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This is the third in a series of weekly discussions of the cabinet-level posts in a potential Kerry administration, with the intent of coming up with a "shadow cabinet" by the start of the convention. This week, we'll focus on the office of "Drug Czar." Here are the current results from previous weeks (please continue to vote for and discuss these entries!):

                            Current Leader          My Choice
Week 1 - EPA Administrator:   Robert F. Kennedy Jr.   Kathleen McGinty
Week 2 - UN Ambassador:     Carol Moseley Braun     Susan E. Rice

Note: nominations will usually number around 5-8. The idea is to pick the best candidate for each position (not the "most likely"), but also a candidate who might realistically be chosen by Kerry (i.e. no Kucinich as Sec. of Defense). I admit to not being an expert in many (if not all) of these areas, so other suggestions and criticisms are welcomed. The idea is to get a realistic idea of what the next executive branch should look like.

On to the nominations for Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), otherwise known as the Drug Czar:

David Satcher, ex-Surgeon General
- The office of Drug Czar (created by Reagan in the "just say no" years) presents Kerry with a challenge. He could either stick to the "war on drugs" as presently construed and appoint someone with a law enforcement or military background, or he could break new ground by appointing someone like Dr. Satcher who has a distinguished background in public health (first as Director of CDC, then as Surgeon General). Doing so would send a clear message that the drug war should no longer be considered primarily a law-enforcement problem. Satcher himself is eminently qualified from a public-health perspective. Also a potential Secretary of H&HS.

Kurt Schmoke, Dean of Howard Law School; ex-mayor (Baltimore)
- This borders on the type of "unrealistic" option I warn against choosing, but if Kerry was to make a extremely bold choice, he might appoint someone like Kurt Schmoke. As mayor of Baltimore, he came close to advocating drug legalization, which sparked a rage on the Right (and even from the likes of Charles Rangel) that may make him an unnecessarily controversial choice. Still, his background as a state prosecutor and history of being strong advocate of viewing drug policy as a public health problem make him an intriguing choice, if Kerry could get away with it (and if he even wanted to in the first place). Also has former White House experience in the Carter administration as a domestic policy advisor, and is a former Rhodes Scholar. Might also be considered for a spot at Justice.

Donna Shalala, ex-Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Shalala served in the Cabinet for the entirety of the Clinton administration, and may be a good "compromise" choice between those who advocate outright reform of drug policy and those who would take a more conservative approach, but still turn the focus towards health and treatment and away from law enforcement. She was a strong critic of then-"Czar" Gen. McCaffrey's decision to ban federal funding of needle-exchange programs in the 90's, but she is in no way an advocate of radical reform of our nation's drug policies. While Shalala would almost certainly advocate continuing the "war on drugs" in its present form, she would also bring her years of experience in public health to the table.  

Rev. Jesse Jackson, President, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
- Jesse Jackson would be a highly symbolic choice for the position of Drug Czar - a message to the nation that those most affected by our drug policy would have an advocate in the White House who understands their concerns. His thinking on the issue has evolved from advocating stiff penalties and aggressive law enforcement to a more balanced approach, but he has never (to my knowledge) been in favor of legalization. His name has actually been floated for this position many times over the years, dating back to 1988 after losing the primaries to Dukakis. He has the stature to get people to listen to him. Whether he would want the job or not is another question.

Gary Johnson, ex-Governor (NM)
- Again, another name I hesitate to nominate, because it's 90% certain that Kerry would never choose someone like Gov. Johnson, perhaps the nation's most famous elected official to call for decriminalization. However, the fact that he's a Republican may convince some to give him second look (and keep in mind, he would need to be confirmed by the Senate). His views are well-known and well-respected on the left, and on the libertarian-leaning wing of the right. I put his name here because in my opinion (and I'm sure many of yours) his courage and rationality on this issue have been truly exceptional.

John Conyers, Rep. (MI)
- Another potentially controversial (and therefore unfortunately unlikely) choice, Conyers has been a strong supporter of medical marijuana use, having sponsored the State's Rights to Medical Marijuana Act in 2001. He is anti-minimum sentencing and has received an award from the Drug Policy Alliance (a drug policy reform group) for his reform-minded stance on many drug-related issues. But he is also a long-serving (2nd longest in the House) and respected member of Congress who would probably be able win confirmation in the Senate. Like Johnson, he would bring neither a strictly health-care, law enforcement, or military approach to the issue, but rather a capacity for rational thought and brave decisions.

Andrea Grubb Barthwell, Deputy Director for Demand Reduction, White House ONDCP
- How's this for an unconventional choice: what other Bush administration appointee would have able to win a whole-hearted endorsement from Paul Wellstone? With a background in medicine and drug treatment, she is currently the main advisor to current Director John Walters on issues relating to treatment and prevention, and has significant experience on the ground dealing with these issues as a doctor in Illinois. However, she is stridently anti-medical marijuana, pro-drug testing in schools, and has taken other positions while in the current administration that would likely rub many on the left the wrong way. But then again, her positions aren't much different from those of the ONDCP under Clinton.

Other suggestions: write in below! (And I really mean it this time - I'm sure there are tons of possibilites I missed out on here.)

Next week: National Economic Council Director

Originally posted to thirdparty on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 12:44 PM PST.

Poll

Who would make the best Drug Czar?

34%18 votes
25%13 votes
15%8 votes
5%3 votes
11%6 votes
0%0 votes
1%1 votes
5%3 votes

| 52 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  tip jar (4.00)
    and again, don't hesitate to nominate other names.

    Kerry Cabinetmaker (Drug Czar): vote for the shadow cabinet every week until the convention!

    by thirdparty on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 12:47:23 PM PST

  •  asdf (none)
    i would just like to take a second to reflect on how funny it sounds to be "Dean of Howard law school"
  •  write-in (none)
    Abolish the position and the office. Why do we have positions in our government with the title of czar? I know it's technically unofficial, but it's been used for so long that it is basically "officially unofficial" at this point.

    I'm not against most of the goals of the ONDCP, but their current methods are simply propaganda and aren't helping.
    •  Yep (none)
      That's a very valid position to take, and in many ways I agree. But I think a radical re-organization of the office would be a more politically viable option, and that's what the vast majority of the nominees above represent. Can you imagine the backlash if Kerry were to abolish the position? It would be similar to what happened when the Right called for the abolition of the Education Dept.

      Kerry Cabinetmaker (Drug Czar): vote for the shadow cabinet every week until the convention!

      by thirdparty on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 01:19:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm tanned, rested, and ready. (none)
    More seriously, I'd love Shmoke or Gary Johnson. Shalala's more of a drugwar hawk than her sucessor at HHS, Tommy Thompson, who stopped introducing lockemup bills in Wisconsin after I challenged him in the 1990 GOP Primary, and argued in the opening days of the Bush Administration that they should legalize cannabis off the bat.

    An intreaguing, if obscure choice would be Ibogaine researcher Debra Mash, spouse of the Miami Democratic Chair. There's an interesting thread on the currently illegal Ibogaine treatment for addiction on the Kerry site forums.

    A couple former Police Chiefs who've seen the light: Joe McNamara of San Jose and Kansas City, now at the Hoover institution, and David Cooper, retired here in Madison, and now an Episcopalian clergyman.

    What's Jocelyn Elders up to nowadays?

    I can't see Conyers giving up his clout in the House.

    I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.

    by ben masel on Sat Mar 20, 2004 at 01:26:04 PM PST

    •  Thanks (none)
      I meant to thank you for the other names you proposed. All are innovative choices, but I do think Kerry could afford to make an unpredictable choice here. The office itself is so dubious and malleable that a wide range of possibilities presents itself for the position, and all of the folks you mention are very intriguing - with the possible exception of Elders. ;)

      If Conyers took the job it would be an effective last step towards retirement for him.

      Kerry Cabinetmaker (Drug Czar): vote for the shadow cabinet every week until the convention!

      by thirdparty on Tue Mar 23, 2004 at 01:42:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  For drug czar (none)
    Tommy Chong.
    •  Former addict (none)
      Wouldn't it be nice to have a former addict in the position who could speak to the problems that addiction causes?

      My first thought was Robert Downey, Jr., but after reflection, I thought of another famous recovering addict who will be looking for work:

      George W. Bush.

  •  Gary Johnson (none)
    I lived in Albq for 4 years. Gary Johnson was gov for part of that. I was stunned by the "common senseness" of his position and very pleased by his willingness to speak out. IIRC, he basically said let's not waste resources on pot smokers and let's come down real hard on the meth, crack, and heroin labs and dealers.
  •  Drew Pinski? (none)
    a.k.a. Dr. Drew
    No way he could get confirmed, and I dunno what his politics are, but a doctor who treats addiction...

    sigh

    •  how about (none)
      Dr. Phil?
      Dr. Dre?
      Adam Corolla?
      Carson Daly?

      On a serious note, however, Dr. Drew would be a great asset to any administration on drug policy/youth issues, perhaps akin to Ahnold's stint as the National Gym Teacher a few years back. But I don't think he's quite "Czar" material. If Jocelyn Elders got in trouble for merely mentioning masturbation, can you imagine Senate confirmation hearings with playbacks of old episodes of his MTV show? Hey, kids would watch it, at least. :)

      Kerry Cabinetmaker (Drug Czar): vote for the shadow cabinet every week until the convention!

      by thirdparty on Thu Mar 25, 2004 at 01:57:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  UN (none)
    Ambassador can not be Braun.  Did she not meet with Mugambe just days before they executed a human rights worker in 1997 or so?  If so, she is disqualified.

    Kerry/Richardson'04

    by wells on Thu Mar 25, 2004 at 03:11:12 PM PST

  •  Better not to court controversy with this office (none)
    I think it may be wiser for Kerry to avoid controversy in his Drug Czar choice; it just becomes a media distraction and it'll provide political cover for the right-wingers who almost certainly still control both the House and the Senate to completely obstruct other, quite frankly, more important pieces of the Kerry agenda.

    My choice: a big-city mayor or county executive with a solid law enforcement reputation, and a track-record of taking the 'treatment' piece of drug control strategy seriously. Possibilities: Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.

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