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To further extrapolate on the previous two posts, the Obama administration is indeed responsible for broad failures related to the current scandals in its inability to reform government in the way he promised, and act on some of his campaign principles. Obama’s culpability here, though, is in a more abstract, ideological sense, a failure of principle, rather than specific wrongdoing, negligence, or conspiracy on the part of the administration as relates to Benghazi, the IRS, or the Justice Department. From a post by Dan Balz:

[Obama] then described what that meant for the government he was beginning to assemble [in 2009]. “What we don’t know yet is whether my administration and this next generation of leadership is going to be able to hew to a new, more pragmatic approach that is less interested in whether we have big government or small government [but is] more interested in whether we have a smart, effective government.”

What has happened since Obama laid down that challenge for his administration? More Americans favor smaller government over bigger government than when he was first elected, according to exit polls from last November. Public confidence in the federal government is as low as it has ever been, according to a Pew Research Center survey released this spring.

This weekend, four of the government’s biggest agencies are beset by political controversy, management breakdowns or both: State (what happened in Benghazi), Treasury (targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service), Justice (leak-related investigationof the Association Press) and Defense (rising numbers of sexual assaults). Add to that the questions about Health and Human Services and its implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and it is little wonder confidence has eroded.

There are many reasons for the public’s diminished confidence in the federal government, reflecting general disapproval with the way Washington has worked during the Obama years. The president’s advisers blame Republicans for much of the gridlock and partisan infighting, and they are quick to note that Obama’s approval ratings are far higher than those of the Republicans.

Republicans do bear a considerable share of the responsibility for overall attitudes about Washington and government. Their dismal ratings are a measure of public dissatisfaction with the party generally and with House Republican efforts to thwart the president. But Obama bears a particular responsibility for failing to do what he said he had to do, which was to persuade the public that he could make the part of government that he directly controls — the executive branch — smarter, more effective and more deserving of trust.

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6:30pm

An update to yesterday’s post “How President Obama has been seriously harshing my mellow.” If you haven’t read that one yet, go read it. It’s a good one.

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Apparently, various commentariat entities have been making the same point I made yesterday at the end of my post: which was to point out a gift-wrapped opportunity the GOP could use to appeal to younger voters by supporting the newfound right to get their smoke on in Colorado and Washington. You may notice, these first articles were produced by certain entities that are, uh, shall we say, not on my Christmas card list. But the enemy of my enemy is said to be my friend, and sometimes fighting the good fight for the right of Coloradans and Washingtonians to bake it out in their driveway makes for strange bedfellows.

Isn’t this a rather sweet political opportunity for the GOP? They’re desperate for ways to earn some goodwill with young voters and minorities. Opposing prosecutions for weed is an easy way to do it, and thanks to Washington and Colorado voters, they wouldn’t have to do it on the merits if they so chose. They could do it purely on federalism grounds — i.e. while opinions on marijuana may differ, it’s disgraceful that Congress would trump the considered judgment of a sovereign state on what its citizens should and shouldn’t be allowed to ingest. I doubt you’d lose many anti-marijuana seniors with a principled argument like that and it would change the framework of this debate enough that it might allow for a bolder decriminalization debate later.

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MarijuanaHigh on my list of Obama’s Un-kept Promises is his inconsistency on medical marijuana policy. When he was entering office, there was a perception that Obama was going to respect the laws of states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes – currently numbering seventeen, though less at the time – and that he would essentially stand-down Justice Department prosecution of cases related to the issue. Where did this perception come from? Maybe here:

In a March 2008 interview, Obama told the Oregon Mail Tribune that medical marijuana ranked low on his list of priorities.

“I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate,” Obama said. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

ObamaPotObama said this to the Oregon Daily Mail during his first campaign. However, Obama’s own personal penchant for smoking marijuana has been well-documented, so perhaps he just forgot. Because during his first three years in office, Obama’s Justice Department was responsible for over one hundred medical marijuana busts. In his first term, his wrath on dispensaries has exceeded even that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

And, as we all undoubtedly know, marijuana has been legalized for recreational use under the state laws of Washington and Colorado (a similar measure was defeated in Oregon) – so the sky should be falling down any day now.

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deceptionre-1343938088-39Before Bond, there was a Brit named Dennis Wheatley. Wheatley, however, had a few things going for him that Bond didn’t. Paramount amongst these factors was the fact that he was, well, real. In her new book, D For Deception, Tina Rosenberg discribes the fascinating true story of novelist Dennis Wheatley, who during  World War II was called upon by the British government to undertake a mission – should he choose to accept it – that was probably not unlike missions undertaken by his characters, and fulfilled what to my mind seems like the absolute coolest opportunity – for the most unlikely person – in history (this is roughly akin to a stoner friend of mine who was offered a surprisingly well-paying job trimming pot plants at a legal dispensary in California – we had to scrape him off the ceiling).

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imagesThe White House’s open invitation for the people to be heard – in the form of petitions on whitehouse.gov – was put to good use today with a proposal that would “spur job creation,” “focus our defense resources,” and “strengthen our national defense,” according to the petition’s authors. Which sounds great…if only it existed in the realm of nonfiction. The petition is for the government to begin construction of a Death Star – from the Star Wars franchise – by 2016. So far, 612 people have signed since the petition was first established on November 14th.

To me, 2016 sounds way too optimistic. The world is scheduled to end well before that.

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