Virtue is its own drawback
It was America’s “virtuous majority” (as they conceive themselves) who made George Bush president. He keeps these core voters sweet by appointing aggressively virtuous subordinates—men whose sole claim to office, as Bill Maher puts it, is that they “read the Bible and fuck their wives”. (Maher, you’ll remember, lost his talk show on the ABC network for saying that the 9/11 bombers, whatever else, were not “cowards”).
What, Bush was asked, was the first thing he would do on taking over the White House? “Hose down the Oval Office”, he virtuously replied.
The presidential hosing down of America at large is entrusted to John Ashcroft. The attorney general’s most recent godly initiative is “Operation Pipe Dreams”—zero tolerance for purveyors of drug paraphernalia. Tommy Chong, venerable stoner and partner of Cheech Marin, has received a nine-month sentence for selling hookahs—“for tobacco use only, heh, heh”—on his website. Every newsagent in Britain selling Rizlas—“for tobacco use only, heh, heh”—should join him.
Ashcroft’s purge of the unvirtuous took a knock with the spectacular fall of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh it was who, in the 1990s, vitalised the country’s ailing AM radio network by recruiting 20-million like-minded “dittoheads” into a nationwide ultra-conservative congregation.
His three-hour programme is a daily rant against Liberals (“Loco Weeds”), feminists (“Feminazis”), and “immoral” Democrats. Limbaugh is feted by the Republican party who see him as essential in shoring up the president’s electoral base. Rush has always hammered drug users. Jerry Garcia? “another dead doper”. What to do with junkies? “Send them up the river”. Twenty million dittos to that.
A fortnight ago Limbaugh revealed on-air that he had for years been addicted to prescription painkillers, aka “hospital heroin”. He had back problems, and strong medication was required. His radio programme meant he was too busy to have an operation or visit the chiropractor, like lesser mortals. Instead he gave his housekeeper cigar boxes stuffed with “cabbage” to buy OxyContin (street name “killer”) from drug dealers. He popped up to 100 pills day—enough to “kill an elephant”.
After confessing all, Limbaugh has buried himself for 30 days in a secret treatment centre. His lawyers doubtless approve. A conviction—particularly if it involved nine months up river with Tommy Chong—would lose him his $30m a-year contract. Lots of cabbage.
Limbaugh’s show is followed on 450 stations across the US by three hours of Dr Laura Schlessinger, America’s favourite radio counsellor. Her daily audience is reckoned at 17-million. Her catchphrase is “I am my kids’ mom”. She pushes rock-hard family values.
Last December, Dr Laura’s own mom was found dead in her Beverly Hills apartment. Identification was not easy. The old lady’s corpse was badly decomposed. She may have starved to death weeks before. Mom’s kid was too busy advocating virtue on the airwaves to keep up with her parent.
The dean of America’s virtue-mongers used to be William J Bennet. Unlike Rush, plain-spoken man of the people, and Dr Laura, whose medical degree is self-awarded, Bennet, drug tsar and secretary of education under Bush Sr, is an intellectual: author of the bestselling Book of Virtues.
Alas, Bill’s moral credentials (and lucrative bookings as America’s highest paid motivational speaker) took a dive when it was revealed that he liked to go incognito to Vegas and play the slots at a thousand dollars a pull. He reportedly lost $8-million in 10 years. So what? he bleated, “it wasn’t the kids’ milk money”. Virtue is—like food stamps—for poor people.
“George Bush”, Jerry Boykin, the new under-secretary for defence, asserts, “was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States. He was appointed by God.” Jerry better hope that Rush, Laura and Bill haven’t blown it for God’s chosen in 2004. - Guardian Unlimited Â