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Clinton, Gingrich square off over drug policies

Clinton radio address graphic February 14, 1998
Web posted at: 4:16 p.m. EST (2116 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton proposed a new drug strategy Saturday aimed at cutting illicit drug use in half over the next decade, but his goal was immediately ridiculed by House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a "timetable for defeat."

Speaking in his weekly radio address, the Democratic president said his plan "builds on our strategy of tougher punishment, better prevention and more partnerships to shut down the international drug trade."

Clinton said there had been successes in the war on drugs, citing studies that show the number of Americans using drugs has fallen by 50 percent since 1979.

"But that number is still too large," he said. "We can and must cut drug use in America by another 50 percent."

Parts of the Clinton administration plan were previously disclosed by White House drug policy chief Barry McCaffrey.

The president wants more prevention education; the hiring of 1,000 Border Patrol and 100 Drug Enforcement Administration agents; 100,000 additional police officers, spread among the nation's cities; and expanded drug testing and treatment for prisoners and parolees.

The administration's drug-fighting plan would be funded through a $17.1 billion drug-control budget request for next year, a 6.8 percent increase.

Clinton also called on parents to fight against drugs 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," he said.


Gingrich on the attack

As Clinton spoke, however, Gingrich, 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 teen-agers to rise by 70 percent over that period.

The Georgia Republican pledged that in lieu of Clinton's plan, Congress would create a drug-free 21st century for America's children.

"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 half way to victory in the war on drugs until the year 2007 -- nine full years from now," Gingrich said. "That is not success; that is the definition of failure. ... We cannot accept this administration's proposed timetable for defeat."

Gingrich said the Republican-run Congress would pass legislation that:

  • Helps communities build anti-drug coalitions
  • Gives parents anti-drug information
  • Provides market incentives so businesses will create drug- free workplaces
  • Establishes a national clearinghouse for anti-drug information

He did not provide specific dollar amounts or other figures. Gingrich said he would introduce a House resolution calling on Clinton and McCaffrey to withdraw their plan.


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