YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Dole Assails Clinton's Record in War on Drugs

Republicans: The GOP standard-bearer enters Democrats' convention-eve turf, vows to expand role of the military in U.S. to stem narcotics flow.


PALOS PARK, Ill. — Like a paratrooper dropping behind enemy lines, Republican presidential challenger Bob Dole swooped into Chicago on the eve of the Democratic convention Sunday to launch a new attack on President Clinton's drug policies and call for an expanded domestic role for the U.S. military in fighting drugs.

As Democratic delegates poured into pre-convention workshops and parties, Dole told a crowd of about 2,500 supporters that his administration would use the military much more aggressively to fight drugs and vowed to give intelligence agencies and the Pentagon a broader role to do so--even on U.S. soil.

Dole said he recognized that Americans might have concerns over such expansion of military powers. "Our nation has a 200-year-old tradition of wariness over the use of the military to address domestic security matters," he said. "I always have and always will respect that." But, he added, "Our drug problem is more than a domestic security problem. The threat comes from abroad."

Beyond tradition, expanding the U.S. military's powers at home raises constitutional and legal questions. Dole left unclear precisely how those issues would be resolved. The CIA is barred from engaging in domestic intelligence and federal law strictly limits the military's ability to engage in civilian law enforcement.

Specifically, Dole pledged, that within 45 days of taking office, his administration would work with Pentagon officials to "seek further ways to use our military power, particularly technical capabilities, to fight the war on drugs." He pledged to devise a plan "that focuses the appropriate military means to augment our federal and state drug enforcement agencies" and would make drug interdiction a higher priority for intelligence services.

The White House would work with governors to train and equip National Guard units to provide rapid assistance, he said. "In other words, if we need the National Guard to move in, they'll have the training and they'll work with law enforcement, and they'll get the job done."

Dole's attack on Clinton defied the usual rules of political propriety, which hold that a candidate avoid appearing on an opponent's convention turf. Dole told Republicans at a picnic in this affluent Chicago suburb that the Clinton administration had "raised the white flag in the war on drugs."

"The president was moved to action after the tragic, terrible bombing in Oklahoma City, and he was right to do so," Dole said. "But how can he be satisfied, how can he say nothing new need be done as millions of America's children are lost to the slow, wasting terror of drugs?"

To back up his charges, Dole fired off a fusillade of statistics, including a survey released last week showing, he said, that teenage drug use is up 105% since Clinton took office. "This is nothing short of a national tragedy," Dole said. "Nothing short of a national disgrace."

The annual survey, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, found that 11% of youths aged 12 to 17 said they had used an illicit drug during the previous month, with marijuana overwhelmingly their drug of choice. Results dating back to the Carter administration show that drug use fell under Republican presidents Reagan and Bush from 16.3% in 1979 to 5.3% in Bush's final year, before climbing steadily to the current level.

The White House response was "Don't worry, be happy," said Dole, who accused Clinton of turning former First Lady Nancy Reagan's "just say no" approach to drugs into "just say nothing."

Under the Clinton administration, Dole charged, the National Security Council dropped drugs from third priority in a list of problems to "29 on a list of 29."

In his first year in office, Clinton sharply reduced the staff of the Office of National Drug Control Policy as part of his effort to meet a promise to cut White House staff by 25%. But he has kept funding high for the drug war. His 1997 budget calls for $15.1 billion in federal spending on drug education, treatment and law enforcement, an increase of about 9%.

In response to Dole's charges, the Clinton/Gore campaign released a list of Senate votes by Dole that cut funding for drug education programs. The campaign also noted that Dole opposed the 1994 crime bill, which stiffened penalties for drug-related crime, and argued that Dole would almost certainly be forced to cut drug-fighting programs to pay for his proposed income tax cuts.

"Arm in arm with Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole attempted to dismantle initiatives that would help young people at risk of falling prey to drug use and crime," Clinton/Gore campaign press secretary Joe Lockhart said in a statement. Joined onstage by his wife, Elizabeth Hanford Dole, Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, and others, Dole joked about his in-your-face appearance near the convention.

Los Angeles Times Articles