After Whitney died, pundits got out the soapboxes in record time

Video: Video: With Whitney Houston, the only difference was that everyone knew her name

From a medical standpoint, it wasn't immediately clear what caused Whitney Houston's untimely death at the age of 49 in her room at the Beverly Hilton a couple of weeks ago. But who cares about facts, amiright? Lack of a toxicology report notwithstanding, it took the media less than 45 seconds to conclude that it must have been drugs, and the Exploitation Station was accordingly open for business. Before the ink was even dry on the early reports, the room she died in had become the world's most nauseating tourist attraction, and it took even less time for the pundits to get out the soapboxes.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first on the bandwagon was Tony Bennett, apparently suffering from a severe case of FPAPGASWTTBTAF (famous people assuming people give a shit what they think because they are famous). At a party before the Grammys the day after Houston died, Bennett addressed the crowd with a soothing soft-piano backdrop and advanced his agenda: "I'd like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit to get our government to legalize drugs," he crooned. "So they have to get it from a doctor, not just some gangsters that sell it under the table." All right, he didn't actually croon it — he just said it. But it's certain there was some soothing piano. The counterpoint came two days later, from Bill O'Reilly, on his condescendingly titled "Reality Check" segment, where he argued...well, it's not clear exactly what he argued.

"With all due respect to Mr. Bennett, his grasp on reality is slipping," O'Reilly advised his minions. "Miss Houston was found with a variety of legalized drugs in her hotel room.... Mr. Bennett might want to rethink his contention that easier access to narcotics would have helped Whitney Houston." O'Reilly then went on to discuss how Oxycontin, which is legal, is killing thousands of Americans, then discoursed on the evils of legalized medical marijuana, cautioning that "we now have Americans legally getting stoned every day on pot."

Oh, God — and they probably have black-light posters!

"So what exactly does legalizing narcotics bring us? More availability, that's what," O'Reilly concluded. Which is fair enough, but here's where it gets wonky: "Whitney Houston wanted to kill herself," he continued. "The hard truth is that some people will always want to destroy themselves, and there's nothing society can do about that." So, basically, he's saying that drug addicts are going to do drugs no matter what. Which, weirdly, is basically the same thing Tony Bennett is saying.

So I'm confused. How is that not an argument to legalize drugs?

Of course, O'Reilly also contends that drugs cause addicts to commit crimes, and that's true as well — but if they're going to do drugs and possibly commit crimes regardless, then why are we punishing them for the drugs? Why not just punish them for the crimes? If, indeed, drug cartels are an enormous crime problem in Mexico, as O'Reilly also astutely observes, then, obviously, keeping drugs illegal is doing little to quell drug-related crimes.

As an addict, O'Reilly asserts, Whitney Houston punished herself. What I don't understand is how it makes sense for this society to punish her — and people like her — even more.

 
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