Editorial: People of All Shapes and Sizes 5/11/01

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

The Bush administration may have thought it would get a free ride when it decided to nominate John Walters, a William Bennett- protégé and drug war ideologue in the truest sense of the word, to be the next drug czar. He probably didn't expect former drug czar Barry McCaffrey -- himself a drug war ideologue, though wearing slightly different camouflage from Walters' -- to actually criticize the nomination.

He certainly didn't expect criticism to come from the flagship conservative magazine National Review, which penned an editorial for their newest issue titled "Wrong Man for the Job" (http://www.nationalreview.com/28may01/editorial052801.shtml). National Review criticized Walters' preference for punishment-based drug policies, his support of ineffective military interdiction efforts -- including shooting down civilian airplanes over Peru that are suspected of carrying drugs -- and for his belief that the federal government should crack down against states that pass medical marijuana laws.

"[I]f we are going to continue to wage a war for the utopian goal of a 'drug-free America,'" National Review wrote, "it should at least be run by someone who is willing to take account of the war's costs. John Walters does not appear to be that man."

The president might not have been surprised when criticism came from The Economist magazine, more news-focused, perhaps, than National Review, but also holding a small government, somewhat conservative philosophy. In "Experiment with drugs, Mr. Bush" (http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=613264), The Economist cites the Walters appointment as an unfortunate signal of adherence to conventional, failed drug policies.

"[A] policy of increased repression," Economist writes, "will surely result in thousands of people being thrown in prison for sins that are little worse than those alleged of the youthful George Bush: being young and irresponsible. An older and more responsible Mr. Bush should reconsider his choice."

The president was probably not too happy to see mainstream outlets such as the Washington Post editorialize against his drug czar choice as well. But he shouldn't have been surprised. To even casual observers of drug policy, Walters seems oddly out of step with the times. To those more critical, his views may be seen as dangerous, even fanatical (e.g., shooting down airplanes). By all accounts, the Bush administration in its first actions on drug policy has failed to bring reason into an issue on which past administrations -- including, to large degree, his father's -- have done extraordinary damage to American institutions and American people, not to mention the global fallout.

Thinking people of all political shapes and sizes come to the same conclusion about the war on drugs: End It.

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Issue #185, 5/11/01 Editorial: People of All Shapes and Sizes | With DEA Administrator Nomination, Bush Puts a Hardline Drug Policy Troika in Place | DEA Internal Report on Supersnitch: Agency Finds Itself Not Guilty | US Slapped Down at UN, Removed from Human Rights, Drug Panels, Congress Threatens to Take Ball and Go Home | Louisiana Legislators Act to Reduce Drug Sentences as Prisons Bulge, Alabama Prison Crisis Going Un-addressed This Year | Australia: First Injection Room Opens in Sydney as West Australia Eyes Similar Plan | Canada's Top Drug Cop Calls for Look at Injection Rooms | SSDP Making Waves: Madison, Hampshire, Amherst SSDPer Stages Mock Coffee Prohibition, Other Events | Smoke-Ins, Hempfests and Mass Protests: Movement Makers or Risky Distractions? | The Reformer's Calendar
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