My new weekly newspaper column this week gives huge kudos to Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb -- the two of them are trying (in their own separate ways) to begin a national conversation about one of the most taboo topics in American politics: drug policy.
In the same week President Obama childishly laughed off a question about drug policy reform, Secretary of State Clinton gave a speech acknowledging that America's demand for drugs makes us at least partially culpable for the drug-related violence in Mexico. Clinton was stating a truism -- but it's nonetheless controversial for a public official to say such truths in our immature political debate. That she went ahead and gave the speech anyway shows a lot of courage -- and hopefully previews a conventional wisdom-challenging term atop the State Department.
This week, Webb followed up Clinton's speech with the introduction of prison/criminal justice reform legislation that would examine legalizing marijuana -- the drug cartels' biggest cash crop.
As Glenn Greenwald has ably noted, there's little -- if any -- personal political upside for Webb in doing this. He's doing it because he believes in it (I know -- wow! A politician actually doing something on principle!).
There will undoubtedly be a lot of opposition to changing our drug laws. The Right has been selling the "law and order" nonsense for the last half century, and many Democrats in Congress are therefore too afraid to touch the issue. But public consensus has shifted, and now at least a few leaders are starting to soften up the political terrain for a real discussion about legalization and drug policy reform.
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