There were plenty of awkward moments to be had at CNN’s marathon debate for the 2016 Republican candidates. Between Donald Trump being, well, Donald Trump, and the lighthearted “Miss America” questions at the end, this debate provided some rich fodder for satire. However, some of those satirical moments also gave us insight into the major issues facing this nation. One example was seen when the candidates waded into the War on Drugs.
At one point, moderator and CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) about a comment from Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) regarding the enforcement of federal marijuana laws. In April of this year on the Hugh Hewitt Show (conveniently, Mr. Hewitt was one of the debate’s other moderators), Christie was asked if he would enforce federal drug laws in states that have legalized and continue to tax the sale of marijuana. Most notably, these states are Colorado and Washington.
Christie’s response: “Absolutely…I will crack down and not permit it…States should not be permitted to sell it and profit [from legalizing marijuana.]”
Senator Paul’s response to that comment was one that likely both alienated strong social conservatives and made libertarians rejoice, an effect that Sen. Paul has mastered. He went straight to the Tenth Amendment, claiming that the federal government has no right to override the states.
After appealing to what the constitution actually says and making a reasonable argument, Jake Tapper turned the conversation around to something far more interesting: mudslinging. Leading up to his appeal to the Tenth Amendment, Sen. Paul stated that “there is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.” Here Sen. Paul is detailing the ramifications of a poorly fought war on drugs, but Tapper used this to see just who this example might be.
It is no secret that many politicians have tried marijuana. In fact, the Marijuana Policy Project publishes a list each year of “most influential marijuana consumers.” The criteria? Essentially, one must be alive, a U.S. citizen, and have tried marijuana in some form within their life. Here, Tapper’s strategy falls apart: Sen. Paul may have been referring to himself, for he fell in with a grouping of 2016 contenders which placed second on the list as a whole. Four GOP contenders (including Jeb Bush, Sen. Cruz, Sen. Rubio, and Sen. Paul), not just one, appeared on their list.
To make matters worse, former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) felt convicted enough by Sen. Paul’s words to confess of his sins on air, saying that “He was talking about me… 40 years ago, I smoked marijuana, and I admit it.” Later that evening, his official twitter account tweeted “Sorry mom.” Depending on how you look at it, this response is either sad or endearing.
On a more somber note, Carly Fiorina, the new debate heavyweight, told a heartbreaking story of her daughter’s death from a drug overdose that gave her some much-deserved sympathy on the issue.
Whether this issue brought awkward laughs or empathetic tears, the war on drugs is not going to go anywhere in its current form. I, for one, am glad that it got some well-deserved air time.