Drug War

The Week of Lying Dangerously

Obama displays a Clintonian desire to have things both ways.


There was a time when Barack Obama seemed more honest than Bill Clinton. While Slick Willie notoriously claimed he smoked pot but "didn't inhale," Obama candidly admitted, "When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point."

Lately I have not been so impressed by Obama's truth-telling tendencies. Three incidents last week vividly illustrated the president's Clintonian desire to have things both ways, even if it means insulting our intelligence.

Obama wants credit for using the American military to protect civilians and compel a regime change in Libya. But he doesn't want to admit that blowing up the government's forces and facilities counts as "hostilities," because then he would need congressional permission under the War Powers Act.

Last week Obama sent Harold Koh, the State Department's legal adviser, to explain this counterintuitive position to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose members were noticeably unimpressed. "When you have an operation that goes on for months, costs billions of dollars, where the United States is providing two-thirds of the troops, even under the NATO fig leaf, where they're dropping bombs that are killing people, where you're paying your troops offshore combat pay and there are areas of prospective escalation," said Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), "I would say that's hostilities."

The following day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit was more receptive, accepting Obama's argument that Congress is regulating interstate commerce when it forces people to buy health insurance. But a concurring opinion highlighted another striking example of presidential duplicity.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton devoted half a dozen pages to rebutting the Obama administration's argument that the insurance mandate, which requires the Internal Revenue Service to collect a "shared responsibility payment" from Americans who fail to comply, should be upheld under the federal government's taxing power, thereby avoiding dicey questions about the limits of the Commerce Clause. Sutton was too polite to note that the president himself had indignantly insisted, prior to passage of his health care law, that the assessment was "absolutely not a tax increase."

Another unacknowledged reversal occurred on Thursday night (just before the long holiday weekend), when the administration released a memo that supposedly "clarified" its position on medical marijuana. Although Obama has promised to stop "using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," Deputy Attorney General James Cole informed federal prosecutors that "commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana" for medical use are fair game, even when they comply with state law.

By contrast, an October 2009 memo from Cole's predecessor, David Ogden, said U.S. attorneys "should not focus federal resources" on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." The Ogden memo listed criteria for prosecution, such as violence, sales to minors, and sales of other drugs, that make sense only when applied to medical marijuana suppliers, as opposed to the patients and caregivers who the Justice Department now claims are the only people covered by the policy of prosecutorial restraint.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the promised forbearance applied to people "dealing in marijuana." When Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) asked him about threats to raid "legitimate businesses" that supply medical marijuana, Holder said "that would be inconsistent with…the policy as we have set it out…if the entity is, in fact, operating consistent with state law and…does not have any of those factors" mentioned in the Ogden memo. This position jibed with Holder's earlier statement that "the policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law."

So how does the new Justice Department memo address the blatant contradiction between prosecuting state-authorized medical marijuana suppliers and not prosecuting them? It assures us the two policies are "entirely consistent." That way Obama can get credit for tolerance and compassion without being painted as soft on drugs. After all, he did inhale.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2011 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. So is Suki really dead?

    1. Being a figment of john Tagliaferro’s dreams, Suki never was alive.

      So, yes, Suki has always been dead.

      1. You killed Suki! You bastards!!

      2. So is John Tagliaferro alive?

  2. I’m genuinely torn:

    Would a smarmy, soulless corpocrat like Romney really be better than this hollow . . . thing that currently occupies the White House?

    I dunno. I just don’t know.

    1. My two-year-old German Shepherd would be better than the current occupant.

      1. While your dog would be better on a number of issues (not pushing government-run healthcare, not bombing Libya, not more than doubling the total number of troops in Afghanistan), many of us were thinking that no one could possibly be worse than Bush II…

        1. Where does your dog stand on the issue of licking his own balls?

          1. I find it difficult to stand when I’m licking my balls.

        2. I agree with this. There’s no bottom, its corruptocrats all the way down. Crazy idea, let’s try something different.

      2. We’ll have to see its long form birth certificate first.

      3. I don’t think I can support the Canine-in-Chief getting mandatory belly rubs from anyone visiting the White House.

    2. No. Short of Paul or Johnson, it really doesn’t matter who gets in there.

      They’re all going to being vastly disappointing.

      1. That’s it. Everybody go home.

      2. I was seriously looking at Huntsman until he started getting support from all the wrong people.

    3. Are you kidding? Romney would be simmilsrly duplicitous. There’s no expansion of the state he wouldn’t support.

      Romney is more dangerous – he has executive ability. Obama’s steady syream of gaffes keeps hi favorable numbers down.

      1. I agree ? better to have a slimy statist incompetent than a slimy statist who is competent. Competence makes them more able to “get things done”. “Get things done” are the three most dangerous words in Washington D.C.

        1. Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan:
          “It could be worse!”

          1. obama, “don’t worry i’ll make it worse.”

      2. Romney’s favorable numbers would be kept down simply because he is a White Republican who beat a Black Democrat.

    4. I think Romney might be worse because he would allow Demcorats to blame the mess on “free market right wing Republicanism.” Remember these are the same people who have managed to convince themselves and a decent chunk of the public that George W. Bush was some kind of a crazy libertarian deregulator. They would do the same with Romney. At least with four more years of Obama, there will be no doubt who is to blame for the ensuing train wreck.

      1. there will be no doubt who is to blame for the ensuing train wreck.

        Ummmm, Republicans in the House?

      2. I still think that since we have to have a president it’s a stronger play to go with the less capable….in this case that’s Team Obama. Let the Tonys (god rest his soul), Shrikes et al. wear it for another four years and maybe tarnish the brand out of existence.

        Hey this politics stuff is fun!

        1. Plus there’s the likely Republican House and Senate. The Republicans shouldn’t be given the big bus until they carry Obama around in his short bus for four years. As pennance.

        2. I see both sides as liberals, one side is waving communist manifestos and the other is waving bibles, but they both seem to want 100% of the power to rest in the federal government and they both want bigger more expensive more intrusive government.

          I’ve often said just let the worst one win so it will be over sooner, but I don’t think it will ever be over. We’re out of places where people care about liberty and freedom, the sheep have bleeten, and they bleet for thee.

      3. john, the MSM will twist things no matter who takes over post Owebama…

        1. Right-wing name calling never ceases to impress.

          You people should definitely be in charge of national policy.

          1. Whereas you, Tony, shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near someone with money.

            1. Ah, red, good to seeing you spewing your relentless stew of nonsense on another thread.

              1. And Politicspro, it’s good to see you offering nothing more than you’re pozzed-out presence.

          2. “Bushitler” ring a bell, Tony?

            1. I concede that baggers are much more creative in their name calling. They don’t have to waste time thinking or observing before they start hating.

              1. So… both sides do it, but as long as you’re thoughtful about hating on people, it’s okay.

                1. I am trying to give teabaggers a compliment here.

                  1. Uh, sure.

    5. Unfortunately, I’ve plotted a trend of shittyness for Presidents in my lifetime, starting with Reagan. It’s an exponential upward curve. You can’t argue with statistics.

    6. Would a smarmy, soulless corpocrat like Romney really be better than this hollow . . . thing that currently occupies the White House?

      We may get to find out for a different soulless abomination, if Perry taps into the same fundraising pipeline that got W the nomination.

  3. I love how Libya isn’t a war because we don’t have ground forces. By that logic, Pearl Harbor wasn’t an act of war.

    1. Also, this:
      >Gaddafi threatens attacks on Europe

      This is what happens when you keep invading random countries.

      1. Crackpot dictators threaten you?
        Oooh, we’re shaking!

    2. Neither were Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  4. Q: How do you know if a politician is lying?

    A: Lips are moving.

    1. Page 487.

      1. Where does the General keep his armies?

        1. His sleevies.

          1. Shari Lewis said that was Lambchops favorite joke.

    2. This guy is so practiced, I think he can lie without moving his lips.

    3. Q: How did Hitler tie his shoes?
      A: With little nazis.

      1. He was too incompetent, so he has some Hitler Youth do it for him.

  5. But he doesn’t want to admit that blowing up the government’s forces and facilities counts as “hostilities,”

    War is peace…

    1. Freedom is Slavery
      The Astros are a Major League Team

      1. New onwnership means new ways to disappoint! Go Lastros!

      2. We need to rectify that. I say we free the indentured minor league system and institute a relegation / promotion system. The Pirates might be in the Sally League by now if we’d done that 10 years ago.

        1. We do that w/ individual players instead of teams in the MLB.

          1. Yeah, but it would be much more fun watching Mark Cuban spend a billion dollars over ten years to steer the Midland Rockhounds to a playoff spot.

      3. Ignorance is Strength

        Turn on MSNBC

  6. The Astros are a Major League Team

    I don’t buy it!

  7. “he doesn’t want to admit that blowing up the [Libyan] government’s forces and facilities counts as ‘hostilities,’ because then he would need congressional permission under the War Powers Act.”

    Thanks to some astute bloggers and others, I recently checked the War Powers Resolution and found (as I read it) that it *doesn’t* cover the Libyan war. The Libyan war is unconstitutional, since Congress never approved it and it’s not necessary to repel a sudden attack against the U.S. The War Powers Resolution would only kick in if the war were otherwise legal, in which case (depending on the situation) there would be a time limit after which troops would have to be withdrawn. But the time limit isn’t relevant if the war was illegal to begin with.

    1. What you mean is that the WPRA is the only way he could possible get authorization for this illegal adventure, but that it clearly doesn’t permit an action like Libya without a declaration from Congress (because it doesn’t meet the “imminent threat to American lives or property” test, and he forgot to claim that anyways (this is what you get when you elect an overly confident slacker) and defines hostilities to include the current activities he is currently engaged in.

      What you meant to say is that the President is in violation of the WPRA, and since that is the only way he can get authorization for this expedition he is acting without constitutional authority. Just the latest in a long string of positions he’s taken which show utter contempt for the Separation of Powers.

  8. “Clintonian”? Don’t you mean “Bushistic”? Or “Cheneyesque”?

    1. No dipshit he doesn’t.

      1. Now that’s straight and to the point.

    2. Bush was known for intelligence-insulting sophistry and word games? Was Clinton the one that just said garbled incoherent shit all the time, then?

      1. i’m just glad that someone finally decided the age old question whether oral is sex or not…
        “Honey don’t be upset, President Bill Clinton says it’s not sex…

    3. Yeah, when I see Obama talking it makes me want to scream: he’s ripping off Cheney’s flamboyant style! Develop your own style for crying out loud!

    4. Hard to attribute anything to Bush as he is clearly retarded and frequently under the influence of LSD.

      “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” –Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

  9. They all choke on satan’s cock for getting that far in my opinion.

    Lifes meant to be simple.

  10. “The week of lying dangerously”
    So you think this sack of shit has been lying only a week???

    1. No, only dangerously this week,

  11. George Carlin had it right. Clinton was actually our most honest president because he’d look you in the eye and say, “I’m full of shit, and whadda ya think about that.” and people would think, well, at least he’s honest.

    1. Yeah, I remember him doing that all the time… I think all of his speaches ended with that very phrase, right?

    2. I don’t recall Clinton ever saying that, so maybe George Carlin was the one doing LSD.

    3. Jeez, you guys are so literal. Anyone who didn’t know that Clinton knew that you knew he was full of shit…aw never mind…..

  12. I find Obama’s hypocrisy and shifting positions less grating than his habit of employing belligerent pretentiousness to mask his hypocrisy and shifting positions.

    1. That’s the standard pose of cosmopolitan social climbers and academics–they can’t stomach not being feted to on a consistent basis, and their reaction to not being treated with the utmost deference typically results in them reacting with utter bafflement or emotionally regressing to a place where they feel comfortable. Hence, Obama’s “prissy college student” pose that he reverts to whenever he’s frustrated.

      1. You guys have some real cultural bigotry issues.

        At least cosmopolitan types don’t actually go around saying how they’re the real Americans.

        1. …said the self-described liberal elitist…

          Hey, Tony, what was that quip you made in a thread this week, something about decor in a double-wide trailer…

          1. Oh I didn’t assume that cretin could afford a double-wide.

            1. That’s what Section 8 housing is for.

              1. Way to whitewash your anti-poor people bigotry, Tony.

                Snooty better-than-everyone-else bastards like you do shit that way, though.

                1. You only think I’m a bigot because you don’t know me. I think racial humor can be funny. But it’s all about context. If you’re not a bigoted person, it’s really not something you have anxiety about and you tend not to get your panties twisted when someone accuses you of it. Either you are a small minded idiot or you aren’t. If you’re not and your friends are not, then there’s nothing wrong with finding humor wherever it may be.

                  1. I’ve been called a racist simply for being against the concepts of affirmative action and being in favor of states’ rights. The fuckers didn’t even bother to ask what I think of white supremacists – duct tape and a bucket of chum is too good for ’em – so, you tell me who jumps to conclusions, Tony.

                    They were members of your Team, as if I need to point that out.

                    I get pissed when I’m called a liar.

                    1. If you’re going to be “in favor of states’ rights” then you at least ought to understand the history of that concept. Precious little policy is historically entailed in it outside of those meant to keep black people 2nd class citizens. And given that state laws are able to be more draconian and more restrictive of personal liberty than federal laws, I’ve never quite understood the appeal. Are you for liberty, or are you just against the federal government? Because stepping on the poor little toes of racist cretins is the single most important complaint in the history of that concept.

                      I can definitely understand being against AA on a purely rational basis.

                    2. So… just because of the *past*, anyone in favor of state autonomy *in the present* is tainted and, perhaps, wistful.

                      Thanks for clearing that up.

                    3. I’ll ask this in a second thread, since you seem to have problems with the concept:

                      Should states have the right to set their own drug and marriage policies?

                      If you say yes to either or both, how can you be *against* states’ rights?

                      Straight-faced answers only, please.

        2. Do you hear that annoying buzzing sound ?

        3. You guys have some real cultural bigotry issues.

          Says the same guy who’s made it known he despises the culture of the state in which he lives.

          1. I don’t care how you live, I only care if you’re stupid.

            1. I don’t care how you live, I only care if you’re stupid.

              Don’t worry, you’ve set the bar pretty low for that all by yourself.

            2. Bullshit, you want me to pay for your healthcare (and anything else you can rationalize) thereby affecting how I live…. And I do not care that you ARE stupid

              1. Funny how he projects stupidity on others, isn’t it?


  14. Obama doesn’t get to define what the definition of “Hostilities” is just because Mr. Sullum failed to notice that “Hostilities” *IS* defined by the WPRA.

    That definition is quite eye-opening: Hostilities is defined as simple putting military units in theatre, even if it’s to support a foreign ally that is engaged in hostilities or in which hostilities seem imminent (for the foreign forces!):

    “In the absence of a declaration of war, in *ANY* [emphasis mine] case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced?
    (1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances;
    (2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or
    (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation;”

    That’s all three by my count.

    So why are we debating if he’s in violation? OF COURSE HE’S IN VIOLATION OF THE WPRA. We haven’t had a REAL illegal war under the 1973 WPRA until this Noble Peace Prize winner decided that he could get away with it. Given the unwillingness of the chattering classes to call him on it, and the feckless, de-balled nature of the opposition party, I can’t say I blame him for assuming he can.

  15. The prosecutions ARE consistent in that an entire regulatory apparatus is in place that will continue to try and maintain or increase its sphere of influence, just as any bureaucracy should be expected to. Pot lovers need to look at eliminating their REAL nemesis: the medical-industrial complex, and the institutions that comprise its sources of power (medical licensing, the clean food and drug act, the FDA, DEA and BATF).Without eliminating these from the federal power structure, there will never be the kind of freedom you seek. Again, I don’t give a rat’s ass for pot, I just want to know what its like to live in a free country.

  16. It’s a house of wavers.

  17. Doesn’t look much different from George Jr, does it?

    Ron Paul needs help from any of those who label themselves democrats out there to get’em on the ticket.

    He may not do much for the welfare state, but he will get our troops out of the east (FIRST, before cutting education/health care), and protect our civil liberties (end the war on drugs, Patriot Act, etc).

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