Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on the Resignation of Attorney General Meese and the War on Drugs

July 09, 1988

My fellow Americans:

Today I want to tell you about some new antidrug initiatives. But first, with the announcement by Ed Meese—now that his name has been cleared—that he'll be returning to private life this summer, I'd like to take a minute to recognize a public servant of dedication and integrity, who's been a close friend for over 20 years.

As Counsellor at the White House and as Attorney General, Ed Meese worked for stricter sentencing to put dangerous criminals behind bars and also for greater resources for drug enforcement and to fight organized crime. And in a system usually focused on the criminal, he never forgot the victims of crime or their rights.

As Attorney General, Ed Meese led our effort to appoint highly qualified Federal judges who would crack down on crime and also faithfully interpret the Constitution. He led our Justice Department as it aggressively defended civil rights. In fact, this administration has achieved more convictions for civil rights 'violations than any previous administration. In fighting terrorism, Attorney General Meese worked closely with our allies to detect, apprehend, and prosecute those who wage war on innocent members of free societies. And in our campaign against the menace of illegal drugs, Ed Meese has been a central figure, serving as Chairman of the National Drug Policy Board.

Now let me turn to our antidrug efforts. I believe that drug testing is a key tool to help promote public safety and a drug-free work force. In fact, to set a good example, White House employees were informed yesterday that random drug testing would begin in 60 days. I hope the White House program will encourage increased testing programs in the private sector.

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, I have just approved a new set of drug abuse policy recommendations. These proposals send a strong message to drug traffickers and illegal drug users that we have zero tolerance for those who sell or use illegal drugs. For example, we would require businesses and colleges that receive Federal funds to adopt effective antidrug programs. For pregnant women who use illegal drugs, there should be priority treatment to help them and their unborn children. We would give the military a greater role in coordination with our drug enforcement agencies. Criminals on probation or parole would be drug tested, and testing positive might send them right back to jarl. And yes, for those who commit drug-related murders or kill law officers, we favor a Federal death penalty.

Since 1981, when Vice President George Bush and I took office, we have better than tripled total Federal spending for drug enforcement, prevention, and treatment. And we've requested a further 13-percent increase that will put nearly $4 billion into the Federal effort next year. And we're beginning to see results. Arrests are up. Seizures are up. And use in some categories is coming down. But by far the most important development is the change in attitude in America. You can feel it. People are angry about illegal drugs. We're a patient people, but we've lost our patience.

And this is good news because more needs to be done, and as never before, the American people are doing it—in their neighborhoods, through their churches, at their schools and workplaces. For example, today 28 percent of our largest corporations have drug testing programs. Communities are working with police to get rid of drug dealers. And in thousands of schools throughout America there are now Just Say No clubs. I have to tell you, that whole movement began when a young girl asked Nancy what to do if someone offered her drugs. And Nancy told her "Just say no."

Well, I figure if young people across the country can come together against illegal drugs, then why shouldn't the grownups in Washington be able to do the same? In May I proposed that both Houses of Congress, both sides of the aisle, join together with our administration in a bipartisan executive-legislative task force to advance America's unified antidrug policy. I proposed this task force for a simple reason: If we're going to get the drugs out of our schools, we need to get the politics out of drugs. And fortunately, on the drug issue there is near-unanimous agreement. I can tell you that was not the case 7 years ago, but it is today.

This is my final year in office, and I believe that partisan bickering or seeking political advantage can only delay our progress in working to achieve a drug free America. Yesterday I gave a set of policy proposals to my representatives to the executive-legislative task force. I hope that the Democratic leaders in Congress will now join in this united effort. The time for excuses and delays is long past. I hope that through this task force we all can come together and work in good faith for the good of this country.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on the Resignation of Attorney General Meese and the War on Drugs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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