Denny Rehberg was in town today, touting his support for a nonsensical proposed extension of the Patriot Act that would ‘help fight meth.’
There are a number of problems with this proposal. First, doesn’t it demonstrate that the USA PATRIOT Act has become cover for anything the federal government or an individual member of Congress want to do? The purpose of the act, according to the act, is
To deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.
When passed, Americans saw USA-Patriot as a necessary step to fight terrorism, not as an all-purpose cover for any kind of legislation related to law enforcement. Attaching legislation like this to an act that was ostensibly designed to fight terrorism makes the Patriot Act’s naked grab for federal power even more obvious.
What’s more, it perpetuates the same flawed thinking that has dominated government thinking about battling drugs. The continued war on drugs, their users, and their dealers (presumably the people Rehberg tried to connect to 9/11 on my news channel tonight) has been an absolute failure in every way. There is simply no credible research that increasing punishment alleviates the drug problem. None. What can we do?
Treatment, treatment, treatment, treatment.
But Rehberg’s move is politically savvy. Voters keep responding to these periodic attacks on the horrifying drug du jour, and treatment doesn’t sell as easily as voters who have been scared into believing that we are in the midst of a meth epidemic. It’s also probably fair to say that he won’t be alienating the critical meth addict vote with this bold position.
So Rehberg scores some cheap political points from a media that uncritically plays and repeats his inane talking points about meth, never questioning the connection between meth and terrorism or the failure of the punishment model for drug addiction. Wouldn’t it be great if ‘the news’ was more than a platform for talking points?