It's been a few days now since the major flap about Olympic god Michael Phelps and the bong pipe and picture of him doing the pipe justice that went public and impelled Kellogg's, the maker of corn flakes, to drop Phelps as a corporate sponsor. (A whole bunch of other companies also sponsoring the swimmer and apparently unconcerned about being represented by a dope fiend declined to fire him.) Regular readers here, all six or seven of them, know how I feel about pot (also here and here). So you can probably imagine I don't have any particular heartburn with Phelps engaging in an activity that almost half of all Americans have engaged or are engaged in. The honor roll of famous people who have toked up is long and impressive, and includes such brain-damaged potheads as the current president of the US (and at least seven other US presidents), NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the late conservative icon William F. Buckley, an articulate champion for pot legalization.
The point here is not to defend Phelps or the use of recreational hemp--although both are eminently defensable--but to notice a piece by Timothy Egan in todays NY Times. He scoffs at Alex Rodrieguez's explanation for shooting up with sterioids, i.e., "I was young . . . stupid . . . naive." This explanation, Egan says correctly, doesn't work for a person who was 27-29 years old when he was doing steroids. And it doesn't work for other luminaries who have used the "I was young and stupid" excuse. People like our late-lamented president George W. Bush--worthless cocaine-snorting and drunk driving rascal he was for at least half his life before being rescued by Jesus. And the late, ever pious Henry Hyde, the darling of the anti-abortion and flag-hugger crowds. Hyde favored a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning and who led the House impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton for adultery and lying to Congress. That Henry Hyde, the one who carried on an eight-year affair with a beauty stylist, while he was married, of course. (And lied about its duration.) He was 41 years old, almost 50 when this affair ended, and he blamed "youthful indiscretion" for his sins.
If anybody's got an excuse for being young and stupid, Egan says, it's Phelps. But the whole argument is nonsense. Especially when guys like A-Rod (and anybody else who's got money) are going to escape any legal consequences of their actions, while society continues to incarcerate tens of thousands of people who are actually young and stupid for marijuana offenses. The young-and-stupid argument doesn't work for them, does it? Hear! Hear!