The glorious thing about the story—and no, I am not among those who wish Radel well in his recovery efforts because Radel had no interest in recovery until he was not only arrested for his criminal behavior, but only after it had finally been made clear that the arrest was actually going to be reported in public, thus suggesting his effort at "rehabilitation" was aimed squarely at rehabilitating himself for public service purposes, a task which has become so ridiculously easy that you can do it in the span of a few weeks now, with the help of any decent speechwriter—is that nobody involved is making any argument that Radel has not gotten the Important White Person version of justice. There is no pretense among his peers that perhaps being an admitted cokehead disqualifies him for his job: How many employees at any other place of business would get the same treatment? There are no musings that perhaps now that it has been proven that some very small but measurable percentage of Congress are abusers of illegal drugs, we should be drug testing the lot of them before giving them their paychecks; Trey Radel himself was a proponent of those very tests, when it came to poorer Americans than him being subjected to them.
Read more on Rep. Trey Radel below the fold.
If he had been caught in Florida instead of the nation's capitol, the same charge would meet with substantial prison time and a new felony record that would dog him for the rest of his employable life; nobody important cares. If he had skin of a darker color, possessing what he possessed might have been sufficient for prosecutors to suppose he was distributing it to others as well, and not merely using it; it goes without saying, though, that congressmen ought to be allowed to carry enough of the stuff for themselves and a few new friends without being accused of anything but being a thoughtful host.
Nope. We really have fully internalized the notion that Important White Congressman ought to be able to break the same laws as the little people and not suffer the little people consequences. No prison, no loss of job, no peeing in a cup, no assumption of a mind genetically predisposed to crime, no nothing; he is a victim of bad judgment, nothing more. Just as a mortgage company can manufacture fraudulent documents without it being considered "that kind" of fraud, or a financial company can sell a product as crooked as they like and not one person involved will ever feel the smooth polished steel of a pair of handcuffs—good luck doing the same on a street corner, without the cover of a government agency that winces at the headache of an economy in which you, big important lawyered-up you, are not peddling your wares, now you can even be a congressman and do even cocaine on the job and there will be ten important moral scolds defending you for every one that supposes you unfit. The difference between prince and pauper is that stark, now.
Forget whether 10,000 people might lose their own jobs for the same offense; the Beltway fight will be how much mere moral disapprobation we ought to be tossing the good hypocritical tough-on-crime coked-up drug-testing-advocating important person's way, and how much moral disapprobation might be too much. Oh, there will still be moral scolds, mind you, but their guns will be pointed the other way on this one, as they so often are, and the columns and letters and interviewees will demand that a man who has declared himself redeemed ought to be redeemed, because that is what Christ would want, and more than one of those scolding demands for forgiveness will be written by people who have little packets of fine white powder in their own desk drawers and who have already decided which of the white-shoe firms will tell the world they too are now reformed, if the wrong person ever opens that drawer. Did you know that some columnists once did the Mary Jane? It is true, and you can admit that sort of thing in these modern times because nobody gives a shit whether our thought leaders once did the Mary Jane, so long as the lesser people out there in the rest of the nation know that we still intend to destroy them if they try the same thing.
Congratulations, then. Truly, Mr. Radel, you have achieved the pinnacle of Important Personship. Your redemption is now all but complete, all you need do now is say you made mistakes a few more times and every anti-drug, tough-on-crime moral scold in the capital will shake your hand and call you a patriot and tell you where you can buy your goddamn important person drugs again. Because values, my good man. Values.