President Barack Obama speaks about National Security Agency surveillance on Jan. 17 in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

In the political world, President Obama is not known for taking responsibility for much of anything. The economy has been George W. Bush’s fault. The Beltway gridlock is the 24/7 media and Republicans’ fault. Syria’s descent into hell isn’t his fault; nothing he could have done there, mind you. And in the Obamacare fiasco, we got one of the great non-apologies of all time: “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that the president’s much-criticized remarks on pot haven’t provoked a personal mea culpa. Instead, he sends out his chief flack, Jay Carney (who proved during the Benghazi, Libya, and Internal Revenue Service scandals  –among other sticky spots — that he is capable of saying anything no matter how absurd) to assure us that we’ve got the president’s comments all wrong. Carney told the press corps:

I think he was making a couple points. One, that we ought to use discretion appropriately and prosecution of priorities, the prioritization, A. B, when it comes to marijuana use, he made clear that he sees it as a bad habit and a vice and not something that he would encourage.

This is a quote, ‘It’s not something I encourage. And I told my daughters I think it is a bad idea, waste of time and not very healthy.’ But there is a question that we have applied our drugs laws in a way that is counter-productive. And that there are issues there that need to be addressed. I think that it’s important, because he is [quoted] quite extensively in that article, to look at the full context of some of these quotes that have been taken out . . . when, at least in this instance, there is an opportunity to see him speak at length.

That’s not very responsive to the critics, is  it?

The essence of the criticism has been that the president greatly minimized the dangers of pot and undercut parents who try to prevent their children from experimenting with drugs. Even the walk-back is pathetically weak. He doesn’t encourage pot use. Well, that’s a relief! But there is no sign he has reconsidered that pot smoking might be more dangerous and destructive than cigarette smoking, especially to the young and those without a strong social network. It’s a vice — no worse than cigarettes or a glass of wine at dinner. He can’t bring himself to retract that. (Maybe the depth of his anti-social and destructive behavior as a youth still nags at him, but his own extended folly with drugs is the least of our concerns.)

Somehow — just a guess — I don’t think the Obamas would take such a light view of things in the case of their own children. “Not very healthy” like fried foods? A “waste of time” like TV? I’m imagining the conversation is a whole lot different — as it should be — when one’s own children are at issue. (And if children are going to drive, we can all agree that cigarette smoking is not nearly as troubling as marijuana.)

The legalization issue is fraught with hypocrisy. If Obama believes smoking pot is no worse than cigarette smoking, then why doesn’t he support legalization? He’s all about science, after all. It might be that it is a wee bit irresponsible to give the societal thumbs up to a drug that has a slew of behavioral and psychological effects. In other words, his whole no-worse-than-cigarettes thing is a canard.

President Obama is trying to have it both ways. On one hand, he no doubt would like to appear cool to his liberal, aging baby boomer donors and whatever fans he still has among the young who believed his campaign spiels. On the other, he can’t really (can he?) take such a cavalier attitude and be seen as a responsible adult and parent. Maybe someone should ask the president to take ownership of his own remarks (isn’t accountability all the rage these days?) and retract them.