Virtually an entire book was derived from the ONDCP’s twisting science and statistical data during Murray’s eight-year tenure—Dr. Matthew Robinson’s Lies, Damn Lies and Drug War Statistics, A Critical Analysis Of Claims Made By The ONDCP. You can watch Murray and Robinson debate about the drug war and ONDCP’s methodology at the Cato Institute here.
Question: When will Obama and Holder finally kick Murray to the curb and replace him with someone other than another anti-cannabis zealot masquerading as a ‘scientist’?
The Bushie Obama Can’t FireObama vowed to reverse Bush’s hard-line drug policies, but Dubya still has a man raising havoc in the White House drug office. Problem is, Obama can’t fire him.
The Bush years were not the finest hour for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. Drug czar John Walters, who ran the place beginning in late 2001, waged a militaristic drug war, pouring money into dubiously effective efforts to fight trafficking abroad while letting treatment programs stagnate at home, and obsessing over marijuana at the expense of more dangerous drugs.
It’s an approach that Barack Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, is now trying to steer away from. He has vowed to end the use of the phrase “war on drugs,” and the hard-liners who filled out Walters’ office are now gone. All of them, that is, except one guy: David Murray, the drug czar’s chief scientist, and Walters’ most enthusiastic disciple.
David Murray is a lone human memento of the Bush administration’s drug war, surrounded bypeople who are trying to undo the work on which he has spent the past eight years.
“He was brought in as a political hatchet man,” says Ross Deck, a former ONDCP analyst and a 16-year-veteran of the office who quit during the Walters years. Before joining in the ONDCP, Murray had no prior experience in addiction science, or law enforcement, or anything else particularly related to drug policy.
He is on the record questioning many of the drug policies espoused by Kerlikowske. Congress has spent three years trying to get him fired.
Why, then, does Murray somehow still have a job in the Obama administration? The reason can be found in the fine print of the federal bureaucracy. Midway through his tenure, Walters moved Murray—at the time his special assistant—from a politically appointed job to the chief scientist’s post, a theoretically apolitical position that makes him much harder to fire. By law, Kerlikowske can’t touch a hair on his head for the first 120 days of his own stint as drug czar. Which means that until the middle of September, Murray is living in a peculiar limbo: a lone human memento of the Bush administration’s botched prosecution of the drug war, surrounded by people who are trying to undo the work on which he has spent the past eight years.
ONDCP veterans speak fondly of Murray’s predecessor, a defense research veteran named Al Brandenstein, who was the drug czar office’s only previous chief scientist from 1991 until Walters removed him in 2004. Brandenstein worked to put advanced drug-detection technologies in the hands of law-enforcement agencies, but he was also interested in advancing the understanding of the demand side of the drug-use equation. In the 1990s, he got government funding for brain-scanning equipment that medical researchers would use to better understand the biochemistry of addiction. Critics in the drug-policy community argue that Brandenstein’s work produced little of value, and that his post existed mostly to provide a pretext for government spending on gadgetry—but for better or worse, that was what Congress had asked for when it created the chief scientist job.
Murray, on the other hand, was not. A former cultural anthropologist who had left academia for the conservative think-tank circuit, he had made a name for himself in Washington a decade earlier with an article in Policy Review about the danger out-of-wedlock births posed to the fabric of American society. (It began, memorably, “America is becoming a nation of bastards.”) As Walters’ special assistant, he had made headlines in Canada in 2003 by suggesting that the U.S.’s northern neighbor’s experiments with marijuana decriminalization could cause diplomatic problems along the border.
Shelving most of Brandenstein’s work, Murray pursued the occasional science project—he was enthusiastic about testing the Beltway’s sewage for traces of cocaine—but mostly used his office as a political soapbox, lambasting opponents and burying unflattering data that suggested his boss wasn’t exactly winning the drug war. (The Statistical Assessment Service, a research organization that Murray himself launched in 1994, has in recent years devoted much ink to debunking its own founder’s claims on drug-policy issues like needle exchange.)
In congressional testimony, Murray branded medical-marijuana advocates “modern-day snake-oil proponents”; in a 2007 appearance on a panel at the libertarian Cato Institute, he derided the think tank’s pro-legalization stance to be “an illusion” that “grows out of late-night dormitory engagements in college that one hopes one outgrows.” He also alienated more middle-of-the-road drug-policy experts both inside and outside the bureaucracy; one outside expert recalls attending a drug-research group meeting with Murray and hearing him offhandedly refer to the pot-friendly Netherlands as a “narco-state.”
“David acted as though he had said nothing the least bit unusual in saying that,” the expert says. “It’s indicative of how off the map he is—he simply doesn’t understand how strange his own views are about these things.”
Congress felt similarly. In the fall of 2005, as the panic over methamphetamine use in rural America was reaching its apex, Walters sent Murray to brief the members the House of Representatives’ Meth Caucus—a group formed by mostly rural and Western congressmen in 2001—on what the administration planned to do about the burgeoning problem. The assembled lawmakers were so spectacularly unimpressed that one of them, Indiana Republican Mark Souder, marched out of the meeting and promptly demanded that Murray step down from his post, calling his briefing “pathetic” and an “embarrassment.” Murray’s performance was so bad, Souder declared, that “if Director Walters and anyone else in that office agrees with what was said today, they should resign.”
This was grandstanding, of course. But Congress made more substantial efforts to oust Murray after the Democrats came to power in 2006. Over the next three years, the Senate Appropriations Committee—which controls the federal government’s purse strings—used its annual report to criticize the chief scientist directly, a highly unusual gesture. “The Committee,” one of the reports reads, “is highly disappointed in the director of this program”—Murray—“and is troubled by his ideas for research and development that appear to have little or no value.” When Walters insisted on keeping him in the post in the face of such criticism, the Appropriations Committee responded by slashing funding for it. Murray’s office, which received nearly $47 million in 2003, got just $1 million this year.
The committee has made it clear that ONDCP’s science shop won’t see another dime until Murray is gone, at least from his current job. What happens after that is an open question. (Repeated calls to the ONDCP’s press office for an interview with Murray or a comment on his future prospects went unreturned.) While most drug-policy watchers assume Kerlikowske will kick him out of the chief scientist post as soon as he can, actually firing him is trickier. There are ways to encourage burrowed-in ideologues to quit, however—ONDCP veterans recall that George Bush Sr.’s drug czar, Bob Martinez, used to do it by assigning them to an office with no windows, phones, or computers.
“He’ll be there until somebody runs him off,” Ross Deck, the former ONDCP analyst, says of Murray. “What can they do with him? They can give him a job counting paperclips.”
Charles Homans is an editor of the Washington Monthly.
This is a sign that government is so powerful that it can`t even control itself, let alone control the country.
As long as rich drunks decide what is morally right or wrong, America will spiral down a chaotic abyss. This is the red tape created by greedy alcohol producers. If there were ever a time to force alcohol companies to pick a side now is the time. Which side are the drunks on? Sobriety or level playing field. All this talking, and debating and waiting is idiotic. While the drunks run around like children throwing broken glass all over the road while they drive drunk, enjoying their “freedom” to get buzzed legally. It is even legal to get drunk around children. So I ask again why waste time with the government path for another 72 freakin` years when all we have to do is get the rest of the country a.k.a “the drunks” to either live life sober in fear of the government or live free and take back our freedoms. And of course if the drunks say why should we care our drug is already legal hahahaha. Then tell them a shitstorm is coming riding on the tail of sobriety and the drunks are there main target. EITHER THE DRUNKS HELP US LEGALIZE MARIJUANA NOW!!!! Or Alcohol will be illegal in a few years. Its up to you drunk America. Sober or free
Looks like Jeff newman hit the nail on the head, good job.
I was watching cops of broward county fla. It made me sick over and over they harass people over small possession charges. Many with small amounts of cannabis. This is why our jails and legal system is in such a growth mode. YOU CANNOT DICTATED TO A GROWN HUMAN WHAT HE LIKES AND DOES NOT LIKE. THEN PUT THEM IN JAIL FOR MAKING A PERSONAL CHOICE.
I helped elect Obama but will withhold and further support . UNTIL
Take Cannabis legalization serious, a lot of Americans could then live in peace.
We stop the contract with hired hit squads (blackwater)
This bothers me (being an activist) that we have an above the law army run by a religious right wing fanatic. That states he is on a crusade to kill all non Christians worldwide. Why are we paying the Hitler like group millions ever year?? Racism is alive and well and paid for with our money???
Go to change.org and vote for ending our 122 million contract with blackwater.
and legalize cannabis and stop enslaving the back bone of America…
Please let your voice be heard vote today its easy…
Cherokee Fred Hussein Jesus
Polls show Obama’s favorable rating among his own constituents has slipped 39% ending the work week of 08/28/09 His overall favorability rating is now at 50% There appears to be a conflict between his ability to please those who voted him into office and his new lobbyists friends from the pharmaceutical industries.
#41 Colorado Acitivist/Mr. Rick Seymour: You went to Colorado, I was wondering. ‘A national legislative group that pays you to legislate political issues’. So a legislative activist for what cause(s)?
And I don’t quite understand the ‘If I can be of any assistance on MJ issues’ statement. MJ is no longer your first priority? (just asking)…….
How Can President Obama Regain His Political Footing?
I left my comment have you left yours?
Wow… did Mr. Murray really claim that men beat up their wives while stoned?
What a huge gulf there is between the reality of cannabis and the policymakers running the drug war. Absolutlely insane.
did my part too How Can President Obama Regain His Political Footing?
My comment: End Cannabis Prohibition
Someone at NORML needs to take on this twit Barrett Duke at the Baptist Press. He’s arguing for continued prohibition based on “moral standards” (read: ultra-biased, close-minded religious oppressiveness) and this article of his is astounding in its ignorance and gall. It makes me sick to my stomach.
I would have commented on it, but of course, they don’t allow that there, either.
Can someone at NORML contact this buffoon?
I agree with fuck it all.. (Fuckin Pot Nazis)
What difference does it make? I’ve given up on the current administration actually handling anything differently that it’s always been. Honestly I think there would have been a better shot at federal decriminalization if Clinton had won. It’s all in the state’s hands now.
This is Quick and simple if you want big change you better call or E-mail the president and your senators and congressperson’s and make them understand that we elected them and we will not be ignored,we voted for big change.Legalization of marijuana is big change we need to show support big time we are a “unrecognized” majority.Our elected official’s seem to hear only the corporate media and lobbyists we are invisible.
put those drug war losers onto something more sensible-going after real criminals or border patrol -keeping mexicans in mexico where they belong!!!!!!!!!!!!
The war on marijuana is so wasteful and waste of tax payers money just as war on alcohol was -seed carried onto someone’s properties by animals birds,weather and the misidentification of plants for marijuana has police busting down the now victims doors -tearing up house and property-cutting locks-slicing clearly marked meat packages-valuables come up missing-victim and victim’s family and friends are tormented with helicopters constantly hovering over their houses-place of employment being called by police causing loss of employment before any report is wrote up -police running their mouths saying the victim is a druggie and a drug ring leader even when the victims have passed the 9 layer panel hair tests.They cause so much hardship,heartache,sadness and the list goes on what the victims feel and go through.This happens in douglas county and surrounding counties in missouri.It is a war on the good American people.GOD created this beautiful plant to grow along side all other plants and to be used as intented by everyone and not just those greedy criminal and law thugs that are making everyone else miserable!!!!!!!!!!
the war on drugs what has it solved’ It has destroyed and enslaved us it has sent your daughters in to the hands of pimps It has caused doctors to hate there own people and wish them dead’ The very people who are supposed to be healers of mankind ‘ None of us are perfect not one’ here walking on earth now and don’t you think the real one god has held his hand for a reason? So we can change or a hope to because once he does start playing again it might not be that fun Because I don’t think where playing much where judging and killing teaching to in movies- and raping -hurting-using-lying-stealing-And a loving god does not play with people like that he will not allow us to ether and the day is coming I see it everywhere so guard what is good and stop fighting it doesn’t bring a thing to fun.Planex x is comming and it will destroy us all your bunkers will not save you’ Your underwater caves will not make you safe ‘ A monster is comming and if you do not bring fun back I can/’\not even save you’
Fiscal Year 2013 budget. See page 13, Table 1