Up to Meese

NOW that Edwin Meese has formally assumed both the title of United States attorney general and the duties of the office, debate over his qualifications should cease. It is time for Mr. Meese to pursue the important tasks of setting directions for the Justice Department and administering it; he has begun to do so. Americans should turn their attention toward the policies and effectiveness of the department and its new leader.

Like any other Cabinet officer, Mr. Meese has his own personal views and agenda. One of his challenges will be to see that they not only mesh well with those of the President -- as they appear to do -- but that they also serve the broad needs of the American people.

Of late, several major issues have come front and center to the Justice Department. One is the renewed drive against organized crime, symbolized by the arrest in New York Tuesday of several people reputed to be major crime figures.

A second issue is the nationwide effort to crack down on the smuggling and distribution of illegal drugs; the Justice Department's Drug Enforcement Agency has a leading role here.

A third key point is the determination of Justice Department officials to protect victims of crimes of violence. Included are abused children or spouses and people confronted by random violence. Department officials sense a rising public demand that victims of violence be given more assistance than in the past.

Even his critics acknowledge that Mr. Meese is a personable and intelligent man. He has vowed to serve with distinction in his new position. As he begins, Americans in and out of government should give him their support. ----30{et

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