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April 2009
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Gibbs is defended

Mark Kleiman thinks White House Spokesman Gibbs did pretty well.

Andrew Sullivan, following HuffPo blogger Paul Armentano thinks that Robert Gibbs, the White House press spokesman, was “inarticulate, vapid, and embarrassed” in answering a question about legalizing cannabis as an economic stimulus.
Actually, I thought Gibbs did pretty well. Perhaps he was simply trying to avoid saying, “What sort of dumbass question is that, and what have you been smoking?”
The argument “We should legalize cannabis to stimulate the economy” is one of those arguments that could only be believed by someone with a strong motive for believing it regardless of the facts.

[Note, I also talked about Gibbs here]
Kleiman thought this was doing well:

“Uh, he, he does not think that, uh, uh, that that is uh, uh, [pause] he opposes it, he doesn’t think that that’s the, the right plan for America.”

Keep in mind that this was not in response to a question about marijuana being an economic stimulus package as Kleiman inferred, but rather to a reporter wanting to know “Why?” “Why he feels that way about legalizing marijuana?”
Of course, Kleiman is right that legalization can’t happen overnight, and it wouldn’t have an immediate economic effect (although plenty of the stimulus projects passed by Congress will take years before even breaking ground), and there is the factor of legal economic activity merely replacing illegal economic activity (which is economic activity nonetheless, although it would cut down on the truckloads of cash going to Mexico and Canada).
But Obama asked the people for ideas. Ordinary people. Not economists or policy experts. And they delivered. These were not stupid, vapid questions as you’d think from listening to Obama and Gibbs or reading Kleiman. They were questions that seriously tried to address economic factors and also, properly, tied them into other issues of concern to the people.
Here’s a couple of the top vote-getters

“Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana(hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a multibillion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”
“With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?”

Are these questions deserving of a joke? Or of a sputtering inability to respond? Are they really worth thinking “What sort of dumbass question is that, and what have you been smoking?” When we ask the people for questions and they come up with questions like that, do they not deserve an answer?
Look, call it a device to avoid getting into a political battle about marijuana. Or a crazy-like-a-fox maneuver by Obama to get us talking about marijuana legalization without him having to get in the fray. That’s fine. I’m starting to believe.
But to say that Gibbs did a good job?
Please.

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