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?"
The complete debate transcript
is available online at:
"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."
-- END --
Issue #319, 1/9/04
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