When Rep. Henry “Trey” Radel, R-Fla., pled guilty to one count of cocaine possession on Wednesday (TNT 11/20), it was something more than a political scandal.
It was a federal crime. A felony.
That fact does not seem to register with the public, perhaps because Radel is not the first elected official to be arrested on drug charges (though he may be one of the few to apologize).
Few may recognize the name Steve Katz, a New York Assemblyman arrested for marijuana (despite voting against legalization), or Willie Gandara Jr., a Texas County Commissioner arrested on federal drug trafficking charges.
But those of us with a little gray on the roof will recall the saga of former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Berry, arrested after the FBI videotaped him smoking crack cocaine in 1990. The scandal cost him six months in federal prison and a chance to run for reelection that year.
More recently, the story of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford played out like a train wreck in slow motion. Also allegedly captured on video smoking crack (what is it with mayors, crack and video cameras?), he has yet to be arrested.
What is most frustrating about these scandals is that the underlying crime – which would effectively terminate the career of a police officer or other public servant – is followed up by shameless obfuscation and/or dishonorable defiance. Worse, the politicians who play fast and loose with drugs often have executive authority over the police chiefs who (like Toronto) may be reluctant to make an arrest.
And a felony arrest doesn’t seem to hold them back, either.
Like the prodigal (crack smoking) son, Marion Berry returned to politics in 1992 and to the mayor’s seat just two years later. Trey Radel has, of course, refused to give up his congressional seat, despite being arrested for a crime that would ironically preclude him from working as a staffer in his own office.
And Mayor Ford? He is being cheered by throngs of supporters as if he were a bad boy rock star rather than the chief administrator of a major metropolitan city. This despite the viral video which captured his rampage through a crowded council chambers where he knocked over a female colleague as if she were a bowling pin and he a drunken bowler trying to pick up a spare.
Is it naive to hope for more from our elected officials? Could they not find even an ounce of honor or display even the slightest shame?
Let’ face it – the system is a bit insane. How else to describe it when a felonious individual is allowed to sit atop the governmental chain of command, rendering judgment on others while a steady stream of credibility leaks out of his oversized ego.
And what can a police chief do when he sees the face of his boss behind a thin haze of crack smoke? Laugh at the irony?
No. Book him.