POLITICS

To Turn Around The Drug War, GOP Senator Wants To Bring Back The Egg

This is your Senate on drugs.

Ron Johnson has an idea.

And it couldn't have come a moment too soon. With the opioid epidemic raging throughout the country and in his home state of Wisconsin, the Republican senator, who earlier this year voted against increased funding to address the crisis, is entering the policy fray with a suggestion we can only assume is a serious one: Refry that egg, man.

Any questions?

Johnson married into a plastics fortune. He and his brother-in-law ran a spinoff plastics company that began in the late 1970s by selling exclusively to his father-in-law's global company, and that has since grown to become a sizable firm. Johnson says he launched his Senate race after watching Dick Morris on Fox News call for a “rich guy” to challenge then-incumbent Russ Feingold. He claimed to have self-financed the campaign at a cost of $9 million. After his election, his company gave him a lump-sum payment of $10 million.

He is now using his position to raise the banner of the drug war. In a previously overlooked interview, Johnson offered his refried-egg idea after a host of AM 1130's "Up and At 'Em" made the point that after waging war on drugs, there are still, nevertheless, drugs.

"Now, senator, I don’t know how many billions, maybe trillions spent on the war on drugs, and there’s still a lot of drugs," the host said. "How do you solve that and how do you stop drugs from coming across the border?"

"Well, let's find an area of agreement," Johnson said during the December radio interview. "You know, when I was down there Gen. Kelly posed the question to me, 'You know, senator, when’s the last time we've had a concerted national public relations education campaign to try and dissuade Americans, particularly young people, from taking drugs?'"

"And I thought back to Nancy Reagan, 'Just Say No,'" he continued, "and then a few years later they had that famous commercial with, you know, a pan with a couple eggs and there’s your brain and scramble them up and there’s your brain on drugs. Well, why don’t we first do something like that? Let's try to dissuade our young people."

A month earlier, speaking on WIBA's "Vicki McKenna Show," he lamented that such eggy ads were not cool. “It takes concerted effort but education, information is important and so we -- we gave up after the '80s. I guess it wasn't cool to have an informational war on drugs. I think we need to start that informational war on drugs," he proposed.

Johnson's favorite anti-drug ad may no longer be in rotation on the airwaves, but it has attained iconic status as a singular example of the futility of the 1980s-era approach. It has also been memorialized in countless headlines -- This Is Your [Fill In The Blank] On Drugs -- and even in the title of one book on the history of the drug war. (Objectively speaking, it's a great book, though somehow it has only garnered a 3.7 on GoodReads. Ah well. No accounting for taste.)

The egg that Ron Johnson wants to see refried has become an iconic part of the drug-war debate.
The egg that Ron Johnson wants to see refried has become an iconic part of the drug-war debate.

Johnson, a high-profile critic of "The Lego Movie," is trailing Feingold in multiple polls, and may not get the chance in 2017 to wage his informational war on drugs.

This story has been updated to clarify Johnson's role with the plastics company.

If you thought "The Lego Movie" was OK, sign up here to get Ryan Grim's newsletter, a semi-regular dispatch about politics and the drug war. Any question?

CONVERSATIONS