Speaking to high school students yesterday, Barack Obama made what is--at least in this writer's humble opinion--one of the most honest and compelling cases against drugs: they're a waste of time.
"There were times when I got into drinking and experimented with drugs. There was a whole stretch of time when I didn't really apply myself a lot. ... I started realizing, 'Man, I've wasted a lot of time.'"
Ever since Bill Clinton ran away from his marijuana use, saying "I didn't like it. I didn't inhale and never tried it again," politicos have latched onto the way candidates deal with allegations of past drug use as a telling character trait. George W. Bush, for example, basically told reporters to get bent when they asked him about past drinking and rumored cocaine use--and then turned his past recklessness into a political net positive, wooing evangelicals by contrasting his "wild" past with his conversion to born-again Christianity.
But Obama's response is a generation beyond Bush and Clinton's posturing. Rather than treating the issue of drug use, one way or another, as a factotum of the culture wars, his approach is a practical one--more in tune with the attitudes of merit-obsessed, post-DARE America. It's reminiscent of the recent transition from unconvincing, fear-oriented anti-drug ads to more low-key, convincing ones.
While Obama's case for himself is often abstract, this strikes me as a concrete example of how he actually practices "a new kind of politics."