Folks, these are your Republican candidates on drugs.
Yes, we know that jobs and the economy are the marquee issues for this campaign. Even major topics such as war and education are getting short shrift among the wannabe nominees.
In a series of videos posted to YouTube, student volunteers have caught the candidates — sometimes awkwardly — on the campaign trail, explaining their stances. Squirm alert.
Watch Mitt Romney try to dodge a question and claim not to know what industrialized hemp is. Behold Rick Santorum explaining why most of the time he’s for states’ rights and small government, but when it comes to drugs, he’s with the feds.
“Federal government does have a role in making sure states don’t go out and legalize drugs,” Santorum tells a young woman attending a speech who identifies herself as a marijuana user.
Pass the chips, dude. This is some entertaining TV.
In another video, though, Newt Gingrich indicated that he’s not in favor of harsh jail time for drug users. “You shouldn’t be arrested,” Gingrich says when a woman who says she’s a recreational drug user asks whether she should be arrested.
You can practically see the gears in his head spinning as he calculates how much of a jerk he’d seem if he went hard-line on such a nice young lady — on camera. And then he turns paternal. “You also shouldn’t do it,” he admonishes the youthful pot enthusiast.
But let’s put policy positions and questions of penal codes and states’ rights aside and get to the really juicy stuff. Have any of the candidates sampled the goods themselves?
Unclear for the other major candidates, but Santorum and Gingrich have both fessed up to having used. Santorum smoked pot in college, something he says he later came to regret. Gingrich says his toking took place in graduate school.
Both painted their dabbles in illegal drugs as a product of youthful indiscretion — and in Gingrich’s case, nothing more than a sign of the times — much like the thick glasses he sported back in the day. Gingrich told the Associated Press in 1994 that his pot use was “a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era.”
In the 20 years since Bill Clinton claimed he didn’t inhale, drug use among presidential candidates has become almost a non-issue — but it clearly still gets some people fired up.
President Obama’s new domestic policy chief, Cecilia Munoz, formerly head of White House intergovernmental affairs, is moving from her fine southeast-corner office on the second floor of the West Wing all the way over to the northeast corner.
Unclear who gets her old job for this year, but the early soundings are that it’s likely to be someone already in the administration, since that, all things considered, would make for a smoother transition.
We’re hearing there were some other excellent names the White House looked at for the domestic policy job, including Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and Walter Isaacson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, head of the Aspen Institute and author of the mega-, mega-bestselling biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs . (Before that, he wrote widely acclaimed bios of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin .)
How mega is the Jobs book? Numbers are hard to come by, but sales in this country alone are estimated at 1.36 million, according to Nielsen BookScan. It’s been translated into dozens of languages, including Mongolian. Even at a few bucks a book for the author, that’s some serious money. Then there’s e-books and the paperback and the movie and the television series.
The punditocracy — both left and right — has long dismissed the Obama White House political operation as the gang that can’t shoot straight.
But Obama’s proposal last week for a government reorganization of a number of overlapping or misplaced agencies seemed to have worked out pretty well, even though — or maybe precisely because — it’s destined to go nowhere.
The proposal, which has been percolating for a year, would take six agencies involved in domestic and international commerce activities and consolidate them into one agency and abolish the Commerce Department.
The smaller-government idea drew a positive response from Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), ranking minority member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The overall logic of the move is pretty much unassailable, though the devil is in the details. But the White House announcement on Friday was exceptionally gauzy on the details, focusing instead on calling on Congress to give him “fast track” authority for an up-or-down vote on whatever he proposes. (Good luck with that.)
Apparently there was some internal discussion on whether to propose a name for the new agency — something catchy with “competitiveness” or “jobs” or some such in it. But that, too, could be a source of criticism. So no name.
Seems to have worked out well for the White House. A couple of days of largely positive reaction and publicity and the image of Obama trying to downsize government, change an irrational organizational structure, shift the burden to the Hill — and with little to no chance that Congress will act.
Maybe not a bull’s-eye, but. . .
A White House team headed by speechwriter Jon Favreau is hard at work on Obama’s Jan. 24 State of the Union address.
Bruce Reed, chief of staff to Vice President Biden and domestic policy chief in the Clinton White House, is coordinating input from various top White House folks, including National Economic Council chief Gene Sperling, Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle and Biden economic policy adviser Sarah Bianchi.
Despite the effort that goes into them, these speeches are rarely memorable — save for perhaps, in recent times, Clinton’s 1996 declaration that “the era of big government is over.”
What’s more often recalled, despite all the hard work, is who’s in the gallery or outbursts such as “You lie!” or Obama’s 2010 slap at the Supreme Court.
Feeling a bit better lately about things? Then hurry on down! There’s still time to attend the Council on Foreign Relations meeting Wednesday morning at 8:30 that will show you why you should still be afraid, very afraid.
The council says it will hold a meeting titled “What to Worry About in 2012.” Unclear when the session ends, but it may be a long, long gathering before the top few thousand things to worry about are thoroughly explored.
With Emily Heil
Research czarina Alice Crites contributed to this column.
The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.