Newsbrief: Campaign Watch: Gephardt On Crank 1/9/04

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Sunday night's Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, saw one question on drug policy aimed at one candidate. In the nationally televised debate, broadcast on CNN, most candidates spent most of their time attacking front-runner Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, for various real or imagined sins. But sitting in the Upper Midwest, where methamphetamine has been identified as a leading drug of abuse, debate moderator Paul Anger, editor of the Des Moines Register, couldn't allow the evening to pass without at least a mention of it.

But long-time Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, at whom the question was directed, had little to say of substance, instead using the question to promote his policies on jobs, education, and mental health care. And in a sign of just how much of a hot button issue drug policy is not, no other candidate felt compelled to jump in with his or her own position.

The complete exchange follows:

Moderator Paul Anger: "To Congressman Gephardt, a slightly different health question -- drug use in America. While the war on drugs often brings to mind the effort to bring the drug trade and cocaine abuse and the cocaine trade under control, particularly in urban settings, here in Iowa and in other cities across the country the biggest drug challenge is actually crystal methamphetamine. Does current drug policy adequately address this, and how would you propose dealing with this home-grown problem, crystal meth?"

Congressman Gephardt: "Well, it's a problem not only in Iowa; it's a big problem in my state of Missouri and in a lot of other states. And it's a big problem in rural communities. So we need to have a better policy to deal with it. But I'll tell you what, I believe in trying to find the drug dealers, and trying to bring them in, and trying to go after the drugs that are coming in the United States. But in this case we're talking about a homemade drug here in communities all across the Midwest and in other parts of the country.'

"I think the ultimate answer to the drug problem lies in some other things that we are not doing well enough in this country. We've got to get people good jobs. Part of the reason people get involved in drugs is they lose hope. And my plans for building jobs I think are the best, the boldest plans out there. We need better education of our young people. We need more mental health benefits in health insurance policies so that people will not turn to drugs when they can't get the right mental help that they need from their insurance policies. These are the things we need to do to solve the problem."

The complete debate transcript is available online at:

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Issue #319, 1/9/04 Taking Drug Policy to the Presidential Candidates: SSDP Goes to New Hampshire | Battle of Christiania Flares as Hash-Seller Burn Own Stands | Major New Reform Coalition Forming in Maryland -- Will Call for Treatment, Not Incarceration | DRCNet Interview: Loretta Nall, President, US Marijuana Party | Newsbrief: Principal in South Carolina Drug Raid Resigns | Newsbrief: Campaign Watch: Gephardt On Crank | Newsbrief: Chicago Suburb Seeks to Ban Glow Sticks from All-Ages Clubs | Newsbrief: Secret Courts, and Not Just for Terrorism Suspects | Newsbrief: Ad Execs Charged With Ripping Off Drug Czar's Ad Campaign | Kentucky Cop Kills Drug Suspect with Three Shots to the Back -- Protest Turns Into Near Riot Thursday Night | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

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