BOB WEINER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DRUG POLICY PRESS CHIEF, SAYS SENATE TUESDAY MUST ASK BUSH DRUG CZAR NOMINEE IF HE “WILL RISE OVER RECORD OF HIS CONTROVERSIAL RHETORIC”;
QUESTIONS WALTERS STATEMENTS ON ADDICTION STIGMA, MEDIA CAMPAIGN, RACIAL DISPARITIES, MILITARY FOR INTERDICTION, DISMANTLING PROGRAMS, WHITE HOUSE STAFF DRUG USE
(Washington, DC) -- Bob Weiner, until last month
the White House Drug Policy Office’s Director of Public Affairs/Chief of
Press Relations and spokesman for Drug Czars Barry McCaffrey and Lee Brown,
is asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate statements made
by Drug Policy Director Nominee John Walters and suggests the issue of
whether Walters “will rise over his rhetoric”. Weiner is raising
questions about Walters’ statements on the stigma of addiction, the
anti-drug media campaign, racial disparities, giving the military control of interdiction at the borders, prior White House staff drug use, and dismantling ONDCP’s management of programs. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on Walters’ confirmation for Tuesday, September 11.
Weiner asserts that “The Senate must ask about what is on the record and must determine whether Walters will rise over the record of his controversial rhetoric – not his nomination statement in the Rose garden when criticism was already mounting and he had to say all the right things, as he will have to do at the hearing as well. The Senate must ask Walters about and penetrate his years of utterances and writing.”
Weiner uses these examples of what he calls Walters’ “controversial statements”:
· On addiction as a disease: “I’m for stigma” (1996) and “The therapy-only lobby is alive and well” (March 2001). Also, Walters cites the “ineffectual policy” of a “therapeutic state in which the government serves as the agent of personal rehabilitation” (1996).
· On the media ad campaign: “This is a lazy person’s way of trying to appear they’re doing something.” Also, “Why is a glitzy public service campaign the best way?” (both 1997). Yet he does call for ads “highlighting federal mandatory minimum sentences” (1994). Weiner counters that the current campaign reaches 90% of youth and parents seven times a week, is less than 1% of the counterdrug budget, and is scientifically based to show children the dangers of drugs and inform parents of the importance of conversations with kids. Weiner also asserts the “little detail that advertising works in America. Not a whole lot of companies or causes or advertising experts would understand his knee-jerk comments.”
· On the 100:1 crack versus powder penalty disparity: “The political correctness here is we’re arresting too many black people. General McCaffrey…is worried that we’re doing too much punishment. I say he doesn’t get it” (1997). Also: “Neither is it true that the prison population is disproportionately made up of young black men” (March 2001). Weiner points to facts showing that African Americans are 15% of the drug using population, but of persons imprisoned for drug offenses, they are 48% of those in local jails, 54% of federal prisoners, and 60% of those in state facilities.
· On interdiction: “We have the capacity in the United States military… It seems redundant to hire tens of thousands of Border Patrolmen or Customs agents … It’s a matter of priority” (1996). “The Defense Department ought to be made responsible for the flow of cocaine into the United States and managing it” (1994). Weiner responds, “Apparently Mr. Walters cares not for the Posse Comitatus law reflecting the philosophy that in America, domestic law enforcement, not the military, protects us, and that the role of the military can only be in support.” Incidentally, Walters added: “You are not going to haul the commandant of the Coast Guard up here and say he is accountable because it is just not believable” (1994).
· On supposed Clinton White House staff drug use, Walters testified to the Senate in 1996: “The Secret Service found recent extensive drug use to the point where they didn’t want to issue them regular passage to the complex.” Weiner asks for his evidence for “extensive” and wonders, “Why would Walters, in a hearing, blanket tar an entire dedicated group with no or at best anecdotal information?”
· On giving up the White House Drug Office’s own programs (such as the media campaign, community coalition funding, high intensity drug trafficking area coordination, and counterdrug technology): “Those grant making authorities ought to be turned back over – even the ones that currently exist, to the most appropriate agency” (1997). Weiner contends that this could “dismantle the unique roll of ONDCP to manage critical drug policy coordinating programs and send them to agencies with much more muddled agendas.”
Weiner asserts, “The Senate must determine whether Walters can explain his statements without a simplistic defense of ‘They were out of context’ when the truth is he was trying to establish a context with these very statements. Also, ‘These are old and here is my new position’ will not cut it either, when he made some of the statements as late as March of this year, right before he learned of his nomination. At best, he can say, ‘I’ll follow the President’s policies’ – except the reality is that he is the one who is supposed to set them.”
Finally, Weiner states that the Bush-Walters “supposed $1.6 billion increase over five years for treatment and prevention raises the question of whether the funding is real” since it is “mostly in the out years and leaves the actual decision on the biggest increases to the next administration.”
Weiner left ONDCP on July 30, 2001 after twenty years of Federal service and formed a public affairs and issues strategies company, Robert Weiner Associates. Prior to his six years at the White House, Weiner was a top aide to Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Charles Rangel, Claude Pepper, and Ed Koch.
(NOTE: Weiner will be available to the media if requested at hearing and separately.)