Leadership and Transparency: Obama’s Reddit Fail on Pot Legalization


One of the most interesting examples of an
engaged leader is when President Obama decided to go onto Reddit as part of his presidential
campaign in 2012. And he held what is called an ask me anything session. So they announced
he was going to be on there and anybody could ask any question of Obama. What a great opportunity,
right? And so he studiously sat there and responded to people and answered their questions.
Except he didn’t. The most popular and most frequently asked question of Obama was what
do you think of the legalization of marijuana? And it was very clear, so evident that Obama
wanted to have nothing to do with that topic. He just studiously kept ignoring that topic
and answering all the other questions that were coming up. So it’s interesting that
you can ask me anything but I may not necessarily answer you. In many ways this was considered a very successful
example of an engaged leader. Somebody who was willing to come on to Reddit and be able
to answer all the questions that people were going to ask. But in reality that relationship
was a bit tarnished for the people who were on that session because they quickly realized
he’s not willing to truly engage in the spirit of this. He was going to answer only
the questions that he wanted to. If they knew anything about the Reddi audience they would
have known that would have been the very top question that somebody was going to ask. So as a leader when you’re in those situations,
when you’re not ready, a better way to deal with that is to be very honest. I’m not
prepared today to answer those questions. And if Obama had just said I hear all of you
asking about the legalization of marijuana. I’m not ready to answer that question today
and these are the reasons why. Clearly it’s important to some people and we will have
a position on that at some point in the future. So as a leader be clear, you set expectations
but what you will engage on. You may have it worked out in your mind it’s really important
to tell the people who are really following you as a leader to tell them what can they
expect in that engagement. How far will you go in that engagement to set those expectations
early on so that they’re not disappointed.

Maurice Vega

72 Responses

  1. He is a politician, nothing else to explain. Your mom can answer you everything, the President can not.

  2. Heres the link http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/z1c9z/i_am_barack_obama_president_of_the_united_states/

  3. Eh, I think she's misrepresenting the AMA a bit. It only lasted an hour, he only answered ten questions, so it's not like there were swathes of marijuana questions and he carefully dodged them all.

  4. "The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this."
    -Albert Einstein

  5. When the number one question in the us is pot legalization you know that america is going down the shiter. I think Obama was right not to answer such stupid questions.

  6. I read through that AMA. There is no way Obama sat there and answered those questions. It had to have been his staffers/team.

  7. Summing up the video.

    Obama apparently had an "ask me anything" reddit page for his 2012 campaign. The speaker has complaints about his disreguard of answering questions about legalizing weed. She goes on to say what he should have done, but the point she is getting at is that by not acknowledging the weed questions he is not satifying people.

    What she fails to realize is this is politics, luckily it's not the UK but the US. We get a lot of exposure to our politician. You have to understand humans judge people, and when you are a politician you can't be judged negatively, in this case by saying "I'm not prepared today to answer those questions." expecially, on the internet.

  8. You are not a political leader if you set parameters on questionss/ selectively answer questions, you're a tyrant with something to hide. The only people whoc can "ask him anything" are the people at his 50k a plate fund raisers and his Wall St. buddies.

  9. he is not a leader, a President has often and increasingly is a cog to a factory function. A leader is autonomous, hence why he is followed

  10. this video is very embarrassing for bigthink. like obama (e. g. one of his public writers) has the time to answer every of the 10k questions in 60 min. – and especially those destined for shitstorming… don't be ridiculous.

  11. Still better than most other leaders, at least he tried!
    (Obama is a cool dude, i don't care what witchhunting media and republicans say)

  12. She's sculpting the AMA to suit her argument.

    Marijuana was mentioned a couple of times but the community weren't upset when Obama didn't respond, in fact it was one of the least popular questions. There was no failure in the way Obama and his team handled the situation, in fact the AMA went down very well. Another one of the poor quality videos we've been seeing from BigThink recently…

    AMA Link: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/z1c9z/i_am_barack_obama_president_of_the_united_states/?sort=top

  13. Obama, if you don't legalize pot before you leave office, no one will ever ever respect you again.
    On the bright side, if you don't, the guy who says he will will be elected hands down.

  14. I'm not interested in asking another person for permission to engage in a perfectly moral act especially the sociopaths that comprise government.

  15. What the hell is the obsession with drugs? I can see pot turning into the same situation you now have with guns: everyone wants one and nobody is responsible enough to have one!

  16. He doesn't want to be the first black president who also legalized weed, he doesn't want being pro drugs to be part of his legacy (even tho there are pictures of him smoking it but whatever)

  17. Obama was asked his opinion about the legalization of marijuana on a Vice interview not to long ago what I got out of it was that if all the people who wanted marijuana legalized VOTED then it would have been legalized.

  18. Just don't ask him about that secret trade deal that's going to cost America hundreds of thousands of jobs.  Nah.. don't ask about that.  Ask about weed.

  19. Excellent critique of Obama's AMA session. Great leader? Obviously not. Politician? Obviously. Great politician? Obviously not.

  20. The whole ban is a failure, unless your intent is to somehow make money off it, in which case all is well and good.

  21. Was big think always about political messages? What happened to the things that were supposed to make you think about science, life, the world, the universe, and the like?

  22. Charlene Li I think your analysis is spot on, it will be interesting to see how things play out this go around.

     The excuses that we use to justify an insular leadership are eroding.  What technology allows us is an alternative approach to government. We have not seen the full effect of social media, but in the next few elections cycles I expect some major changes in this and other regards. Obama may be tech savvy but he is also cowtowing to the status quo because that is how you currently get elected.  Only when we the people take responsibility for educating ourselves about the issues, and develop the nuanced views necessary for effective governmental decision making will things change.  The onus is on all of us, to learn to deal with the truth, and not stand in righteous indignation of the good bad and indifferent choices that have to be made in government.

  23. hahah what are you gonna do lady force obama to answer shit that you wanna hear. I don't even like the guy but I have enough respect for another human to realize that he doesn't have to answer shit! He doesn't even have to go on reddit.The fact that Big Think brings people on youtube like this lady amazes me. She offered no insight, no solution, and just restated a sequence of events on reddit that any human who speaks English could've done. I just hope to god this lady isn't making money or becoming famous for complete crap like this being put out on the internet.

  24. Drugs can not even be kept out of prisons. The war on drugs is a big fail.  What ever war is declared on becomes bigger. Take you your pick poverty,  drugs, the middle east.

  25. I could think of loads of questions he wouldn't want to answer… What do you think of the Logan Act? would probably be the showstopper.

  26. That's because Obama is a pick and chooser person. Not trying to judge, but that's how he presents himself when everything is on the table, yet he only picks up what he wants to deal or work with.

  27. I think reddit users – and people in general – have a clear understanding of AMA. AskMeAnything does not mean IWillAnswerAnything. Surely he could have handled it better with a policitican's standard non-answer answer, which would have surely drawn as much – if not more – negative attention. Those who were bothered by the non-snwer would be just as bothered by a politician's non-answer; so it was a lose-lose, and all-in-all the AMA was a tremendous success.

  28. Shutt up! Do you know how childish you sound right now, there are anti-marajuana and pro-marajuana people in the USA, the liberal and conservative people, and their the people who dont get involve with politics and what rather have a conservative argument, like me. Do you know how many people who bash him and his title of president for an opinion that is more relicuiled over.

  29. The government doesnt give a shit about marajuana it will anyway be a cause for disaster every time the matters brought up. As far as their concern the state can do what ever the hell it wants with the right price, decent argument, and a signiture. Just like minimum wage.

  30. Of all obama's failures, this is a minor annoyance.  His head is so far in the sand it will still be there long after a new president takes office.

  31. He also did not answer "What is in Area 51?", "Toilet paper – facing out, or facing in?", "Mr. President, when will the United States officially move to the metric system?" and this is just a few his, he also fail on that. right?!?
    The AmA lasted for 30 min and it was 2 YEARS AGO!!!!

  32. A lot of celebrities don't answer certain questions on AMA's. It'd be fair to add that information. It's honestly more of an advertisement than anything else. You have a new show, book, movie, or in this case presidency you want to promote, then you just go on there and answer some questions.

  33. Jesus.. Is this a "big think"? Its the core-business of politicians. You say one thing (a.m.a.) while knowing beforehand you're only gonna answer shit that prolongates your political career. Its foolish to take politicians for their word.

  34. Kinda feel bad for Obama. I'm sure he would have loved to say that Cannabis should be legalized and regulated especially for medical use, but then he wouldn't have been re-elected. The guy's policies are right wing as fuck and still gets called a communist, he can't win.

  35. its a joke. hemp as a plant could help or even prevent global warming and help with agriculture around the world too. 1001 uses. they know it's a game changer. that's why it was legalized in the 30s. too much money in the lumber business making paper to let it all fail to something like a so called drug like cannabis. sad world we live in when you can get access to drugs in the system that pack your organs in and we can't get access to something that's less harmful than aspirin. I actually think they want us to die faster.

  36. 1. really pointless, as the session wasn't "I'll Answer Anything",
    2. If he did answer that, people would look down on him for being in an presidential campaign and not having his views set already

  37. This video should of posted in 2012 when it happened, he has a opinion on it now! Come on "Big Think" do a little research before you start Obama bashing!

  38. This is nonsense. If Obama did what she said and wrote a vague answer about not being ready to answer the question then he would've been slaughtered by downvotes. The idea that ignoring a question is worse than dodging it is idiotic and she clearly doesn't understand reddit.

  39. It was annoying he did not answer it but I would not give him a hard time about it. Its a lot "safer" for politicians to avoid a question then answer with "I don't know" or "I'm not ready to answer that question" because often people who don't know what they are talking about (fox news) will be like "this just in Obama does not know what pot is" or something else dumb.

  40. The manner in which he dismisses an examination of the possible positive economic effects that legalization would bring about is not only demonstrative of a general ignorance of the topic, but is also downright disturbing.

  41. He didn't just not answer. He mocked the questioners in a foolish way by laughing and stating, paraphrasing, "I think this reveals the type of people online," when in fact the questioners were a fair approximation of the general population, not some fringe group. He came off as tone deaf and callous to those who care about this issue and have been adversely affected by prohibition.

  42. You can be sure his loyalties lye with the prison and pharma industry rather than the medical dispensaries. What a fucking shill.

  43. I once saw Obama him give a twenty-minute answer to a, "Yes, or no?" question; his answer did not, at any point, include, "Yes," or, "No."  Thus far, I have never seen him answer such a question in any other way.

  44. Obama better watch it, or He's liable to go down in history as one great Republican…..&, I voted for Him twice….Good thing He was running against Nazi Frogmen…..

  45. I've been thinking about this issue. I think Obama has done Cannabis legalization the greatest favor one could ever do. That's getting republicans on the side of legalization if not only for the reason that Obama opposed it. He did the double fake-out. Now that it's a matter of State rights vs Federal the "morality" issue has died. Good riddance.
    Full across the board legalization would have been stamped out if started to quickly. Soon, soon after all look at what Texas is doing.

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