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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks Announcing the Nomination of Bob Martinez To Be Director of National Drug Control Policy


The President. During the past couple of years, we've devoted unprecedented resources to the war on drugs. Bill Bennett -- I mentioned this just the other day -- has been an outstanding leader of that fight. I'm pleased that in stepping down as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, he is now willing to take on the challenge of chairing the Republican National Committee. I have recommended Bill Bennett to the members of the RNC to serve in the post of chairman, and I've also recommended that Lee Atwater serve as general chairman of the Republican Party.

Bill is a man of proven leadership, intellect, and commitment whose drive and determination will be a tremendous asset to the Republican Party organizations and operations, and I am grateful that he has accepted this important task. And I might add that I am delighted that Lee Atwater will continue to provide valued counsel as general chairman of the party. He has been, as you all know, a close adviser and political strategist -- chief political strategist -- and a good friend. I certainly wish him Godspeed in his fight and in his recovery.

Today, I'm also pleased to announce the appointment of a superbly qualified individual, Governor Bob Martinez, to succeed Bill Bennett as our nation's new Drug Policy Director -- a battlefield promotion, if you will, for a leader who has earned his stripes on the front lines of the drug war. Governor Martinez can and will hit the ground running. He needs no primer. As the National Governors' Association's lead Governor on substance abuse and drug trafficking, he has been contributing to our national drug control strategy for over 2 years.

As Governor, Bob Martinez has introduced some of our most innovative and effective new tools against drugs. He was the first to name a State drug czar and one of the first to bring the National Guard into the fight. He stiffened the Florida Code and then added the prison space to enforce it. He's enacted new laws that take career criminals off the streets; launched a successful boot camp program; moved to revoke drivers licenses for drug users; supported, always, effective drug treatment; and established drug-free school zones.

As a Governor who signed more than 130 death warrants, he understands tough choices and the need for penalties as tough as the criminals that we face.

As a former Governor and mayor, Bob will be especially effective in joining hands with State and local leaders. As a teacher who has spent 7 years in the classroom, he knows the longterm key to winning this effort is to stop drug use before it starts. As a businessman, he knows the challenges we face in making the workplace drug-free. And as a Spanish-speaking leader who has probed the problem firsthand in Bolivia and Colombia, he's in a unique position to work with our Latin American allies.

Bob Martinez is the grandson of Spanish immigrants, the son of a waiter, a man who worked his way through school. My predecessor called him ``the embodiment of the American dream.'' He's now about to take on his toughest challenge yet -- with all respect to your present employment -- the scourge that is today the American nightmare.

Governor, we congratulate you. We wish you luck. I want to thank you for taking on this important task. You know you've got big shoes to fill, and we're going to stand with you in this important fight. America, as Bill has so eloquently stated -- Bill Bennett -- is making progress against drugs. Thanks to the leadership of people like Bill Bennett, we're going to continue to do so. We're all pleased that Bill's very able chief of staff, John Walters, will carry on the fight until Governor Martinez assumes the helm. There are many battles ahead. And we're going to renew our call to Congress to pass a true crime bill -- one that's tough on criminals, not on the police -- and we'll remain on the front lines. We will take back the streets.

Bob -- Governor Martinez -- I look forward to working with you as closely as I have with Bill Bennett.

Bill, I look forward to working with you in an entirely different assignment. We'll have many, many contacts, I can assure you.

But thank you all very much, and now I will turn this over to Governor Martinez with my warm best wishes. Thanks for taking this on. Thank you all.

Reporter. Mr. President, can I ask you a question about your phone calls to the leaders of the Middle East today -- what the response was?

The President. Doing very well. But let's turn it over -- they've all been very, very positive.

Note: The President spoke at 2:30 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.

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