President Donald Trump officially went off the rails over the weekend, praising nations that impose the death penalty for drug dealers. Saturday’s unscripted rant may be a warning sign for all those seeking sane and effective drug laws.
The speech, originally scheduled to be a campaign endorsement for Pennsylvania congressional candidate Rick Saccone, turned weird quickly as Trump railed against “sleepy-eyed” NBC host Chuck Todd and “very low IQ” Rep. Maxine Waters. But his comments about drugs were over the top.
Trump reminded the sign-waving crowd that convicted murderers can face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. But when it comes to drugs, a person can “kill 5,000 people with drugs because you’re smuggling them in and you’re making a lot of money and people are dying,” and not face severe punishment. “That’s why we have a problem, folks. I don’t think we should play games. Now, I never did polling on that — I don’t know if that’s popular, I don’t know if that’s unpopular. … But these people are killing our kids and they’re killing our families, and we have to do something. We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees with your wife and your wife and your husband, and they meet and they have a meal and they talk, talk talk talk, two hours later, then they write a report.
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“I think it’s a discussion we have to start thinking about. I don’t know if we’re ready — I don’t know if this country’s ready for it,” Trump said.
He also praised nations such as the Philippines, China and Singapore that have capital punishment laws to combat drug traffickers.
This is not the first time that Trump has expressed his dangerous views on drug policy. According to a report by Axios last month:
- According to five sources who’ve spoken with Trump about the subject, he often leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty.
- Trump tells confidants a softer approach to drug reform — the kind where you show sympathy to the offenders and give them more lenient sentences — will never work.
- He tells friends and associates the government has got to teach children that they’ll die if they take drugs and they’ve got to make drug dealers fear for their lives.
- Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he’s privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.
- Kellyanne Conway, who leads the White House’s anti-drug efforts, argues Trump’s position is more nuanced, saying the president is talking about high-volume dealers who are killing thousands of people. The point he’s making, she says, is that some states execute criminals for killing one person but a dealer who brings a tiny quantity of fentanyl into a community can cause mass death in just one weekend, often with impunity.
Trump has repeatedly praised Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte, saying he has done an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” The International Criminal Court has begun an investigation into Duterte’s drug policy. His “war on drugs” has led to nearly 8,000 deaths in his nation.
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In 2016, more than 1.5 million Americans were arrested on drug-related charges, 84 percent of which were for possession only. Of the more than 650,000 people arrested for marijuana, 89 percent were charged with possession only.
Trump’s glorification of “tough on crime” approached to the problem has been tried by previous administrations going back to Richard Nixon. It simply does not work. The tough-guy rhetoric clearly serves as red meat for his followers.
Watch Trump deliver his comments below: