Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Criminal or President?

Sometimes I just don’t understand how politics in this country works. According to our Constitution, a president can be removed from office upon conviction of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Yet admitting to having committed such a crime does not prevent one from being elected president. I guess the important distinction is whether or not you are convicted. That is, caught.

You see our current and previous two presidents have (more or less) admitted to committing one or more crimes prior to their election. They were never convicted (as far as we know), but still. Do we really want a president in office that is an admitted criminal? Apparently, the answer is “yes.”

The crime of which I speak is the possession and use of a controlled substance. Depending on the location and the circumstances, our future presidents’ offenses could have been civil infractions, misdemeanors, or even felonies. If a president committed such a crime in office, it would certainly be grounds for impeachment. At least according to the Constitution. But in reality, no one takes these crimes very seriously. Except of course for law enforcement officials and those who are caught and convicted and must live with a criminal record for the rest of their lives.

So I can’t help but ask, what kind of message is this sending to our children? You can ignore, disregard, violate, and even flout the laws regarding recreational drugs, and as long as you don’t get caught you can become president. Get caught though and you are screwed. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems like a bit of a mixed message: Drugs are bad. If you use them and get caught, you are branded for life as a criminal. But if you use them and don’t get caught, then it’s really not so bad. Sounds to me like they are telling us that the actual ingesting of certain drugs isn’t what’s bad. It’s doing it in violation of the law that’s the bad part. So that must be the message: Drugs are OK, breaking the law is not OK. So, why is it again that we have a law that makes these drugs illegal if they're really OK?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that anyone should be denied a career in public service just because they admitted to committing this particular crime. What I’m suggesting is that our government make up its mind. Is possession of a controlled substance a serious crime? It would look that way since hundreds of thousands of people in this country are in jail for it. Yet when a presidential candidate admits to committing this crime, it’s barely a blip on the media’s radar. That suggests to me that, to the public anyway, this crime is about as serious as driving without a seatbelt. So which is it, serious crime or barely worth mentioning?

But then again, maybe the government isn’t as confused as their message would make them appear. Maybe this mixed message is intentional. That crafty government of ours. Could it be a sort of weeding-out process? A way to thin the herd? Only those smart enough to elude law enforcement and commit the perfect crime can go on to become president. They would certainly prove that they have what it takes to lead this country. I guess the same would apply if you get caught but have the connections necessary to make it appear that you didn’t. That would be another way to pass the test and prove that you are presidential material. On the other hand, if you’re so dumb that you do get caught and don’t have what it takes to make your criminal record go away, then you don’t even deserve to go to college or live in public housing, let alone be president. Your future lies in the retail or service industries. Now that I think about it, that really is the only sensible explanation. Once again, message received, loud and clear. And understood.

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