November 23, 2013

DRUG AND alcohol addictions are serious matters; we hope Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) succeeds in his recovery. But — given the congressman’s cynical actions in the wake of getting busted for drugs — it’s hard not to wonder whether the steps he is taking are just part of a crass effort to salvage a political career.

Mr. Radel, as it is now widely known, was caught with cocaine by a federal undercover drug operation in the District on Oct. 29. According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, federal agents investigating cocaine trafficking in the Washington region had been told in the fall that the freshman congressman would purchase cocaine for his personal use and sometimes share it with others. So they set a trap. Caught buying drugs from an undercover agent, Mr. Radel entered into negotiations that resulted in him pleading guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor in D.C. Superior Court. Prosecutors said the agreement was consistent with those of many other first-time drug offenders.

Under the circumstances, one might have thought that Mr. Radel would be a little circumspect. He didn’t think to tell House GOP leaders of his problems. He had the gall, as the Naples Daily News reported, to go ahead with a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 5. He gave an interview Nov. 13 to The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold in which he actually talked about the need for Congress “to start making the adult decisions.” Please. But then it’s probably too much to expect self-awareness from someone who doesn't see the contradiction between his actions and requiring drug tests for food-stamp recipients.

Only after he had no choice but to go public did Mr. Radel ’fess up. Then came the requisite apology, contrition to family, announcement of a “leave of absence,” donation of his salary to a charity and entry into rehab for substance abuse.

Too bad there is no clinic that treats abuse of the public trust.