Barack Obama is attracting praise for his candid discussion of youthful drug use and even for his adult cigarette habit, both of which are said to humanize him and offer a welcome contrast to the sort of robotic overachiever—cough, Al Gore, cough, John Kerry—who has been planning his presidential campaign since grade school. If authenticity really does help you get elected, of course, more politicians will learn to fake it. But taking Obama at face value, it is indeed refreshing to hear a politician admit that he used illegal drugs and enjoyed them, rather than stonewalling à la Bush or lying like Clinton. Likewise, the senator's willingness to smoke in front of reporters suggests he is not utterly consumed by what other people think of him. Yet Obama's drug habits still follow the conventional narrative of sin and redemption. He calls smoking pot and snorting cocaine "dumb" "mistakes" leading down a road to "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man" as a "pothead" and "junkie." And he reportedly has given up cigarettes, "except for the occasional lapse." I'm still waiting for the politician who is an unrepentant pot and tobacco smoker.
[Thanks to Gary Larson for the Dallas Morning News link.]