While drug war realist Gary Johnson can’t get invited to the debates, and fellow realist Ron Paul got all of 90 seconds to say his piece last time around, Newt Gingrich has inexplicably risen to the top of the polls in the GOP primary. It’s worth reviewing again just how God-awful Gingrich has been on the drug war over the years.
Over at TalkLeft, Jeralyn Merritt notes that Gingrich once introduced a bill mandating the death penalty for drug smugglers. Gingrich’s bill would have required execution for anyone attempting to bring 2 ounces or more of pot into the country. Merritt also reminds us of this shameless, astonishingly stupid attempt to justify his policies with his own drug use:
“See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn’t change, only the morality… That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.”*
There’s much more. In 2009, Gingrich agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s call for Singapore-style drug laws in America. In Singapore, the police can force anyone to submit to a urinalysis without a warrant. They’re permitted to search you without a warrant. And if you’re seen in a building or in the company of drug users, you’re assumed to have been using drugs as well, unless you can prove otherwise. They also have Gingrich’s favored mandatory execution of anyone possessing over a specified amount of illicit drugs. (And there’s little evidence that the policies are working.)
A few other choice moments from Gingrich’s drug war files:
- “…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’.” (Source)
- The announcement of the Republican drug strategy last week came with set of sound bites produced by the “Speaker’s Task Force for a Drug Free America.” A memorandum to participants in the kick-off urged them to incorporate and emphasize war-sounding “communication ideas.” Some of the specific phrases the Speaker urged were: epidemic, crisis, scourge, poison, mobilize, modern-day plague, front lines, call to arms, deployment, battle plan, attack, fight, engage, conquer and declare victory. The theme was to have “A real War on Drugs; Not a war of words but a war of action.” Their goal is a drug free America by 2002. These militaristic slogans were justified by a backdrop of children. (Source)
- President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich sparred over drug policy in separate radio addresses Saturday, the president laying out plans to reduce illegal drug use by 50 percent in the next decade, the speaker ridiculing the proposal as a “hodgepodge of half-steps and half- truths.” Gingrich said he will press a resolution in the House urging Clinton and White House drug policy chief Barry McCaffrey to withdraw the plan, which he described as “the definition of failure.””In the Civil War it took just four years to save the Union and abolish slavery,” Gingrich scoffed. He said World War II was won four years after the United States joined the Allied cause, and yet Clinton’s new drug-fighting schedule prescribes more than twice that long.”This president would have us believe that with all of the resources, ingenuity, dedication and passion of the American people, we can’t even get halfway to victory in the war on drugs until the year 2007 – nine full years from now,” the speaker said. “That is not success. That is the definition of failure. … We cannot accept this administration’s proposed timetable for defeat.” (Source)
- Speaking before the National Religious Broadcasters in Washington, Gingrich said he hopes to eradicate the drug problem by Jan. 1, 2001. The end result would mean “such an amazingly healthier society,” he said. “That would be a vastly greater achievement than the balanced budget.”Talking specifics, Gingrich is proposing a mandatory life prison term for those who cross borders with or produce commercial quantities of illegal drugs. He would also like to see the death sentence imposed for repeat offenders. “If you sell it, we’re going to kill you,” he warned. (Source)
- House Republicans, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich and his newly-created “Speakers’ Task Force for a Drug-Free America” chaired by J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), unveiled a “comprehensive, World War II-style” drug war legislative package on Thursday. Details of the package will be presented to the public over an eight-week period at a series of orchestrated media events complete with blue ribbon-wearing participants….The package, which will include at least a dozen separate pieces of legislation, is being compared by House Republican staffers to the 1994 “Contract With America,” both in its scope and its intended centrality to the election-year message of the party. While much of the legislation is still being written, the bills will range from largely symbolic . . . to overtly war-like, such as the reinstitution and expansion of military deployments on the US side of our national borders. The stated goal of the Republican package is to “win” the drug war by creating a “drug-free” America in four years. Longer sentences, the death penalty, technological upgrades in interdiction and federal law enforcement, a doubling of the border patrol and incentives for expanded work-place drug testing will also be addressed. (Source)
- “The first time we execute 27 or 30 or 35 people at one time, and they go around Colombia and France and Thailand and Mexico, and they say, `Hi, would you like to carry some drugs into the U.S.?’ the price of carrying drugs will have gone up dramatically,” says Gingrich, who has admitted to smoking pot. (Source)
Of course, if Gingrich somehow miraculously gets the nomination, his opponents will be Obama, who is every bit the hypocrite Gingrich is, and Biden, who may be one of just a few career politicians at the federal level whose legislative record is worse than Gingrich’s.
*MORE/UPDATE/CORRECTION: I somehow missed this Jacob Sullum post from last year suggesting that this Gingrich quote may be apocryphal, though Gingrich has definitely admitted to smoking pot in graduate school.