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One of the main reasons I supported Barack Obama is because we share the same favorite TV show, HBO's The Wire. The Wire is probably the most realistic show on television and the only show that deals intelligently with several problems facing the USA, including, drugs, violence, education and corrupt politics. What are the lessons Obama has learned from watching The Wire, a show which paints a bleak picture of the decaying city of Baltimore?

One of the main reasons I supported Barack Obama is because we share the same favorite TV show, HBO's The Wire. The Wire is probably the most realistic show on television and the only show that deals intelligently with several problems facing the USA, including, drugs, violence, education and corrupt politics. What are the lessons Obama has learned from watching The Wire, a show which paints a bleak picture of the decaying city of Baltimore?

Foreign Policy

If Obama was watching The Wire carefully, he could learn a lot about foreign policy from two of the major characters from the first three seasons, Avon Barksdale and his cohort, Stringer Bell. While Avon was always willing to go to war for territory and fight over pride, Stringer was more pragmatic, realizing that war was bad for business. Like Obama, Stringer was willing to negotiate with his enemies, including Proposition Joe and Marlo Stansfield. Rather than war with other drug dealers over territory, Stringer built an alliance of huslters from both the east and west side to share a common package and economic interest.

Obama could take Stringer's role and avoid wars unless they are absolutely necessary, negotiate with countries previously hostile to the US and build alliances with other countries. He should not however be shady and conniving, the characteristics which led to Stringer's death.


Addiction and distribution of drugs have played a big role in all 5 seasons of The Wire. If anything is clear from The Wire, it is that the War on Drugs is a failed war, that only keeps the cycle of addiction, poverty and violence going. For many, the War on Drugs, is a war on black neighborhoods. In the Wire, we see that incarceration of drug dealers has little effect, as there always is a new one to take his place. Obama could learn a lot about how to deal with drugs from Bunny Colvin's Hamsterdamn experiment. Rather than brutality and incarceration, treatment and counseling were used in an area where drug dealers were free to sell drugs. With drugs less of a priority, police were able to stop violent crime, burglaries and rape.

If Obama was paying attention to Season 3, he will put more money into treatment, and less emphasis on incarceration. While the American War on Drugs has focused primarily on the black community, millions of white Americans have become addicted to prescription pills and methamphetamine. While surveys have shown that white people use drugs at the same rate of black people, blacks are incarcerated five times as much for drug crimes.


Season 4 of The Wire highlighted the educational crisis in urban areas. Through the eyes of four poor black children and a white teacher. In Season 4 we see the failure of No Child Left behind, as teachers are forced to teach to tests rather than using their own skills and knowledge. We also see the apathetic teachers and the overcrowded classrooms and the social problems that lead to dysfunctional students.

Season 4 also makes it clear that students in urban areas who aren't involved in the educational process get educated on the street to become drug dealers. John McCain called education the Civil Rights Movement of the 21st century, probably the ony thing he said during the campaign that I agreed with. Education in urban areas is not a black problem but an American problem, a problem all Americans must unite to solve.


Clearly Obama paid close attention to Mayor Tommy Carcetti's campaign against Mayor Royce. Both Obama and Carcetti were good looking, with excellent debate and oratory skills. Just like Tommy Carcetti woke up white in a city that wasn't, Barack Obama woke up black in a county that wasn't. Carcetti managed to overcome his race problem by splitting the black vote between Royce and Gray just like Obama managed to split some of the white vote between Edwards and Clinton in the primary. Carcetti kept a cool head while his opponents tried to connect him to unsavory characters and reached out to people outside of his base to develop a strong coalition.

Obama must also learn from Tommy Carcetti's brief term as Mayor. Carcetti found himself in a budget deficit as Mayor and unable to complete his campaign promises. He also realized that he would have to eat "bowls of shit" from several interest groups in Baltimore. Obama must also confront this problem in dealing with the military, Wall street and religious leaders. With a failing economy, he must be both pragmatic and idealistic in his decisions on what to cut, what to keep and what to expand.

Obama must also be like Carcetti and build alliances with his opponents who did not support him in the election, such as Carcetti's alliance with council president, Narise Campbell. He must also crack down on corruption in politics, whether it be from the Clay Davis's of the world or the Tom Delays.

Originally posted to Barack Marley on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 08:11 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  First, make treatment legal. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The War on Drugs is $40 billion a year of Government waste.

    by ben masel on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 08:15:39 AM PST

    •  That's very interesting info- (0+ / 0-)

      it reminds me of a drug discussed by a researcher profiled in that HBO documentary series about addiction.

      She was working with a man who was a recovering crack addict- and part of her work was to monitor brain activity in the "reward" or "pleasure" part of the brain and the "override" or "stop" part of the brain while the subject viewed visual cues to his addiction- rapid images of crack pipes, the neighborhood where he used, etc. The "go" part of the brain was very active and the "stop" region virtually silent until he began treatment with a drug designed to curb cravings- and give the "stop" region more of a boost. The drug was also being used to treat recovering alcoholics- and I think it was something like naltrexone.

      I hadn't heard about the anti-craving treatment you've linked--thanks.  I've known- and been related to people with various substance abuse problems-- and it's so sad and destructive-- I hope progress continues to be made to help those who need it so much.

  •  um. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    One of the main reasons I supported Barack Obama is because we share the same favorite TV show, HBO's The Wire.

    It's hard to take anything that comes after that seriously.

    "Conservatism is everyone you never wanted to grow up to be." -Paul Waldman

    by Kaity on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 08:20:53 AM PST

    •  And I suppose you hate Battlestar Gallactica, too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Obama could learn a few thinks from Commander Adama.

      Oh, and I'm talking about the Lorne Greene Commander Adama.

      Seriously, though, The Wire provides a great dramatization of some important problems and issues.  I think the diarist has a point.

  •  first off (5+ / 0-)

    the wire is the best TV show ever made. period.

    second, i like what you did with this diary and hopefully there are enough fans of the show on DK to get what you're getting at here.

  •  Nice diary. I too find The Wire excellent TV and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ashy Larry, The Red Pen, Zulia

    see the parallels to the incoming Obama Administration.

    "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Victor Hugo

    by lordcopper on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 08:24:03 AM PST

  •  The was something special about the subjects (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ashy Larry, BYw

    of that show--treating those people as if they were deserving of attention that really got to me.  It was my favorite show. too.  Watching The Wire you saw all these interrelated groups of people --gang members, their children, their schools - the police, their various motives, failures and successes within a political and legal system that doesn't  live up to the promise of helping those within that community.  It seemed probably as clear a view of it all  as  anyone who's not living in the middle of it could see it.  

    The show was complex- and I can see someone like Obama being attracted to it's depth - the suffering and frustration it portrayed- and being the kind of leader who would want to be part of solution for Americans living lives like those of the people in the Wire.

    Three cheers for challenging and original tv like The Wire- and for a fan who's been elected president.  

  •  Easily the "show of the decade" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ashy Larry, JaStewrt, BYw, Zulia

    It is already sorely missed...really the only show that truly depicted American urban life in 2008 (or maybe ever).

    "...and I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords." --Kent Brockman

    by dhshoops on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 08:44:29 AM PST

  •  But of course (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stephdray, BYw, Zulia

    the whole point about Stringer Bell was that his attempt to rise above gangsterism was also his downfall.  First,  his endeavor to go legit ended with him being conned.  Then his betrayal of the Barksdale family that allowed him to form the co-op got him killed.  

  •  I'd never heard of that show (0+ / 0-)

    Of course, I don't have HBO.  I'm surprised how many people pay the extra fee for it.

  •  Love the wire and Carccetti (0+ / 0-)

    But it was pretty clear to me that he made the selfish choice when it came to not sucking up to the Governor to get the funding he needed for Baltimore. :P

    Stephanie Dray
    of Jousting for Justice, a lefty blog with a Maryland tilt.

    by stephdray on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 09:05:12 AM PST

  •  The Wire was amazing TV (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    David Simon commented (during a special feature which was released with the final Season's DVD collection) that after leading through this journey of exploring why drug policy doesn't work, why electoral politics doesn't fix the problem, the ways in which most government agencies are parochial in their approach to their tasks, why education is so hard to fix, how broken families contribute to the cycle of poverty, etc... that we the audience should be asking why we put up with this, why we are not outraged, why is the media (print in this case) such a non-factor in tackling the sicknesses in our communities.

    The Wire brilliantly pointed out how systemic problems  self perpetuate, and how it usually takes more than a few high minded idealists to reform the rot of the tyranny of low expectations.

    despair is the worst sin

    by jakarta on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 09:05:59 AM PST

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