Column: Obama's Coy Handling Of His Drug Use And McCain's Dilemma

This story was written by Jaclyn Thies, Daily Toreador


Now that America has a pretty good idea of who the two nominees will be going into the November election, it's time for reflection, because both parties are going to be prying apart their opponent's past with every available detail.

Nobody is perfect, and presumptive Republican Party nominee John McCain and presumptive Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama are no exceptions to the rule. Certainly, an issue in Obama's camp that involves morality is the issue on drugs. While drug abuse is seen as a harsh crime in matter of the law, Obama's past drug history most likely won't cause a big splash. How has America changed since Clinton's "I didn't inhale" days?

The drastic evolution in politics is both riveting and frightening.

Not only has Obama admitted that he has inhaled marijuana, but he has admitted to trying cocaine as well in his younger years. American voters don't seem to care. Obama came out with the information early in the campaign -- a wise move on his advisers' part. Truthfully, if his drug use had become known later in the race, America still wouldn't have cared.

With celebrities practically endorsing drug use, and shows like "Intervention" capitalizing on bringing substance abuse to the forefront, Americans are not shocked anymore. It seems as though any American without a past drug or alcohol problem is the rarity in an age where 42 percent of the population, according to Time magazine, has at least tried marijuana, the highest percentage of any country.

Obama's drug use just doesn't make him a bad guy in this case. Instead, it makes him even more relatable. It is no secret that minorities tend to side with Obama because they can relate to the colored candidate, and Obama bonds those ties with news of his substance abuse.

Before you start slinging mud, keep in mind that Obama allowed that to happen. In his book Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama talks about overcoming the labels of "junkie" and "pothead" and deterring from "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man." It's quite clear that he wants the public to relate to his story of overcoming addiction and a rough lifestyle. Instead of being labeled a drug abuser, Obama is transformed into the strong, black man who overcame the odds society set against him. He is a role model for any young minority child, and a beacon of hope for older minorities across the country.

Unlike Obama, Bill Clinton didn't have that relation to the public. By the time Americans found out about the drug use, Clinton was an aged white man. To make matters worse, his claims that he did not inhale the marijuana only made matters worse, especially when done under the press' magnifying glass.

On the other end of the spectrum, a history of drugs will not stop Obama. His campaign, after all, is set under the light of hope in his slogan, "Change Americans Can Believe In." And by bringing out an aura of optimism and understanding, McCain's camp will not get much out of any attack on Obama from his past drug history. If McCain were to bring up Obama's drug use, he would be seen as a person set in the past and an unforgiving soul. Even worse, it would further set him apart from younger voters if he made that sort of accusation -- one he cannot afford.

In the unlikely case John McCain happens to be called under question about drug use, chances are that the candidate is going to get less slack than Obama. McCain barely has a carefree sense about him, and any moral flaw in a conservative candidate will not go overlooked. Not to say that McCain has that type of drug history, but do not be alarmed to find that every part of the candidates' lives will be picked apart and examined in the next few months.

At this point, anything's possible.

Barack made a few wise choices with how he dealt with his drug use. By using the media and the public to his benefit, his substance abuse background is hardly an issue. While I do not think that drug use should be taken so lightly, especially when deciding who the next president of the United States should be, there is not much of a choice. A new age of voters has arrived, and morality has taken a back seat in all arenas, not just politics. Look around - television shows, the music industry and public opinion in general could care less about that skeleton in the closet. The country has yet to become appalled by extreme exploitation. Obama is more of a survivor than an abuser in America's eyes, and nobody will be able to change that.

So the evolution of America has occurred: Drugs might be bad, but they really are not as big of a deal as they were, especially as younger generations change outlooks.

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