Obama’s Chooming Hypocrisy

by Sonny Bunch on May 29, 2012

Photo by Flickr user Jaypeg21

(Like “booming” hypocrisy, but, you know…oh, never mind.)

So, a certain portion of the Interwebs is buzzing over the revelation in the upcoming book about President Obama’s early years that he smoked pot. Lots of it. So much, in fact, that he and his pothead friends had a name for their pot-smoking club, the “Choom Gang.” Most are content to have a little fun with the president—Choom Gang? Really guys?—while libertarians focused on the drug policy are outraged at the hypocrisy of a president who smoked marijuana and grew up to be president is still cracking down on kids who use drugs* and busting up medical marijuana sites.

David Frum argues that partisan opponents of the president are simply using this as a wedge issue and that there is no hypocrisy:


Let’s leave aside the fact that most conservatives and libertarians are not arguing that this disqualifies Obama for the presidency; most are just making fun of the president for being in something as ridiculous as “the Choom Gang.” No president would escape mockery for something like this.

Instead, let’s look at Frum’s argument that this isn’t hypocrisy on Obama’s part because we grow up and mature and change our views. But this kind of misses the point, no? It’s not so much that people think he’s a hypocrite for turning against pot smoking as an adult—it’s that people think he’s a hypocrite because they don’t actually think he thinks smoking pot is a big deal. He’s continuing the crackdown on weed for purely political reasons and ruining people’s lives in the process. He lacks the political courage to change an obviously broken system despite the fact that he has personal experience with the product being debated.

It’s reminiscent of his waffling over gay marriage. No one—no one—believed that Barack Obama was personally opposed to gay marriage. They thought he refused to endorse it because of political expediency. When it became a political (and financial) liability to hold that position, he “evolved.” But his evolution was just another lie. Do you actually think that Barack Obama magically became a federalist and thought “Hm, states should totally be allowed to discriminate against gays and the federal government has no role to play in the debate.”

People can handle hypocritical politicians. They’re much less kind to liars.

UPDATE: Reason‘s Mike Riggs piles on, making a key point:

I’ll go both pundits one more: Obama did not turn against pot smoking as an adult, he turned against it at the point in his political career when he had the most power to change policy. As a state congressman in Illinois, Obama declared the drug war a failure. He said the same thing as a U.S. Senator. As a candidate for president, he condemened (and promised to stop) medical marijuana raids. Really, Obama did not come to favor prohibition until he became president.

*Because pot is really, super duper bad for them—you might even be president one day, and all that weed could impair your memory. You might even misremember your birth place** on promotional materials for a book…who knows what kind of havoc that would wreak.

**DISCLAIMER: I believe President Obama when he says he was born in America (but I’m more than willing to use this promo flap for comedic value). I simply think he’s perfectly willing to lie for political/commercial gain. See also: the rest of this post.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom May 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I really, really wish people who want to change the failed drug laws would STOP saying that it requires “courage” to support reform or that there are good “political reasons” for ramping up the crackdown. In reality, poll after poll shows that 80 percent of the public supports medical marijuana and that a majority favor legalizing marijuana altogether. It’s not a sign of political savvy to oppose something which enjoys greater support from the public than either candidate for president does. It’s pure idiocy.


Reaganite Republican May 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm
Rodger Rabbit June 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm

@Tom, what poll are you looking at? 80% of which America? The fact is that there are many polls that either show the opposite and many that show Americans don’t care about weed one way or the other. You might wanna check your sources and your sources’ sources.


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