Univision Gives Obama First Serious Grilling on Drug War, Holder, Fast and Furious

So apparently the way to get presidential candidates to talk seriously about issues is to put them on Spanish-language TV. First there was Republican challenger Mitt Romney getting a spinal tap over his shifting immigration views, if you can be married and gay at the same time, and whether he was wearing brownface

Now President Obama must also be wondering what happened to the good old days when all you had to do was print up some "Adelante" flyers and say a few words in halting Spanish on the stump. 

Speaking with Univision co-hosts Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos, Obama got tough questions on his State Department's complete unpreparedness for the September 11 embassy attacks and other topics.

But the high point came when Salinas and Ramos turned to Obama's catastrophic ramping up of the war on drugs and the deadly Fast and Furious operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 

Referring to the 65,000 people who have been killed in drug violence in Mexico, Salinas asked, "How many people have to die before the strategy changes?"

"The United States can focus on drug treatment and prevention and helping people deal with addiction, making sure young people are not getting hooked on drugs," the former Choom Gang leader asserted. "If we can reduce demand, that means less cash flowing into these drug cartels. And we have actually beefed up our investment and support in prevention, because we have to treat this as a public health problem in the United States, not just a law enforcement problem." 

While it wasn't a very serious response, this is the first time Obama has replied to drug-policy questions with something other than japery. And the talk got even more grim when Ramos turned to the Department of Justice Inspector General's report on the Fast and Furious operation in which the ATF intentionally provided weapons to drug cartels, an initiative that apparently netted no useful information and led to the death of border agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Here's the transcript, courtesy of the Daily Caller

Ramos: You told me during an interview that you and Mr. Holder did not authorize the Fast and Furious operation that allowed 2,000 weapons from the United States into Mexico and they were in the drug trafficking [cartels'] hands. I think that up to 100 Mexicans might have died and also American agent Brian Terry. There’s a report that 14 agents were responsible for the operation but shouldn’t the attorney general, Eric Holder, he should have known about that and if he didn’t, should you fire him?

Obama: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program, begun under the previous administration. When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued — confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and that the people who did initiate this were held accountable. But, what I think is most important is recognizing that we’ve got a challenge in terms of weapons flowing south, and the strategy that was pursued out of Arizona, obviously, was completely wrongheaded. Those folks who were responsible have been held accountable. The question now is, how do we move forward with a strategy that will actually work?

We are going to have to work with Mexican law enforcement to accomplish this, but I will tell you that Eric Holder has my complete confidence, because he has shown himself to be willing to hold accountable those who took these actions and is passionate about making sure that we’re preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands.

Ramos: But if you have nothing to hide, then why are you not releasing papers to the – 

Obama: The truth is we've released thousands of papers.

Ramos: But not all of them. 

Obama: We’ve released almost all of them. The ones that we don’t release, typically, relate to internal communications that were not related to the actual Fast and Furious operation. The challenge that we have is that, at any given moment in the federal government, there may be people who do dumb things, and I’ve seen it, I promise. Ultimately, I’m responsible and my key managers, including the attorney general, are responsible for holding those people accountable, for making sure that they are fired if they do dumb things and then fixing the system to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, and I’m very confident that you will not see any kinds of actions like this in the future, but what I don’t like to see is these kinds of issues becoming political circuses or ways to score political points in Congress partly because it becomes a distraction from us doing the business that we need to do for the American people.

Salinas: Let’s have an independent investigation, because at the end of the day, this is the Justice Department investigating its boss and is saying they say is not at fault? Why don’t we have, very briefly, an independent investigation that is not done by the Justice Department?

Obama: Well, understand that, not only have we had multiple hearings in Congress, but the inspector general is put in place specifically to be independent from the attorney general. This attorney general’s [sic] report was not a whitewash in any way. I mean, it was tough on the Justice Department, and it indicated that, potentially, more supervision was needed, people should have known in some cases, even if they didn’t actually know. So, it was, I think, independent, honest, it was a clear assessment of what had gone wrong in that situation.

And we are happy to continue to provide the information that is relevant to this, but one of the things that happens in Washington is, very quickly, these issues become political distractions as opposed to us actually solving the problems that we need to solve,” Obama continued. “And, this issue of guns flowing south is a hard issue to solve, because this country respects the Second Amendment, we want to protect the rights of gun owners and those who are seeking to purchase firearms, but oftentimes that’s exploited as well. And so we’ve got to make sure we’re properly balancing the rights of U.S. citizens but making sure that we’re also interdicting those arms that would get into the hands of criminals.

Will Obama ever get tired of blaming Bush? Terry was killed nearly two years into Obama's presidency, and Fast and Furious was not in fact shut down for more than a month after his murder, in large part thanks to pressure from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). It's always worth keeping in mind that bad policy transcends presidential administrations, and that the ATF should have been shut down after (or actually before) the mass slaughter in Waco Texas in 1993. But the idea that Solyndra, Fast and Furious, a $16 trillion debt, four years of 8+-percent unemployment, and the Washington Nationals' now-broken playoff drought can all be laid on George W. Bush's shoulders, well, that makes me want to press 2 for Spanish. 

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  • Mo||

    So apparently the way to get presidential candidates to talk seriously about issues is to put them on Spanish-language TV.

    This is as big an indictment of our news media as you can get. Apparently, viewers of Univision want serious news addressing actual issues, while viewers of MSNBCNNFOX just want to watch syphilitic monkeys fling poo at the other team.

  • mr simple||

    Heh, heh. Monkeys.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    The Spanish language audience isn't large enough to have fragmented based on political viewpoint yet.

    While it's nice to have choices in media, there are drawbacks. I'm not longing for the days of Walter Cronkite telling everyone in America what to believe, but it would be nice for the partisanship to not be as blatant as it has become.

  • Atanarjuat||

    It is an indictment of our news media, but they never harassed Bush about his marijuana policy that I can recall. They're more of a pro-government team.

    OTOH I also recall that Bush's term was referred to as "plagued by scandal", whereas just as much crooked shit has gone down during Obama's presidency, and they're busy focusing on every distraction possible.

  • John Thacker||

    Bush's FBI didn't crack down on state medical marijuana. Bush's Administration opposed the laws, but I don't believe that they went around closing down stores as much. A little more respect for the laboratories of democracy.

    Granted, his policy was stupid. But Obama's managed to be more stupid.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    How about Spanish as the official language of D.C. journalists?

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Sabado Gigante!!

    That's the only Spanish I know. Thanks for the lessons, Univision!

  • ||

    I try to watch Descontrol on Telemundo every Saturday that I'm home. I turn the volume down and put on different music but at least that show never disappoints you, you know what you're getting every week.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    "The Unites States can focus on drug treatment and prevention and helping people deal with addiction, making sure young people are not getting hooked on drugs," the former Choom Gang leader asserted.

    Zingalicious!

    Of course Obummer then goes here:

    "If we can reduce demand, that means less cash flowing into these drug cartels.

    Uh . . . we can't. 40 years of doing everything they can think of to curb demand and a couple trillion dollars says so. Of course decriminalization and allowing people to buy their weed from the corner store just like they do beer and cigarettes also means less cash flow in to these drug cartels too.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why do you want children to use drugs?

  • Anomalous||

    Because they're not as annoying that way.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "cigarettes"

    You, sir, are worse than Hitler!

  • NeonCat||

    It's true. Hitler hated cigarettes, so it must be true.

  • MJGreen||

    So the goal is to reduce demand, so that less cash flows into cartels.

    They focus their resources on catching suppliers, lowering the supply and putting upward pressure on prices.

    So more cash will flow to the most effective drug dealers, and effectiveness is probably correlated with ruthlessness.

    ...Have a nice day.

  • Killazontherun||

    If we can reduce demand, that means less cash flowing into these drug cartels.

    That should have been retorted, 'Reduce demand? That would require social engineering far beyond your demonstrable competence. Please, a serious answer, Mr. President.'

    BTW, an insult is necessary here due to the insult on the questioner's intelligence implied in his answer.

  • Proprietist||

    I vote "Former Choom Gang leader" as official title for Obama on all future drug threads.

    I mean, at least Romney's stance on drugs is explainable because he lacks any experience on the subject and thus has no earthly idea about what he's talking about.

  • OldMexican||

    Referring to the 65,000 people who have been killed in drug violence in Mexico, Salinas asked, "How many people have to die before the strategy changes?"


    Ah, that question made him squirm!!!

  • Bardas Phocas||

    The answer: A whole lot more - and they have to be White. We can have endless numbers of dead brown boys AND we can jail hundreds of thousands of white boys and girls. But dead white people is the only thing that will change this policy. Ask Elliot Ness, Chica.

  • jway||

    "If we can reduce demand..."

    Well that's the BIG problem - we CAN'T reduce demand!! We told users to "just say no", we denied them the right to an education and we arrest more than 800,000 of them every year, and yet the demand for cannabis is unrelenting.

    After SEVENTY FIVE YEARS of this FAILED policy, isn't it time for something that actually works?!! Taxpayers are tired of paying $40 BILLION a year for a prohibition that doesn't even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana!

    END the FAILED and DEADLY federal marijuana prohibition and enforce onto marijuana the same SUCCESSFUL laws that have worked so well for beer and wine! Drug Dealers Don't Card, Supermarkets Do!!

  • OldMexican||

    Re: jway,

    Well that's the BIG problem - we CAN'T reduce demand!!


    Well, actually, he can... if he starts shooting all drug addicts and change his name to Mao. That would take soe gumption, but it can be done.

    The question is: Would we want him to?

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Bush did it.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    And we have actually beefed up our investment and support in prevention, because we have to treat this as a public health problem in the United States, not just a law enforcement problem."

    I'm not sure this rises above the level of japery.

  • RBS||

    Seriously, why does it have to also be a "public health problem"? Why, aside from addicts, should it be a problem at all?

  • sarcasmic||

    I don't believe the government makes a distinction between user and addict.

  • RBS||

    Of course it does not, that's why it's just as bad as treating it is a law enforcement problem, just change prison to hospital/rehab facility.

  • ||

    because we have to treat this as a public health problem in the United States, not just a law enforcement problem

    "Aaaaannnd, we'll start doing that tomorrow. I pinkie swearz"

    (not that I think it's a "public health problem", either - just calling out the utter bullshit)

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Referring to the 65,000 people who have been killed in drug violence in Mexico, Salinas asked, "How many people have to die before the strategy changes?"

    You mean "how many Americans?"

  • Old Bull Lee||

    Maybe those "official language of the US" people are onto something. If we can make American's official language Spanish, we might get some TV journalism that does something besides parrot official statements.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    Ultimately, I’m responsible and my key managers, including the attorney general, are responsible for holding those people accountable

    You see what he did there?

    He's not responsible for what happens; he's responsible for holding other people accountable. So he's responsible-in-law or something.

  • MJGreen||

    Yep. I got halfway through that sentence thinking, "Wait, is he admitting responsibility?" And then a total dodge.

    It's the language of politicians.

  • Sam Grove||

    Ah, the distinction between responsible and accountable. The terms are often conflated.

  • nicole||

    So he's responsible-in-law or something.

  • nicole||

    My real comment, that he is meta-responsible, is apparently some kind of spam. Will the squirrels betray me again?...

  • ||

    Obama: The truth is we've released thousands of papers.

    Ramos: But not all of them.

    Obama: We’ve released almost all of them.

    What a fucking worm.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this

    Precious.

  • ||

    I don't know if it's funny or horrifying that the 4 best news sources for Americans are al-Jazeera, Univision, Russia Today, and Gawker.

  • Tman||

    The FF answer wasn't an answer. It was an obfuscation buried under rhetorical bullshit infused with direct lies.

    Fast and Furious (Obama) and Operation Gunrunner (Bush) were entirely different programs, with the main difference being FF did not coordinate with the Mexican government whatsoever. To say "this was going on under Bush" is a flat out lie.

    Nice to know Obama can lie in two different languages now.

  • db||

    Clearly, Obama thought this was going to be a softball interview and was badly surprised. One wonders where his assumption came from, however. Certainly he can't have thought that a certain ethnic group would be in the bag for him?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Maybe.

    But it more likely stems from the fact that the media is DEFINITELY in the bag for him, and being challenged by the media is a foreign concept to him.

  • RightNut||

    By the way Obama talks, you'd think someone else had been president the last four years. I guess Obama's take on "the buck stops here!" is "the buck stopped four years ago".

  • Hoser||

    My understanding is that the report said that there is no evidence that Holder knew anything. It was, by nature a secret operation, so how much evidence is there going to be of who knew what? AMIRIGHT?

    Also, how sleazy is it to say that Obama has confidence in Holder because he is willing to hold people accountable? What ever happened to 'the buck stops here'? Any bucks in the DOJ should stop with Holder, and really, Obama should hold responsibility.

    If they wanted to deflect this from Obama, Holder should have resigned. They are getting greedy pushing the blame down the line. It could all go away if Holder said, "Look, I didn't know about this, but that doesn't matter. I should have known, so I resign." If he did that, he would look (somewhat) honorable and it would put Obama in the clear and it would legitimize the DOJ report.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    It could all go away if Holder said, "Look, I didn't know about this, but that doesn't matter. I should have known, so I resign."

    But that would be racist for Holder to hold himself accountable.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    So, when people get murdered it's 'dumb'. DUMB. DUMB!! Maybe this is why this father of several daughters can approve the killings of innocents... because when they kill innocents it's... dumb. Just that. DUMB.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "Well, first of all, I think it’s important to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program, begun under the previous administration."

    Oh, for fuck's sake. This administration is like a Family Circus strip come to life.

    "Who ordered Fast Furious?"

    "NOT ME!"

    "Who bailed out the banks?"

    "NOT ME!"

    "Who shot up the defecit?"

    "NOT ME!"

    "Who expanded the PATRIOT Act?"

    "NOT ME!"

    "Who tried to censor the internet?"

    "NOT ME!"

    "Who dropped bombs on civvies in the MidEast?"

    "NOT ME!"

    Ad infuckingfinitum.

  • ||

    Also made me think of this

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.....ookie_Jar?

    And I found this in the process

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RazgjRT2kys

  • Lisa||

    'Referring to the 65,000 people who have been killed in drug violence in Mexico, Salinas asked, "How many people have to die before the strategy changes?"'

    Um, Fast and Furious to the contrary...most guns in Mexico do not come from north of the border. Also, us changing our drug policy will not have some miraculous decorrupting effect on Mexico's f'ed up country.

  • Major Pain||

    I know this is difficult for some to understand:

    If drugs are legal here, they can be produced and sold at reasonable prices and at consistent quality, and made safely available over the counter. This, in turn, breaks the economic rationale for a black market in those drugs; consumers have no reason to take a risk in buying, and black marketers lose all territory and any chance of a decent margin all at once.

    You see? Just as there is no significant black market in alcohol, there will be no significant black market in any other legally available drug. And, just as a thriving black market in alcohol was created by prohibition I, our government has created the black market in pot and etc. by making them illegal via prohibition II.

    Looking forward (yes, call me an optimist) to an end to the insanity of the drug war, with drugs legal here, Mexico then has nowhere to sell its black market drugs, and bingo, the Mexican drug economy falls apart, AND the US black market drug economy falls apart -- now drugs can't be used as funding for gangs and OC.

    Understand now?

    Oh, and btw, we would ALSO get to stop funneling huge amounts of money to our own law enforcement, as people no longer have to steal to buy drugs, and they are no longer committing a crime when using drugs.

    The drug war is nothing more than protectionism for the alcohol industry combined with a money factory for the law enforcement and prison systems. Not to mention a huge violation of your personal liberties.

  • Alexander||

    Don't you people understand, Obama loves us all equally, and wants us to make the best decisions with the best results for our lives. Haven't you all looked at the hands of democrats, they say nice things on them.

    And, where the fuck is Tony. I apologize to anyone who wanted to say this first. I've read it so many times, and every time I smile.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Obama: "It ain't my fucking fault, it was the other guy -- thousands of Mexicans died, let's ignore it and move forward."

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    The Spanish-language media has the cojones to accuse Obama to his face of a cover-up. Something the cowardly limp dicks and pussies of the English MSM would never consider doing.

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