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President Bill Clinton; Commerce Secretary William Daley; Barry McCaffrey, Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy - May 21, 1997

MCCAFFREY: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

I normally attribute to the vice president -- and it's actually not true -- sort of a standard gag line that he counseled me when I was being interviewed for this position not to worry about whether I'd have friends when I left public office that I've had to...


I'd have the same number of friends when I left as when I got there. The only difference is they'll have different names.


And Mr. President, I hope the mayors -- or the new friends that I'm...


... putting together -- a lot of important people in the room -- Donna Shalala, Janet Reno, Richard Riley, Andy Cuomo, Slater -- you name it -- 14 of us that are in the President's Drug Cabinet Council for the last year have been trying to put together a sensible plan that the president then put in front of the American people as the national drug control strategy.

There's no intellectual breakthrough in western thinking here. What this plan represents is what you already know. If you're going to confront the drug issue, you've got to focus on kids. You've got to prevent drug use in 68 million American children.

You've got to go to the 4 million Americans who are addicted and do something about it. And at the same time, you have to support law enforcement. You have to do interdiction. You can't pick one of them -- you have to do the five goals of the national drug strategy.

And oh, by the way, you have to pay for it.

So what the president and Frank Raines sent down to Congress last year was the largest drug budget in history -- a 9.4 percent increase. That's modest amounts of money. That was a modest expenditure on a problem that costs you and I $70 billion.

And that's in directly attributable costs.

It's a tremendous challenge. We're now going to follow up with a '98 budget. We're going to ask for again for bipartisan support. It's another 5.4 percent increase. And the money's going where the strategy said it should.

The president approved a 21 percent increase in programs focused on children, focused on trying to prevent the next generation of the addicted.

We think we're on the right track.

Now in addition, Mr. President -- if you would allow me to sort of highlight for your consideration -- the mayors came here with a national action plan to control drugs, and they've been working on it for months. Scott King, Brent Coles, Nancy Graham at our table, Dennis Archer.

Around the country, I've been following their dialogue of their debate, their learning experience, on how are we, the federal government, going to line up to better support these men and women in public office who are directly responsible for confronting the real problems of drug abuse.

We think their national action plan supports your national strategy and makes sense. It's a solid piece of work, and it also starts with a preposition that you've got to confront drug prevention programs among American youngsters.

MCCAFFREY: Now let me, if I may, end with two notes. And they're sort of brief notes. We had a marvelous speaker yesterday at noon, Milton Cree (ph), very inspirational.

He went right to the heart and soul probably of one of the most distasteful problems of drug abuse in America -- dysfunctional families, parents who are using crack cocaine, multi-generational families that are broken down and are in the their second generation of drug sales. Let me add to his presentation now.

I endorse his words, but I want us to be a little cautious. The problem of drug abuse in America isn't something that's confined to that sub-population. Drug abuse in America is 12 million out 265 million of us. Most of us don't use drugs.

But 12 million do. Most of them are white, most of them are employed. Seven out of 10 are employed. And so when you talk about the problems of drug abuse, it isn't marginalized. It isn't somebody else's kids. It's our children, it's our employees, it's our teammates.

The drug abusers who are employed are three times more likely to be late for work; 10 times more likely to miss work; 3.6 times more likely to injure themselves. They have 300 percent higher medical costs. And they're a third less productive.

This is a major problem in America. And it's marijuana use along with other drugs.

So again, if you would allow me to broaden the concern, if you wonder whose kids are threatened by drugs, it's yours. It's not somebody else's.

Now a final thought. Because there's a temptation in every discussion on the drug problem to go to the most visible manifestations of it, and the mayors see it. I mean, if you are unemployed, if you don't have a church, if you don't have a solid family structure, and you're addicted, you're on the streets, you're HIV positive, you're involved in prostitution, you're involved in crime, you're involved in the criminal justice system.

But a lot of this problem is in the suburbs. If we go ask who's smoking crack, who's using drugs in America, the quasi-legalized open air market may be in the central city; it may be an African-American male selling it, but the customers are from the suburbs.

Now we got to remind ourselves of this specifically, that in 1993 -- and I use Janet Reno's statistics -- 88 percent of the people arrested for -- or sentenced for crack cocaine were black; 95.4 percent non-white.

However, in '94 -- different year, same notion -- a larger percentage of whites 18 to 25 were using crack cocaine than blacks in the same age group. And in '94, if you compared the population between age 12 and 34, a far larger percentage of whites used cocaine than blacks.

Now I mention this, again, because I don't think drug abuse in America is an urban problem as opposed to a rural problem. It's not a minority problem. It doesn't even necessarily relate to income.

MCCAFFREY: I mean, we know anesthesiologists have as high as a 10 percent addiction right there in their lifetime to alcohol and legal narcotics and illegal narcotics.

It's a problem that we all have to face us to, and I want to remind ourselves of that so we don't get focused on the most visible and probably the least tractable problems.

Mayor Daley and his two co-chairs -- I've just got to explicitly, Mr. President, recognize their leadership. They're sort of a modern breed of his staff and the cabinet for having this national forum -- I think it is the first time -- whereby you have put local officials, the police chiefs and the mayors and the prosecutors and service providers, to work with your cabinet.

And this is the first, I think in 25 or 30 or 40 years, and let's all give the president a round of applause and thank him.


No other president has done this for 25 or 30 years, and as General McCaffrey, we need a new national attitude about fighting drug violence.

And mayors and local officials across the nation are committed to the national strategy and we are pleased that you have given us the national forum to outline some of our ideas and recommendations.

Mr. President, you should be commended for picking a national drug czar, one who is committed to action, who understands the importance of tackling this problem. It is a very complex problem, and there are no easy solutions.

We know that drugs are destroying communities across this nation and the world. They are tearing families apart and destroying the lives of children. The drug trade is a national problem, and one that has been with us for many years. But we understand locally, 95 percent of all arrests and prosecution are local, as well as incarceration.

It did not begin four or five years ago. This administration has tried, other administrations have tried and failed to get a handle on this. But your administration has taken this as a national priority.

Yesterday, we had a chance to speak with members of your cabinet, and to send a clear message that we are committed to a national drug control strategy.

This is one of the highest priorities for local officials, especially mayors across the nation.

DALEY: It is no city, town or community in this country free from threats of illegal drugs. We're asking national leaders to step up to the plate and take action.

Yesterday, we approved a specific federal action plan to reach young people and keep them away from drugs; to use the full power of the federal government including the tax code, IRS, to crack down on drug dealers and money launderers; to aggressively prosecute international drug traffickers and financiers; to promote drug free work places in the public and private sectors; and to make illegal drugs a top foreign policy concern, putting the full force of the international standing and to influence to stop the world drug trade.

This is an ambitious agenda, one that needs a firm commitment from your administration and Congress.

The time for action is now. Our national failures to control illegal drugs year after year is obvious.

Several months ago, I rode around with the Chicago police department and Matt Rodriguez to different communities. And too often, we do encounter open air drug markets. Street dealers at these markets are selling drugs that weren't grown in Chicago or any other American city. They reach the streets after a long process of smuggling, trading, laundering, repackaging.

Each step of the way a federal law is being violated and the result is a pile of problems dumped on our doorsteps.

Cities have to deal with the burglaries and thefts created by addicts to support their habit and the violent crimes committed by dealers to protect their turf. Domestic violence and inflicted by drug users, the problems of our youth and teenage pregnancy, truancy and high dropout rates caused by drug abuse, absenteeism and loss of productivity in the work place.

And that is why every step of the drug trade must be met with the full force and effect, not just of the federal government but the state and local governments in this entire nation. Mr. President, on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I'd like to present to you our national action plan to control drugs. And I pledge to you that the nation's mayors, prosecutors, police chiefs and service providers are committed to this action. We urge you, of course, to review the document and to seek our commitment and our partnership.

Now it is my great honor to introduce the president of the United States.

Mr. President.

CLINTON: Thank you.

Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor, Mayor Helmke and the other officers of the Conference of Mayors, General McCaffrey, Mr. Vice President, members of the Cabinet and the administration, all of you who are here.

Copyright © 1997 Federal Document Clearing House

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