Just Say No to the Drug Czar
Isikoff, Michael, Newsweek
Byline: Michael Isikoff
These have been tough times for White House drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske. After spending much of his first year in office crafting a new anti-drug strategy, he had hoped to unveil it two months ago with President Obama. But Kerlikowske couldn't get on Obama's schedule. When he pressed, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel directed him to Vice President Joe Biden, say two Kerlikowske advisers who asked not to be identified talking about an internal matter. But after agreeing to a joint announcement, Biden had to cancel at the last minute when the health-care bill landed on the president's desk. Appearing before a House subcommittee recently, Kerlikowske got hammered for not having yet produced the drug-control strategy that his office was charged with releasing by last Feb. 1.
"There were a huge number of issues going on," Kerlikowske says about the rollout delays. But, he tells NEWSWEEK, he's been assured that White House aides are "working on the president's schedule," and he expects an event with Obama in the next two weeks. ("It's a priority, but there are a lot of priorities around here," says a senior administration official, who asked not to be identified speaking candidly.) Will the unveiling be more than just a photo op? Kerlikowske vowed last year to take drug policy in a new direction: he said he was banishing the phrase "war on drugs," and he pledged more emphasis on treatment and prevention. But he was given little clout to make that happen. …