Pubdate: Wed, 18 Aug 1999
Date: 08/18/1999
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Tom O'Connell, M.D.

Editor -- Although raising valid questions about the furor surrounding
possible prior cocaine use by Gov. George W. Bush, your August 12
editorial doesn't carry them to a logical conclusion. America has --
as a matter of ardently pursued policy -- not only relentlessly
demonized all drug use, we've declared mere possession of ``illicit
drugs'' felony criminal behavior. There is no longer any innocent drug
experimentation; by that standard, the New York Daily News question to
the candidates becomes reasonable.

``Has it really come to this in American politics?

Are voters ready to disqualify every Baby Boomer politician who once
experimented with drugs?'' The short and completely accurate answer to
your question is ``Yes.'' Clinton implied it in 1992 with his ``never
inhaled'' answer.

Your suggestion of how Bush should answer it today is fatuous;
everyone assumes he's the only one of the GOP hopefuls with undeniable
cocaine use in the background. He has to stonewall, at least until the
field has been narrowed. No matter how he deals with it, the issue
will have the power to wound his candidacy -- even fatally.

The better rhetorical question is how valid is a public policy that
makes approximately 25 million Americans guilty of a felony, plus an
additional 55 million or so, presumably including Bush Jr., guilty of
one or more in their past? A delicious irony is that the candidate, an
ardent supporter of that policy, is hoisted on his own petard.

San Mateo