by Benjamin J. Kirby
You should read the Marc Ambinder piece in GQ on what President Obama might take on in a second term: the failed drug war:
According to ongoing discussions with Obama aides and associates, if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War.
Don't expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn't expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.
No miracles, indeed, but still. Wow.
You've got to imagine that this is what they call floating an idea, and that the Obama folks would do it at all is pretty extraordinary. What happens is, folks inside the White House -- the ones at the core of the message machine -- get together and say, Hey, I wonder what America would think about this? And then someone calls a guy like Marc Ambinder and gives him the story (thus the first sentence... he doesn't have a listening device implanted in the White House... those "Obama aides and associates" are talking to him).
First of all, it's a sign of remarkable confidence that the White House team would be that confident of re-election. After all, no Obama initiative or policy matters if the man doesn't win re-election. So the idea that they're talking about it is pretty interesting.
Unless, of course, talking about what initiatives and policies the president may pursue in a second administration is part of a re-election strategy...
You know, one of the things I don't think this president and his team get enough credit for is knowing the pulse of the American electorate. The other side is trying hard to paint him as out-of-touch and elite, but I don't think that's the case at all. In fact, I think this may be the most connected president we've had, I don't know, maybe ever. I say that having worked for President Clinton.
To be fair, I'd guess that their good sense is backed up by some quiet but important polling that has been done recently, or over a long period of time. I also wonder if there's not some very recent stuff that's been done in light of the extraordinary Supreme Court decision on juvenile sentencing.
Take it from a guy who spent five years at the Drug Czar's office and a year at the Justice Department: this doesn't mean Obama will sign an order and we'll all be firing up fatties at the inauguration.
Or don't. Take it from Ambinder:
...since the United States isn't about to legalize or regulate the illegal narcotics markets, the best thing a president can do may be what Obama winds up doing if he gets re-elected: using the bully pulpit to draw attention to the issue.
Nothing's getting legalized overnight. But if Obama gets re-elected, we may well be on our way to a conversation about a more sensible set of drug laws. And that would be more than just good politics -- it would be good for the country.