Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gil Kerlikowske? Drug Czar?

When I found myself asking the question, "Gil Kerlikowske? Obama "Drug Czar" appointee? WTF?," the first place I turned was the excellent Injustice in Seattle blog for an informed opinion. Here's a guy who allowed the raid of a medical marijuana clinic and opposed an initiative to make marijuana prosecution a low police priority, but has some center-liberal opinions about drug treatment being a better option than jail and has directed his officers to uphold the pot law he once opposed. We could do worse, Packratt concludes.

This ringing endorsement is echoed by others. Vanessa Ho and Scott Gutierrez at the PI did a solid piece on the choice that led with Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance saying "He's likely to be the best drug czar we've seen, but that's not saying much."

I guess we gotta start somewhere. Here's my own ill-informed list of reasons for the Kerlikowske appointment.
1.) First and foremost, he's got the Clint Eastwood squint. In a land where perception is everything, looking like a bad-ass detective is half the game.

2.) In Seattle, a major American city with a liberal reputation, he has revealed himself to be a bit of a wuss in dealing with the mob-like police union, but other than that, has been neither great nor terrible. He is, first and foremost, a politician.

3.) He is also a bureaucrat, was in DC during the Clinton Administration, and knows how things are done there, or not.

4.) Kerlikowske has made little to no noise regarding drug policy, but also reportedly has a wonky side. He is uncontroversial enough to be confirmed, and yet smart enough to possibly create policy based on facts. This "fact-based" thing is a shift in DC, where up until very recently policy formation has been based on prejudice, emotion, and magic 8-balls.
All of which makes him a likely candidate to steer the ship of state ever-sooo-slooowly to a five to ten degree deviation away from the Lock Up All The Black People policies of the past twenty-five years.

Change You Can Believe in was for the campaign trail. Now, the real politik slogan rules: Change That Won't Freak Anyone Out Too Much. Domenic Holden, over at the Stranger SLOG, is more optimistic and calls the Obama choice "brilliant." Maybe so. But it's certainly safe.

23 comments:

Packratt said...

Thanks for the compliment... don't know that it's deserved, but thanks all the same.

In any case... now that everyone seems to agree on the perception that we might have very well done worse than Obama's pick of Kerlikowske, we now face our more pertinent question...

Will we now do worse or better with whomever replaces Kerlikowske?

...or, should I say, will the union let it matter who replaces him?

Thanks for throwing your two cents into the pile as well, Tim, it's insightful as always.

Tim Harris said...

The issue for Seattle, precisely, and yes, it's deserved.

Trevor said...

That blog's speculation about reasons Kerlikowske lacked the capacity to hold police officers accountable for flagrant misconduct was much too generous.

However, I did appreciate how his question about Kerlikowske laid bare the low standards by which we are already judging Obama, and the lose-lose choices we face when trying to govern such a fundamentally conservative country:

"Should Kerlikowske’s abysmal reputation for lax discipline within his department and lack of respect for privacy laws be a detractor for his nomination to a cabinet-level post within the Obama administration? "

To the degree that this isn't a rhetorical question, we're in trouble.

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