An ominous thing happened off-stage immediately after Barack Obama delivered his eloquent acceptance speech to 83,000 admirers at Mile High Stadium in Denver. Steve Croft was waiting in the wings by pre-arrangement to interview him and Joe Biden for “60 Minutes.”
Croft (to Obama): Did you ever doubt it was going to happen?
Obama: Of course.
Obama: Well let’s see, about a year ago we were down 30 in Iowa….
Biden (loud and long) Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Obama: But I never doubted that it could happen. I never doubted that if we were able to mobilize the energy that you saw in that stadium all across the country, it would…
Biden (cutting in): I knew it was going to happen before he did. I was running like the devil but I watched. I thought I was pretty good but I watched this guy just kind of grab the lightning. You know (snatching the air with his fist), just grabbed it.
In this instance Biden was stealing the thunder. Interrupting at that moment, in that context, was disrespectful and presumptuous (as if he and Obama were equals, when in fact it’s a hierarchical relationship and Obama is the boss). I guarantee you that the district attorney of San Francisco -like most elected officials or CEOs, or Joe Biden himself, were the positions reversed- would not apprecige an interruption like that, especially with CBS News cameras rolling. The excitement of the moment is no excuse for what Biden did; every day in the White House is going to bring exciting moments calling for deference on his part. Croft had addressed his question to Obama, who is articulate and was answering with care. We can only wonder how he would have finished his thought.
If you want to hear this revealing episode, go here.
It’s ominous because it presages an administration in which Vice-President Biden will have an unrestrained voice. He won’t have the power of Dick Cheney, thank God, but he will have an unrestrained voice which, his record strongly suggests, will be raised to oppose reforms that threaten corporate interests.
Joe Biden, Drug Warrior
Kevin Zeese has been watching Joe Biden in action for more than two decades. Zeese is a Beltway-based political organizer with a law degree who, in the 1980s, co-founded the Drug Policy Foundation. A CounterPunch contributor, he doesn’t wear single-issue blinders. “Corporate government and militarism are the major issues,” said Zeese when asked for his take on the vice-presidential nominee, “and Biden is terrible on both.”
As for the war on Drugs, Zeese says, “Pick a drug law you don’t like from the last 25 years and thank Sen. Joe Biden. He deserves a lot of the credit for the U.S., with 5% of the world’s population, having 25% of the world’s prisoners —-and the racially disproportionate impact of the drug laws.”
As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden was responsible for the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines passed in 1986. “The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 had forced judges to harshly sentence within a narrow range,” Zeese recounts. “So Biden knew in ’86 that mandatory sentences were not needed… But he pushed for and passed mandatory sentencing anyway, because that’s what the narcs and prosecutors wanted. He held hearings at which they got opportunity to testify while opponents of mandatory minimums were kept out.”
Biden also pushed for much harsher penalties for possession, use, or sale of crack (prevalent in the ghettos) than for powder cocaine (favored by white folks). Zeese notes: “In the past year Biden has said that was a mistake based on lack of information. He said the same thing about the Iraq war approval. In that case, as in many others, he helped ITAL cause END ITSthe lack of information. As Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee he put on phony hearings where only pro-war viewpoints were heard. He would not allow testimony from weapons inspectors, former military officers opposed to the war, or foreign policy academics opposed to the war. He used the hearing to mislead his colleagues and the public.”
Biden was also instrumental in creating the Office of National Office of Drug Control Policy and takes credit for coining the phrase “Drug Czar” to describe its director. He introduced the “Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy (RAVE) Act of 2002,” which, Zeese called “an election-year bill, sloppily written and overbroad, based on exaggerated fears.” Zeese says, “Biden also beat the drug-war drum for escalating penalties for methamphetamine. He never sees drug absuse as a medical problem, only a law enforcement problem. His heart is always with the cops and prosecutors.”
Zeese is dismayed by the prospect of Biden “taking the law enforcement line in an Obama White House, warning the young president, ‘Be careful, remember, you smoked pot and used cocaine, you have to be tough on drugs.’
Zeese also sees Biden pressuring Obama on behalf of his longtime corporate sponsors. “It’s fitting that the Senator from Delaware, the foundation of corporate government, was the biggest cheerleader for a bankruptcy bill that protects the credit-card issuers instead of consumers. He was always a spokesman for MBNA [Maryland Bank North America] in the Senate and now his son is a lobbyist for them… He wants to give the internet over to the telecom industry –the same industry he protected with immunity for illegal wiretapping of Americans. This is consistent with his views on civil liberties. He has voted for every version of the Patriot Act.”
What does Zeese make of Biden calling for an end to the cocaine rock/powder sentencing disparity? “Election-year recognition of the importance of African Americans in the Democratic Party primary… Moving away from his sponsorship of this horrendously racially unfair law was essential to a presidential campaign, so he signed onto a bill that went nowhere.”
And look where it got him —-the Democratic vice-presidential nomination.
The Case for Palin
In an election between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, a voter whose only concern was marijuana prohibition would have to favor the redneck babe. She acknowledges having smoked the herb, and she governs a state where medical use is legal. In 2006, when she was running for governor against Republican incumbent Frank Murkowski, Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News queried the candidates and reported: “Palin doesn’t support legalizing marijuana, worrying about the message it would sent to her four kids. But when it comes to cracking down on drugs, she says methamphetamines are the greater threat and should have a higher priority.
“Palin said she has smoked marijuana —remember it was legal under state law, she said, even if illegal under U.S. law — but says she didn’t like it and doesn’t smoke it now. ‘I can’t claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled.’” (Joe Biden, who is very Bill Clinton-like, lies every time you look at his hairline.)
Gov. Murkowki’s re-election campaign emphasized his opposition to Alaska’s unique marijuana law, which allowed personal use and possession of up to four ounces in one’s home. Murkowski took credit for supporting ”re-criminalizing” legislation, which he signed in 2002 (and which was then disallowed, in part, by the courts).
Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News reported, “Murkowski said he’s never smoked marijuana and never been tempted. ‘The answer is no, no, no. It’s pretty simple.’”
And look where it got him —a ticket back to civilian life, courtesy of Sarah Palin.
Everyone loses interest now and then
Sometimes the mind can play tricks
But she’ll teach us how to focus in the now
America needs a dominatrix
America’s been arrogant way too long
Prayer is more sincere on your knees
America yearns for specific instructions
And someone demanding to please
Empires go down like Rome went down
And some turn into The Matrix
But our reign won’t stop with her on top
America needs a dominatrix
America needs to drill for oil
And swallow what’s left of the Earth
Wolves and bear? Shoot em from the air
Sex education? Just give birth
Science moms dig evolution
Hockey moms dig hat tricks
We can still win all it takes is discipline
America needs a dominatrix
Note to Barack Obama
I tried to get word to you through a mutual friend, but she probably didn’t forward my suggestions. Too bad. Sarah Palin would not present much of a challenge if your running mate was Gov. McCaskill of Missouri (a woman with significant political experience) or Sen. Tester of Montana (a rancher who met his wife in church, and a true friend of yours).
My advice at this point is to campaign with the Dixie Chicks (if they’re willing) and don’t be afraid to endorse the medical marijuana initiatives in Michigan and Colorado. These are states you need to win. Three out of four Americans know that marijuana is safe and effective medicine. And so do you. To thine own self, be true, Barack!
FRED GARDNER edits O’Shaughnessy’s, the journal of cannabis in clinical practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org