Obama’s ‘roof hits’: New details, old story

Barry Obama. ()
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Have you seen the new thing about Barack Obama's weed-smoking in high school? If not, you will.

Washington Post associate editor and author David Maraniss talked to the president's friends from high school and found that Obama had a habit of "intercepting" the joint as it went around, and also that he was a great proponent of "roof hits," inhaled from the ceiling of a smoke-filled car when the actual pot was all gone.

It's not news that Obama smoked pot, notwithstanding the vivid details about his Choom Gang in Maraniss' new book, The Story, and the characteristically sharey presentation of some of those excerpted details by Buzzfeed. (Go look, in the unlikely event that you haven't already.)

Obama wrote about his pot use in his own memoir, and David Remnick wrote a little bit about the Choom Gang in his Obama biography. The fact that Obama talked about it so openly was itself a topic of extensive discussion when he ran for president. Etc.

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Do any of the new details matter, politically? Is this important, say, compared to the recent revelation from another Washington Post writer that Mitt Romney, when he was in high school, bullied a gay student? (That question is already being asked by people who very much want the answer to be "yes.")

I don't know. It's like what Jason Horowitz, the author of that Romney story (an old colleague of mine, whose current editor is David Maraniss), said when he was asked about the debate over whether Romney deserved a pass for something he did when he was so young: "I think that's a fine debate to have. But I also think it's good to have something to debate about, and the material for people to make their decisions upon."

Of course one difference between the stories about how Obama got high in high school and how Romney gave an effeminate student a forced haircut is that the Obama-pot narrative is old, and the Romney-bullying narrative, as far as anyone who didn't go to school with him was concerned, is new.

Which brings to mind what another smart person said recently, in a slightly different context.

Responding to news of a proposal by a pro-Romney super PAC to run an ad campaign focusing on Obama's ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, conservative operative Rick Wilson said it never would have worked. It wasn't because the material wasn't compelling—Wilson himself had crafted a Wright-themed air attack on Obama in 2008. But the relationship, much like Obama's old affinity for pot, was already "baked in the cake."