Mark Kleiman Says I Show My Red Team Loyalties by Criticizing Republicans



The other day Mark Kleiman cited my criticism of an alarmist New York Times story about the menace that e-cigarette fluid poses to the children of America. I would say he cited it favorably, because he agreed with what I said, except this is the way he expressed his agreement: "Libertarians, like stopped clocks, are right twice a day." From my perspective, Kleiman is occasionally right as well, especially when he writes as a dispassionate drug policy analyst rather than a partisan Democrat.

Speaking of which, Kleiman cannot resist delving back into our argument about rescheduling marijuana, the substance of which was never clear to me. He continues to claim my discussion of the issue betrayed a "misunderstanding of the Controlled Substances Act," although he has never actually explained what I got wrong. I gather that Kleiman was offended by the headline over my January 31 post about a CNN interview with President Obama: "Obama, Who Evidently Has Not Read the Controlled Substances Act, Denies That He Has the Power to Reclassify Marijuana." Kleiman reads this as "an accusation that the President 'had not read' the law," and he takes umbrage at the suggestion. But the headline actually was intended as a joke, since I'm pretty sure Obama knows the executive branch can reschedule marijuana without an act of Congress, although he suggested otherwise in the interview. "What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," he told Jake Tapper. "It's not something by ourselves that we start changing." In my view, that reply was, at the very least, evasive and misleading, and I suspect Kleiman would agree if Obama were a Republican.

So perhaps Kleiman is simply projecting when he charges me (again) with blind partisanship, saying "Sullum and his colleagues play for the Red Team," which "reflect[s] the partisan bias of the people who pay the bills at Reason.com." Which people are those? Kleiman, as usual when he implies that people who fail to agree with him do not really believe what they say, does not get into specifics. Furthermore, his charge that I am a loyal follower of the Republican Party does not jibe very well with his charge that I am a rigid libertarian ideologue, since it is not really possible to be both. But the really telling thing about Kleiman's claim that I "play for the Red Team" is the evidence he cites: my March 19 column titled "Don't Republicans Abuse Executive Power?" In case Kleiman missed it, my answer was yes. Here are some clues from the column, which discusses the ENFORCE the Law Act, a bill approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month:

While the bill's name is ridiculous and its mechanism is dubious, the basic premise of its supporters, almost all of whom are Republicans, is correct: As the House Judiciary Committee's report on the bill puts it, Obama has engaged in a "pattern of overstepping [his] constitutional bounds." But so did his Republican predecessors—a fact the report seems designed to obscure….

The most striking aspect of the executive excesses cited by Republicans may be what they leave out. Why no mention, for example, of the way Obama misused money meant for financial institutions to bail out the car industry? Perhaps because this blatantly illegal diversion of congressionally allocated funds was initiated by George W. Bush.

Partisanship likewise helps explain why the committee report explicitly eschews discussion of presidential abuses justified in the name of national security. Those include some of Obama's most troubling power grabs, such as routinely collecting innocent people's phone records, going to war without congressional authorization, detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial, and killing people he unilaterally identifies as enemies of America. But as Bush showed, national security is a bipartisan excuse for ignoring the law.

In the same column, I defended Obama against the charge that exercising prosecutorial discretion in drug cases violates his duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." According to Kleiman, all of this amounts to Republican cheerleading. 

One final thing: Kleiman claims "Sullum rather lost his temper" when he accused me of financially motivated insincerity. Similarly, in the comment thread of an earlier post, Kleiman said I "react[ed] badly." If you go back and read the exchange (especially the second paragraph of Kleiman's January 31 post), you can judge for yourself who lost his temper and reacted badly.