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Informal Exchange With Reporters in Wells, Maine

September 22, 1989

Q. Mr. President, what do you have to say about the drug bust the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] engineered for your prop in the drug speech?

The President. I think it was great because it sent a message to the United States that even across from the White House they can sell drugs. And so, I don't know all the details of it, but I think it sends a powerful message to the American people. It was a legitimate drug bust, and I think to have that happen in the shadow of the -- --

Q. But was it a legitimate claim, sir? They had to lure him there. How legitimate was your claim that -- --

The President. Every time that some guy gets caught selling drugs, he pleads that somebody is luring him someplace.

Q. The Park Police said they had to bring him there, Mr. President.

The President. That's the argument of the criminal element. They say: Somebody is setting me up; I shouldn't have been doing this. This is probably what he'll argue to get off. I want to crack down on -- that's my answer to the question.

Q. It's a statement of the Park Police.

The President. What?

Q. It's a statement of the Park Police.

The President. Said what?

Q. Said that there is usually no problem with that there and that they had to bring the man there in order to buy the material from him.

The President. Yes, but the man went there and sold drugs in front of the White House, didn't he? That was the bottom line. That's what the man did. And he was arrested for it and -- I hope he's arrested for it -- I don't know. See, I can't feel sorry for this fellow.

Q. I don't think that's what the question is about.

The President. Well, what is the question about?

Q. I think the question seems to be more one of were the American people manipulated into thinking a condition existed that didn't really?

The President. What do you mean, it didn't really? The guy was arrested, or grabbed, for selling drugs in front of the White House. It didn't exist? It didn't happen?

Q. The Park Police people say that they had to bring him there in order to make the buy in order to fulfill the requirements for your speech.

The President. Well, that's what you do whenever you make a bust: You bring somebody someplace.

Q. They say they did it for you.

The President. And it happened the guy came right in front of the White House. So, I don't understand your -- I mean, has somebody got some advocates here for this drug guy?

Q. They say they did it to accommodate your speech, sir, not that it happens all the time; that they did it just to fulfill the prophecy in your speech.

The President. The fact is the guy was arrested, or busted, in front of the White House. Doesn't matter -- I don't care how it got there. It will probably happen again, unfortunately, but we're going to see that it doesn't. We're trying to make these neighborhoods, including good neighborhoods, free of drugs. And that's what the American people want.

Q. The question is, it never would have happened if you weren't making a speech. That's the point.

The President. They said nobody's ever sold drugs in front of the White House?

Q. They say that is not a heavy drug area.

Q. Lafayette Park has no problem -- a little marijuana from time to time, according to the Park Police.

The President. The message that I get out of it is: A man was busted in front of the White House. And I cannot feel sorry for him. I'm sorry. They ought not to be peddling these insidious drugs that ruin the children of this country. And I don't care where it is -- I'm glad that the DEA and everybody else is going after them with a renewed vigor.

Q. Did you ask for a bag of crack for the speech?

The President. I said I'd like to have something from that vicinity to show that it can happen anywhere. Absolutely. And that's what they gave me, and they told me where they caught this guy.

Q. Did they tell you what they'd have to do to procure it?

The President. No.

Q. Well, apparently, sir, he wasn't busted. Only the buy was made there, and it provided a convenient line for the speech.

The President. Well, I understand there's an ongoing action about this, too. So, I hope that they do more than get some of the people that are selling it to him.

Q. You don't think you conveyed the wrong impression in your speech, that you gave the impression there was a serious problem in Lafayette Park?

The President. I don't think any neighborhood is free from selling drugs. I don't think any neighborhood is free from it today. And this proved that the White House is not -- that Lafayette Park -- that's actually what it proved. I mean, the man was caught selling drugs in front of the White House. I think it can happen in any neighborhood, and I think that's what it dramatized. Don't you, Marlin?

Mr. Fitzwater. Yes, sir, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke in the afternoon at Morse Tree Farm. In his remarks, he referred to Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary to the President. A tape was not available for verification of the contents of the remarks.

George Bush, Informal Exchange With Reporters in Wells, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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