PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 6, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, the senator mentioned drugs. He's said -- he suggested in the past that you are -- you bear some responsibility for the rise in drug use of teenagers in the United States.
Is he right?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, Jim, I think every American in any position of responsibility should be concerned about what's happened. I am. But let's look at the overall record.
Overall in America, cocaine use has dropped 30 percent in the last four years. Casual drug use down 13 percent.
The tragedy is that our young people are still increasing their use of drugs, up to about 11 percent total with marijuana, and I regret it. Let me tell you what I've tried to do about it.
I appointed a four-star general, who led our efforts south of the border to keep drugs from coming into the country, as our nation's drug czar, the most heavily directed -- decorated soldier in uniform when he retired. We submitted the biggest drug budget ever, we have dramatically increased control and enforcement at the border. We supported a crime bill that had 60 death penalties, including the penalty for drug kingpins, and I supported a big expansion of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program to support things like the DARE program because I thought all those things were very important.
Now do I think that I bear some responsibility for the fact that too many of our children still don't understand drugs are wrong, drugs can kill you, even though I have consistently opposed the legalization of drugs all my public life and worked hard against them? I think we all do, and I hope we can do better.
I don't think this issue should be politicized because my record is clear, and I don't think Senator Dole supports youth using drugs. I think we just have to continue to work on this until those who think it isn't dangerous and won't kill them and won't destroy their lives get the message and change.
JIM LEHRER: Senator?
MR. DOLE: You know, again, you're very selective, Mr. President.
You don't want to politicize drugs, but it's all right to politicize Medicare and go out and scare senior citizens and other vulnerable groups -- veterans and people who get Pell grants and things like this. I mean, you say we've done all these bad things, which isn't the case.
But it seems to me the record is clear. The record is pretty clear in Arkansas when you were governor. Drug abuse doubled. You resisted the appointment of a drug czar there because you thought it might interfere with treatment. But here you cut the drug czar's office 83 percent. You cut interdiction substantially. I mean, that's what -- I want to stop it from coming across the border, and in my administration we're going to train the National Guard to stop it from coming across the border.
This is an invasion of drugs from all over the world, and we have a responsibility. You had a surgeon -- or before General McCaffrey, you had a lady who said we ought to consider legalizing drugs. Is that the kind of leadership we need? And I won't comment on other things that have happened in your administration or your past about drugs. But it seems to me the kids ought to -- if they have -- if they started, they ought to stop and just don't do it.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me say again we did have a drug czar in Arkansas, but he answered to the governor, just like this one answers to the president. That's what I thought we ought to do.
Secondly, Senator Dole, you voted against the crime bill that had the death penalty for drug kingpins in it, and you voted to cut services to 23 million schoolchildren under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act.
I don't think that means you're soft on drugs, we just have a different approach.
But let me remind you that my family has suffered from drug abuse. I know what it's like to see somebody you love nearly lose their lives, and I hate drugs, Senator. We need to do this together, and we can.