Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, ajsmith@drcnet.org

First he refused to confirm or deny it. Later he would say only that "when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible." Next he said that the issue wasn't relevant. Then he said that he wouldn't address "rumors." Then he said that he could pass a standard security check dating back seven years. Finally, he said that he could've passed the security check in his father's White House -- fifteen years. Though he had to think before specifying whether he could've passed it then or now. Now, no matter what he says, the issue seems destined to dog him until the day he comes clean.

Texas Governor and Republican presidential frontrunner George W. Bush, Jr. has a cocaine problem.

Under normal circumstances, an individual's past drug use, especially if that use occurred in the distant past, should not be relevant to their qualifications for present employment. But in the race for the United States Presidency, it is relevant on two counts. In fact, in Governor Bush's case, it is relevant on three.

As governor of Texas, George W. Bush, Jr. supported and signed legislation increasing penalties for drug possession in that state. In one instance, Governor Bush signed legislation mandating jail time for people caught with less than a single gram of cocaine. As a candidate, Bush's handling of the cocaine question offers clues as to how he deals with embarrassing mistakes -- admit them and move on, or obfuscate and side-step. As President, Governor Bush would preside over a national drug policy that is increasingly punitive, the driving force behind the Nation's ascendancy to the title of world's most prolific incarcerator.

In 1992, Republicans asked whether Democratic candidate Bill Clinton could summon the moral authority to send young people to war, given the fact that he had successfully avoided military service during his youth. Today, Governor Bush must be asked whether he can summon the moral authority to send young people to prison, given the fact that he had avoided the DEA in his youth.

It is becoming increasingly clear that George Junior most likely did toot a line or two back in his halcyon days. The relevant question, then, is whether or not he believes that five or ten years in prison would have been the appropriate societal response to that use. And if not, why he believes that such treatment is appropriate for the children of fathers who were not Ambassadors to China, Directors of the CIA, Vice Presidents or Commanders-in-Chief.

The truth is that George Junior was never in much danger of being treated like less fortunate Americans who get sucked into our runaway criminal justice system. As the rich son of a powerful man, it is unlikely that he would have been pulled over, searched, or busted in a street sweep. Rich people don't buy their coke on the street, in quarter gram increments. And if by some strange confluence of events he had been caught and arrested -- rather than sent on his way with a wave of his ID -- he would have certainly had an expensive attorney, and a spot waiting for him at the Betty Ford Clinic. The judge would likely have wished him well in his recovery. It would've taken an act of God or else an act of monumental stupidity on his own part for George Junior to have ever seen the inside of an American prison for drug possession.

But now he's running for president. And the questions keep coming. And his answers keep changing. And try as he might to create a statute of limitations for questions about his personal life, there is no such statute for hypocrisy. Sending people to prison, increasing their sentences by the stroke of his pen for the very behavior that he now claims is irrelevant in his own history, does not speak well for the honor or the conscience of the man. George W. Bush Jr. has a cocaine problem. But he's got a big lead in the polls, and more than thirty million dollars in the bank. He'll suffer an awful long time before he hits bottom. Right now, pathetic as it is to watch, his evasive machinations in the face of confrontation can only mean one thing. He's still in denial.

-- END --
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Issue #104, 8/20/99 Household Survey Reports Decrease in Teen Use, While Overall Use Remains Flat | Superior Court of Guam Upholds Freedom of Religion for Rastafarian | San Francisco Plans Methadone Expansion | Members of California Congressional Delegation Urge Governor to Sign Needle Exchange Bill | ACLU Sues Oklahoma School District Over Student Drug Testing | United Kingdom: Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy Calls for Royal Commission on Drug Policy | NORML Foundation Launches Marijuana Ad Campaign in San Francisco | Lindesmith Center Seminar Series, Autumn 1999 | Errata: Methamphetamine Bill Alert, Kubby Plant Count | Editorial: Governor Bush's Cocaine Problem
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