Larry Kudlow's White (Powder) Privilege

Larry Kudlow's White (Powder) Privilege

Just as we were waiting for the Singapore summit to begin last night, we learned that Larry Kudlow had had a heart attack The New York Timesnow reports:

Larry Kudlow, the director of President Trump’s National Economic Council, spent Tuesday morning calling friends who said they expected him to return to his White House job after recovering from a mild heart attack that landed him in the hospital on Monday....

Mr. Trump posted a message about Mr. Kudlow’s hospitalization on Twitter late Monday.

Kudlow, of course, developed a cocaine habit a couple of decades ago, when he was becoming a high flyer in the worlds of finance and Republican politics; he's been in recovery for some time now. Last night, while revisiting his history, I found myself reading the 1994 Sunday Times feature story about Kudlow, originally headlined "A Wall Street Superman's Agonizing Confession." At that time, 60% of federal prisoners in the U.S. were incarcerated for drug crimes, half of them first-time offenders. A few months after the article appeared, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 would be signed into law, and while it would not be responsible for the rise in incarceration rates in America, it would exacerbate the trend, as even Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law, later acknowledged. If you've ever noted that white crime suspects receive more sympathetic press coverage than black suspects, then note the Times portrayal of Larry Kudlow, cocaine user, in 1994:

Larry Kudlow seemed a master of the universe. Being a top Wall Street economist was not the half of it. Mr. Kudlow had been a prominent member of President Reagan's economic team. He helped conceive and fight for the tax-cut proposal that helped Christine Todd Whitman become Governor of New Jersey. One of the nation's most articulate and charismatic commentators on financial issues, he has become the economic guru of Jack Kemp and of the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, as well as a regular on television interview programs and a speaker commanding hefty fees. He even starred in Cadillac ads....


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But last week, in an interview, Larry Kudlow had a confession to make: behind the polished facade lived a troubled and deeply unhappy man who has been battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol....

"I went into drug rehab," Mr. Kudlow said, deciding to discuss his problem after being told he was the subject of a profile. "I had an alcohol and substance-abuse problem that needed to be taken care of."

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.

... this dapper man in a blue pinstripe shirt and monogrammed cufflinks, a man sometimes described as poker-faced, began to cry. Sounding scared, not at all like the suave raconteur and deft name dropper of two hours earlier, Mr. Kudlow said he lived in fear of sliding backward. "I live my life day to day," he said....

Mr. Kudlow is still striving to understand what drove him to depend on drugs and alcohol, and the elaborate lying and dodging that are required to conceal such habits from friends, family and colleagues. Whatever the reasons, it is clear that there are many Larry Kudlows. One in 10 Americans has some form of alcohol or drug-abuse problem, recent studies show. America's success-conscious society is full of people who are less afraid to snort a line or put away a fifth than they are of letting someone else see that they are not all they appear to be. Everyone knows someone talented, ambitious and magnetic who has a serious problem but chooses to ignore it for a long time, hoping that other people will look the other way too because he's so valuable....

Mr. Kudlow attributes his slide partly to pure pressure. On Wall Street there are producers and then there's everyone else, and the pressure to produce helped drive Mr. Kudlow to drink and drugs.

At this point we learn Kudlow's history -- his time as a left-wing student radical, then his stints at the Fed, as a Fed-watcher on Wall Street, and as an aide in the Reagan White House. Then a short time as a consultant, followed by a high-powered job at Bear Stearns.

But the pressure on Mr. Kudlow was incredible. The travel, report writing and speeches were becoming increasingly burdensome. "It got tougher," he said. "It was all bigger. You're stressed out. You're tired. You realize you may not be able to do this anymore. It creeps up on you." ...

Mr. Kudlow's personal problems worsened in 1992. "All of a sudden I could not face the three-day road trips," he said. "The two or three plane flights in a day. I was having trouble facing it. I was dreading it."

"So here I am in Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Chicago, Paris, Frankfurt, Buenos Aires, Budapest. Not only am I tired, dragging my feet, but I've got responsibility and the show's gotta go on."

On top of the demands of the firm and its clients, Mr. Kudlow had a full plate of extracurricular activities. "If the producer of 'Cross-Fire' called me to go that night to Washington, I'd go," he said. "If Jack Kemp called, I'd go."

He hit bottom -- but Bear, at least at first, was quite accommodating:

In mid-December 1992 Mr. Kudlow and his wife met with the firm's chairman, Mr. Greenberg. Mr. Kudlow asked for, and received, a leave of absence in order to enter a treatment program.

The treatment program involved spiritual counseling, introspection and group therapy. Since his release, Mr. Kudlow has been attending a self-help program for recovering addicts -- as often as every morning before work and every evening after work -- where people, some of whom have been sober for years, help each other struggle with their demons.

He said the firm had not made him submit to extraordinary supervision or drug testing. "They were generous and kind," Mr. Kudlow said.

Yeah, drug testing is only for the losers who work minimum-wage jobs.

He seemed to be in recovery, although he was a no-show for an investor meeting (which he insisted was not the fault of substance abuse) and was let go. He made a soft, if less remunerative, landing as an editor at National Review -- but was now being discussed as a possible political candidate for the party of Law and Order.

To hear some leading Republicans, the 46-year-old Mr. Kudlow has nowhere to go but up. They consider him a hot political property, a potential challenger for the Senate seat of Daniel Patrick Moynihan in New York or, should a right-leaning Republican like Mr. Kemp win the White House in 1996, a shoo-in for a Cabinet position....

John Sweeney, executive director of the New York State Republican Committee, last week called him "one of the brightest stars."Can he still make it in politics? The decision by the media-wise Mr. Kudlow, whose wife was once a Reagan press official, to go public with his problems may be the best way to put the problem behind him and preserve some chance....

Even Robert J. Strang, a hard-nosed private investigator who spent two years undercover on Wall Street looking for drug abusers, gave Mr. Kudlow a chance of a comeback. "Ten years ago, I would have said no," he said. "But today there are enough people in this country who can identify with his story."

Mr. Kudlow certainly hopes so: "In our society there are a lot of people who have suffered from alcohol or substance abuse -- you name it -- and society has been understanding. Listen, I have a lot of faith and a lot of hope."

And now he works for an administration that wants to crack down on drug crimes again (unless you're in prison already and have a celebrity advocate).

Okay, Kudlow wasn't selling. He wasn't John DeLorean. But these lyrics still come to mind:

A street kid gets arrested, gonna do some time
He got out three years from now just to commit more crime
A businessman is caught with 24 kilos
He’s out on bail and out of jail
And that’s the way it goes....

Originally published at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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