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Youthful Folly Should Not Bar Office-Seekers, Bennett Says

November 10, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Education William J. Bennett said Monday night that it would be "crazy" to bar people from the Supreme Court or other high public office because they smoked marijuana or committed other indiscretions in their youth.

But Bennett, who telephoned Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg on Friday to ask him to withdraw as President Reagan's Supreme Court nominee, said he believes that college professors must serve as role models for their students.

Bennett, in an interview with the Associated Press, declined to discuss the call he made to Ginsburg.

Ginsburg, 41, withdrew on Saturday, three days after acknowledging that that he had smoked marijuana as a college student and as recently as 1979 while a professor at Harvard Law School.

Bennett has crusaded against drug abuse and has urged college presidents to crack down on drugs on their campuses. He said he does not think someone must be "crystal clean and 99% pure" to aspire to high office.

"Youthful indiscretions are allowed. Youthful indiscretions should not be a bar to public office and public trust . . . . It would be crazy to say that anybody who ever smoked marijuana is therefore disqualified."

Quoting a line from the classic Greek drama "Oedipus at Colonus," Bennett said: " 'Take a man in the totality of his acts.' Youthful indiscretions are allowed. Doesn't the Bible itself say we all sin? St. Paul, seven times a day? We're sinners."

Bennett, 44, said that after Ginsburg's revelations the fight for confirmation was not winnable. He said: "We're not talking about a Senate which is predisposed toward this Administration's nominees. That means this Administration's nominees had better go up there intact with very few slips showing . . . . I do think it's hard when talking about the Supreme Court and talking about being a law professor not too many years ago--and the judge (Ginsburg) agrees with me."

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