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.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.
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.
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.