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Newt Gingrich, The Master of Ethics

"Answer a fool according to his folly."-King Solomon

By Donovan, Prisoner of War in America

Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House and Paragon of Virtue, recently stated that drug dealers should be shot and that if enough of them were, it would solve the problem. Not long ago in Nogales, Arizona, two 69 year old grandmothers were arrested with 400 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of their car. Newt would have them hustled out with a flour sack over their heads and their brains blown out against the international boundary fence, Not, of course, if it was his grandmother-only yours.

Gingrich is the architect of H.R. 41, a bill that would require the death penalty for anyone smuggling one hundred dosage units of an illicit substance across the border. That's about two ounces of marijuana and would practically cut the population of Mexico in half. Newt Gingrich has admitted to smoking marijuana, quite possibly more than two ounces and we sincerely hope should his bill pass the House, that retroactivity clauses be put in place: we want to see Newt with a flour sack over his head, too, along with everyone else.

Despite the current administration's verbal attempts to disengage the martial rhetoric surrounding the war on drugs, and in spite of the ever escalating billions of dollars to fight it, Gingrich wants a "World War Two effort of cataclysmic" dimensions and calls the current failed efforts-baloney.

Current drug war efforts are baloney for the basic reason that prohibition only works in totalitarian or fundamentalist regimes. The current drug war has taken us a long way down this path, with no apparent benefit. In 30 years of increasing enforcement and ballooning budgets, all the government has to show for its efforts is a prison boom that has replaced school and university construction and a curtailment of civil rights unprecedented in U S history. Illicit substances remain, are as plentiful as ever and we are, per capita, the world's leading jailer. But Gingrich would take it another step.

While the Western World moves toward sane drug policy solutions, with the recent Swiss model of distribution to its heroin addicts of both heroin and clean needles being but one example, American leadership-and we use the term kindly-is locked within stale bombast three decades old. What would Gingrich do that has not already been tried? A random sampling would doubtless include military intervention on a par with our less than brilliant Panamanian fiasco which cost tens of millions of dollars and about 500 lives to extract one tin horn dictator we ourselves placed into power. It would doubtless include napalming coca fields in Peru which would then in turn make the coca crop in Colombia double in value. Once the U.S. government wiped out the coca crop in South America, it would soon find coca grown in Nicaragua. Juan Valdez has long since given up pinching off coffee beans and sold his burro for a Lear jet. It cannot be supposed that once Juan's crop is in ashes that another Juan Valdez won't cultivate another crop. Indeed, were coca eradicated in Latin America, it might soon be grown in Equatorial Africa. This is true of most illicit substances and the reason that scorched earth tactics are of no value in this particular war. Demand fuels production and there are too many people defying drug laws in the United States to make those laws efficacious.

A recent Time magazine article stated that Gingrich had a very bad year. Between his being censured by Congress for ethics violations and the attempt within his own party to have him removed from his position as Speaker of the House, he is looking for scapegoats and, as usual, the drug issue provides him with a bully pulpit to recoup his loss of credibility. This is what opportunistic politicians do and there are far too many of them.

It is important to counter Gingrich's nonsense with a large dose of reality: the drug war is lost and nobody won. Gingrich and company have had thirty years to test their hard line policies and each has failed: well over ten million Americans have been arrested and had their lives ruined in this war. It is time for a new approach, but this takes the kind of leadership that simply does not exist in Congress. Elected officials today have not made a study of the past and they are, emphatically, not statesmen. H.R. 41 is an ill-conceived, terrible law that is exemplary of the kind of prostitution that has replaced common sense and statesman-like solutions.

This is opportunistic politics:

"Dismal baloney . . . I met with General McCaffrey two months ago and said, 'I want a World War Two style victory plan-a decisive, all out cataclysmic effort to break the back of the drug culture'."

-Newt Gingrich

This is statesmanship:

"I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions changed with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times."

-Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826

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