Last Saturday (2/14) at noon, President Clinton used his weekly radio address to outline this year's "Drug Strategy." The strategy called for a 6.8% increase in federal spending on the Drug War, and called for greater accountability among the federal agencies charged with carrying out various aspects of the War. The plan also listed as its goal a 50% reduction in both the use and the supply of drugs in America over a period of ten years. Within the hour, however, Newt Gingrich, who delivered the GOP response to the plan, was calling for the plan's withdrawal and announcing his plans to introduce a "tougher" and more comprehensive GOP legislative initiative on the Drug War.
"Once America got involved, it took our country just four years to win the Second World War -- the greatest military effort the world has ever seen. In the Civil War, it took just four years to save the Union and abolish slavery" Gingrich said in his address. "But this President would have us believe that with all 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. That is not a success. That is the definition of failure."
Drug Czar Barry McCaffey called Gingrich's remarks 'irresponsible'. "I'm sympathetic to partisan wrangling and know that Newt Gingrich is looking for issues for the midterm election, but that's not what I signed up to do", McCaffrey told the Associated Press. "I'm afraid he's doing a disservice to a comprehensive plan."
Gingrich went on to vow that he would sponsor a resolution to put the House on record as demanding that the administration withdraw its plan. He said that Republicans around the country (he specifically cited New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani) had "laid the groundwork to launch a World War II -- style victory campaign against illegal drugs." He added that "we in congress will pass legislation to implement the largest, most dynamic, most comprehensive anti-drug strategy ever designed."
Arnold Trebach, the recently retired President of the Drug Policy Foundation, spoke with The Week Online regarding Gingrich's statements. "Speaker Gingrich's proposed massive new War on Drugs runs counter to the principles of his party and the best traditions of the nation. The Republican party, if it stands for anything, values enormous restraint of governmental power in the name of individual liberties and capitalist enterprise."
Trebach continued, "The War on Drugs as presently constitutes has already destroyed many aspects of personal freedom and individual initiative that Americans formerly enjoyed. If anything characterizes the broad spectrum of human experience in America, it is that Americans support programs which work, and oppose those that don't. The War on Drugs doesn't work and never will. Given the current proposal's departure from Republican principles, other leaders of the GOP should take Speaker Gingrich out to the ideological woodshed and administer some sharp blows to appropriate part of his anatomy."