Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Economic Growth and the War on Drugs

October 08, 1988

My fellow Americans:

You're probably just as delighted as I am with the wonderful news about unemployment that we received yesterday. The unemployment rate dropped fully two-tenths of a percent in September to 5.4 percent for all civilian workers and 5.3 percent when you include the military. But behind these numbers is more good news: 255,000 people got new jobs last month in the nonfarm sector, which means that since the recovery began in 1982, over 18 million new jobs have been created. There's nothing more pleasing than watching America move forward with purpose. And the news reminds us yet again that this great nation is, as Senator Dan Quayle said, "the envy of the world."

Now, I'd like to turn to another subject: the war on drugs. I want all Americans to take heart. This war is not yet won, not by a long shot. But we're doing better, and our nation is united against this scourge as never before.

Right now there's a drug bill on Capitol Hill. It has passed the House but hasn't even come up for consideration in the Senate, and time is fast running out. The House bill has many good and tough provisions that express our national commitment to five simple but powerful words. Those words are "zero tolerance" and "just say no."

When we say zero tolerance, we mean, simply, that we've had it. We will no longer tolerate those who sell drugs and those who buy drugs. All Americans of good will are determined to stamp out those parasites who survive and even prosper by feeding off the energy and vitality and humanity of others. They must pay. We believe that when those who sell drugs are caught they must make redress for the damage they cause.

That's why the administration, personified by the leadership and passion of this administration's point man on drugs, Vice President George Bush, and the national voice of conscience, my wife, Nancy, has advocated tougher measures than ever before to combat the drug runners and the drug dealers. We're doing this by seizing the ill-gotten possessions of drug dealers and their accomplices. Those fancy cars and fancy houses and bank accounts full of dirty money aren't really theirs. They were bought from the sale of illegal blood pollutants. We do not tolerate companies that poison our harbors and rivers, and we won't let people who are poisoning the blood of our children get away with it either.

Those who have the gall to use federally subsidized housing to peddle their toxins must get the message as well. We will not tolerate those who think they can do their dirty work in the same quarters where disadvantaged Americans struggle to build a better life. We want to kick the vermin out and keep them out.

Nor can we allow these people to hide behind bizarre legal challenges when we do arrest them and work to see them jailed. And that's why we are advocating a change in the law that will allow exceptions in the so-called exclusionary rule to permit the use in court of evidence gathered in good faith by the police. Nor can our vigilance cease once they're behind bars. George Bush has proposed, and I support, drug testing for all who seek early release from jail, to send them this message: You don't go free until you're drug free.

We won't have a drug-free society until we manage to stop the drugs before they get to our shores. We must protect our coasts, and that means using the resources and calling on the noble men and women of the Coast Guard to protect us. We've sought increases in the drug enforcement budget, but in the past we've encountered consistent resistance from Congress. I requested $538 million for the Drug Enforcement Administration in fiscal '89, but Congress hacked $33 million away. I think drug enforcement is too important a matter for this kind of political behavior, and I imagine you agree with me.

But there is a way, more vital than all of these, that we can express our revulsion at the violence and degradation of the life of the drug peddler. These people seem to feel nothing—no fear, no remorse, nothing-when they pull out a machinegun and murder a police officer in the line of duty. The bill that has passed the House provides for the death penalty for these vicious killers. We must, we need, and we will, have this law.

Now, there are those who have opposed the House bill because it includes the death penalty. Others oppose it because of the "good-faith" exception to the exclusionary rule. I believe these people are more concerned with the abstract rights of criminals than the right of our society to save itself from those in this country and outside who seek their fortune in our national misfortune. I challenge the U.S. Senate to get that bill passed. The Nation demands it, and there's no time to waste. Compromises on the key provisions are unacceptable. We must let the drug kingpins know: Your days are numbered.

Our cause is just, and we will triumph. Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Economic Growth and the War on Drugs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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