Walters vs. Nadelmann


In the latest issue of National Review, drug czar John P. Walters is reduced to angry incoherence as he responds to the argument for marijuana legalization that the Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann made in the July 12 issue of the magazine. NR gave Nadelmann space to rebut Walters' response (which he does ably), but it almost wasn't necessary, given how appallingly bad Walters is at making the case for prohibition.

In the opening paragraph, Walters asserts that Nadelmann's "version of marijuana legalization…fronts for a worldwide political movement, funded by billionaire George Soros, to embed the use of all drugs as acceptable policy." There's almost nothing about that sentence that makes sense. What does it mean for a "version of marijuana legalization" to "front" for a political movement? How does one "embed the use of all drugs as acceptable policy"?

The one thing that's clear is that Walters assumes, given National Review's audience, that he can use the bogeyman of Soros the Liberal Billionaire to discredit Nadelmann's argument. He mentions Soros twice more, to no logical effect but with obvious prejudicial intent.

Walters really heats up toward the end, where he lets loose this rant:

Make no mistake about what is going on here: Drug legalization is a worldwide movement, the goal of which is to make drug consumption–including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine–an acceptable practice. Using the discourse of rights without resonsibilities, the effort strives to establish an entitlement to addictive substances. The impact will be devastating.

Drug legalizers will not be satisfied with a limited distribution of medical marijuana, nor will they stop at legal marijuana for sale in convenience stores. Their goal is clearly identifiable: tolerated addiction. It is a travesty to suggest, as Ethan Nadelmann has done, that it is consistent with conservative principles to abandon those who could be treated for their addiction, to create a situation in which government both condones and is the agent of drug distribution, and to place in the hands of the state the power to grant or not grant access to an addictive substance. This is not a conservative vision. But it is the goal of George Soros.

Rather than debate what Nadelmann actually said, Walters chooses to attack an imaginary position that he attributes to George Soros, without presenting any evidence that either Soros or Nadelmann believes in "rights without responsibilities" or an "entitlement to addictive substances." Walters gets one thing right, however: It "is not a conservative vision"–at least insofar as American conservatism reflects classical liberal principles of limited government–"to place in the hands of the state the power to grant or not grant access to an addictive substance." But isn't that the policy Walters is supposed to be defending?