William J. Bennett assured senators Thursday he would defend the civil liberties of Americans as coordinator of the government's anti-drug fight, although "this war is not for delicate sensibilities."
In his second day of confirmation hearings as director of national drug control policy, the former education secretary defended his support of school officials who set up metal detectors and take other measures to control violence and drug abuse in the schools."This war is not for delicate sensibilities," he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "This is tough stuff."
However, during a philosophical discussion with committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., Bennett said, "I can't imagine circumstances in the near future that would require us" to suspend civil liberties in the cause of fighting drugs.
"They are the base. They are the cement. They are the anchor. They sometimes cause us difficulties in this war . . . but these are the ends. . . . You can't destroy the fabric of the country in order to defend the country," Bennett said.
He said he opposed "some who were arguing for universal (drug) testing of students."
When Biden asked his reason for that resistance, Bennett replied, "Because I'm sensitive to the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment," which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.
The hearing concluded Thursday after representatives of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development offered testimony critical of Bennett's nomination.
Biden, who said Wednesday that, "My intent . . . is to move this nomination as quickly as possible," scheduled a committee vote for next Thursday.
Among the committee members, only Sens. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, and Paul Simon, D-Ill. indicated they might vote against Bennett.