President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich sparred over drug policy in separate radio addresses Saturday, the president laying out plans to reduce illegal drug use by 50 percent in the next decade, the speaker ridiculing the proposal as a "hodgepodge of half-steps and half-truths."
Gingrich said he will press a resolution in the House urging Clinton and White House drug policy chief Barry McCaffrey to withdraw the plan, which he described as "the definition of failure.""In the Civil War it took just four years to save the Union and abolish slavery," Gingrich scoffed.
In his weekly radio address, the president said although the number of Americans using drugs has fallen by 50 percent since 1979, it should be cut in half again over the next decade.
But before outlining his proposal, Clinton stressed that the fight against drugs "must be waged and won at kitchen tables all across America."
"Even the world's most thorough anti-drug strategy won't ever do the job unless all of us pass on the same clear and simple message to our children: Drugs are wrong, drugs are dangerous, and drugs can kill you," Clinton said.
His plan, portions of which already were disclosed by McCaffrey, includes expanded prevention education, employment of an additional 1,000 Border Patrol officers and 100 Drug Enforcement Administration agents, completion of the hiring of 100,000 new community police officers and expanded drug testing and treatment among prisoners and parolees.
In a follow-up news conference, McCaffrey said the government alone cannot solve the national drug problem. "We look forward to working with the Congress, state and local government and the private sector to forge a bipartisan and truly national response to the drug problem," McCaffrey said.
As he spoke, however, Gingrich, R-Ga., speaking in the GOP's weekly radio address, accused the president of neglecting the narcotics issue for five years, and as a consequence allowing drug use among teenagers to rise by 70 percent over that period.
He said World War II was won four years after the United States joined the Allied cause, and yet Clinton's new drug-fighting schedule prescribes more than twice that long.
"This president would have us believe that with all of the resources, ingenuity, dedication and passion of the American people, we can't even get halfway to victory in the war on drugs until the year 2007 - nine full years from now," the speaker said. "That is not success. That is the definition of failure. We cannot accept this administration's proposed timetable for defeat."
"I insist that the president and his drug czar (McCaffrey) withdraw their so-called drug plan and its hodgepodge of half-steps and half-truths and bring us back a real plan to tackle the drug crisis," Gingrich said.
He said both men should follow get-tough policies used by Republican mayors such as Rudolph Guiliani of New York City.
Gingrich said the Republican-run Congress would pass legislation that includes:
- Helping communities build anti-drug coalitions.
- Giving parents anti-drug information.
- Providing market incentives so businesses will create drug-free workplaces.
- Establishing a national clearinghouse for anti-drug information.
He did not provide specific dollar amounts or other figures.
The administration's drug-fighting plan is to be funded through a $17.1 billion drug-control budget request for next year, a 6.8 percent increase.