Preckwinkle steps in it
SouthtownStar editorial August 22, 2012 10:40PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 7:49AM
Of all the local politicians we would expect to most likely suffer from “foot-in-mouth” disease, Toni Preckwinkle, the serious, professorial Cook County Board president, would not be high on the list.
But stick her foot in it she did this week, telling a leadership conference at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign that former President Ronald Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his tough stance on illegal drug use, including pushing successfully for incarceration for minor drug offenses. The remark drew gasps from some members of the audience, causing Preckwinkle to reportedly say, “What, you didn’t like that?”
Well, no they didn’t, and we don’t either.
Preckwinkle made her ill-advised comment about Reagan in response to a question after her speech, which dealt in part with Cook County’s policy of issuing tickets to those found with small amounts of marijuana in unincorporated areas rather than arresting them. She said national drug policy has been a failure in imposing tougher penalties for possessing illegal drugs and needs to view it as a public health issue — stressing treatment and education rather than jail or prison time.
We strongly agree with that position and regret that Preckwinkle’s unfortunate comment detracted from her main message. She does as well, as indicated in the apology she issued a few hours afterward, in which she said the nation’s drug problem is “too complicated to lay all of it out on President Reagan’s doorstep” and “inflammatory language” overshadows the bigger issue.
Preckwinkle’s blunder was the latest among recent verbal gaffes by politicians, including Vice President Joe Biden’s “they’re going to put y’all back in chains” and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s outrageous “legitimate rape” remark that has him under pressure to drop out of Missouri’s U.S. Senate race.
Preckwinkle’s comment is not as offensive, certainly not compared with that of Akin, but it reflects a disturbing trend in our political discourse, which has become increasingly nasty and mean-spirited. Tone it down, please, if for no other reason than to preserve your public image.