February 15, 1998 in Nation/World

Clinton, Gingrich Duel Over Drug Policy President Says Plan Has Muscle, House Speaker Says It’s Weak

Donna Abu-Nasr Associated Press
 

President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich sparred over drug policy in separate radio addresses Saturday, the president laying out plans to reduce illegal drug use by 50 percent in the next decade, the speaker ridiculing the proposal as a “hodgepodge of half-steps and half-truths.”

Gingrich said he will press a resolution in the House urging Clinton and White House drug policy chief Barry McCaffrey to withdraw the plan, which called “the definition of failure.”

“In the Civil War it took just four years to save the Union and abolish slavery,” Gingrich scoffed.

In his weekly radio address, the president said although the number of Americans using drugs has fallen by 50 percent since 1979, it should be cut in half again over the next decade.

Before outlining his proposal, Clinton stressed that the fight against drugs “must be waged and won at kitchen tables all across America.”

“Even the world’s most thorough anti-drug strategy won’t ever do the job unless all of us pass on the same clear and simple message to our children: Drugs are wrong, drugs are dangerous, and drugs can kill you,” Clinton said.

His plan, portions of which already were disclosed by McCaffrey, includes expanded prevention education, employment of an additional 1,000 Border Patrol officers and 100 Drug Enforcement Administration agents, completion of the hiring of 100,000 new community police officers and expanded drug testing and treatment among prisoners and parolees.

In a follow-up news conference, McCaffrey said the government alone cannot solve the national drug problem. “We look forward to working with the Congress, state and local government and the private sector to forge a bipartisan and truly national response to the drug problem,” he said.

As he spoke, however, Gingrich, R-Ga., speaking in the GOP’s weekly radio address, accused the president of neglecting the narcotics issue for five years, and allowing drug use among teenagers to rise by 70 percent over that period.

He said World War II was won four years after the United States joined the Allied cause, and yet Clinton’s new drug-fighting schedule prescribes more than twice that long.

“This president would have us believe that with all of the resources, ingenuity, dedication and passion of the American people, we can’t even get halfway to victory in the war on drugs until the year 2007 - nine full years from now,” the speaker said. “That is not success. That is the definition of failure. … We cannot accept this administration’s proposed timetable for defeat.”

“I insist that the president and his drug czar (McCaffrey) withdraw their so-called drug plan and its hodgepodge of half-steps and half-truths and bring us back a real plan to tackle the drug crisis,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said the Republican-run Congress would pass legislation that includes:

Helping communities build anti-drug coalitions.

Giving parents anti-drug information.

Providing market incentives so businesses will create drug-free workplaces.

Establishing a national clearinghouse for anti-drug information.

The administration’s drug-fighting plan is to be funded through a $17.1 billion drug-control budget request for next year, a 6.8 percent increase.

About $195 million of the initiative is earmarked for an anti-drug media campaign aimed at children. An additional $146 million would go for programs to curb underage smoking, while $50 million would be set aside to pay for 1,300 counselors at middle schools.

Other proposed spending includes:

$85 million for the prison drug treatment programs.

A $75.4 million increase in the Defense Department’s budget for drug-fighting in the Caribbean, Mexico and South America.

$49 million for the National Institutes of Health to expand research on drug and underage alcohol use.


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