That Our Program Is Worthless Is NOT What's Important Here …
Whether the ONDCP's anti-drug media campaign actually works apparently isn't what concerns the White House. What's more important is who writes about the failed ad campaign.
By Jordan Smith,
2:21PM, Thu. Feb. 8, 2007
According to The Politico (a new, Washington, D.C.-based rag covering national politics), the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy has gotten its knickers in a twist over Politico reporter Ryan Grim’s coverage of the office’s weakass, ineffective anti-drug media campaign. For a story published in today’s edition, Grim rehashes the program’s lame results – in part, that government studies have found that the anti-drug ads may actually increase the likelihood that teens will try smoking marijuana, for example – when reporting that Bush’s budget plan calls for a 31% increase in funding for the ONDCP ad project, which would raise its budget to $130 million over the next year.
Now, it's not as though the embarrassing failures of the ad campaign are new – this is, after all, the same program that has added all that sort of this-is-your-brain-on-drugs silliness to the cultural landscape and proffered the ridiculous assertion that casual pot smokers fund terrorists in the Middle East.
Still, ONDCP spokesman Tom Riley apparently got all shrill and huffy after Grim called him on Feb. 6, seeking comment for his story. Instead of returning Grim’s call, Riley rang up The Politico’s senior publisher and editor, Martin Tolchin, to “point out” that before joining the rag Grim had worked at drug-law reform group the Marijuana Policy Project – a fact Riley threatened to report to Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz as a “conflict of interest.” Of course, Grim’s employment history was not news to Tolchin – in fact, The Politico notes in an aside to Grim’s story that Grim worked for the MPP is included in his online P-staff bio.
Properly schooled, the ONDCP’s Riley still didn’t return Grim’s call for comment. Maybe this isn’t terribly surprising – after all, what exactly can the ONDCP say in defense of the ad campaign? Seriously, it’s pretty hard to find any positives there, over the last decade, during which time the feds have pumped nearly $1.4 billion in taxpayer funds to pay for the damn program. Not only has the Government Accountability Office given the whole media campaign a decided thumbs-down, but a five-year study commissioned by the ONDCP questioned the efficacy of the program – a study that, tellingly, the White House suppressed for more than a year before making the results public.