Cokehead for President?

This latest controversy surrounding the confessed drug use in Barack Obama’s past is bullshit. The issue of illegal drugs has come up since the Presidency shifted a generation, from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton, the first Baby Boomer to be president. I’m a Baby Boomer myself, and I believe there are few people of that generation (whose ages now range from 42 to 60) who did not experiment with something in an era where going to college was practically synonymous with getting high on weekends, when people often smoked marijuana in public at open-air concerts, and when people commonly wore miniature plastic Coke bottles around their necks as a symbol of cocaine use. (If this sounds odd, trust me: You had to be there.)

Clinton famously dealt with the issue by saying he did try marijuana, but did not inhale. (That one clearly belongs in the Hall of Fame of Dumb Political Comments, along with his self-righteous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and the equally tight-lipped “I am not a crook” uttered by Richard Nixon in 1974.) Former Presidential aspirant Al Gore's staid personality probably saved his ass from close questioning. And I don’t recall George W. Bush addressing the issue at all as he valiantly tried to conceal his past drinking problem and his DUI arrest. (Alcoholism has affected a number of presidents, most notably Franklin Pierce (who Barbara Bush claims to be descended from, interesting because his children died in adolescence or younger,) Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant.

I do understand that alcohol abuse isn’t against the law, and thus lies the difference. But it’s a fine line. Who’s to say that someone who habitually cheats on their spouse, with recent affairs, has a better moral character than someone who got high on cocaine twenty years ago, or than someone who has ever gotten behind the wheel of a motor vehicle impaired from liquor? A drug user is essentially doing the most harm to himself. Infidelity and driving while drunk hurts – or has the potential to hurt – other people. And don’t get me started on young men of privilege, like the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who managed through their families’ wealth and influence not to be drafted into military service during the Vietnam Era.

While it would be better if drug use weren't an issue; personally, I don’t believe it is realistic to expect a candidate born after 1945 to not have experimented with illegal substances at one time or another. To know that a candidate once used drugs, at least on a casual basis, would not stop me from voting for him or her. On the other hand, anyone who was strung out, or even who required rehabilitation to stop using as opposed to simply outgrowing the stuff, in my opinion, has no business running for President in the first place. Embarrassing situations from our past that no one would care about otherwise usually make their way to the forefront if any degree of prominence is reached. (Case in point: The old bisexual/S&M photo scandal of Vanessa Williams when she became Miss America. I remember my father saying that she knew those pictures were out there someplace; did she really believe no one would bring them to light and miss a chance to make an easy buck at her expense?)

It annoys me that the people on the news are saying that Obama “rebuilt his life,” because it suggests he was a hard-core addict, pawning his belongings to buy more cocaine. I haven’t read his book, but I suspect he alluded to casual use (complete with inhaling of marijuana!) as a young man, not addiction. I think "went on with his life" is more appropriate wording.

Clearly Barack Obama was trying to quell any ruckus before it started by making a candid admission. The fact that it has re-surfaced several years after the publication of his book and has remained in the news for several days, to me, smacks of the ol' "vast right-wing conspiracy" one of his possible opponents spoke of fifteen years ago, only this time with a sturdier leg to stand on.