Obama Has Three Big Priorities This Term, and Ending the Drug War Isn't One of Them


Contrary to an unsourced report published before the election, President Obama won't be "tackling" the drug war in his second term. Instead, reports Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo, Obama's big fights will be over guns, immigration, and climate change: 

It may not be what Democrats expected to be the White House's plan in November, but President Obama has repeatedly identified each of these areas as critical parts of his agenda since winning re-election. In addition to his upcoming skirmishes with Republican lawmakers over taxes and entitlements, Obama's second term could end up being defined by his success or failures on these three domestic policy fronts. 

This is another great opportunity to revisit Marc Ambinder's unsourced report from July 2012, in which the GQ correspondent claimed that "if the president wins a second term, he plans to tackle another American war that has so far been successful only in perpetuating more misery: the four decades of The Drug War." That claim was followed by a report from The Huffington Post, in which another unnamed White House official said a second-term Obama would attempt to reinstate federal financial aid for Americans convicted of drug offenses. 

At this point–with the Obama administration reportedly torn between suing Colorado and Washington, and raiding them into submission–it looks like Ambinder got spun. 

Even if Obama does do something with the drug war—say, expands the federal drug court pilot program from three jurisdications to nationwide, or allows convicted drug offenders to borrow federally guaranteed funds for college—that's not the same as "tackling" the drug war. Not when you consider how complex Obamacare is, and the thousands of hours that went into crafting and debating and negotiating that legislation. Anything short of a major overhaul of the Controlled Substances Act, asset forfeiture policies, and our massive prison system simply doesn't count as a tackle.