A Youthful Indiscretionby Stephen Littau
Democrat presidential candidate and Illinois Senator Barack Obama is only the latest politician to admit to using drugs in his youth. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Clarence Thomas, Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean and a number of who’s who of the political class (of both political parties) have admitted to using marijuana at some point in each of their younger days. Though President George W. Bush has made no secret of once being an alcoholic, he never has admitted to using illegal drugs even as rumors of his past ‘youthful indiscretions’ by others persist.
Even those who are in favor of ratcheting up the war on (some) drugs who have never personally used drugs ask for leniency when it comes to their friends or their family members. Republican presidential hopeful and Arizona Senator John McCain wants to ‘redouble efforts’ of the war on (some) drugs. But should these redoubled efforts apply to someone like his wife Cindy McCain who in the mid 1990’s was caught stealing Percocet and Vicodin? Interestingly enough, the penalty for illegally possessing these drugs is a year in prison for each pill and a mandatory fine. Does anyone believe for a minute that Cindy McCain spent any time in the slammer or paid any fines? Of course not, Senators’ wives play by a different set of rules.
And then there’s Noelle Bush, the daughter of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (and President Bush’s niece) who was busted in 2002 for trying to use a fraudulent prescription to illegally obtain the prescription drug Xanax. As I wrote in a previous post, Florida has an alternative program for drug offenders called drug courts. Drug offenders who choose not to risk a prison sentence up to five years can basically plead guilty and submit to the terms of the drug court (which often means mandatory drug rehab and probation). Ms. Bush chose this option and reported to a court ordered drug rehab program. In September of 2002, Bush was caught with ‘2 grams of a white rock substance’ which tested positive for cocaine (crack?). The court later sentenced her to a whopping 10 days in jail for violating her probation.
I have nothing against Cindy McCain or Noelle Bush or any of the aforementioned politicians as it relates to the youthful indiscretions of their pasts. What I do have a problem with is their blatant hypocrisy. If rehab is good enough for Noelle Bush, why isn’t it enough for the Garrison brothers who were sentenced to 15 and 19 years in prison for ‘powder cocaine and crack cocaine conspiracy’? (Note: no drugs or paraphernalia were ever found in the investigation. Read the story here). If Cindy McCain can obtain illegal prescriptions for her pain, why can’t Angel Raich smoke marijuana to relieve herself of hers under a doctor’s recommendation?
Our prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders who cannot offer the ‘youthful indiscretion’ explanation as a legal defense. Meanwhile, many of these same individuals who survived the war on (some) drugs win enough support from enough voters to place them in office only to empower the government even further to terrorize the American public. These are the types of policies which turn private citizens into criminals for defending their own homes in botched police raids. In the case of Cory Maye, the police stormed his apartment late at night even though his neighbor was the primary target of the raid. As a result, Maye fatally shot Officer Ron Jones after Jones successfully kicked in the door. Maye was convicted of murder even though the court failed to prove that he knew he was shooting at a police officer at the time he pulled the trigger (Maye testified that he thought the police were intruders meaning to do him and his daughter harm; the police did not identify themselves as they kicked in the door). Others such as Kathryn Johnston were not as lucky as Maye (Johnson was fatally shot by the police after she fired her gun. She apparently also thought that the police were intruders meaning to do her harm). The war on (some) drugs is no joke to the families of these victims.
As the 2008 presidential campaign heats up, its important to know where the candidates stand on these issues, especially those who have admitted to doing drugs in the past. Interestingly, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani, John Cox, Duncan Hunter, Mitt Romney and Tom Tancredo do not have official positions listed on their campaign websites concerning the war on (some) drugs. One thing we can be sure of, none of these candidates are looking to ‘re-deploy’ from the war on (some) drugs anytime soon.
Still, there are apparent differences of opinion among the candidates on how to proceed on the war on (some) drugs from here. Republican candidate and Texas Representative Ron Paul and Democrat candidate and Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich hope to put an immediate end to the drug war. Edwards and Clinton want to move toward the drug court solution to give non-violent drug offenders a chance to be rehabilitated. Edwards also voted against increasing penalties for certain drug-related crimes and in his 2004 run for president wanted to end the criminal distinction between rock and powder cocaine. Republican candidate and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee admitted in 1999 that the current approach on the drug war isn’t working (admitting the problem is a great first step Governor). McCain seems to be the most hawkish on the drug war. McCain wants to increase penalties for drug dealers and would like to see ‘drug kingpins’ put to death (Interestingly, McCain doesn’t seem to want to increase penalties for drug users. I wonder if his wife’s drug problem had any influence on this position?).
The 2008 campaign is still in its infancy and much of these positions are yet to be fleshed out. I predict that more youthful indiscretions will be exposed. It’s up to the voting public to hold these candidates accountable and demand equal treatment under the law.