Drugs, politics and honesty: a lethal combination?

Last week in New Hampshire, Sen. Barack Obama openly addressed a crowd about his drug and alcohol experimentation while in high school. Of course, any politician openly admitting to the use of illegal substances is bound to experience a backlash, and the question became: How many details are too many when you're a presidential hopeful?

Also recently, Sen. Hillary Clinton received criticism for answering a question at a conference that turned out to be a plant by those who run her campaign, something she has apparently done more than once. It's no wonder Stephen Colbert has decided to throw in his hat and make a statement - the political system can seem like such a joke sometimes.

Politicians are just people. No one who drinks or smokes marijuana in high school is thinking, "Hey, I hope this doesn't come back to bite me in the butt when I run for president." They're thinking that they're young, invincible and having a good time with friends. It's not like Obama is in the minority here - underage drug and alcohol consumption has been a reality for decades.

Why is it wrong for him to be frank about what he did and use it to his advantage? It makes him human, and would give him the perfect jumping off point to do something about the substance abuse among teenagers today. Not to mention that his honesty appeals to a lot of the 18-25 age bracket which is so crucial to winning an election these days. I prefer that kind of honesty to remarks like, "I didn't inhale" from President Clinton back in the day - let's just admit that we messed up, grow from it and move on. There isn't time to be dwelling on the past.

So why are these supposed to be the issues we care about anyway? Why aren't we talking about health care, abortion rights, the war in Iraq, and the massive amounts of U.S. pollution contributing to global warming? Personally, I don't care what my president did in high school, within reason, so long as he/she is doing the right thing for my country today.

And, hello, every politician uses plants - Hillary just happened to get caught, and half the country is looking for any little way to make her look bad. At least it accomplishes something - it gives her a chance to tell us her stand on the issues, so who asked the question shouldn't matter. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would be rolling over in their graves if they knew that the democratic system, which Americans have fought and died for centuries for, has been reduced to childish quibbling over who said and did the worst thing.

We are not stupid. This country is in a tough time, and citizens are really going to think about who they choose to run it this time around. Iraq is the number one issue, with health care following close behind, and the candidates better have answers that are relevant to today instead of useless information from 20 years ago. As the 2008 presidential election really gets into full swing, I hope everyone remembers to dodge the mudslinging and actually listen to the issues that matter. Perhaps if that had been the case in 2004, things might be a little different today in 2007.