Why Should We Care If Sarah Palin Snorted Cocaine?

In addition to describing a one-night stand with basketball star Glen Rice, Joe McGinniss reports in his new, overtly hostile biography of Sarah Palin that before she was elected governor of Alaska she snorted cocaine off an oil drum while snowmobiling with friends. Well, who hasn't done that? The cocaine snorting, I mean, not necessarily off an oil drum and not necessarily during a snowmobile excursion.

If we can believe the government's survey data (which are based on self-reports and therefore probably understate the prevalence of drug use), about 72 percent of 45-to-49-year-olds (Palin's age group—and mine) have not tried cocaine, compared to 44 percent who have not tried marijuana. So snorting cocaine would mark Palin as a bit more adventurous than the pot smoking she has already admitted (and without the excuse that Alaska had decriminalized private possession and use of the drug). But as the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman observes at The Huffington Post, the scandal of politicians who used to smoke pot or snort cocaine is not the drug use; it's the hypocrisy of turning around and supporting the war on drugs, which means arresting and punishing people for doing what the politicians themselves did with impunity. For example, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who candidly admitted not only smoking marijuana but enjoying it, nevertheless has presided over an unprecedented crackdown on pot smokers in his city. So far he has not turned himself in.

Palin's marijuana record is mixed at best. "I can't claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled,” she said while running for governor in 2006. But two years later, her administration asked the Alaska Supreme Court to reverse its 1975 ruling that private pot consumption is protected by the state constitution. Last year on the Fox Business Network, Palin said she opposes marijuana legalization because it would "encourage especially our young people to think that it was OK to just go ahead and use it" but added that methamphetamine is a bigger threat. "If somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm," she said, "then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at." Of course, that is more or less the policy she sought to overturn as governor.

I'm not aware of any similar remarks that Palin has made about private cocaine use. In any event, I am sure she continues to support laws against producing or selling cocaine as well as marijuana, and I do not buy the conventional distinction between drug suppliers and drug consumers, which depicts the former as predators and the latter as their victims. So unless Palin is prepared to say that her own drug use was a serious crime that she deeply regrets (as opposed to a youthful lark), it is morally incoherent for her to argue that the people who merely helped her commit that offense by supplying the drugs deserve to go to prison.

I pondered "Palin's Pot Problem" in a 2008 column. In the October issue of Reason, I detail how another former marijuana (and cocaine) consumer, Barack Obama, has disappointed supporters who hoped he would de-escalate the war on drugs. 

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  • Tony||

    "Why should we care if Sarah Palin [insert anything]?"

  • ||

    unless its an amature porno then I won't care.

  • ||

    Palin has an awesome strategy. She keeps the media, the democrats and the reason boys focused on her, talking about her, distracted by her. Meanwhile, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, etc. are going about the business of the GOP nomination and she is drawing all the lightning. And she's getting richer by the minute.

    Brilliant strategy on her part.

  • What The||

    I clicked on my reason.com bookmark and got TMZ.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Not sure. Perhaps you should ask the liberal media (HuffPo, Salon, Slate, MSNBC) why they go fucking apeshit when it comes to a woman who doesn't hold office, nor is in the running to do so.

  • ||

    Because she's already annoying enough when she's straight.

  • ||

    Sarah is hot. Hot girls and MILFs get more leeway in everything.(Why? BECAUSE)
    The real question is did Glenn Rice snort coke off Sarah Palin and did Sarah eat some "rice"? (Pun intended)

  • anon||

    You just made my night. The idea of snorting coke off of Palin's tits has driven me to porn for a bit. Ok, a few seconds.

  • Jeff P||

    My thought was that "oil drum" was a euphemism for a large black man's taint...

  • ||

    Hot? Really? Maybe this is another reason I'm glad I'm gay.

  • ||

    Well i guess that photo really need no alt text.

  • MWG||

    Damn JC, you beat me to it. I was gonna say the exact same thing.

  • bbbhhhooo||

    I think the time when drug use by a politician is held against them has come and gone.

  • ||

    Too bad it's not the same for us peons.

  • ||

    The dissonance. It's cognitive!

  • BradK||

    "Sarah Palin" and "morally incoherent" have a sort of mutual resonance when used together.

    And great pic. If only there were one available with white powder around her nostril.

  • Colin||

    Funny how you just assume because it's written in a book that it's true.

  • rts||

    Milhouse: Jeez...if it's in a book, it's gotta be true!

    Bart: Scary, no? And this guy's head of the Spaceology Department at the Correspondence College of Tampa!

  • ||

    You know, I'm not familiar with that institution, august though it may be.

  • ||

    Ummmmm, actually Pro Lib, it is September.

  • ||

    I stand corrected. I also have an Earth, Wind & Fire song in my head.

  • ||

    Where did anybody say we believe it is true?

  • ||

    Sarah Palin *might* be human.

    Okay, then.

  • ||

    It's not automatically hypocrisy to have done something in the past and oppose it now. For example, Frank Abagnale is a former confidence man and check forger. He passed over $2.5 million in bad checks in the 1960's. He is now a security consultant and works closely with law enforcement and banks to prevent such activities. Does that make him a hypocrite?

    Suppose you used to smoke marijuana, have since quit doing it, believe it is bad, and work to keep others from smoking marijuana. Does that make you a hypocrite? Or a reformed pot smoker?

    Disclaimer: I hate the War on (some) Drugs as much as any one and think it is one of the most horrible anti-liberty government activities ever.

    That said, I just don't agree that changing your mind about whether smoking dope is okay makes you a hypocrite. If the politician were to go the other way, from drug warrior to supporting legalization, you would be lauding the guy.

    Now, if the political type is just pandering to get law enforcement endorsement and votes, that's entirely different. But it's not clear just from someone formerly smoking dope and then later supporting the drug war that they are a hypocrite.

  • Fluffy||

    Frank Abagnale went to jail first.

    If Sarah wants to go to jail for a while, it would then not be hypocritical for her to want others to go to jail for the same thing.

    I just don't agree that changing your mind about whether smoking dope is okay makes you a hypocrite.

    If you think it's not necessary for YOU to be imprisoned for you to "change your mind" about smoking dope, then it shouldn't be necessary for anyone else, either.

  • ||

    It's just not clear thinking to suggest that someone is a hypocrite because they did something in the past and oppose it now. I certainly hold many opinions that are greatly different today than I did 25 years ago. My opinions have changed over time due to learning, life experience, etc.

    That doesn't alter the fact that I think politicians will, by and large, say whatever they think will help them raise money, get elected, etc. It's just a strawman argument to claim that if you used to smoke dope and now you oppose marijuana legalization then you are a hypocrite. The one does not follow the other automatically.

  • Linus||

    I think you missed the part about jail.

  • ||

    I think you missed the part about jail.

    Yeah this situation probably does not exactly fit the "rules" of Civil Disobedience. Still it is close enough:

    Thoreau can go fuck himself.

  • Robert||

    It's hard to be an effective politician if you're in jail. So she chose politics instead of jail.

  • Fluffy||

    I think we're arguing about different aspects of the overall point.

    I'm not claiming that any change of mind here is automatically insincere. So her reasons for changing her mind aren't relevant to me. So all of that "learning, life experience" stuff isn't relevant to what I'm talking about.

    The thought "marijuana should be illegal" necessarily contains within it the thought "the people who use marijuana are such bad people who are harming our society and those around them in such horrible ways that we need to imprison them".

    If you think that thought, and you yourself used marijuana, then you are required to conclude that you yourself are also a bad person who harmed society and everyone around you, and you should remove yourself from any position of responsibility and any employment that a convicted drug criminal can't obtain. If you don't, you're a hypocrite.

    To me, the more sincerely you now think drug use is wrong (based on your learning, your experience, whatever) the more inescapable the conclusion that you yourself are a reprobate that no one should trust should be.

    That's what we're talking about here. When you say you want marijuana to be illegal, you are saying that you want the people who use it to go to jail, to be subjected to the parole and probation process, to be blocked from employment based on their "criminal" history, etc. That's what Palin wants. But she also wants to be exempt from that herself. Because to her, her drug use doesn't matter - only yours does.

  • Flunky||

    I just proved that I'm really stupid and illogical. Anyone care?

  • AdamJ||

    The hypocritical part is where they are proponents of locking people up and taking away their future lively-hood and earning power for getting caught doing something that they themselves do, or have done. So based on the luck of the draw of not getting caught, they are somehow better than the poor bloke who gets popped.

  • ||

    not really.

    even among people i know who think pot should be illegal, i dont' think i know anybody who thinks people should get jail time for it (at least not for a first offense).

    i personally don't think there should be ANY penalty for smoking pot, iow it should not be illegal imo, however it doesn't make somebody a hypocrite to have smoked it in the past and to believe it should be illegal.

    heck, some people smoke it now and still think it should be illegal. as long as they are willing to accept the penalty when caught

  • ||

    this is correct. it's not hypocritical to have done X in the past and support it's being criminal.

    it is hypocritical if you STILL do it, that i would agree with.

  • ||

    actually, come to think about it, i am not entirely sure of that either.

    hmmmm./..

  • ||

    The hypocrisy comes when you believe the punishment should only be visited on those who are caught.

    If the statute of limitations hasn't run out on whatever you did that you publicly proclaim should be illegal, then not turning yourself in is hypocrisy.

    If you have a kid who you know has done whatever you say should be illegal, and you don't turn them in, that is hypocrisy.

    If you don't publicly take the position that yes, you, personally, should have been locked up and carry a criminal record the rest of your life, that is hypocrisy.

  • WWNGD?||

    Because doing drugs is bad when a republican/conservative does them. It is acceptable when a democrat/liberal does them.

  • Another Phil||

    Non sequitur

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Rice is so full of shit. In Alaska, they're called snow machines.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So is McGuinniss. (Don't know why I typed Rice in there, but he's probably full of shit, too, for some other reason.)

  • anon||

    It's because he's brown. You fucking racist

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And McGinniss is Irish (or some shit like that), but you didn't have a problem with me going off on him for not knowing a colloquial term. So you're a double racist.

  • ||

    which makes him brown rice

  • ||

    Fluffy:

    If you think it's not necessary for YOU to be imprisoned for you to "change your mind" about smoking dope, then it shouldn't be necessary for anyone else, either.

    I don't think it is necessary to go to jail for anyone to change their mind about whether smoking dope is okay or not. Nor do I think Sarah Palin had to go to jail to change her mind about it.

    To claim that a person is a hypocrite because someone used to do something and they now oppose doing that something is a poor logical construct. Life experience, learning of various sorts, exposure to a variety of different viewpoints could all change someone's mind on a given topic and not make them hypocritical.

  • rts||

    To avoid being called a hypocrite, such people should *at least* offer to "turn themselves in" if they believe their past behaviour is criminal (now).

  • ||

    In Sarah Palin's case, she was smoking marijuana when personal use was legal in AK. Still failing to see the issue.

  • Fluffy||

    The thought "People who smoke dope should go to jail" cannot be reconciled with the thought "But this person who smoked dope should be governor of the state." Not without hypocrisy.

    And they don't become reconcilable even if it was legal for her to smoke it at the time.

  • Fluffy||

    Also, given the fact that she attended college pretty much all over the US, I highly, HIGHLY doubt she only ever smoked pot within the borders of the state of Alaska.

    There aren't a lot of people out there smoking pot who took up the habit AFTER college after not smoking it at any time during college.

    If her story is that she never broke any marijuana law anywhere in the US, I simply don't believe it.

  • Flunky||

    I'm just making up shit now.

  • ||

    See my point above .... still not making the case, because she did it when it was legal. Now it's not legal, she says she no longer does it, and it should be illegal.

    Shrugs .... I sincerely doubt I could ever vote for Palin for any elected office. But that doesn't mean I will be illogical just because I don't like her as a politician.

  • ||

    Exactly.

    If you say that others should be imprisoned for the same action in which you partook, but aren't willing to do the same jail time then you are a hypocrite.

  • ||

    again, this is faulty logic.

    not to mention that saying smoking pot should be illegal = saying people should be thrown in jail if caught (at least not the first or second time, etc.)

    the reality is that there are lots of people here in WA who continue to support MJ being criminal, and they are perfectly ok with it being the kind of minor offense that nets a fine for first, second offense, etc.

  • ||

    How about PA where for a small pipe(FTO) I got 6 mos probation, mandatory NA, and rehab. For a goddamn pipe.

    And I could really give a fuck people's own shifting definitions of hypocrisy. I have my own, and it says that if Barack Obama, or Sarah Palin, or any other slimeball opportunists can't stand up and say that their lives and society* would be better served had they been punished for their youthful indiscretions then they're fucking hypocrites in my book. If they don't have the courage of their conviction to take their punishment, then again: fucking hypocrites. If they really believe that drug use has a victim then they should step up and make reparations.

    Our political class is fucking scum, dunphy. And if you think they're going to give up the power they've amassed from their various wars (drug, poverty, terror, etc)with some logical arguments and a little first principle omphaloskepsis then your idealism is only outweighed by your naivete.

    Freedom for me but not for thee.

    *actually, maybe it would be better if they'd gotten thrown out of college and were presently working the fry line

  • ||

    Oh, and here's a pre fuck you for anonymous bitch:

    fuck you, anonymous bitch.

  • ||

    i agree with you about a lot. i just disagree with this fundamental reason-meme that

    1) if you did an illegal drug(s) in your life
    2) you are a politician (or average person) who supports the criminalization of same drugs
    =
    3) you are a hypocrite

    or the silly corrolaries like Palin is a hypocrite unless she would turn herself in and get punished for doing drugs back when she did them (at least the cocaine was illegal when she did, etc.)

    i 100% agree with you that the WOD is immensely damaging, and i also agree that i think a LOT of politicians who CLAIM to be for the WOMJ actually take that position out of fear of losing votes, and many actually don't think it should be illegal, but they are fucking cowards

  • ||

    In case you missed it above:

    The hypocrisy comes when you believe the punishment should only be visited on those who are caught.

    If the statute of limitations hasn't run out on whatever you did that you publicly proclaim should be illegal, then not turning yourself in is hypocrisy.

    If you have a kid who you know has done whatever you say should be illegal, and you don't turn them in, that is hypocrisy.

    If you don't publicly take the position that yes, you, personally, should have been locked up and carry a criminal record the rest of your life, that is hypocrisy.

  • ||

    I'm not sure why it's hypocrisy if you think that only those who are caught should be punished if you, yourself are willing to accept that punishment if you are caught.

    You are accepting the illegality of what you are doing and understand that society, of necessity, punishes those who are caught doing what you've done.

    But 'caught' is the operative word.

  • ||

    i think that's moronic, too. even if person X thinks Y should be illegal, it doesn't follow that they think people who do Y have some sort of profound moral duty to turn themselves in for doing it, let alone for doing it years ago.

    cmon

  • ||

    even if person X thinks Y should be illegal, it doesn't follow that they think people who do Y have some sort of profound moral duty to turn themselves in for doing it, let alone for doing it years ago.

    This only holds true if you think that punishment is only deserved by those who get caught.

    Which I think is either (a) amoral or (b) hypocritical.

  • Fluffy||

    To claim that a person is a hypocrite because someone used to do something and they now oppose doing that something is a poor logical construct.

    That's not where the hypocrisy lies.

    Sarah Palin apparently doesn't feel like she should have gone to prison or have a prison record.

    On the contrary - she thinks that, even given everything she's done in her life, she should be governor of a state and/or Vice President of the United States.

    As soon as she "changed her mind" about the drug activities she engaged in, she should be resigned her offices and sought no new ones. And she should have submitted herself to criminal punishments for the activities she undertook, waiving any statute of limitations.

    The hypocrisy didn't lie in changing her mind and deciding that drugs were bad. The hypocrisy resided in deciding that, but in continuing to believe that she was entitled to still live the life of someone with a clean record, despite her previous actions.

    The only way Sarah Palin could think that she was entitled to be governor of Alaska or Vice President of the United States is to think that her own drug use was no big deal and shouldn't impact her life or prospects. If she thinks that drug use is a big deal and that we should use the legal system to destroy the life and prospects of people who use drugs, then she should have imposed that upon herself and should not have considered herself worthy of being governor of Alaska or Vice President of the United States.

  • Flunky||

    Sarah Palin must be holier than anyone or I judge her evil.

  • Maxxx||

    Your logic is retarded fluffy.

    Is a politician a hypocrite if they admit having driven while drunk as a youngster and still think that it should be illegal?

    The penalty for a first offense dui is much greater than it is for smoking out.

  • Sudden||

    Clearly the question is whether she allowed a black man to snort a line of her ass.

  • Sudden||

    *Off* her ass that is.

  • ||

    Hmmmmmmm, either one makes a perverse sort of sense, though

  • J_L_B||

    I take joy in knowing that once the death of newspapers is complete, people like Joe McGinniss will spend out their days on a street corner holding a cup.

    That day cannot come soon enough!

  • ||

    @Fluffy ....

    I will say that our entire society, laws, standards of behavior, etc. are completely twisted and distorted by The War on (some) Drugs. It's all the same problems that were created by The War on Alcohol. But this little story fits within that much broader social issue.

    Frankly, Sarah Palin is yet more evidence of the complete and abject failure of the Drug Warriors to do anything to defeat their "enemy". The Drug Warriors are right about society and law being undermined, but it was by them not the pot smokers. Some day they may figure that out. I doubt it.

    In the meantime, I'm not going to buy in to the idea that someone is hypocritical based on the what they did in 1986 and what they say they believe in 2011. If you can show me that Palin smokes dope at home right now, but supports the drug war publicly, then I would agree that she is a hypocrite.

  • ||

    I see it as someone who did something when they were in their 20s. The year doesn't matter so much, because it's extremely likely that they'd do the same thing in 2011, were they the same age and in the same place in life.

    If they think that people in their 20s doing the same things should be imprisoned for it, then yes, that's hypocrisy.

  • ||

    And BTW I was in my 20s in 1986, so I'm pretty well aware of the general perceptions of pot and cocaine at the time. We're not talking about 1886. In 1986, these drugs were illegal, they were seen by many as "bad", and if anything, pot is seen by more people as "no big deal" today than it was then.

  • Fluffy||

    The separation in years doesn't matter.

    Anyone arrested for using marijuana in 2011 probably is not going to be in a position to be Vice President of the United States in 2033. That to me says that if you smoked dope in 1986 and now think that's wrong, you should not have considered yourself worthy of being Vice President in 2008.

    She can change her mind all she wants. She can't change her history.

    For her to think that she's a solid enough citizen to be Vice President, she has to think that her drug use was no big deal and nothing in her drug use had any real impact on her ability to be a valuable contributor to our society.

    If she thinks that about herself, but does not think it about others, that's hypocrisy.

    "I should be able to smoke pot but then just turn my back on it and treat it as a lark and as something that shouldn't have any ongoing impact on my life - but if you smoke pot now I want to destroy your life." I don't understand how you can not find that thought hypocritical.

  • SIV||

    Anyone arrested for using marijuana in 2011 probably is not going to be in a position to be Vice President of the United States in 2033.
    Mitch Daniels' presidential aspirations were hurt more by the strange relationship with his wife than his drug arrest

  • ||

    Mitch Daniel's had presidential aspirations. Why?

  • Mendelism||

    Amazing how many people aren't getting this. Or maybe it's just Eric. DONDEROOOO?

  • Mentalmidget||

    We hate Palin. Isn't that enough?

  • ||

    If the thing about coke is true, it totally raises my opinion of Palin by about 5 notches.

    I also like how she called out Perry for his Gardasil (sp?) bullshit.

    The more and more I think of it, if I had to vote for someone other than Ron Paul or Gary Johnson, it would be Palin.

  • ||

    "had" like you have a gun to your head or like I better vote for the most plausible candidate who is not Obama?

    Cuz I would vote for the LP candidate way before Palin in the first scenario.

  • SIV||

    I assumed he was referring to the GOP primary.

  • Gene Berkman||

    "I also like how she called out Perry for his Gardasil (sp?) bullshit."

    If you are referring to the Republican/Tea Party debate, that was Michele Bachmann that attacked Perry over the Gardasil mandate.

  • ||

    No, I'm referring specifically to Palin.

    Palin came on some show afterwards and echoed the same sentiment.

    It caused quite a stir on Free Republic.

  • ||

    I guess we can expect a complete reevaluation of Palin in Reason on account of this: rumors of methamphetamine addiction would probably provoke an endorsement.

  • Bee Tagger||

    The FBI saw that, Justin!

  • MikeS||

    Extramarital affairs? Coke and pot? Maybe she's qualified to be President after all.

  • ||

    There's no extramarital accusation. Would make the story even juicier.

  • SIV||

    The snowmobile dealership partner of Todd.

  • ||

    Ah. I see. Gets overshadowed by the Glen Rice story in all the stories I've read about this book.

  • What The||

    Why doesn't anyone take libertarianism seriously?

  • President Anonopussy||

    That's right. Us progressives - and even most Republicans - know enough to look all sad and shit when we talk about the "mistakes" we made in our past. Smoking weed, snorting coke - such horrible mistakes that we can now support laws that keep half a million Americans behind bars for doing the exact same things we did.

    That's how you get to sit at the adult table.

  • Joe M||

    "morally incoherent"

    Great turn of phrase, and one that should be used more often to describe politicians.

  • sevo||

    No, we should care that she's an idiot.

  • SIV||

    Less so than our current POTUS.

  • Flunky||

    Less than me, too!

  • ||

    Why Should We Care If Sarah Palin Snorted Cocaine?

    Because she doesn't like to share.

  • ||

    I don't care if she ever snorted cocaine, but I would care if she had lied about it under oath while holding any public office, or spent tax money to get it.

    -jcr

  • ||

    For Fuck's Sake Jacob, learn to add alt text.

  • ||

    You know what it is. I know what it is. Why bother making it alt-text?

    Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

  • Robert||

    I do not buy the conventional distinction between drug suppliers and drug consumers, which depicts the former as predators and the latter as their victims. So unless Palin is prepared to say that her own drug use was a serious crime that she deeply regrets (as opposed to a youthful lark), it is morally incoherent for her to argue that the people who merely helped her commit that offense by supplying the drugs deserve to go to prison.


    How about looking at things the other way around, as with child porn, that the consumers are keeping the producers in business?

  • ||

    Would it surprise anyone if journo/stalker Joe McGinniss made stuff up?

  • Copernicus||

    Are you saying that Sarah girl down the street dated a colored boy? oh my....

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    What is the evidence for this charge, other than the Milhouse standard (see above)?

  • ||

    There is absolutely no evidence for any of the crap in McGinnis' book but Jacob Sullum has accepted it as gospel. This post greatly demeans Sullum and Reason too.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Thanks to Chief Justice Earl Warren and his merry men, it's difficult for a public official to win a libel case, even if the charge is false. Warren should have stuck with stripping (another Simpson's reference).

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