Among the 78,000 pages of Nixon Administration documents recently released by the National Archives was a memo from young Karl Rove to Anne Armstrong, counselor to the President. Rove aspired to head the College Republicans. His memo proposes, among other things, that college Republican clubs show “nonpolitical films for fundraising (e.g. John Wayne flicks, ‘Reefer Madness’)…” The New York Times asked Rove for a comment and then reported: “The 56-year-old Mr. Rove pleaded forgetfulness. ‘God, this is 1973,’ he said. ‘You work the math. I don’t remember it all.'”
What math? The heavy subtraction? 1973 was 34 years ago. Who but potheads thought Reefer Madness was worth watching, let alone showing? Instead of pleading memory loss Rove could have denied to the Times that he, personally, had been into pot. His response reveals an awareness of the essential lightness of the subject. He probably remembers quite well sitting in the old Biograph Theater on M Street in Georgetown, laughing superciliously with the other pot-smoking young Republicans, feeling insightful, maybe not so unattractive, getting the munchies, infatuated with the crowd in power, wondering if he could get close to George Bush’s inadequate son and somehow become his advisor…
Karl Rove today is above the Czar in the War on Drugs chain of command. This was revealed July 17 by Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has obtained a memo in which Rove’s aide Sara Taylor lists political events at which Drug Czar John Walters and his deputies were to make speeches prior to the 2006 election. Waxman said the list is “like a roster of the most vulnerable Republican members of Congress seeking re-election in 2006.”
Waxman also obtained a memo by Doug Simon, the White House liaison to the Drug Czar’s office, that quotes Rove thanking Walters and his staff for traveling to “the god awful places we sent them during the campaign.” (The speakers from the Czar’s office would sweeten their disinformation with news of federal grants to the districts they visited.)
Waxman has subpoenaed Taylor. Her lawyer responded that she “believes she managed the office of political affairs in a manner consistent with prior administrations, both Republican and Democrat.” This is true, unfortunately. The Clinton Administration sent Barry McCaffrey to California to oppose Prop 215 and subsequently, wherever medical marijuana initiatives made the ballot, McCaffrey would fly into the targeted state, make a speech or hold a press conference in opposition, and fly out leaving an op-ed behind like the Lone Ranger left a silver bullet.
McCaffrey’s nemesis, the late Tod Mikuriya, MD, was especially incensed by the politicizing of government agencies. Tod was convinced that the Drug Czar’s activities in opposition to medical marijuana bills violated the Hatch Act, which bars public employees from partisan political activity. He couldn’t accept that “partisan” has been interpreted by the courts to mean one side of a Democrat-vs-Republican contest, and that public servants can speechify and organize without restraint if they abide by the two-party protocol. Rove’s dispatching speakers from the Drug Czar’s office was defended by White House spokesman Scott Stanzel on the grounds that Democrats -Mayor Street of Philadelphia and Gov. Vilsack of Iowa- were involved in some of the approximately 20 pre-election events.
The Czar ops were able to denounce Nevada’s marijuana reform initiative explicitly because it wasn’t a partisan matter under the prevailing definition. The “god awful places” to which Rove directed them in 2006 included Reno (Aug. 9), Las Vegas (Oct. 11), and Dayton, Nevada (Oct. 23). Rove himself grew up in Sparks, Nevada, which would be god awful if not for the Indians and the Basques.
In 2001 a reliable source heard Rove say, when the subject of medical marijuana came up, “We’re not going to let Terence Hallinan get away with it out there.” A revealing comment, because the medical marijuana movement was in no way a personal ploy of Terence Hallinan’s, it was a mass movement. Rove reduces politics to a celebrity chess match, as if the rank-and-file had no role. Thus his own role is magnified -across the board from Hallinan, playing white, is George Bush, who depends on smart Karl to whisper moves into his ear.
The San Francisco police and the state narcs under Attorney General Dan Lungren personalized the medical marijuana movement, too, but they were closer to the scene and hated Dennis Peron, the rank-and-file leader, even more than they hated Hallinan If the name Anne Armstrong rings a bell it’s because she owns the ranch at which Dick Cheney shot his hunting companion instead of the quail. The pudgy kid from Sparks knew who to suck up to.
Sen. Norm Coleman, Pothead (Bad People Happen to Good Drugs)
Norm Kent, a Fort Lauderdale civil liberties lawyer, sent an open letter to Norm Coleman, Republican Senator from Minnesota June 6:
“Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana. Years ago, in our dorm rooms at Hofstra University, you, me, Billy, your future brother-in-law, Ivan, Jonathan, Peter, Janet, Nancy and a wealth of other students smoked dope. Sure, we had to tape the doors shut, burn incense and open the windows, but we got high, and yet we grew up okay, without the help of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s advice.
“We grew up to become lawyers. Our other friends, as you go down the list, are doctors, professors, parents, political consultants and professionals… We smoked pot when we took over Weller Hall to protest administrative abuses of students’ rights. You smoked pot as you stood on the roof of the University Senate protesting faculty exclusivity. As the President of the Student Senate in 1969, you condemned the raid by Nassau County police on our dormitories, busting scores of students for pot possession…
“How about admitting that if the Rockefeller drug laws were applied to Norman Bruce Coleman on Long Island in 1968, or to me, or to our friends, and fellow students, you, I and others we knew and loved might just be getting out of jail now? How about recognizing that for too long too many have been wrongly arrested, unjustly prosecuted and illegally incarcerated for unconscionable periods of time? How about recognizing that you have peers who have smoked pot for 25 years or more …
“How about not adopting the sad and sorry archaic path of our office of drug control, which this week suggested pot smokers are more likely to become gang members than others? How about standing up and saying: ‘I, Norm Coleman, smoked pot in 1969. I am not a gang member, a drug addict or a criminal.’ How about saying: ‘I was able to responsibly integrate my prior pot use into my life, and still succeed on my own merits … What I did was not so wrong and not so bad and not so hurtful that generations of Americans should still, decades later, be going to jail for smoking pot .. .”
FRED GARDNER edits O’Shaughnessy’s, the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org