Mr. Obama’s admissions are rare for a politician (his book, “Dreams From My Father,” was written before he ran for office.) They briefly became a campaign issue in December when an adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s chief Democratic rival, suggested that his history with drugs would make him vulnerable to Republican attacks if he became his party’s nominee.That last bit is the part that concerns me most.
Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has never quantified his illicit drug use or provided many details. He wrote about his two years at Occidental, a predominantly white liberal arts college, as a gradual but profound awakening from a slumber of indifference that gave rise to his activism there and his fears that drugs could lead him to addiction or apathy, as they had for many other black men.
Mr. Obama’s account of his younger self and drugs, though, significantly differs from the recollections of others who do not recall his drug use. That could suggest he was so private about his usage that few people were aware of it, that the memories of those who knew him decades ago are fuzzy or rosier out of a desire to protect him, or that he added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.
The GOP would have a field day with this, if indeed it turned out he embellished his "misspent youth". Remember the 2000 campaign and how Al Gore "said he invented the Internet"? He never said it, but I'd bet if you asked people about it, they'd say "Yea, he lied about that."
Or "Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal's problems", when in fact he merely held some hearings where that story came out. Or how Al...well, you get the picture.
Then Gore proceeded to run one of the dumbest campaigns in history and still managed to win the election, if not the office.
It's bad enough that Obama decided to confess to drug use as a kid, and I'm not talking about smoking pot. That's going to be ample enough ammunition in the general election, and may yet play a role in the primaries (this story came out now for a reason, I suspect): people in the heartland don't like cocaine and don't cotton to cocaine users. He'll have some work to do to mend minds there.
But if it turns out that he was embellishing his drug use for some bizarre "street cred" or to make his tough life seem more Lincolnian and less middle class, well, then that was just stupid and is going to hurt him in ways he can't possibly have foreseen. He didn't need to do it. I think we can all imagine what life for an interracial kid growing up without his father might have been like in the 70s and 80s. We get it, and why he might have experimented with drugs.
People will forgive bad decisions made as a teen. People don't forgive bad judgement when you're in your forties. You're supposed to know better, particularly if you are running for office.