President Obama Interviews David Simon About ‘The Wire’, Drug Policy & the True Origins of Omar
Must be nice when the most powerful man in the world wants to interview you.
Here's a 12-minute clip of President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief himself, sitting down at the White House with David Simon, creator of multiple acclaimed television programs over the last 20-plus years, perhaps none more beloved than The Wire. Even though the show never got Sopranos-level ratings, its five-season run has only grown in stature and popularity since it last aired in 2008.
Whether or not you think that The Wire is the best show of all time (which it is), it's still quite a scene to watch these two men discuss the intricacies of policing drug-riddled urban neighborhoods, the effect of narcotics on the surrounding communities, and how law-enforcement methods have changed over the years. The way the American legal system handles drug offenders does seem to be changing for the better -- at least in some places, and probably still a bit more slowly than it should -- and it's possible that pop-culture landmarks like The Wire may be having some influence there.
In case you weren't aware, Omar Little, who was many people's favorite character on the show (including Obama), was based on a real guy, whom Simon discusses:
The man who was the model for the character Omar in 'The Wire' was a real guy named Donnie Andrews. I never thought I'd be saying his name in the White House. He's a guy who lived a life on the street, he spent years robbing drug dealers, he lived hard. And eventually he caught a 17-year bit, and he deserved it. ... He wasn't caught [by police]— he actually went in on conscience because it finally got to him. ... He came out 17 years later, and all he wanted to do was to get back to West Baltimore.
Simon goes on to explain how a guy like Donnie Andrews is emblematic of many of the problems of our current system of over-incarceration, particularly how hard it is for someone who's done time to reenter society in a positive, meaningful way -- even if the offense they went away for was a non-violent one. At one point, Obama says, "There's an increasing realization on the left but also on the right, politically, that what we're doing is counterproductive."