The Eternal Sunshine of the Partisan Mind

Just as we are being treated to the right wing loonies declaring constantly that a second Obama term would reveal the real Obama — ushering in a fascist dystopia, of course — so too are some liberals engaging in fantasies of how the real progressive Obama would emerge once he’s reelected. Lawrence O’Donnell even thinks that Obama might legalize drugs if he wins in November.

O’Donnell played a clip of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the weekend’s Summit of the Americas saying how Colombia has suffered most in the war against drug trafficking. O’Donnell returned and said that he believed Columbia wants America to decriminalize marijuana and cocaine. He then played president Obama’s response, in which he seemed to agree with President Santos.

“The war on drugs has been an utter failure,” said Obama. “I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws. But I’m not somebody—but I’m not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana. What I do believe is that we need to rethink how we are operating in the drug wars, and I think that currently we are not doing a good job.”

But upon returning to his segment, O’Donnell admitted he had tricked his audience – that was a clip of Senator Obama in January, 2004. At this weekend’s summit, Obama said that he believes, as he said in 2004, “legalization is not the answer.” He made no mention of decriminalization of marijuana or cocaine consumption.

Finally, O’Donnell said he believes that Obama is likely to embrace laxer drug laws in his second term. “Although, president Obama thinks it’s entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether our drug laws are doing more harm than good, he has absolutely no intention of having that discussion in the United States until after he is reelected to a second term,” said O’Donnell. “With exactly 204 days remaining until the election, makes possibly ending the war on drugs the 204th reason to vote for President Obama on November 6th.”

Andrew Kirell has a dose of reality for O’Donnell:

I want to know what Lawrence O’Donnell is smoking.

It must be something really good, because he is absolutely delusional to think that President Obama would end the War on Drugs if granted a second term.

Why? Because the president’s track record proves otherwise.

In 2008, candidate Obama said, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on [medical marijuana].” He rightfully bemoaned America’s high drug incarceration rate (which disproportionately harms blacks), and advocated a “public health” approach to drugs, which emphasizes treatment over imprisonment…

But since taking office, he has repeatedly broken all his other promises on the drug war. If anything, the administration has been more aggressive than President Bush in ramping up the war on medical marijuana dispensaries. Since 2009, legal pot sellers in California, Colorado, Montana, and Washington have been threatened by the DOJ, audited by the IRS, and shut down by the DEA.

And earlier this year, the Obama DOJ made its priorities clear, issuing a warning that “the department of Justice has the authority to enforce federal law even when such activities may be permitted under state law. Persons … who operate or facilitate the operation of such dispensaries are subject to criminal prosecution…” The threats have effectively prevented states like Delaware from moving forward with licensing dispensaries under newly-passed state laws…

I would really love for O’Donnell to be right on this. And I will happily eat crow if Obama gets re-elected and magically turns back 40 years of bad policy. But, sorry, it’s just not going to happen.

Of course it isn’t. Even if Obama was 100% behind the idea, it isn’t going to happen. O’Donnell is one of the few people in the media with real experience working on Capitol Hill; I’d love to hear him explain how they get to a majority for any policy that even begins to diminish the war on drugs, much less anything that smacks of legalization. He’s living in a fantasy world.

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  • fastlane

    I want to find a way to make bets with all these people that would guarantee that they would pay up.

    I could make a killing in that market!

  • Is this guy really a pro-Obama partisan? Or is he (knowingly or not) slipping in an insinuation that will be used to damn Obama? Yeah, I’m being a bit paranoid here, but I think it’s justified because a) the party of Karl Rove is well known for such manipulative tactics, and b) I’ve never heard any liberal saying Obama was likely to support legalization of drugs under any circumstances. Seriously, this isn’t just naive, it’s made up.

    The black community are extremely wary of the War on Drugs; but they’re also wary of any talk of legalization, because to them it means another opportunity for white businessmen to poison black youth and profit from it. If a credible rumor got out that Obama intended to legalize drugs, it could erode his standing among black voters. I think the Republicans understand this, and would gladly spread any such damning rumor they could. (Also, it would be another excuse to pretend that liberals are the real racists.)

  • laurentweppe

    I’d love to hear him explain how they get to a majority for any policy that even begins to diminish the war on drugs

    Start a huge propaganda war on the rich suburban whites who get away with drugs until the minorities are so infuriated that self-preservation instinct will kick in and right-wing voters will demand that their representative tone it down a notch.

  • Leo

    @Raging Bee – I watch MSNBC occasionally and actually saw this the night it aired. I think O’Donnell was being unrealistically optimistic, which makes Ed’s title quite appropriate.

  • Raging Bee –

    You think Lawrence O’Donnell may be secretly spreading rumors to help Republicans? Seriously? Have you ever watched his show? He is a self-declared socialist.

  • slc1

    Re Ed Brayton @ #5

    As I understand it, Mr. O’Donnell has a long record of activism in Democratic politics.

  • The only thing I think Obama will do once he has a second term is use his bully pulpit for things he already secretly supports but can’t come out in favour of yet – IE, gay marriage. Beyond that? Business as usual (emphasis on business).

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Ahhh… The eternal optimism of the American Left! “Everything is going to get better! Just keep waving your placard and recruiting your chants and let the invisible hand of progress erase centuries on human stupidity! Just keep hoping! Everything is going to change! You’ll see…”

    Yeah, right. Just ignore the fact that the president is a capitalist whore, that the corporations continue to own more and more of the public sector while the Christian Reich takes control of our state governments, and that your civil disobedience reverses it all as the pigs drench your face with pepper spray for the asmusment of the Wall Street tycoons and their Tea Bagging Middle Class lackeys.

    Just keep telling yourselves that it will be all right… Someday…

  • Robert B.

    Wait, did Obama say he thinks marijuana should be decriminalized, but not legalized? What a weasel! That’s even worse than “my position is evolving.”

  • Ed: I did say “knowingly or not,” right? It’s possible someone could be slipping him rumors or otherwise manipulating him into saying something stupid. I’m a liberal and not at all ashamed of it, but I can’t avoid admitting that some people in my camp are easily manipulated into saying things that do us long-term harm. Maybe not a majority — but definitely enough to cause embarrassment.

    I’ve heard plenty of pure stupid bullshit (mostly about oil and foreign policy) from sources that look and sound “leftist” but look a lot hinkier under closer scrutiny. Republicans have funded bogus “leftist” activists before (Nader in 2004, some homeless Greens in 2010), and it would not be hard to create a website that looks “leftist,” or feed Sokal-hoax-like material to an existing site.

    Besides, if he didn’t get this idea from Obama’s own words or actions, where DID he get it?

  • Robert B: I can’t blame Obama for being a “weasel” on this issue when a) he has more immediate concerns, and b) the whole country’s position is evolving, and there’s no solid concensus behind any of the available policy options.

  • robertfaber

    Obama doesn’t need a majority of anything to reschedule marijuana from schedule I to II or even III. He could have the attorney general do it tomorrow if he wanted to do so. Not that he will, because even if he did, the GOP controlled House and a good 20 democrats in the Senate (who are in fact total pussies) would pass another measure over and above the Controlled Substances Act to make it illegal again,. Obama’s veto wouldn’t stop it, because remember, democrats are pussies.

  • twincats

    One thing about Lawrence O’Donnell, whatever it is he believes, he puts it all right out there for the world to see. And some of it is out there, like when he was absolutely certain Tim Pawlenty would be the pog nominee.

    If he’s proven wrong, he owns it. With good humor, even. But unless or until he is proven wrong, he’ll argue his case like a bulldog.

    I somehow think if he knew I watch his show with a supply of salt grains, he wouldn’t really mind…

  • Michael Heath

    Ed Brayton writes:

    [Lawrence O’Donnell] is a self-declared socialist.

    slc1 writes:

    As I understand it, Mr. O’Donnell has a long record of activism in Democratic politics.

    As Ed obviously knows given his perspective in his blog post:

    O’Donnell is one of the few people in the media with real experience working on Capitol Hill . . .

    Your defectively conflating political ideology with political affiliation. Lawrence O’Donnell’s affiliation is with the Democrats where he’s asserted he’s a socialist – that is, his ideology.

    Mr. O’Donnell is actually demonstrating the very behavior you repeatedly promote towards liberals frustrated with Democratic presidents for not being sufficiently liberal, which is to support them anyway since the alternative is far worse (from a liberal’s perspective).

  • Obama will be for drug legalization the second the polls tell him it’s safe to be for it and not a second sooner.

  • sailor1031

    The “war on drugs” is an entrenched industry making billions for everybody from counties and shady sheriffs, to private jails, to suppliers of military equipment and court systems. It’s part of the US economy and nobody in government is going to oppose it and its lobby. Besides, the drug gangs aren’t going away even if drugs are legalized – just like the mob didn’t go away when prohibition was repealed.

  • LightningRose

    If anything, the administration has been more aggressive than President Bush in ramping up the war on medical marijuana dispensaries. Since 2009, legal pot sellers in California, Colorado, Montana, and Washington have been threatened by the DOJ, audited by the IRS, and shut down by the DEA.

    This is complete BS. In Denver Colorado, there are twice as many MMJ dispensaries as Starbucks. In Boulder, where Obama visited just 2 days ago, the ratio is 10 to 1.

    It’s true that in Boulder 3 dispensaries (that’s less than 10%) have been told by the DEA to either shut down or move by May 7, simply because they’re within 1000 feet (300 meters) of a school.

    Virtually *all* of these dispensaries have opened for business since Obama took office.