A lot of folks are comparing Patrick Kennedy’s drug problems with those of Rush Limbaugh’s brushes with the law, and how both were treated. I think it’s a fair comparison.
First up, a brief disclaimer. I was briefly a fan of Limbaugh’s, back in the early 90’s. His schtick was new then, and fairly entertaining. I quickly outgrew that, though. A big push towards that was when on his not-short-enough-lived TV show, he was assailing Bill Clinton’s pandering nature and said “did you know the White House has a dog?” and put up a picture of then-13-year-old Chelsea Clinton. Limbaugh’s defense is that his staff set it up and he didn’t have time to go back and edit it out. I refuse to accept that explanation; it was a completely reprehensible and despicable action, and any person of decency, honor, and character would have MADE the time to prevent it from airing. Regardless of one’s feelings towards the parents, a politician’s children are NOT legitimate targets — especially a 13-year-old girl. Ever since that incident, I have never listened to Limbaugh, never respected him, never liked him.
Now, that rule does NOT apply to Patches Kennedy. He’s not only almost 3 times older than Chelsea was at that point, but a politician in his own right (shudder) who’s held public office for almost half his life. In fact, he’s never held any job besides “legislator.”
Limbaugh, in all likelihood, broke the law in seeking relief for a back injury. He was arrested, he has sought treatment, and now it looks like he will not be prosecuted. He also knows that wherever he goes, whatever he does, countless critics will be watching his every move for signs of relapses or hypocrisy. He is a fighter, and fighters who show signs of weakness find themselves challenged over and over again.
Kennedy, on the other hand, has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. His stated explanation doesn’t seem to jibe with the established facts, and it looks like he will not be facing any criminal charges for his confessed Driving While Intoxicated (or whatever the particular term is in DC; the laws do NOT make a distinction between alcohol and drugs, merely whether or not the driver is too impaired to drive safely.) As soon as his office started cranking out the established story that it was a blend of prescription medications, not boozing, that caused his crash, the media was filled with tales of how dangerous the substances were and how many people are put at risk every day by using them and then driving.
Butt there are major differences here, ones that ought to have bearing on how these two cases are addressed.
1) Limbaugh never put anyone else in physical danger during his drug use. Kennedy got behind the wheel of a car (possibly twice) and could have injured or killed someone. (In that respect, he shows he’s definitely his father’s son, but a smidgen luckier. There was no Mary Jo Kopechne this time.)
2) Limbaugh is a public figure, but Kennedy is a public OFFICIAL. Kennedy must be held to a higher standard than Limbaugh.
3) While both men have obviously succumbed to weakness, Limbaugh has shown a bit more responsibility, coming clean on the specifics of his problem. Patches, though, is still apparently trying to bluster and lie his way out of accepting responsibility. He’s probably expecting a hero’s welcome when he returns from drying out at the Mayo Clinic — and will probably get it.
4) Patches is about 16 years younger than Limbaugh (and, oddly enough, barely three months older than me). But he’s still well past the age of majority, and in fact is old enough to have adult children and be a grandfather. The “sins of youth” excuse expired, for him, about 15-20 years ago.
(On the other hand, if he was being treated for gastroenteritis, he has my sympathies. I’ve had that a few times, and I wouldn’t wish it on Osama Bin Laden. (Well, maybe him.) There’s nothing like being doubled over in gut-shredding agony while your body desperately wants to vent from two ends at once, and having to make some hard choices about priorities.)
In brief, both men have shown their weakness and have been pilloried for their deeds in catering to those weaknesses. But in the long run, Limbaugh will succeed or fail on his own efforts, while Kennedy will, in all likelihood, continue to coast through life riding his family’s coattails, falling down and being picked back up, until he either learns to stand on his own and take responsibility for himself, or he ends up in an early grave — fate that has befallen many of his family.
Of course, that is not taking into account Ted Kennedy’s genes for indestructibility. Any normal human being would have keeled over from numerous causes long before now.