Drug Policy

My Question for Joe Biden

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The New York Times asked several contributors what question they'd pose to Sarah Palin or Joe Biden.  They asked me to submit a drug-war related question for Biden.  Here it is:

Senator Biden, you've been one of the Senate's most ardent drug warriors. You helped create the office of "drug czar"; backed our failed eradication efforts in South America; encouraged the government to seize the assets of people merely suspected of drug crimes; pushed for the expanded use of racketeering and conspiracy laws against drug offenders; advocated the use of the military to fight the drug war; and sponsored a bill that holds venue owners and promoters criminally liable for drug use by people attending concerts and events.

Today, illicit drugs are as cheap and abundant as they were decades ago. Would you agree that the anti-drug policies you've championed have failed? If not, how have they succeeded?

reason contributor Gene Healy also contributed a question:

The claim by Dick Cheney that he was exempt from certain disclosure requirements because the vice president was a "legislative officer" has been greeted with outrage. But the main power the Constitution grants the vice president is a legislative one — breaking a tie vote in the Senate.

So, Governor Palin, Senator Biden, doesn't Mr. Cheney have a point?

But, then, if the vice president is a legislative officer, how can he wield the vast executive powers that Mr. Cheney has exercised, including orchestrating and supervising a warrantless wiretapping program?

Can the vice president shift between branches at his convenience? If not, what, in your view, is the constitutional status of the vice presidency?

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  1. Wow… Gene’s question is a doozy. I’d hate to be the poor schmuck that got that question in a debate.

  2. What does the constitution have to do with anything at this point?

  3. There’s *no* way the MSM would ever allow a question as honest about the drugwar’s abject failure as Radley’s at any “debate.”

  4. Why do you want small children hooked on drugs and dying of overdoses Radley?

  5. Those are much better questions than Ifill will ask tonight, I’m sure. Except for Andrew’s little hissy fit.

  6. The Healy question seems to pre-suppose that one cannot be both a legislative and executive officer at the same time. I don’t see the justification for that premise.

    I mean, one could argue that Senate committee members that oversee various executive branch programs are in effect “orchestrating and supervising” them; does that mean they aren’t part of the legislative branch?

  7. I would pay good money to see a presidential “debate” moderated by a panel of libertarians.

  8. Biden’s extreme drug warrior cred is the reason that I hate him more than anyone else in this election. I don’t vote, but if I had been thinking of voting for the Obamessiah, choosing Biden would have killed that in its crib.

  9. That’s a fine question Radley. I hope he is asked it. But it isn’t a ‘gotcha’. The drug warriors take this in stride. Unfortunately “Drugs are bad m’kay” carries the day (it’s for the children).

    We need more voices attacking the premise that drugs are bad. But you can’t do that with one question in the VP debate.

  10. I would blow Gwen Ifill if she asked either of those questions . . .

  11. The War on Drugs is a never-ending battle for our children and our country. Sure, we’ve had setbacks, but let me tell you about our successes. . .yada, yada, yada.

  12. In my neverending quest to point out hypocrisy by offering reversed situations…

    I’m sure that if a Fox News reporter who is writing a book about John McCain representing the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of multiple generations of a race was running the VP debate, not one Democrat would make a peep about bias. Not one, I’m sure.

  13. Only “Faux” News is biased, NutraSweet. What are you, some kind of right wing shill?

  14. “Rethugulian McSame/Failin’ is just a Bushitlerchimp third term!”

  15. You can’t fool me, you neocon hack.

  16. Bidens answer would be “Thanks to our effort things havent gotten worse, Just imagine how bad things would be if we didnt have these programs in place”

  17. Two excellent questions, neither of which is likely to be permitted to cause discomfort or confusion in the minds of the candidates.

  18. The Healy question seems to pre-suppose that one cannot be both a legislative and executive officer at the same time. I don’t see the justification for that premise.

    I mean, one could argue that Senate committee members that oversee various executive branch programs are in effect “orchestrating and supervising” them; does that mean they aren’t part of the legislative branch?

    This is all true. But then one might suppose the VP is subject to the checks and balances of BOTH functions, not NEITHER.

  19. If not for the War on Drugs, government data shows that 90% of all Americans would now be drug addicts, and, by 2020, 115% of us would be addicted to drugs.

  20. And: if not for Joe Biden, the streets would be swarming with junkie cannibal child molestors committing the sorts of insane depravities which would make Sodom and Gomorrah look like Disneyland.

  21. I would have asked:

    “When the federal government made alcohol illegal, it required an amendment to the Constitution. Where is the amendment granting the federal government the power to wage a Drug War today?
    Ha, just teasing you, Senator. I know ass sniffers such as yourself neither understand nor respect the principles of a Constitutional Republic and limited government. You don’t have to answer, I don’t want to hear scripted response #14 anyway. But seriously, how do you sleep at night?”

  22. the streets would be swarming with junkie cannibal child molestors

    Damn, you guys are setting me up today.

    “It’s lonely being a cannibal. Tough making friends.”

  23. “Is our government too big?”

  24. Biden: “I think it’s obvious that you don’t give a junkie easier access to the drug that hooked him in the first place. But that’s not the main issue I came here tonight to talk about … I want to talk about why I support the Wall Street Bailout.”

  25. “I don’t have any friends. I keep eating them.”

  26. When the federal government made alcohol illegal, it required an amendment to the Constitution. Where is the amendment granting the federal government the power to wage a Drug War today?

    That would be a great question for Constitutional scholar Barack Obama. I would ask it a little differently.

    How is it that the Constitution had to be amended before the the federal government could outlaw alcohol, but no such amendment was necessary before other recreational drugs were outlawed? Could you explain what changed between Prohibition and the War on Drugs?

  27. It is sadly funny that the great questions would probably be effectively dodged with answers suggested by Warren: “Drugs are bad m’kay”

    The only way this dodge could be destoryed is to allow follow up questions. As we all know the debate or Q&A will be controlled to work in Biden’s favor.

    The NYT and the CPD are corrupt and controlled institutions. Balko has just pointed out how the DEA kills people and threatens it’s own agents if they try to investigate…the highest levels of the DEA and DOJ cover it up and deny this. The NYT won’t cover that because they are corrupt. As long as people deny this we will not make progress towards more freedom.

  28. R C Dean,

    Mr. Dean, in my years teaching Constitutional law and from my experience in the United States Senate, I can answer your question with a high degree of confidence: The Constitution is for little people like you, not for leaders like me.

  29. I’d love to see Radley’s question asked, but I’d do unspeakable things to see the reactions to Gene’s.

    “…Xbox.”

  30. Biden: “When your children are dying in the streets with a needle sagging from their pock-marked forearms, do you want me to tell them it wasn’t ‘constitutional’ to save them? A constitution never fed a hungry child or comforted a patient dying from secondhand smoke exposure…”

  31. Gene Healy’s question is a great question. I wish someone would ask it, with the understanding that there is no universally accepted correct answer. I remember a Dave Kopel article reviewing the minutes of the convention that drafted the Constitution, and he said that the Vice President received little debate, except to give him the job of presiding over the Senate, else “he would be without employment”. So this is one unique position that straddles the executive and legislative branches.

    I wonder if this is really correct, though:
    …how can he wield the vast executive powers that Mr. Cheney has exercised, including orchestrating and supervising a warrantless wiretapping program?

    Is there a citation to the effect that Mr. Cheney has been wielding these vast executive powers on his own? My understanding is that any influence he has is because he has the ear of the President, not because he wields any executive authority on his own. I don’t really see how this is different from Hillary Clinton wielding de facto executive power during the health care debates of the early 90s.

  32. would have killed that in its crib.

    Or the dumpster, as it were.

    The wimpy nerds running for office in Canada this time around aren’t even talking about the drug war (except the Libertarian party). I’ve been searching their websites, Canadian news sources, etc, and it’s tough to find an actual platform on drug policy. My polite but strongly-worded emails have gone unanswered.

    In case the myth about Canada being legalization-topia wasn’t fully DOA, just thought I’d do my part.

  33. How is it that the Constitution had to be amended before the the federal government could outlaw alcohol, but no such amendment was necessary before other recreational drugs were outlawed? Could you explain what changed between Prohibition and the War on Drugs?

    That’s easy. The Supreme Court decided to apply the Butterfly Effect to the words “regulate Commerce… among the several states”

  34. Or the dumpster, as it were.

    “You know, there was a time when I would have helped you raise this little dumpster baby brother of mine like a son, but that’s gone now because you’ve ruined it. You threw your babies away, and you threw your swords away. You threw your golf clubs and your tasty treats, and you know what? I found them, and I’m gonna raise all of them.”

    In case the myth about Canada being legalization-topia wasn’t fully DOA, just thought I’d do my part.

    Well, Canada is somewhat better than here, right? Or is that a myth too?

  35. Where’s Cheney?

    When’s the last time he’s surfaced since the ‘meltdown’? Is he sequestered off into his ‘undisclosed’ location, in a hotseat waiting for the world’s largest and most deadly ‘October Surprise’? With the First Battalion en route for Stateside and a new mission, I would be a little queasy at seeing the election come off without a ‘snag’…

    Zm

  36. That’s easy. The Supreme Court decided to apply the Butterfly Effect to the words “regulate Commerce… among the several states”

    Actually, I believe that the first first federal drug war laws were passed in the ’20s and ’30s, before the Commerce Clause was gutted by the Supreme Court in the late ’30s/early ’40s.

  37. You know, there was a time when I would have helped you raise this little dumpster baby brother of mine like a son, but that’s gone now because you’ve ruined it.

    I would have also accepted: “I’m just a prom night, dumpster baby…” Accompanied by a little softshoe.

    Well, Canada is somewhat better than here, right?

    Right. Weed is decriminalized, but there is still tons of scapegoating, and the process seems pretty stalled. Vancouver’s safe injection site has come under fire with the current administration, and all it takes is 1 instance of gang-related violence for people to panic about ‘cracking down’ on drugs.

    The super-lefty, fuzzy bunny party (or NDP) is conspicuously silent on the issue, in a shameless attempt to pander. The Conservatives are characteristically crotchety. I’m pretty disgusted with the whole stinky, partisan mess.

  38. It just occurred to me that Obama’s “57 states” slip up may not have been an error after all. He was referring to the current fifty U.S. states along with the seven Canadian provinces that border the U.S. Hmmmmmmm.

  39. Weed is decriminalized, but there is still tons of scapegoating, and the process seems pretty stalled

    Of course. Drugs are bad, mm’kay?

    I’m pretty disgusted with the whole stinky, partisan mess

    Did you somehow expect not to be?

    He was referring to the current fifty U.S. states along with the seven Canadian provinces that border the U.S.

    Holy fucking shit!!! North American Union!!!

  40. NAFTA SUPERHIGHWAY! GAH!

  41. ProL, you know your Canadian geography! I’m so proud.

    And, FWIW, we really don’t want to annex the territories. Or the rest of the Maritimes. Combined, they contain about 500 people or so, and they all have really weird accents.

  42. The whole “drug” issue is the third rail.Palin can’t touch it without stepping into Mrs.McCain’s past. Not to mention, where the McCain fortune comes from.

  43. Newfies!

  44. I don’t buy into this North American Union stuff, but we’re becoming more Canadian on a daily basis (a more violent, warmer Canadian to be sure), so I can hardly blame Obama for already thinking of us as “One”.

    Our merger with (most of) Canada will have many perks, including a new national anthem: “O America”. We’ll also be able to use the unabsorbed provinces and territories to drum up nationalist fervor. The Nunavutian menance, that sort of thing.

    Another bonus is that terrorist attacks will cease when we’re all carrying North American passports (“Oh, you’re Canadian? Sorry about the fuss. Here, let me get your bags, praise Allah”). And when we expand the Mounties to cover international intrigue, well, let’s just say that bin Laden better find a new cave.

  45. Our merger with (most of) Canada will have many perks

    I’m thinking…chicks, dude. Well, that’s pretty much all I think about anyway, but still. Chicks!

  46. Well, I’m permanently bonded to someone with South American blood, so I can’t join in your lust for Yukon Hos; however, I’m glad that there are other advantages to this new nation–from sea to blinding tundra!

  47. Actually, I believe that the first first federal drug war laws were passed in the ’20s and ’30s, before the Commerce Clause was gutted by the Supreme Court in the late ’30s/early ’40s.

    Those weren’t laws prohibiting drugs outright, they were laws that made funding from the Federal Government dependent on the individual states making laws against marijuana usage. The first federal laws involved the regulation of marijuana sales through the creation of tax stamps, which they then created a policy of not selling any stamps. From there the damage was done.

  48. “Actually, I believe that the first first federal drug war laws were passed in the ’20s and ’30s, before the Commerce Clause was gutted by the Supreme Court in the late ’30s/early ’40s.”

    True, but passed under the taxing power, not the commerce power…until wickard in ’42.

  49. Our merger with (most of) Canada will have many perks

    I’m thinking…chicks, dude. Well, that’s pretty much all I think about anyway, but still. Chicks!

    Funny you should mention that. My girlfriend is from, uh, Canada. Where did I meet her? Um, yeah, I met her at Niagara Falls last summer on our family vacation.

  50. lust for Yukon Hos

    I’m thinking of a toe-headed six-year-old towing a stuffed tiger on a sled and sporting a hoover flag while frowning at a sign listing prices for “massage” outside a dimly-lit motel that charges in fifteen-minute increments.

  51. There are 8 Canadian provinces that border the US. A water border is still a border…or do you think Texas doesn’t border Mexico?

  52. My question.

    I love personal and economic freedom. Why the fuck should I vote for either ticket?

  53. Indeed, Ontario doesn’t have any land borders with the US either. All rivers and lakes.

  54. The Nunavutian menance

    Any territory that was created in my short lifetime is immediately suspect. Their place names are damn near unpronounceable, too.

    when we expand the Mounties to cover international intrigue, well, let’s just say that bin Laden better find a new cave.

    And the more attractive of you fellas better find a new bar. A Mountie always gets his man, if you know what I mean.

  55. Anonymous,

    Excellent. You are precisely correct in your attribution. Incidentally, I got The Complete Calvin and Hobbes for my 40th birthday. Awesome gift.

    Dagny,

    So, you’re suggesting that Mounties like the DH, eh? Well, all the better. The terrorists would get really pissed off if they knew they were being hunted down by gay men from Canada.

  56. I got The Complete Calvin and Hobbes for my 40th birthday. Awesome gift.

    So very, very true. I got it for my 44th birthday.

  57. Meant to add:

    I got a pup shortly after (a brindled pit mix). What with the orange and black brindled striping, he was immediately dubbed “Hobbes.”

  58. And the more attractive of you fellas better find a new bar.

    I’ll buy one in Philly.

    A Mountie always gets his man, if you know what I mean.

    Is this really a known stereotype? I have never heard this before.

  59. My favorite comic strip ever, no doubt.

  60. Is this really a known stereotype? I have never heard this before.

    Not really. In my head, it just produced a funny image of Mounties (only slightly-less douchebaggy than regular cops), getting done trolling for terrorists, and proceeding to boogie at a gay bar. Their little outfits are a little fancy, too.

    “Michael, these guys are real dancers. You know, they’ve never done any ‘hot’ policing.”

  61. Biden has already been asked the “Fourth Branch” question, and responded that of course the Vice President is part of the executive branch, duh, nobody had any trouble understanding that for 225 years, what you, kidding me?

  62. Not really

    You lied to us. I am so disappointed.

    Are Mounties as annoying as FBI agents? Lee Marvin was pretty cool in Death Hunt.

    “Well, you and I have different management styles. I believe work should be fun, and you try to crush people’s spirits. What’s next, Michael? Are you going to make dancing illegal? Is this the tiny town from Footloose?”

  63. Are Mounties as annoying as FBI agents?

    Actually, no. They’re more like city cops, but for the whole country. But, in my experience, they are a bit more professional than city cops, and are at least somewhat more concerned with people’s wellbeing than quotas. That being said, they’re still cops, so let your guard down at your own peril.

    Lee Marvin was pretty cool in Death Hunt.

    Any film with Carl Weathers is a guaranteed win.

    “I buy all my cars at police auctions.”

  64. I got The Complete Calvin and Hobbes for my 40th birthday. Awesome gift.

    Excellent tip ProL. I’ll drop that idea to the missus for Xmas.

  65. “I have to disagree with your premise, Mr. Balko. Anti-Drug policies succeed with every arrest. Every day we are getting users and dealers off the streets with the policies that I have championed. With each arrest, our children are safer, our communities are safer, and America is stronger. Nobody said winning the war against drugs would be easy, but we can’t give up now. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our country.”

    To paraphrase Ayn Rand, as long as you say that what you’re doing is for the betterment of other people, anything goes. I like your question, Radley, but nobody is going to get into a philosophical discussion of the fallacies of bad ideas being authorized due to so-called good intentions.

  66. It’s exactly the thing to buy as a gift (for fans, anyway), because you might have to convince yourself to spend $100 on a cartoon collection. But if you receive it as a gift, well, that’s wonderful! My kids like it, too.

  67. They’re more like city cops, but for the whole country

    So would they arrest you for local bullshit? FBI agents enforce Federal law only. For instance, an FBI agent would never bust you for speeding.

    “Now wait a minute. This is just purely a social call. You know, just two adults getting a stew on, man.”

  68. So would they arrest you for local bullshit?

    Yup. They can (and do) operate at all jurisdictions (federal, provincial and local). Imagine aspects of FBI, State Patrol, and local cops combined. This is a fact which Canadians probably aren’t as aware of or concerned about as they should be. The pretty, pretty horses provide a convenient distraction.

    You know, just two adults getting a stew on, man

    That sounds dirty, but in a really unappealing way.

    “Does she get free shift meals, or a discount on select menu items?”

  69. They can (and do) operate at all jurisdictions (federal, provincial and local). Imagine aspects of FBI, State Patrol, and local cops combined

    Holy shit, that’s like a recipe for abuse. Are they known for power abuses?

    “Luz, that coat cost more than your house. That’s how we joke. She doesn’t even have a house.”

  70. For instance, an FBI agent would never bust you for speeding.

    My only run-in with a Mountie was getting a speeding ticket on the road between Moose Jaw and Regina. It was the middle of winter and he was wearing the then winter uniform which included a coat made of buffalo hide (they were the exclusive recipients of the hides from buffalo culled from the herd in one of the National Parks) and a fur hat. I don’t know if it’s changed or not.

    The Mounties handle highway patrol for most of the provinces (Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial police so the Mounties have only Federal jurisdiction there and you hardly ever see them)

    Mounties have uniformed and non uniformed officers. The non uniformed ones are the ones doing the FBI agnty stuff.

    Incidentally, I’m sure everyone is aware that the red tunic uniform is strictly for ceremonial wear and that Mounties no longer get riding instruction (except for the ones in the Musical Ride.

  71. Are they known for power abuse?

    This one threw a rock at a bus!

  72. Holy shit, that’s like a recipe for abuse. Are they known for power abuses?

    There were some notable abuses by the guys in the intelligence service back in the seventies. It led to the formation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) which is independent of the Mounties.

  73. When I was a kid, Mounties were called “The Queen’s Cowboys” but that was still when every recruit had to go through riding training. Interpret the word “queen” as you will.

    Epi

    Holy shit, that’s like a recipe for abuse. Are they known for power abuses?

    Yes. Mostly the abuse consists of investigating themselves and finding themselves innocent, or at the very least, justified in whatever deed has come to light . They call themselves “members”(interpret that word as you will) and the RCMP itself is known as “The Force. Whenever a member with a deed that has come to light and is subject to investigation, the phrase “The Force has a tradition to uphold.” enters the discussion and it basically means “We are historically the good guys (just ask Disney) and nothing will be allowed to tarnish that tradition. Not truth, justice, nor the statements of lower forms of life such as citizens.”

    This posting brought to you by KD, descendant of a member of the original Northwest Mounted Police circa 1885. On the other hand: I do know members who are ashamed of the shenanigans mentioned above, but like many within a tight group, are unwilling to break ranks and risk damage to the overall group.(Plus ?a change, plus c’est la m?me chose.) The more things change the more they remain the same.

    … and by the way Dagny T.

    The super-lefty, fuzzy bunny party (or NDP) is conspicuously silent on the issue, in a shameless attempt to pander. The Conservatives are characteristically crotchety. I’m pretty disgusted with the whole stinky, partisan mess.

    Didn’t a couple of the fuzzy bunny party candidates pull the plug (or have it pulled for them) because they admitted to dope-ism. I would have thought the party would have kept and proudly displayed them, not dump them!

  74. Isaac Bartram | October 2, 2008, 2:03pm | #

    Holy shit, that’s like a recipe for abuse. Are they known for power abuses?

    There were some notable abuses by the guys in the intelligence service back in the seventies. It led to the formation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) which is independent of the Mounties.

    Independent – sort of – but originally made up of retired or transferred “members” of the RCMP if I recall.

  75. The RCMP refer to themselves as “The Force”? Now that’s cool.

  76. So, I guess the question that remains is:

    Do you have to have special mitochondria to be prime minister?

  77. Pro Libertate | October 2, 2008, 2:21pm | #
    The RCMP refer to themselves as “The Force”? Now that’s cool.

    Yeah? Well let it be with you … It is after all the National Police FORCE

    I live in the US now – not that policing here is perfect either… but someone once said, “A change is as good as a rest”

  78. Actually my other Mountie story concerns a guy I worked with in the early seventies whose best buddy joined the Force.

    He pretty much didn’t recognize the guy who came back from “the Depot”.

    The one visit from the guy (and the girl from Bumfuck, Saskatchewan that he’d married) after he became a Mountie was the last.

  79. Oh, I forgot to note that the biggest source of tension was over the Mountie’s (and even more so, his bride’s) attitude towards interstateinterprovincial commerce.

  80. “””Mounties no longer get riding instruction “””

    What are they mounting now? The canadian citizen?

  81. How is it that the Constitution had to be amended before the the federal government could outlaw alcohol, but no such amendment was necessary before other recreational drugs were outlawed? Could you explain what changed between Prohibition and the War on Drugs?

    Biden: “We have become much more sophisticated in our understanding of the living document that is the Constitution of the United States in the last fifty years. For instance, the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, but the D.C. gun ban is Constitutional. How then can we question the Constitutionality of the War on Drugs, which is just as necessary to protect our children as the War on Guns.

    Would you agree that the anti-drug policies you’ve championed have failed? If not, how have they succeeded?

    I don’t think you can judge success or failure using usage statistics, any more than you can say gun control is a failure just because D.C. has the second highest crime rate of the sixteen cities between 500,000 and 700,000 population, second only to Baltimore under strict Maryland gun control. We know these policies are necessary, therefore they must be pursued.

    Can the vice president shift between branches at his convenience? If not, what, in your view, is the constitutional status of the vice presidency?

    When the VP is wearing his “Presiding over the Senate” hat he’s part of the Legislative Branch. When he’s wearing his “other duties assigned by the president” hat, he’s part of the Executive Branch. All that is made clear in the hours recorded on his time card.

  82. Biden (satirical): Basically, we know the constitution should be interpreted whatever way we want it to be interpreted because we have interpreted it that way before which is okay because that’s how we’re supposed to interpret it.

    I see some circular reasoning here. Perhaps it’s not in the right context? Or is Joe Biden really a walking, talking straw man, as was suggested on this blog at an earlier date.

  83. LarryA,
    Are those actual quotes by Biden?

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