Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama Detox

Although the New York Times has endorsed Hillary Clinton to be the Democrat presidential nominee, it's doing Barack Obama a favor today.

An article tackles the subject of Obama's past illicit drug use, containing interviews from old friends and his half-sister.

"Old Friends Say Drugs Played Only Bit Part in Obama’s Young Life" is meant to put any questions about Obama as a heavy drug user or dealer to rest.

In short, it concludes his drug use was no big deal. Now move along. There's nothing to see.

Nearly three decades ago, Barack Obama stood out on the small campus of Occidental College in Los Angeles for his eloquence, intellect and activism against apartheid in South Africa. But Mr. Obama, then known as Barry, also joined in the party scene.

Years later in his 1995 memoir, he mentioned smoking “reefer” in “the dorm room of some brother” and talked about “getting high.” Before Occidental, he indulged in marijuana, alcohol and sometimes cocaine as a high school student in Hawaii, according to the book. He made “some bad decisions” as a teenager involving drugs and drinking, Senator Obama, now a presidential candidate, told high school students in New Hampshire last November.

Mr. Obama’s admissions are rare for a politician (his book, “Dreams From My Father,” was written before he ran for office.) They briefly became a campaign issue in December when an adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s chief Democratic rival, suggested that his history with drugs would make him vulnerable to Republican attacks if he became his party’s nominee.

Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has never quantified his illicit drug use or provided many details.

...Mr. Obama’s account of his younger self and drugs, though, significantly differs from the recollections of others who do not recall his drug use. That could suggest he was so private about his usage that few people were aware of it, that the memories of those who knew him decades ago are fuzzy or rosier out of a desire to protect him, or that he added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.

In more than three dozen interviews, friends, classmates and mentors from his high school and Occidental recalled Mr. Obama as being grounded, motivated and poised, someone who did not appear to be grappling with any drug problems and seemed to dabble only with marijuana.

Vinai Thummalapally, a former California State University student who became friendly with Mr. Obama in college, remembered him as a model of moderation — jogging in the morning, playing pickup basketball at the gym, hitting the books and socializing.

“If someone passed him a joint, he would take a drag. We’d smoke or have one extra beer, but he would not even do as much as other people on campus,” recounted Mr. Thummalapally, an Obama fund-raiser. “He was not even close to being a party animal.”

...As for Mr. Obama’s use of marijuana and, occasionally, cocaine, [Mr. Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng] said, “He wasn’t a drug addict or dealer. He was a kid searching for answers and a place who had made some mistakes.” After arriving in New York, Mr. Obama wrote in his memoir, he stopped getting high.

In the 442-page book, published when he was 33, Mr. Obama’s references to drug use are limited to the equivalent of about a page and a half.

...At Punahou, a preparatory school that had few black students, Keith Kakugawa and Mr. Obama were close friends.

...Mr. Kakugawa, who spent seven years in and out of prison for drug offenses beginning in 1996, said he pressured Mr. Obama into drinking beer.

But Mr. Obama did not smoke marijuana during the two years they spent time together even though it was readily available, Mr. Kakugawa said, adding that he never knew Mr. Obama to have done cocaine. “As far as pot, booze or coke being a prevalent part of his life, I doubt it,” Mr. Kakugawa said. He had graduated, however, by the time Mr. Obama was in his junior and senior years, when he wrote that he most frequently used marijuana and cocaine “when you could afford it.”

Mr. Obama describes a scene in that period where, in the meat freezer of a deli, he watched someone named Micky — “my potential initiator” — pull out “the needle and the tubing,” apparently to shoot up heroin. Alarmed, Mr. Obama wrote that he imagined how an air bubble could kill him. Neither Mr. Kakugawa or the others interviewed for this article who knew Mr. Obama at Punahou recalled hearing that story from him.

...[Amiekoleh Usafi], whose name at Occidental was Kim Kimbrew, said the most she saw Mr. Obama indulging in were cigarettes and beer.

“I would never say that he was a druggie, and there were plenty there,” she said. “He was too cool for all that.”

The Times conducted more than three dozen interviews in its investigation into Obama's drug history.

No one remembers him doing what he wrote that he did. The individuals quoted in the article don't recall Obama as he depicts himself in his own writings.

The Times concludes that the old friends are protecting him or else Obama exaggerated his drug use for dramatic effect in his book. Another possibility is that Obama was so secretive about his drug use that no one had a clue.

Who knows?

I don't buy that Obama kept his drug use to himself. When it comes to using drugs in high school and college, friends know what their friends are doing.

It's possible that they could be protecting him, though in doing so, they make him look rather foolish.

It would be better for their accounts to reinforce Obama's stories than for Obama to look like he's stretching the truth in his book and comments he's made about his past drug use.

It's always better to at least appear to be honest than to seem untrustworthy.

Bottom line: The New York Times has officially declared that no one else needs to look into Obama's history when it comes to drugs. The exhaustive study has been done. He's clean.

That makes me wonder if something damning about Obama and illicit drugs is out there and The Times did a preemptive strike.


Anonymous said...

What ever happen to decency,altruism?

There should be no right or left, moderation tempered with decency and altruism would be the way to go.

Meaness and greed is the way I describe both political parties and those who run them.

What has happen to our Country? What examples are we setting for future generations? Is it going to be the same fate as Rome?

Do you think there ever will rise a man or woman who will be decent, altruistic and not care more about the "party", but more about the Democracy/Constitution and "We the people"?

Shohola, PA

capper said...

Let me see if I got this straight...

Either Obama is bad because he exaggerated his drug use, or he is bad because he didn't do enough drugs?

Mary said...

"anonymous" 8:37 AM, February 09, 2008--

A two party system is good for the country. I don't think there's anything wrong with having a Right and a Left and a diversity of opinion. Debate is good.

However, I think there's something very wrong with the absence of common decency today when it comes to politics. There's such an ugliness that permeates politics now. Maybe it's always been like that and I just never noticed.

There's no question that politicians should put America before Party. Doing what's best for our present and future as a nation should always be placed ahead of political opportunism.

Mary said...

I said, "It's always better to at least appear to be honest than to seem untrustworthy."

That's a general statement, not applicable to Obama alone.

Other than that, I don't make any comments about Obama being "bad" in terms of this drug use issue.

Why don't you reread my post?

Unknown said...
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