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Fostering Vital Discussion

Fostering Vital Discussion

To encourage dialogue and spur solutions, Freedom offered a forum to each of the 1996 presidential candidates on “What We Can Do About the Drug Problem.” In response, President Bill Clinton and presidential candidates Bob Dole, Ross Perot and Harry Browne provided articles, which Freedom published without alteration.

As noted in the introduction to that feature, “Tens of billions of dollars have been consumed in the War on Drugs—and since that is a war America is losing, some say that money is wasted. The bitter reality of lives destroyed by drug abuse, however, requires us to look for effective solutions to the problem.” Excerpts from those articles follow.

President Bill Clinton Democratic Party candidate

Our efforts in the struggle against drugs will require a combination of treatment, prevention, education, enforcement and interdiction. …

[We’re] going to need every American doing his or her part if we are going to succeed.

It means with our families, with parents talking firmly and clearly with their children; with our communities, our houses of worship, our schools, our employers, our national and community groups. We must ensure that our parents, our teachers and all Americans send a strong message to our children—that drugs are wrong, drugs are illegal and drugs can kill you. The fight against drugs must, in the end, be a citizens campaign because every citizen has a direct stake in the outcome.

As I have said many times in different contexts, when we are divided as a country we defeat ourselves, but when America is united we never lose. I believe we can be united in this cause, and I believe we can win this great enduring struggle for our character, our soul, and the future of our children.

Bob Dole Republican Party candidate

We have an obligation to teach our children to value reason, and to show them what is right and what is wrong. Drug use is wrong. It destroys individual character and responsibility, it leaves us useless to God and our neighbor, it drains humans of their humanity and robs children of their childhoods, and it is wrong because it numbs our capacity for loyalty and love.

We must restore the certainty of our standards, and the commitment of our government. We know that resolve and moral clarity have the power to change our world, and the world of our children. We know it because we have done it before. Together, a president and a nation can take a stand and make a difference.

The goal of a drug-free America is a goal that must be shared by every institution of the adult world.

Ross Perot Reform Party candidate

Drug use is on the rise in our nation, and our leaders, starting with the president, must do everything in their power to stop the chemical warfare that is being waged against our children. …

Our leaders should not be debating whether we need to focus on drug interdiction, drug education or drug prosecution. We need to focus on each and every aspect because this must be treated like any other war—an all-out offensive is needed. …

What should we do? The first step is to increase spending on addiction and education programs. We must help the people who are using drugs, and we need to make sure our children and every other American know that drugs kill.

Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne
Public Forum 1996 Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne rounded out the views of the presidential candidates on the drug problem.

Harry Browne Libertarian Party candidate

The past 30 years have seen a steady flow of tougher laws, formation of new task forces, expansion of powers for agencies like the CIA or FBI, news of drug busts that presumably “broke the back” of the drug trade, confiscation of enormous amounts of cocaine and heroin, and gleeful news showing increases in arrests and convictions.

Still, the War is no closer to victory than ever. The War has served only to reduce our liberties. Warrantless searches, uncharged detentions, property seizures, and mistaken arrests have become the rule—all in violation of the Bill of Rights. The War also cost us hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, the corruption of police forces, soaring crime rates and gang warfare. …

If you want to stop drug use—and reduce the problems that come with drugs—there has to be a better way than asking the government to do it. This country may not be able to survive another 35 years of the War on Drugs.