THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Coral Gables, Florida) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 29, 1996 PRESS BRIEFING BY GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables, Florida
12:25 P.M. EDT
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I thought perhaps I'd make a couple of opening remarks and then respond to your own interests.
The news strategy we came here to Miami to unveil is focused around five goals. We got the government involved over the space of the last seven weeks in writing it. There were several iterations of it, we wanted to make it more coherent, easier to follow and to clearly be constructed around these five pillars. Then underneath those goals we have supporting objectives. We have attempted to define these supporting objectives so that they lend themselves to accountability of funds, programs, resources. Now, at some point we need measures of effectiveness of those objectives, so that's where we're going.
We came here to Miami because in a lot of ways you can learn how to effectively address a problem here in Miami. A lot of the concepts that are working elsewhere, some of them started here or were certainly given prominence. One of them I would go to is the majority -- over 50 percent of the companies here in Miami have drug policies, so they understand that it's part of the workplace concern to address this issue.
Of most importance, and the reason we selected this school to go to, is that drug education here in this city goes from K through 12 -- that it isn't just the DARE program, fifth and sixth grades, it isn't just the programming that high school junior or seniors -- but it goes from K through 12.
And then, finally, we've seen enormous success here. You know, and all these numbers are arguable. But probably drug use in Miami has gone from a disaster down to half of a disaster. No one is satisfied with it. Now, I spent Thursday and Friday wandering around MIami listening to some of these programs -- Espera, the Family Health Care Center, et cetera. No one is satisfied with where they are, but they've made remarkable progress.
Now, we also came here to Miami because we wanted to try and capture as much attention of the country as we could. We wanted to understand that there is a strategy. We wanted to underscore that if you back off the problem and look at it in a 15-year time frame, that we have made enormous progress. People are surprised when I say this, but drug use in America has come down by about half, from 22 million to 11 to 12 million over the last 15 years.
The use of cocaine, in terms of the number of people using it, has plummeted. And, indeed, it continued to come back down in the last few years. The death of -- the tragic death of Len Bias in some ways was a gift to American young people.
But having said all that, we wanted to underscore that goal number one of the five-goal strategy is to focus on motivating American youth to reject illegal drugs and substance abuse. And this is the priority of the program. It's one of five goals, but it has clearly got to be the priority. And we are concerned about it. There is no question that we have had probably a doubling in the rate of use of illegal drugs by young people. And we're also seeing it start as early as the sixth grade.
The second goal we laid out was reduce crime-related violence as an aspect of the drug epidemic. So one of the slogans I will offer for people's consideration is: If you don't like crime, then you will like drug treatment programs for those involved in the criminal justice system. There's three main chronic addicts, they commit a disproportionate amount of the crime in America. One of the numbers we use is 170 crimes per year. And so we have to go there and deal with that problem. We cannot have effective law enforcement unless we combine it with an intelligent drug treatment and prevention program for those in the criminal justice system.
Our other approaches, of course, acknowledge the importance of reducing the costs of drug abuse. It dominates many of the other social challenges in America. It's $20 billion in the health care system is directly related to illegal drugs. But it is clearly an aspect of a lot of other social ills. It's a good part of the AIDS epidemic. It's a good piece of the problem with child abuse, et cetera.
The last two parts of the strategy are: shield America's air, land, and sea frontiers. Great argument. How effective is this? Does it relate directly in some algorithm to the cost and availability of drugs? Maybe not. But I'll tell you flat out, that we took 200 metric tons of cocaine away from drug criminals, somewhere between the Chipari and Inagua Valley and the streets of America -- 200 metric tons, a third of the total drugs that are produce.
And we're going to have to keep it up. And we're going to have to keep it up understanding that it is not just cocaine we're facing. There is a whole series of other drugs --methamphetamine, Rohypnol. We're seeing heroin now coming back in ever-increasing amounts, higher purity, lower cost. We consumed now 13 metric tons of heroin. Again, another devastating cost to America.
The Attorney General, Janet Reno, outlined another strategy, and DEA Administrator Tom Constantine has really been in the lead on this, which is to get the point on methamphetamine before it becomes the poor man's cocaine of the late 1990s. That's where this thing is going. So we're finding it popping up around the country. And Tome Constantine brought together the police officials, the health care guys, and we had a conference on it. We tried to understand what is going on. It's an absolutely devastating drug.
One of the problems is, you can make it anywhere. You can make it in rural Iowa. You can make it Mexico. And it has just got an abysmal effect on people. They're up for 15 days straight, awake, and then crashing for 5 days, and getting increasingly paranoid. They're enormously dangerous to law enforcement officials under the influence of methamphetamine. So it's one of the many new challenges that we can't let get settled in America before we respond to it. So Janet Reno stepped forward and outlined some thinking, supporting strategy on methamphetamine.
Finally, I'll just wrap up by telling you, I think the bottom line to the strategy is this: It is a 10-year program, it is not a war campaign. It's a 10-year commitment to confronting the issue. The second aspect of it is, it is a systems approach. There are five goals. You can't choose one of them to do. You can't do either drug treatment or interdiction. You have to have some coherent strategy to address the problem.
And then finally, if you'll allow me to say it, I think one of the biggest challenges we face is that we lost our common-sense optimism that we can organize ourselves and address the problem. This is not a difficult issue to face up to. Unlike a lot of things in life, this lends itself, in our judgment, to getting organized and to doing hard work over time. And there are a lot of things in life that don't necessarily respond to hard work and organization, but this isn't one of them.
Now I will go on on Wednesday to release the Gallup Poll at the National Press Club. January, February of this year, we commissioned a Gallup Poll to go out and do a Consult With America and ask Americans what are they thinking about on this issue, what's their own viewpoint. I think it's helpful and it will underscore the common sense, thank God, of the American people.
On that note, what are your own interests? And I'll be glad to respond to your questions.
Q Where is methamphetamine most common in this country? The President said that you don't see it down here in Miami. Where are you seeing it?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: For years -- it's been around for a long time -- it was a California biker drug, and therefore associated with, sort of, gang violence. It was a California drug. It's now -- again, the numbers are suspect -- probably half of it is being produced in Mexico, half of it up here. And it's showing up in odd places. It's in some rural parts of the middle of our country. But it's not everywhere. It's not in Washington, D.C. and it's not in Miami. It's enormously inexpensive to make this stuff. And I might add it's also one of the most dangerous chemical process of any of these illegal drugs, a terrible environmental hazard.
So there's no rhyme nor reason to where methamphetamine are showing up, but it's cheap and incredibly dangerous.
Q Critics -- Republicans and other critics have been citing the increased use of marijuana among teenagers, high school students, as evidence that the President's policies on drugs are not working. What do you think about that charge; and, if that is not the reason, why is marijuana use going back up so dramatically?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, marijuana use among young people is going to be a major challenge to all of us. And part of the challenge is there are 90 million Americans who have used illegal drugs. I mean, there was an age of revolution, a lot of good came out of it, the Vietnam generation. And one thing that didn't stay with us that was productive was the use of illegal drugs. Marijuana was one of them.
And, without overstating it, most people who are expert in the field are absolutely persuaded that the use of marijuana, this three to five times higher THC concentrations than 20 years ago, by adolescents in particular is devastating to their physical and emotional growth. And what I would also lay on the table is, you know, having been a undergraduate engineer, that while I don't imply a scientific causal relationship, the statistical relationship between marijuana use by young people and later problems in life are enormous.
The one that I cite, since it's such a clean-cut number is, if you smoke marijuana and you're age 12, the chances of you having a significant drug addiction problem later on in life are 79 times greater than if you didn't. Now, again, there's no scientific causal relationship stated there. But if you're a statistician you better buy into the fact that this sounds like something you don't want your kids doing. And that's where we've got to take that message.
But it's parents and school teachers who have got to take the message. We've got to find the people -- the religious leaders, the coaches, the folks that young people trust and look up to for standards.
Q Why, in your view, is it going up; and is it related to what --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I think it's going up for probably a lot of reasons. One of them I just offered was 90 million Americans have used illegal drugs and walked away from it and said it's not for me. They left behind a lot of casualties when they did it.
But I think there's probably been a reluctance on the part of some parents to understand that even though you drove drunk while you were a student at U-CAL in 1970, that doesn't say that you're not to step forward now and tell your own children that this is enormously dangerous. And I think the same thing is going to have to go on with marijuana. But it's not only marijuana. It's also sniffing inhalants, it's using cocaine, it's alcohol abuse, which may be, again, one of the biggest challenges to the university population.
So we're seeing young people with a greatly increased predisposition to drug and alcohol abuse. And that's going to predictably yield a giant crop of violence and addiction down the line. Make no mistake about it, that mathematical relationship is fairly well understood. So that's why we're going to focus on youth.
Q I'm pretty sure you've addressed this before but, frankly, I don't remember what the administration's statements have been. Is it the administration view that it was a mistake early in the Clinton presidency to cut the Office of Drug Control and they regret that, or just that circumstances have changed?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Look, when they came into office -- and there's an element that I completely agree with -- their feeling was two things. One, they needed to gain some manpower savings in government and they were looking for places to cut. And the second thesis they advanced was if you want to make progress on an issue as complex as drugs, you've got to make the other Secretaries sign up for it. And so they elevated the Drug Czar's position to Cabinet-level staff and cut the staff.
It didn't work out. You can't monitor 50 federal agencies, you can't listen to 17,000 city governments, you can't deal with 3,000 counties, effectively. Now, right now I will tell you flat out, since my appointment we're getting 15,000 letters a month, we're getting 6,000 phone calls a month. I'm trying to sort out where the senators' and congressmen's letters are in the piles.
So this is a big program. It's an important program. And now the full support of the President, the Vice President, OMB and Congress -- I went down to Congress to make the case now. Senator Hatch and Biden and Rangel and Zeliff have played a very important role in this. They gave us some money to create a management team of about 154 people. So we think now we're going to put together what we need to respond to the federal law on it. That's really what we have to do.
Q Can you give us the specifics of what Attorney General Reno was talking about, the methamphetamine legislation --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: We've put together a strategy, and I'll be glad to give you a copy of it, and we've been working that for the last several weeks. It's based primarily upon the conference that Tom Constantine paneled.
And we've come up with a series of initiatives. And, again, we took the methamphetamine as the challenge and tried to see how is it produced, where is it coming from, what are its medical effects. And we got HHS involved in it. We have EPA involved in it. But we came up with what we think is an approach to address every aspect of it. That will include new penalties to recognize that this thing probably rivals crack cocaine in its potential danger.
We have got to control -- this has a different set of precursor drugs: ephedrine and other things. We've got to figure out how do you control these things. They're used in cold medicines and things like that. How are going to get a handle on where the precursor drugs are coming from? So I'll give you a copy of it, but we think it's a decently thought out, comprehensive way to go at this problem before it gets on center stage.
Q I know you said that it would be irresponsible to make this a political issue. Do you think that that's -- is it too late for that? I mean, isn't it already a political issue?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Look, I'll tell you, I just got into office on 1 March. I went down to the Hill. I have -- this campaign didn't start with my appointment. That's the first thing I got to underscore. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people around America who know a ton about these issues and are already working on them, and a lot of them are in Congress.
There is no question in my mind that Senator Biden and Congressman Rangel in the House, Senator Nunn -- Senator Hatch has been probably the stalwart keeping the issue on the table, a Republican Senator. Bill Zeliff, a Republican Congressman in the House, Mr. Hastert -- and I will also tell you I got a call from Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and he said, Barry, we will support on a bipartisan basis this issue. So I don't think so.
I mean, it seems to me what is at stake here is some kind of partnership to get sensible policies, adequate funding -- demand accountability. Now, we don't have credibility in some of the subcomponents of this strategy, meaning we haven't made the case adequately. So that's where we're going with it, and I think I have got a very responsible and cooperative leadership I'm working with.
Q Another point, General, when the President puts forward or trumpets this new strategy well into the fourth year of his Presidency, doesn't it make it politically suspect?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: What do you want him to do? I mean, you either want him -- expect leadership or you don't want him -- of course, we want him to carry out leadership. Now, again, I'll be honest with you, I think the President of the United States and the Vice President, Janet Reno and Dr. Perry and Tom Constantine and Louis Freeh and the rest of these people are -- they're parents and they're responsible people and of course they're committed. The question is, what are we supposed to do about it. That's a legitimate question.
And, you know, Senator Dole has been one of my personal heroes for years. Of course he is committed to this issue. So I think what I'm going to have to do is to tell the Congress, hold us accountable now and make us come back and explain what we're doing with the policy and the resources you give us. And that's a charge I'll take on.
Q General, isn't the government already doing all the things it says here in the strategy; and can you cite a few things that you are actually doing, that's actually new, and that we're not doing?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes, everything in the strategy is already being done, absolutely. There is no magic jujitsu solution in the drug issue. There is no question that drug treatment, prevention, education, interdiction and law enforcement have fundamentally been part of the solution from the start.
So the new drug strategy probably makes more coherent and easier to follow that fact, and it also demands not only that you see a system there, but demands that you see a longitudinal approach to it, that you can't expect this to be a punchy campaign. That's why I've had such a problem with the metaphor on war, to be honest.
The language is vivid, it's colorful, it implies progress; but, unfortunately, it's inadequate to deal with what we're talking about. And I suspect it may be more helpful to those of us involved in it to talk about it in terms of cancer, in which you've got root cause, and you have to treat that, you still have to manage the pain of the whole issue. You've got to have a holistic approach.
So I think your point is a good one. I don't think the new drug strategy has new tricks in it. It's a coherent, broad-based systemic approach to the problem.
Q How did you come up with the 10-year time frame?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, pick a number. What it can't be is a year. It can't be a year. And since we're dealing with a generation of youth at risk, in 10 years -- first of all, it takes three years to affect the budget system of the United States. It gets five years for an idea to become fixed in the American public's mind. And we've got to work on this thing, it seems to me, for half a generation. I want us to understand that this is a permanent commitment to young people, a permanent commitment to a balanced approach to the problem.
We don't need to put up with the levels of violence, of health care cost, of destruction of families and neighborhoods that came upon us in the late '60s. We do not need to continue to tolerate that kind of violence to our society. And a lot of people are doing something about it, to include right here in Miami, to include New York City. It is astounding the progress they're making.
Two years ago, I drove around with the New York undercover counter-narcotics guys, and it was a nightmare. I came back and did it last week, with the same police lieutenant, and it's measurably better. It's still a devastating consequence on parts of New York City, but it's absolutely moving in the right direction. So we can do something about it.
Q With the mandatory minimum sentence for possessing methamphetamine, do you anticipate that causing a similar increase in the prison populations that the mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine caused?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, the whole sentencing issue is one that I have to learn a lot more about. But let me, if I may, suggest two things. The first, it seems to me unarguable, is that effective law enforcement is a prerequisite to drug treatment and prevention programs working. They don't work in isolation. You have to ask the police officers of America to enforce the law. And if you've got that, then drug education programs start having some meaning and drug treatment programs start having a hammer that is associated with the reward.
By the way, I got a wonderful line. I went to this drug court here and listened to them several hours. One of the lines I got that made a big impact on me was, nobody in America wants to be a drug addict. Some people want to be criminals, but nobody wants to be addicted to drugs, it is absolute misery. So law enforcement is clearly part of the effort.
Now, the second part, observation I'd make is we've got a million Americans in jail right now at state and local level, and 100,000 in the federal system. An explosion in the number of people under arrest. And contrary to -- you know, sometimes they're in there for simple drug possession, that ain't the case. That's for drug-related violence, crime, drug dealing, et cetera. If you extrapolate those numbers out, it's going to get a lot bigger. That is not the solution. We will not arrest our way out of the drug problem.
So that's why the strategy, it seems to me, is so important. For those of you that were mathematics people, the prison population is a dependant variable. That is not an initiative. You can't talk about spending dollars on prisons or drug treatment. You've got to pay for the prison and law enforcement systems. If you want it to not have another million Americans behind bars, we've got to do the other aspects of the strategy. So that's where the priorities are.
Q This nine percent increase, can you tell us where it's going?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes. I have a handout that you may find useful. We tried to put it in pie chart form and show you exactly how the '96 enacted budget -- following the numbers has been tough for me to finally puzzle through.
What I would offer is, look at the '96 enacted money, and then look at the '97 proposed budget. And then follow where we go with it. On Wednesday I'll go down and submit the strategy to a Senate hearing. And then the mark-up July, August time frame -- September, whatever -- will be the '97 budget.
So we've got a pretty good piece of paper that will lay out the numbers for you.
Q I should clarify, since you mentioned Senator Dole -- and I'm told he's going to be talking about drugs later this afternoon at a political event -- when you said, don't politicize this issue, it's too important, were you specifically thinking of the presidential campaign and him?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I think that we need a partnership with Congress, and that the issue has to be a bipartisan approach. And I have had every indication that that's how they're going to respond to me.
You know, the Senate unanimously confirmed me in office, and that was Senator Trent Lott, Senator Dole and John Warner. So I don't think we have anything but a commitment to a bipartisan approach in the drug issue.
Q You must have thought it was enough of a concern to mention it as a, please don't do this.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: What I'm saying is that we can't move forward unless this is an issue on the defense of the American people. And I have every indication from personal contact on the Hill that that's the way it will move. I am absolutely astounded and my morale has been raised by the kind of support that they're telling me. And I take the Speaker of the House at his word, I've known him for years.
Q How specifically has President Clinton dealt with the issue of drugs, as opposed to President Bush in the past?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: I didn't hear you.
Q How has President Clinton dealt differently in his attack on drugs than President Bush?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, I don't know that I'm a good person to answer that. I worked very, very closely to the whole Bush administration on national security issues.
What I'll tell you is, without question is that we're better off today. We know more about what's going on today. We have sensible programs in place today that didn't exist ten years ago. Now, a lot of these started, you know, under previous administrations. So the last three presidents have all been committed to this issue. I think, you know, I thought the world of President Bush. I asked him for his advice coming into this job. He sent me a wonderful letter. And I'm asking for the guidance and sort of oversight of U.S. national leadership. He's still part of it.
Q General, if ten years is the timeline, what is the goal at the end of that ten years? Can you give us a little bit of specifics about what you would like to see in terms of reduction in use?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Yes. You know, I was strongly advised to not write down a guideline because it might look like another cheap slogan. But I will offer you as a thought, there is no reason why we can't return America to a 1960's level, a pre-Vietnam era level of drug use. We won't achieve total victory on drugs. We shouldn't expect that. We can't take every heroin or crack addict and cure them necessarily of their addiction. But we darned sure should expect to reduce the number of young people by enormous amounts and to reduce the damage that this epidemic does by great amounts.
And, oh, by the way, we are confident that there are treatment programs that can take the 3 million hard-core drug addicts and provide them systemic support that will make them less of a threat to our population, to our health care system. So if you'd asked me for a target, let's go back to pre-Vietnam level -- eras -- of illegal drugs.
Q What about --
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: We've got numbers that will, you know -- let me give you a number. It used to be in New York City -- I wish I had this exact -- there were 300 murders a year in the city and then it went up to -- we'll have to give you the number. The NYPD just told me. It was like 3,000 or 4,000. That's what we have to turn around. Why should, you know, neighborhoods look like bombed-out sections of a European battlefield. That's drugs. And we can drop that enormously.
Q General, can you address the issue of Mexico? How significant a problem is Mexico, interdiction -- what do you plan to do about it?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, I would put it in this perspective. Mexico isn't the problem; the drugs are. And both Mexico and the United States are fundamentally threatened, as are our democratic institutions, by this incredible corrupting influence of drug money by the enormous violence that drug criminals are willing to employ and by the sophistication with which they ignore international frontiers. They are an international coalition based on greed.
And so what we have committed ourselves to doing, we've got some -- we think President Zedillo, his opposition party Attorney General Lozano, the Minister of Defense Cervantes -- we think the leadership of the Mexican government is committed to protecting the Mexican people from the influence of drugs, to protecting their own young people. There's a crime wave going on in Mexico City that's simply astounding. And we've said we will work with you as part of a binational cooperation -- and, again, not to solve the problem this year, but to commit ourselves to steady, concrete goals which we will achieve. That's what we're going to do with Mexico.
Q As a follow-up to that, the greatest increase in the budget, which is in the handout, is in international programs -- 25 percent, two and a half times the rest of the stuff. Why is there such an emphasis on that now?
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Well, I think the -- if there are two priorities, two easy things to do, one is to go to youth. If you run effective drug education prevention programs based on the family, schools, religious institutions and coaches, we will inoculate ourselves against the drug menace. So that's one priority. The other one is go to the places where they produce the drugs -- international programs -- and cut back on the impact of our demand on their society.
And let me just you tell you flat out, if you think we've got a drug problem, you've got to go to downtown Bogota, Rio, Caracas, Mexico, Panama to see the impact of the drug menace. It is killing their societies, too.
So we are not in this alone and what we have suggested is that we have to create an international coalition to protect the democracies that are under internal attack from this. But their children are also at risk. And so that's another one.
And I might add, though, that's a pretty modest piece of the budget. If you look at the budget, the $15.1 billion -- one of the other things I've asked the House Appropriations Committee to consider is right now by law I'm required to explain how we spent the money in terms of demand and supply. By law, I have to tell them. And the answer is 67 percent and 33 percent -- 67 percent, supply; 33 percent, demand. But it's completely misleading because it covers -- 55 percent is in law enforcement and prisons.
So we've -- we're going to suggest to the Congress, you need to hold us accountable for money in four areas: interdiction, demand-supply -- demand and supply, and law enforcement. And you'll get a better picture on how we're expending these resources you've given us. And I think we'll probably do that, too.
The final thing on budgets, if you'll allow me to say it is, we're going to have a debate this year about this drug strategy, and by next year what I would suggest to the country, to the Congress, to all of us we serve, is that we don't need a drug strategy every year. We need a drug strategy that is largely agreed on and guides our actions for ten years.
And what I'd like Congress to ask me to do is to come down each year and explain what I did with the money in the last year and then submit a five-year budget plan for this confrontation with the drug issue and let the debate not just cover the '97 budget that starts on 1 October, but to look out over the coming years and to be able to influence and shape programs out five years.
That's a way we manage complex businesses, that's a way we manage the country's defense, and this issue absolutely is even higher salience to the American people. So those are some of the other ideas I'll offer.
I do thank you for the chance to talk to this group. Good luck. Thank you.
END 1:00 P.M. EDT