« Scott's latest letter targets parents of school kids with info on new law | Main | CNBC's Nightly Business Report tackles Miami's finances but doesn't tell whole story »

Cocaine congressman Trey Radel, R-8 Ball, looks like a political dead man walking.

@MarcACaputo

U.S. Rep. Trey Radel scheduled a 10:30 p.m. press conference tonight.

If he doesn't quit, it's a testament to the strength of his denial or his belief in redemption. Maybe if the Republican sticks with it, following his arrest on cocaine-possession charges and his probation meted out today and his rehab to come, he can survive.

Maybe.

But chances are, this media-savvy former TV anchor knows what his former colleagues in the press smell. And it's not cocaine. It's blood in the water.

UPDATE: Radel didn't resign. He said he's going into "intensive" therapy, that he's going on leave for an indeterminate period of time and that he'll donate his salary to charity in that time.

His hometown newspaper, the Fort Myers News-Press wants him to quit. So do Republican elders. Former opponents like Paige Kreegel and maybe one-time allies like Connie Mack might run.

That all happened in just 24 hours after the breaking news of his Oct. 29 cocaine bust. It might have looked more survivable this morning, but now it looks dauntingly difficult.

Judging by the federal documents detailing his arrest, Radel wasn't just some secret addict. He looks like a 37-year-old party boy, an image that elicits limited public sympathy.

When an undercover agent met Radel and an unnamed acquaintance of his at a Dupont Circle-area restaurant in DC, Circa at Dupont, the congressman "told this acquaintance and the undercover police officer that he had some cocaine at his apartment, and invited them to his apartment to use the cocaine," according to a statement of offense.

Said a press release: "Agents learned that Radel would purchase cocaine for his personal use and sometimes share it with others."

During the sting, the agent proposed a sale of cocaine, discussed the quality of it with Radel and then sold it to him in a parked car.

It wasn't just a little bit.

It was 3.5 grams for $260. That's an eighth of an ounce, known as an "8 Ball."

That's a lot. Unless he was smoking it, Radel was undoubtedly partying with others.

And since Radel avoided being thrown in jail somehow, he was obviously cooperative and likely informed on some of his hard-partying pals. As noted last night on this blog, Radel is lucky this possession of cocaine is a misdemeanor in DC. Back home, in Florida, even cocaine residue can be a felony.

An 8 Ball is a pretty sure ticket to the slammer (for an arrest, at least, not conviction). First time-offenders usually receive probation as Radel did. After all, Radel wasn't hurting anyone else, just his heart, his family name and his career.

Now Radel faces public judgment. First come the drumbeat of stories that he'll feel the need to respond to. But, if he stays in, he'll probably and eventually tire out. He has a wife, a child and they face the awful prospect of TV camera crews in his front yard. If he has a real problem, he also needs to get help.

Addiction is no laughing matter, but Radel has made himself a joke. He's the life of the tea party. The conservative cocaine congressman. Rep. Trey Radel, R-8 Ball.

The late-night one-liners will write themselves and come out in a torrent just as he's giving his press conference this evening. Meanwhile, political consultants are sharpening their knives, ready to make Radel bleed out to make a bid by their clients even easier.

That's no way to serve a U.S. House district.

And Radel knows it now. He's too smart and witty not to. Or he'll know it by his 10:30 p.m. press conference. Or he'll find out by next year when he faces at least one, and perhaps many fellow Republican challengers in a conservative district where this sort of behavior is likely to be punished more severely than it is in Washington.

Predicting the future is dicey in politics, especially in volatile Florida. But Radel definitely looks like a dead man walking in political circles.

As a Republican seat (Mitt Romney beat President Obama by 21.8 percentage points, Radel beat his Democratic opponent, Jim Roach, by a 26.2-point margin), a primary would skew conservative and focus on social issues and values. That is, primaries are about personal attacks.

Radel won with 30 percent of the vote (less than half of his 62 percent in the general) in a six-man GOP primary in 2012. But don't expect a repeat.

To a challengers, an opponent busted with an 8 Ball is like manna from heaven

Radel's future opponents have ready-made attack-ad copy, produced courtesy of the Department of Justice and, ultimately, Radel himself.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.