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Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president and Barack Obama loyalist, may have misread the crowd in downstate Illinois today when she said that President Reagan “deserves a special place in Hell” at a luncheon at the University of Illinois.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the crowd “gasped” after the remarks, which she made in reference to the larger War on Drugs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of health care system, not criminal justice. She said Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his involvement in “making drug use political.”

“What? You didn’t like that?” Preckwinkle said after members of the audience gasped.

What makes Preckwinkle’s off-color remarks even more ill-placed is that she was speaking at “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of Public Service” conference, the goals of which is to foster better relationships between policy makers of different political parties and backgrounds.

Preckwinkle has been advocating reducing penalties for marijuana arrests, and was speaking about the city of Chicago’s recent change to decriminalize the drug.

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