Clinton and Drugs

Youthful drug use has been raised in the campaign primarily as a matter of policy priorities. Bob Dole has challenged the Clinton administration's record, charging that cuts in drug-fighting budgets and the president's relative quiet on the subject helped set the stage for increased use of illegal drugs by kids.

That debate is valuable, but the question of drug use has to rest, ultimately, in the realm of personal morality and integrity. To use drugs is to abandon moral and intellectual clarity for the distortion and ephemeral "high" of chemical stimulation. The national leaders who speak on this issue have a responsibility to exemplify the moral stature that naturally rejects drug use.

As an admitted youthful experimenter with marijuana himself, President Clinton has a particular role to play in a moral dialogue with the nation's youth. This has been underscored by recent printed interviews with teens concerning their attitudes toward the use of "weed." Several cite Mr. Clinton, as well as their own parents, as examples of virtual acceptance of casual drug use.

This week's call for mandatory drug-testing of teens before they can get driver's licenses is intended to show the president's toughness on the drug issue. Such a step might get the attention of young people, though it also raises civil liberties questions.

What we'd like to hear, before the campaign ends, is an unequivocal statement from the president about his own mistake in even trying marijuana, and why any experimentation with drugs is a destructive divergence from real purpose and accomplishment in life. This is a matter of moral fiber, not moralizing. Our children need to hear it.

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