Did Cokie Roberts Ever Use Cocaine? Part II

Presidential candidate Bill Bradley followed Chatterbox’s cocaine-question playbook Sunday on ABC’s This Week(see “Did Cokie Roberts Ever Use Cocaine?“). That is to say, Bradley, when asked by Sam Donaldson whether he’d ever used any illegal drugs, turned the tables and asked This Week’s panelists about their own drug histories. Slate’s “Pundit Central” column has an excellent summary of the exchange, but Chatterbox believes readers of this column will want to scrutinize the text for every last ambiguity (for the complete transcript, click here):

BILL BRADLEY: I have used marijuana several times in my life, but never cocaine.COKIE ROBERTS: Senator, on guns and violence …SAM DONALDSON: Excuse me, Cokie. Recently in your life?BRADLEY: No.SAM: When you were a kid?BRADLEY Well, yes. Right. Have you?SAM: I think a couple of times I’ve tried it. And I inhaled.BRADLEY Have you, Cokie?COKIE: Oh, listen, I was so pregnant during those years. The senator …BRADLEY: George? Who wants to know?GEORGE WILL: No.SAM: How come you give George a pass?GEORGE: No. I’m from the Falstaff generation.COKIE: Can we get to guns and violence?GEORGE: That’s my Shakespeare …BRADLEY: Shakespeare, that’s right.COKIE: The–you wrote an Op-Ed on guns …

Chatterbox’s post-game analysis:

  1. The context suggests that Sam, like Bradley, is admittingonlyyouthful marijuana use. But it’s possible he’s being cagey and is ducking the cocaine question. (It’s also possible–this is admittedly a fanciful reading–that in saying “I inhaled,” Sam’s referring to both marijuana and cocaine; though if that were the case he’d probably say, “I tried them,” not “I tried it.”)
  2. Cokie keeps trying to change the subject. That may be because she agrees with Chatterbox that it’s a phony issue. Or, it may be because shedoesn’t want to answer the question. In fact, she doesn’t answer the question; she just says she was “so pregnant during those years.” This answer implies that she couldn’t take drugs because she was constantly pregnantduring the 1970s. But obviously she wasn’t pregnant for the entire decade. (She has only two kids.) Hence this is not only a non-answer, but a non-alibi. Does this mean she’s hiding past drug use? Chatterbox (who opined in his previous item that Cokie is “almost certainly not” a past cocaine user) guesses not. Rather, Chatterbox suspects Cokie of being too embarrassed to admit that she’s one of those goody-goodies who never triedmarijuanaorcocaine.)
  3. George answers “no” twice (for some reason, Sam thinks he hasn’t answered the first time). It doesn’t seem especially surprising that he never triedmarijuana or cocaine. But what does he mean when he says he’s “from the Falstaff generation”? It’s possible George means that his generation’s drug of choice was alcohol (presumably not “sack,” Sir John Falstaff’s favorite beverage). Specifically, George may mean that when he was in college he drank a lot of Falstaff Beer. (For an unofficial history of the Falstaff Brewing Co.–third-largest brewer in the United States during George’s college years–click here.) More likely, however, George is alluding to Falstaff’s observation in Henry IV, Part I, that “the better part of valor is discretion” (Act V, Scene iv, line 120). In this context, that might mean that when George was young and relatively irresponsible, he didn’t want to mess with dangerous and illegal substances. Or, it might mean that today he doesn’t want to discuss the matter at all (in which case we’d need to reinterpret his two “no”s to mean “No, I don’t want to talk about this”).
  4. The other George–George Stephanopoulos–didn’t have to answer the question because he wasn’t present during this segment. But George S. previously told this column that he’d never used cocaine. Chatterbox forgot to ask George S. whether he’d ever used marijuana, but doesn’t feel like calling him back to ask now.
  5. Bill (Kristol) is never around when this question gets asked. He was out of the office when Chatterbox was phoning around for the earlier item, and, like George S., didn’t appear during this segment yesterday. Chatterbox continues to have noopinion about whether he ever used illegal drugs.

Addendum:Brian Lamb got asked Monday morning on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal  whether he’d ever used cocaine or any other illegal drug. He saidno. Also on the show was Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, who said, “I haven’t done cocaine” but declined to say whether he’s used any illegal drugs. Through a bizarre sequence of events, Slate editor Michael Kinsley ended up being the one who asked Lamb about past drug use. Kinsley said he’d answer the question if asked, but no one asked. (Drudge refused to ask, and Lamb seemed about to ask, but then didn’t.) However, Kinsley long ago confessed in the New Republic’s “TRB” column that he “experimented with marijuana in the distant past,” and wrote, “I deeply regret this youthful indiscretion.” (The column, “Regrets Only,” is included in Kinsley’s 1995 collection, Big Babies.) After taking his first puff during freshman year in college,

I found the drug had no effect on me whatsoever, and I determined not to experiment with illicit substances any further … However, a few days later I experimented with marijuana once again. On that occasion I enjoyed it a good deal more. This youthful indiscretion I also deeply regret. During the next several years, overcome by the spirit of scientific inquiry, I experimented with marijuana perhaps two hundred or more times …

Kinsley now tells Chatterbox that he also tried cocaine.

The C-SPAN caller who got all this started identified himself as the columnist “HC” from a satirical Website called C3F. (Click here for its witless Slate spoof.) HC said he was “stoned,” inspiring this classic C-SPAN exchange:

BRIAN: Why are you stoned?HC: Because I enjoy it.BRIAN: What are you stoned on?HC: Marijuana.

Disclaimer: Although Chatterbox deplores self-righteousness and hypocrisy regarding illegal drug use, he also deplores illegal drug use itself. Specifically regarding cocaine, a lesson of the 1980s was that its use is both addictive and potentially deadly–two facts that were unknown to youthful baby boomers who tried it during the 1970s. That doesn’t justify the ongoing disparity between criminal sentences for possession of powder cocaine and possession of crack–crack is much more likely to be used by blacks, and is punished much more harshly–but it does justify the tougher approach law enforcement agencies take in general today, as compared to two decades ago.