Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mitch Daniels on drugs

Paul Waldman nails Mitch Daniels for his breathtaking hypocrisy on drug laws. It's certainly eye-opening to learn that as an undergraduate at Princeton Daniels was popped for possession of enough pot to fill two shoeboxes, along with LSD and prescription drugs.

Daniels got off with a $350 fine, which as Waldman notes is impossibly merciful by today's standards. If someone else were to do the same thing in Indiana, according to the Clark County prosecutor's website they would be charged with a class D felony, a crime punishable by 1/2 to 3 years incarceration and up to a $10,000 fine. That's just for the weed; we haven't even touched upon the acid or the pills.

We've talked about empathy before on this site. There's another side to empathy, though, there's what happens when you turn that empathetic eye back toward oneself; we might call it "awareness of privilege." Daniels recognizes that he made a bad decision and that it could have profoundly curtailed his future career prospects, but he doesn't seem to understand why he didn't have it worse. There's no consideration here of the role of his race, background, and port of call (i.e, Princeton University) in the incredible leniency with which he was treated, not to mention the privilege of having sown his wild oats before the days of mandatory minimums and enhanced drug penalties that his own party ushered in.

But, of course, Daniels enjoys all manner of privilege in other ways as well. He never had to worry about his career plans being derailed by pregnancy. He never had to attend a struggling inner city school or live in a neighborhood reduced to chaos by the drug trade. His parents could afford one of the finest universities in the country. Nobody assumes that he got into Princeton because of Affirmative Action, or that Eli Lilly was just filling a racial/gender quota.

Former Texas governor Ann Richards once quipped that George Bush "was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." The quote was so devastating in part because it's widely applicable to his entire party.

No comments: