Conservative Hypocrisy Over Brittney Griner

The rank hypocrisy among conservatives in the Brittney Griner case continues apace. Yesterday, the conservative Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by a man named Gregg Opelka, who expressed sympathy with Griner. He hopes that “she doesn’t receive the disproportionate 10-year sentence she faces. A milder punishment seems fitting for her unfortunate error of judgment.” He wants the Russian authorities to show her “mercy” because “Ms. Griner’s situation evokes in me a ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ sense of relief.”

Really? Well, how about all the people who have received long jail sentences in the United States for drug possession or distribution? What about them? I don’t recall many conservatives calling for mercy when they were receiving those punishments during the past 40 years or more. I certainly didn’t read anything about them in Opelka’s WSJ op-ed. 

 A couple of days ago, published an article entitled “Biden Pardons Nine Federal Cannabis POWs.” Let’s review a few of the people mentioned in that article.

52-year-old Dexter Eugene Jackson has been in jail since 2002 for a marijuana conviction. That’s much longer that the 10 years that Griner is facing in Russia. 

51-year-old Jo Bogans was convicted in 1998 for a cocaine violation. That too is a lot longer than Griner’s possible 10-year jail sentence.

Ramola Kaye Brown was sentenced to 12 years in jail for a marijuana violation.

Stacie Demers — 10 years for a marijuana violation.

They are just the tip of the drug-war iceberg. It is impossible to know the exact number of people whose lives have been severely damaged or destroyed by the drug war, but it has to be extremely high. 

Where were conservatives when those high jail sentences were being meted out here in the United States? I’ll tell you where they were. They were out there ardently supporting the continuation of the drug war, calling for mandatory-minimum sentences, asset forfeiture (i.e., police stealing), and no-knock raids. In other words, there was no mercy for any of those U.S. drug-war victims among conservatives. 

So, what’s different about Brittney Griner? Why have conservatives suddenly discovered that they have a conscience when it comes to her? 

I’ll tell you why. It’s because of the standard mindset that has afflicted the conservative movement since the end of World War II: “Russia bad!” It’s because Griner is being held by those bad Russians that conservatives have become motivated to act on her behalf.

Let’s assume that Griner had gotten caught by U.S. officials doing the same thing on her return to the U.S. I will guarantee you that conservatives would have been angrily exclaiming, “Lock her up! We’re waging a drug war in this country. The only way we are going to win this war is by showing people that they cannot violate our drug laws. Why give her favorable treatment?”

But since it’s those bad Russians who have arrested Griner, that completely alters the conservative mindset. Since everything those bad Russkies do is bad, their drug bust of Griner has to be considered bad too.

Some conservatives are saying those bad Russians are holding Griner as a “political hostage.” Their Cold War-era, anti-Russia animus is so extreme that they are unable to recognize something important: Griner has pled guilty to the offense! What are the Russian authorities supposed to do — just let her go immediately after she pleads guilty, without even appearing before a judge for sentencing? There isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hades that that would happen here in the United States if it was a Russian citizen who pled guilty to drug possession immediately after he got caught with drugs as he entered the United States.

The fact is that Griner should be released because everyone in the world, including Griner, has the fundamental, moral, natural, God-given right to possess, ingest, or distribute any substance he or she wants. No government has the legitimate authority to punish anyone for possessing, ingesting, or distributing drugs. Conservatives just don’t get that, and you’ll search in vain for that critically important point in Gregg Opelka’s Wall Street Journal op-ed. Conservatives continue to hold that the drug war is good and wonderful — well, until those Reds, I mean, those bad Russkies, decide to enforce it against Americans visiting their country.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.