George W. Bush Jr. did all the students at GW a favor – or did he? Whether you are going to vote for him or not, George Bush solidified your right to youthful indiscretion. Bush’s answer to the infamous “cocaine question,” gave people roughly between the ages of 14 and 28 the ability to lapse in judgment on certain issues. Congratulations, but is youthful indiscretion a good thing?
Basically, George Bush was given the right not to be evaluated solely by his formative years. Frankly, who wants to be judged by the public for the worst moments in one’s life? There are certain things all of us, including myself, have done that we wish the world at large did not know about. Noting that these particular claims directed at Bush were unsubstantiated, does youthful indiscretion give one the right to be absolved by the public of infractions based on the period in which they took place?
Does youthful indiscretion give one vindication because certain laws are more palatable for people to break in society’s eyes? Especially for those students who wish to mix recklessness in with their academic pursuits, these questions are worth pondering.
For the majority of GW students who are matriculating in their formative late teens and twenties, are you given a “get out of jail free card” for youthful indiscretions? How many times have you wished you were treated as a full-fledged adult in certain respects, but glad to be given a level of latitude because of your youth and inexperience? It’s a remarkable dichotomy, but what is the threshold where your actions have distinguishing consequences?
In a time where more and more youths are committing crimes against themselves and society, what message are we sending when youthful indiscretion gives youths the ability to discount their behavior under certain circumstances? We are living in a period where minors are treated more and more like adults in the eyes of the law, especially in the case of possession of narcotics. Does the dodging of the drug questions by presidential contenders represent a hypocrisy where a presidential candidate is forgiven for these crimes when thousands of people are incarcerated every year for committing them?
This leads to the more important question: Are certain violations of the law more forgivable because of society’s norms? The period when George Bush is alleged to have used cocaine was a period when experimental drug use was accepted by society at large. Is it important if Bush broke the law, even if it was the norm of the period? If Bush or Gore or any other presidential contender date-raped a woman at their school in this formative period, would the media have a right to pursue this issue and would the public chalk it up to youthful indiscretion? In the same period when Bush and Gore went to college, date-rape was not typically prosecuted. If someone committed a rape of an acquaintance during that period, there was strong possibility they would not be held responsible by the law. Does the standard of “youthful indiscretion” extend to this behavior, even if a candidate “got away with it?” What does the behavior of twenty-some years ago have to do with someone’s present governing ability?
As the press delves deeper and deeper into politicians’ personal lives, Americans are more and more resistant to join this line of questioning. The media’s shameless quest for shock-journalism has dulled our senses to important character questions in the process of choosing our leaders. It is a matter of opinion if the drug question is irrelevant, but it is irrelevant to ask the question.
People have to live with their conduct every day of their lives. Situated in D.C., there might be a few budding politicians reading this article. Whether your future is inside or outside of public office, youthful indiscretion is a malleable term, which can be granted as easily as it can be rescinded. A society that grants youthful indiscretion can be just as harsh when ignoring one’s age when committing an infraction. Before one judges George Bush or the candidates by their private lives, one might look to themselves and others committing youthful indiscretions around them. As Jawaharlal Nehru said, “It is far better to know our own weaknesses and failings than to point out those of others.”
-The writer is a first-year law student.