say that, but on behalf of the country, it would be better off without Rush Limbaugh and his 20 million listeners."

Don Imus, radio show host and reformed cocaine addict: "Rush is a fat, pill-popping loser and an undisciplined slob ..."

Mike Hudson, Niagara Falls Reporter owner: "I hope that (Limbaugh) gets over his addiction and dies from cancer ..."

Newsweek writer Evan Thomas: "The man behind the curtain is not the God of family values but a childless, twice-divorced, thrice-married schlub whose idea of a good time is to lie on his couch and watch football endlessly."

Title of "comedian" Al Franken's book: "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot"

Franken, on Limbaugh's addiction: "I'm looking forward to the perp walk. I'll be switching channels to get it from every angle. My favorite part is when they push their heads to get them down into the car."

"Today Show" host Katie Couric: "I feel actually good because I flew out here, and Rush Limbaugh sat next to me on the plane. He gave me some vitamins. Whaa! It feels good!"

Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin: "(Limbaugh's) people are hopelessly, embarrassingly dumb. Or -- sudden revelation! -- they're all out there whacked out on Hillbilly Heroin just like Rush. Only they can understand his babble."

Actor Ed Asner: "(Sean) Hannity's next. We're going after him just like we went after Limbaugh. And you saw what happened to Rush this week, right?"

Umm ... on second thought, I think I'll ride this hypocrisy thing out with Limbaugh. Playing nice the way the anti-Rush crowd does is a little too bloody for my appetite.

To contact City Editor Heath Griner, call 244-3400, ext. 274; or e-mail him at heath.griner@gaflnews.com.

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