MSNBC.com Hails How 'Moral Outrage' About Pot is Down, Hits Coke-snorting Congressman's Return

The MSNBC gang's selective outrage about drug use and the liberalization of drug laws is abundantly clear in two stories on the network's website today.

"Americans change their minds on pot," blares the headline for item #4 in the top-stories lightbox. "Moral outrage is down and support for legalized marijuana is up," noted the caption teasing Jane C. Timm's story. The very next item in the lightbox, however, tut-tutted a disgraced Florida Republican. "Coke congressman to return to Capitol Hill," the headline alerted readers. "Rep. Trey Radel to return to Congress Tuesday after taking a leave of absence last year to attend rehab for his cocaine use," noted the teaser caption to Michele Richinick's January 7 story. [see screen capture below]


Here's how Timm opened her story:

A majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, a new poll found.

In a new CNN/ORC International poll, 55% of Americans said they believed pot use should be legalized.

It’s a complete flip of public opinion. In 1987, just 16% of Americans felt the same way according to General Social Survey polling; support has risen over the last 27 years. Two years ago, 43% supported legalizing pot.

Predictably, younger people have pushed approval numbers for the substance up. While two thirds of those under 34 said they supported legalized marijuana, just 39% of those over 65 said they felt pot should be legal.

Of course, pot and cocaine are two entirely different drugs and most Americans do not favor legalizing the latter. Recent polling data, however, suggest most Americans are not in favor of harsh criminal penalties for using blow and favor the sort of light sentencing which Mr. Radel received:

Few Americans favor legalizing drugs like cocaine and heroin, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. But a majority of Americans also think first-time offenders caught with small amounts of those drugs should not face prison time.

According to the new poll, only 9 percent of Americans believe using heroin should be made legal, 11 percent think the use of cocaine should be legal and 9 percent think using crack should be legal.

Opposition to legalizing these drugs comes in contrast to views on marijuana legalization. Several polls conducted over the past year, including by The Huffington Post, the Pew Research Center and Gallup, have shown that a majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. Harder drugs like heroin, cocaine and crack are viewed in a different light, the new poll shows.

At the same time, though, few respondents to the latest poll said that they think jail time is an appropriate sentence for first-time drug offenders.

For example, 13 percent said that heroin possession by a first-time offender should be punished by a fine or no punishment at all, while another 40 percent favored probation or court-ordered treatment, but no prison time. Nine percent favored less than a year in prison, 14 percent said 1-5 years, 3 percent said 6-10 years, and 10 percent said heroin possession should be punishable by 10 years in prison or more.

 

For her part, Ms. Richinick did stick to the facts and avoided loaded language in her article regarding Radel's return to Congress. She did note that Republican leaders have called on the Florida Republican and self-described "hip-hop conservative" to resign and that "a super PAC recently raised $1 million from two donors to challenge the congressman."

At the close of the article, a poll question prompted readers to weigh in:

"What do you think: Should Rep. Radel resign?"

When I checked in on the results, only 15 percent had replied "No, he deserves a second chance" while 85 percent threw the book at the guy, answering, "Yes, no doubt about it."

Ultimately, whether or not Mr. Radel should resign is up to him, and his colleagues in the House are always free to move exercise the remedy allotted them in Article I, Section 5 to "with the concurrence of two thirds, expel" Mr. Radel. That said, I've not seen any push by liberals in the media to call on House members to initiate a debate on expulsion, perhaps in no small part because it sets the precedent that an instance of substance abuse would be grounds for expulsion.

The last House member to be expelled was James Traficant (D-Ohio) in July 2002, who refused to resign after having been convicted three months earlier on "10 counts of bribery, racketeering and income tax evasion." His expulsion came days before his sentencing hearing, where he was slapped with a $150,000 fine and sentenced to eight years in prison.

In the entire history of the U.S. House, only four other members have ever been expelled, three in 1861 for disloyalty to the Union/supporting the Confederacy and one in 1980, Michael Myers (D-Pa.), subsequent to his bribery conviction in the Abscam scandal.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters