@JohnBoehner—Why Is a Recently Convicted Cocaine User Serving in the U.S. Congress?

“Our taxpayers don’t want to subsidize somebody’s drug addiction.” – Governor Scott (R-Florida). Unless, of course, that somebody is U.S. House of Representatives member Trey Radel (R-Florida) who was recently convicted of cocaine possession and is on one year probation. In his case, the Congressional GOP leadership thinks taxpayers should continue to subsidize him, and likely pay for his rehab as well.

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio) hasn’t yet called on Radel to resign. Instead, it’s been reported that Boehner even told Radel not to resign.

The GOP, with Boehner in charge, has demanded mandatory drug testing whenever our fellow citizens apply for public assistance (for example, food stamps, welfare, unemployment insurance). According to the GOP, those testing positive for illegal drugs should be punished (by loss of benefits), with no sympathy, treatment or counseling — all done administratively, without benefit of a court of law.

On the other hand, if you’re a GOP U.S. Congressman convicted of hard drug possession (Rep. Radel was caught by the police — he didn’t voluntarily go public about his addiction), expect an outpouring of sympathy from the GOP Congressional leadership — and to keep all the perks of your taxpayer-paid job.

Instead of demanding Radel’s resignation, and expressing shock that a lawmaker would break the drug laws, the GOP Congressional leadership has focused on the sufferings of Radel and his family, with comments such as:

This matter is up to “Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.” (Speaker John Boehner)”[glad Radel] is seeking treatment and encourages him in his recovery. This is clearly a difficult time for him and his family.” (GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor) and

“This is an unfortunate time for Congressman Radel and his family. He’s admitted he has done wrong and is seeking treatment.” (GOP Majority Whip McCarthy)

An unfortunate time for Congressman Radel? Radel committed a crime! Absent from the GOP leadership’s comments is any gratitude to the law enforcement officials, who had the courage and professionalism to treat Radel like any other criminal.

I hope Radel gets the professional assistance he needs. But I’m appalled — at Boehner and the GOP — for their incredibly hypocritical double standard.

The GOP has waged a multi-year war, in all 50 states, to require mandatory drug testing for various forms of public assistance. About 29 states now have legislation requiring such drug testing.

The Republicans have pursued this issue at the Federal level too. Convicted cocaine user Rep. Radel voted for legislation requiring mandatory drug testing of food stamp recipients, with likely denial of benefits for those testing positive.

Personally, I’m against drug testing of applicants or recipients of public aid. The entire process raises significant legal issues, and even if it identifies real addicts, innocent bystanders are punished (for example, depriving children of drug users access to food and shelter).

I respect, although I don’t agree with, citizens who feel public assistance recipients should be drug-tested. But I loathe Washington insiders who have one set of rules for ordinary Americans, and a different set for their friends.

Speaker Boehner urged Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) to resign due to his weird (but not unlawful) habit of sending salacious pictures of himself, which harmed no one (other than himself and his embarrassed family). Rep. Radel purchased seriously nasty hard drugs, supported dealers who destroy our inner cities, and placed himself in a position where he (a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives) was open to blackmail from criminal gangs. But Speaker Boehner has no problem with Rep. Radel continuing to serve in Congress (which is sworn to uphold, and makes, our laws). This reeks of partisan hogwash, rather than compassion.

The U.S. Congress currently has a 9 percent approval rating, and it looks like the GOP Congressional leadership has a goal of reaching 0 percent. Or, perhaps given the endemic corruption of the Congress, Radel just doesn’t look that bad to the GOP leadership.

Boehner’s stance on Radel’s misconduct demonstrates complete contempt for anyone not part of his own insular Washington circle. It’s time for Radel to resign from Congress, and Boehner to resign as Speaker. Aside from anything else, it’s difficult to imagine any replacement for Boehner being as bad of a leader.

Steven Strauss is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Immediately prior to Harvard, he was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC (Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to build several new engineering and innovation centers in NYC), NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years’ private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. You can follow him on Twitter at: @Steven_Strauss

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One Response to "@JohnBoehner—Why Is a Recently Convicted Cocaine User Serving in the U.S. Congress?"

  1. malcolmkyle   December 3, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Nothing ever changes:

    Here is part of the testimony of Judge Alfred J Talley, given before the US Senate Hearings of 1926:

    "It has brought the sickening slime of corruption, dishonor, and disgrace into every group of employees and officials in city, State, and Federal departments that have been charged with the enforcement of this odious law."

    The second biggest business during alcohol prohibition in Detroit was liquor at $215 million a year and employing about 50,000 people. Authorities were not only helpless to stop it, many were part of the problem. During one raid the state police arrested Detroit Mayor John Smith, Michigan Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.