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Public Papers - 1990 - January

Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Luncheon for Newspaper Publishers


The President. Well, please be seated, and please continue with your coffee. But it's an honor to have you all here. There may be no group in America more aware of the challenges this country is facing. So, my first thought was to give you a general outline of our agenda after our first year. But then I decided to focus on the first item on the domestic agenda: illegal drugs. And they remain this nation's number one concern, and so I chose this forum to announce the second phase of our fight against drugs. This booklet is on our national drug control strategy that I hope we can get distributed to all of you.

As you know, last September for the first time, we launched a comprehensive, coordinated and, I think, coherent national strategy to stop the distribution and use of illegal drugs. We've made some notable progress in the months since that plan was unveiled. Attitudes continue to change. Here in Washington, the number of those arrested who test positive for drugs has dropped dramatically over the past 3 months, especially among juveniles. And abroad, Colombia has extradited 14 of the world's major drug merchants to stand trial here in the United States.

Given the headlines we've seen recently, though, it's clear that we're only really getting started. And the plan we laid out last fall outlined what we intend to do. And today I want to announce the second phase, as I said, of our strategy which explains how we intend to do it, agency by agency, task by task, dollar by dollar. And today we're releasing what I think of as a blueprint for success.

Our outstanding Director, Bill Bennett, the Drug Control Policy Director, will discuss the program later in depth. Right now, I want to sketch out, if I might, a few highlights and then open the floor to questions.

Our approach remains consistent. We're committed to the same aggressive goals and principles that we outlined last September: to reduce use through an integrated mix of supply- and demand-side approaches. And that means doing everything that works.

Our strategy calls for about a third of its funding to go toward drug education, prevention, treatment, and research. We're calling for more prevention programs in schools and workplaces, as well as grants for communities to set up education programs. In our treatment strategies, we're also emphasizing what works with careful and constant evaluation of treatment regimes and a new Office for Treatment Improvements at HHS.

We're funding new research in areas like law enforcement technology, treatment, and drug use forecasting that will help us spot trends and then target our resources and measure the impact of our strategies. And this spring, we're going to be releasing the first of an annual State-by-State status report measuring progress.

Roughly another third of the budget is devoted to domestic enforcement, prosecution, incarceration. To help local law enforcement initiatives, the '91 fiscal budget calls for nearly 0 million for State and local law enforcement grants, an increase of 228 percent over the last 2 years. We want to get the right resources to the right people, on the right level: street level.

Today we'll be announcing five high-intensity drug trafficking areas -- cities and areas that are already doing a great deal but need more support. We want to help them map out a more comprehensive, coordinated approach to fight drugs.

We're also increasing the number of DEA and FBI agents and personnel, as well as more funding for assistant U.S. attorneys. We support an increase in Federal judgeships. We're proposing the death penalty for drug kingpins and those responsible for drug-related killings and even, in some cases, attempted killings. We want there to be absolutely no doubt about the certainty of punishment.

The final third of our budget is earmarked for border interdiction and the international operations side. We want the multinational criminal organizations that produce and distribute drugs to be more than disrupted -- we intend to see them dismantled and destroyed because we don't make deals with these dealers.

We have multilateral programs underway in many parts of the world. Throughout Central and South America, particularly, we're engaged in expanded and unprecedented levels of cooperation and assistance. We applaud the efforts of President Virgilio Barco of Colombia and also of our neighbor, President Salinas of Mexico. And I will reinforce our support for the courageous leaders of the region at the upcoming drug summit in Cartagena.

Among the steps we're taking to intensify border control, up to an additional 1,000 customs agents, who are already on the job, will be given authority to conduct drug investigations to better assist the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration. With interdiction in particular, coordination is absolutely crucial. We're putting an end -- I hope and I believe we are -- putting an end to turf battles. I met with all our top law enforcement people the other day, and they said they had never seen better cooperation between these -- powerful in some instances -- but between all the agencies.

Our budget for all international activities has increased from 9 million to nearly 0 million. We're creating a new National Drug Intelligence Center to ensure all enforcement agencies get the strategic and organizational intelligence that they need. Treasury's newly created Financial Crimes Enforcement Network will improve financial intelligence. And the Department of Defense has been increasingly effective in its expanded detection and monitoring roles.

Now, I imagine the news in this chapter of the war on drugs may be its price tag. Spending, understandably, gets a lot of attention. In this case, outlays continue to increase. But I want to emphasize our determination to win this fight without adding to the budget deficit -- and, yes, I repeat, without raising taxes.

In 1990 drug funding totaled almost .5 billion -- that was in 1990, the largest increase in history. Funding for fiscal '91 will be expanded by more than billion, to over .5 billion, and outlays will increase 41 percent this year. In fact, with this request, the Federal drug budget will be 69 percent higher than it was when I took office in 1989.

To those who say that our program looks topheavy on the interdiction side, remember that many of the efforts to limit supply are exclusively Federal and inherently more expensive than demand reduction. We're willing to spend more to limit the drug supply. Simply put, we're willing to do whatever it takes.

But the real issue, of course, is not how much -- it has got to be how well. And here the distinction between Federal and national is crucial. A truly national drug control strategy demands that we tap resources of every description -- public and private; civilian and military; local, State, and Federal; volunteer, professional, and personal.

Let me tell you about a man that I know many of you in this room know, but some may not -- Jim Burke, a corporate leader, former CEO of Johnson   Johnson, who's been applying the power of the media to unsell drugs through the Media Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the largest volunteer, private-sector ad campaign since the war bond drives of World War II. He's energized, and he's doing a superb job.

You're all familiar with those hard-hitting ads to discourage drug use. Many of you already contribute space to run them. And that's supporting the Partnership's current goal to raise million a day in advertising time and space every day for the next 3 years -- a remarkable goal indeed.

And I know that some of you -- Joe Williams, of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, to take a notable example -- has made a promotion of voluntarism an important part of your newspaper's mission. And that's also very, very important. A free press has a right and a responsibility to comment and report on a nation's problems. But your newspapers may also contribute to the progress of the communities they serve by pointing to solutions. And there may be no better outlet for America's volunteer effort, volunteer spirit, than saving those being lost to drugs. It's too early to tell how our efforts will be judged, but if more concerned Americans become involved Americans, I believe we will succeed.

Today I'm particularly interested in your thoughts and your ideas, so I'd like to open up the floor to suggestions, but certainly we'll be glad to answer questions on this subject or any other subject that enters your mind. And if it's highly technical, I may, if you'll excuse me, rely on my strong right arm, Bill Bennett.


Q. Mr. President, you mentioned increasing spending without increasing the deficit. Do you agree or disagree with the principle that if the Federal Government mandates a program, be it in drugs or in other areas, the Federal Government also ought to provide the resources for accomplishing the goal rather than shifting the burden down to other levels of government?

The President. I am concerned about mandated programs. I particularly got this driven home to me at the recent educational summit in Virginia. The subject wasn't simply drugs, although there was a lot of discussion about it there. And they were pleading for flexibility. And I think Bill Bennett has tried to build into our requests a certain flexibility for local areas. And that's a hallmark of our philosophy here: to reduce the number of mandated Federal programs because they do not take into consideration the diversity of this country and the diversity of the communities in the country.

War on Drugs

Q. Mr. President, George Shultz [former Secretary of State] has just linked his considerable prestige to the ranks of those advocating the legalization of drugs. What do you feel are the most cogent arguments against these growing numbers of people advocating decriminalization?

The President. I just think that it would increase, regrettably, the habit; and I strongly oppose it. Bill has very forthrightly been speaking out against it. And I'm just going to hold the line against legalization.

Q. Mr. President, what criteria were used to determine which five cities are going to get special attention under your proposal?

The President. May I defer to Bill on that?

Director Bennett. A number of things, but principally we use the FBI and DEA -- Drug Enforcement Administration's criteria for investigation -- level 1, level 2, level 3 -- various levels of investigation and intensity, that is, how many cases in major drug trafficking they have in certain areas. The areas we've designated are all level 1 areas, that is, areas where we think we will find the greatest concentration of major drug trafficking organizations.

The President. You'd better -- while you're standing -- maybe -- that was very good -- [laughter] -- I may need more support. But please, ask as technical as you want.

Arrest of Mayor Barry of Washington, DC

Q. Mr. President, did you know in advance, sir, about the sting operation that led to the arrest of the mayor of Washington the other night? And can we ask you, sir, what was your personal reaction when you heard that the mayor of the town you live in had been arrested for drug -- --

The President. The answer is: No, I didn't. And the second part of the question is: great sadness, great tragedy. I think it would be most inappropriate for a President to prejudge a matter that's obviously in the courts, and I'm going to refrain from doing that. But you know what, my thought went to the kids in the schools. And it's a matter of sadness. And Barbara shares my view on that.

State of the Union Address

Q. Mr. President, what other areas of interest can we watch for in your State of the Union Message?

The President. Now, Jerry -- [laughter] -- you know that it seems that we're getting close to the date of that, but it is not in final form. And I'll just give you a little insight into the thought process. How much do you dwell on a shopping list of things that I want to see accomplished, a legislative shopping list? And how much emphasis do you place on the state of the Union? It's almost state of the Government versus state of the Union. And I've never been accused of being an overly eloquent fellow, but I am optimistic about our country, the state of the Union. And that isn't to say that I'm not deeply concerned about some of the problems.

We had a fascinating discussion at our table on environmental concerns and how you balance them with a person's right to a job in an expanding economy. And I guess I'd have to say the final draft has not been worked, but I expect you will see a combination of -- I wouldn't call it a shopping list, but certainly spelling out what I think should be priorities for the state of the Government and what I'd like to see the Federal Government do, and then on a broader sense, my perceptions and observations about the state of the Union.

And I'll tell you, having visited with some of the families of the fighting men that went down to Panama, I have a renewed feeling that the country is going to be in pretty good shape down the road if we can handle our part of the Government right. I mean, there's a wonderful feeling in some parts of this country. And that isn't to say there's not a lot of hopelessness and a lot of despair that goes with some of these enormous social problems. But the underpinnings of the United States, the state of the Union, is not bad.

When you look around the world and see these countries coming our way -- democracy, freedom -- and then see the younger generation willing to serve as they do in a voluntary way with the courage and the patriotism that some of these kids showed in Panama, I'll tell you, there's something happening that's good about our country.

Soviet Reforms

Q. Mr. President, on a little different subject, a couple of respected Sovietologists lately, notably George Kennan and Mr. Brzezinski -- Mr. Kennan has said that Mr. Gorbachev's position is precarious. Mr. Brzezinski has said the Soviet system is doomed. How do you react to those statements?

The President. Which were the two? I heard somebody saying that the Soviet system is doomed.

Q. Brzezinski, I believe, lately. And Mr. Kennan, George Kennan, said that Mr. Gorbachev's position was precarious.

The President. Well, on the Soviet system doomed, I think Mr. Gorbachev has already -- in strongly supporting glasnost and strongly supporting perestroika -- has confirmed the fact that the Marxist-Leninist model simply does not work. And all you have to do is look at an economy that's in egregiously bad shape, and you'll understand why he's reached that conclusion. And then if you needed additional confirmation, all you have to do is take a cursory look at Eastern Europe, and you'll see that people are opting for pluralism and for openness, glasnost, and for reform. So, I think that's a given, that's obvious.

In terms of Mr. Gorbachev, I was asked yesterday about it, and I said I want very much to see him succeed. I think he has conducted himself in an extraordinarily difficult situation very well. He remains committed to peaceful change, and I don't think anyone is faulting him for the difficulties that he's encountered in Azerbaijan. You see blockades of your ports, and the man has to respond. I'm not encouraging that course because we would like to see peaceful change wherever possible. But in talking about the ferment for change in the Baltics, he still is talking peaceful change. And I think he's done a remarkable job. It's not for some President of the United States to start saying who he thinks ought to be in that job. But as I look around, I think Mr. Gorbachev is really the best hope for what our interests are. We want to see peaceful change continue. We want to see the democratization of Eastern Europe. We want to see openness bring about market-force economies inside the Soviet Union. And all of these things, I think, are in our interest.

Now, it is my hope that he will emerge, that they can get this recent disorder under control and restoration of peace there and tranquillity, and then that the process can go forward in a democratic mode, a more democratic mode. So, I wouldn't speculate on totality of survival, but I think we have a lot at stake in continuing to deal with this man.

Defense Budget Cuts

Q. Mr. President, on the subject of defense, you have suggested that we will probably have to cut back on the budget in that area. And in order to help the Soviet Union, this cutting of the defense will affect our industries, such as shipbuilding industries in Boston, where we build outstanding cruisers. What are your plans if you have to do that to help these industries and the labor people that are employed there?

The President. Where bases have been closed there has often resorted vigorous private enterprise activity. I was asking about this, because under the Base Closing Act, we've had to make certain suggestions, and the Defense Department is wrestling with this whole concept of what facilities will remain as fully funded in the future as they have been in the past.

So, I think a lot of what the best thing a Federal Government can do is keep a strong and vigorous economy so you can accommodate private sector productive growth where theretofore there has been a government activity of some sort. So, it's that. I think there are government programs to help transitions, to help the States in transition, and of course, I want to continue those.

But let me simply say this: We're all familiar with what happens. Everybody says cut, and then when somebody has to make the call, they say, please cut in this other guy's district; don't cut in mine -- mine's absolutely essential. And I was guilty of the same thing when I was a Member of Congress, and so I understand it. [Laughter]

But I think we have an able team. I think we have a team that is committed to working with the key leaders in the Congress, in the opposition party, and I think we can come up with a formulation of where we have to cut, doing it in a way that we don't cut into the muscle of our defense, the muscle -- we may need a different kind of force in the future. As the threat diminishes in Eastern Europe, we may need a more rapidly deployable force. But it's got to be robust, it's got to be well-trained, it's got to be highly professional. So, I just want to be sure that we do this not on just kind of a squeaking-wheel, political way but that whatever we do in the future is done in a very thoughtful and, I would add, compassionate way where we do help the communities as best we can to move into this era of change -- but also remember, still an era of challenge.

War on Drugs

Q. Mr. President, on your drug program: I'm from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, about 90 minutes up the road from you, and we have a pretty severe drug problem there. But what happens is, all of these programs that come in, by the time the money is spent in the metropolitan areas, very little of it reaches our borders. Is there anything in Phase II that would provide money to the small communities of the country like Chambersburg?

The President. Bill, can you respond to that?

Director Bennett. It's interesting, because we heard from the big-city mayors this morning that all the money is going to the rural areas and they're not getting their share. [Laughter] What we're doing is, of course, essentially through our block grants, giving the money to the States and the State legislatures. Those State legislatures and Governors have the responsibility to decide how that money should be apportioned in the State. And from the way we look at it, there's a drug problem in rural America, suburban America, as well as urban America. And the people who should make that judgment should be the Governor and State legislators.

The President. Bill, in response to the earlier question, we are doing that, as you say -- blocking it so we do not mandate a specific answer so that Chambersburg has to adapt to a program designed for some big city.

Director Bennett. There are very few mandates, in fact, in our drug strategy, or drug policy. And one thing that doesn't happen is that when a lot of districts receive their money, they aren't told that this is money from the Federal Government. And when the money goes into the State capital, it's combined with State sources and sent out. And we don't require Governors to say, this is from George Bush and not from the Governor, and so we think some Governors may let the constituents think they deserve all the credit for it. But there's Federal money going out.

Q. Mr. President, how soon do you expect to see meaningful results from the implementation of Phase II? And how do you propose to deal with the already overcrowded facilities in the event that the results are even more successful than you anticipate?

The President. Well, I will give Congress credit for moving on additional facilities, prison facilities. And I think in some of this, certainly I hope we'll get early enactment on this program. I'd like to see it implemented, crossing the t's and dotting the i's, the way Bill Bennett has proposed. I'm not naive enough to believe that will happen.

But I was talking to Bill coming in, and we do sense a desire on the part of the Congress to cooperate. We may have a problem on the Senate side with spending levels, but in terms of the objectives of this strategy, we're in pretty close accord with both Democrats and Republicans on the Hill. So, I think we can get early action, and we're already getting it in some of these programs that are in effect right now. I'm thinking backing up law enforcement; I mentioned increasing prison capacity, et cetera.

Arrest of Mayor Barry of Washington, DC

Q. Mr. President, given the fact that you have talked a lot about discouraging drug usage and given the fact that you said just a minute ago that your thoughts ran to the children when you heard about the arrest in Washington, do you think Mayor Barry should resign?

The President. No, again, I don't want to get into the case because I think it would be inappropriate to intervene. And that isn't actually asking me to get into the legal process, but let's let the system work. And I think the city is capable of making that determination and trying to achieve their consensus goal.

Gun Control

Q. Mr. President, last night I came up with my wife to Washington, and on TV we saw four individuals who were shot. Through the drug program you talked about, wouldn't it also be hand-in-glove to make some further pronouncements towards gun control, especially towards the semiautomatic pistols that seem to be coming out?

The President. Were they shot in States that had controls on these pistols, or -- I can't remember.

Q. They were in Washington, DC.

The President. In Washington? I think we have some rather stringent controls here against this. So, my position really has not changed on gun control. I realize there's plenty of room for difference of opinion on it, but I think the thing is to enforce the laws that are on the books. And in this instance, we've pointed to one that might have been more effective. But I don't believe that the answer is going to be more Federal gun control.

Pardons for Iran-Contra Figures

Q. Mr. President, a different subject with two points. Is it a possibility that you will pardon Poindexter? And if legal procedure falls through, would you consider a pardon for Ollie North?

The President. I have said before and will repeat that, again, while these matters are in the courts, I will not make any statement one way or another on the question; I don't think I should do that. And so, we'll just have to -- Ollie's under appeal, and the Poindexter matter is now before the jury.

Chinese Student Relief

Q. Mr. President, would you mind speaking, if you will, sir, about the vote on China this afternoon in the Senate?

The President. [At this point, the President raised his hand and crossed his fingers.] [Laughter] A week ago if you would have asked me that question, having faithfully read my regional newspapers and my big-city newspapers and my newspapers from the west coast to the east coast, I would have thought there was a very minimal chance of achieving this. But we made the case, and I have pointed to -- albeit small steps -- certain steps that I think are encouraging as a result of the contact that we have had.

The acceptance of Peace Corps volunteers -- you might say, well, that's not too big a deal. You see, I think the contacts between students and the people, or students studying here and the American people, is a good thing. They've now said they'd do that, very recently. The accrediting of a VOA correspondent -- not a major step by itself, but it reverses a period where all they did was blast the VOA for having an unsavory role, in their view, in Tiananmen Square. They are muting the whole concept, in terms of world propaganda by them was that it was the fault of the United States. And everybody here knows it wasn't the fault of the United States. It was the quest for democracy and for freedom of expression. That criticism has been dramatically muted -- ask your editors to collect it for you.

They've given us certain assurances on missiles sales overseas. And I happen to be one that's still concerned about the proliferation of missiles, and I hope they'll follow through on that now, but I think that was a direct response to the able work of General Scowcroft [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs]. Fulbright [student] exchanges have been reopened, or the discussions are on to get them officially -- put a mandate on that. And that's good, if you believe that the contacts of that nature facilitate understanding of democracy and freedom.

They've lifted martial law. And now some of my severest critics on the Hill -- I'd say to them, let me ask you a question now. Suppose I sent an emissary, and the only, one thing that could result would be the lifting of martial law. Do you think it's a good idea or not? Some of these people that are pounding my brains out up there, on both sides of the aisle, would have been the first to say, I think it's worth it. But that's been done. I'm not saying there's perfection and we can all walk around over in Tiananmen Square or anyplace else the way we can in the United States, but it's an improvement.

They've released 573 people from jail -- an amnesty, if you'd want to call it such. And as they did it, they kicked them as they went out of the jail and said you're a bunch of lawbreakers -- but the people are out. They're not in jail. I want to keep this going. I care about human rights. I care about the students. I care about reform. I am committed to the concept that the world is moving -- what I would say, hopefully not chauvinistically -- our way in terms of freedom and democracy. And I believe that contact is the way to go about doing this.

We have taken care of the fact that no student, as long as I'm President, will be sent back against his or her will. There is a strong Executive order, a strong implementation letter from the Attorney General saying this. I don't know why I'm giving you all this detail; the vote is in only 5 minutes, I think, and -- no, wait a minute -- yes, 5 minutes.

The world looks like everything's tranquil in some ways, some broad ways. There is a reason. We are a Pacific power. China is a billion-some people. We've got enormous differences with their leadership on what happened over there and on a lot of things. But in regional areas there, we've got to work with them. Cambodia's a good example. Japan to some degree is a good example. Some are so relaxed about the changes in the Soviet Union that they think that you don't have to worry about the broad geopolitical or geostrategic relationships. But I haven't reached that view. I think there's reason to still -- not play some card -- I've always found that an offensive statement -- play the China card or play the Russian card. That's stupid, and I think it's bad statesmanship as well as bad diplomacy. But the contact and being able to impress on the leaders the U.S. view, I think, is good, sound diplomacy.

I had a lot of reasons for doing what I've done. I will say what I told some of your reporters yesterday: I think, in retrospect, I could have done a better job of it. I think I could have made more clear my own heartbeat in terms of the change, my own concerns about the things that went wrong, and my own desire to see this relationship move forward. But back to your question -- you asked the time, I've told you how to build a watch -- [laughter] -- we may pull it out. And if we do, though, it will be for the reasons that I have outlined here.

Assistance for the Homeless

Q. Mr. President, people in our community are struggling to develop a strategy to deal with the problems of the homeless. This is happening all over the country. What can you do to help us address this issue?

The President. Well, we've got a new approach to housing that touches on the homeless: home ownership opportunity. We've got a fully funding for the first time of the McKinney Act, which is specific -- a specific approach to the homeless including shelter, including rehabilitation. I think we can do a little more in terms of the rehabilitation aspect because I think there are, regrettably, some people out there -- given the change in the law that took place a few years ago -- that need help and attention, and maybe we can do a better job of persuading them. But I think the full funding of the McKinney Act, which I pledged to do, incidentally, in the campaign, is the best role for the Federal Government because it was fully debated and passed by the Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, as the best way to go. And we have now funded it, and I hope that that will be enacted in our budget. And I hope it will make a difference, because you go upstairs and you look out that window and you see some pretty heartrending sights. And then you go have those people interviewed, as has taken place by enterprising reporters, and you find that there's some very great complications as to why those folks are there. So, we've got to get to the cause, whether it's economic deprivation or whether it's some other problem that the folks have that lead them to that state of hopelessness.

Thank you all very, very much for being with us. I'd better push on. But thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:21 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to John M. Poindexter and Lt. Col. Oliver North, USMC, Ret., national security advisers during the Reagan administration who were convicted in the Iran arms and contra aid controversy.

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