Is Obama's Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, Being Undermined by His Boss?

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Maybe Kerlikowske would get more respect if he wore this get-up.
It seemed like a big promotion when President Obama tapped former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske for the job of national drug czar. But even if you're a czar, apparently, you don't always get respect.

Kerlikowske hasn't been able to get time on either the president's or the vice-president's schedule. He's been trying to do so in order to stage a joint rollout of a new drug policy that the czar has been working on for almost a year, according to a Newsweek report on Friday. Consequently, Kerlikowske is months late in releasing the policy, a delay that earned him sharp criticism at a House subcommittee hearing last month.

More importantly, the Obama administration may not be giving Kerlikowske the tools he needs to fulfill his promise of taking drug policy in a "new direction."

Kerlikowske has said that he wants to step up the public health approach to drug use rather than rely on law enforcement alone. A draft copy of his yet-to-be-released policy, which Newsweek obtained, continues to tout this theme, while setting goals for reducing drug use among youth by 15 percent.

Yet, as critics have noted, the proportion of Obama's drug budget that would be allocated for treatment and prevention is roughly the same as it was under President Bush. Enforcement still occupies the lion's share of funding. Is it a coincidence that Kerlikowske's chief deputy, Thomas McClellan, is now resigning?

Kerlikowske's office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

 
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