How the Obama Administration Plans to Convince Progressives That it Ended the War on Drugs

What’s the quickest way for the Obama administration to convince progressives that the war on drugs is over, even though it’s not?

Step 1: Say that the drug war is over.

Step 2: Convince the largest and most powerful progressive think tank in America to agree with you, invite you to their headquarters, praise you for having “transformed” drug policy in the United States, and pitch you softball questions.

Step 3: Repeat step 1.

This is how you placate liberal hearts and minds after three years of broken drug war promises, and it’s exactly what Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and the Center for American Progress did this morning.

The spin started the moment CAP President Neera Tanden opened her mouth to introduce Kerlikowske.

“For decades, the United States treated drug abuse as a moral failure and fought it with arrests and incarceration,” Tanden said. “Instead of building treatment centers, we built jails. As a result, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, at a dear cost to federal and state budgets at a time when those budgets are very constrained. The human costs are more tragic still, to the families and communities who have not got the support they need to overcome substance abuse.”

Note that Tanden spoke in the past tense, as if the United States were no longer fighting the drug war with arrests and incarceration. Note that she assessed untreated addiction to be the most notable “human cost” of the drug war, as opposed to unjust incarceration, broken families, lost job opportunities, seized assets, and/or death. Note that these were simply the opening remarks of an hour-long event.

But Tanden didn’t just reframe the debate in order to avoid discussing the Obama administration’s commitment to prohibition. She also told a few whoppers, such as this one: “We welcome the...shifts in funding that have seen more money spent in the last three years on drug education and treatment than on law enforcement.”

Obama’s budget proposal for 2013 allocates almost 60 percent of the drug control budget to enforcement. Previous budgets have allocated even more. Tanden may be misinformed, bad at math, a liar, or all of the above. Regardless, she is wrong.

Upon taking the podium, Kerlikowske matched Tanden in intellectual dishonesty, and then raised her one.

“Let me start by sharing a concern that many people in the public health and safety community share about drug policy,” Kerlikowske said. “Over the last few years, this public debate on drug policy has lurched between two extreme views. Let me characterize those two views for you: On the one side we have very vocal, organized, well-funded advocates who insist drug legalization is a silver bullet for addressing our nation’s drug problem. On the other side of the debate we have the law enforcement-only war-on-drugs approach. If only we could spend more on prisons and increase arrests and seizures of drugs, the drug problem would just go away.”

In two breaths, Kerlikowske mischaracterized the anti-prohibition movement, while mischaracterizing the Obama administration’s actual drug policy record—here is a long list of recent DEA press releases crowing about drug convictions and drug seizures—by attributing it to some unnamed crowd. (Newsflash, Gil: You is them.)  

Kerlikowske finished up his opening remarks by claiming that the Obama administration had invented a “third way” to combat the drug problem:

The Obama administration believes neither of these approaches is humane, compassionate, realistic, and most importantly, they are not grounded in science. The approaches also do not acknowledge the complexity of our nation’s drug problem, or reflect the science of the last two decades. That’s why two weeks ago we released the national drug control policy, and it pursues a third way to drug control. It’s progressive, it’s innovative, it’s evidence-based and it presents what we believe to be the way ahead for the drug policy.

(If the “third way” proposal sounds familiar, it’s because Mark Kleiman wrote about it recently in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, which Kerlikowske read and agrees with.)

After Kelikowske finished speaking, he sat down with Tanden for a brief Q&A. It began with this question: “You said the ‘war on drugs’ does not address the complexity of the drug problem or the administration’s response. Why do you say that?” That from the president of the largest and most powerful progressive think tank in America. 

After a few more softballs from Tanden, Kerlikowske fielded questions from the audience that had been written on index cards. One of those questions came from Steve Fox of MPP, who asked why the ONDCP treats alcohol differently than marijuana, which is stastically safer. It’s a common question from legalization advocates, and Kerlikowske has answered it many, many times. His answer this morning, however, featured an incredible degree of dissembling:

So I think the issue always gets around the debate...Well alcohol is more dangerous, or alcohol causes more deaths, or alcohol. So certainly nobody is going to roll the clock back and say, ‘Gee, we need to institute prohibition on alcohol. But, there are no good reasons to legalize marijuana. I often hear about tax, regulate, and control as an answer. But then I look at prescription drugs, which as I mentioned take over 15,000 lives a year, let alone the people who come into emergency departments. Prescription drugs are already regulated, already taxed and controlled, and we do a very poor job of keeping them out of the hands of abusers, misusers, and young people. So I don’t see that we would do a very good job with a substance that could easily evade the tax, because it doesn’t take rocket science to grow marijuana.

This despite the fact that more people already use marijuana than prescription oxy, to no ill effect. 

The other good question came from Scott Morgan, of the StopTheDrugWar.org, who asked if Kerlikowske supported compulsory treatment of casual drug users, and if arresting marijuana users and forcing them into treatment was an effective policy. This time, Kerlikowske played dumb:

Again, that’s a bit of a myth. If someone’s arrested for a small amount of marijuana, and the determination is made they have to go into treatment, treatment beds and space are a valuable commodity. I think professionals can clearly assess when someone is in need of treatment. Compulsory treatment is not something I’m as familiar with in great detail at the local level.

Here’s the thing: The words “compulsory treatment” may not appear anywhere in the 2012 Drug Control Strategy report, but it’s nevertheless an inherent aspect of Obama's supposed shift to a public health approach. Every single alternative to incarceration proposed by the Obama administration--from drug courts to prison rehab programs to family doctor-catalyzed interventions--features some form of compulsory addiction treatment. This is the tradeoff Americans will soon be forced to make: Government-mandated counseling instead of jail time. 

That Kerlikowske whiffed on this question is incredible. It means that although the Obama administration thinks compulsory treatment is better than jail time, it's afraid to come out and say that. Let me repeat that: The Obama administration is unwilling to talk publicly about the central plank of its drug policy platform. 

It's equally amazing to me that Tanden failed to call him on it. 

Previously: Why Is the Center for American Progress Enabling Obama's Drug War Lies?

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  • ||

    And 99% of TEAM BLUE will internalize these lies and it will be truth for them.

    They are absolutely determined to just own the "stupid party" moniker, aren't they.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The first person that tells me Obama ended the WOD is getting a major fuck you.

  • John||

    Obama ended the war on drugs. ;=)

  • tarran||

    Fuck you John, you pro-Obama shill! ;)

  • Team Blue||

    Why are we even talking about this? It isn't even an issue. It's just a talking-point for the Mittler Youth who want to distract us from the serious issues such as the FACT that Romney's grandfather moved to a perverted Mexican commune that supported perverts who wanted to engage in perverted marriage practices.

  • Tonio||

    Welcome back, John.

  • John||

    Thank you. I have actually been working lately. Stuck in a lot of meetings. No one here believes I have a job. But I do and I occasionally have to work for a living.

  • o3||

    stupid because mike & epi said so eh? >while progressives are pissed at obama for the continued medical marijuana busts, the RW clown parade is no alternative.

  • ||

    Fuck off, Mary.

  • o3||

    whatevah u say hon

  • mad libertarian guy||

    It's all about framing the argument.

    Obama "ended" the War in Iraq and is setting the stage for the end of the War on Terror. He ended the War on Drugs, took major steps in ending the War on Poverty by pushing forwards high taxes, had the War on Women won with Obamacare until those activist judges stopped him . . .

    Liberals own the language used in political discourse, and if they say something, the media will follow suit and report it as gospel.

    Today Obama claimed that this new policy effectively ends the War on Drugs, and the media will report just that.

  • Zeb||

    They are absolutely determined to just own the "stupid party" moniker

    Oh, just wait 'till the Repubs are in charge again. I'm sure they'll give them a run for their money.

  • ThemAPPLEs||

    Entirely possible. But then again, Obama & co set the bar awfully low.

  • ant1sthenes||

    And then the President and an army of Democratic politicians rappelled in to rescue them and end the war on drugs.

  • The Other Kevin||

    I don't think progressives need any convincing. All it takes is for someone not on Team Blue to say "Hey, Obama didn't end the war on drugs", and the progressives will reflexively convince themselves of the opposite.

  • Doctor Whom||

    2+2=5 when the Party needs it to be.

  • Milquetoast Dave||

    Step 2: There is no step 2, fuck you.

  • Arf?||

    I believe step 2 is "Believe your own bullshit."

  • ||

    This plan is suspiciously similar to one conceived by the underpants gnomes.

  • grylliade||

  • T||

    What's the quickest way for the Obama administration to convince progressives that the war on drugs is over, even though it's not?

    Lie. Repeatedly, loudly, unashamedly. Keep at it until others start repeating the lie. Then slack off and let people forget you were the source of the lie.

    Shit, this is propoganda 101, folks. And about as far as the current administration got before falling asleep in class.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Joseph Goebbels likes this comment.

  • ||

    We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone's thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a "case" with deliberate suppression of his opponent's point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends.

  • John||

    We really are. Read Dostoevsky's The Possessed sometime. It is about the leftists in 19th Century Russia. They sound a whole lot like people do today.

  • ||

    I was quoting Orwell there. Should have made note.

  • ||

    Ja, das ist gut!

  • Loki||

    Step 1: Say that the drug war is over.

    Step 2: ???

    Step 3: Profit

  • ||

    The Drug czar was formerly the Deputy Prime Minister for the Underpants Gnomes.

  • Loki||

    His face does look rather gnome-like. In addition to being extremely punchable.

  • Killazontherun||

    Welcome to your favorite techocrat's vision of the future, bitches!

    The order makes clear that we will not undermine American laws or compromise our national prerogatives. But it emphasizes that international cooperation and harmonization can increase trade and job creation, eliminating pointless burdens without creating a regulatory race to the bottom. From now on, an interagency working group chaired by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs [Note; Sunstein chairs this agency-RW] will be a forum for reducing this red tape.

    More generally, President Obama has worked closely with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts to create High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Councils with both countries. The councils are developing and implementing plans to eliminate or prevent the creation of unnecessary burdens on cross-border trade, streamline regulatory requirements, and promote greater certainty for the general public and for businesses in the regulation of food, pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology and other areas.

    Signed, Cass Sustain

    Signed,

  • Killazontherun||

    I wondered where the first 'Signed' went to. Dropped out of site, scrolled and didn't see it so I wrote it again. Squirrels, you still have your tricks!

  • sarcasmic||

    Liberals fall for this kind of bullshit because they are less inclined to judge what a person says than they are to judge who said it.

    If the source is "credible", then they will believe even the most blatant lie.

  • Loki||

    It's equally amazing to me that Tanden failed to call him on it.

    Why should anyone be amazed by that? CAP is nothing more than a bunch of TEAM BLUE shills. Of course they're going to verbally fellate the Obamassiah. It's what they do.

  • John||

    This really is another case of Obama telling his supporters fuck you, I can tell you anything I want no matter how ridiculous and you will defend it.

  • ||

    Not only will they defend it, they'll even believe it. Idiots.

  • John||

    not sure which is more scary, the possibility that they are that dishonest or that they actually believe this shit.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think it's a bit of both.
    Some of it they believe, then they lie about what they wish was actually true.

  • jester||

    It will take a long time to undo what Bush did to America during his 8 years of destructive policy.

  • Tulpa the White||

    12 years.

  • ThemAPPLEs||

    This ^

  • newshutz||

    24 years

  • newshutz||

    or should we start the clock on the destructive policies of progressives in 1912?

  • Killazontherun||

    Let me start by sharing a concern that many people in the public health and safety community . .

    No thanks, I'm not interested in the product you are selling. Oh, well, since you are putting it that way, with a gun to my face, I believe I'll take one. That wont pay for your three week vacation in Spain? Two, then? Three? Fuck, put me down for a case now that you have started shooting.

  • Raston Bot||

    Let me start by sharing a concern that many people in the public health and safety community...

    That community's greatest fear is a reality. That fear of course is that more people everyday are figuring out their bullshit.

  • jester||

    A buddy of mine failed his drug test at work. The test found enough traces of cocaine from an episode of responsible drug use many days before that never would have been detected through behavioural cues such as work absenteeism, sleeping on the job, etc. As a result, the drug warriors now own his life. He is subjected to intimidation such as threat of job-loss and proscribed from use of other legal drugs such as alcohol.

    I told him that I couldn't go through what he is going through. Be careful what you wish for, ye who believe in rehab!

  • sarcasmic||

    A single episode of responsible use should have been out of his system in just a few days.
    Perhaps he uses it more than he lets on.

  • Killazontherun||

    Would have read better if he left 'responsible' out altogether as that is a judgement call. I was afraid it would side track into an unnecessary secondary matter when I read it the first time.

  • jester||

    Responsible means that his drug use does not affect his work. What is your definition? Is it anyone's business what you do with your time off?!!!

    Just because some arms-race better-than-ever drug test can tell if you've been doing some shit so many days ago that doesn't matter now in terms of job performance deems you as a 'well, eventually he would have become a weapon of mass destruction.'

    Fuck. What site am I posting at right now?

  • Killazontherun||

    Not that I'm blaming you for spotting it! It caused an itch that needed scratching.

  • jester||

    Keep scratching until it bleeds and you bleed to death. No, but seriously, rethink what you said. My buddy is seriously being tweaked for a non-crime and you apologize for the police state? That hurts.

  • Killazontherun||

    What they are doing to him is 'humane, compassionate, realistic, and most importantly, grounded in science.' and also, 'It's progressive, it's innovative, it's evidence based' He should feel fortunate that the better funded now that Obama is in charge public sector is making sure that he gets the attention he needs even if they have to hold a gun to the head of his bosses to do it.

  • jester||

    OK, I am the idiot. I see it now that I am drunk. You out-dry-humored me, good job. Big kiss.

  • OO=======D||

    A friend of mine lost his job for testing positive for weed. Never used at work. Wife and four kids. Stupid policy.

  • Raston Bot||

    I thought those tests were just used as an excuse to dismiss a slacker w/o having to worry about them dinging your SUTA in retaliation.

  • jester||

    The drug-testing industry which sucks from the teat of the Drug War has become better at their game. Mind you, there exists no interest in keeping the workplace safe that does not also include an attitude of ZERO TOLERANCE in everyone's personal life.

    I was providing an anecdote for that and I am disappointed that two posters failed to see that. It is the same thing that occurs when someone is issued a DUI when they are not really intoxicated. Yes, they are 'legally intoxicated', but that is because the law says so. Kinda like an immigrant is 'illegal' because the law says so.

    Stupid laws are not law at all. Let's keep it that way. Quit agreeing with bullshit. As I pointed out: my buddy was caught by a drug test (a random one) not by behavioral delinquency.

  • Robert||

    So why'd he agree to be tested?

  • ||

    I'm not entirely sure, but I believe it goes something like this: "Do the test, or you don't have to come back tomorrow."

  • jester||

    Thanks Darius404,
    For cluing the clueless. That's why our country sucks more and more each day. Either our fellow citizens are unaware of the ongoing anaesthetization or start defending it as Killaz did on this very site.

    We are in trouble. With douchebag idiots like Killaz on the loose and posting at Reason, we are truly fucked!

  • jester||

    Killaz is vindicated. My bad. See above.

  • ||

    Obama can end the Drug War without actually changing anything at all. His governance is unrivaled, like Solomon crossed with Solon, Thomas Jefferson, King Arthur, Franklin Roosevelt, Jesus, Simon Bolivar, and Martin Luther King Jr. A liberal Serpentor, if you will.

  • John||

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/05.....-cleveland

    Douchebags in Occupy Cleveland who planned to blow up bridge.

  • Zeb||

    We already did that one. Seems more like "FBI agents planned fake bombing and found some idiots to go along with the plan".

  • Robert||

    If they're not proud of it, why are they doing it?

  • claygooding||

    I wish someone would ask Obama or Kerli if the state or federal government was going to pick up the tab for compulsory rehab of indigents and the poor,,,or do they just get too continue going to prison?

  • Mike Laursen||

    But, there are no good reasons to legalize marijuana.

    Because Peter Fucking Tosh told us to. Do we need more reason?

  • Thomas O.||

    One word: HEMP.

    A very useful marijuana relative that got fucked over by government and the industries that were afraid that hemp products would put them out of business.

    I'm all for MJ legalization anyway, and deregulating hemp as well would be a good move.

  • lunchstealer||

    I love how it's the drug czar - the sitting, still-has-a-job-and-an-office drug czar, making this PR blitz.

  • RSteeb||

    "...there are no good reasons to legalize marijuana."

    That is the single most idiotic statement I have ever heard.

    The prohibition of Earth's most widely beneficial plant species is a crime against humanity.

    Schedule I Cannabis is a damned lie.

    Good enough for you, droopy dog??

  • Onyxwolf||

    The WOD will never be over so long as any drug remains illegal. No alternative will even come close to working until, at the very least, the tragedy of Cannabis prohibition is reversed.

    Dear Gil,
    "...there are no good reasons to legalize marijuana." Hmm... I must disagree whole-heartedly! Is life not a good enough reason. To achieve a fatal overdose of Cannabis, one must somehow find a way to ingest 40,000 times more of substance than it takes to get a person high. This makes this feat nearly impossible, and there are NO reported cases of fatal overdose. However, not legalizing, and more specifically, not regulating its sale, caused the death of Ramarley Graham just last year (by a cop staking out a suspected point cannabis distribution). Using just the above provided information, let's check the scoreboard: Lives lost:

    Prohibition 1
    Cannabis 0

    Reason enough for me, sir.

  • Onyxwolf||

    "Prescription drugs are already regulated, already taxed and controlled, and we do a very poor job of keeping them out of the hands of abusers, misusers, and young people." The only difference between Scripts and illicit drugs, is the fact that you have to have a medical license to inject the former into the black market. Access for all drugs (except date rape type drugs) by consenting, appropriately-aged adults (not so heavily regulated that you're just changing the name of the drug pusher, but definitely regulations against advertising and underage sales), taxation to provide treatment (though not so much that it is cost prohibitive as that would cause an increase in crime), is the only way to truly mitigate society damage caused by drugs. I know most reading this probably thinks that is not true, but how about we experiment with that some and try again. If I'm wrong, we can re-criminalize those drugs (Cannabis is the only exception as legalizing it will be like ending alcohol prohibition, because I know I'm not wrong about legalizing and regulating Cannabis)!

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