The Significance of Obama and “Choom”

Hey! Isn’t that guy a little young to be President?

Conservative bloggers and talk show hosts who should know better are running gleefully with the tales out of David Maraniss’s new biography of the President in which young Obama is revealed as a pothead. “Choom” apparently means marijuana, and at the Punahou School in Hawaii Barry belonged to the “Choom Gang,” the members of which were apparently obsessed with weed.

The Choomies drove around in a Volkswagen bus called the “Choomwagon,” and were especially fond of “roof hits,” smoking pot inside the Choomwagon with all the windows rolled up,  to maximize the amount of smoke they inhaled. Barack Spicoli Obama was apparently known for renowned for his “interceptions”…joining a group of stoners passing around a joint, taking a hit and yelling, “Intercepted!”

All of which tells us 100% of nothing regarding the fitness of Obama to lead the country today. Every single one of the reasons I listed why Mitt Romney’s teenage bullying in prep school should be off-limits in making any kind of assessment of his character and trustworthiness now applies to Obama’s juvenile pot exception. How can these warriors of the right, like Prof. Glenn Reynold of Instapundit and Mark Levin, who indignantly protested when the Washington Post deemed a four decade-old hazing incident worthy of front page coverage to smear Mitt Romeny, now engage in exactly the same tactic against Obama? This isn’t just Ethics 101—the fact that your adversary is unethical doesn’t magically make it ethical for you to do the same thing—but also Logic 101. The Romney hit piece was stupid. No fair person who wasn’t hopeless addled by partisan mania could fail to see it. So is trying to make the Choom Gang a campaign issue.

Oh nonono,” the conservative slime-mongers will argue. “This is worse!”  Yeah, I think it’s probably worse: Romney’s bullying comprises one incident that at the time, and may even now in a school setting, would not be regarded as a crime. Maraniss portrays the Choom Gang as habitual lawbreakers, and breaking the law tends to become a nasty habit; it’s not favored training for future Presidents. To plenty of Obama’s fans, howeve—young, politically correct, obsessed with the politics of victimhood  and itching to see all of America turned into one big Choomwagon—Cheech Obama’s exploits make him a hero. They are as out to lunch as the Neolithic conservatives who hear that Romney abused a gay kid and think, “Hey! Maybe he’s like me after all!“, but the point is that neither story is worth a bucket of warm spit, and both are equally unfair to the candidates at their center.

The conservatives promoting the Choom story are hypocrites, and the liberals who are crying foul after criticizing Kid Mitt are as well.

There is something else significant about the Choom outbreak however. The Washington Post, which covered its front page with the Romney hazing story, buries its comments about the Choom Gang in a sub-heading on page A 6, under a headline, “High School and Beyond.” that mentions neither Obama nor drug use. In fact, it isn’t even a story, but an excerpt from a Post blog online. Karen Tumulty writes [My interjections are in bold:

“Whether episodes from a candidate’s high school days are a relevant subject for exploration is something that is getting a lot of discussion these days. The Post got a lot of criticism from the right a few weeks back, when it published Jason Horowitz’s story on Mitt Romney’s days at an exclusive Michigan prep school, when witnesses say he held down a student presumed to be gay and cut his hair. It will be interesting to see whether there is similar umbrage over the latest information about Obama.” [Well, you have your answer, don’t you, Karen—at least from me. But let me ask you and your supposedly objective paper this: if the two stories are roughly equivalent, as your pairing of them suggests, then how do you explain the Romney story being a front page scoop, and the Obama story being quietly discussed in a Post blog I had never noticed before? Don’t tell me that Obama’s drug use isn’t “news,” since he alluded to it in the past—his being a full-fledged dope-head wasn’t generally known, and neither story is legitimate, “Stop the presses!” news. So how do you explain it, other than the fact that your paper is committed to electing Obama—again—by any means necessary, and objectivity and fairness be damned?]

Tumulty continues:

One thing I find interesting is that, taken together, these accounts offer reassurance: High school is not destiny. Neither Obama the slacker nor Romney the prankster would have seemed destined for greatness. Which is reassuring for the great majority of those of us who left behind no trophies with our names on them in the glass display cases. [ So, Karen, you expect us to believe that proving that facile Hallmark lesson was really the motivation for trying to make Mitt Romney look like a gay-persecuting thug on the Post’s front page? The Post’s own ombudsman admitted that the publishing of the story was intentionally timed to coincide with Obama’s gay marriage announcement, in other words, “Obama-good, Romney-bad. If you are now admitting that high school conduct doesn’t define the adult— to which I have to add, “Who doesn’t know that???”—what possible justification is there, other than bias, for making Mitt’s four decade old misconduct breaking news?]

“Nonetheless, these years are worth exploring, if only because they give us a chance to trace the trajectory of character, and to show that it is not just something we are born with, but also something that we grow into.”

[Awwwww. Well heck, why didn’t the Post just say that to wind up its smear job on the Republican candidate?]

To summarize:

  • The significance of the Obama “Choom” story, like the Romney hair-cutting incident, to the election and the qualifications and character of the candidates is zip. Nada. Zero.
  • The significance of the reaction to the two stories by partisans is this: they are shameless hypocrites, and will jettison common sense and fairness for political success.
  • The significance of the disparate handling of the two stories, with the Romney incident being highlighted by the mainstream media and the Obama story being trumpeted only by the news media on the Right is that the mainstream media will abuse its theoretical legitimacy and ignore fairness and objectivity in 2012 as it did in 2008, to give every edge it can to Barack Obama.

But that’s not news, either.


Spark: Instapundit

Facts: Daily Caller

Source: Washington Post

Graphic: Daily Caller

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

17 thoughts on “The Significance of Obama and “Choom”

  1. Romney was a recognized leader in his high school days and continued to be a recognized leader wherever he went. Obama was part of his school’s drug culture and a bum. What you were in high school does not necessarily dictate your life afterward. But it can likewise (and often is) be a great definer. That Romney MAY have pulled a rough prank on some nerd in school is not to his credit. The rest of the story, however, paints a fine picture of initiative and integrity. Obama’s decidedly does not. Nobody’s a complete paragon. Only Jesus was that! I’ve personally known kids in high school who were as bad as Obama was, but freed themselves of the drug scourge (after much personal travail), came to God and became good citizens. There’s nothing I can see in Obama that indicates that any such epiphany occurred in his life.

    • That’s really a very profound question. Political ethics are their own sub-category, like legal ethics. But nobody has ever agreed on what should be ethical, leaving the unscrupulous with control of the rule book.

    • I just posted that article on my Facebook page, Zoe. A lot of people are up in arms over that. Miss Tran’s story bears a remarkable parallel to that of Audie Murphy (another Texan) in his early years. It also illustrates why judicial elections are so important!

      • I agree that the stories should get equal coverage. The only reason I can think that the Obama story didn’t make the front page is that everyone already knew he smoked marijuana in high school. The difference is that Romney still seems to have issues with gays, but Obama has given up pot.

        Yes, teachers vote for Obama. So do firefighters, police officers, social workers, the clergy, nurses, tech experts, musicians, business people, lawyers and a whole host of non-union blue collar workers. Your remarks are insulting and uncalled for.

        • We all knew Romney was probably a spoiled rich kid jerk in high school, too. And while I knew Obama smoked weed as a kid, the Maraniss version paints him as a flat-out doper, which I never suspected. There’s no reasonable distinction between the stories in legitimacy. Opposing gay marriage doesn’t mean one has issues with gays, necessarily: it means one has issues with gay marriage. One could believe gays are the greatest human beings on earth, but if you were devout and your church said gay marriage was wrong, there you are.

        • You’ll notice I said teachers UNIONS, Jan. I know a number of teachers, including one family member. I also know a number of people who are union members, including ones in so-called “blue collar” unions. In fact, I know people who are members of every single profession you listed; some of them quite closely. I might also add that my sister is an RN of seniority and that, as a retired military cop, I have quite a number of friends and acquaintances who were and still are civilian police.

          Fortunately, the whip of union discipline doesn’t fall as harshly in Texas as it does in other states. Not only is Right To Work a policy here, but union members have more recourse when their unions attempt to spend their dues money on political causes they do not personally support. One thing I became impressed with over time is how many rank and file union members privately disavow the anti-constitutionalist policies of their higher leadership. I’ve never seen it stronger than today, after three years of Obama; from latins, whites and blacks alike.

          BTW: I mentioned the teachers’ unions specifically for two reasons. One: They have emerged as one of the most visible and stalwart supporters of the Democrat Party, especially since the Madison riots. Two: Their ongoing modern legacy of abuse, corruption, incompetance and unwholesome attitudes toward the young people who provide them their original purpose has reached levels that have appalled even their own membership.

  2. Barack Obama is complicit in keeping people in prison who are guilty only of engaging in the same behavior that he did, Recreational drug use.

    Mitt Romney does not, winking and smirking, wax nostalgic over his youthful misbehavior, (assuming for a moment that any of the bullying allegations are true), while others rot in prison for doing the same.

    There is no ethical equivalency that I can discern.

    • But Joe, Obama isn’t obligated to endorse the misconduct of his youth forever, and it isn’t hypocritical for a father who sued drugs as a kid to tell his own kids, “Don’t,” any more than someone whose life was derailed by fathering a child out of wedlock is estopped from opposing promiscuous sex. If Obama was a reformed bank-robber, would he be ethically obligated in your eyes to insist that bank-robbing be legalized?

  3. I can forgive even a convicted felon who’s gone on to be a moral and productive citizen afterward. That’s exactly why I give heed to these stories of Obama’s youth. I don’t think his youthful proclivities have altered much. He may not be the doper he once was, but the core philosophy of “it’s all about me” remains. He’s just become more sophisticated over time in overlaying it with high sounding rhetoric. In a very real sense, there’s no difference between him and Bill Clinton for the same reasons. Both are wayward kids who turned their waywardness into a “politically viable” virtue.

  4. Back in the late seventies my friend Shelly was a third year college
    student. While celebrating with some of her friends after some event,
    all the kids went to a local tavern where somebody gave my friend
    Shelly a rolled joint. A few minutes later a man approached her and
    asked her if he could buy it. Shelly didn’t want it so she gave it to
    him. The man offered her $5.00 and she refused it. He insisted that
    she take the $5.00 and he placed it in her hand. Later as she left the
    tavern, two men approached her and arrested for for dealing drugs.
    $30,000 in lawyer fees later, she was sentenced to 10 years probation
    which was better than the 25 years the state was looking to send her
    to prison for. At the time of her arrest, she had a bright future as a
    teacher. Over the next 30 years she struggled to find employment. The
    only jobs that she could get were under the table jobs as a waitress
    and tutoring private lessons. Over time she has made many contacts,
    proved herself to several high end restaurants and built a very
    comfortable tutoring business.

    However, due to the recent proliferation of sex offender laws more,
    and more businesses are doing background checks or are searching
    people’ names over the internet. After 30 years Shelley’s name is
    beginning to resurface as a convicted drug dealer and her business and
    good name are suffering. There are more and more private sites now
    adding to the mix of outing people with records. It used to be only
    the government posted this information on the internet but more sites
    and businesses are beginning to post privately. A multitude of data
    harvesters are playing this profitable game with this old information
    as well. Even restaurants who hire under the table employees are
    weeding out people with long past felony convictions.

    With the 33-page report, “A Red Herring: Marijuana Arrestees Do Not
    Become Violent Felons,” Human Rights Watch offers new data indicating
    that people who enter the criminal justice system with an arrest for
    public possession of marijuana rarely commit violent crimes in the
    future. Over the last 15 years, New York City police have arrested
    more than 500,000 people on charges of possessing marijuana. While
    Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the police have said the arrests have helped reduce
    violent crime, they have never specified how. As our country inches
    closer to the legalization of marijuana I hope that when the time
    comes, we consider ancillary legislation which will seal or expunge
    the records of the people who were arrested for possession and
    innocuous sales.

    • Well, I sure don’t. Drug use and drug dealing is the lifeblood of organized crime and the bane of clueless kids caught up in its toils without realizing the full consequences. Your girlfriend was old enough to know better.

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