Pubdate: Sat, 12 May 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Times
Author: Edwin Chen, Times Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Bush, George)


Narcotics: Introducing New Drug Czar, President Calls For 'Unwavering
Commitment' To Stem Demand In The Country.

WASHINGTON--President Bush ordered a major shift of emphasis in the
war on drugs Thursday, vowing an "unprecedented" and "unwavering
commitment" to cut drug demand within the United States.

Bush's determination to target domestic consumption represents a new
strategy--along with treatment and interdiction--in what he called "an
all-out effort to reduce drug use in America."

"The only human and compassionate response to drug use is a moral
refusal to accept it," he said.

The president announced the shift in a Rose Garden ceremony while
introducing the new director of the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy, John P. Walters, a conservative protege of former
drug czar William J. Bennett who believes street-level drug dealers
should be incarcerated.

"We must do, and we will do, a better job," Bush said.

During his remarks, the president also declared his unequivocal
opposition to the legalization of drugs, which he said would lead to
"social catastrophe."

Bush's initiative was hailed by Joseph A. Califano, a longtime
Democratic activist and now head of the Center on Addiction and
Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York.

"We've waited a long time to have somebody say that," he said,
referring to Bush's focus on the demand side of the drug war.

"What we've got to do is stop looking out the window and start looking
in a mirror," added Califano, who was secretary of Health, Education
and Welfare under former President Carter.

The message of the day at the White House evoked unusually personal
overtones--in part because of Bush's own admitted history of excessive
alcohol consumption and the fact that one of his daughters, Jenna, 19,
two weeks ago was cited in Austin, Texas, on a charge of alcohol
possession (beer) by a minor in a popular East Sixth Street bar about
1:30 a.m.

At his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was
asked if the president had spoken to Jenna Bush about drinking. He
declined to answer, citing a desire by the Bush family for privacy
concerning issues involving their twin daughters.

As for Bush himself, Fleischer did not rule out the possibility that
the president may talk--as he did during last year's campaign--about
his former drinking problems. Bush says he went cold turkey in 1986.

"From his own personal experience, he will tell you that one of the
ways he was able to stop drinking overnight was because of the power
of faith. He does believe that that can be a very helpful and
constructive way to help people who are going through internal issues
that require strong discipline and strong faith," Fleischer said.

The spokesman also revealed that all 650 or so highest-ranking White
House staffers were tested for drugs as a condition of employment,
including Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who were the first two
to undergo the tests.

Since that first week of the Bush administration, 127 White House
staffers have been subjected to a random testing program that remains
ongoing, he said.

Interdiction has long been a preferred approach among Republicans,
including former President Bush, in the fight against drugs. And while
former First Lady Nancy Reagan promoted a "Just Say No" campaign, the
current president is backing his initiative with not only tough
rhetoric but also additional funding.

"So we'll continue to do the best we can to interdict supplies," Bush
said while touring a northern Virginia community center. "But the best
ways to affect supply is to reduce the demand for drugs."

Bush's budget contains a $1.1-billion increase in total spending on
the federal drug control effort, to more than $19 billion.

The president said Walters, like his predecessor in the Clinton
administration, will enjoy Cabinet-level status.

"A successful anti-drug effort depends on a thoughtful and integrated
approach," Bush said, adding that Walters "understands this as well as
anybody in America."

While stressing the importance of curbing domestic drug consumption,
the president also vowed to "continue to work with nations to
eradicate drugs at their source--and enforce our borders to stop the
flow of drugs into America."

Bush said he intends to rally parents to join the cause by creating "a
parent drug corps, which will provide needed support to educate and
train parents in effective drug prevention." He is seeking $25 million
over five years for such a corps.

In addition, Bush said he intends to increase funding for drug-free
community programs and drug-free workplace programs. His budget would
double funding for local anti-drug coalitions, providing up to $350
million over five years.

The president also ordered top administration officials to conduct
thorough surveys of such programs around the country.

For instance, Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of Health and Human
Services, is to conduct a state-by-state inventory of treatment needs
and capacity and recommend ways to close what Bush called a "gap" in
the treatment of addicts.

Figures compiled by experts show that about one-third of the estimated
15 million drug users in this country are considered "hard-core" users
who consume two-thirds of all drugs, and more than half of them
receive no treatment.

The president said he will provide $1.6 billion over the next five
years to enhance treatment efforts.

Bush also is directing Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft to devise "a
comprehensive plan within 120 days to ensure our federal prisoners are
drug-free" and to expand drug testing for probationers and parolees as
well as to strengthen drug courts around the country.

"We know that inmates receiving drug treatment are 73% less likely to
be rearrested and 44% less likely to use drugs than those who receive
no treatment at all," Bush said.

He also noted that he plans to "significantly increase" funding for
the National Institute on Drug Abuse (by $126 million) and the
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (by $41.5 million).

Bush's drug program roll-out was not without critics,

Timothy Lynch, head of a project on criminal justice at the
libertarian-minded Cato Institute and author of a book on drug policy,
said: "Walters seems undeterred by the rampant corruption in Latin
America. He believes that more taxpayer dollars will somehow turn the
situation around. The trouble with that strategy is that it flies in
the face of experience."

In opposing drug legalization, Bush painted a vivid portrait of the
consequences of such action: "'Drug use and addiction would soar," he
said. "Hospitals would be filled with many more drug emergency cases.
Child abuse would increase. The cost of treatment and social welfare
would rise. There would be more drug-related accidents at work and on
the road. And legalizing drugs would completely undermine the message
that drug use is wrong."

Fleischer later told reporters that Bush also opposes the use of
marijuana for medical purposes.

"There are other effective ways, the president believes, to help
people who suffer illnesses so they can be relieved of the pain and
the symptoms that they're going through.

"There are other ingredients that can be delivered outside of a
marijuana cigarette, for example, to help people who need help and who
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager