April 18th, 2011
04:34 PM ET

Letters to the President: #819 'Nic'ed by the law'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The president is in the business of writing rules. I mean, that’s what lawmakers do. I, on the other hand, am in the business of writing letters…one every day to the White House until they outlaw it. Ha!

Dear Mr. President,

Did you see this news over the weekend about the actor Nicolas Cage getting arrested in the French Quarter, accused of being drunk and disturbing the peace? Not to giggle too much at the problems of others, but when my wife saw it she said, “Wow. That must have been something. Do you realize how much it takes to be arrested for that in New Orleans?” (I, on the other hand, said, “Yeah? Well, I’ve seen his acting. Talk about a crime.”)

Related: Nicolas Cage bailed out of jail in New Orleans

She has a point. We lived there for a number of years and I saw some pretty unbelievable things going on the streets - the kind of activity that would seem to be just begging for a trip to the Iron Bar Hilton, enough to make the preacher not just blush but also crawl into a hole and pull the dirt in after him. Yet as long as the partiers weren’t hurting anyone else, the cops seemed to put such behavior into the same category as jaywalking.

I’m pretty much a rule follower. I think we have laws for a reason and we should enforce them uniformly. And yet I recognize that plenty of other people prefer…oh, how shall we say it? An interpretative view of the law. They like the idea of taking circumstances into account as much as the law itself, as in, “Well, yes, I was going 30 miles an hour over the speed limit, officer, but it’s late, no one else is driving, so what is the harm?” Or “Sure, I’m drunk and I’m fighting. What’s the problem? Do you think I’d even be out at this hour if I weren’t drunk?”

I tend to say if we’re going to have laws, we should enforce them with little or no regard for such arguments. On the other hand, we should not have too many laws to begin with; when in doubt, let people sort it out, not lawmakers. We shouldn’t write a bunch of laws every time some situation comes along, especially if we can reasonably expect that there are going to be a lot of exceptions. Laws, in my mind, should be written for the most common denominator, not for the least common outlier.

Which is a long way of saying…uh…well, I guess not much. Anyway, my wife is right. Arrested in New Orleans for being wild in the streets? You’ve got to be pretty wild to pull that off. Hope your week is off to a good start. Have you been watching the hockey playoffs? Go Caps!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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