News & Politics

Ten Reasons the Senate Should Oppose John Walters

Believe it or not, Bush's drug czar nominee is more extremist than Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Thus far denial of accumulated facts and public opinion has been one of the Bush administration's fundamental traits. No matter what the research shows, no matter what intelligent, fair-minded people of all parties might conclude, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have mostly stuck to their narrowly defined conservative ideas.

For example, despite scientists' warnings about the dangers of global warming, Bush-Cheney refused to adopt the Kyoto Protocol, which virtually all of our allies support. And, despite both the proven effectiveness of new technologies at reducing energy demand and the overwhelming public support for conservation, Cheney insists that the chief way to stave off coming energy shortages is to drill for oil, build hundreds of new power plants and reconsider nuclear energy.

But the area in which Bush/Cheney may be most at odds with the public is in their nomination of John Walters to director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy--or "drug czar." Despite Americans' increasing support for drug war alternatives, Bush has nominated someone who, according to Ethan Nadlemann, director of the Lindesmith Center Drug Policy Foundation, is "the one guy who's going to be more extremist than Attorney General John Ashcroft when it comes to drug policy."

"John Walters has stood very firmly for the proposition that drug policy should have absolutely nothing to do with public health or science or, for that matter, the facts," Nadelmann said. "It's all about punishing people for their sins."

Here are ten reasons the Senate should send John Walters packing during the drug czar confirmation hearings:

1. Walters praised the Peruvian military's practice of shooting down civilian planes suspected of drug trafficking, even though it is against international law.

2. Walters co-wrote a book on crime and drugs that predicted that a generation of drug-dealing "superpredators" would arise and dramatically increase youth violence. Instead, the rate of juvenile crime has dropped by half.

3. Walters has said "that there is too much treatment capacity in the United States." Even super drug warrior General Barry McCaffrey found this claim "shocking." Walters is "focused too much on interdiction and needs to educate himself on prevention and treatment," McCaffrey said.

4. Walters has derided advocates of more funding for drug treatment "as the latest manifestation of liberals' commitment to a therapeutic state in which government serves as the agent of personal rehabilitation."

5. Walters thinks it is an urban myth that the criminal justice system is biased against black men. Yet black men are admitted to state prisons at a rate 13.4 times greater than white men, though whites and blacks use drugs at equal rates.

6. Walters scoffs at the idea that many drug offenders have been imprisoned just for possession of an illegal substance. But of the 1,559,100 arrests for drug law violations, 78.8 percent were for possession.

7. Walters doesn't think drug sentences are too long. Yet the average sentence for a drug offense in 1997 was 78 months, more than twice the average for manslaughter (30 months) and almost 4 times the sentence for auto theft (20 months).

8. Walters favors incarceration over education and treatment. He lobbied Congress for stiffer penalties for non-violent drug offenders.

9. Walters attacked the Clinton administration for retreating in the war on drugs, even though Clinton-Gore imprisoned more people for drug offenses than Reagan and Bush the Elder combined.

10. Walters stated that the federal government should crack down on states that pass medical marijuana laws. Even the right-wing National Review opposed Walters' position.

Don Hazen is the Executive Editor of the web magazine and Executive Director of the Independent Media Institute.

To express your opinion about the nomination of John Walters as drug czar, contact your Senators through StopThe

Information in this column was culled from the New York Times, the Drug Reform Coordinating Network ( and the the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation (

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