On Tuesday, the White House’s official YouTube account released a video of President Obama sitting down with David Simon, the creator of The Wire, which Obama (correctly) identifies as “one of the greatest pieces of art in the past couple of decades.”
Unlike most interviews the president has participated in during his last seven years in office, Obama wasn’t the interview’s subject. Instead, he was the one asking the questions while doing a halfway decent job on not nerding out too hard on Simon, who is easily the greatest television writer of his generation.
Obama asked Simon about how his experiences covering the inequities of the drug war as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun informed his work on the show and then elaborated on how the lessons of the show informed public policy. For his part, Simon seemed to be not only explaining how the war on drugs had failed, but also urging the president, someone who has more power than virtually anyone to do something about it, to drastically change course.
“Here’s the good news,” Obama replied, “There’s an increasing realization on the left, and also on the right, politically, that what we’re doing is counter-productive. Either from the libertarian perspective, the way we treat non-violent drug crimes is problematic. And from a fiscal perspective, it’s breaking the bank. You end up spending so much on prison than these kids being in school or going to college…We’re all responsible for finding a solution for this.”
Obama recounted how he started talk to Attorney General Eric Holder about this issue when he first got into office. He noted that they worked to change how they talked to U.S. attorneys about not assuming they’re doing the best possible job for their communities by automatically charging every suspected drug criminal they see with the maximum amount of time behind bars.
If it seems like the president talked more during the 12-minute segment than that average interviewer, that’s because he did. Old habits die hard.
The president’s favorite character from The Wire? Omar. This is correct, although we would have also accepted Brother Mouzone
Photo by Chuck Kennedy/Wikimedia Commons