“Look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky. But a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys. They go to jail for these things. And I think it’s a big mistake.”When you walk into a casino 100 times, and you lose the vast majority of those times in games like blackjack, roulette, and craps, the casino did not get lucky. The games are rigged in their favor, and you're giving up anywhere from 1% to 10% in house edge depending upon what you play and how you play. The casino will win because of tangible decisions made by real people that make sure the outcome turns out a certain way.
When you talk about George W. Bush getting "lucky" in his youth, I have to shake my head, admitting that while your takes on the drug war provide some meaningful insights, they fail spectacularly to deal with the realities of what's really happening. And it's not surprising that someone like Rand Paul would miss the mark on this issue, because dealing with the truth requires one to confront issues liker racism and white privilege.
When Rand Paul says that Bush got lucky, he's implying that there was some chance involved. He said, after all, that Bush could have had his life ruined by a drug arrest.
But that's not really true. The reason Bush wasn't arrested for drug use doesn't have anything to do with good fortune. It has everything to do with decisions made at many levels of government to enforce and prosecute crimes in different ways and at different rates. George W. Bush never encountered a police force because the police don't patrol rich Texas suburbs looking for kids in chinos smoking pot or snorting coke. The police don't bother nice homes in New Haven, Connecticut. Instead, they're sent to the inner cities to monitor minority populations, who, according to the statistics, use drugs at somewhere close to the same rate as white people.
And let's play out Rand Paul's scenario, where a guy like George W. Bush finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in an unlikely drug arrest. What happens then? I can assure you that the result is not an accident. There's nothing to be gained for elected district attorneys by prosecuting nice looking, rich white kids. It's highly unlikely that even an arrest would have ruined George W. Bush's life, because reality suggests that his case would have ended in a dismissal somewhere before trial. Go down to the court house one day and try to pick out the nice looking white guys awaiting trial. If you find one, your search will have been a very fortunate one.
The reasons for this are many. They start with politics, where tough on crime is only really rewarded when it leads to "animals" being jailed. Well-meaning white kids, it seems, are not animals in the eyes of the voting public, and the political cache awarded for jailing them is not worth the expense or the time. As Paul notes, the disparities are driven by economic status, as rich white kids can hire the sorts of lawyers who make prosecutors shake a little in their boots. But before we anoint Rand Paul as the great defender of the right to a good lawyer, let's remember that he and his buddies voted to defund the Public Defender Corps, a fellowship program headed by Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative that was started to train dedicated new graduates who want to go into indigent defense. Paul is very much like the guy who complains about salmonella while taking money from the FDA.
These are dangerous waters for Rand Paul, a man so depraved on the issue of race that he's comfortable with the idea of state-sanctioned segregation. Because when you wade into discussions about drug prosecution, you must approach the question with an understanding of the very real racial implications. Doing so isn't politically expedient for Paul, as he angles for influence within a party that hosts false funerals celebrating racism's disappearance.
Nearly one in three black males can expect to spend time in prison during their life, a rate more than five times higher than that of white males. Statistics suggest that though black males make up only around 14% of the nation's drug users, they constitute 37% of the nation's criminal drug offenders.
These statistics are real, and they're just a reflection of what any open-eyed person can see on a daily basis in any court house across this country. The system is designed to allow the perverse racist attitudes of those with power to exert their influence without much oversight. And there's no incentive to change since voting populations respond to the empty rhetoric of elected prosecutors and judges.
Ending the absurd American drug enforcement regime is important, but it's also important to understand the racial lines upon which the war is fought. Because unless we deal with what's driven the drug war, we'll be left with another war on something designed to fill our prisons with black and brown males once enough people wise up to lunacy of our current drug policies. No, Rand, it wasn't "luck" that kept George W. Bush on a track that allowed him to inhabit the presidency; it was simply the system doing what it's been designed to do - protect the sons and daughters of white privilege from the consequences that befall young minority men across this country when they have their own indiscretions.
6:25 PM PT: UPDATE: Readers have pointed out that I seem to ignore the fact that Paul didn't just single out Bush; he also mentioned Obama. I've responded in the comments, but I feel this should be included in the text of the diary itself:
I could write about 2,000 words more about how stupid it is to conflate Barack Obama and George W. Bush (as kids) and their chances of being arrested for doing drugs as anything close to equal. One being a biracial kid with a middle class upbringing, the other being a super-rich white kid.
But Obama's situation is a bit more complicated.
Paul is probably right that Obama did get "lucky," at least in comparison to other black kids.
But this diary is about Rand Paul's unwillingness to tell the rest of the story - the true story - that drives the war on drugs. And perpetuating this stupidity that the problem with the drug was is that it could catch in the net nice boys like George W. Bush, who might have gone on to become president.
Which is obviously horseshit. That's not the problem with the drug war at all, because people like GWB are largely exempt from the consequences of drug policy. The problem with the war on drugs is that it's a sinister, racist institution designed to put black people (and brown people) in prison.
And he won't talk about that, because it's not politically expedient.
IT IS about the white guys. Paul's unwillingness to deal with that is what this diary is about. And that's not "tilted."