After pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession Wednesday, Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) apologized to the nation for his drug use.
"I'm sorry, I have no excuse for what I've done," said the congressman. "I let down our country, I've let down our constituents, I've let down my family, including my wife and even though he doesn't know it, I've let down my 2-year-old son."
I'll defer to Radel's wife and son on what they're owed, but the congressman does not owe an apology to me, to his constituents, or to the rest of the American public.
Radel's purchase of 3.5 grams of cocaine on Oct. 29 did not harm us in any way and is no skin off our backs. Drugs should be legal, and Radel should be able to purchase coke if he likes it.
Radel says he is seeking "intensive in-patient treatment" for alcoholism. If he has a substance-abuse problem I wish him all the best in getting it treated. But I'd also note that politicians who get in trouble for drugs feel public pressure to seek rehab even if they never had an addiction.
Radel wouldn't be allowed to say "I do coke because it is fun and I don't have any problem requiring treatment" even if that's an accurate description of his situation.
This is a key contrast from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who quite obviously has a substance abuse problem that is interfering with his official duties. Ford has been videotaped stumbling drunk around downtown Toronto, told reporters he "might have had some drinks and driven," was thrown out of a public event in March for intoxication, allegedly grabbed a political opponent's ass while drunk at a party, and attributed his crack use to being "in one of my drunken stupors."
A lot of liberals are seizing on the fact that Radel voted to subject food stamp recipients to drug testing. He does owe us an apology for that — because it's a bad policy that wastes money and degrades welfare recipients, and because drugs should be legal. He doesn't owe us an apology because he had a special obligation as a cocaine user to vote 'no'.
I suspect, when Radel comes out of rehab, that he will reposition himself as an advocate for people with substance abuse problems. I wish, in addition, that he will become an advocate for people who do not want to be sent to jail for their victimless recreational drug use. Unfortunately, given the politics of drug use, I suspect that is not in the cards.
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