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Opinion Chris Christie gets it on drug addiction

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and I got into a major argument over same-sex marriage three years ago. Right there on live television. What you didn’t see before and after that “Morning Joe” set-to was the conversation we had about a piece I’d written lauding his decision to lower the state’s flags to half-staff for the funeral of Garden State native Whitney Houston in 2012. What I saw then is what the nation is marveling at now: Christie passionately making the case for a new way of thinking about drug addiction.

The governor thanked me for what I’d written and shook his head in disbelief at the hate and disparaging comments about Houston flowing his way. Many criticized him for bestowing such an honor on an entertainer. Christie was incredulous since, he said, there was nary a peep when he gave the same honor to E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons the previous year.

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[Chris Christie does right by Whitney Houston]

What bewildered Christie more was the view that Houston’s past troubles with substance abuse made her undeserving of state recognition. He said that drug addiction is a disease and we should treat it as such. That those suffering from addiction deserved compassion and help, not stigma and shame. Huffington Post video of Christie at a New Hampshire town hall last month shows in more detail the depths of his feelings on this issue.

Christie recounted his mother’s addiction to cigarettes and her battle with lung cancer. He then used that example to draw a contrast to what happens to those addicted to other substances. No one, he said told him that his mother deserved to die because of her addiction and the cancer it caused.

“Yet somehow if it’s heroin, or cocaine, or alcohol we say, well they decided, they get what they deserve.” He added, “The 16-year-old teenage girl on the floor of the county lockup addicted to heroin? I’m pro-life for her, too. Her life is just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb. And we need to start thinking that way as a party and as a people.”

There’s nothing left to say but “Amen!”

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