5,000 Signatures Will Get You a Response From White House Policy Wonks, Unless Your Idea is "Bad" or About Weed


Takin' it to the People.

How in touch with the people is President Obama? Yesterday, on the White House blog, his administration promised that a team of real, actual, no-kidding White House wonk-types who may not even be interns are going to officially Pay Attention to issues the public cares about, upon request. Have "an idea or a cause?" Want the White House to know? All it takes is a measly 5,000 signatures.

Politico gets on the red phone email to the West Wing and reports:

The idea behind "We the People" — as the program will be called — is that anyone with an idea or cause can go to the White House website and make a public pitch for support. If the idea gets 5,000 backers within 30 days, said White House spokeswoman Sandra Abrevaya, a "working group of policy officials" will respond.

But what if it turns out the People are enamored with ideas the Obama administration doesn't approve of, like shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency? Try not to expect too much:

NBC's Chuck Todd asked White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer this morning if, for example, the administration would seriously consider eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency if that idea got 5,000 supporters.

Pfeiffer's response: "If there are ideas that are ones that we fundamentally disagree with or are bad ideas and enough people come forward, we'll respond to why we disagree with that idea and look for a way to work together on other ideas."

How about something a little less radical, like legalizing the marijuana that Barack Obama "inhaled frequently"? Funny! But please. Be serious.

Allen St. Pierre, the head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, vowed in an interview with POLITICO that he would submit a petition and said: "We can get 5,000 signatures in less than one hour. I promise you."

Given Pfeiffer's response to Todd, that's a petition likely to go nowhere.

The People are important. But they shouldn't press their luck.

NEXT: Reason.tv: Dennis Kucinich Talks Marijuana Legalization at Hempfest 2011

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  1. I feel like I’m watching some really “bad” BBC comedy show from the 80’s.

      1. That’s ABC, not BBC. Racist.

      2. oh, BBC…..ummm *hangs up keyboard for the day*

    1. Smeghead!

    2. When Oboma was first elected, they had a website where they solicited ideas from the public. Legalizing MJ was one of the topmost ideas, several times over (it was suggested different ways, and each way had TONS of support.) Obama laughed it off. This is how you know you don’t live in a republic (much less a democracy.) You live in a corporate oligarchy. Until (that is, if) the corporations and lobbyists want MJ made legal, it won’t be. Has nothing to do with what the public wants. Has to do with tax money directed to specific parties; and the amount of money funneled into law enforcement and all its downstream suppliers specifically because the drug laws are in place is nothing NORML or any group of citizens could replace. Ergo, anti MJ laws. Permanent ones.

      1. Please explain why “the corporations” care about marijuana one way or another.

        The reason marijuana remains illegal has very little to do with corporate power and very much to do with government power.

        1. “The corporations” would love to have legal marijuana. It’s a huge cash crop, but right now corporations can’t participate because they are too visible to do business on the black market.

          It’s all about power in Washington.

          1. Beat me to it. I was about to note that there is no market for legal mind-altering substances.

            Nope, none at all.

          2. And the beer, wine and hard liquor lobbies. They fought the CA initiative trying to limit competition.

            1. ^This.

              There most definitely are corporations who do not want to see weed legalized.

          3. Maybe some corporations would like to see it legal, but I doubt very many would. When grown outside, the overhead costs of weed are minimal (land, soil, water, nutrients and seeds – that’s about all you need) so anybody in a sunny climate can grow it themselves. Inside you need to invest in light, which makes it a little more expensive, but it’s still really inexpensive to grow a few ounces in 3 months. You don’t need to be a greenthumb either – any idiot can grow it if they put effort into it. This all means that the profit margin would plummet if it were legalized and it would be a useless product for big corporations (unless they could establish a patent monopoly on some prominent strains, which they can’t).

            The reason why it’s a cash crop is because so much money goes to keeping it underground. Odor control, smuggling, electricity for indoor growers, establishing legal fronts and a huge risk premium all inflate the price. They would all be useless in a free market.

            The lumber, beer, tobacco, prison and pharmaceutical industries are all against legalization because it means competition. Of course, it’s not all about corporate influence. Government agencies that profit from criminalization (mostly DEA and DoJ) don’t want to see it legal either.

        2. The lumber industry doesn’t want hemp legalized because it can replace many expensive wood based products. The oil industry doesn’t want hemp legalized because it can replace many plastic based products. Big tobacco and Big Alcohol don’t want the competition.

          1. Why is lumber so expensive? Is it because of the evil profit minded corporations? Or is it because of rules and regulations? If hemp is such a good product and was legal why wouldn’t the lumber companies grow it?

      2. It’s about power.
        Government derives its power from policing criminals.
        When there aren’t enough murderers, rapists, vandals, thieves and robbers out there to justify the police state, criminals must be manufactured.

        By criminalizing the use of unapproved intoxicants, everyone becomes a suspect until they prove themselves innocent by submitting to a search.

        Sure there are some corporations that have an interest in keeping drugs illegal, but it’s mostly about legitimizing the police state.

  2. If you call the radio station and request a song that they were already planning to play, you can be sure to hear it. They might even play you on the air requesting it.

    1. “This is WBHO, here in downtown DC on a sunny Friday afternoon. We’ve got “Mortgage Relief” by the HAMPsters going out to Lloyd B. in Manhattan, and a special request for Ben, here in our nation’s capitol…”

  3. “We’ll listen to the public just as long as it says what we want to hear.”
    How very Bushy…

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

    1. You make me feel unloved.

  4. put me down as signature #1 for Obama to resign next Thursday night.

    1. Would leaving Biden in charge for the next year and a half be any better?

      1. Well except for the pure comedy of a Biden presidency.

        1. At this point, I’d say yes. Crazy Joe would be better.

        2. He would be too busy talking to, you know, do anything. Hard to beat.

        3. It would be awesome. This is basically why I wrote in Bobby Bowden in the last Florida governor election.

    2. I’m sure we could get 5000 signatures for that within 10 minutes.

    3. I’ll sign that petition, but I’d rather it says Obama and Biden resign.

  5. I love my people! Pull!

    1. It’s good to be the king.


      Are we living in the real world anymore? Shit has gone satirical on us.

      1. As I’ve contended before, it’s my firm belief that Barack Obama is, in fact, Andy Kaufman, and this whole administration is one big goof.

        1. Who’s playing the role of Jerry Lawler?

          Better yet, who’s Tony Clifton?

          1. Who’s playing the role of Jerry Lawler?

            John Boehner.

          2. It’s going to really cathartic when they reveal the goof. It also turns out there’s no debt.

            1. We really owe 14 trillion…HUGS!!!

  6. Not to worry — all the idiots who sign the petitions will vote for Obama, regardless whether gives a snot about them.

    The sheep have already been herded. They just need to be fleeced.

  7. Confirmation bias at its very best.

  8. I wonder if the petitions require you to put some information down, like an e-mail address, residential address or a phone number… that information would be useful to someone that would, I dunno, be running for office at some point.

    1. Or useful for, say, Big Sis… the TSA… local law-enforcement agencies… the IRS…

  9. Fuck, this isn’t replacing the program where we email to report on people talking smack about White House policy, is it? I still have people I need to rat out.

  10. re-orient TEH [GAYZ] thru waterboarding in FEMA camps !

  11. This is pertinent once again:

    “In order to enhance your individuality to conformity, I’m instituting a dress code based on your own requests that I imagine you would have requested had I asked for your requests.”

  12. Alt text: “My brain is full of fuck”.

    1. +100 for beating me to the punch

  13. Why are people complaining? What could possibly go wrong with this idea? Instead of bitching, I think we would do better to adopt this and start sending in all the good ideas that H&R commenters are so good at coming up with.

    I think there should be a petition to build the world’s biggest statue of Mohammed in Kansas.

    1. “..build the world’s biggest statue of Mohammed in Kansas..”

      Everybody wins!

    2. Make a law saying food-service employees have to wash their hands after masturbating.

      1. Make a law saying food-service employees have to wash their hands after masturbating into your food.

        1. But then how would they get any work done? They’d be constantly washing their hands.

          1. They could use soap or lubricant/antibacterial gel to aid in their off-the-clock activities, I suppose.

            1. to aid in their off-the-cock activities

              1. Please. Don’t bring discrimination here.

            2. Would they have to wear a net over their cock-sock?

      2. Make a law saying food-service employees have to wash their hands after masturbating.

        SugarFree has finally outed himself as the nanny-stater that he really is. Next thing you know he’ll be saying that forcing the elderly to eat cat food isn’t such a good idea.


        1. Oh, and you can wash my masturbating, burger flipping hand when you pry it from my cold dead cock!

          1. I believe it’s implicit in any contract with food providers that love is baked into everything they serve. It’s not their fault the contract fails to specify what form that love takes.

      3. Good idea, SF, but the SEIU would have a problem with such laws.

        1. I really just want to try and get Obama to give a prime time speech about the perils of masturbation in the workplace.

          1. The day that happens I’m going to commit suicide.

          2. That is possibly the greatest political goal I have ever heard in my life, bar none.

            1. What would OSHA say, rule-wise?

      4. How about we join forces and we chisel some admonition from Mohamed about washing your hands after masturbating on the worlds largest statue of Mohamed in Kansas (WLSMK)?

        Sort of like the kerfuffle with MLK and his new statue.

      5. Great idea. I will print up a bunch of
        “lavarse las manos despu?s de masturbarse”
        signs and put them up in every restaurant bathroom I go to.

    3. And bring back lawn darts !!

      1. I picked some up at a yard sale last summer for a buck.

      2. We had lawn darts when I was a kid. nobody got hurt. There were some pretty close calls, though.

        1. I don’t see how those could be dangerous unless you were really trying to get hurt. When we used to play lawn darts, everyone stood together on one end of the playing area and we threw the darts to the other end. What’s the problem? Hey, I’ve got a toddler, I wonder if my mom still has those in her garage somewhere…

          1. We used to play them over the house. So, yeah, I can see how people get hurt. But so what? Life is nothing without an element of risk.

    4. Carousel.

      1. What’s that flashing light in your hand? Have you been masturbating into food again?

        1. That’s what the light is for before the end–sterilizing.

  14. Could Obama legalize marijuana?

    Obama could direct the DEA or FDA to remove regulatory restrictions, but further action would require congress or state legislatures.

    1. He’s got lots of influence with the legislature, see: Obamacare.

      1. Obama wants single payer. Congressional democrats all agreed that health care should be “reformed” and that’s about all they agreed on. Republicans wanted whatever the Democrats didn’t want. The sausage that we got in the end was Obamacare.

        1. Obama wanted single payer; congress turned it into a teat for all the insurance companies to suck at. Which is to say, not a lot different than it is today, except under the new law, you *have* to buy insurance, thereby guaranteeing money be wasted by innumerable middlemen. It’s the perfect crime. Where we *could* have had a chance (yes, just a chance) at universal healthcare that was more efficient than our current non-universal healthcare, what we GOT was an entitlement program for insurance agents and companies. Yay, congress, thanks a bunch. How about you use lube next time?

          1. congress, thanks a bunch. How about you use lube next time

            Look, are you trying to save money or not? Lube aint free.

      2. Lots of influence

    2. Refuse to enforce the laws on the book, stating that they’re unconstitutional.

  15. Now this idea is a serious bit of Astroturf.

  16. If one signs a petition to legalize weed, wouldn’t that be probable cause for suspicion of the crime of possessing marihuana?

    This is a great way to populate the terrorist watch list or some other enemies list with even more names.

    1. Merely commenting here probably gets you on a list of some sort.

      1. Only if you’re stupid enough to give a valid email address.

        1. You poor, na?ve, traceable fool!

          1. …for the TSA Gestapo to painfully twist the nuts of this harmless old geezer passing thru LAX security recently.

        2. It’s sarcasmic@aol.com, isn’t it?

          1. Yes. Yes, it is.

    2. Your address, please?

  17. I have no problem in principle with the Obama adminsitration ignoring suggestions it thinks are bad policy, but then why are they doing this? How much of our money are they spending for such an absurd bit of campaign PR?

    1. JOBS!!!!! DONT YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND JOBSSSS!!!!!!111oneoneone!

    2. So they can feel good after they confirm their bias.

  18. Ah, representation. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

  19. You guys all missed the point.

    This isn’t about answering concerns.

    It is a make-work project for White House staffers.

    1. They are there to get ass-fucked. On their downtime they should be working on their rosebudding technique, not reading petitions.

      1. Really, you know nothing about White House work–there is no orificular preference in Washington. Whichever is convenient is used.

        1. No orifice left unfilled?

          I remember there was a politician in East Lyme, CT (origin of Lyme disease!) whose name (Italian of course), was Orifice. Pronounced or-eh-fee-chea, it still killed me on the bumper stickers.

          1. Now that’s a name for politics.

  20. What’s the over-under on a Colbert hijacking?

    1. When is his next show?

  21. …like shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency?

    Premise Fourteen: From birth on?and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case?we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes?and our bodies?to be poisoned.

    ~Derrick Jensen


      1. Gives me the lulz every time.

    2. A world without designer drugs is not a world that I want to live in, and it’s not a world that I want to leave for my (nonexistent) children.

    3. Premise X: Those damn porcelain pots, too!

      1. Well, just fuck. White Indian is back.

    4. I love my body, which is why I love to fill it with delicious wild animals.

      1. Not in the way you’re thinking, sickos.

        1. Too late. Already saved the screenshot.

        2. Lemmiwinks, Lemmiwinks, LEEEEMIIIWINKS!

      2. There’s room for all God’s creatures, right next to the mashed potatoes.

    5. Whenever I read some hippy bullshit I now imediately think of White Trash.

    6. I’m suggesting that PBS be forced to develop a show called “Arguing with the Trolls”.

      A celebrity panel (Bill O’Reilley, Rush Limbaugh, Rachael Maddow, Krugnuts) would judge a field of trolls.

      Season 1 could have White Indian, STEVE SMITH, Herc, etc.

      I haven’t figured out how the judging would happen. I just like the idea of seeing that much stupidity on stage at once.

  22. In the marketing bizz, I think this would be called setting up focus groups, except that here, the focus groups bring their own topic.
    Presto; instant talking points for the liar-in-chief.

    1. …more stimulus!!!

  23. This is so easily turned into a trap for the White House.

    With just a tad bit of effort, their opponents (including us!) can send perfectly non-insane proposals, and then bitch and moan endlessly (and publicly!) about how they were ignored or rejected by the White House in spite of their promises.

    Proposal 1: A balanced budget amendment to the federal government. No possible White House response to that doesn’t piss a lot of people off.

    Proposal 2: Pay freeze for all federal employees.

    Proposal 3: Hiring freeze for the federal government.

    Seriously, we could do this all day long.

    1. I like your idea. I’m way too lazy and/or apathetic to collect 5k signatures though.

    2. That wouldn’t be hard to set up. But it wouldn’t take long for them to label this big influx of ideas as some sort of SPAM, and shut down the program due to the large number of unserious suggestions.

      1. But it wouldn’t take long for them to label this big influx of ideas as some sort of SPAM, and shut down the program due to the large number of unserious suggestions.

        Which would be a PR defeat for them, as well.

        1. The Obama administration: The masters of backing themselves into a no-win situation.

        2. True, but they are also very good at placing the blame on other people.

          I do like your idea though.

    3. We’re still waiting to see your perfectly non-insane proposals.

    4. Do Facebook signatures count? Because I can see some “internet people” using this for “laughs”.

    5. re: proposal2

      Define federal employee, direct federal, under contract (union/nonunion), or military? If you want to freeze the unionized federal employees, good luck. If you want to freeze the military, why do you hate America? And if you want to exempt the military its discrimination against the unions. And if you freeze the direct hire employees then the terrorists win and you hate America.

      Catch 22 has nothing on the federal pay system.

      1. Just stop paying them and instead give them a limited license to shake down taxpayers directly for money without facing legal consequences.

    6. I don’t know if anyone else actually went to the site, but it says that anyone 13 or older can start or sign a petition. This leads to some slightly different results. I bet more proposals will get dismissed out of hand, but oh my god, think of the fucking photo ops this will provide when Obama gets to sign some new terrible “green” law into being while little Johnny and Mary stand near by.

    7. Proposal 4: Anyone who leaves federal service above a certain pay grade will pay a 50% surtax on their subsequent earnings that exceed their pay grade for, say, 5 years.

      Making $130 grand as assistant secretary of whatever, then leave to join a lobby shop at $800,000 – pay a surtax.

      1. Now you’re just writing proposal porn.

    8. Proposal 5:

      Change tax filing day to the first Monday in November, and do away with tax withholding.

      1. *fap fap fap*

  24. The People are important. But they shouldn’t press their luck.

    That’s a pretty fair assessment.

    1. That one sentence really describes the administration’s attitude towards its serfs constituents more perfectly than I’ve ever seen.

  25. I disagree with comments saying this is a way for the administration to feel good. I think this is another way to show off how “transparent” and “open” they are. This is a campaign move.

    1. Yeah, that’s kinda what we mean…
      They’re shoring up their base by making them all think P.Bo actually listens to them. It confirms the beliefs of both P.Bo and the people that would vote for P.Bo.

      The latest polling data at Rasmussenreports has the likely voters that “strongly support” P.Bo at a mere 19%. He has to do something to shore up is base before he loses his election campaign before it’s even begun.

  26. Just another mechanism to generate propaganda. Obama floats one of his ridiculous schemes and waves one of these “petitions” around to “prove” that the people love it, while ignoring (with the MSM’s pliant assistance) the bazillion petitions opposed to the scheme.

    1. See my comment above. This program is going to be used in a debate as an example of how open this administration is. It doesn’t really have to have any results if it is used that way.

      1. Oh, I dunno. If the petitions are public (content and number of votes), then there will be endless opportunity to ask the Big O why he picked one out of the middle of the pile, instead of this one or that one that got more signatures.

  27. IT’S A TRAP!


  28. I think they want citizen groups to propose that political parties work together to get things done, or something like that.

  29. I would do anything for you; but I won’t do that.

  30. So the idea is, they’ll consider the ideas of any 5000 people they already happen to agree with?

    I think the largest group of signatures could be any group that tell them all to Go Fuck Themselves.

    We’d be happy to ‘ look for a way to work together’ on that one. We’ll watch, and they all go fuck themselves. Bipartisanly. Democracy at work.

  31. Can the president bring articles of impeachment against himself, or should I make a petition saying that White House should encourage congress to impeach the president?

  32. Marijuana legalization will have to come from the ground up. If politicians believe it will help them to get elected to support it, they will. So the petition in support of marijuana legalization is an important thing because it shows there is a groundswell of support for it. But obviously we shouldn’t expect miracles. Perhaps if we get 50 million people to sign it… but 25,000 isn’t really anything in the context of a country as large as the US.

  33. “the people are important. But they shouldn’t press their luck.”

    Are you fucking kidding me?!?!? You work for us asshole! There is no point for a government besides to serve the people. Jesus Christ that guys an idiot…

  34. Just show me where to sign.

  35. What a stupid article.
    Quote part of article that mentions white house will ignore petition written to kill EPA.
    Quote part of article that then makes a huge assumption that WH would act the same to petition for marijuana legalization (was this an opinion piece?).
    Leave out part of article where program and white house receive some praise for transparency.

    Killing the EPA and legalizing marijuana are not equitable. Failing to present both sides of the issue makes this whole story come off as a fox news article.

    I voted for Prop 19 in California, I’m familiar with marijuana and comfortable with it being taxed and regulated much in the same way alcohol/tabacco are. The legalization movement though seems to be heading off a cliff and knee deep into crazyville. So desperate for a “win” are they, that they are willing to shoot themselves and their supporters in the foot. If the movement, in it’s chaotic desperation, ends up setting itself, and it’s allies (LGBT in particular, the creators of the medical marijuana movement) back several decades, I would not be surprised.

    Looks like the Republicans will get what they wanted, and they didn’t even have to support marijuana legalization in order to get it.

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