President Barack Obama’s joke on Monday that White House pies are so good they just might contain crack cocaine wasn’t funny, at all. In fact, when the Chief Executive has admitted past drug abuse, he should be sending the opposite message about the effects of drugs on their users.
At an event Monday celebrating “LGBT Pride Month,” the president praised retiring White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses for the quality of his pies, saying “We call Bill the Crustmaster because his pies. I don’t know what he does — whether he puts crack in them.”
The president was openly declaring that crack cocaine was pleasurable — or else the joke would be nonsensical. Of course, for nearly 20 years President Obama has been open about the benefits he feels drugs provided him in his youth. In his autobiography, Dreams from My Father, Obama remembered:
Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow (cocaine) when you could afford it … . (T)he highs hadn’t been about … me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then anyway. I got just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory … and if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism.
President Obama says he started using marijuana and even cocaine when he was still in high school. In fact, he sometimes uses his drug history as a way to connect with young voters, who are a crucial part of his coalition. Note his use of street terms like pot, blow, and booze. Medical or scientific terms would be way too clinical and off-putting for a politician who fiercely wants to show he’s not a square.
Most alarming, the New York Times reported during Obama’s first run for president that very few of his friends from high school and college have much recollection at all of Obama using drugs to the extent he has claimed. Some close friends said they never even suspected he used drugs at all. Is it possible the president’s “admission” of excessive youthful drug use could be a manipulative attempt to look “cool” and send a message about what kind of person he is to Millennials and Baby Boomers who have their own drug histories? Such high-level cynical politics would be unprecedented in American history.
Further, Obama has said little about how he stopped using substances that he claims were a significant part of his life. For example, he’s never talked about participating in one of the recovery programs based on spiritual principles and mutual support that have been very effective for people transitioning to a sober lifestyle. Members of twelve-step programs call such a strategy “white knuckle recovery,” and they say it can work in the short run, but rarely forever. Of course, such fellowships are anonymous and it’s certainly possible the president goes to a meeting every week saying “My name is Barack O., and I’m a recovering drug addict.” But the leader of the free world must be held to a higher standard than any other admitted drug user. If he’s in recovery, he should say so.
Wanting — as I do — a juvenile penal system that focuses on treatment rather than punishment is no excuse for sending messages that drug use is kind of a joke. In a country that now has two states with legal marijuana readily available to adults, the president must be clear that drug use by young people whose brains are still developing is always wrong, period.
Yes, it was a joke. But what someone finds funny is often a window into his values. Regarding drug use, this president’s values are cracked.