The debate about legalizing marijuana is beginning in earnest. It is a debate about individual rights, criminal justice, medicine and economics. It is also a debate where a lot of money is at stake. There are people who stand to lose a lot if the prisons are not full and if new ones are not being built. Those who have profited from the prison-industrial complex will fight hard to ensure that marijuana remains illegal because they know that legalizing it is the first step towards a drug policy that is more rational and humane, although less profitable for them.
The news this week about the Department of Justice looking at the phone logs of journalists covering the White House, and of the IRS scrutinizing the tax returns of various right-wing groups, is bad for the Obama administration. They are also much more likely to stick than the Benghazi story. The Justice Department and IRS stories make the administration look almost like a branch of the Obama campaign, putting their ample resources behind efforts to harass, or at least gather information, about the Obama administration. In a comparative sense, these are not as serious as Watergate, domestic surveillance during the Nixon administration, or Iran-Contra, but they have the potential to be solid b-level scandals, too small to bring down a president, but big enough to accelerate that second term president's lame duck status.
The recent attacks on the decision by President Obama and Attorney General Holder to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), one of the masterminds of the September 11th terrorist attacks, constitute one of those political moments where partisan sniping dominates everything else. For many Americans where KSM is tried is something of a non-issue a technicality that has little bearing on their lives, so long as justice is served. However, for many Republicans, none more so than former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani it is an opportunity to get some media attention and take a cheap shot at the president.
Tom Daschle's withdrawal from his nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services due to his failure to pay taxes on, among other things, the car and driver which a wealthy friend let him use while in Washington, while appropriate, is troubling not only because Daschle may well have been a good HHS Secretary, but also, for those of us who support our new president and his agenda, it is not a helpful development. The details of the circumstances which forced Daschle to withdraw are particularly unfortunate because they simply reek of elite, affluent, Washington insider. For most Americans, failure to pay thousands of dollars of taxes on the limousine lent to you by your friend is even more difficult to understand or relate to than the more common affluent foible of failing to pay taxes on housekeepers, gardeners and the like.