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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Trey Radel, The Last Unashamed Citizen in Southwest Florida

So it was confirmed for me today that I will be represented through 2014 by a coke head. Of course, I knew that, so as discouraging as the news is, it's no great surprise to those of us living in the Congressional district of Trey Radel.

But was more disappointing as our esteemed Congressman held his first press conference since leaving rehab was the litany of lies, dodges and other disrespectful bits of behavior intended to leave me confident my representation is in good hands in Washington, D.C. And we saw just the most recent bit of befuddling antics surrounding his October arrest.

First came the strange revelation in mid-November that Radel was busted for coke possession a month prior. How that was kept quiet in this Internet age is anyone's guess, but few would guess an explanation that meets any definition of the word good. Radel wouldn't resign, and surprising to me leadership in Washington wouldn't push him out.

Now he has finished a stint in rehab, but he swears his only addiction is alcohol and that he just tried coke a "handful" of times. Besides the bummer of having one of those times involve a DEA agent, that's completely inconsistent with the account of Mike Adams, a producer for Radel's old Fox radio show. From the News-Press:

“He would talk about his life, of being a traveler,” Adams said of Radel. “He would talk about hiking, taking his backpack and hiking in Colombia And, you know, it always led to, because of who Colombia is, it always led to drugs. We’d go to break and I’d say ‘Man, I bet the coke was crazy’ and he’d say, ‘Oh my God, you have no idea.’ ”

So here I am, myself and my neighbors left with a representative who admits to alcoholism, lies about his use of cocaine and remains a hypocrite who pushed for drug testing of welfare recipients while he was violated the law himself. For all my life following politics, I've never imagines being this embarrassed by my own representative.

Allow me, if it matters, to join the chorus of those who feel Radel truly should resign and leave with it some unsolicited advice. The problem right now is no longer that Radel broke the law, that he hid that from constituents or even that he lied tonight to his constituents. It's that he insists none of this affected his work in Washington, even as he missed a critical budget vote. It's that we have no confidence anymore in our representatives own sense of reality.

But most important, it is that Radel has yet to pay any significant price outside of personal shame.

Even there, he managed to shield himself away from most of the scrutiny and stares by hiding in a Naples rehab facility. Pity Amy Wegmann, who gave up a bright journalism career for husband's ambitions but now weathers this storm from outside that center's walls.

Radel says he is sorry, but right now, we have no reason to believe it, not when he has paid no political consequence even as he has acted in dereliction of his own duties. Radel does not think he should give up the seat he shamed.

Frankly, I'm surprised DC leadership hasn't shown him the boot yet, though an ethics investigation is finally underway. It isn't like there is much risk of losing the seat; Radel in 2012 won the district with 62 percent to Democrat Jay Roach's sub-36 percent performance. Actually, Radel is about the only Republican that could still lose this seat if remains there until next Fall and comes out on top of a crowded primary.

But until Radel grows some sense of shame (unlikely) or leadership enforces some sense of order, we're stuck here with this disgrace of Congressman.


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