"The time has come for the war on drugs to enter a new, winnable stage," wrote House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an April 30 Washington Times op-ed. You may think Gingrich has again written a work of fiction, shifting genres from sci-fi to horror. But the speaker is serious: He is backing 12 bills that would increase the power of the federal government, all in the name of protecting Americans from themselves.
The Democrats may have won the spin wars on such issues as health care, child care, education, the environment, tobacco, and even taxes, but the Republicans dominate the drug war. The GOP's plan for total victory hinges on deterring demand, suppressing supply, and tracking the financial dealings of well-heeled drug dealers.
To reduce demand, Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) proposes "The Drug-Free Congressional Leadership Resolution," "The Drug-Free Communities Act," and "The Drug-Free Workplaces Act." The three bills would double federal spending for local drug enforcement and provide federal money for "small and medium size businesses to implement drug-free workplace programs."
To attack the supply of drugs, "The Drug-Free Border Act" would double the Border Patrol by 2002, and "The Life-In-Prison for Speed Trafficking Act" would increase penalties for selling methamphetamine.
To keep tabs on drug kingpins, "The Drug-Free Money Laundering Act of 1998" would further erode the financial privacy of law-abiding Americans by granting federal law enforcement officials increased access to domestic and off-shore bank accounts.
Finally, Rep. Mike Pappas (R-N.J.) has taken a bold step by introducing "The Drug-Free Youth Resolution," which would put the U.S. House of Representatives on record as opposing "the distribution, sale, and use of illegal drugs by our children."
So how will the Republicans know when they've won? When they've reduced "nationwide drug use by more than half by 2002," Gingrich wrote.