WASHINGTON -- Gov. Chris Christie's personal call for a more humane approach to drug addiction became the first viral moment of his Republican presidential campaign. Now, the head of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy is taking note of the speech.
The video of Christie, recorded by The Huffington Post at a recent New Hampshire town hall meeting, has clocked millions of views on Facebook and has led to follow-up stories speculating on whether the moment could give the candidate a much-needed bump in the polls.
Christie, a former prosecutor who gained a reputation for blunt confrontations with just about anyone who dared to challenge him, seems to be an unlikely candidate to express sympathy for the victims of the country's opioid epidemic. But his disclosure of the stories of his mother's addiction to cigarettes and a law school friend's fatal downfall with painkillers encouraged empathy.
“We need to start treating people in this country not jailing them," Christie said. "We need to give them the tools they need to recover because every life is precious."
Drug czar Michael Botticelli told The Huffington Post in an interview that he watched the Christie video Friday morning.
“I thought it was quite moving and impassioned," Botticelli said. "I also thought that it was great that Governor Christie was articulating what are the prime principles of our national drug control policy.”
Botticelli has a point. President Barack Obama recently called for transformative changes to the nation's treatment system, emphasizing a more evidenced-based, medical approach to address the disease of addiction. After the drug czar announced that drug courts could no longer bar addicts from enrolling in medication-assisted treatment (such as methadone or Suboxone), Christie signed a law affirming such a policy for New Jersey's own drug courts.
Christie may not see it that way. Despite their agreement on the policy, the governor has hammered the president for not being aggressive enough in confronting the opioid epidemic. In August, Christie released a campaign ad blaming the president for the crisis.
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